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Friday, 16 February 2018

Tight Bastards

And the best crime author of all time is.....

Browsing aimlessly, as you do, I came across a 2015 readers poll held by WH SMITH to find the best crime writer of all time - it was an interesting list with Brit author, Peter James winning the top spot for best crime writer EVER.

WH SMITH wrote in their blog -

After reading your recommendations for some fantastic detectivesunderrated crime books and books that would work well on the big screen, we had an inkling that there were a few fans of certain authors in our midst. As the crime & thriller period of #WHSBookmarks started to draw to an end, we decided to take it to the vote and cruelly ask you to narrow down all your favourite authors to choose just one to be the best crime/thriller author of all time. The nominations came pouring in, including a huge mix of authors, from the classics who are considered the godfathers/mothers of their sub-genre to modern bestsellers to little-heard-of names that have made a big impact on you. In the end though, our winner won the crown by a landslide, leaving us in no doubt as to who you think is worthy of the title of The Best Crime/Thriller Author of all Time.

I do like Peter James myself, but is he the best ever? I suppose it's all subjective but the list is interesting with some surprises - household names like  P D James and Thomas Harris only poll at 19 and 18 respectively. And Ruth Rendell should most certainly be higher than 13 -  Conan Doyle comes in at 21 while the poet of crime, Raymond Chandler is a miserable  47. Still lists like this are perfect for debate -  below is the full list from 1 to 99 and here 's the  LINK to the original article.


16. Lee Child
25. Dan Brown
27. Jo Nesbo
28. Peter May
46. Ed McBain
56. Mo Hayder
69. Karen Long
78. Jim Kelly
88. Bill Todd
89. Ed James
96. Lee Weeks

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Book Review: Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter

The original jacket cover
Inspector Morse is one of those household name characters,  the kind of fictional detective familiar to even those people who have never read a word of the original novels from which he sprung. And to be honest until I picked up Last Bus to Woodstock, the first of the novels and originally published way back in 1975, I was one of those people. I've likely seen every episode of the TV series, as well as much of the spin-offs Lewis and Endeavour, but the original novels had escaped my attention.

What struck me about Last Bus to Woodstock is how different the character of Morse is to the version John Thaw portrayed on our screens - the Morse here is a much seedier character, borderline creepy old man, drives a beaten up old Lancia instead of the sleek Jag and is several years younger than his sidekick, good old Sergeant Lewis. There are some touches of the more familiar Morse -  he loves crosswords for one thing, and adores his classical music. And the plot is as intricate as any presented in the TV versions.

The cover blurb - Beautiful Sylvia Kaye and another young woman had been seen hitching a ride not long before Sylvia's bludgeoned body is found outside a pub in Woodstock, near Oxford. Morse is sure the other hitchhiker can tell him much of what he needs to know. But his confidence is shaken by the cool
inscrutability of the girl he's certain was Sylvia's companion on that ill-fated September evening. Shrewd as Morse is, he's also distracted by the complex scenarios that the murder set in motion among Sylvia's girlfriends and their Oxford playmates. To grasp the painful truth, and act upon it, requires from Morse the last atom of his professional discipline.

A more tasteful cover design
Of course the book was written in the 70's and as such displays a lot of the attitudes of that decade so I don't think it should be jumped on for the sexist nature of many of the characters, Morse included on times, but several of the passages dealing with rape can give the modern reader a jolt. The old joke - Confucius he say, woman with skirt up run faster than man with trousers down - is even spoken by one character at a particularly unsettling passage in which several characters question the fact that rape can actually exist. However during the time the book was written these attitudes were quite common, and one can't condemn Dexter for writing to the times rather than some far more enlightened period in the future.

In fact in many ways this book reads like historical fiction - there is no Internet, no mobile phones, no DNA, women are typists with shapely legs and a major plot point depends on the slowness of the British postal system. That said it is still a superior detective novel and rewards the reader with a well drawn out plot and puzzles a'plenty.

I am told that this book is not typical of the series as a whole and I will be reading more books in the series, in fact I intend to read the entire series before 2018 is out, so it will be interesting to see how the character develops over later books. So as they say - watch this space.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Bill Crider...

