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I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run

Quiet and poignant read

Stoner - John Edward Williams

What a wonderful gentle read. The life of William Stoner, a student and then a Professor at the University of Missouri. He initially enrolled to study agriculture, and help manage his father’s farm, but in one very significant life changing moment he discovered his true vocation in the world of literature. His choice of Edith as a future spouse was a fundamental mistake….”She was short, plump woman with fine white hair that floated about her face; her dark eyes twinkled moistly, and she spoke softly and breathlessly  as if she were telling secrets.”………”in her white dress she was a cold light coming into the room”…..And so with a stoical mind and a shrug of inevitability Stoner fills his days with the enquiring and challenging minds of his students and his lifelong love of books and the written word. Katherine Driscoll, a student completing her dissertation, falls in love with Stoner and he, whose life is totally devoid of any affection, reciprocates this much wanted attention. For a time, his personal and private life were full of joy but under pressure from departmental elders the affair ended….”He had wanted love; and he had had love, and had relinquished  it, had let it go into the chaos of potentiality. Katherine, he thought. Katherine.”…….


The life of Stoner is a life or ordinariness filled with those special moments, full of decisions taken, choices made, right or wrong, good or bad. It is a clever, poignant book and in many ways a reflection of any human life, and the inevitable fate that awaits us all. Beautiful storytelling and highly recommended.


The master speaks!

Finders Keepers: A Novel - Stephen King

Is he not the guy who writes horror stories? That’s what everyone says when I declare I enjoy reading Stephen King novels. What an insult to one of our greatest living novelists, an author now in his 72nd year and still with the hunger, and still writing with a verocity that must be the envy of many younger would be SK’s. Yes many of his stories contain a horror element (here’s Johnny!) but deep down he truly understands the human condition of love, loss, want and the connection that exists between both friends and lovers, indeed all of us. (The Shining to me is really a study of a family coping with mental collapse)


Finders Keepers is the second story in the Bill Hodges trilogy and even better than the first; Mr Mercedes. In 1978 Morris Bellamy killed iconic American author John Rothstein stealing not only cash but unpublished works about the great Jimmy Gold. Bellamy hides both cash and books just before he is given a 35 year sentence for rape. In 2009 young Pete Saubers accidentally discovers this buried treasure and uses it to help his family. However there will be a day of reckoning, in 2014 Bellamy is a free man and he is seeking retribution for 35 wasted years, first stop to reclaim the contents of the buried chest. The scene is set...enter Bill Hodges (retired detective) Holly and Jerome, the Finder Keepers investigative company. King always tells more than just a story, he uses the time he spends, with you dear reader, to show  both the good and bad, the positive and negative that is the DNA within all of us. You will both hate and love his characters; Bellamy epitomises evil, but Bill, Holly, Jerome and Pete are driven by hopes and aspirations, they believe in the connection of people, believe in helping others not destroying, believe in dreams and the knowledge and faith that man is ultimately good and we all need a little bit of love and affection in our daily lives.


 I have never read a bad book by Stephen King and this is most certainly one of his best, I now look forward to the final part of the trilogy "End of Watch" but before I close why don’t you read and feel a little of his magic…..”........ the vast and ever metastasizing concrete sprawl of John M. Kiner Hospital. As he walks to the parking garage elevator, he sends up a prayer as he almost always does, thanking God that he’s here as a visitor rather than as a paying customer. All too aware, even as he says his very proper thank-you, that most people become customers sooner or later, here or at one of the city’s four other fine and not-so-fine sickbays. No one rides for free, and in the end, even the most seaworthy ship goes down, blub-blub-blub. The only way to balance that off, in Hodge’s opinion, is to make the most of every day afloat”......... Highly, highly recommended.

Beautiful yet brutal

Sisters - Daisy Johnson-Thompson

A difficult book for me to rate simply because the style of prose used (best described as lyrical) is not to my liking, and I can see that many reviewers loved it. July and September have moved with their mum Sheela to an old family home once deserted now with new occupants, all hoping for a fresh start. However “Settle House” appears to have its own agenda, an unsettling place to live with its ghostly noises and hidden places. Two young, barely teenage, girls face an uncertain future. September is the controlling sister always seeking attention and July often feels inadequate in her shadow. Little support is forthcoming from Sheela lost in a fog of despair, with no partner, finding comfort in the arms of passing strangers. A short read, with a brutal ending, from a young and very talented author. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Reading progress update: I've read 25%.

