Book Reviews - Colin Merrey - Jan 2011
Monday, 10 January 2011 00:00
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This has been a great period for new books – there are a large number to talk about this issue and I have been very busy keeping up with them all so you can use your Christmas money wisely!  You might like to take some of them away with you to read during your Summer holiday. 
First cab off the rank (as usual) crime!!

At the time of going to press with the last issue, I had not received a copy of Bad Boy for review – this has now been rectified and I have also received (via Sleuth of Baker Street (a Canadian bookshop) a copy of his book “No Cure For Love” which as I said then was not available in Australia or indeed anywhere else outside of Canada.
So here goes!

BAD BOY – Peter Robinson
Hodder and Stoughton
NO CURE FOR LOVE – Peter Robinson
Penguin Canada
(available by import only at present)
I gave a brief synopsis of Bad Boy in the last issue but, briefly, it covers a case where Inspector Alan Banks is torn emotionally and personally as his daughter, Tracy, appears to have gone on the run with the prime suspect (she has actually been taken hostage by him, in fact).  I won’t tell you too much more of the story for fear of spoiling it for you – suffice it to say that it is as enthralling and page-turning as his previous thrillers.
No Cure for Love, on the other hand, is set in California and is a stand-alone thriller.  The story revolves around Sarah Broughton who is stalked by someone whose letters, initially, she regards as ordinary fan mail.  As the plot develops, she discovers that they are more sinister and the police become involved to resolve the situation for her.
This is a stirring read and (hopefully) Peter’s publishers will release it worldwide in the near future, particularly as he is now receiving TV exposure in UK and USA via the ITV production of Aftermath as a two part mini series. I got my copy from Sleuth of Baker Street bookshop in Toronto (thanks to advice received from Peter during our recent chat).

DESIRE – Louise Bagshawe
Headline Review $32.99
This is a great read.  The story line drew me to it initially – Lisa Costello wakes up in bed next to her husband’s dead body the morning after their wedding in Thailand and is immediately suspected of his murder. – She goes on the run with a former FBI agent turned reporter and together they set out to solve the mystery and clear her name.
Louise is a new writer to me but this is the latest of thirteen novels that she has written so far – I intend to seek out some of her earlier work as I am always on the look out for new authors, being a prolific reader. 
She was born in London but now lives in the Northamptonshire village of Oundle (where I used to go fishing with my dad back in the 1950’s) and was elected the Conservative MP for Corby and East Northamptonshire at the 2010 UK election.

PORT MORTUARY–Patricia Cornwell
Sphere Hardback $49.99
You are all no doubt familiar with Patricia’s earlier Scarpetta novels – this is the latest in that long line and is told in the first person (a first for her for this style of writing) and views the entire novel through Scarpetta’s eyes as it evolves.  The story concerns her secondment to the US Army’s Dover Port Mortuary  and involves her mastering the art of “virtual autopsy”.  This is a good yarn with many twists and turns and a great number of “red herrings” in a style reminiscent of Agatha Christie.
I enjoyed it although I am not a great fan of novels written in the present tense as this is – Steve Martini’s novels are that way too but I still enjoy the evolution of the stories notwithstanding that fact.

MOONLIGHT MILE - Dennis Lehane
Little Brown Books $32.99
This is the long awaited sequel to Gone Baby Gone and concerns Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro, a team of private investigators who in this case are looking for a young girl who has been abducted.  The girl who was abducted in Gone Baby Gone, Amanda McCready, features strongly in this story as it investigates the morals of whether or not a runaway child should automatically be returned to an abusive family.
Again, I enjoyed the many twists and turns of the story and Patrick and Angie fighting with their own personal demons.  Buy it if you are a fan of this genre, as I must confess that I am.

CUT AND RUN – Matt Hilton
Hodder and Stoughton $32.99
This is the fourth Joe Hunter novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it as much of the earlier ones.  If you have not read those, in spite of my recommendation of them, you are missing a treat.   Joe is a similar character to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher but in this instance he is an English ex soldier who is now living and working as a private eye and trouble-shooter in the USA.  Here, his identity is stolen by a mass murderer and he has to find and eliminate the killer before the forces of law catch up with Joe who is thought to be the perpetrator.  This is a great yarn and I can’t wait for the fifth which hopefully comes up next year.

