Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Review - Insane & Out

Jason Carver is a newly promoted, newly divorced tax inspector, but he’s fed up and wants to make a change in his life. Jason has recently inherited a house in Orbaton and he wants to move away from London. However, he needs cash to pay for the refurbishment and afford to have a part-time job (so avoiding paying his ex-wife maintenance). Therefore, Jason bribes a tax evader, Albert Carlotti, to bank roll him.

But Jason has a new neighbor, Dennis Brodan, and they immediately get off on the wrong foot. Brodan is renting Jason’s garage and will not give it up. As Jason’s mind spins out of control, he fixates on Brodan as the source of his ill will and decides to do something about it.

I really don’t understand the purpose of this story. The premise, that Jason is going steadily mad and the underlying reason, aren’t clear at all. I sort of figured out what had ultimately sent him around the bend on the last page, but by then I just didn’t care because most of the outline leading up to it was unclear for a number of reasons.

First, Insane and Out completely failed to engage me. It’s not badly written, but some sentences are odd, i.e. they didn’t seem to fit with the prose, and others were just downright difficult to understand. To give an example of the former:

‘There was no-one else on the train, which hummed with a vile, sonorous drone, just like it was being pulled by a million meat flies.’

Okay Jason was having a dream, but it would probably fit better in the horror genre. And of the latter:

‘His hair was jet black and below his pallid, almost waxy complexion glowed an unhealthy tinge of hectic red.’

I’ve read that sentence perhaps 10 times and I still don’t get it. Maybe it’s me, but why make it difficult for the reader?

The characters are lifeless and add nothing to the narrative. They appear, make a few comments and then sidle off again. Sometimes a potential conflict is created by the character, but almost always isn’t followed through. For example Jason meets someone he calls Wolfman in the opening chapter. Wolfman wakes Jason up, helpfully meaning he doesn’t miss his train stop (the reasons why are explored for a few pages). Then he and the Wolfman walk to the same location. Wolfman invites Jason to join him in the park for a couple of beers…yes it is that dull.

This issue continues throughout the story. At one point Jason thinks Carlotti is going to kill him, potentially interesting, but then this possibility evaporates – instead Carlotti gives Jason a brand new car. The situation Jason gets himself into with Brodan is pointless, who cares that Brodan is renting the garage and he can get to his car faster than Jason? Not me. Yet the author spends many chapters investigating this. Yes, Jason might be going mad but the reason for the conflict? Far, far too weak and unbelievable to create tension in this context.

The dialogue is bland and laborious. It’s like sitting on a bus and being forced to listen in on a particularly boring conversation between two strangers who you hope to never meet again. Unfortunately, you’re treated to every word uttered.

Finally, there was absolutely no sense of place for me. Jason eventually lives in Orbaton, where’s that? In the ‘grim’ north of England where everyone’s ugly (where I happen to come from).

Overall, a very disappointing read that almost sent me mad in the process.
Rating? One Star
Would add this to my bookshelf? Categorically No
**Originally reviewed on Books & Pals blog.**

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Fix - Latest News & Update

It's been far too long since my last blog post, sorry. The main reason is time, more specifically a lack of it. Unfortunately I've a day job for one, but I've also been reading and reviewing (more of these to follow) but most importantly, working hard on the follow up to The Fix. Still no title as yet but the words are flowing relatively well - within shouting distance of 30,000 words in a first draft. Not bad, I can live with that.
On the other had the above cover is an endangered species. I like the fact that it's bright and strong, however the feedback to date is it doesn't convey what's inside.
With a new cover also comes an endorsement from Tony Black, acclaimed author of the Gus Drury series, among others.
So a new one is on the way. More to follow...
Back to the follow-up. Of course as they do the sands of the story keep shifting. A couple of days ago a new character sneaked up on me, Shed McGavin he's currently called (although names do change with the character traits). He's a nasty piece of work, almost as bad as his boss. This has put the main character's story on hold for now until I properly understand the ripples and how they affect the story. One thing's for sure it's better for his arrival, a lot more intrigue has been added. I'd love to say more but it's as yet an untold story...

