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NightInLondonbyCaseyChristie

 

Night In London by Casey Christie

This second in the Night series of books by Casey Christie represents a serious step forward by this young author, already well known for his successful SAS Para-Ops series of thrillers with a military character. Here he expands the canvas of his story from the brutal violence of South Africa to the more complex and subtle menace of the sprawling city of London, where the seductive glitter of civilisation masks many lethal hazards.

It is now some time since Sergeant Michael Night and his “Black Bastards” special unit, so called because they had a special dispensation to wear black uniforms, had recovered Colonel Gaddafi’s hidden millions in gold in the African desert in the first book in the series.

Now, Night and his team, which includes the formidable Zulu giant Daniel Shaka, simply known as Zulu, had been enjoying a period of rest at the seaside near Durban. But now they have to get back on duty and Night is troubled by the fact that his dog Wamba, a South African mastiff, is not recovering as he should, after being poisoned by a criminal.

The close relationship between Night and his Zulu friend is exemplified by this simple situation, for the Zulu insists that Night let him tend to the dog. “We Zulus have ways you people don’t understand,” he says.

What I find intriguing about this impressive novel is the way in which the most appalling violence and crude behaviour, which burst upon the reader from the first page, is interleaved with incidents in which the complex humanity of the leading characters is depicted with gentle skill.

The bond between the tough-as-titanium Night and his brave dog is a case in point. The tenderness of behaviour and the exchange of emotions between the fierce animal and his owner, is shown in a moment which must touch the heart of anyone who has ever experienced the joy of having a canine companion.

A friend of mine, deeply involved in the book, burst into a flood of tears at one point. I asked her what was wrong. She said the parents of one of the characters has been killed. One could hardly achieve more reader-identification with a novel than that!

So you have hard action as well as the warmth of human nature. But now the author introduces a series of surprise twists, none of which can be anticipated. These little explosions in the plot go off like mental hand grenades, energising the story line and hooking the reader’s interest even more tightly.

When Night, now promoted to Captain, is sent to Britain on a sensitive mission, it is more than a physical transition from a land of sea and sunshine to a country of rain and mist and a devious mix of international visitors in London.

There is an evil master-mind in London and Night’s mission is to find him and deal with him. Along the way there enters a beautiful but enigmatic woman. Is she friend or foe?

And at the same time Captain Night is saddled with an aide, a South African drunk who seems to be more of a hindrance than a help.

Shake all these ingredients together and what you have is a thoroughly entertaining cocktail, full of surprises and tasty to the last drop. - Prospero

Rating: Five Gripping Stars 5-Star Rating

 return-to-dust-by-andrew-lanh

Fine Thriller and Biting Insight to Cruel Bigotry

Review of Return to Dust by Andrew Lanh

Rick Van Lam is a product of the Vietnam War, being the offspring of a Vietnamese mother and an unknown American soldier father. As such, Rick was regarded as ‘bui do, dust boy, impure, mongrel, American blood.’ And now, even in the affluent town of Farmington, outside of Hartford, Connecticut, Rick - ex-cop, Private Investigator and part-time lecturer - is still faced with personal racial issues amongst the small Vietnamese community.

When Rick is asked by Karen Corcoran to investigate the presumed suicide of her aunt, Marta Kowalski, little does he realise the hornets’ nest that he will uncover.

Marta Kowalski was well-known in Farmington circles as a smug, church-going gossip but also competent cleaner of many residents’ houses. Karen tells Rick that although Marta appeared to be depressed, as a Catholic she would not have entertained the idea of committing suicide. It was well-known that Marta had a crush on Joshua Jennings, long-term Farmington resident and fixture at the College, but they had apparently had a big fight and stopped speaking to each other. When Joshua moved away and finally died in New York, Marta was devastated.

When Rick begins his investigations it isn’t long before he discovers that Marta was more than a gossip, and had had verbal battles with Joshua’s gardener Willie Do and also her own nephew, and Karen’s brother, Davey. On the night of her death, she had phoned another old tutor, Richard Wilcox, telling him she needed to see him, and it was on the way to his house that she apparently threw herself off a bridge.

