A few quick reviews – Howzell Hall, Scarrow, Baldacci and Haynes

We’re fast approaching the end of  2014 and I have a stack of read but not yet reviewed books that is nagging to be dealt with. To try to start 2015 without these hanging over me I thought the approach would be a few short, sharp reviews – so here goes. I’ll start with a few that were in the 3 star “fine but I probably won’t remember the story for much more than a week or two” category.

landshadows_jpg_size-230Title – Land of Shadows

Author – Rachel Howzell Hall

Published – 2014

Genre – Crime fiction

This is the fourth novel by American author Howzell Hall and the first in a crime fiction series as well as her first UK-published book. The series features the lead character of homicide detective Elouise ‘Lou’ Norton and she joins what feels like a remarkably short list of African American leads crime fiction (which must be shorter when you preface that with ‘female’).

Norton is called to investigate the apparent suicide of a teenage girl. It just so happens that the building in which the body is found is on land owned by local property magnate Napoleon Crase. Crase is a self-made man who comes from the same neighbourhood as Norton and coincidentally is her prime suspect for the disappearance of her sister some thirty years ago.

The story is told mainly in the first person and this lead to part of my disappointment with the book. I just didn’t really take to Norton. As a police officer she comes across as smart, sassy, confident but her personal life makes a mockery of this. Despite coming from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ she is now wealthy and seemingly happily married – but her husband appears to be a serial philanderer. It seems out of character that at home she is a weepy, downtrodden wife.

I liked Howzell Hall’s writing style which follows in the footsteps of traditional American crime fiction. I wasn’t so keen on the way the investigation was linked to the main detective’s personal life and it will be interesting to see how Howzell Hall takes the series forward.

You can see another point of view on Raven’s blog.

scarrowTitle – The Candle Man

Author – Alex Scarrow

Published – 2012

Genre – Crime fiction / Thriller

I am a huge fan of Simon Scarrrow’s ‘Macro and Cato’ series, so  I was interested to find that his brother, Alex, had written a number of thrillers (as well as his Time Rider series).  The premise of the book is an odd one. It opens as the Titanic begins to sink and a young woman is pushed in her wheelchair to the almost empty dining room to await her fate when an elderly man, the only other occupant of the room, recounts how he knew Jack the Ripper.

The story then shifts back to the Whitechapel of 1888 and is told from two points of view – that of Mary Kelly who helps an unconscious man she find in the street and a man who wakes in hospital having lost his memory. The book then weaves the story of the two characters as their paths cross. Through the telling of their stories Scarrow provides an alternative to the traditional explanations we’re familiar with.

I thought the take on the Ripper story was an unusual one but the pace was plodding and there was more telling than showing.

You can see another point of view at the For Winter’s Nights blog.

David-Baldacci Title – The Target

Author – David Baldacci

Published – 2014

Genre – Thriller

I have been a Baldacci fan since the publication of Absolute Power in the late ’90s and his hardback books were a must have present every Christmas. Some of those early titles were really excellent – fast, pacey thrillers in an easy to read style and lots of twists and turns. In later years he started writing series, like The Camel Club and King and Maxwell, which gave him the opportunity to develop his characters a bit more thoroughly. So where does The Target fit in? It’s something like his 28th adult book and the third in the Will Robie series.

The plot sees Robie and his partner Jessica Reel being asked to take a leading role in protecting the United States. There is some reference to events in previous books as they undergo assessment to prepare for action. They also have some battles to win with their own side before they can face their target and there are some unpleasant people from Reel’s past who are after her.

Running alongside these plots is the life story of Chung-Cha, a young woman who grew up in the Yodok concentration camp and who has been honed by the North Korean authorities to be their own deadly assassin. Apologies to the author if this is all based on fact but I found some of the background and action scenes to be pretty implausible.

The story was achingly slow until it reached the climax where Robie and Reel go up against Chung-Cha and then I felt a little let down by the final resolution.

You can see another point of view on Milo’s Rambles.

silent moonTitle – Under A Silent Moon

Author – Elizabeth Haynes

Published – 2014

Genre – Crime fiction

I am a huge fan of Elizabeth Haynes and Into The Darkest Corner remains for me one of the best examples of how to make a tense psychological thriller. In Under a Silent Moon she embarks on a new series of police procedurals with DCI Louisa Smith as the main protagonist. The book actually feels like a natural development from Human Remains which featured Annabel the police analyst.

DCI Smith and her team are called to investigate two seemingly unconnected deaths – a suspected murder at a farm on the outskirts of a small village and the second is a reported suicide at a nearby quarry. The book is unusual in that it also weaves in examples of source documents – encouraging the reader to feel more involved in the resolution. Not that I got there first.  There is also, as with Haynes’ other books, quite a lot of sex (often of the weird variety).

Haynes injects a lot of pace into her writing and there’s plenty of dialogue which spares the reader lots of exposition. There are multiple points of view so you have to keep your wits about you. I was a little disappointed that there was a love interest for Smith, especially as this is only the first book in the series.

This didn’t quite gel for me but it will be interesting to see how Haynes develops the series.

You can see another point of view from Book Addict Shaun.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.