Book Review – Amongst our Weapons – Ben Aaronovitch

Blurb

There is a world hidden underneath this great city…

The London Silver Vaults – for well over a century, the largest collection of silver for sale in the world. It has more locks than the Bank of England and more cameras than a celebrity punch-up.

Not somewhere you can murder someone and vanish without a trace – only that’s what happened.

The disappearing act, the reports of a blinding flash of light and memory loss amongst the witnesses all make this a case for Detective Constable Peter Grant and the Special Assessment Unit.

Alongside their boss DCI Thomas Nightingale, the SAU find themselves embroiled in a mystery that encompasses London’s tangled history, foreign lands and, most terrifying of all, the North!

And Peter must solve this case soon because back home his partner Beverley is expecting twins any day now. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s about to encounter something – and somebody – that nobody ever expects…

My Review

(Just to be clear, if you noticed that I only reviewed the first book in the series a couple of weeks ago, I actually read that a couple of years ago and I have read all the books in the series, just not the graphic novels and over media.)

A robbery gone wrong in the London Silver Vaults is just the first step into this insight into Peter Grant ever more complicated life. With Avenging Angels, dubious ex-colleagues, astrolabe rings, jaunts up to Glossop to resolve to clean up a mountain, not to mention risky interdimensional trips elsewhere, Peter still has to deal with talking foxes, a new construction in the back garden, female relatives of all shapes sizes, divinities and his own mother moving in as Beverley prepares to pop out the twins. There’s a lot going on in this book.

What works particularly well in this instalment is the closer ties that are developing between The Folly and the rest of the Police. There is a reason for Peter to head to Glossop, the fact that he goes with Seawall and all that that local knowledge entails is just the icing on the ‘effing’ cake (as Seawoll might say). The investigation into the murders takes the team from London to Manchester to whole new places to face, as Seawoll says, “well I wasn’t expecting them.” If you know, you know.

A lot of other factors come into play too, we get to learn a great deal more about the Sons of Weyland, though they aren’t all necessarily boys. But that is, kind of, the heart of this story. All the threads are based on the idea that different people think, learn and act in different ways, it’s about bringing things together.

The bit that doesn’t work, is that in the end, there’s no real good reason for what happens, other than male ego. That might well be the common cause of a lot of crime, but in this case, it felt like a let-down.

The last chapter is odd. Everything gets wrapped up, and a lot of the bringing together is clearly in the near future for Peter and the Folly. It felt like the end. Not just of the book, but of the series. There are plenty of opportunities for furtherance, but the whole tone suggests not going there. So, do I hope now for this pretty perfect ending to be it, or do I hope that I’m wrong? 

Either way, the important thing with this book is that it’s well worth reading and I would highly recommend.

Book Review – The Motive by Khurram Rahman

Blurb

A Jay Qasim short story and prequel to EAST OF HOUNSLOW written for Quick Reads 2021

Business has been slow for Hounslow’s small time dope-dealer, Jay Qasim. A student house party means quick easy cash but it also means breaking his own rules. But desperate times lead him there – and Jay finds himself in the middle of a crime scene.

Idris Zaidi, a Police Constable and Jay’s best friend, is having a quiet night when he gets a call out following a noise complaint at a house party. Fed up with the lack of excitement in his job, he visits the scene and quickly realises that people are in danger after a stabbing.

Someone will stop at nothing to get revenge . . .

My Review

I wanted to read this as I really like Khurrum Rahman’s writing style. I’ve already read “East of Hounslow” and was impressed, so I was interested in knowing what came before.

This quick read (and it is quick at only 116 pages of larger print), really packed a punch. The writing was tight, and the plot controlled.

The story started with a third person set up of the situation of the victim, but the rest is told in first person, swapping between Jay the drug dealer, and Idris the police constable. The strength of their friendship is important in “East of Hounslow”, but here it really shines through, the characters are clearly best friends even when they know they shouldn’t be any longer.

The story itself is about family and loyalty, but because it’s set to the backdrop of the Brexit vote, there’s a strong tinge of politics and some very strong racism. It shows, as the vote did, the best and worst of what life is like in the UK.

On My Shelves – The Heretics of De’Ath by Howard of Warwick

Blurb

Medieval mystery for people who laugh starts here….

England’s most famous date 1066: At the monastery of De’Ath’s Dingle, during a completely pointless theological debate, there is a mysterious death. Routine business for the average investigative medieval monk.
Unfortunately this isn’t a tale of average monks.

Anyone who would put the idiot Brother Simon in charge of a murder investigation is either one chant short of a plainsong or is up to something. When Brother Hermitage, innocent in every way, including bystanding, is lined up for execution, he begins to wonder if something might be going on.
Perhaps his new companion Wat, weaver of pornographic tapestry, can figure out what it is. Before it’s too late.