The Internet and its ability for networking has changed our lives - without the Internet all the name Bill Crider would have meant to me -  just another of American writer of  the mysteries and westerns that I like so much. However, he became a good friend and although I never met him personally I did get to know him quite well via the world wide webbie thingie. When I first broke into publication, all the way back in 2009 with Tarnished Star, Bill was one of the first to offer a review - you can read that HERE.

There's a downside of course to  this ability to so easily connect with people - and when the news, not unexpected, that Bill recently passed after after a long and courageous battle against cancer arrived, I felt as if I'd lost a close friend, someone important to me and you know even although our relationship may have been conducted electronically, broad-banded across oceans, it was a real friendship. I may not have physically looked into his eyes, but through his words, our correspondence I felt his soul. Bill was a warm, kind, caring man with such a well developed sense of humour that I swear he had a little Welsh blood somewhere in his ancestry.

Bill was best known for the Sheriff Dan Rhodes mystery series, but in all he published more than fifty books, covered many genres from westerns to horror novels. Only a writer can fully appreciate the demands the craft puts on a person, the time it eats up and yet Bill always managed to find the time to offer advice to new and seasoned writers alike.

Bill led a full life, died a courageous death, and his memory will be cherished not only by those who knew him personally but the many many thousands of us to whom he offered the hand of digital friendship.

God Bless you Sir.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Granny Smith

There are four books so far in the Granny Smith series, with another due later this year. All are very cheaply priced on the Kindle - there is also a very entertaining audiobook of the first Granny Smith novel available from Audible.

Why not check out the senior sleuth.


It had been a while since I have read the likes of the character Miss Marple from Agatha Christie. Now Granny Smith has fulfilled that void in my reading life. Granny Smith is not exactly old,  but irrespective of that, everyone has been calling her Granny. She is a young at heart woman who has a trait to be curious about everything that is happening around her. So when her friend Sheila gets engaged to Nigel, who is younger than her, Granny Smith gets suspicious. The following murder in the town makes Granny even more curious and on she follows the cluesr, much to the chagrin of Detective Inspector Miskins.  AMAZON FIVE STAR REVIEW

Let's dispel one misapprehension, okay? Granny Smith is nothing like Miss Marple and G.M. Dobbs is nothing like Agatha Christie. Having said that, this is fun to read. The Welsh elements, the humour, the familiar characters and a well-developed plot combine to produce a better than average cozy mystery. What more could you ask for? Apart from the next in the series? AMAZON FOUR STARS

I was brought up on Miss Marple. I loved the idea of an old lady solving cases through sheer nosiness and this is a modern day version.
It starts with a murder at the Village Fete. Unfortunately for the murder, she happens to be Granny Smith's next door neighbour and when the poor husband of the victim is arrested, Granny Smith leaps on her bike into action. With a surveillance team comprising of long suffering husband and gay son, she is on the case!!
A lovely easy read and a good plot- a real winner :) AMAZON FIVE STAR REVIEW

 downloaded this book and couldnt put it down its brilliant granny smith is a no nonsense lady that has an way of getting to the truth which is sheer brilliance she really is miss marple on steroids cant wait for the next book in the series. Amazon five star review

The eccentric Welsh pensioner gets her teeth (usually gripping a corn-cob pipe) into solving the mysterious murder of a friend in the village. Despite being ignored and warned off by the police, she persists. This delightful short story makes great family reading with plenty of humour. I can just imagine a nice TV comedy series from this. 

Amazon five star review

Book Review: Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham

'Writing about cultures and religions that are not your own brings with it a degree of responsibility, and so it should. I have endeavoured to do so with care, sensitivity and, crucially, with respect. In Love Like Blood I have tried to display the utmost respect for Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and for those who practice their religions peacefully. ' Mark Billingham

Tackling a subject like this in a crime thriller is fraught with perils, but Billingham pulls it off and at no point does the book stray into needless sensation - This is the 14th novel featuring the author's series character, Tom Thorne - (I've been on a bit of a Billingham kick lately and this is the third novel of his I've read this month - back to back reading I add. This brings me up to date with the character, I believe there's a new Thorne novel due later this year) - and the subject matter gives the book a sharp edge. Razor sharp; you could slice a finger turning these pages.

