Monthly Archives: April 2014

Lexicon – Max Barry

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If SFX magazine gives a book 5/5, I tend to take note. SF needs an exciting kick up the backside and, based on hype, I thought this could be it.

Book Description

Words are weapons, and one man is immune in this dazzlingly original thriller from the author of Jennifer Government.

Review

The novel’s other thread follows a young man named Wil, who awakes on the first page with a needle in his eyeball and two men threatening him. One of the men, Eliot (T.S Eliot) tells Wil he was a part of an organization called the Poets who wield words as powerful forms of control. He also tells him a Poet called Virginia Woolf, who unleased something called a bareword, killing thousands in a small town in the Australian outback, wants him dead because the bareword had no effect on Wil. The second follows Emily, a street magician, who is enrolled in a school for promising young students ran by the Poets, where they are trained to control people’s minds and actions with particular combinations of words. Early on this takes a Derren Brown style, with Emily using her words and actions for powers of persuasion and influence, but as her powers grow she learns just how dangerous words can be.

There are a few really good points to this book. I thought at first I had another Harry Potter on my hands, with a fun magical school for Emily to attend, but the book distances itself from any thought of magic and focuses on the persuasion aspects. Also the book is brilliantly structured, with really good tension building jumps back and forth. T S Eliot’s character is a great action thriller loner type, with some depressing skeletons in the closet but unfortunately, for interesting points about this book, I run out here.

I did enjoy it, but for me it’s nothing to get too excited about. I didn’t really relish the company of any of the characters and the plot twisted in predictable ways to form an unfortunately predictable outcome. It’s a shame really, I could have fallen victim to Lexicon’s hype but I think I’ve just read too many books of a similar standard and a great idea doesn’t always translate into a great book.

I encourage you to go out and try this one for yourself though and I’d love to hear what you think.

Lexicon is published by Mulholland and is available now.

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The Son – Jo Nesbo

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Jo is the creator of hard-drinking, hard-working Oslo cop, Harry Hole, and has been as at the forefront of the Scandinavian crime boom ever since. Selling over 24 million copies of his book worldwide (only beaten by Stieg Larsson), he’s been translated into more than 40 languages. When Jo’s last book ‘Police’ came out I was lucky enough to attend a talk of his and there was one statement he made that completely endeared him to me and placed him above the writer norm. It was during the Q&A segment where a lady stood up and said:

“A traditional Scandinavian crime series lasts ten books, but with ‘Police’ being the tenth in this series, have you got any plans to write more as Harry? I can’t be the only person in this crowd hoping for more.”

Jo could have easily been forgiven for replying with the stock answer, “maybe if the voice comes to me” or something along those lines, but quick as a flash his response was:

“Listen, I just want everyone to know that I feel no obligation to any of you.”

There was a ripple of awkward laughter and the woman sat down looking a bit put out. I, on the other hand, was now hanging on his every word. He went on to say he writes only for himself and its luck that anyone has liked his books. As a man who has tried his hand at many a different career, from professional footballer to musician, if he isn’t enjoying himself he will move on. A statement I have infinite respect for.

The product of that ‘moving on’ is Jo’s latest book The Son and it was a book I struggled to put down.

Book Description

SONNY’S ON THE RUN

Sonny is a model prisoner. He listens to the confessions of other inmates, and absolves them of their sins.

HE’S BEEN LIED TO HIS WHOLE LIFE

But then one prisoner’s confession changes everything. He knows something about Sonny’s disgraced father.

SONNY WANTS REVENGE

He needs to break out of prison and make those responsible pay for their crimes.

Review

The Son opens in an Oslo prison with the son in question, Sonny. This prisoner is the son of an Oslo policeman who committed suicide after allegations of corruption when Sonny was a child. Many years later, he’s a heroin addict who keeps a steady stream of drugs flowing by confessing to crimes he didn’t commit to stay hooked up to the drug. Whilst taking confessions from his fellow inmates to absorb their sins, Sonny hears his dad’s case might not be as cut and dry as he thinks and sets out on a mission for revenge.

Inspector Simon Kefas is an aging but brilliant policeman and also the best friend of Sonny’s father. He was also devastated at the loss of his friend but as the bodies start to pile up he has to make a harrowing choice.

