We have two Waterstones in Colchester about 50 yards apart. Never can understand why as they both stock identical books, have identical staff (ie - who seem to know very little about books) and have identical three for two offers and now all the usual Christmas sleb biog crap on display. Check out the crime table and the usual suspects are given due prominence - Harlen Coben, Tess Gerritsen, Martina Coles et al. Nothing wrong with that I hear you cry and of course you are right. Nothing wrong with it at all.
But earlier this year I went in and asked for American Devil by Oliver Stark - wasn't there and the staff had not hear of it. If I mention Simon Hall they have never heard of him as well. Why? Because only the book names, those with clout and, more importantly, money behind them will get stocked. We all know the Book of the Week, heavily promoted and heavily discounted is only there because the publishers have paid for it. We all know this and my ranting is not going to make a blind bit of difference. But it still makes me cross.
Accent Press sent me the first of Simon Hall's books about three years ago now. Never heard of this bloke I thought but hey let's give it a whirl. And I did. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I have written reviews on all of his books on Random and will continue to do so as long as Accent is good enough to send me copies. If they didn't I would still read them because I would buy one. But it would be on line because I am sure as hell I would not find it at Waterstones.
Rant over. On with the motley, sorry, review.
The latest in the TV detective series is called The Balance of Guilt. If you have read any or all of the previous titles in this series, you will know by now that we have the classic pairing that all good detective stories should have. In this case it is Dan Groves, a television reporter and DCI Adam Breem. Dan is depressive, lives on his own with his dog, has just split up with Claire, a colleague of Adam and is untidy. Adam is married with a child, is elegant and immaculately dressed and is the complete opposite of Dan. See? Told you it was the perfect partnership. Adam lets Dan in on the inside track of investigations in return for his somewhat quirky expertise and perceptiveness and Dan gets exclusives that no other reporters are offered so it all works out pretty well.
Previous books have been witty and puzzling full of codes to crack and, while all are excellent examples of the detective genre, the latest The Balance of Guilt, deals with terrorism and a bomb attack. This has been done numerous times in other books by other authors, but the explosion takes place in a cathedral in Exeter, light years away from the usual high profile targets in the capital and the shock of such an appalling event in a hitherto peaceful city, is immense. The bomber was caught up in the blast and taken to hospital and his accomplice has been captured but is saying nothing and, much to Adam's anger, the Spooks are called in and take over the entire operation. It is run by two agents who are just known as Oscar and Sierra and who are icy calm and cool and very tight lipped about what is going on. Adam finds himself blocked at every turn and contacts Dan so that the pair of them can work under the radar.
Now I am not going to say much more because not only is the story full of twists and turns, but I don't want to give anything away. Just know that Dan's car is vandalised and his beloved dog is poisoned in an attempt to scare him off and to shut him up, but as we know our intrepid hero by now, we know this will only make him more determined. One thing that the Spooks and everyone else getswrong, is to underestimate Dan's intelligence and cunning and this is amply displayed by the final couple of chapters where I just burst out laughing at what had been going right under the noses of Oscar and Sierra.
Just remember when reading this - do the Spooks know more than they are letting on? How come they were on the scene of the bombing so quickly? What do Dan's two computer geeky friends have to do with it all? Will Dan and Claire get back together? As Dan is now seeing an extremely glamorous older woman who seems to be after his body and is pretty determined, I am not sure this reunion is going to be an easy ride and fireworks are ahead methinks.
Simon Hall has written another cracking thriller. He seems to get better with each book, with a firmer grasp of his characters and dialogue and lots more leading you up the garden path to great effect. There are twists and turns aplenty and a final revelation from an unexpected source right at the very end of the Balance of Guilt which took me totally by surprise. If you wish to read my earlier reviews click here and this post will, in turn, link you to my thoughts on his other titles.
His best yet and I read it in one sitting - could not put it down.
A bloody good book and should be on the tables in Waterstones next to the Cobens, Rendalls and all those others. Deserves to be.
Already looking forward to the next one.