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Interview - Keith Nixon, The Fix

I was made redundant in 2009, the run up to the event wasn’t the greatest of experiences. I’ve (perhaps!) included some of the people and extrapolated some of events that occurred during that time. So, a negative turned into a positive.
Keith Nixon – 17 January 2013




The Back Flap

Murder. Theft. Sociopaths. And Margate. Just another day in banking then…
It’s pre-crash 2007 and financial investment banker Josh Dedman’s life is unravelling fast. He’s fired after £20 million goes missing from the bank. His long-time girlfriend cheats on him, then dumps him. His only friends are a Russian tramp who claims to be ex-KGB and a really irritating bloke he’s just met on the train. His waking hours are a nightmare and his dreams are haunted by a mystery blonde. And to cap it all, he lives in Margate…

Just when Josh thinks things can’t get any worse his sociopathic boss — Hershey Valentine — winds up dead and he finds himself the number one suspect. As the net closes in Josh discovers that no one is quite what they seem, including him, and that sometimes help comes from the most unlikely sources…

Part fiction, part lies (well, it is about banking) and excruciatingly funny, The Fix pulls no punches when revealing the naked truth of a man living a life he loathes.

What is the book about?
In short – ego, murder, lies and the need to change our lives. To take each in turn – arrogant people who think they’re untouchable, one of which ends up dead as a result, nobody is quite who they seem (however we all pretend to be something we’re not) and everyone ends up someone different as a result (but not everyone is pleased about the outcome).
The Fix is partially serious, mainly funny – you’ll get plenty of laughs as the story unfolds. One of the straplines I discarded was ‘Murder, it’s a funny business.’

When did you start writing the book?
February 2011, on a plane to Dubai.

How long did it take you to write it?
About 15 months in total with re-writes and edits.

Where did you get the idea from?
I was made redundant in 2009, the run up to the event wasn’t the greatest of experiences. I’ve (perhaps!) included some of the people and extrapolated some of events that occurred during that time. So, a negative turned into a positive.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?
I tend to start a book well, based on an initial idea and then struggle once about a quarter of the way through when the initial rush of ideas are down on paper and I run out of steam & there are lots of problems to be solved (which is the crux of novel writing after all). True to form this happened with The Fix.

What came easily?
The characters, I had ideas for them all and how I wanted them to behave. Their names took a little longer and went through several changes to get them right as each of them – Hershey Valentine, Claire Pigeon, Josh Dedman and the rest – all have meaning.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?
All of the characters are borrowed to a lesser or greater degree from people I’ve been unfortunate enough to meet but no-one is entirely ‘real’.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?
Wow, this is really tough. I’ve read a lot over the years and my tastes have shifted as I’ve aged (gracefully). I really appreciate those who can build strong tension and interest through the characters and their activities where not a word is wasted. To name my big hitters – Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Bernard Cornwell, Terry Pratchett, Christopher Fowler and Philip Pullman. But there are lots of other great authors I’ve read such as Tony Black, Philip Reeve, Isaac Asimov, Martin Cruz Smith and Robert Harris among others.

How have they influenced me to write? Well, you have to create a strong story and interesting characters who you can empathise with that move the narrative along with pace. Also, that it takes a lot of effort. It’s rare to be an overnight success.

Do you have a target reader?
Only genre specific – crime, murder / mystery and humour readers.

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?
Once I have an initial plot idea and some characters (usually their behaviours) the writing process is evolutionary. I build the outline of both premise and characters and some activities broken down into chapters in a Word document with a series of questions that need to be answered. In the latter, I mean activities that may occur in the story but I haven’t yet decided whether they’ll work but I want to capture them as I have a mind like a sieve. I then add to the outline (usually scribbling ideas as they come to me on a handy bit of paper then adding to the Word document later) over a few days and weeks. I’ve found that if I have a decent enough outline structure to hang the story on the writing flows and vice versa. When I get stuck, as inevitably happens, I re-visit the outline, modify and add. It also helps me find continuity errors.