If you are a lover of the historical detective genre, if you have a deep respect for the worlds created, don’t read this book. It’ll only upset you.

My Review

I have said that I don’t read historical fiction, and generally, I don’t, but then I was looking at my shelves the other day and I noticed this series. This is the first volume of The Chronicles of Brother Hermitage. It follows the life and adventures of Brother Hermitage, a young (probably 19), and naïve monk as he meets Watt, a maker of dubious tapestries, and they find themselves surrounded by murders they are compelled to investigate. By the way, the quality of Watt’s tapestries is fine, but the depictions aren’t something a young monk should ever look at since Watt uses an inordinate amount of pink silk.

Wasn’t sure about this when I bought this book what it would be like, but I had a good time reading it. It’s fun, irreverent, humourous. The humour comes from one character, Hermitage, taking everything literally, and the other, Watt, being a more worldly wise character attempting to steer him right. It’s a mix of ecclesiastic and potty humour, with the twisting of language that works so well for the likes of Pratchett.

I literally laughed out loud when I read this, and I enjoyed it so much, I’ve brought and read many of the subsequent novels in the series.

TV Review – McDonald & Dodds

What IMBD says about it:

A shy and enigmatic Detective Sergeant is partnered with a wildly ambitious Detective Chief Inspector to solve crimes in the historic city of Bath.


My Review

This is only a couple of years old, and the series themselves are short, as each episode fills a 2-hour slot.

The basic premise is that CDI Lauren McDonald (ably played by Tala Gouveia) has moved to Bath and is a driven ambitious officer, who gets paired with DS Dodds (wonderfully mastered by Jason Watkins), who is an introvert with a penchant for meticulous analysis.

Each episode is stand alone story, though the relationship between the odd-couple investigators provides a good overarching line. Though McDonald spends most of series one and two saying that she’s not staying long in Bath, wanting to get back to London, that’s soon less heard in series three. While we soon learn that McDonald has a boyfriend, finding out about Dodds past take more time and honestly raises more questions that seem unlikely to be answered, but don’t detract from making Dodds likable.

The crime stories are sufficiently complex to keep the viewer watching, but they aren’t going to tax Sherlock any. This is a lovely, gentle series, not hefty gross out gore, not a lot of swearing (if any).

Through the series viewers will note a lot of well-established names popping up, especially in the episode “The Man Who Wasn’t There”. They are good scripts, well portrayed and the settings in Bath are just beautiful.

If you are into Midsomer Murders, or Miss Marple, or Agatha Raisin, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy getting into McDonalds and Dodds.

Book Review – The Accidental Medium by Tracy Whitwell

Blurb

The Accidental Medium is the first book in a hilarious series from Tracy Whitwell featuring Tanz, the accidental medium who, with the help of the dead, is about to become an unwilling crime-solver.

Tanz is a wine-loving, straight-talking, once-successful TV actress from Gateshead, whose career has shrivelled like an antique walnut. She is still grieving for her friend Frank, who died in a car crash three years ago, and she has to find a normal job in London to fund her cocktail habit. When she starts work in a ‘new age’ shop, Tanz suddenly discovers that the voices she’s hearing in her head are real, not the first signs of madness, and that she can give people ‘messages’ from beyond the grave. Alarmed, she confronts her little mam and discovers she is from a long line of psychic mediums. Despite an exciting new avenue of life opening up to Tanz, darkness isn’t far away and all too soon there’s murder in the air

My Review

I brought this because it said “hilarious” and “unwitting crime-solver”. Besides, it was half price, I was on holiday, and it appealed.

The main character, the accidental medium herself, is Tanz, a late 30s actress struggling to get acting work. She also from Gateshead, likes a bucket or two of white wine, and has some interesting friends. But she’s brassic, so she gets a job working part-time in what I can only describe as a new age shop which also offers tarot readings. Then the voices in Tanz’s head start in proper, and she opens herself up to a new side of life.

There is a murder in the book, one Tanz solves, as most murders actually are solves, very quickly.  But that only rears its head on page 190, there are a lot of other stories to get through first.

According to Amazon, this book is in “horror parodies and satires”. It’s not horrific. It’s actually a very gentle and amusing take on a life less ordinary.

As mentioned, I bought this while on holiday and I read it over two days of that holiday. It was fun, readable, enjoyable and exactly the kind of light entertainment I was looking for on holiday. Not what I would call hilarious, but definitely appealed to my sense of humour and raised a smile. And it does have a murder, however late it appears in the story, so can be considered on the periphery of crime fiction and included here. Though in all honesty, if I’d brought it expecting crime fiction, I would have been disappointed. Still I will give the next in the series a go.

