2/5 Indie film and firmly indie in feel. Liberal use of jump cuts and long takes for effect. A lot of hand-held camera work. Acting and dialogue a bit stiff which isn’t helped by the quality of sound replacement in post production. Film school, amdram. Implicit references to Rope and explicit references to The Mousetrap. It’s a good story. It’s stylish to the point of being tricksy. I can see why it would do well on the festival circuit. If the performances were a little less stagey and the sound wasn’t so obviously post dubbed Murder Made Easy would be pretty good. One reviewer said it was like an episode of Tales of the Unexpected. As such it would get a thumbs up.
4/5 Compulsive reading. Fractured narrative told in first person by several unreliable and fairly unsympathetic narrators, this could have been all style no substance. Without an obvious protagonist and antagonist the story might have struggled to engage but in Catherine Cooper's hands it was compelling. I barely put the book down. I'd just finished Paula Hawkins' Into The Water which has some similarities in narrative style so at least I knew to watch the chapter headings to keep on track. Who are the unnamed voices? How are these stories going to come together? How is it all going to end?
OK, a little less about Hugo's social ineptness as a businessman and maybe a bit too much of a similarity in the business relationship between Andy and Cameron but that's being picky. Catherine Cooper is writing about a world she knows well and it shows. Having had one (very brief) experience of (not) skiing I felt Louisa's pain!
5/5 This book could not be more timely. Never before have the messengers been so much more important than facts, statistics, in fact anything quantifiable and verifiable. How can this be? Why are some people able to get their message to gain traction while others, often much better qualified, struggle to get heard let alone make an impact?
Full of useful illustrative examples, many almost straight out of the news, this book is not only an explanation of why some messengers are successful but also how, on a good day, with a following wind, all things being equal, someone hoping to get a message across could maximise their potential.
It also challenges the reader to consider how rationally they choose who to believe. Well written, academically sound but accessible to all, maybe this should be required reading. This is a book for our time and is highly recommended.
ARC courtesy Netgalley.
By MJ Lee.
4/5 The fourth in the DI Ridpath series, Where the Innocent Die manages to be an easy read and thought provoking at the same time. A detainee dies while awaiting deportation and noone seems to care. The initial investigation is sloppy with all concerned too ready to accept is just another suicide (and how can that even be acceptable?).
The Coroner, Mrs Challoner is having none of it. She wants it properly investigated and she wants it done so the girl's parents can take her body home in five days time. DI Ridpath is still with the Coroner's Office as he recovers from cancer so it falls to him to marshal the necessary resources and negotiate the obstacles commercial enterprise and government bureaucracy conspire to put in his way.
This is a page turner that puts a human face on news headlines that have become all too familiar.
ARC courtesy Netgalley
3/5 It's difficult to nail this securely to a particular genre. It's a tale of lies and betrayal, of love and loss, it's billed as espionage but Le Carré or Fleming it certainly isn't.
Anna, David and Meg have been friends since university. The mysterious Harry had been a star reporter and Anna is in his thrall when she begins sharing a flat with David, a millionaire's son, initially as a purely practical arrangement.
It turns out the arrangement suits Harry's purposes well as he claims to be a Government spy who is currently working on exposing the illegal activities of David's father, Clive, and his company and he recruits Anna to help him.
Anna's relationship with David becomes more intimate, first casually but gradually deepens, however, Harry is the true love and the situation with David is ambiguous at best.
I understand that Charlotte Philby is trying to nuance the motivations of those who end up in espionage and see how it might work for a woman. To demonstrate how a series of individual choices can set a person's path in a direction they might not have chosen at the start. I found myself regularly doubting the likelihood of any of this but this is where the granddaughter of Kim Philby holds the ace. At the same time I struggled to empathise and it was a pretty slow read. The regular switches back and forth in time and the changes of narrator between Anna and David's childhood friend Maria are clever and are and interesting way to allow the story to unfold but I found the timeline difficult to follow and the voices of Anna and Maria were too similar.
It's well conceived, I believe it's well crafted, it's getting good reviews, it's a promising debut by a writer who is uniquely qualified but I'm not sure I'm the right reader!
ARC courtesy Netgalley
The latest in the Maeve Kerrigan crimes series sees Maeve and her partner DI Josh Derwent assigned to re-examining the evidence for the retrial of Leo Stone when it emerges his murder trial jury was prejudiced. The stakes couldn't be higher. The case relied on evidence from pathologist Glen Hanshaw and since his recent death two other cases for which he did the post-mortems had been successfully challenged. Another would open the floodgates and more evidence would be needed to be sure of conviction.
