A Straightforward Guide to Being A Detective Review: A Really Great Idea Let Down By Poor Writing

striaghtforward guide

There’s definitely space on the market for a truly comprehensive guide to creating factually correct and historically accurate crime fiction.

As such, when I found out that Historian Stephen Wade and former Policeman Stuart Gibbon, whom I’ve already had the pleasure of interviewing, were collaborating to create such a guide I was excited.

The idea they have is perfect: create a guide that combines Gibbon’s policing expertise with Wade’s historical knowledge to create a comprehensive resource for fans of crime fiction or writers of the genre.

Whilst the idea is great, the execution lets the book down. For one thing, there’s no means to tell which expert is speaking at what point. Whilst it is easy enough to guess at some points, there’s no definitive indicator, and this isn’t great for those using this as a proper reference book.

Structurally the book is haphazardly, with each section laid out alphabetically with sub categories that are confusing and long-winded. With sub headings within sub headings it’s easy to get lost and hard to easily find the information you’re looking for.

There are also random pieces of, frankly, useless information in the book, such as a poem about early mornings. Whilst this may be interesting, it is not something a reader would ever be able to use in their research, and as a result is simply padding that makes this book feel like an essay that’s being bulked up as its a bit shy on the word count.

However, the biggest issue that I have with A Straightforward Guide to Being A Detective is the poor writing. The grammar and punctuation are not up to standard, and as such this would not be useable as a reference. Whilst it could make for a great guide for those seeking anecdotal advice, its complete lack of proofreading makes this useless if used as a source, and as such could not be used by anyone in an academic or corporate sense.

So, in short this is a really cool idea, and if the authors were to properly execute it then it could be something great. As it is, you can find some really great information in this book, but if you want something quick and easy to find then just Google it. If the authors were to consider a second edition, this one properly proof read and structured to a better standard, then it could potentially be a great academic and authorial resource for those exploring crime fiction as a genre.


The Folio Society’s Edition Of The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd Review: An Exquisite Illustrated Copy That Will Be Perfect For Christie Fans and Collectors Alike

Exclusive Photography By Patrick Doherty

Written during a period of turmoil in the Queen of Crime’s life, shortly before she vanished and at a time when she was moving publisher and facing the breakdown in her marriage, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is often proclaimed as one of her finest works.

As such, a version has been released by the Folio Society, a unique publishing house that takes some of the finest stories and books from across the literary market and creates works of art with some of the finest illustrators in the industry to produce beautiful books. The publishing house creates glorious books that are stunningly bound and look like those pristine volumes you see in fancy libraries.

Its latest offering, its version of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, is a classic example of the stunning books the Folio Society is renowned for creating. It has been bound in majestic dark blue hardback binding with gold lettering down the spine and a vast picture on the cover depicting one of the events in the novel in colourful detail.

Encapsulating the greatest of her literary quirks The Murder of Roger Ackroyd has a truly innovative plot featuring red herrings, an unreliable narrator and an exquisite array of dastardly characters. Undoubtedly the ending, in which Poirot makes a moral choice about the fate of the killer, is the inspiration for Dorothy L Sayers’ The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, which features a similar finale and was published in 1928, two years after The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Another Exclusive Photograph By Patrick Doherty 

Andrew Davidson’s illustrations are stunning and evoke the period in question and the humours nature of Christie’s most famed detective and his unusual methods. They also fit beautifully with the style of the period and transport readers back to a time of sumptuous décor, splendid country houses and neatly tailored sartorial elegance.

This edition also features an introduction by Sophie Hannah, a crime writer who is not only an authority on Christie’s works but has also bought Poirot back to life in three amazing books. She is the perfect person to discuss the novel, and she gives an intriguing overview of the origins of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and its place in the Christie cannon.

In all this was an inspired choice for the Folio Society to publish, as The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is one of the Christie cannon that best lends itself to being illustrated in such a beautiful way. If anyone from the publishing house happens to be reading this then I can recommend as a future option Dead Man’s Folly, a novel set in the grounds of a magnificent stately home and featuring, as a plot device no less, an array of sumptuous gowns and vast hats which will make for truly amazing illustrations.

