July 23

Ed McBain – 87th Precinct: The Heckler

I had been online looking for something to read and I found that the last 87th Precinct novel (Fiddlers) was available for bloggers/reviewers to request.  The book was actually published 9 years ago so I was surprised to see it offered for review, however, as a long-standing fan of Ed McBain and the boys of the 87th Precinct I had to submit a request.

Sadly it was not to be – my request for a review copy was declined. As it was one of the few books in the series I had still to read I was a tad disappointed. Still it whetted the appetite for a return to the fictional world of Isola. Turn to my Kindle and there I find a plethora of 87th Precinct stories all waiting to be read.

Over the course of a 5 year period in my late teens/early twenties I think I managed to pick up about 90% of Ed McBain’s books. Almost all the books I owned were second hand copies as I could never quite bring myself to pay £5 or £6 for a book I would read in one night. This remains true today, I am rebuilding my McBain collection on my Kindle but will only buy the books when they go into the sale (fortunately this seems to be quite a regular occurrence).

With over a dozen titles downloaded to my Kindle it was just a matter of selecting one I fancied. The Heckler won the the hecklerday.  One reason it beat off the other challengers was because I could not remember how the story panned out, but more importantly it was because it featured The Deaf Man – arch nemesis to Steve Carella and the other 87th Precinct cops.

The Deaf Man was a master criminal and a recurring character in McBain’s books – there are over 50 novels of the 87th Precinct and I seemed to recall the Deaf Man popping up quite often.  However, a quick check of Wikipedia suggests he only actually features in 6 books (with name-checks in others). Clearly I built up the memory more than the reality!

No matter, The Heckler brought me everything I wanted. The squad-room dynamic was there, characters I had long forgotten were welcomed back into my imagination and the actual story was good fun with lots of Sherlock Holmes references thrown in for good measure.

My reading pile grows ever larger but there will always be time to step back and squeeze in one of Ed McBain’s books. The Heckler is 54 years old and it shows its age in places, however, at heart it remains a good story told by one of the masters of his craft.

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July 21

Digital Circumstances – BRM Stewart

Digital Circumstances‘Martin McGregor left school in Glasgow with nothing but a talent for working with computers. He built up a successful business, installing hardware and software for companies and individuals. He was settled in a loving relationship.

But Martin’s company steals theirs and their clients’ data, all of it: account details, credit card numbers, identities – and sells them on to international cyber-criminals.

Martin never meant this to happen: it was all from circumstances all through his life, starting with a gangster’s money which gave him what he thought was his first lucky break.

Now he is trying to get clear, but his attempts attract the attentions of police and gangsters from three countries, and some people die. His partner knows something is going on, and she once told him never to lie to her.

And in New York, FBI agent Mark Grosvenor is on his trail’.

 

I downloaded Digital Circumstances to my Kindle on the recommendation of my Sister-in-Law. She and I share quite similar tastes in books and if she is praising a story I will tend to pay attention…except for Dan Brown books, there will always be something on top of the TBR pile before another Dan Brown novel.

So working only on a recommendation and the five paragraph blurb from the book description I launched into Digital Circumstances, the first novel by BRM Stewart. Loved it! Loved it! Loved It!

The central character (Martin McGregor) is a tech-head and as his story develops you also see the evolution of computers and how they evolved into our lives – a nice touch here and I suspect that McGregor is around the same age as I am given the computers he owned at the outset of the book! More worrying was the ease with which the gangsters, who also feature heavily in the story, quickly adapted to the technological developments and profited from our lack of understanding.

I found McGregor’s character was really well developed and I wanted him to come through the tale unscathed. There are some ‘Thrillers’ I can finish and not even remember the central character’s name much less care what happens to them during the course of a book. The supporting characters were well realised and as they came and went from McGregor’s life there were times I felt genuine regret for what had happened to them or anger towards how they were behaving.

Another bonus was that Digital Circumstances is mainly set in Glasgow, a city I studied in and where I got my first job. I always feel that when I am reading about a place I know well it becomes much easier to become engaged in a story. As the story also features Portugal, America and Eastern Europe there was a real feeling of the scale to the book: it highlighted the extent of the reach of the criminal underworld and the even longer reach of the authorities chasing them down.

The story played out well and kept me gripped, one of the books that I did not want to end. A cracking debut novel and I was delighted to hear Mr Stewart is writing his next book. I strongly recommend that you grab a copy of Digital Circumstances.

 

 

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July 15

Fan – Danny Rhodes (a tough fixture)

I received a copy of Fan from the lovely Sophie at Reviewed The Book – Sophie has an amazing number of reviews on her site and you should take a wander over to http://www.reviewedthebook.co.uk  Sophie, thanks for the copy!

I had seen a lot of mentions on Twitter about Fan. The overwhelming opinions I heard stated that it was a great read. References were made to the Hillsborough disaster, Nottingham Forest and the football world of years gone by. As a football fan this sounded like something I had to read and the other bloggers who were showering praise have been seeing me right thus far and making great recommendations. I will also highlight the publisher Arcadia Books who are doing a fantastic job in promoting a title that many people should seek out.

