The things that excite us; the things we laugh at; the things that make us cry. There are some things that make men, men.
A fiery, fast-paced, bullet of a read, and the last in the Robert Finlay trilogy. Continuing on from ‘Deadly Game’, Robert Finlay and Kevin Jones find themselves in the middle of a whole heap of trouble. A Superintendent from the Complaints Investigation Branch is on the warpath, and then quite separately, a document from the past puts the two men directly in the firing line, and things turn very, very personal. Matt Johnson has the most credible and authentic voice, he blends his knowledge as a soldier and police officer into an absolutely cracking storyline. Finlay’s post traumatic stress disorder can clearly be felt in the small but biting descriptions of PTSD, it is a part of him, but not the whole of him, and he is an incredibly engaging character. A suitably dramatic end ensured I was kept on the edge of my seat. The Robert Finlay trilogy has been a thunderingly good read, and End Game is a wonderfully thrilling, gripping, and fitting conclusion.
February 2018 Debut of the Month. Simply superb, this is a dark, gritty and stormingly fast read with real attitude. Formerly of the SAS, John Carr is now working in private security for a Russian, however the past is stalking him, ready to take his legs, and his life. If I tell you that the author James Deegan spent 17 years in the SAS and was described by his commanding officer as one of the most operationally experienced SAS men of his era, it should tell you all you need to know about the validity of his voice. The book begins with the CV of John Carr, it really sets the tone, gives you an understanding of his background, allowing the story to explode from the get-go. James Deegan delivers short punchy sentences, simply told, yet the words took hold of me, dumped me in the middle of the action, made my breath stop and my heart race. Once A Pilgrim bristles with energy and authenticity, it is an addictive, absolute whammy of read and I loved it - highly recommended.
February 2018 Debut of the MonthA raw, convincing, achingly intimate and individual tale about actions and consequences. 16 years after the death of his brother, Conway wants revenge. When Ray Boy is released from prison, Conway hunts him down in order to kill him, but pulling the trigger isn’t as easy as he thought it would be. There is a sharp edge to the writing, yet the chapters flow from one story to another, initially separate, then linking, writhing and twisting together. William Boyle has created intensely tangible characters, their voices, thoughts and feelings almost become physical, touchable, and are so very, very believable. I highly recommend Gravesend, it is fresh, original, and somehow feels both modern and ancient, as though this story has been lived again and again, and yet is being told for the first time. ~ Liz Robinson
An entirely captivating and thrilling read set within the heart of the Roman Empire in AD323. This is the fifth ‘Twilight of Empire’ novel and a must read for historical adventure seekers. I will admit to this being my first foray into the series, yet immediately felt at home and I feel this could easily read as a standalone. Honourable military commander Aurelius Castus finds himself in the middle of a power play between the emperor and his son. Ian Ross sets the scene beautifully, in fact the first sentence screamed with impact, snaring my attention, and the pages didn’t let me go until I had turned the very last one. I was by the side of Castus as he balanced on a knife edge between two of the most powerful men in his world, and I fought by his side in the bloodiest of battles, both large and small. The author’s note explains the history behind this tale, and the blend of fact and fiction has created an absolutely cracking read. ‘Imperial Vengeance’ is a swiftly moving adventure into the past, one that feels so authentically real it takes you there… now do excuse me while I nip out to get the first four in the series. ~ Liz Robinson
Packing one heck of a wallop, the second in the DC Lucy Clayburn series more than lives up to expectations. Lucy finds herself in the thick of the action as a gang of criminals are targeted in a series of gruesome attacks. Do begin with ‘Strangers’, as it sets the necessary background story. ‘Shadows’ is a fast paced read and you are expected to keep up. Paul Finch is adept at delivering explosive action, causing spikes of adrenaline to course through your body, yet he also provokes thoughts too. I have to admit to not making too many notes as I read, once I had entered the pages I was captivated, and just thoroughly enjoyed the powerful ride. ‘Shadows’ is all action, all consuming, and quite simply, a thrilling read. ~ Liz Robinson
November 2017 Book of the Month A chilling ghostly tale set in 1935 on Kangchenjunga in the Himalayas. Five men attempt to climb to the summit of the worlds third highest mountain, they take the same path as a failed climb in 1907 and soon find local superstitions and eerie sightings affect their thoughts and nerves. Michelle Paver embeds a sense of complete reality, Dr Stephen Pearce tells the story and it feels as though it could be a documented historic account. Yet as I read, small unnerving suggestions began to affect my reasoning. Thoughts and feelings, trapped and hemmed in by fear, transferred from the pages. Michelle Paver explains at the end of the book that in reality, the actual peak of the mountain remained untouched until 1980, so as not to upset ‘whatever’ lived up there. Was the altitude affecting the climb in the novel, or a more supernatural presence? ‘Thin Air’, set in a world unknown to most, is an unsettling, gripping, and oh so readable tale. ~ liz Robinson
Absolutely fascinating, a beautiful yet quirky read, this is a tale to make you wonder, to make you feel… A grandfather, on his deathbed, tells his grandson about his life, from rocket ships to prison, from love to aching for revenge, all is revealed. The story isn't released in sequence, instead it flits around in time, I was initially thrown but soon got used to, even welcomed the sudden disturbance to the storyline. Michael Chabon writes with an understated, elegant, yet wickedly spiky hand. There were times when I lost myself in the words that danced across the pages, others when I was brought up short, shocked and surprised. The author’s note at the beginning suggests there is a connection to his family, the acknowledgment at the end gives source to information, how much is actually true though, isn't revealed, but I have fallen in love with the memories scattered on the page. In the vast open thrilling space of ‘Moonglow’ is a wonderfully intimate collection of meandering, amusing, achingly sad, and truly fabulous stories. ~ Liz Robinson
