TRCH - Flawless

Book reviews: Issue 43

27 November 11 words: James Walker
Katie Half-Price wonders whether it’s possible to trust a former Chancellor who’s so tight, he only uses Grecian 2000 on his eyebrows

What with all the riots, phone hacking and dodgy political shenanigans, we’ve developed a thirst for crime here at the ‘Lion – so we’re dedicating half of our book reviews to the Crime Express series, an imprint of Five Leaves edited by David Belbin. Elsewhere Tony Hill recounts some dodgy stories from the Grey Topper, Maria Harbon explores military secrets in her sci-fi debut and Katie Half-Price wonders whether it’s possible to trust a former Chancellor of the Exchequer who’s so tight, he only uses Grecian 2000 on his eyebrows…

If you’ve got books for Katie and friends to review, email books (at) leftlion.co.uk
 
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Graven Image
Charlie Williams
Five Leaves Press, £4.99
Graven Image depicts the descent into nightmare of a former brothel bouncer, Leon, as he tries to square his debts with the mysterious underworld crime lord Graven. As he stumbles through an increasingly fractured world in which perception and reality seem to drift ever further apart, Leon encounters the dregs of the local criminal society and tries to find redemption amidst the appalling fragments of his life. His daughter is missing, he is dogged by both echoes of his past and bad men with violence and vengeance on their minds and everyone he meets seems to know things he doesn’t. Williams’ sleek and sharp prose make this a furious bullet of a story that twists and spirals down towards a concussive conclusion that’s both surprising and absolutely fitting. Nice one. Robin Lewis
 
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California
Ray Banks
Five Leaves Press, £4.99
When a story begins with the lead character carjacking a pensioner, you know you’re not reading about a hero. But, despite his flaws, it’s difficult not to want Shuggie Boyle to succeed in his attempts to sort himself out following his recent release from prison. After serving four months he emerges a new man determined not to fall into the same miserable life and relationship that landed him in there in the first place. Fans of Banks will get all the focused suspense, rapid plot and bleak getting they’ve come to expect and new fans will be hooked. Numbering less than a hundred pages, California barrels along through an eventful plot that still shapes a fascinating yet realistic character trying to get a handle on his temper. The fourth novella in Five Leaves’ relaunch of their popular series, Ray Banks’ California is gritty in a way Guy Ritchie can only dream of. Pete Lamb
 
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Not Safe 
Danuta Reah
Five Leaves Press, £4.99
Fans of the author – who also goes under the name Carla Banks – will be pleased to see the return of DC Tina Barraclough, whose career has experienced numerous ups and downs in three previous novels. In this latest offering, she has been moved from the elite serious crime squad to a backwater of community policing working with asylum seeker groups. When a young woman is found dead on the streets it appears to be an open-and-shut case but Barraclough, having got to know the community of asylum seekers, is not so easily convinced and seeks to prove otherwise. Reah reminds us that it is easy to jump to simplistic conclusions when the ‘other’ is concerned and that for the many people who flee their countries in search of EUtopia, there is an equally harsh reality waiting them on Britain’s back streets. Perhaps Ross Bradshaw should forward David Cameron a copy. James Walker
 
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Seven Point Eight: The First Chronicle
Createspace, £11.99
This weighty tome follows scientist Paul and apparent philanthropist Max as they try to discover something essential about mankind and possibly themselves. There are hidden agendas, military secrets and romantic interludes, all set against a background of science fiction. But in being overly ambitious, it’s difficult to see what kind of reader this is aimed at. The sci-fi elements would have benefited from being more sinister, characters lacked consistency, the romance was light and flitted quickly and while various tensions were suggested they either dwindled out or were quickly dealt with in order to move on with the story. So think Sci-Fi Dan Brown. But there were some very enjoyable episodes, especially as one of the key figures in the research tried to find her own life. The switch between narrated story and diary entries also worked well. Overall a solid premise and plenty of good ideas but I’d have liked a tighter, faster-paced delivery from this Eastwood author.  Adele Wearing
 
 
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The Palace and the Punks
Northern Lights Lit, £9.95
You wouldn’t think it now, but there once was a time when a ‘nitespot’ in a pit village was arguably the best music venue in Notts. The Grey Topper in Jacksdale pulled in the like of The Bay City Rollers, The Sweet, Hot Chocolate, UFO, Saxon, Judas Priest and - the key focus of this endlessly gobsmacking book – second-wave punk bands like the UK Subs, The Ruts, and the Angelic Upstarts. The author has trawled through the history of the Topper with the intense devotion of someone who really wasn’t there at the time, and the results are insanely chaotic but never boring. Piss yourself laughing at the local newspaper cuttings, then be shocked to discover The Specials played there two weeks before the release of Gangsters, and Simple Minds and The Pretenders pitched up six years to the week before they both played Live Aid. Like music books? Like Notts? Buy this. Al Needham
 
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Just look at them eyebrows...

 
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Back from the Brink
Alistair Darling
Atlantic Books, £19.99
Basicalleh, Darling tells us wot we already know – that Parliament is full of backstabbing gets that ate each other and have gorra abaht as much integriteh as Darryn Lyon’s plastic surgeon. The magpie was abaht as welcome in Parliament as a fart in a space suit, after presiding over the longest recession since WWII and still hangin’ around afta Gormless Brahn had gone. But he just wudn’t tek the hint an bog off. Brahn had more chance of Kerry Katona being off the telleh for a week than Darling leavin’. Overall though, I’ve gorra admit that this book is well-balanced. Darling is definiteleh a ‘reach around’ kinda guy, cuz he gives as much as he receives, crediting his enemies where it’s due. But the bottom line  is how can you trust him as the Chancer of the Exchequer when he’s so tight, he only uses Grecian 2000 on his eyebrows? He shud of stuck ter Black Adder. Katie Half-Price
 

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