When Detective Inspector Nicola Tanner's partner is murdered in their own home she is left seething with the need for vengeance and justice. She has been investigating a series of honour killings in the Muslim, Sikh and Hindu communities and she is convinced the murder of her partner is connected, but Tanner is pulled from the case, put on compassionate leave. She won't leave the investigation alone though and drags Tom Thorne into her case; unofficially of course. The book contains all the usual elements of a successful thriller - there are hit men, red herrings galore, more twists than a Curly Wurly and above all an engaging team in Thorne and Tanner. This book is nothing short of excellent and gives great insight into  honour based violence, which is something that is more common than we realise.

Official figures are that there are around a dozen or so honour killings in the UK each year, with around five thousand each year globally - a thousand of these killings take place in Pakistan alone. However according to the police many of these crimes are unreported and if you include assault, mutilation and kidnapping in with honour based violence then the figures are totally staggering. It is estimated that the true figure for the UK alone would be 20,000. Any woman who deviates from some arbitrary patriarchal law is at risk. You can be killed for simply smiling at someone the wrong way.

Billingham, in this book tries to separate the religion, of which he shows the utmost respect, from the honour crimes of which he hates, but he is walking a tightrope creating a fictional thriller around such an emotive subject. He pulls it off though....he pulls it off really well. The book does what it is supposed to  as a thriller, keeping the reader turning the pages, giving us believable characters but at the same time allowing us a glimpse of a world in which we know very little about.

'I've always thought if you write a book with an agenda,' Billingham told the Independant newspaper
at the time of the book's original publication. 'That you are going to write a bad book. 'And I stand by that. Even if I am writing something topical the story has to be front and centre. And it has to be character driven.'

'Honour killings have also been documented in Jewish and  Christian communities,' Tanners says in the book. 'If fact I think the only ones without blood on their hands are Buddhists and Rastafarians...maybe Jedis.'

All in all then another exceptional thriller from a crime writer who is at the top of his game...and one that could, excuse the cliche, have been ripped from today's headlines.

You can read the details of the true case that inspired Love Like Blood HERE

Friday, 19 January 2018

Book Review: Time of Death by Mark Billingham

This is the 13th book in Mark Billingham's series featuring his tough as old boots detective, Tom Thorne - I've not read the entire series but after really enjoying the previous book in the series, The Bones Beneath (review HERE) I felt the immediate need for more Thorne and so I started on Time of Death.

Like The Bones Beneath, which was something of a departure from the standard London setting of the novels, Time of Death also uproots Thorne to a different location and presents him in a somewhat unfamiliar situation. This time Thorne is not on a case at all, but on holidays with his partner Helen Weeks (also a cop and the main character in Billingham's novel, In The Dark which I have but have not yet read). However their planned holiday is called short when Helen decides to return to her hometown, Polesford in Derbyshire to comfort an old friend whose husband, Stephen Bates, has been arrested on suspicion of child abduction.

When one of the missing girls turns up dead, the police believe they have their killer and all of the evidence seems to suggest so, but Tom Thorne is not so sure and his suspicions soon put him at odds with the local police force while he heads towards a showdown with a ruthless, and bat-shit crazy killer. There is also suspense because the reader knows the second girl is still alive - will Thorne get to get before she too is finished off?

The main narrative though concentrates largely on Helen and her relationship with her old friend Linda  Bates- it shows how the lives of innocent people, namely Linda and her two children are torn apart when her husband, the children's stepfather is arrested initially for abduction and then charged on counts of both murder and abduction. As the evidence mounts up against the man a press feeding frenzy begins and the Bates family find themselves under siege from not only the press but hordes of angry people who seem to take it upon themselves to punish the family for the alleged crimes of Stephen Bates. This aspect of the story is handled extremely well and avoids the trap of becoming soap opera'ish. Not once does the ordeal the family go through seem anything other than real...real, unfair and bloody tragic.

Now the unspoken rule with crime books is that the author can't just pluck the guilty party out of thin air at the end of the book, the reader must have met the guilty party  during the narrative, and using this logic I figured I sussed it all out by the mid-way point. There were enough clues to point me in the direction I took only to have the rug pulled out from beneath my feet towards the novels end. It's at this point that you can stand back and see where the author led you on a merry dance - and in this book, Mr Billingham dances so well.

To sum up, Time of Death is a bloody excellent thriller with real depth of character, and Tom Thorne, Billinghams's main character, has become an excellent creation - an Everyman copper, who you'd quite like to sit down and share a pint with, but keep him away from the jukebox or you could end up line dancing down the high street after a bellyful of strong ale.