Books Read in 2015 35. Death of a Pirate King – Josh Radnor (Contains spoilers)

Genre: LGBT, Detective

Narrative Style: First person, chronologicalUnknown-1

Rating: 4/5

Published: 2008

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: Now that Jake has married and Adrien feels he can no longer keep seeing him, he has tried to put their relationship behind him and even has a new boyfriend, Guy. However, when there is a murder at a Hollywood party that Adrien is attending, their paths cross again as Adrien is once again a suspect in a murder.

In some ways, there isn’t a lot I can say about this book that I haven’t said in previous reviews. That is not a bad things. All the things that make this series enjoyable are there – Adrien poking his nose in where he shouldn’t, the sexual tension between Jake and himself, the relationship between Adrien and his family. All these factors make these books so much more than mere detective fiction.

There were a couple of niggles. I actually felt quite sorry for Jake – Adrien was incredibly mean to him – so I felt anyway. Perhaps I was just impatient for them to finally get it together. And it was worth it when at the end Jake decides to leave the force and come out of the closet. (Although it did seem a bit too fairy tale to really be true.)

Also, I was never really convinced by the killer, Paul Kane. He was too much the charicature of a Hollywood actor. And it didn’t really make sense that he and Jake would be so close although it did provide added tension in Jake’s relationship with Adrien.

That said, I still found this hard to put down and the ending was suitably satisfying. I’m a bit sad that I am almost at the end of this series but I can see how with Jake out of the closet, there may not be much further to take the series.

Books Read in 2015 – 18. Saints of the Shadow Bible – Ian Rankin

Genrre: Detective, Police procedural

Narrative Style: Third Person from various points of view21283302

Rating 5/5

Published: 2013

Format: Paperback

Synopsis: Due to a change in the double jeopardy law, an old case is being re-opened. An old case that involves Rebus’ old colleagues. There is suspicion of wrong-doing and they all swore an oath that they wouldn’t tell. Rebus finds himself caught between his old workmates and Malcolm Fox from the Complaints who is determined to get to the truth. 

I must admit, I didn’t love the first of the Rebus in retirement books, Standing in another man’s grave. It wasn’t terrible but it didn’t inspire me to read this one as soon as it came out. Finally, I gave in and bought it with my birthday Amazon voucher in November. It was so much better, I was sorry I hadn’t read it sooner.

I haven’t read any of The Complaints books but Fox has featured – albeit on the periphery – in the Rebus novels before so I was aware of him. He was an excellent foil for Rebus – a rule follower and a reformed alcoholic, he showed up Rebus’ faults in all their glory. Neither man really trusts the other but they manage to create a successful working relationship all the same. Giving a little of Fox’s past, Rankin shows how similar the men really are and how they have attempted to solve the similar problems that life has thrown at them in different ways. I would certainly be tempted to read some of the Fox novels although I’m not sure how well he would work as a lead character without the alternative of Rebus as relief from his uptightness.

The past and the future well and truly crash in this novel as Rankin shows the difference between policing then and policing now. It goes some way to show how Rebus has developed his own moral code and although he doesn’t always follow the rules, the reader is generally on his side because he isn’t just wantonly corrupt. There is a line drawn between him and the other Saints being investigated although it isn’t always clear exactly where it is. Rankin shows how easy it is for power to corrupt and how dangerous it is when anyone takes the law into their own hands but he does not make simple moral statements. He shows the complexity of any moral decision.

As ever, the twists and turns of the plot and main plot are not easy to unravel and keep you turning the pages. Rankin is a master at giving just enough to keep you curious but not quite enough to work it out fully. A real pager turner, I couldn’t put it down.


Books Read in 2015 – 5. A Room Swept White – Sophie Hannah

Genre: Chick-lit, Detective

Narrative Style; A mixture of first and third person with extracts from books and Unknownarticles. 

Rating: 2/5

Published: 2010

Format: Paperback

Synopsis: Fliss Benson is sent a card with sixteen numbers on it. She has no idea what they mean. On the same day, she is put in charge of a documentary about miscarriages of justice – specifically women who are thought to have killed their children. Then one of the main focuses of the documentary, Helen Yardley, is found murdered and in her pocket is a card very like the one that Fliss received. 