Stoner - John Edward Williams

I don't often share my thoughts as I read a novel but the writing in Stoner is astounding and the observations have a pinpoint accuracy..."Her parents behaved toward eachother with a distant courtesy; Edith never saw pass between the the spontaneous warmth of either anger or love"...

Fast paced thriller

When she was good - Michael Robotham

Evie Cormac is a damaged child living in a secure children's home, but now on the run. No one knows her true identity, no one wants to find her more than forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven himself traumatised by the brutal death of his own family. Evie's life is in danger as witness to a murder she is targeted by those who wish her dead, and the secrets that she knows, and those she can expose will die with her. A fast paced and very enjoyable thriller told in the first person alternating between the characters of Cyrus and Evie. This is a form of story telling that the author uses to great effect keeping the tension taut and the readers attention from first to last page. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review, and that is what I have written.

Great intro to a wonderful series

Under the Eagle  - Simon Scarrow

The first book in the Eagles of the Empire series and an essential read if you want an insight into the the making of two great careers Centurion Macro and his Optio Cato. Macro is a hardened warrior deeply committed to the Roman second legion when he receives into his command a young untested soldier Cato. Cato is promoted above his comrades at the order of the Empire and is deeply resented by the other men. Soon the legion  has to prepare for a dangerous assignment to Britannia a country still relatively untamed with gangs of tribesmen still eager to test the so called invincibility of the Roman soldier. How will the well educated new recruit react to the daily grind and hardship that was the life of a soldier expected to serve 25 years with death as an unwelcome bedfellow every waking day. Simon Scarrow's research as always is immaculate, giving a real feel as to the hardships faced by a serving soldier, of the Roman Empire, at that time. Recommended.

King of scandi noir

Knife: (Harry Hole 12) - Jo Nesbo

Ok let's be honest Harry Hole is a cliche detective, and there are many similarities between him and Ian Rankin's great creation Rebus. They both like working outside the law, they are happy to use unconventional methods to achieve results. Alcohol and cigarettes fuel their ambition, and the odd female liaison allows them a place of sanctuary where their wounded egos can be massaged. Rebus of course is now retired ( well not really) and he is some 17 years Harry’s senior. But we as readers of crime fiction love them, we forgive them their foibles knowing that their astute ability to catch the “baddies” will always make them heroes in our eyes!


Knife is an edge of the seat thriller and it may be some 600+ pages long (paperback) but every reading minute is pure pleasure. Harry’s old criminal rival Svein Finne is once more back on his patch and seeking revenge for the detective who incarcerated him. Young women are being raped and Finne is high on the list of suspects. However one chilling moment at the start, a brilliant piece of writing by Nesbo, changes the direction of the story, and sends Harry once again into deep sorrow and depression ably helped by his always on hand, good friend Jim Beam. To say much more about the plot would spoil the pleasure that awaits you, dear reader. There are many red herrings, and false leads as Nesbo plays with you, giving you a false sense of satisfaction only to slap you in the face when you realize that the person you suspected is nothing more than an innocent bystander.

The writing is taut, using few words but always adding a sense of sadness and drama and possibly a little humour……..

“Harry had been happy. But happiness is like heroin; once you've tasted it, once you’ve found out that happiness exists, you will never be entirely happy with an ordinary life without happiness again”.......

“ For every cigarette you smoke, God takes an hour away from you...and gives it to Keith Richards”....

“Of course. Imagine that you feel like killing someone, but can’t make yourself do it. So you need help. From fate. And if the dice tells you to kill, fate bears the responsibility; it liberates you and your free will. Do you see? All it takes is a throw of the dice”....

“Then it was as if Harry’s smile suddenly shattered, like the morning ice in October, and Bjorn found himself looking into the black depths of desperate pain again. As if Harry had merely wanted to taste happiness. And had spat it out again.”.....


Wonderful storytelling from the true king of Scandi crime noir. Highly, highly recommended.