To find out more about the Folio Society and the selection of Christie novels it has on offer have a look at their website HERE.

Not From Above! Review: A Unique Collection of Curious Tales

Not From Above Cover

The debut collection of stories from musician Alexander Mayor is darkly comic and deeply diverse, featuring a variety of stories across a host of different genres on a wide range of topics.

The book is a compilation of short tales that accompany the album of the same name. Published by Unbound, the stories incorporate innovative characters, creative plotlines and inventive storytelling.

Each story is unique and grips the reader from the outset. Mayor is fond of using short, tantalizing sentences to lead his reader on, and in some ways a number of his stories feel like poetry or song lyrics in the beginning. As they draw on the reader is taken in by a swift narrative and a plot that is surprisingly detailed for having been explained in so few words. The result is a set of separate narratives that pull readers along so that they easily read half a dozen of the stories before they realize how much they’ve gone through.

The album which accompanies the book is billed as ‘Literate, hummable tunes that capture painters on the brink, women on the verge, and men lost somewhere on a hillside.’ Featuring a range of instruments and relaxing melodies, the album goes hand in glove with the book, which involves a range of realistic characters and showcases human nature in its truest form. From spies being pursued in search of answers through to an incredibly unusual board game, there is something to tempt any reader in this eclectic selection of stories.

In all, Not From Above! is a fascinating collection of stories which captures human nature and the great strangeness of life today. A unique combination of music and storytelling, the book and album combination is innovative and offers readers an alternative reading experience that they won’t forget in a hurry.

The Monsoon Ghost Image Review: A Slick Globe-Trotting Thriller


Tom Vater’s latest novel is a slick globetrotting adventure, which combines the best aspects of a thriller with a traditional private eye adventure.

The third instalment in the Detective Maier series features the story of a missing photographer who dies in Thailand, only for his wife to discover he is alive and well. She hires Detective Maier to find out more about what’s going on and uncover the truth about her husband’s supposed death.

Quickly Detective Maier uncovers a huge conspiracy involving a plastic surgeon, hookers and the Moonstone Ghost image itself: the victim’s final photograph, which turns out to be incredibly dangerous. Detective Maier turns from the hunter to the prey as soon as he uncovers the photo and he is soon running around the world in search of the truth.

Working with his trusty sidekick Mikhail Detective Maier is in a race against time to find out what’s going on and beat a host of formidable foes including the CIA, a murderous doctor and a range of private international villains. Together the pair set out on a quest to find out the secrets behind the photo and whether or not the photographer who took it is dead or not.

Featuring an ensemble cast of characters from across the thriller spectrum, including an evil doctor, the CIA and of course the protagonist and his accomplice, the novel moves quickly so that readers are constantly enthralled by the ever-evolving plot. Vater keeps his reader hooked from the off, and Detective Maier is constantly on the move exploring new clues and checking out new leads, so there’s never any pause in the action for the reader to get bored in.

In all, The Monsoon Ghost Image is a tantalising thriller that really gets under your skin. With memorable characters, gritty dialogue and a fast-paced plot, this book really does have it all.


The Secret Child Review: Another Tense Thriller From Caroline Mitchell

The Secret Child

Following on from Caroline Mitchell’s gripping novel Truth and Lies comes the second in the DI Amy Winter series The Secret Child. Having reviewed the first in the series previously I was keen to take part in Mitchell’s latest blog tour to find out more about the second outing for this dogged and troubled detective.

In the follow-up to the thrilling first novel in her series, which will hopefully be a long one, Winter is still reeling from the news that she is the daughter of a pair of sadistic serial killers and the horrible experiences of her previous case.

Despite this she has no time to grieve as she is thrust straight into another in the form of an investigation into a horrific abduction with a sadistic twist. When another child is snatched Winter faces a race against time which sends her straight back to the one person she wished she’d never have to speak to again: her serial killer mother.

Showcasing her strong characterisation skills and her unique ability to create engaging emotional scenes Mitchell brings this frightening tale to life in her latest novel. Her characters are evolved and emotionally entangled without being annoyingly sappy, and the reader is quickly immersed in the entwined tales of the kidnap and Winter’s relationship with her psychotic mother.