Scroll down my pages and you will soon find that I started Fan some time ago. I have started (and finished) several books since beginning Fan but this one took me quite a bit longer than I expected. This is not because I am a slow reader, nor is it down to my reluctance in writing up my reviews it is because I was not sure how I felt about Fan.

It is a very, very powerful story. It captures a time I was a part of but probably too young to fully understand. I recall several of the key historical events with more clarity than I would like and the depth of detail and accuracy almost gives the story the feeling of reading a diary rather than a work of fiction. HOWEVER….I found it hard to read and I put it down for several weeks about half way through before I felt that I was ready to finish the story.

Let me be clear, it is a great book and I will recommend it to anyone who asks me if they should read it but, it just was not for me. I like my fiction a little less realistic and generally the books that I really get into are sometimes best taken with a pinch of salt.

The central character in Fan is a flawed individual who did not endear himself to this reader. His is story which spans two time lines, there is the memory of growing up as a Forest fan in the 1980’s and this overlaps with the present day as he struggles to maintain a normal life while haunted by the ghosts of his past.

I found that I was looking forward more to the present day parts of the story rather than the historical reminiscing. I wanted to see where the character was going and if he could salvage something from his self-enforced darkness.

I am glad I read this one, not my usual type of story but it will stay with me for a while (which is more than can be said about lots of the more generic titles I have read).

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July 9

The Hunter – Chris Carter (Short Story)

It is hard to gauge from reading a short story if you are going to enjoy a full novel penned by the same author. In the case of Chris Carter’s The Hunter I also suspect that this particular short story was mainly written as a wee extra  treat for established fans rather than be intended as an introduction to his recurring hero, Robert Hunter.

However, as my introduction to Carter’s work I found this a very satisfying experience and I will certainly be moving on to read The Crucifix Killer (described as ‘the first full length thriller featuring Robert Hunter’ in the sneak preview that was attached to my kindle copy of The Hunter).

I am rapidly finding that following fellow bloggers on Twitter is throwing up too many recommended reads – my TBR pile has grown considerably in the last few months. Chris Carter is one such recommendation and The Hunter seemed a good jumping on point – how many spoilers could there possibly be in a book set before the first full novel? None! (I think).

The Hunter is a great take on the classic ‘Locked Room’ murder.  A young woman is found dead in her locked apartment – apparent suicide and the police wish the case closed as quickly as possible. Enter Robert Hunter and suddenly he is asking the questions that no-one else seemed to have considered. Nicely written with good characterisation which makes me want to see the characters expanded upon in subsequent tales.

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June 23

Forty Acres – Dwayne Alexander Smith

Forty Acres – Dwayne Alexander Smith

Martin Grey, a smart, talented. young lawyer working out of a storefront in Queens, is taken under the wing of a secretive group made up of America’s most powerful, wealthy, and esteemed black men. He’s dazzled by what they have accomplished, and they seem to think he has the potential to be one of them They invite him for a weekend away from it all – no wives, no cell phones, no talk of business. But what he discovers, far from home, is a disturbing alternative reality which challenges his deepest convictions…

A novel of rage and compassion, trust and betrayal, Forty Acres is the story of one man’s desperate attempt to escape the clutches of a terrifying new moral order.

 

Review copy kindly provided by Netgalley.

One of the joys of any new book is the pending adventure. Where will the story take me? Will I be gripped by adventure? Bored by excessive detail? Or be challenged with new ideas and concepts? Fortunately 40 Acres managed to grip, entertain and, at times, even made me seriously consider some of my personal perceptions.

At the heart of the story is a successful lawyer, Martin Grey, who gets the chance to join an elite band of successful black businessmen and entrepreneurs. The foundation behind their unity is shrouded in mystery which is slowly and (often) shockingly revealed to the reader, and Grey, as our perceptions of equality in the 21st Century is challenged by author Dwayne Alexander Smith.

Although I felt the book got off to a bit of a slow start, this was short lived and I quickly found that I wanted to learn more about Mr Gray and his new friends. The central character was nicely grounded and when faced with some of the extreme concepts and situations that confronted him as the story unfolded I found I was able to empathise with the dilemmas he faced – excellent writing by Smith who took some unpleasant concepts and almost gave them a rational spin at times. By the time I was deep into the book I was engrossed and could not wait to see how the story panned out.

A little bit of learning in this book for me too. The titular Forty Acres is a direct link to the freehold land given to former slaves by the American Government when they got their freedom. Had I known this before starting the story I may have been a bit more aware of where the story was leading so I was a little slow on the uptake! I don’t feel that being better informed than I would in any way spoil what was otherwise an excellent story.

For readers that enjoy an adventure story, but don’t want to suspend their belief and read about the all action hero, then I would have no qualms recommending that you Grab This Book.