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Guest Reviewer Johnny's reviews from July 2015

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My Guest Reviewer Johnny (or my very own Simon Cowell as I like to think of him) has been very busy in July. His usual collection of short, sweet and sometimes shockingly funny reviews can be found below:-

Oblivion by Arnaldur Indriason

Johnny’s Rating: 3/5

Johnny’s Review: Neatly told whodunit set in Iceland but the style could be said to be in the tradition of Nordic noir.

Local cops deal with a battered body and on of their number also investigates the case of a missing girl dating back twenty years. The two investigations run parallel throughout the book and the juxtaposition is a device that works very well .The murder case is traced to an American military base in Iceland and the antipathy between the Icelandic and American communities is well handled.

Little in the way of suspense but the solution to the two cases is well realised and this is a competent well written piece.

The Collector by Anne-Laure Thieblemont

Johnny’s Rating: 3/5

Johnny’s Review: Thriller set in and around the  Parisian art world. A somewhat convoluted plot is rescued by an admirable expertise regarding the detailed workings of all the aspects of the arts business.

Whilst I quite enjoyed the book, I'm sorry to say I found the heroine somewhat lacking in appeal. Nevertheless a book that will pleasantly while away a couple of hours on the beach

Coercian by Tim Tigner

Johnny’s Rating: 3/5

Johnny’s Review: Cracking thriller which covers many locations, multiple slayings and a fair amount of torture - perfect bedtime reading. Despite some caveats a very enjoyable read. The hero is sufficiently indestructible and the baddies suitably nasty. The author seems to be well versed in the areas about which he writes and brings a degree of credibility to the proceedings.

However it must be said that there are some plot contrivances and coincidences that send credibility well past breaking point. Nevertheless if you like all action thrillers this ticks all the boxes.

The Flood by David Hewson

Johnny’s Rating: 4/5

Johnny’s Review: Pleasingly elliptical thriller set in Florence past and present. The protagonists are Pino Fratelli, a Florentine detective and Julia Wellbeloved, an English art historian.. Their attempts to catch a killer involve him doing the intuitive detecting and her the exposition, (so its Sherlock and Dr. Watson).

Mostly the book is about Florence, but not the Ponte Vecchio  and the Uffizi, more the dark underbelly where the tourists don't go. As a hymn of praise to Florence and its history, mixed with a murder mystery it works very well. The historical detail is fascinating as the relationship between the mismatched couple. Very well written and highly recommended.

Disposable Asset by John Altman 

Johnny’s Rating: 3/5

Johnny’s Review: Spy thriller involving lots of violence and multiple killings as a female agent is pursued across Russia after an assassination. The female in question survives under increasingly unlikely situations, but always with just enough ingenuity to make the storyline credible.

The characters are, with the exception of Cassie, the female agent, somewhat stereotypical, but the descriptions of the action and the technology is very well done.  If you like fast paced, intricately potted thrillers with lots of violence, torture and endless mayhem this will tick all the boxes.

Brother Can You Spare a Dime by Jack Martin

Johnny’s Rating: 3/5

Johnny’s Review: Somewhat unusual gangster thriller set in the 1920s . Concentrating on the period after the incarceration of Al Capone it features just about every gangster of the period. .Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly and Baby Face Nelson all make appearances but the story revolves around an attempted assassination attempt on President FDR.

Plainly we know that it can't succeed but there is enough detail about the period to maintain interest, and the story about J.Edgar Hoover and the precursor to the FBI is interesting.  The strange thing about the book is the hero, Agent Harry Bierce. The problem for me, from the start is that he seems to possess supernatural powers and by the conclusion it seems that might well be the case.

Having said that, this odd period piece is very readable and is sufficiently different to pass a couple of hours pleasantly.

The Price of Justice by Marti Green

Johnny’s Rating: 3/5

Johnny’s Review: Confident, accurate legal drama. Lawyer and investigator combine to prove innocence of an inmate on death row awaiting execution. Having experience in relevant subjects the legal and psychological aspects of the story are dealt with confidently and with expertise. Despite some plot convolutions, the identity of the guilty party was not too difficult to ascertain which, to an extent, dissipated the dramatic element of the story.

Having said that, this is, of its type, a well-constructed, intelligently written and neatly concluded.. Recommended. 

Tenacity by J S Law

Johnny’s Rating: 3/5

Johnny’s Review: Well-crafted thriller with a heroine, Royal Navy cop ,Danielle Lewis, investigating a suicide and murder. Most of the action takes place on a submarine and the claustrophobic atmosphere is well realised. There is a great deal to like about this book but, sorry to say, I found Ms. Lewis to be incredibly irritating central character. I appreciate her intransigent behaviour is explained clearly enough, but the fact that it continues from start to finish I found wearing.

Definitely worth reading and if you can, unlike me, overlook the main protagonist's shortcomings, a satisfying whodunit. 

Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham

Johnny’s Rating: 4/5

Johnny’s Review: Another winner from Michael Robotham. As usual intricate plotting, superb dialogue and some cracking one-liners, interspersed with bouts of well realised violence.

The pace never lets up and there is a superb conclusion that is both unexpected and poignant. Whilst reading the book I did have echoes of other very good crime novels, namely Thomas Harris's Red Dragon and Mark Billingham's Sleepyhead. In no way is this book derivative but it's a compliment to the author that his writing is up there with two of the most popular crime writers in the world. Don't miss this one; highly recommended.

The Contractors by Harry Hunsicker

Johnny’s Rating: 3/5

Johnny’s Review: Exciting, violent and very readable thriller. The hero and heroine are the usual indestructible types with a range of skills guaranteed to overcome the bad guys.. This they do From Dallas to the Mexican border in a relentless chase across Texas.

Some of the excesses of slaughter seem a little far fetched but the pace is such that credibility is readily suspended as they battle gangsters, corrupt cops and battalions of drug cartel hit men (and women).

A real page turner which is lots of fun if you are prepared to suspend your critical faculties at some of the plot improbabilities.

Dead Wrong by Helen H Durrant

Johnny’s Rating: 4/5

Johnny’s Review: Surprisingly enjoyable police procedural. Effective characterisation and plausible  dialogue and background make for an enjoyable read. This bodes very well for future outings for (the usual) mismatched coppers.  To be fair we are spared the usual cliches of the maverick cop with a drink problem etc.etc. The characters are surprisingly ordinary and much the better for it.

Unusually I found little to criticise. The ending was a little peremptory and the  Detective Inspectors brief sexual peccadillo was more than a little unconvincing. That aside, a very assured debut and thoroughly recommended

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