Getting through a lot of books at the moment and as I am going to be away for a few days soon thought I had better get some reviews done.
First up Dead Man's Grip by Peter James. This is the latest Detective Grace novels set in Brighton and I only discovered these by accident last year when I brought one home thinking it was a PD James that I had somehow missed reading. Annoyed when I found out my mistake but my annoyance quickly vanished when I started reading Dead Tomorrow and found I was totally hooked. As I know Brighton pretty well it really adds another layer of enjoyment to know exactly where the characters are and how they get there and when the Pier is described or the fact that the ambulance is by the Clock Tower, I can think oh yes, Sorry that is a pretty ungrammatical sentence but sure you know what I mean.
At the start of Dead Man's Grip three people set out to their destinations early in the morning. Carly has said goodbye to her son and is driving to work; she has had a disastrous date the night before and is not feeling too good. Stuart Ferguson, a long distance long haul lorry driver is delivering an order of smoked fish to Brighton, he has been driving for too many hours and is tired. The third person is Tony Revere, a young American who has followed his girl friend to the UK, having given up his plans to study for a business degree at Harvard. He says goodbye to her and sets off on his bicycle.
So these three characters meet in disastrous circumstances and set in train a whole cycle of revenge killings, murder and mayhem. I know this sounds very vague but don't want to give anything away at all and impossible not to if I go into any more detail. Suffice it to say that this is one of the best of the Roy Grace novels, incredibly thrilling and full of tension and had me on the edge of my seat eager to found out what happens in the end.
Those of you who have read this series know that there is a story line of Roy Grace's missing wife running through each book. Sandy upped and vanished some ten years ago and was never seen again. It has taken Roy a long time to decide to move on, now he has a new love and a new baby due soon and he decides the time is right to have Sandy declared legally dead. Well, the reader knows she is alive and have a vague idea where she is even if Roy doesn't and she is gradually coming out of the shadows and by the end of this book we know that poor Detective Grace has shocks in store. Beautifully done, tension mounting and I cannot wait to get my hands on the next novel.
Note: a tweet from the author on Twitter the other day told us that the Roy Grace novels are featuring as a specialised subject on Mastermind on 22 July so keep an eye out for that.
Second goodie - Ghastly Business by Louise Levene. It is 1929 and a girl is strangled in a London alley, the mangled corpse of a peeping Tom is found in a railway tunnel and juicy details of the latest trunk murder are appearing in the papers.
Into all this comes Dora Strang, a doctor's daughter with a passion for anatomy. Denied her own medical career she finds a job as a filing clerk to a pathologist Alfred Kemble. She is thrilled by the grisly post mortems (I wasn't...) and finds herself fascinated by the pathologist who fulfils all her girlish fantasies which she has gained from a secret collection of pornographic novels discovered in her father's surgery.
Dr Kemble strikes me as being seriously creepy and more interested in dead bodies than living ones but he and Dora embark on a furtive relationship and she gradually becomes more obsessed with his nasty world. This part of the book can be a bit stomach churning and I will admit to skipping a few pages here and there and I am not totally sure I can say I enjoyed Ghastly Business but it certainly kept my attention. There are very funny moments in it too, not least the description of Dora's lodgings and her ghastly landlady Mrs Frith whose meals are appallingly bad and who practices the meanest of economies.
"Mrs Frith's breakfasts had consisted of meat rissoles, atrocities devised with malice aforethought by the author of one of Mrs Frith's most trusted guides on catering matters; Cold Meat and how to Disguise it......their daily dinners were advertised in advance on a scrap of paper pinned up in the hall.....one of the more sick making suggestions was Curried Liver to be found in 'Dainty Dishes for Slender Incomes'. Mr Haddon had, so far, consumed Mrs Frith's burnt offerings with the ravenous enthusiasm of an Alsatian at a kitten eating contest...."
After the murderer for the trunk murder has been found guilty, largely due to Dr Kemble's evidence, and hung another murder takes place and it is clear that an innocent man has been sent to the gallows. Folloiwng another case where his word has been challenged, Dr Kemble's aura of invincibility begins to falter with dire consequences.
Great style and great wit and panache and a real page turner, BUT as I said earlier, some of the content made me feel mildly nauseous and Alfred Kemble was such an obnoxious man I find it difficult to understand what Dora found so fascinating about him - still, a good read and recommended.