Just how far would someone go for the ones they loved? This book goes above and beyond a normal crime thriller. The lines between good and bad start burred and in time fade completely until all that’s left is a tense, gut reaction to the unfolding plot. There are similarities between Kefas and Hole, as there are for all good crime detectives. Their brilliant but flawed and loved but lonely, but what makes this book stand out is Sonny. He is a wonderfully fleshed out character with loving, warm traits at times and disturbingly brutal at others. Do you root for the police or The Son? It’s not as easy as you think.

Fans of Jo’s could be worried about the ‘Hole’ left by not including their favourite detective. But The Son doesn’t just fill it; it builds a deftly plotted novel full of love and redemption, on its foundations. If this is the standard that Jo will be reaching for with future projects then I guarantee that ten years from now at signings, audiences won’t be asking if Jo will ever produce a Harry Hole book again. They probably won’t remember who that is.

 

The Son is published by Harvill Secker (10 April 2014)

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The Axeman’s Jazz – Ray Celestin

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First and foremost, a big thanks to Sophie Orme @Sophiemorme  Senior editor at Mantle, Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy of this book. It was through a tweet of hers that I had first heard of this.

Book Description

New Orleans, 1919. As a dark serial killer – The Axeman – stalks the city, three individuals set out to unmask him . . .

Though every citizen of the ‘Big Easy’ thinks they know who could be behind the terrifying murders, Detective Lieutenant Michael Talbot, heading up the official investigation, is struggling to find leads. But Michael has a grave secret, and if he doesn’t get himself on the right track fast, it could be exposed . . .

Former detective Luca d’Andrea has spent the last six years in Angola state penitentiary, after Michael, his protégée, blew the whistle on his corrupt behaviour. Now a newly freed man, Luca is back working with the mafia, whose need to solve the mystery of the Axeman is every bit as urgent as that of the authorities.

Meanwhile, Ida is a secretary at the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Obsessed with Sherlock Holmes and dreaming of a better life, Ida stumbles across a clue which lures her and her musician friend, Louis Armstrong, to the case – and into terrible danger . . .

As Michael, Luca and Ida each draw closer to discovering the killer’s identity; the Axeman himself will issue a challenge to the people of New Orleans: play jazz or risk becoming the next victim. And as the case builds to its crescendo, the sky will darken and a great storm will loom over the city . . .

Inspired by a true story, THE AXEMAN’S JAZZ, set against the heady backdrop of jazz-filled, mob-ruled New Orleans, is an ambitious, gripping thriller announcing a major new talent in historical crime fiction.

Review

During my crime reading phase this past 12 months, nothing has appealed to me more than the idea of 1919 New Orleans and a jazz loving, axe wielding, serial killer.

The novel follows its three main characters, Michael, Luca and Ida, on the hunt for the mysterious axe man and takes the reader down three different lines of enquiry. Michael is by the book, Luca is rough around the edges but smart, and Sherlock Holmes Obsessive Ida tries out her own powers of deduction. Each of these paths are, at times, a tense and exciting ride, with you slipping into a rat race mentality to find out who, If any, will catch their man first. Ray could have been forgiven if he had decided to only lead with two out of the three and it would still have been an engrossing tale, but to have three different perspectives on one case will place this well ahead of any other debut to be released this year.

This book ticks a lot of boxes. The characters are personally flawed, like all good crime novels, because of their experiences, or in Ida’s case, a lack of. The only sore point for me of this entire novel was the inclusion of Ida’s young sidekick, Louis Armstrong. I didn’t really feel like Louis Armstrong would have investigated crime in his younger days. The character was written very well and his experiences as a musician gave the story more depth but I felt as though he could have been a nameless musician and making him the Ambassador Satch himself, took away from the character rather that added to it.

This is a fantastic debut full of educated twists and turns in a well-structured 1919’s New Orleans setting and hopefully the inclusion of the Axeman in the hit TV series American Horror Story, will fuel interest in this book. I’m looking forward to Ray’s future work and hope he can build on the success of this brilliant opener.

The Axeman’s Jazz will be published on by Mantle, Pan Macmillian 8th May 2014

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