Monday 10 June 2019

Two crime novels

As usual I'm behind with reviews so this is a brief catch-up post.

My first book for June is Head in the Sand by Damien Boyd. This is my 16th. book for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge, covering the November category of 'Primary action takes place this month' (I know this because there was talk of bonfire night and fireworks).

The severed head of a middle-aged woman is discovered on a golf course near Burnham-on-sea in Somerset. It's been placed, quite meticulously, on the sand in a bunker. An anonymous phonecall links the case with two unsolved murders, in exactly the same set of circumstances, back in the late seventies and early eighties. It's clear that specific people are being targeted but why are the murders so far apart in time? DI Nick Dixon and his team have a race against time to discover who's doing this and why, because if they're not careful - and speedy - others will die in a quite horrific manner.

This is the second in the author's 'Nick Dixon' series, set fairly locally to me, in Somerset. I read the first book in April and quite liked it, enough to reserve book 2 from the library anyway. And I liked this one a bit more. It's a classic police procedural plot and is thus quite pacey so you need your wits about you, especially to remember who's who. My addled brain is not good at remembering huge casts of characters and what their relationship is to each other. It's a strong storyline though, a lot going on, and all linked to a cold case from 40 years ago. Some of it is hard reading, awful medical mistakes and so on, things that could easily still happen and do, so it's very sobering. But it's a delight to have a series set so close to where I live, to recognise place names and know exactly where they mean, particulary as that part of Somerset is not all that well known and doesn't harm from a bit of exposure. I shall read on in this series, definitely.

Death in Captivity by Michael Gilbert was one of several BLCC books kindly sent to me by Elaine at Random Jottings. It qualifies for Becky's World at War challenge under the category, 'A book focussed on The War'. It also qualifies for Bev's Calendar of Crime challenge under the July category of 'Primary action takes place in this month'.

It's 1943 and a good number of mainly British officers are incarcerated in a POW camp in northern Italy. Tunneling out is an obsession so there is a committee in charge of it who organise the diggers and say when escapes can take place. One major tunnel is close to being finished and two officers go down to continue the work. It's a hard, dangerous undertaking but they're still shocked to discover the dead body of one of the camp's inmates at the end of the tunnel. It seems the roof caved in and smothered him. But did it? The Greek officer concerned was suspected of being a collaborator and thus highly unpopular. On closer examination by a doctor it's suspected that he might not have died in the tunnel after all... so who did kill him and why?

I can see why the BLCC have reissued a handful of Michael Gilbert's books. This one was very nicely written and gave a very good flavour of life in a POW camp. The boredom, the desire to escape, desperation in some cases, the claustrophobia, the way in which certain people get on everyone's nerves, the sacrifices that are sometimes essential, and the ingenuity of the inmates to find a way to do impossible things. I found it all fascinating. I had no idea who had done the deed or why until the very end. There was also a nice twist at the end which I didn't guess at all. Plus, I really did enjoy the travelling aspect of this towards the end, it reminded me of Eric Newby's similar journey in Love and War in the Apennines, one of my all-time favourite books. Now looking forward to reading more of Michael Gilbert's work.



DesLily said...

There you go again lol.. I post 1 you post 2 lol. We both seem to be so hooked on mysteries .. Soon (don't know when) I think I will try to reread Michael Scott's Nicolas Flamel series. Just to break away and get a bit of fantasy fiction.

Here's something "funny" we talked and i put the last book of that series up to show you my name... later in the day I clicked on "memories" in FB and there was the book cover!.. it was 7 years ago that I finished that series!! SEVEN YEARS!!

Mystica said...

I'm always behind my reviews myself. I try very hard to finish the books on time but am always playing catch up.

Thank you for the reviews on both books which are new to me.

Anonymous said...

Cath said...

Pat: Yep, both mystery fans but yeah, I do need a change now and then. Need to look out some fantasy books soon but not sure what.

Wow.. seven years ago? Heck.

Mystica: Glad I'm not the only one who's always behind with reviews. I still have 2 more to catch up on.

Yvonne @ Fiction Books Reviews said...

Hi Cath,

I am always way behind with reviews, so I have had a conversation with myself and decided that, going forward, I shall be writing my review as soon as I have finished reading the book and getting it published immediately. This is definitely going to be my 'last chance saloon' and if this doesn't work, FB is going to have the plug pulled on it!

'Death In Captivity' sounds as though it would be more effectively recounted as a film or mini TV series, so I'll probably pass on that one, even though I might find it interesting.

The Damien Boyd series is definitely on my radar, as I too know the area the stories are set in, very well, although Burnham-on-Sea is probably not the most inspiring location in Somerset!

Thanks for sharing, I always enjoy your mini reviews :)


Cath said...

Yvonne: I understand completely... I do sometimes think it would be nice to free-read my way through the year and not have to write reviews. Not that I *have* to but as a book-blogger you feel like you should somehow. But it becomes a real bind sometimes and I am at the moment 2 books behind, again.

I believe Death in Captivity was made into a film, not sure what the title was though. No... I agree about Burnham but it is rather nice to have the author mention certain locations and know exactly where they mean.

Thank you... have a good weekend. We have family tomorrow followed by a quiet day on Sunday.

Margaret @ BooksPlease said...

Oh, yes I'm nearly always behind and this year is worse than usual as there are 6 books that I haven't reviewed. I think it's too late for some of them, but I do intend to review the books I've read so far this month, Sweet Thursday and Anything You Do Say.

I often think it would be great to read like I used to do and not write reviews at all! I'll finish one at night in bed or maybe just before going out etc and then I'm usually onto the next book without writing anything and then it's all so much more difficult. Gardening at this time of year gets in the way of writing too.

I've only read one of Michael Gilbert's books, After the Fine Weather, a spy mystery that wasn't too inspiring for me. But I have a copy of Smallbone Deceased which, I've heard, is one of his better ones.

And the Somerset books interest me - my sister lived in Somerset, but near Taunton so I don't know Burnham-on-Sea!

Cath said...

Margaret: I seem to be reading a lot quicker than I can write reviews this year. It's further complicated by the fact that I'm doing a lot of challenges so most of them have to be written about in some form or another... a proper long review or a short one. Exactly, when you don't get to it straight away the book's gone from your head and it's a 'lot' harder to write about.

I have Smallbone Deceased too and Death Has Deep Roots.

I actually have not been to Burnham either but know most of the other locations in these books.