The Blitz Detective by Mike Hollow

I’m pleased to share my review for The Blitz Detective by Mike Hollow, published by Allison and Busby last week. Thank you to the publisher for a digital review copy via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift. This book was published previously as Direct Hit (The Blitz Detective).

Synopsis:

Saturday 7th September, 1940.

The sun is shining, and in the midst of the good weather Londoners could be mistaken for forgetting their country was at war – until the familiar wail of the air-raid sirens heralds an enemy attack. The Blitz has started, and normal life has abruptly ended – but crime has not.

That night a man’s body is discovered in an unmarked van in the back streets of West Ham. When Detective Inspector John Jago is called to the scene, he recognises the victim: local Justice of the Peace, Charles Villiers. The death looks suspicious, but then a German bomb obliterates all evidence. War or no war, murder is still murder, and it’s Jago’s job to find the truth.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this crime fiction / historical fiction book. I must admit that I was initially drawn to the book after reading the synopsis because the victim’s surname is Villiers and I am employed by the social mobility charity Villiers Park Educational Trust.

An older detective is working with a young detective to solve a murder of a local businessman and magistrate, complicated by the evidence being destroyed by a German bomb. I enjoyed the criminal investigations and also the historical details – 1940’s London was brought to life.

I look forward to reading more of the books featuring DI Jago – a number of the other books by Mike Hollow in the series are being republished by Allison and Busby over the next few months.

Mike Hollow information (from Goodreads):

I first got into print when I was eleven. A boys’ comic published a feeble limerick I’d sent them and paid me five shillings, a fat sum at that age. But the postal order was nothing compared with seeing my words in print.

After that I kept writing – teenage poems for a late-1960s “underground magazine”, then grown-up poems, and later a happy mix of copywriting, journalism, editing and translating. All ways of getting paid for playing with words.

My CV? I was born in 1953 in the Essex County Borough of West Ham – home of the Blitz Detective – on the eastern edge of London. I grew up mainly in Romford and went to the Royal Liberty School, then studied Russian and French at Cambridge University.

My first job was translating for the BBC, and I did various jobs there for sixteen years before moving to work in communications for development agency Tearfund, travelling widely in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In 2002 I went freelance as a writer, editor and creative project manager. Now I earn a living by translating and spend the rest of my time in the cellar of my house in Hampshire chronicling the adventures of the Blitz Detective.

Why write detective novels? Because I enjoy reading them and I love to create entertaining stories. Why set them in that place and time? Because overnight the Blitz turned everyday existence into a life-and-death struggle for ordinary people – and some of them were my family. 

Lockdown by Peter May #Spoilers



Thank you to Quercus Books for the digital review copy of Lockdown back in April 2020. Apologies for the delay in reading and reviewing my first read of a Peter May book. My thoughts are my own and not influenced by the gift.

Synposis:

Written over fifteen years ago, this prescient, suspenseful thriller is set against a backdrop of a capital city in quarantine, and explores human experience in the grip of a killer virus.

‘They said that twenty-five percent of the population would catch the flu. Between seventy and eighty percent of them would die. He had been directly exposed to it, and the odds weren’t good.’ 

A CITY IN QUARANTINE

London, the epicenter of a global pandemic, is a city in lockdown. Violence and civil disorder simmer. Martial law has been imposed. No-one is safe from the deadly virus that has already claimed thousands of victims. Health and emergency services are overwhelmed. 

A MURDERED CHILD

At a building site for a temporary hospital, construction workers find a bag containing the rendered bones of a murdered child. A remorseless killer has been unleashed on the city; his mission is to take all measures necessary to prevent the bones from being identified. 

A POWERFUL CONSPIRACY

D.I. Jack MacNeil, counting down the hours on his final day with the Met, is sent to investigate. His career is in ruins, his marriage over and his own family touched by the virus. Sinister forces are tracking his every move, prepared to kill again to conceal the truth. Which will stop him first – the virus or the killers?

My thoughts:

I finally started the book during week 11 of lockdown in the UK. It was fascinating to see how Peter May had imagined a pandemic would affect London – the army checkpoints, curfews, the mass cremations etc – a very sobering read.

However the majority of the book is actually a murder investigation by D.I. Jack MacNeil, a Scottish man living and working in London. This is his last day working for the police before leaving to spend time with his young son – a day (and night) spent investigating the death of a young girl.

Despite the gruesome subject matter of murder and pandemics I enjoyed the majority of the book and would have given it a 4.5 star rating. However, the last 10-15% of the story was so unbelievable (in terms of Pinkie) that my enjoyment of the book and subsequent rating was dramatically reduced.

I know other readers have enjoyed the book and that this is my personal opinion, but I would love to see the ending rewritten because the majority of the book was an excellent read.

I recommend the book to be read to see how close to the real events of 2020 Peter May had imagined in 2005, but not as realistic crime fiction novel.



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The Weight of Small Things by Julie Lancaster

Synopsis

Nine-year-old Frankie Appleton likes to count gates.

One day she hopes to design the perfect gate – a gate to keep the bad things out.

Little does she know that the bad things have already got in.

Now her mother is dead, and the only other person with a house key has disappeared.

Frankie thinks she knows who it is. But first she has to prove it.

A delicately brutal exploration of what lies behind closed doors, and of the secrets and lies that form the fabric of every family, The Weight of Small Things is as charming as it is chilling.

My thoughts:

Thank you to Mirror Books for inviting me to read a digital proof via NetGalley – my thoughts are my own.

This was a difficult book to read due to the subject matter. I work with young people and the story kept shouting ‘safeguarding issue’.

The positives – Frankie is determined to get on with life despite the tough start to life she has had – she is a resourceful young girl who has been surrounded by a set of adults with major issues. She is determined to prove that her mother was murdered and the story is full of twists before we find out what really happened to Peggy.

The negatives – the stories are very dark – rape, suicide, prison, murder, child abuse.

I did read the book through to the end because I wanted to know what happened to Frankie, but I found the ending to be rather abrupt – I’m not sure if the final copy would have some further information. If you enjoy crime fiction, then you may wish to read a copy of this.

#BookReview THE CUTTING PLACE by JANE CASEY

Publisher Comments:

Everyone’s heard the rumours about elite gentlemen’s clubs, where the champagne flows freely, the parties are the height of decadence . . . and the secrets are darker than you could possibly imagine.

DS Maeve Kerrigan finds herself in an unfamiliar world of wealth, luxury and ruthless behaviour when she investigates the murder of a young journalist, Paige Hargreaves. Paige was working on a story about the Chiron Club, a private society for the richest and most privileged men in London. Then she disappeared. 

It’s clear to Maeve that the members have many secrets. But Maeve is hiding secrets of her own – even from her partner DI Josh Derwent. Will she uncover the truth about Paige’s death? Or will time run out for Maeve first?

My thoughts:

4.5 stars

Thank you to Harper Collins for a digital review copy via Readers First – my thoughts are my own. This is the first book I’ve read by Jane Casey and I was surprised to discover there are 8 previous Maeve Kerrigan books.

The opening chapters set the scene well – the discovery of Paige, the tension between Maeve and some of her colleagues, the ‘new’ relationship with Seth.

I enjoyed this crime fiction book – there was humour (sometimes dark), intrigue, secrets and twists. Even if you haven’t read any of the previous Maeve Kerrigan books (I’m assuming I’m not the only one), then hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I did.



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