In parallel I’ll start writing a few chapters, even if they’re brief and there are gaps in the timeline because then the story and the characters get into my blood. I take the view that an outline is just an idea whereas a chapter is activity.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?
Yes, as discussed it’s critical for me to picture where I’m going but only with the rough outline in a couple of sentences. I also don’t tend to number the chapters but give each their own title as a clue…

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?
A little editing as I go but mainly I try to do the bulk of it at the end of a draft because I have previously found I spent more time working on one or two chapter than getting on with the actual writing itself – I get into an edit eddy. There are sometimes exceptions – if I think of a major change that will significantly alter future chapters it bugs me unless I make some fixes, or if I think of additions to earlier chaptersm I will go back and throw them in. Again the process is quite evolutionary.

Did you hire a professional editor?
Yes, but more for copy than anything else. For one my punctuation (particularly comma use) isn’t perfect so I wanted to pick up any errors in this respect. The second was to look for continuity issues (I also use beta readers for this) and whether any of my clues were too subtle. It’s easy to miss stuff because of over-familiarity with the story.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?
No, too distracting. I want my fingers tapping keys not my thigh!

Did you submit your work to Agents?
No. Not this time around.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?
A few years ago I wrote a historical fiction book. I ‘lost’ a year trying to get agents and publishers interested. Despite some encouraging feedback, none took it up. It was very frustrating so I decided with The Fix to do it myself. I will shortly be releasing the historical fiction as Indie too.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did it you do it yourself?
Professionally, I’ve found that people tend to be orientated towards either words or pictures. I’m the former so I’m terrible at the latter.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?
A bit of both, which is me all over. I’d read up about getting books to market. However I work in a sales role and I feel you need to have a the product to make it available to people. Therefore, I’ve put a lot of activity in after launch, rather than before but it’s been a great learning exercise. Next time I’ll do more up-front.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?
Write as much as you can, it’s better to have something than nothing. Please make sure you get an editor, nothing is more annoying than bad format, punctuation or spelling (although editing won’t turn a bad book into a good book). Make connections on social media like Twitter and Goodreads although don’t expect this to immediately generate sales – it’s about relationships more than anything. Grow a thick skin, not everyone will like your work. Support other writers, from relationships comes networks and this is what life is about, after all.

Where did you grow up?
In various locations across the UK. We moved around a lot with my father’s job so I was always the kid with the different accent trying to fit in.

Where do you live now?
In a tiny coastal town in the UK called Broadstairs. There’s a literary angle to the place. Charles Dickens used to holiday here and wrote several books. A walkway down to the beach was the inspiration for The 39 Steps and there’s rumour of several links to Ian Fleming’s James Bond.

What would you like readers to know about you?
That I’m happy to help anyone with their own writing success (I’m freely available on Twitter and Goodreads).

What are you working on now?
Two things – my historical fiction is about to be edited for release in the first couple of months of 2013.
I’m also working on a follow up to The Fix involving several of the key characters. It is based a couple of years after. I also have ideas to follow the characters back in time to show how they got to where they are…

This interview was originally published on The Indie View site (

Review: RIP Robbie Silva - Tony Black

Jed Collins has been out of prison for only thirty minutes before he finds himself landed with a whole heap of problems. The first is Gail, a thoroughly sexy blonde with a bad history. Second is her brutal father, gangland boss Robbie Silva who promises a big payday for Jed but with a high risk. Throw Jed’s own difficult upbringing into the mix and you have an explosive cocktail that leads to violence, theft and murder…Jed is going to be lucky to stay alive and out of prison.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novella, a master class in the genre. It was punchy, gritty and tough - just how excellent noir should be. The fast-paced, violent action in RIP Robbie Silva starts immediately when protagonist Jed, a likeable just ex-con, meets troubled Gail. The story gallops along, taking the reader along for a wild ride that doesn’t let up until the final sentence.
As a result I had to read RIP Robbie Silva in a single sitting, getting myself into all kinds of trouble with the family because I ignored them for a couple of hours. However, it was worth it. I spent the time happily savouring the gritty Edinburgh location, seedy ambiance and the machinations of the troubled characters as they struggled with themselves and each other. A scattering of local vernacular through the story added to the weighty atmosphere without being distracting or off putting.

