The Trouble Boys Review: A Gritty Historical Thriller That Packs A Punch

the trouble boys

Another foray into historical Crime Fiction for the Dorset Book Detective as I review The Trouble Boys, a novel which spans two decades and showcases the human side of organised crime.

The Trouble Boys centers around the Irish mob in New York City from the 1930s to the 1950s. The story opens in pre-WWII Europe when young Irish immigrant Colin O’Brien settles with his family in New York City.

Upon arrival Colin befriends a Cuban-American boy named Johnny Garcia. Life in America isn’t what Colin’s family expects and he experiences a shocking tragedy that alters his life. As Johnny and Colin grow into men, their friendship changes. They begin working for different crime syndicates, with Colin joining the ranks of charismatic Tom McPhalen’s Irish mob and Johnny becoming a member of debonair Tito Bernal’s Cuban gang.

As Colin’s rise in the ranks of organized crime becomes increasingly more brutal and demeaning and his friendship with Johnny deteriorates, he begins to question his place in the seductive yet violent world he’s found himself in.

At the end of the day, E. R. Fallon’s riveting thriller shows a familiar yet inventive version of a traditional tale; one of falling through the cracks of society into a mess of criminality that spirals to reveal the true grit of a character. Fallon’s characters hold up well under such close scrutiny, and the book as a whole is a great example of a nail-biting thriller with enough twists and human drama to sustain it through to the riveting conclusion.

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James McCrone Novels Review: Sleek Dystopias With A Modern Twist

DarkNetwork-j.cvr

Following on from my interview with writer James McCrone, I look into the fascinating and awe-inspiring dystopian novels that he creates.

His first novel, Faithless Elector, portrays a scarily plausible scenario in which the public are unable to trust the system of power. In the novel, a young researcher uncovers a series of mysterious deaths among electors and must race against time and a secret, deadly efficient conspiracy. Set during an era characterized as cynical and paranoid, Faithless Elector showcases a creditable threat to the integrity of the electoral process and the selection of the president.

Following on from this, the next novel, Dark Network uses researcher Imogen Trager, the determined heroine of Faithless Elector again, as the reader sees her in a desperate race to stop a murderous dark network intent on stealing the presidency. She’ll have to fight against time, a sinister network, and even her own colleagues to stop the conspiracy to seize the presidency.

Although McCrone is keen to point out that neither novel is based on real events, they certainly resonate with the current political mess that is the US government, and Faithless Elector has a particularly Trump-esq ring to it in places.

Overall, these two novels hold all the classic hallmarks of hard-core dystopia thrillers, and the series looks set to continue with a bang.

I’ll Keep You Safe Review: A Thrilling Tale of High Fashion in the Highlands

I'll keep you safe

The name may sound a little twee but Peter May’s latest thriller is anything but. Focused on the breakdown of a marriage held together by a desperate quest to turn a dream into a reality, the novel is a slow burner, but the plot doesn’t fizzle out, leaving readers haunted by the exquisitely evil plot.

Niamh and Ruairidh Macfarlane are a husband and wife team from the Scottish island of Lewis, who weave and market Ranish Tweed, a unique variety of Harris cloth which, thanks to the interests of a malevolent fashion designer, quickly moves from country chic to high fashion. As the firm’s star soars the couple’s relationship sours, with Niamh left recoiling from an anonymous email informing her of her husband’s infidelity. When she finally has the strength to confront him whilst on a work trip to Paris, he leaves, only to be killed by a car bomb alongside the woman Niamh believes he was having an affair with. Originally suspected to be terrorism, the police soon see that the bomb was meant to kill the car’s occupants only, and suspicion switches to Niamh, leaving her with the twin burdens of uncovering the true depth of her husband’s betrayal and absolving herself of his murder.

The murder takes place in a city that has only recently encountered much real life tragedy, and May plays on this tense atmosphere, using his police detectives to convey the public fear as the reader is left briefly uncertain as to the novel’s direction. As terrorism becomes less likely, the reader and detective Sylvie Braque are left desperately chasing after Ruairidh’s memory in search of the truth about what happened.

Switching between first and third person, past and present tense, May’s novel charts the lies, deception and deceit that are, in his universe, inherent in marriage. His descriptions evoke a sensory overload as he bombards the reader with the sights, sounds and smells of his beautifully crafted settings; from the bland, banal Paris with its wealth and its intricacies to the Highlands of Scotland, where the constantly tempestuous weather creates a sombre mood, the settings are as intricately crafted as the characters.

Short, blunt sentences drive the narrative forward at a breath-taking pace, as May skilfully conveys a vast amount of information quickly and efficiently. The characters are so vividly portrayed that, at times, they almost become too heavy handed, like the pantomime villain-esq fashion designer Lee Blunt, but May’s crisp dialogue, punctuated by alternating first/ third person chapters keep the reader’s interest throughout whilst the plot sweeps along succinctly to a dramatic conclusion.

At its heart, I’ll Keep You Safe is a classic thriller that delves deep into the murky tangle of emotions that often hide beneath seemingly benign personalities.

A Cute Christmas Read for Children

christmas story

This sweet festive poem, complete with adorable illustrations, would make the perfect Christmas gift for the small person in your life. The story is sweet, the illustrations bold and the narrative engaging.