Well researched pleasant read

The wall at the edge of the world - Damion Hunter

A wall at the edge of the World follows the career of Postumus Justinius Corvus, army surgeon, assigned to the sixth legion Victrix at Eburacum (present day York) not far from Hadrian's wall. This part of Britain at that time was subject to constant harassment by marauding tribes, none more worthy of the name than the infamous Picts. As Corvus is of dual nationality (his mother from England and his father from Rome/Italy) his loyalties can at times be somewhat ambiguous. His family still manage and harvest a large estate in Northern Britain and he has befriended a number of English tribesmen in particular Lord Galt, leader of the king’s household.


The second part of the novel involves skirmishes with warring tribes and a romantic element with the delectable Claudia Silva. In conclusion the author uses her impressive knowledge of the Roman Empire at that time to create an enjoyable but in no way outstanding read. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Odd but in a certain style

In The Miso Soup - Ralph McCarthy, Ryƫ Murakami

Although described as horror this rather odd little book is more a gentle stroll through the demented mind of one overweight American Frank, and his somewhat shady confidante Kenji. Together they frequent the late-night Tokyo drinking dens, and similar dubious establishments in order to fuel Frank’s increasingly odd behaviour. It is only as the night progresses that Kenji’s suspicion of his unconventional colleague become a reality, that the true intentions of Frank are exposed, and life for Kenji can never be the same again. For those familiar with the style of Haruki Murakami  (Ryu Murakami is no relation) In the Misco Soup will prove to be a delightful read, but others may struggle with the unconventional story telling.

Cream teas, scones, and jam

Exit - Belinda Bauer

“The Exiteers existed to support people with terminal illnesses and for whom pain meant their lives were no longer bearable” That is the premise in this wonderful, gentle quintessential English crime novel. Felix Pink is in his mid 70’s, tragically his wife and son have both passed. In order to inject some purpose into his daily routine (apart from walking Mabel his canine companion) he volunteers some time to “Exit”  and by do doing hopes that his presence, together with a co Exeteer brings some peace and tranquillity to their client as he/she travels from this world to the next. As our story opens Felix and Amanda are attending the bed of Albert Cann, in his final moments. Their role is passive, they are not there to aid or help but rather silent observers awaiting Albert’s final intake of breath. Unfortunately a mistake occurs and the proceeding drama not only affects are volunteers but a number of residents in this sleepy Devon hamlet.

Belinda Bauer is wonderful at leading an unexpected reader down a certain path confronting and revealing the perpetrator of this dreadful crime….or so you thought :) …because just at that moment you are totally within her playful grasp, and the person you are about to confront is nothing but an innocent bystander! This is writing of the highest order, as soothing as English breakfast tea and Devon scones with jam! The pace is slow, unhurried, characters gently introduced and their role fully explored and explained. Belinda Bauer is such a vital and important addition to British crime writing. Her penmanship is fresh, her storytelling exquisite interspaced with gentle humour. Exit is a joy to read. Highly recommended. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written

Good story, sharp dialogue

The Essence of Darkness - Tom Clearlake

FBI agent Eliott Cooper is tasked with finding 5 children who have disappeared in similar circumstances in a dark and mysterious wooded location. What starts out as a simple detective story explodes in the most unexpected way introducing elements of horror, science fiction and ancient rituals culminating in a human crisis…”a secret that has remained hidden for thousands of years”…A very enjoyable first novel, with an excellent translation from the original French, and boasting some stand out snappy dialogue….”The scent of the woods that filled his lungs was intoxicating and he relished it”…..”Evil took root and spread in the night. The moon rose majestically” ……”All life seemed to be missing from the woods as if death itself held these places in the palm of its hand and was blowing macabre silence from its withered mouth”……..

Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Colourless with a few exciting moments

Roman Blood - Steven Saylor

There are two authors I admire in Historical Roman fiction: Robert Harris and Simon Scarrow. Harris’s Cicero trilogy is untouchable in its ability to indoctrinate the reader in the Republic of that period, equally Scarrow’s “Eagles of Rome” series gives authenticity to the Roman army in the field extending the reach of “Civis Romanus sum” to what they often viewed as uncivilized pagans…


Roman Blood by Steven Saylor introduces Gordianus, a type of Philip Marlowe of the ancient world. Does it work? In an answer no. Cicero is defending Sextus Ruscius a Roman citizen farmer from the province Ameria. In 80 BC he was tried for patricide by the senate and his case was successfully fought by a young enthusiastic advocate Cicero in his first major trial. Saylor uses these known facts as the basis of Roman Blood. The result is a rather overlong story with the uniquely named investigator Gordianus the Finder. The setting for this novel need not necessarily have been in Rome, it could have been King Arthur’s England, or Napoleon’s France. and in that respect, it is nothing more than a drab procedural police investigation. The final chapters do however show Cicero the dynamic advocate in full adversarial flow. This adds a dash of much needed excitement! and is of course helped by using the content from Cicero’s own memoirs.