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. Herron's Slough House series just keeps on getting better and better, both on the sly humorous front and with the Machiavellian variations it offers on the levels of deception that operate within the British secret service. This is John le Carre territory with added dollops of sheer mischief as well as pathos as familiar, larger than life characters navigate another tortuous case, with the monstrous but endearing boss of the disgraced spy unit Jackson Lamb as ever pulling invisible strings and his ill-assorted team barely keeping their head above the water level. River Cartwright's grandfather who was once one of the stars of the great game is now old and senile and presents a danger to the new powers-that-be, while on the other side of town a terrorist attack on a shopping center triggers a whole series of new threats. Is there a connection between the two events and how will our motley group of losers come out of it all alive? Or will they? Great stuff. More, please! ~ Maxim Jakubowski The Lovereading view... Whoo hoo! The Slough House misfits return, with the fourth of the series, and the horrendously brilliant Jackson Lamb at the warped helm. Former spook David Cartwright may be retired, his grandson and Slough House resident River may be worried about his health, however you wouldn't want to underestimate this old man’s capabilities, oh no… If you've not yet discovered the seriously wicked pen of Mick Herron, do start at the beginning with ‘Slow Horses’, as although this could be read as a standalone, you wont get the best result if you step into the middle of this fabulous series. Mick Herron has created a deviously twisted world, it sticks two fingers up at, well, everyone really, as the team manage to create as many issues as they solve. The intricate layers build slowly in what is actually a fast moving story, so don't get left behind, as you may feel a bit daft when you catch up. There are plenty of smirky laughter blurting moments, as well as wince and whimper inducing ones, along the way. ‘Spook Street’ is a wonderfully crooked, scalding hot, absolute crackerjack of read, and it’s part of a series that just shouldn't be missed.
One of Our Books of the Year 2017 | September 2017 Book of the Month Although unanimously heralded for featuring the return of spy master Smiley, this is more about his sidekick Peter Guillam, a sometimes melancholy tale revisiting the past and, more specifically, the operation and some of the characters detailed in the classic The Spy Who Came in from The Cold. Although Smiley is an ever present figure lurking in the shadows, as Guillam is forced to unravel complex threads of treachery, lies and deceit that have now come to roost, Smiley actually only makes a brief, if welcome, appearance at the conclusion of the tale, a meditation on the secret world and the damage done when the end always justified the means, not withstanding the human cost. Disillusioned, a bittersweet ballad about the morality of its characters and written, as ever, so beautifully and wittily, this is a perfect coda to the saga of the Circus, where so many much-loved, if dubious, characters we knew so well make fleeting passages on the scene. Le Carre at his best and you can’t get any better. Reminds us of what we lost when the series initially came to an end. ~ Maxim Jakubowski
A series? By Simon Kernick? Yes please! Two faces, who were unknown to each other in previous books, join forces in this powerful, fast moving and intoxicating tale. Trouble starts to hunt Ray Mason down after he promises a grieving couple justice, he tells his own story over five days in a no-nonsense direct style. The two main characters are a wonderfully maverick pair, yet their moral compass, while occasionally directionally challenged, remains steadfast. Simon Kernick piles on the tension as he sets events in motion, each link tightens and burns with energy. A vivid, striking hit of complete escapism, ‘The Bone Field’ is an action-packed and mind-gripping start to a new series that promises to deliver in spades. ~ Liz Robinson January 2017 Book of the Month.
1936 and the huge canvas of Europe in chaos is superbly portrayed by this renowned author of historical fiction. Previously writing about the spy world of the Tudor period we know we are in good hands here. If you have not read one of his John Shakespeare thrillers you should. (I understand TV is on the cards.) This new series introduces Tom Wilde, a Cambridge history don, a bit of a recluse who buries himself in his work and period spy novels. His next door neighbour is self-employed publisher Lydia whose best friend, Nancy, dies mysteriously. Lydia enlists Tom’s help. Then Nancy’s right-wing gentry parents are brutally murdered and a conspiracy seems afoot. Enter a reporter, Eaton, whom Tom believes works for MI5. Now the death toll mounts and so does the danger for Tom and Lydia. But it turns out the real plot is much higher up the international scene. Terrific. An excellent start to what promises to be a cracking series. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Absolutely thrilling… this is a fast-paced, firecracker of a read, set in Europe as the Second World War is brewing. Why is Luke Hamilton, intelligence officer at the British Embassy in Paris the target of an assassination attempt? As Luke tries to outrun his pursuers he begins to uncover the secret of his past. The words set the action so clearly in my mind, it didn't feel as though I was looking back in time, it actually felt as though I was there. Mark Mills allows you more knowledge than the characters, consequently, the tension skyrockets as the story constantly accelerates forward. An artful balance is maintained, at no point does this feel out of control as there are moments of stillness, of contemplation and anticipation. I reached the end and felt very satisfied indeed, ‘Where Dead Men Meet’ just begs to be continued as a series, please say it will be, please! ~ Liz Robinson
Snips, Snails and Puppy-dogs tails?
Men are from Mars, they like Wars in the Stars, they like swords, they like beasts, they like heroes and feasts.
They like boyish jokes and murder most foul, a spy who smokes, and a Bond-villain’s scowl.
There are softer sides: the losses of War, the pain of Death, the injustice of Law.
We boys like books. But the books we like might not interest you. … yes, well enough of the rhyming perhaps, but we all know that there are things that separate boys from girls and while we’d be delighted for women to enjoy these books too, they are aimed at sport loving, laugh-seeking, spy-reading, code-cracking, politics-following, fighter-piloting, mountain-conquering, sports-car-driving and relationship-rueing BOYS. From Tom Sharpe to Nick Hornby, Hunter S Thompson to Iain Banks, there’s enough here to keep a man quiet for ages!
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