Being a police officer gives Winter access to the case in full, as well as access to a myriad of other insider information and as such her manipulative mother wants a quid pro quo in return for advice on the topic she knows most about: the mind of a depraved child kidnapper.

Having enjoyed both novels I desperately hope that there’s more where this came from. I loved Truth and Lies and The Secret Child was just as thrilling and gritty, so hopefully Mitchell will bring her talent for tension and passion for the police procedural back in the future!



A Perfect Explanation Review: A Haunting Historical Human Drama

a perfect explanation

Another blog tour post for you today, this time a review of a gripping historical book depicting real-life events from a fresh perspective.

A real life story that is almost too mind-boggling to be true, Eleanor Anstruther’s A Perfect Explanation tells the story of Enid Campbell, the author’s grandmother, who sold her son Ian, Anstruther’s father, to her aunt Joan for £500 in the 1930s.

The book is incredibly rich in human emotion and, as the author explains in the epilogue, is designed to turn these half-remembered caricatures from her family’s past into living, breathing, thinking entities.

Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the women involved: be it Enid herself, in both the 1960s, when she lives in a nursing home awaiting a visit from the son she sold and across the year leading up to his sale, as well as her daughter, who was not sold but still feels the burden it placed on her family, as well as Joan herself, who is coming to terms with the challenging fate her sister has thrust upon her.

This approach ensures that the reader is able to view the complex drama that unfolds through numerous perspectives, helping them to feel empathy and understanding. With such a personal connection to such an emotive and upsetting case, Anstruther could easily have created a take-down of her grandmother, but instead she wrote a unique and deeply moving book which explores her motives and those of the other players in the tragedy.

Throughout the book Anstruther perfectly combines human drama and emotion with evocative settings and haunting description. Each individual comes alike thanks to the writer’s skilful descriptions and human-focused narrative, which hones in on each member of the family and brings them to vivid life.

In all I was incredibly impressed by this moving portrayal of human suffering, mental illness, obsession and parenthood, and I think anyone who enjoys books of any genre that are rich in human emotion will too.


The Widening Gyre Review: A Modern Sci-Fi Epic

the widening gyre

The debut novel from Michael R. Johnston, The Widening Gyre, creates an entire empire peopled by numerous species in just over 200 pages. A sci-fi epic that makes the genre accessible to even those who aren’t die-hard fans, this is a detailed and intriguing novel that packs a punch.

The story follows Tarjen Hunt, a member of the human race now living in an empire run by the Zhen, a proud race who distrust and mistreat humans after they saved them. The human race was on board a ship travelling away from earth when it got damaged and had to be rescued. In author Johnston’s portrayal of the future earth is now just a distant memory, and humans now live as part of the empire in uneasy truce with their hosts.

Tarjen is a war hero turned wheeler-dealer travelling space hauling parts around for the empire after a personal tragedy alienated him from his family. When his estranged brother sends him a message begging for help, and then promptly dies, Tarjen and his newly acquired crew go on a dangerous quest to follow a path which they believe will take them back to earth.

Mistreated and overtaxed by the Zhen, the humans are considered an inferior race in the empire, and as such they are eager to reclaim their homeland and uncover the truth about their history. But Tarjen and his team face stiff opposition from ruling Zhen and a number of other dissidents as they battle to find his brother’s clues and uncover the path back to earth.

Written in the first person as a sort of ship’s log combined with a diary, Johnston’s narrative shows Tarjen’s personal opinions on each situation he’s in, building characterisation and driving tension as the plot hurtles towards a fascinating conclusion. Also Johnston gets a lot of love from me for integrating a gay protagonist and a lot of female characters into a genre traditionally not known for its representation. He does it in a very respectful way that isn’t too self-congratulatory, and as such this is a great victory for those looking for literature with more representation.

Overall this is a great debut from Johnston, who has built a unique world and created a fast-paced adventure within it. The Widening Gyre is great not just for science fiction fans but for those who enjoy thrilling, action-packed reads that will keep them captivated from start to finish.