I liked it.

Book Review – Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Blurb

My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (and as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit – we do paperwork so real coppers don’t have to – and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England.

Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden … and there’s something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.

The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it’s falling to me to bring order out of chaos – or die trying.

My Review

I wasn’t sure about this when I first picked it up, and I can’t even remember why I did pick it up.  But I do like the mix of solid police procedural an the arcane.

Peter Grant is a great character who draws the reader into his world with frank observation and a cool head. A PC in the Met, he’s lead by a ghost to answers he wasn’t expecting, and that introduced him to DCI Nightingale, and man few would ever expect. DCI Nightingale heads the Special Assessment Unit.  He’s also a wizard.

The case sends Peter and his colleague Leslie May on a wild ride around London, introducing Peter and the reader to a new, or rather, very old, side of the city.  There are ghosts, and spirits and of course, magic.  Peter isn’t that happy with the restrictions Nightingale puts on his learning and practice of Newtonian Magic, but there are reasons, not least of which is that too much magic will literally kill you.

The cast of this book is wonderfully diverse, Peter is of Nigerian descent and his parents are great. Nightingale is a quintessential Englishman, but he would be, given his age. Leslie, like Peter,is a Londoner through and through. And Dr Abdul Haqq Walid, is just fabulous, the name implies Arabic, but this is due to his conversation to Islam, he speaks with a soft, lilting Highland accent. The characters stand off the page in well developed form. Each is unique and has their own voice.

I will admit that I first listened to Rivers of London on audiobook, and I loved it. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith does the most fantastic job of being the voice of the Rivers of London. Peter Grant may be his voice, but he does an excellent range of voices for the characters, I particularly enjoy the gruff DCI Alexander Seawoll.  For some reason, the voice of Nightingale always makes me think of Peter James, I have no reason why, but it does.

My point of course, is that this is a wonderful book that pulls the reader along with the events, beautifully written, and a wonderful introduction to a whole new London you may never have met before.  The following books are just as brilliant.

Book Haul

Here’s today’s book haul picture. I’m about to go to be away from home for three weeks and lots of reading is planned. I’ll do a picture of all books taken when we go. But these two arrived from Waterstones today. I received one by post which arrived this morning. Then other, I collected from my fav ‘Stones in Wales – oh you should see the building!

I brought “The Motive” because no I’ve read “East of Hounslow” by Khurrum Rahman, and loved it. See my review here. So I was interested to see what came before, which is what this quick read is.

The James Oswald book “Nowhere To Run” I got because I love his McLean books, so I thought I’d give Constance Fairchild a go too. That this book is set in Wales is why I’ve dived in here rather than starting at book one. That’s something no one should be made to feel they have to do. Start a book series where you want to. If you then want to go back to the start, that’s fine, but it’s not compulsory.

The other thing you can’t miss in this picture is the silver crushed velvet. That also arrived by post today. Lovely isn’t it? It’s actually for a new tablecloth. No, it’s not going on the dining room table, it’s going on my book fair tables. I chose the silver because it’ll show up book covers whatever the colour. It’s crushed velvet to disguise creases, and it drapes rather well if I want to build up the display with book boxes beneath it. Yes, I do book fairs, I know many authors don’t, but I kind of like them. My next is on October 1st in St Elvan’s Church, Aberdare.

TV Review – Whitstable Pearl

Whitstable Pearl released in 2021, though I only heard of it on the 14th August 2022 and I finished season one on 19th August. It’s wonderful.

Here’s what Amazon says about the series:

Big-hearted restaurant owner Pearl Nolan (Kerry Godliman) pursues her lifelong dream and starts up a local detective agency in the English seaside town of Whitstable. Locals soon flock to her with all kinds of cases, but when a friend dies suspiciously, Pearl finds herself in conflict with gruff new cop DCI Mike McGuire.

I didn’t know what to expect with this one, but I had to give it go and I’m glad I did. Each episode is a standalone story, though there is, naturally, an over-arching story about the DFL DCI Mike McGuire. DFL by the way, is a Down From London, and an acronym I will be stealing from the show.

In episode one, we learn that Pearl was briefly a cop, but now runs a restaurant, with a side order of a detective agency. When she discovers the body of a friend, the new DCI in town obviously pegs her as prime suspect and she needs to investigate to prove her own innocence.

From there the series moves on and it’s a wonderful ride with some great performances from good actors, some of which you will definitely have seen before and some that will be worth looking out for again. Every episode seems to involve one of Pearl’s friends, which kind of makes her the new Joyce Barnaby.

The stories are engaging, though sometimes they feel a bit rushed to cram into one 1 hour (48 min) slot, even so, every one is worth watching.