So I end this review where I started. If you want an insight into Rome at the time of the Republic look no further than the superlative trilogy by Robert Harris, exciting, informative and so brilliantly executed. By comparison Roman Blood is a colourless long-drawn out second-hand murder investigation.

A joy to read

Coming up for Air - Sarah Leipciger

What a beautiful book. 3 captivating stories set in different times and different locations. They are all connected but in a most unusual and joyous way. A very original read highly recommended. Many thanks to the good people at netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review and that is what I have written.

Confusing, difficult read

A registry of my passage upon the earth - Daniel Mason

A registry of my passage upon the earth, the clue to the unravelling of this collection of short stories is held within the title. I found it somewhat difficult to comprehend this weird grouping of unrelated events and happenings. What is the connection between a sailor, a boxer, a balloonist, a linesman on a busy lonely railroad in South America?  The final story and in particular the final image go some way to helping a confused reader make sense and arrive at some logical conclusions on the authors intentions. Many thanks to netgalley for a gratis copy in exchange for an honest review, on a difficult read, and that is what I have written.


Lustrum - Robert Harris

A stunning trilogy. Robert Harris has accomplished what many historical authors may aspire to but few attain. He has created an ancient Rome alive with the sights, the sounds, the smells of a city towards the latter years of the republic. He has painted a picture in my mind of warring commanders: Pompey, Caesar, Crassus. He has allowed me to view both the beauty of Rome from the aristocratic Palatine to the stench of the inner-city streets. He shows Romans as a people obsessed with wealth, and from wealth flows power, influence, and the ultimate prize a position in the senate leading to first consul adoration.

Pompey the great commander, the chief general in the state….” A large chair was carried in for the Imperator, and he settled himself into it. An ivory pointer was placed in his hand. A carpet was unrolled at his feet into which was woven a map of the east, and as the senators gazed down he began gesticulating at it to illustrate his achievements”…. Caesar, the chief priest, adored by all the masses, fresh from military success, biding his time as he waits, panther like, moulding the men of influence to attend to his every whim. These two together with the wealthy Crassus form the triumvirate, a power base for them to dictate and manipulate. It is however a dangerous thing to allow so much “imperium” into the hands of the few.

Cicero’s year as 1st consul is drawing to a close, and some of his finest accomplishments are now just a distant memory. When he faces a direct threat on his life it is to his wealthy companions that he turns for help and support, but such friendship will always require payback. Robert Harris shows not only the strong side of Cicero but his weaknesses. His aspirations to climb the social ladder, result in a questionable decision when he borrows money to purchase a grand property owned by Crassus in the exclusive Palatine hill. As the candle slowly fades on a glittering senatorial career, and as the influence of a few wealthy men starts to emerge, the scene is set for a bloody conflict. Rome should have learnt the lessons of the past that it is a grave mistake to leave so much power in the hands of a powerful minority.
A wonderful story, the subtle blending of fact and fiction makes Lustrum an essential read…the final chapter “The Dictator” now awaits me” Highly recommended.

A solid account

An Officer and a Spy - Robert Harris

If the Dreyfus case had a script then “An officer and a spy” would surely be that document. Once again Robert Harris selects a time of extreme importance in history and by careful research and a cast of shadowy characters produces a work of some importance. It is a time of great social upheaval and suspicion amongst the super powers namely France, Germany, and Russia. Alfred Dreyfus was falsely accused and convicted of passing military secrets to the Germans. He was sentenced to life behind bars on Devils Island. This was a gross injustice carried out with ruthless efficiency by the army. When it became known that it was not Dreyfus but Major Charles Esterhazy who was the perpetrator the army, rather than lose face, did nothing to reverse the situation preferring to let Dreyfus remain in gaol.

An officer and a spy carefully records this historical drama from Alfred Dreyfus’s incarceration and the many attempts by Georges Piquart to have him released, and all charges against him dropped.