THE FAMILY – Martina Cole
Headline Books $32.99
This is Martina’s seventeenth novel and again concerns the Essex crime gangs and their impact on the East London crime scene of the ‘70’s, ‘80’s and ‘90’s.  Notwithstanding that they all seem to involve similar plots, Martina always seems to make each novel discreet from its predecessors.  This is the story of the Murphy family and its intermingling with the snobbish English Booth family over three generations. 
As all of her earlier novels, it is peppered with violence and bad language (although not quite as much as “the Take”).  This is a trade mark of her books and if you can get past that then you will enjoy the read.  I must say that I enjoyed it probably more than some of the earlier novels but that said I have read and enjoyed all of her earlier work (as indeed I have with Peter Robinson).
Read it if you enjoy her books or London crime novels generally.
Moving on to biography, I received five books for consideration for this issue all of which I found immensely entertaining.  Two of these were by Irish authors and three by and about stars of the entertainment industry.

AN IRISH MEDLEY –
Patrick Sullivan
Madding Crowd Publishing – available from the author or the publishers
‘An Irish medley: memories of home and abroad’, is an excellent read and is the very entertaining autobiography of Patrick Sullivan. It deals with the author’s childhood in Cork and then his travels around the world. He currently resides in Melbourne with his family. The book captures the flavour of Ireland and all things Irish and covers Patrick’s growing up on a farm in North Cork, tales of his schooling, his ordination and travels to the USA, Fiji, and his eventual leaving of the priesthood and his settling in Australia. 
This is an extremely entertaining read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I encourage you to read it and enjoy it as I did.  The publisher’s details are as follows:
Besharl Hein, MaddingCrowd Publishing
Level 1, 696 High Street Road, Glen Waverley, Victoria, 3150, Australia
Phone: +61 3 9886 5564
Fax: +61 3 9886 5593
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Web: www.maddingcrowd.com.au

PINKEENS TO DIDDIES
– David McCabe
Available on import from the publishers:  www.strategicpublishinggroup.com/title/pinkeenstodiddies.htm
For those who do not know, a pinkeen is a small fish with a pink underbelly – a diddy – well I am sure you know what THAT is!
This is the story of Brendan Harris, a young Protestant boy growing up in the Ireland of the 1940’s, and it is filled with anecdotes concerning his growing up in a small rural village outside Dublin to his adolescent development and preoccupation with Diddies.  There are some excellent little stories here and I for one was fascinated by his descriptions of what life was like for him during this time of Ireland’s development during and immediately after the Second World War.
I know you will enjoy it if you take the time to get a copy from the publishers.

LIFE – Keith Richards
HACHETTE Hardback - $49.99
Keith Richards, the guitarist with the Rolling Stones and oft times song writing partner of Mick Jagger (Brenda in the book) has recently turned 67 years old.  I guess he thought he should write his memoirs before he got too much older!
This is a good book – I might even say a great one – it tells the story of a boy growing up during the final years of the Second World War, his school years and his meeting up with Mick Jagger and the formation of arguably the best Blues Hard Rock and Roll band to come out of Britain during the 1960’s.  It covers his oft reported foray into the world of drugs, women and alcohol and his often tempestuous relationship with Mister Jagger.
The Stones have been recording and touring since the early 1960’s and are still touring and recording to day – more that 47 years after their formation.  No mean feat!  Even the Quarefellas haven’t been going QUITE that long!!
I became thoroughly immersed in this book and found it both informative and entertaining.  I enjoyed it immensely as I am a great fan of biographies of people in the entertainment industry.  If you are a fan of the Rolling Stones or indeed the rock music culture of the 1960’s and successive decades then you should read this book.  I urge you to do so.
 
FRANK - THE MAKING OF A LEGEND – James Kaplan
Sphere Books $35.00
This is the latest in a long line of biographers of arguably one of the greatest singers and entertainers that we have seen in the last 100 years.  This book brings deeper insight that earlier books into the complex psyche and turbulent life of this enigmatic man.  There is a swathe of rarely seen photographs of the great man shown here and it covers the period essentially from 1915 to 1954, after he won his Oscar for the role of Maggio in From Here to Eternity.  Sinatra has long been a favourite of mine and I enjoyed the book immensely.  Again, if you enjoy musical biography then you should read this book as a priority.

AND FURTHERMORE – Judi Dench
Orion Books Hardcover $45.00
This is Dame Judi Dench’s autobiography and it updates the various earlier biographies of her life and career.
It expands upon these and covers her early childhood in York but concentrates on her career (both on stage, TV and Cinema) and her marriage and family also.
This is the lady who made Queen Elizabeth the First, M (from the James Bond Films) Queen Victoria (Mrs Brown also featuring Billy Connolly) and countless other roles her own.
Reading the book encouraged me to seek out some her earlier screen work that I had missed for a view – I enjoyed it all.  She is a consummate actress and an extremely erudite writer.  Read this – Dame Judi is an extremely interesting person and a great writer – you will enjoy it I am very sure.

