The Home Front Detective: Dance of Death by Edward Marston Review

Edward Marston’s fifth book in his The Home Front Detective Series is set against the backdrop of World War One. Murder, sex and scandal are all involved, so Smile Sessions should love it, but do we?

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Autumn 1916; a German Zeppelin moves silently across the night sky before being shot down by an English fighter plane. Those brave enough to watch are cheering with ardent delight, but one man – Simon Wilder – cannot join in the celebrations, instead he takes his last breath drenched in his own blood.

The fifth in Edward Marston’s The Home Front Detective Series promises a lot. The Daily Mail emphatically explains Marston: “has tapped into a rich vein of inspiration,” and as newbie to his work I was hoping they would be right. I haven’t read the previous four of the series, so I was little concerned I would get lost amongst characters that should, after four books, be well established. We’ve all been there, you get a book only to find out it’s the second, third, or fourth, (place any number) in a series and, as you try to get into it you realise you can’t. It’s not because the writing or the story is no good, but instead it’s because you feel as if you are diving into a life that really you know nothing about, but it’s clear that you should. So the book gets put aside, waiting to the day you finally purchase the previous ones, which if you are anything like me you’ll forget to do.

My advice for this book, if you’ve not read the others, is don’t be ‘scared’ of it. Yes, there is some backstory you feel that you’re missing out on, but overall Marston has a way of pulling you in, not only into the story of murder, but also of the personal lives of the characters without ‘penalising’ you for not having read his other books.

Now, with that out of the way, onto the actual review.

Simon Wilder, a champion ballroom dancer is butchered in an alleyway – with no apparent witnesses around but a seemingly endless list of potential suspects, Detective Inspector Harvey Marmion and Sergeant Joe Keedy are on the hunt for the murderer. Under the beady, patronising eye of their superior Claude Chatfield, they find themselves thrown into the shady entertainment industry where lies, hatred, sex and scandal run rife amongst their ever-growing list of potential killers. With the added strain of their own intwined personal lives strained, the two find themselves in hot water both at home and on the job as they struggle to identify the killer.

Marston seems to be an expert at making you doubt yourself. That is the first thing. He really has got this inexplainable way of taking something you feel you believe in and turning it 180 degrees, until it couldn’t possibly be right. You find out you are indeed wrong, but in a completely different way to what you originally thought had made you wrong. It’s a confusing, and entertaining way of keeping you, the audience, enamoured with a story that quite frankly, once I got to the end, I felt had already been written time-and-time again. That doesn’t however mean it was a bad read, Marston’s ability to confuse and mislead means you won’t realise just how predictable the story is until you finish it, and you should finish it.

Having said you should finish it, there are perhaps a few things I should say before you start. Firstly, it’s an incredibly easy read – the dialogue feels extraordinary simply, which sometimes feels as though this book’s target reader is teen rather than adult. Secondly, it’s not complex – yes it’s confusing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean complex. If you are into deep and meaningful reads, although there is an element of the travesty of what World War One did to returning soldiers (in the form of Marmion’s son), this doesn’t really hit the spot. If you are also into books where you really have no idea whodunnit than this perhaps also isn’t for you. Yes it’s confusing, and Marston makes you doubt yourself – but if you are a crime novel extraordinaire,and you also tend to stick to your guns, then you might work this out at about the halfway point.

Having said that, I will be purchasing the first book in the series, as although the murder plot wasn’t my favourite I have become quite attached to the personal lives of some of the characters. I find I want to know more about them, which is where I think Marston’s talent truly lies. In a matter of a few hundred pages he has made you invest in the characters – brought them to life, and even if you didn’t think you would originally, he makes you want to know what happens. This book is certainly more than just a murder mystery, it brings to light real feelings and real common issues that people face daily. The backdrop of World War One certainly allows the story a more interesting set-up, and the use of bringing people back from war who are suffering is a large part of what makes this book compelling.

It might not be the best book I’ve ever read, but it certainly has a little something-something that is making me go back for more. This book is definitely a grower, stick with it and you’ll find it does get better.

Promise.

Buy this book here.