Here’s an example of the style:

‘The barmaid was in her bad fifties, bat-wings and a corned-beef complexion. Her over-dyed black hair was scraped back in a tight scrunchie and showed at least an inch of grey roots; when she smiled at me I wanted to heave.’

A difficult subject underpins RIP Robbie Silva and is the reason Jed, despite deep misgivings, inexplicably finds himself drawn to Gail. In the explosive finale, Jed and Gail lay their demons to rest with a major plot twist I didn’t see coming.

If you want to learn how to quickly build a highly credible story, strong characters, and a real sense of place then read Tony Black. A great writer and a great story.

Rating? One Star
Would add this to my bookshelf? Categorically No

**Originally reviewed on Books & Pals blog.**

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Fix - What's Next...?

After my post a couple of days ago on The Fix's successor I've continued to work on the first draft. I've broken 15,000 words (just, 21 to be exact). However, most importantly the ideas continue to flow. More than I can commit to paper right now, which is a major win.

I'm most pleased with the germ of an idea for the double bluff and who's going to be on the receiving (& even better the delivering) end. So another character appears (with a sufficiently dubious name, as always) & he has quite a significant role to play. It does mean some minor readjustment which I'll put in place tonight. However I don't like to spend a lot of time editing as I go, for me it makes it harder to push the story forward. I want to look to the future, not the past. The backwards look will come when the draft is all down. I know there will be holes to fill. So a few notes in the side columns to prompt me & the same in the outline will do it. For now.

I also mentioned that Lamb & Konstantin were drumming their fingers. Although Broadie has been a lot of fun it feels like the detective pair are dwindling into the distance, so I'm revisiting their parts too. I've finished the cafe chapter and the pair are happy to be playing again, believe you me. Because I'm writing this in the same 1st / 3rd person alternate chapters again (I like the pace & opportunity for varied perspectives) I was ending up with a growing number of blank pages to fill in. Therefore I'd congratulate myself at getting to say 40 pages only to then realise a large percentage are a big, fat white space. Lamb and Konstantin are running hard to catch up & fill in the blanks. Then, before I become too unfamiliar with Broadie I'll kick hih on a few scenes.

Still no idea of a title, but frankly that's the least of my concerns. Oh, and the blurb will be out of date now too! Small price to pay...

On The Fix, another satisfied customer is about to post good reviews on amazon & their blog page. More to follow on this as the reviews come in. The style & content do seem to be peasing on the eye - their words not mine.

All for now with another indie book review to follow from Books & Pals...

Monday, 14 January 2013

Review: A Verse To Murder - Tony Bailie

Dathai Devine, a well known Irish poet, is found dead in dubious circumstances – apparently by his own hand whilst fulfilling a less than salubrious sexual act and under the influence of narcotics. Enter Barry Crowe, investigative journalist, who pursues Dathai’s sad story. En route he meets Dathai’s muses, a policewoman with a bondage fetish, a drunken fellow poet and lesbians with the same odd tattoo on their inner thigh. It’s not long before Barry begins to suspect that there’s more to Dathai’s death than initially meets the eye.

This was a difficult read for a whole range of reasons. Besides the multiple formatting errors (see below) A Verse To Murder was more like a radio play than a novel – heavily weighted towards dialogue after an often cursory introductory description at the beginning of each chapter. This meant there was very little sense of character, place or activity. The story is supposed to occur in Belfast, however it could have been anywhere.

The plot was often disjointed, for example the book opens with Barry supposedly having a dream (I think), before the police turn up at his flat and awaken him. A Chief Inspector Hamilton then explains Dathai is dead under suspicious circumstances before the narrative inexplicably switches to Barry in conversation with a punk girl, Sally (“But don’t tell my friends that,” she says – why?) who appears out of nowhere to politely inform Barry she’d recently sold Dathai some mind bending substances. Although this meeting occurs chronologically after Barry has been to the scene of the crime it appears (that word again) in the book before Barry is described as having arrived at the scene of the crime. Confused? I was, and this was only the first chapter.  