The story starts with three siblings Claire, Ben and Daniel, building a snow queen in the garden, as all children do. Claire begins to create a story around the evil snow queen and before long she explains how Elaine Gale – the evil snow queen has placed a spell on all children to be naughty so that when Santa checks his naughty and nice list no-one has been good and thus no presents are needed.

Happy with their days work they head back in for tea, but soon realise that their story is unfolding in front of their eyes. Realising they are the only ones who can stop Elaine Gale they start about a journey to overcome her evil plan and restore Christmas before it’s too late.

There are issues with the meter, and in some places I suspect that the poem would have been better written as a short story, but I very much doubt its intended audience, small children, are going to notice, and the rhythm and rhyme make this a great bouncy bedtime story.

You can check it out HERE.

 

Blood Rites Review: Grizzly, Gritty Greatness

blood rites

Having previously enjoyed his novel The Scarlet Coven, I expected great things from Blood Rites, the newest Inspector Paul Snow novel by David Stuart Davis. I wasn’t disappointed.

Set in 1980s Yorkshire, the novel dictates the work of Detective Inspector Paul Snow, a closeted homosexual battling both personal and professional demons.

His case is that of a serial killer charting an uncertain course, with his victims seemingly chosen at random. As he navigates a world full of deceit and violence, he is forced off the case by his dubious superiors who are dismayed at his lack of progress and unconventional methods. Desperate, the detective disappears underground, where a killer is lurking in the shadows.

The inner turmoil of this fascinating and deeply troubled protagonist is what drives the novel, with his dogged determination to unmask the murderer and prove his own worth sending him into some of some of the darkest recesses of human depravity.

Slightly stilted dialogue is the only factor that lets this otherwise dark and tense novel down- it can be hard to follow and it all but ruins otherwise exceptional characterisation. Everyone in the novel seems to speak as if they are narrating a children’s story, in that breathy, posh sort of English that does not ring true with the otherwise gritty, varied vagabonds that the author portrays.

This is earthy, Northern British Crime Fiction at its finest. Blood Rites shows you the very worst of human nature and puts our fears on full display, creating an chillingly atmospheric thriller that you’ll want to reopen as soon as you reach the final page.

 

A Death in the Night Review: Another Stylish Modern Novel with the Wit of a Golden Age Classic

a death in the night

Having already reviewed and enjoyed two of Guy Fraser-Sampson’s Hampstead Murders novels, Miss Christie Regrets and A Whiff of Cyanide, I had high hopes for A Death in the Night, the latest Golden Age style modern crime novel in this intriguing series.

Beginning at a dinner dance set in a fictionalised women’s club that Dorothy L Sayers used to frequent, the novel quickly catapults the reader into a fiendish mystery, as a guest is found dead in her room. Shortly afterwards, it is discovered that she has been wrongly identified and her death incorrectly diagnosed as being from natural causes, giving the detectives, two of whom were at the dance on the night of the murder, an incredibly tough case to crack.

Despite the devastation caused by the revelations of the previous novel, the team remains solid and continues to investigate with the usual flare. Bob Metcalfe remains stoic as ever, Karen Willis as confident and capable and as for the flamboyant and Golden Age obsessed Peter Collins, he is still the most hilarious and riveting character I have read over the past two years.

With physical evidence almost entirely destroyed and suspects aplenty thanks to the evening’s revelry, the team employ a combination of modern technology and old fashioned detection to uncover the culprit.

What I love about these books is how Fraser- Sampson effortlessly combines modern police techniques with antiquated language and characterisation that would not be out of place in a Lord Peter Wimsey or Poirot novel. Everyone has an archaic sort of job, such as the Doctor with her private practice inherited from her father. Despite this, readers are never in any doubt that the novels are set in the present day, and this makes for a fascinating education in how to combine styles when writing Crime Fiction.

In all, A Death in the Night is a riveting novel with enough classic detective novel techniques and references to keep readers on their toes.

Pigeon Blood Red Review: An Interesting Gangster Novel With Nothing to Do With Birds

BOOK COVER

Despite the frankly ludicrous title, this book is actually an enticing and fascinating thriller with absolutely nothing to do with dead birds (the name refers to the novel’s innovative description of the colour of rubies).

The novel has everything you need in a thriller, from gangsters such as the protagonist, enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, a missing jewel belonging to his thuggish boss, a chase around the world and a group of innocent bystanders who get caught in the crossfire.

Then Rico goes and spoils it all by falling in love, and the next thing we know there is a great deal more emotion going around than I like in my thrillers. I prefer more tension and fewer adoring adjectives, although the chase more than makes up for the mushiness and there are some truly tense passages that give the novel an air of suspense.

Author Ed Duncan is a lawyer, and that made this novel even more interesting, as it is not the legal procedural I was expecting. He provides a unique insight into the novel and the reason he enjoyed creating it.

“It’s always been said that you should write what you know. I am a lawyer – as is a pivotal character in the novel who is being pursued by a hit man – and I’m excited to be able to use my legal training creatively as well as professionally.”

Overall a solid thriller, Pigeon Blood Red loses momentum in places, but benefits from evocative description, a wealth of interesting characters and an interesting plot.