Whilst this is a very good and entertaining thriller with twists and turns right up to the conclusion, Andrew Lanh paints a very vivid picture of the aftermath of the failed American intervention in Vietnam. The Prologue presents us with a concise but detailed snapshot of everyday life in old Saigon, where Rick, as a young ‘forbidden boy’ with American blood and blue eyes constantly runs the gauntlet of cruel racial bigotry.

Thoroughly recommended.

– Sméagol

 

Star Rating: Four Stars

4-Star Rating

 blood-sisters-by-graham-masterton

Personalities Come Alive While Nuns are Slain

Review of Blood Sisters by Graham Masterton

This is the fifth in the Katie Maguire series. Many people will have read all the stories of the Irish Detective Superintendent so will be familiar with the set up. Possibly as I am not a lover of the horror genre I have not previously read any Graham Masterton books but shall look out for them in future.

It’s understandable that many dislike reading a series of books in the wrong order although this is a stand alone story and the author clarifies any reference to previous history so the reader is not left floundering. However, there is a small twist at the end which should ensure that people come back for more.

To write colloquially is an art and one the author hasn’t mastered in this case. At times it felt a bit like a poor version of Mrs Brown’s Boys with the number of “feckings” flying around. It was also sometimes necessary to resort to Google to translate the odd phrase. Having said that it did not detract too much from the reading enjoyment -- nor did it add much to the atmosphere.

Where the author scores is his ability to develop characters as real people. Many detective series focus solely on one crime. This is not the case here. The main character leaps out of the page as a real person having to deal with personal problems, her boss and colleagues and a workload which is overflowing. Her character and that of the other main characters is wonderfully portrayed and the reader is drawn in to the story and cares about the individuals.

The plot reflects the author’s significant experience of writing horror stories and centres on someone who is killing nuns in the most barbaric fashion. It develops at a good pace and keeps the reader interested. Sub plots are interwoven skilfully and then come together in an explosive denouement.

On the whole this is an excellent book and deserved 5 stars had it not been for the slightly intrusive clunky “Irish” language.

-- mr zorg

 

Star Rating: Four Stars

4-Star Rating

 stasi-child-by-david-young

Tense Plot-driven Thriller In Harsh Environment

Review of Stasi Child by David Young

Set in the bleak landscape of East Germany during the height of the Cold War, Stasi Child is a chilling, fast-paced thriller.

The novel opens with the protagonist and senior police officer, Oberleutnant Karin Müller, summoned to a cemetery near the Berlin Wall, where the mutilated, bullet-ridden body of an unidentified teenage girl is sprawled out in the snow. The official story is that the girl was shot from the West while attempting to flee into East Berlin, but the evidence soon proves that clues have been faked.

Instructed by the Ministry of State Security (affectionately known as the Stasi) that their sole task is to identify the young victim, Oberleutnant Müller and her handsome deputy soon become embroiled in a labyrinth of lies, where neither one’s superior officers, nor indeed underlings, can be trusted.

The author has a keen eye for detail, Müller noticing, for example, the young victim’s fingernails, inked in with pen in a childish attempt to fake nail varnish.

The novel is well researched, which lends the narrative an authenticity and a gritty realism. The plot is well constructed, too, the story unfolding through the eyes of Müller, but with backstory provided by a teenage girl trapped in a harsh reformatory for delinquent children, as well as by Müller’s husband, who had spent a period teaching at the same reformatory.

As the investigation progresses, the tension mounts as the three threads gradually intertwine.

Be warned, however, that this story is relentlessly bleak, with little or nothing to lighten the dark and dismal mood. Try as I might, I could not warm to Müller, finding her far too self-absorbed, and her character as bleak and humourless as the dark subject matter itself. That being the case, I found it impossible to cheer Müller on, and it was the plot – the need to know the identity of the girl and her killer – that kept me reading to the end.

-- John

 

Star Rating: Four Stars

4-Star Rating

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