This sudden appearance of characters continues throughout. For example, a policewoman on duty outside Dathai’s house (where the body was discovered) Barry claims to ‘vaguely recognise’ but within a page or two she is back in his flat and naked. Only by chance is she introduced as Dervla with no explanation (ever) as to where Barry knows her from. He also meets a friend, Tom Macken, himself a faded poet and some sort of female consort of Tom’s - again only pages later do we learn her name is Moira.

The story leaps around with little attempt at explaining what happens and why (because of the bias to dialogue). To a person the characters are flaccid, they all walk around in a daze and although Barry seems to have never met most of them before, he needs no effort to bend them to his will and they passively tell Barry everything. For example one of Dathai’s muses, Andrea de Burca, is being blackmailed, this apparently went on for 15 years without her making any attempt to find out who it was or report it to the police. Really?

This isn’t the only event that defies belief. At one point Barry is shot in the head at point blank range and he goes through an odd out of body experience. However, he somehow gets away with just a graze (unfortunately). Even the eventual murderer makes barely a credible appearance before being revealed.

On layout the book was badly formatted with a line break between each and every paragraph. I had to force my eye to skip over these which made for uncomfortable reading. There were also numbers randomly inserted throughout the text and inexplicable tabs were present that forced sentences onto new lines. There were often repetitions of the same word, for example:

“I’m a journalist, said Barry. “I wanted to interview him.”

“Yes I know you are a journalist. What did you want to interview him about?”



“That’s right, he’s a poet and I wanted to interview him about his poems.”

Oddest of all were when rather than actual speech the following were incorporated:

“…?” or “…!”

I’ve no idea what these are supposed to mean although the characters seemed to.

I really struggled to see a single redeeming feature about A Verse To Murder. Oh yes, it was mercifully short.
Rating? One Star
Would add this to my bookshelf? Categorically No
**Originally reviewd on Books & Pals blog.**

Saturday, 12 January 2013

The Fix - What's Next?

Right, I feel it's time to start talking about the next book (well that's not quite right, I have a historical fiction book coming out in February, but more about that another time). This one is the follow up to The Fix.

The reviews and feedback for The Fix have been excellent, I'm delighted and humbled. It's been a few months since The Fix came out so it felt right just before Christmas to work on the follow up - it is not a sequel.

I haven't got a title yet (it's usually the last item I finalise) so let's call it 'Switch'. But I've got characters, good characters doing bad things. Which means I've a vehicle to drive the story. For me characters are everything - this is the case in life, right? Without friends, family, enemies what are we? Up to you to decide but I need people around me.

So briefly, without giving the plot away too much (primarily because I haven't got all of it figured out yet!) 'Switch' sees the return of Mr Lamb and Konstantin. A very minor character (like blink and you'll have missed him minor) from The Fix plays a big part.

A work in progress blurb:

David Broadie, literally once ace reporter is on a serious downward slide with soon to be ex-wife, ex-job and ex-bank balance hanging around his neck. Until he receives a phone call. From a dead man. Then it could be ex-life.

The hilarious follow up to The Fix sees the return of Mr Lamb and his KGB partner Konstantin pursuing the same ends with different means. Dodgy dealing, murder and a multitude of sarcasm...

I'm about 12,500 words in. I'm delighted with the way David Broadie is working out, so much so I'm working on the two story strands separately. Mr Lamb and Konstantin are currently impatiently drumming their fingers on the table in a cafe waiting to enter stage left. They'll have to wait a bit longer unfortunately.

I'm planning a big double bluff. As is true to form I haven't figured out the how yet, but I'm working towards it. At about 1,000 words a day...

Have a good weekend.

