It’s been too long since I posted any reviews – I have a stack of books that I can’t (well, shouldn’t) put away until I’ve written the reviews and some very kind publishers who have sent me proofs or Netgalleys and I really ought to share my thoughts.
So killing two birds with one blog post, here are two reviews of books by William Shaw. First up – the third in the Breen and Tozer series.
Title – A Book of Scars
Author – William Shaw
Published – 2015
Genre – Crime fiction
I treated myself to the first three books in the series based on how much I had enjoyed Shaw’s Alexandra Cupidi / Dungeness series. Don’t think that because it’s taken me four years to get to the third book I haven’t enjoyed them – I’m more about delayed gratification than binge reading.
This series is historical, A Book of Scars is set in 1969, so recent enough that many readers can pass judgment on the authenticity. Warning – spoilers, if you’ve not read the previous books in the series! When the book opens Tozer is no longer a serving officer and Breen has been staying at her family’s farm to recuperate from his injuries. The incapacitated detective is one that crops up a few times in crime fiction and the relief for the reader in this book is that we finally tackle the issue of Tozer’s murdered sister now Breen has some time on his hands.
Prompted by Tozer to nose around in the original investigation and to relieve his boredom, Breen learns that there were unpleasant details kept from the family. As they try to track down those who were involved in the investigation they start a chain of events that will bring trouble right to their door.
One of the suspects in the murder has a connection to Kenya and the Mau Mau rebellion which makes this a very dark story with some quite graphic scenes but a positive is that I learned a bit more about the conflict that I didn’t know before. So the scars in the title are both physical and emotional…
As a side thread there’s also the mystery of the Tozer’s lodger ,the young hippy Hibou – as you can imagine it’s not easy to keep a secret in the same house as Tozer and Breen!
The close proximity of living under the same roof, the investigation into Alexandra Tozer’s death and Helen Tozer’s pregnancy all bring additional tension to the unconventional relationship between the two characters. As great crime fiction can do so well, the book tackles some social issues – shining a light through fiction on some of the more unpleasant episodes from the past as well as some of the more mundane but no less important domestic issues. From my hazy memory of the period it feels true to the time and the author weaves in the detail of the period without making it obvious to the reader.
My other recent read by the same author is actually written under the pen name of G.W. Shaw and is more action thriller than crime fiction.
Title – Dead Rich
Author – G.W. Shaw
Published – 2022
Genre – Thriller
This book is quite a contrast to A Book of Scars – with a contemporary setting, a superyacht in the Caribbean and a cast of brash and entitled characters.
I started reading this in March and while I’m reading a thriller featuring a Russian oligarch on a superyacht the very same people were hitting the news as the sanctions associated with the war in Ukraine bit. I felt like I was getting an insight into the lives of the people who were having their assets seized.
A young musician whose career has stalled post-COVID is invited by a girlfriend he hardly knows to join her on her father’s yacht. He walks into the middle of a dysfunctional wealthy Russian family who have fallen out of favour with some powerful people. The yacht is crewed by a a mix of loyal staff who have been living onboard and agency staff, drafted in at the last minute – and they outnumber the family members.
When the family comes under attack it’s not clear where the threat has come from and who the enemy is. The family and crew have to try to save themselves from the attackers and then deal with the aftermath of the attack – on a boat taking on water in the middle fo the ocean.
But once they make their way to dry land their problems aren’t over.
The luxurious setting makes this a great read for the beach and the twists and turns of the action will keep you turning the pages while you’re lying on your sun lounger.
Many thanks to the publisher for the Netgalley.
It always fascinates me how the same author can have two different voices; it is almost as if they have a split personality. The most dramatic (if you haven’t read them) is Donald Westlake and Richard Stark, same man, different imagination.
Thanks for the review; I think I will try A Book of Scars first.