 

 

The Road Of The Dead, Kevin Brooks – Review

IMG_0866I’ve had this book since I was 15. That’s seven years of having it and, not reading it. I can’t really justify why I never read it, there was just something that seemed more exciting available on my book shelf. So, after a seven year waiting period I finally picked it up. I was originally worried that being 22 would impact how I read this book which lends itself to the ‘young adult/teen thriller’ genre, but I was pleasantly surprised.

To me, there are a lot of things that are right with this book, but there are also quite a few bits that are wrong as well.

The premise of this book is about two young half-gypsy brothers, both with sort of non-human talents, who discover their sister has been left naked, raped and strangled in a grey village in Dartmoor. Whilst Cole, the eldest of the two brothers has a way with his fists and can blank out his humanity to get answers Ruben has almost telepathic gifts. He can sense others feelings, he feels his sister’s death by whom he describes as The Dead Man and seems to understand why someone has done something before they do. They find themselves fighting to have their sister’s body returned to them so she can be laid to rest. What follows is these two young lads fighting to track down the culprit of the crime. When they finally get to the village they are met with hostility and defiance and discover that Rachel, their sister was murdered in a more complication and dangerous way then what they first thought. This book leads up to a pretty explosive finale, where all is finally revealed.

Trying to put the plot down on paper without giving too much away was a lot harder then I imagined. This book is full of twists and turns that leave the reader wanting more. Brooks’ creation and development of characters is almost perfect. Whilst I found myself feeling for the two title characters I did wish that sometimes Brooks’ would give just a little more to them. It’s difficult to justify this feeling with words but knowing their father was in jail for murder, which is brought up a few times in the novel, meant I had more questions about the characters that weren’t answered. Part of me wonders if because it’s a 22-year-old me reading the book, and not a 15-year-old me.

The book really is about vigilante justice, mainly coming from the eldest brother Cole Ford. Although I could sense some realism from the book I really felt that there was lack of credibility when it came to the consequences of vigilante actions. Some of the events that occur in the book I really felt would justify jail time as opposed to a quick beating, but artistic license is a wonderful thing. I also found it pretty ridiculously that a 17-year-old and 14-year-old could make such an impact on a village full of adults, but then again for a younger reader this probably wouldn’t sound totally bizarre.

This book is dark and can at some points make for uncomfortable reading, I’m not sure I would’ve coped that well with this book if I had been under the age of 15 when I read it, but I guess it really does depend on the maturity level of the person reading it. It’s a very enjoyable book though, if like me you can get over your problems of believability. Brooks’ has a way with words that can immediately transform a scene and cause a visual to pop straight into your head. He can define a place and describe it into a reality. As a reader I felt part of the fabric of the story and this is what gave this book to me it’s overwhelming and deeply emotional premise a base to stand on.

Although slightly chaotic as the book reaches its final with more of my credibility issues coming through Brooks’ does try to balance out the chaos with some interesting and realistic descriptions of occurrences. Graphic though it may be, I did begin to find myself swept away in it all and even though rational me knows that what is occurring in the books is so unlikely I couldn’t help but enjoy it.

One thing I didn’t enjoy however, was the ending. Now this maybe completely personal because for me I struggle with a lot of stories endings, to me there are never good enough. But this one was pretty dismal. It just kind of ended. Like a happily ever after ending and to me it didn’t fit with the book. Brooks’ had got himself in one place and was doing mighty well with it, then you turn the page and it was almost like you were reading a different book altogether. There was no way in mind that this book should have ended as it did, but I guess at the end of the day 15-year-old me would have accepted it and thought it was justifiably happy for all the crap the brothers had already been through.

Maybe that is the difference between me then and now though.

I would highly recommend this book though even with the disappointing ending, the rest of the book is well worth the read. I struggled though trying to think of a suitable age I would put this book out to. I saw on some website some kids as young as 11 reading it, and there is no way I would tell my niece whose about that age to read it. For me the concept of rape and strangulation along with some of the other gritty events that occur in this book would probably minimum say 14-years-old. But then again, today kids seems to be desensitised from such a young age maybe they wouldn’t find it as horrifying as I know I would have done aged 11.

To purchase this book by it here at Amazon.