The premise of this novel was intriguing and emotive. Women who are accused of killing their children often provoke extreme reactions in people and I was curious to see how the subject would be handled. Unfortunately, Hannah allows the narrative to be muddled by too many different narratives and ideas. At first, I thought that the novel would be about Sids and the likelihood of that happening in more than one child from the same family but Hannah throws in high levels of blood salt, babies that appear to have been shaken and babies that reacted adversely to immunisation. To me, this muddied whatever point she was trying to make (and in actual fact, I’m not sure what that point might have been) to the point of incomprehension.

Of course, for all this to work, there had to be an evil doctor. Judith Duffy has given evidence in a number of cases and in Helen Yardley’s case claims that it would be virtually impossible for two babies in the same family to have Sids. This was clearly based on the real life doctor who said that the chances were one in 73 million. Of course, as Ben Goldacre has pointed out, this is erroneous and Hannah does quite a good job of showing us why the doctor was wrong. At least, at the beginning. About half way through, she changes tack and we are meant to view Duffy with some sympathy. And we are also supposed to believe that she becomes friends with one of the women that she helped to jail. This stretched my disbelief to the very limit.

Perhaps the most annoying element of this novel was Fliss Benson. The only narrator to have annoyed me more is Ana from Fifty Shades of Grey. Fliss is a bundle of insecurities, always doubting herself and bursting into tears. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that all female protagonists should be strong or good role models or anything as crass as that but she really was annoying. I wanted to slap her, I really did.

At the beginning of the novel, she is promoted to creative director of the company she works for for no readily apparent reason except that the old creative director Laurie Natrass has found a new job. It is as if Hannah couldn’t imagine a woman being successful except at the whim of a powerful man. Of course, Fliss is in love with Laurie despite the fact that he is exceptionally unloveable which causes a lot of mooning and moaning which I could really have done without.

The most successful elements were definitely the third person descriptions of the police investigation and I know I would have enjoyed this more if it had been a straightforward police procedural. And if I’d been convinced by the ending. In fact, I found the last third of the book really difficult to finish. I only did finish it because I wanted the closure even while I knew it was going to annoy me. It is a while since I’ve been so relieved to finish a book.

Books read in 2014 – 8. Fatal Shadows – Josh Lanyon

Genre: Detective, LGBT, Romantic Suspense

Narrative Style: First person narrative, Straightforward chronological timeline1274861

Rating 4/5

Format: Kindle

Published: 2000

Synopsis: Someone is out to get Adrien English. First, his closest friend and employee, Robert, is murdered and then someone ransacks his shop. Even worse, the police seem to think that he murdered Robert. And everything he tries to do to help ends up making him look even more guilty.  

I love a well-written detective story. After the annoyance of reading Post Mortem by Patricia Cornwell, I wanted to read an author that I knew could deliver the goods so I decided to read the first of the Adrien English series. I wasn’t disappointed.

There are a number of things that bring me back to reading Lanyon’s work, first and foremost being the plot lines are always suspenceful with twists and turns that don’t seem forced. In short, he keeps you turning the pages. As with the main character in Come Unto These Yellow Sands, Adrien is very good at getting himself into awkward situations which adds an extra dimension to the suspense.

The character of Adrien was convincing and I took to him straight away. Lanyon shows the homophobia that he faces without making him seem like a victim and while he has some of the stereotypical traits of a gay man, he never seems like a type but like a real person. His first person narrative is full of humour and ironic asides which made the reader warm to him.

To me, it was obvious from the start that Detective Riordan was gay but closeted but it may be that this was deliberate as it allowed the reader knowledge that Adrien did not have. It was soon apparent that Riordan had a crush on Adrien and was on his side, sharing knowledge with him and eventually saving his life. But as I said, it was not at all obvious to Adrien who was too busy fearing for his life to notice.

I was sorely tempted to go straight on and read the next book in the series but I’ve decided to save it for the next time I feel I need the knowledge that the book I am about to open will be really pleasing.