HOLIDAY READING: C J CARVER’S OVER YOUR SHOULDER AND OTHERS
Holidays are a great time to catch up on some reading, especially when long flights are involved!
Whilst in Vietnam and Cambodia I took the opportunity to read some review books, catch up on some books I have been meaning to read and re-read an old one!
Of the review books, Ann Cleeves’ The Long Call was the best. The start of a new series set in North Devon featuring Inspector Matthew Venn, The Long Call has all the ingredients of a good police murder mystery: an engaging and credible detective, strong supporting characters, a clever plot with plenty of twists, an evocative landscape and a surprise ending. A first rate murder mystery. See my longer review from the post of 23 August:
Much faster paced, was Gary Bell’s Beyond Reasonable Doubt. This is a very entertaining legal thriller with some terrific courtroom scenes and an unexpected ending. Perhaps too many co-incidences and lucky breaks for the hero, QC Elliot Rook, but still a very enjoyable read. See my longer review from the post of 16 August:
One of the reading highlights was C J Carver’s Over Your Shoulder (Bloodhound Books), which is the ideal, undemanding holiday read. Carver’s earlier novels have been a bit mixed, but this one was very good.
It opens with Nick and his wife Susie watching a story on the evening news when the camera zooms in on the unnamed hero who had disarmed a gunman during a terrorist attack in London. The hero fled before the police arrived, but Nick is certain that the man is his younger brother Rob, who was supposed to have drowned died twelve years ago during a boating mishap. His body was never found, but everyone was certain that he had died, including his wife. Nick’s family is also certain that it is Rob on the television, and as Nick tries to work out what happened to Rob he comes up against a notorious big time villain, crooked cops and the security services. He also comes to learn that he cannot trust anyone, especially his wife, who has her own secrets.
This is a fast-paced novel in the Harlan Coben mold, with plenty of twists and turns and some good action scenes. Nick is a likeable narrator, although a bit naive, and is nicely contrasted with the assertive, no-nonsense Susie. Carver doles out the surprises at a good rate and the ending is tough and unexpected. There is also a neat last page surprise, although it is a bit illogical.
I read it on the Kindle, and there were some errors and a sense that it could have been more carefully proof read: for instance, Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt went to Cambridge not Oxford. However, it is easy to overlook these bumps in the story and just settle back and enjoy the ride. It is also available in paperback
Another book I read on the Kindle was Nicholas Searle’s A Fatal Game. This somber spy thriller opens with a bang when an anti-terrorist operation goes fatally wrong, resulting in several deaths. The agent in charge, Jake Winter, barely has time to get over the trauma of the bombing when he is thrust into a new operation. Once again as the operation nears its conclusion, he has to decide whether he can trust his source or not amidst political infighting and an Inquiry determined to find a scapegoat for the first attack.
There is probably too much talking and thinking and not enough action in the first half of the book, but the book builds to a very taut ending with some shocking last minute twists. See my longer review at
One of the books I bought overseas, at the airport in Siem Reap, was Riley Sager’s The Last Time I Lied. Although I have become tired of the plethora of domestic thrillers with unreliable narrators, I had heard good things about Sager’s book and I was not disappointed.
The story revolves around the disappearance of three teenage girls from summer holiday camp in New York state. Now fifteen years later the survivors re-convene at the camp to celebrate its re-opening. Included among them is Emma, who was the last person to see the three girls alive and is still traumatised by what happened. When strange things start happening at the camp again, Emma decides to stop lying and conduct her own investigation into what really happened that night.
Although sounding like a cross between a summer camp slasher movie and The Girl On The Train, The Last Time I Lied is actually a very clever and credible thriller that generates considerable suspense without resorting to buckets of blood. I thoroughly enjoyed it. See my longer review at
Finally, a couple of old ones. I have always been fond of Robert Goddard’s novels, but had never gotten to one of his early historical ones, Painting The Darkness. Set in 1882, it, a bit like the Carver novel, revolves around the return from a watery grave of a man long though dead, Sir James Davenall. His family refuse to accept that it is James, especially his younger brother who would lose his inheritance, and he must fight it out in the courts with the assistance of his former fiance, Constance, who is now married to another man.
Of course in a Goddard novel nothing is ever simple and the book weaves its way through a maze of machinations and false leads before arriving at its unexpected conclusion. Although well plotted, the story is very slow and seems to be too much like the wordy Victorian melodrama it is trying to replicate. It is also hard to feel too much sympathy for the ineffectual central character, William Trenchard who is now married to Constance. In all, not Goddard’s best work.
I have always been a big fan of James Mitchell’s Callan, both the television show and the books, and thought I would re-read one of his other books, Dead Ernest. It is the second book in his series about London private eye Ron Hogget, who specialises in finding lost things. This time he is asked by a wealthy lady of the manor to find a stolen racehorse and her missing fiance. The action takes him, and his tough mate Dave, from London to Dublin to Spain and even Sydney as the bodies mount up and the plot becomes more convoluted. Written in 1986, the telling is a little dated, but it is still a good fun read with plenty of action and an engaging pair of heroes in Hogget and Dave. See my longer review at
In all it was a fun holiday, made even better by some good reading.