The Obituarist - Patrick O'Duffy

Kendall Barber is an Obituarist, a social media undertaker who cleans up the electronic trails of the deceased. Kendall’s day doesn’t start well. First he’s beaten up by a Hell’s Angel and told to stay away from Tonya Clemmens. The trouble is he’s never heard of her. Then Tonya herself arrives at his office – she wants Kendall to find her missing brother. Against his better judgement Kendall agrees and it’s then that things really start to go wrong as local maniac, D-Block and, worse, the police, all show an interest in the case as well.
I really enjoyed The Obituarist. It’s clever, sharp and funny. The dialogue is great and the characters well described, from the grubby policeman, Grayson, who uses Barber to get what he wants, through to the maniac bikers, Kowalski and Ploog, who are trying to permanently silence him, they’re vivid and full of life. The location for the story, Port Virtue, is as grimy as its residents. The pace clips along with the action starting at almost the first page and doesn’t let up to the last, helped by The Obituarist being written in the first person. I really appreciated the sense of humour and the direct style in which O’Duffy tells the tale - there isn’t a wasted word, the sign of a well written novella.
However, just when I thought I had the story figured out (and so did the characters!) The Obituarist delivered a couple of wrenching twists and surprises that were very cleverly done…I’d love to say more but I don’t want to give anything away.

At just over 20,000 words it’s a quick read and could be taken in one bite (you’ll want to once you start). In fact, I did read it all over again, even though I knew what was going to happen, just to look at how everything unfolded from a different perspective.

In the near future I’ll be tracking down Patrick O’Duffy’s other works. If they’re as good as The Obituarist I’ll be a happy man.
Rating? Five Stars
Would add this to my bookshelf? Absolutely Yes
**Originally reviewed for Al's Books & Pals. May have received free review copy.**

Monday, 7 January 2013

Children Of The Enemy - DJ Swykert

Jude St. Onge is a drug addict who thinks he’s onto the deal of his life when he steals a bag of drugs from heavyweight dealer, Mitchell Parson. But whilst fleeing Jude’s car breaks down. By chance he seeks refuge with Ray Little, a brooding junkyard owner and ex-con.

Parson’s fixer, a brutal Haitian called Swallow, is sent out by Parson to track Jude down. Swallow tortures and then kills Jude’s wife, Ariana. He kidnaps Jude’s daughter, Angelina, who was forced to watch her mother’s hard death, so he can use her as leverage to ensure Jude returns the drugs.

Swallow’s plan works, but not everything goes right for Jude. Ray swears he will rescue Angelina and, with the help of story hungry local reporter Ted Rogers, he goes about the task in single minded and lethal fashion.

If I was going to describe this book with one word it would be ‘argh!’ If I was allowed a second it would be ‘yuck’.

To elaborate a little, I found this book by turns frustrating and overtly graphic. First, the frustration. Children of the Enemy started out well enough, with a strung out Jude losing control of his car and coming across the complicated and enigmatic Ray in his moment of need. However, the story soon slowly went off the rails and by the latter quarter I’d had enough, primarily due to the writing style where dialogue and sometimes description was repetitive, meandering and unrealistic. For example:

“I want to do what’s right, Ray. But I don’t want to do something I’ll regret later.”

“The way I see it we either regret doing something or we regret doing nothing. Either way we end up living with regret. I’d rather regret what I did than regret what I didn’t.”

And on occasion the characters kept going over the same ground, for example (in a much, much shortened outline):

“Is he gonna make it?” McCants asked.

“…He must have one of the hardest heads on earth to still be alive. He shouldn’t be alive, but he is, and most likely he’s gonna survive…” Dr Litton said.

“Then you think he’s gonna recover…?”

And sometimes just downright clunky:

“I think all rich people are crazy. They do crazy shit and they get into crazy shit. What you have going on here is rich people crazy shit…” And so on.

Maybe it’s just me not taking to the author’s style, but after wading through what must have been in excess of one hundred of these types of lines I tired of it.