And now two books for the ladies!!

MINDING FRANKIE –
Maeve Binchy  ORION $35.00
This is Maeve’s latest novel and tells a story of unconventional families and relationships which aren’t all that they seem and of a child at the heart of everyone’s lives.
Frankie is a little girl who is being brought up by Noel (an alcoholic) and Lisa (a serious fantasist) – they have no blood relationship to each other and are bringing up Frankie because of a promise – also without the knowledge of Social Services.
This is a great story – most enjoyable and equally as good as all of Maeve’s previous work.  I enjoyed it and I am sure that you will too.

SAINTS AND SINNERS
- Katie Agnew  ORION $32.99
Katie is a new writer to me – I enjoyed the book – she has a great writing style and is an excellent storyteller.
The story is about the LaFata family and develops around the public and private reaction to the death of Giancarlo “Fatty” La Fata, the patriarch of the family.  It is set on the French Riviera with all of its glamour and is a cracking good read.
I just know you will enjoy this one.


There are some other books that I received this month that I thought I should mention to you – these do not really fall into any of the earlier categories.

The first is....

PARKY’S PEOPLE
– Michael Parkinson
Hodder and Stoughton - $49.99
Here Sir Michael takes us on a unique journey through 5 decades of his TV career with his chat show Parkinson.  He revisits interviews with entertainers, sportsmen, film stars, comedians and many more including the extremely verbose Billy Connolly, Shane Warne (texting king of Europe!), Tom Cruise, Madonna, Muhammad Ali, David Beckham and Orson Welles to name but a few.
I thoroughly enjoyed this trip don memory lane having seen all of the interviews on TV before and was delighted with the journey.  I think you will enjoy this one as much as I did.

QI: The Second Book of General Ignorance – Lloyd and Mitchinson
FABER $19.99
If you are fans of Stephen Fry’s current ABC TV series, QI, then you will enjoy this book – it is a great reference tool for those amongst you who (like me and possibly also Dermot Byrne like to be a mine of useless information but vet useful on trivia nights!).  It visits a lot of seemingly true urban myths and reveals the truth (or otherwise) behind them.  I found it enthralling and visit and revisit it often to settle my (many and varied) arguments about trivia.
If you like that sort of thing, then buy it and read it.  Also try and catch up with QI on the ABC – currently Wednesday evenings at 8pm.  I know you will love it – it is extremely humorous (often a bit coarse) but immensely informative. Enjoy!

JIVE TWIST AND STOMP -
Murray Gracie and John Mills
Fremantle Press
Available from the publishers and all good bookstores
I thought that of all the books I received this month that this one deserved special mention so I left it to the very end.
It is an excellent book that has been written by two of the stalwarts of the Perth pop music scene of the 1950’s and 1960’s, Murray Gracie and John Mills, and is a great addition to the library of anyone who grew up in that era.
It is full of anecdotes and personal memories of the authors and a large number of Perth musicians and is also a chronology of all the groups that played in Perth during that period.
It is set out alphabetically by group with an appendix that covers various band from that period whose members were unknown and a section setting out all of the venues, radio stations, recording studios, etc  that existed during that time.
I found it a great read and also a great reference book for my personal library.
When the book was launched on the 30th November 2010 at the Swan Yacht Club, over a thousand people attended and packed the venue, some spilling out into the outside areas of the Yacht Club.  It was launched by Colin Nichol, Perth’s most popular disk jockey at that time and among the attendees were rockers from all over Australia, some coming from as far afield as Queensland to play alongside their old band mates – we also saw the reformation of Johnny (Young) and the Strangers for one last time.
John and Murray (together with Pieter Labrooy) are all members of the Perth Shadows Music Club that meets at the Canning Vale Tavern on the last Tuesday of every month – Pieter is a founding member of the Club along with its President Spiro Hatzimichael and Ray Thomas.  If you want to attend the Club and need to know more details of times + any date/venue change (it will meet again at the end of February 2011) you can either Google the club or contact me via the Irish Scene for details.
If you would like a copy of the book, it can be found at most local bookstores or direct from the Fremantle Press.  Hope to see some of you at the Shadows Music Club sometime.

Colin Merrey

Last Updated ( Monday, 10 January 2011 02:55 )