There are plenty of twists, I was pleased to spot a couple of clues but equally fell for a few red herrings.
Cruel Acts is my first Maeve Kerrigan and I'm guessing anyone who has been following the series has a better handle on her relationship with Derwent. Dropping in on them in this book, the whole thing seems a little clumsy leaving me wondering how Maeve could simultaneously have so little understanding of him and have previously given him such an insight into her personal life.
It's a good read, a police procedural that will keep you hooked.
Not having read the previous books in the Fabian Risk series and not realising it was nordic noir, this was a brutal introduction. This was The Big Heat with the dial turned up to 11!
When Peter Brise, a millionaire IT entrepreneur, commits suicide by driving into the harbour after a car chase involving the Chief of Police it's odd enough. When a second autopsy reveals that he had been for some time before his car went into the water, before he was last seen alive, the nightmare really begins. How can this be when he was seen a few days earlier? Meantime Dunja's exhile to uniform and ritual humiliation continues, frustrating her investigation into the latest, deadliest incarnation of happy slapping.
Stefan Ahnhem is a screenwriter and the narrative structure of Eighteen Below reflects this. Rapid intercutting between scenes, locations and storylines hold the attention and keep the pages turning.
I'd recommend starting with book 1; dropping into this world, cold was a shock to the system! Unless you are familiar with the characters and the back story the storytelling seems off balance, like watching an episode of a soap opera in isolation.
ARC courtesy of Netgalley.
In this short book Alister McGrath compares and contrasts two popular communicators, C.S. Lewis, Christian apologist and Richard Dawkins, apologist for New Atheism. Under the four headings, Big Picture, Reasoned Belief, Is There a God? and Human Nature, McGrath analyses key arguments from each.
Since both McGrath himself and Lewis began as atheists before becoming convinced by the claims of Christianity it isn't surprising McGrath tackles Dawkins' easy dismissal of God. This was one of my main issues with Dawkins when I read The Blind Watchmaker some time ago. Unlike Lewis, who tried to convince the sceptic, Dawkins seems to preach to the choir with no evidence of anything other than a superficial knowledge of what he so comprehensively criticises in remarkably offensive terms.
McGrath also considers Dawkins' vision for human nature. Yes, Dawkins believes we are slaves to our selfish genes but, surprisingly, he believes that with the knowledge we have we can fight against our nature. What I find so difficult to understand about Dawkins is that he believes the universe has "no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference" and yet he passionately cares ... why, what does it matter?
This is only an introduction to the key writings of Dawkins and Lewis which are listed at the end for further study. I brought my own feelings about Lewis and Dawkins to this book and had them confirmed, no doubt others will have their own responses.
Not often I work out a key element of the mystery early but I got this one really early. Not to worry, it was entertaining confirming I was right and there were plenty of other things I hadn't worked out.
Happy Holiday (who agrees to calling someone in witness protection Happy Holiday?) ploughs up a dead body on her midnight shift clearing the roads in the mountains of West Maryland. It's obvious he was drunk, ran out of fuel and froze as a consequence. To the writer's credit, Happy doesn't immediately "have a hunch" that something's amiss but wants to give the man's wife some closure by finding out what happened his last hours.
The sex scene, not particularly explicit, caught me by surprise and I'm not sure why it was included (sex outside marriage where one party is religious read like it might have had significance).
Reservations but a good story.
ARC courtesy Netgalley.
First in the Squeaky Clean Mystery series by Christy Barritt.
This was a quick undemanding read. I’d just completed a particularly harrowing book which was also a bit heavy on profanities and this book is genuinely squeaky clean and a pleasant relief.
For the best of reasons Gabby St. Claire had to drop out of her forensic science degree and these days she sees the aftermath of crime through her crime scene cleaning business. When, in the course of her job, she uncovers a murder weapon overlooked by the police she simultaneously becomes a thorn in the side of the police who are convinced they’ve got their man and a target for the real killer who knows they haven’t.
“Whistling a tune from Fiddler on the Roof, I used my tweezers to work a piece of Gloria Cunningham’s skull out of the sky blue wall” is a promising opening line and a good indicator of the feel of the book; not taking itself too seriously but not too sparing on the gore.
The story has both a Christian and a romantic subplot (actually it’s pretty much the same subject plot) . In terms of genre I think that makes it Christian, mystery/crime, chick lit and I suspect it’s also pitched at Young Adults. I’m not altogether the target reader but a few weeks after finishing it I find myself curious to know what happens next. When next I feel in need of some light relief I may well try book 2.