August 16

Doctor Who Engines of War – George Mann

The War Doctor
The War Doctor

Between 1989 and 2005 I read a lot of Doctor Who novels. For those not familiar with those dates they represent the years that The Doctor was largely absent from our televisions. But he lived on in print and I lapped up those stories. Thanks to the excellent Target Books range I could read the stories of the adventures that had been broadcast on TV between 1963 and 1989. Then along came Virgin Publishing who released a range of books (one per month at their peak) featuring the continuing adventures of the 7th Doctor. These were joined after a couple of years by Past Doctor stories – tales designed to slip in between the stories which had been broadcast on television and featured Doctors 1-6 and their respective travelling companions.

Then in 1996 we got the 8th Doctor TV Movie. Things changed (including the Doctor). BBC Books took back ownership of the Doctor Who stories and began a lengthy run of original novels featuring the 8th Doctor and they also published their own Past Doctor stories too. I would usually buy two Doctor Who books per month – for around 14 years. I have read A LOT of Doctor Who novels.

When the show re-launched on BBC in 2005 the books continued but the addition of 1 small child to our household curtailed the book buying for me.

However, my devotion to the print adventures of our favourite Time Lord puts me in a pretty strong position to assess the latest offering: Engines of War by George Mann.

I am happy to report that it is without doubt one of the best Doctor Who novels I have read. There are lots of things contributing to this and I cannot share them all because <Spoilers>. However, the chance to join The War Doctor is a great start. Throw in a feisty new companion, trips to Gallifrey, Daleks, Timelord political machinations and the unexpected return of some forgotten personalities and there were treats galore for the fans.

The author does a great job of creating the personality of the War Doctor, you can feel the spirit of the character we are so familiar with battling the necessity of the destruction he brings in this unfamiliar guise. Clearly the War Doctor is tormented by the path that he has forced to take and this comes through in Mann’s fast paced story.

To reveal too much of the plot would rob the reader of the chance to enjoy the story unfolding. Suffice to say that I would love to read more of this battle-weary Doctor’s exploits. The new companion (Cinder) was also a great addition to the mix, she and the Doctor enjoy snappy and entertaining dialogue and it is through her eyes we see how the Doctor almost seems to relish his confrontations with those who stand in his path.

Despite this being a War Doctor story we still see a figure determined to do the right thing, protect the innocent and try to bring solutions to lost causes. With little source material available to form a clear image of how the War Doctor could be expected to behave I believe that George Mann has done an admirable job of crafting a hero we can believe in.

The sheer volume of original Doctor Who novels that are available invariably means that some will slip into obscurity. Within both the Virgin and the BBC range of books are tales that lacked any real spark. There were stories which could have featured any characters and the plots were so generic that, aside from calling the main character Doctor, you had no inkling that you were reading about our favourite Gallifreyan. That is why Engines of War stands out – you are never in any doubt of the subject matter and the importance that the story takes in the mythos of Doctor Who adventures. Excellent reading to be had – go grab a copy.

Category: 5* Reviews, Competitions, Doctor Who, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Doctor Who Engines of War – George Mann
August 7

Someone Else’s Skin – Sarah Hilary

Called to a woman’s refuge to take a routine witness statement, DI Someone Else's SkinMarnie Rome instead walks in on an attempted murder.

Trying to uncover the truth from layers of secrets, Marnie finds herself confronting her own demons.

Because she, of all people, knows that it can be those closest to us we should fear the most . . .

Thank you to Headline and Bookbridgr for providing a copy for review.

 

Someone Else’s Skin is a debut novel – I couldn’t tell. There was never a feeling that the author, Sarah Hilary, was finding her feet or that she had a great idea for a story but just could not quite make the elements come together. This is a slick, stylish thriller which tackles the disturbing reality of domestic violence with unflinching and often graphic detail.

Principle character Detective Inspector Marnie Rome is well established and I found her feisty and determined attitude suited the tone of the story well. She has her share of demons to conquer and, knowing there are sequels planned, I hope that these are visited in more detail in subsequent books.

The supporting cast were equally well developed and you find that you really will care what happens to the characters as the story unfolds. I sometimes find that too many peripheral characters can detract from a story and I lose track on how plot threads interweave. Not so here. A tightly worked tale where everyone has a part to play in getting the story to its dramatic conclusion.

Someone Else’s Skin drew me in. Domestic violence is not an easy subject matter and at times I found the accounts of how the characters had suffered quite harrowing to read. However, Sarah Hilary handled these encounters superbly. Violence is never glorified and always seemed to be recounted in such a way as you can almost hear a voice of contempt (usually that of DI Rome) as the actions of the perpetrator are detailed.

I finished Someone Else’s Skin earlier today and posted an update on Twitter which captured my feelings as I closed the book:

‘When the book you are reading turns everything

you believed onto its head and totally floors you.

THAT.’

I stand by that sentiment. I was enjoying this book (despite my qualms re the subject matter) when suddenly the plot was twisted. I didn’t see it coming and it escalated the book from ‘good’ to ‘great’. I love when that happens.

Someone Else’s Skin is available now on Kindle and will be available in paperback by the end of August. I urge you to Grab This Book, it’s a belter.

Category: 5* Reviews, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Someone Else’s Skin – Sarah Hilary
June 19

Stalkers – a great book crept up on me

stalkersSTALKERS – PAUL FINCH

Time’s up. You’re Next.

“All he had to do was name the woman he wanted. It was that easy. They would do all the hard work.”

Detective Sergeant Mark ‘Heck’ Heckenburg is investigating the disappearance of 38 different women. Each one was happy and successful until they vanished without a trace.

Desperate to find her missing sister, Lauren Wraxford seeks out Heck’s help. Together they enter a seedy underworld of gangsters and organised crime.

But when they hear rumours about the so-called ‘Nice Guys Club’ they hit a brick wall. They’re the gang that no one will talk about. Because the Nice Guys can arrange anything you want. Provided you pay the price…

 

Having spent some time hanging round Twitter and getting a feel for what fellow readers were spending time with there was one name which cropped up more than once…Paul Finch.

Stalkers seemed the ideal jumping on point as it introduced Mark Heckenburg, a recurring central figure for Finch’s books. Promising start from my point of view – I love when an author establishes a character and builds on their story over a few books.

From the outset I was drawn into the story the Stalker element was unsettling when described  from the victim’s (limited) viewpoint. The scale of the true horror that was to follow was skillfully revealed and kept me hooked. There were some very disturbing concepts brought out and the author really put his characters through the wringer.

I read a lot of Michael Slade books when I was younger. Murder stories featuring the Royal Canadian Mounted Police but with nasty ‘shlock horror’ undertones.  This is the closest UK equivalent that I have read for many years but Stalkers was better – much, much better than anything Slade ever wrote.

I have no hesitation in calling Stalkers the best book that I have read this year – GRAB THIS BOOK  I give it an A+.

Category: 5* Reviews, From The Bookshelf | Comments Off on Stalkers – a great book crept up on me