The second element was the graphic description of torture, drug use and sex on which I will barely dwell. I’m not the squeamish sort, but personally having to read about a fourteen year old girl having her finger chopped off was just too much. And that was by no means the end of it…
Rating? Two Stars
Would add this to my bookshelf? No
**Originally reviewed for Al's Books & Pals. May have received free review copy.**

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Dangerous Times - Phillip Frey

Frank Moore, hitman for gangster boss Eddie Jones, has a plan. He intends to rip Eddie off to the tune of $5m, the trouble is he needs to find someone else to take the fall. Enter John Kirk, an ex-soldier turned car mechanic who bears a striking resemblance to Frank. However, things start to go wrong almost immediately. Frank ends up with $10m in his lap, John doesn’t die quite as Frank intended, all manner of people are after the money and then the bodies start piling up…

Even several days after finishing Dangerous Times I’m still not sure about whether I liked it or not. Yes, it’s well written, yes, the characters are well scoped out and yes, the dialogue is interesting. Although I appreciate an intriguing plot that gets to the point with a minimum of fuss and embellishment, Frey’s writing was economic to the point of being terse. So much so it proved sometimes difficult to keep track of what was happening, a few words missed here and there and I was soon lost and having to re-trace my steps for confirmation.

In addition there were several apparent methods of adding interest including switches of character perspective within a paragraph, which just served to jar the narrative and set the teeth slightly on edge. Also, the chapters rolled into one another, just a line space between them.

The whole cast of characters, from Frank’s wife and mistress, to John’s girlfriend and mother, to Hicks the bent cop (who seemed superfluous to needs most of the time), to Eddie and his cohorts, were particularly unpleasant and all, frankly, entirely out for themselves. That the plan went wrong almost immediately led to some interesting outcomes, however I found myself doubting that someone of Frank’s apparent intelligence would have left certain elements to chance (okay, this would have killed the story dead but then suspension of belief stretched).

And to Frank himself. Frey on his website says his protagonist is ‘impish’ and ‘playful’. This would not be how I would depict a sociopathic murderer with a penchant for cutting open main arteries with a razor. The book is also described as being darkly humourous, yet I can’t recall laughing once, it’s just not within that genre.

So, back to the beginning – did I like Dangerous Times? You know, I’m still not sure…
Rating? 3 Stars
Would I add this to my bookshelf? No 

**Originally published on Books & Pals blog ( May have received free review copy**

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Enemy We Know - Donna White Glaser

Letty Whittaker, a psychotherapist, is threatened in her office by a drunk, deranged patient, Wayne, who is angry with Letty for trying to persuade his girlfriend to get out of their abusive relationship. Wayne then subjects Letty to increasing and varied harassment as he blames her for the predicaments in his personal life.

Letty, however, has a secret herself. She is a reforming alcoholic and she struggles to keep this from her employers whilst undergoing the twelve-step programme. She’s also in a strange, unrequited relationship with her boyfriend Robert, a reforming alcoholic himself.

Then Wayne ends up dead and Letty is immediately a suspect. However, the harassment continues unabated and Letty has to work out who’s really after her.

I enjoyed this story. It is very well written, well plotted, and the characters vivid and imaginative. Letty herself is one damaged and conflicted lady, she had a challenging life even before Wayne showed up - an alcoholic with suggestions of a difficult upbringing, she can only bring herself to sleep with men when she’s drunk. She has a boyfriend she’s not close to and finds herself attracted to her boss.

It took a few chapters to really draw me in (despite the immediate tension created by Wayne’s attack) in part because there are a large number of characters to get to know and the alcohol reform programme and AA meetings are heavily illustrated. Some trimming of the detail here would have picked up the pace of the plot, I feel.

On the other hand the tension created by Glaser’s description of Wayne’s ratcheting up of the harassment, offset by the lack of belief in her story by the police and her employer was very well done, stirring ‘that’s not fair’ emotions within me. Wayne and Robert’s murders were good twists although it did reduce the number of potential suspects and the guilty party was not a total surprise, but nevertheless the conclusion was well written with a lot of stress and more difficulties for Letty – I feel sorry for her. 

Rating? 3 Stars

Would I add this to my bookshelf? Yes 

**Originally published on Books & Pals blog ( May have received free review copy**