Kerry Godliman is fantastic. I love her as a standup, and I’d never seen her in a dramatic role, so this was a revelation, she’s really good and though the series she’s put through a gamut of emotions and situations, and she rises to each one.

Equally, Howard Charles is great at McGuire. I’ve only seen him in Shadow And Bone, he was good there and he’s good here. His story line reveals itself slowly, and makes for interesting watching.

I vaguely know Whitstable as I grew up in Kent, so the surroundings were familiar, though I could have done without the one shot of Whitstable at low tide being used every few minutes.

Whitstable Pearl can be found on Prime. Well, to be honest, it’s on Acorn TV, so you have to sign up for a 14 day free trial, but it’s well worth watching and then cancel the subscription.

Book Review – The Safe House by Louise Mumford

Blurb

She told you the house would keep you safe. She lied.

Esther is safe in the house. For sixteen years, she and her mother have lived off the grid, protected from the dangers of the outside world. For sixteen years, Esther has never seen another single soul.

Until today.

Today there’s a man outside the house. A man who knows Esther’s name, and who proves that her mother’s claims about the outside world are false. A man who is telling Esther that she’s been living a lie.

Is her mother keeping Esther safe – or keeping her prisoner?



My Review

Louise does a wonderful job of taking the ordinary and every day and turning it into something special and unusual, something extraordinary. 

Esther is just an ordinary girl turning twenty-one. All she wants for her birthday is to go on the Yearly. The once a year event when her mother goes Out There, and gathers supplies for a year. Of course, mother says she’s not ready, but uses reverse psychology to ensure that Esther stays home.

Waiting alone, Esther sees something she never expected, a man coming up the drive. And stepping on… well read the book if you want to know.

The point is, the arrival of this man is going to change Esther’s life forever. This story is of the longest and most important journey anyone can ever take, the journey of self-discovery. Esther has to learn who she is and what the world around her is like. Most of us have every year of our childhood to achieve this, but Esther hasn’t been in the world for most of her life and has to learn it in days.

The fall out needs a blast wall. The struggle is a giving birth. The result is messy and glorious.

Reading this story is to watch a flower move to bud to blossom, but Esther remains true to herself throughout, and it’s a beautiful, sometimes painful tale. Discovery, embarrassment, growth, life and death. Fear and courage. It’s all here and it’s wonderful.

Highly recommend.

I have read Louise’s first book too, “Sleepless”, I loved that as well. There’s no link here. They are each standalone, but if you’ve read and enjoyed “Sleepless”, then you’ll love “The Safe House”. If you read “The Safe House” and enjoy it, there’s a good chance you’ll feel the same way about “Sleepless”. Both are excellent.

Book Review – The Unwanted Dead by Chris Lloyd

Blurb

Paris, Friday 14th June 1940.

The day the Nazis march into Paris, making headlines around the globe.

Paris police detective Eddie Giral – a survivor of the last World War – watches helplessly on as his world changes forever.

But there is something he still has control over. Finding whoever is responsible for the murder of four refugees. The unwanted dead, who no one wants to claim.

To do so, he must tread carefully between the Occupation and the Resistance, between truth and lies, between the man he is and the man he was.

All the while becoming whoever he must be to survive in this new and terrible order descending on his home…

My Review

I was reluctant to read this book at first, having studied Nazi history, I remember how harrowing the truth was and I wasn’t keen to dip my toes back into that particular pool.

However, The Unwanted Dead, is a very well written mystery worth reading.

Inspector Giral is a man with a troubled and troubling past. He’s set to investigate the murder of four men in a railway truck. But they were just Poles, and why should the remaining French Police or the occupying Germans care? Only Giral does care and he’s not the giving up kind. Not when another Pole commits suicide, taking his young son with him.

The multilayered structure of the Nazi and German military and officialdom are pitted against Giral in this case, and against each other. There are French soldiers fleeing from the occupiers. There are Poles fleeing and fighting for their lives. There’s evidence that can’t be found. Deserters who may have more evidence, and maybe not.

On the way Giral confronts enemies on all sides, not to mention within. The flashbacks to what he’s suffered are revealing as to his nature, and explain his family situation. None of which is a shining example of good and gracious behaviour. The moment he meets Dax is particularly interesting.

Strangely, that character that kept me reading was not Giral, but Major Hochstetter. Some of the best lines in the book are either about him or said by him.

It has to be said too, that Giral really is put through the wringer during the course of his investigation. Pretty much every side beats him up at least once. Maybe that affected his thinking because the thing that actually annoyed me, was that the evidence when found was in the obvious place, and it shouldn’t have taken over 420 pages to have got there.

I can see why it won a HWA award, it’s well worth reading.