Holiday Reading - Review Round-up...

The holidays are behind us, and I hope you all got as much reading done as I did... In fact, I got rather more done than I expected. For various reasons that are too complicated to go into here, I ended up in a hotel room in Houston on my own for a week...

What? You say it's not too complicated? 

Well, ok... my lovely new wife was so sick that she couldn't come on what was supposed to be a combined business trip and holiday. The holiday was hers and the business trip mine - so while she could and did cancel and claim on the insurance, I couldn't. I had to go - and the result was that we spent our first married New Year thousands of miles apart. So I did a lot of reading and writing, even finishing the final draft of my latest novel Powder Burn - but more on that in the future, this post is about my holiday reading...

Rachel Abbott’s Only the Innocent was one of the big independently-published hits of 2012, and I was intrigued to finally read it. The cover and blurb promise an edgy thriller, and there’s no doubt that all those elements are there – sex, abuse, murder. Nevertheless, the book still has a lot in common with a ‘cozy’ mystery, as the detective work revolves around the drawing room of an old manor house - but no, it wasn’t Colonel Mustard with the knife in the kitchen, the end was much darker than that.

Only the Innocent leaves you with a central moral dilemma – something I’m fond of in my own writing - and this lifts it above the run-of-the mill mystery or thriller. Punish the guilty, or protect the innocent? I can’t tell you which the book goes for without dropping some massive spoilers, so you’ll have to read this one, and I can strongly recommend a four star ride.

I held back a star because the central protagonist’s necessarily meek and frightened character became a little wearying. There’s one fabulous moment where Abbott shows the reader what Laura was like before her marriage – unfortunately, it just made me want to read about that Laura, rather than the one we see in the book. But that aside, it’s a well structured, well-written mystery and well worth your time and money.

Russell Blake is a force-of-nature, I don’t know where he’s holed up, but wherever it is there can’t be a lot of distractions. I think he’s now published 18 books in as many months. The latest includes the Jet series, and he launched the first four of these in the back half of 2012. These are thrillers in the Lee Child / Jack Reacher mould, only more so. They’re short, sharp and straight-forward – don’t expect much sophistication in the plotting; there’s lots of action, very little sitting around and pondering, and about as much navel-gazing as you’d get from Daniel Craig as 007, i.e. an occasional grim look in the mirror.

And while it’s nuts and bolts stuff, Tab A always fits squarely and neatly into Hole A, and it all comes together like the solid piece of craftsmanship that it is, and the writing occasionally elevates to several notches higher. I wouldn’t call it art, but there’s some excellent descriptive stuff in here. I don’t know that I’ll be rushing back to Jet 2 in the short-term, but I’ll get there next time I’m looking for an easy, super-entertaining read.

This is a book I noticed flying high in the Kindle store and with almost 400 reviews averaging close to 5 stars, I thought it was worth a closer look – I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a great read, the tale of an innocent man dispatched to a brutal jail for the rest of his life – Shawshank Redemption territory.

In my view, it’s a match for that movie. It has all the action required of the genre, but pushes home a few hard points about leadership, the nature of punishment, violence and man’s essential self. It’s not necessary to agree with what Herley seems to have to say about these things – it’s more than enough that he gets you thinking about it.

This really was my kind of book, and in a sense it brought together the thought-provoking element of Only the Innocent, with the faster, cleaner, pacier writing style of Jet - and produced a book as good as either one on their own terms, and better than both judged on my own personal scale.

Richard Herley seems to be one of those writers that publishing forgot, and more power to the eBook revolution in bringing his work back to the surface and into the light it so richly deserves. I will be reading more.