Daily Archives: January 16, 2011

The Levels by Sean Cregan

Headline

Paperback out now.

Post from my previous blog, please excuse me dragging it over – you need to read this book before you rush out to buy  The Razor’s Gate this month also by Sean.

I’ve been waiting for another exciting young crime writer to come along – someone who fits nicely into the same stable as other favourites of the same generation such as Stuart Macbride, Michael Marshall Smith, John Rickards and Steve Mosby – and Sean Cregan fits the bill very nicely thank you.

He fits very very well in fact and it’s not a well-kept secret that Cregan is in fact the new name for ‘the artist formerly known as’ John Rickards.

I loved John’s previous series of four books which kicked off with Winters’ End, but this change of style, name and publisher has certainly been worth the wait.

The Levels is a towering urban housing estate – a failed project and the stuff of real modern nightmares, but he manages to throw plenty of additional horrors into this not-too-distant future nightmare where the drug-addled residents run from each other, from the authorities and from a vicious serial killer who is also rampaging through the shadows.

The Levels read to me like a grimy, and likely much more realistic glimpse of a terrifying future than say, Blade Runner, the characters here have little in terms of technology or hover cars to escape their fates and I could do no better than the inner sleeve notes to describe it as ‘dark, feral, lawless’ – it is all of those and much more besides.

The characters, as with Sean’s (John’s) previous books, are well envisaged on the page and made me want to know more, to read more about their stories, particularly Ghost, one of the assassins known as ‘Furies’ in the novel, so it’s great to hear that at least two more books are planned for this new series – the next entitled The Razor Gate and unleashed this very month.

A welcome breath of fresh air and a new take on what makes a ‘crime’ fiction book.

Keith B Walters

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The Thin Executioner by Darren Shan

…aaannnddd, here’s Georgia with her second guest review:
Out now from Harper Collins Childrens’ Books.
The Thin Executioner is one of the most gripping tales ever by Darren Shan – there were lots of unexpected twists, keeping me wondering what’s going to happen next… I couldn’t stop reading from the start, a young boy called Jebel Rum set off on a quest to visit a god called Sabbah Eid who could make him invincible. Jebel Rum decided to do this because he was too thin and weak to wield the executioner’s axe belonging to his dad, turning him into the laughing stock of the Abu Saga (his home land).
In a disgrace about himself, he buys a slave named Tel Hesani and sets off through a journey that almost killed him numerous amounts of times.
I give this fantastic story 5 out of 5 stars because of the great suspense and the amazing imagination that the author used.
Buy this book now to find out if Jebel Rum and Tel Hesani complete their noble quest, and if Jebel can really become the Thin Executioner!
Georgia Walters

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RANDOM by Craig Robertson

Published by Simon & Schuster

‘EENY, MEENY, MINY, MO…WHO WILL BE THE NEXT TO GO?’

Another serial killer novel…..

But, for once, this debut novel is a refreshing take on what would otherwise have been a formula, by the numbers, police procedural book.

Craig Robertson has taken the risky and somewhat disturbing line of telling his tale from the point of view of the serial killer himself throughout the book, with the only involvement by the Police being seen through his eyes and newspaper reports.  This works very well as a new take on what has become something of a tired genre, with the killer tracking the performance of the cops and the press who seek to find him rather than the traditional approach of watching the detectives seek their prey.

It was something that I did worry wouldn’t work, or assumed that he would have to resort back to the traditional third person narrative after the opening chapters, but he successfully manages to steer the whole book through the eyes, thoughts and actions of the killer.  This is a very unnerving read as it places the reader in the killer’s shoes, literally, and gives you no choice but to be complicate in all of his acts of violence and the cruel and unusual methods he adopts to keep the cops and the press on their toes.

There are some nice twists along the way and some really nice touches.

The fact that we do not know the reasoning behind the killings until some way into the book works well, slowly being revealed through comments about the killer’s wife and one of his early kills.

Nice to see that part of the randomness of the actions and the way the victims are chosen the killer has taken from Luke Reinhart’s 1971 novel The Dice Man, but it’s a scary insight into just how information can be gleaned about a potential target via Facebook and other means.   (Maybe I should log this review under a pseudonym…)

I don’t know if I really want to know too much about Robertson’s research into the methods used – all seem frighteningly real and feasible – and the book is clearly bang up to date with references his character makes to serial killers from the past, including some very recent cases.

The use of newspaper reports to break up some of the internal dialogue and to provide the other viewpoint of the police and press is well used and clearly was something that the twenty years the author spent at the Sunday Post in Glasgow stood him in good stead.

In particular I loved three features of this book.

The first was that the killer feels he needs to do something to show his audience that the crimes are linked, despite the fact that he changes the MO on every one and his victims are chosen completely at random.  So, he takes to cutting off a little finger from each victim and mails them to the police.  The press decide, as is their wont, to give him a moniker, and they go with “Jock the Ripper”.  This really annoys him as he thinks it’s such a poor name, so he sends another message signed by “The Cutter” – thus renaming himself and taking control of his story once again.

The job that the killer has is that of a taxi cab driver –  the clipped and repetitive dialogue between him and his passengers is enough to make anyone go all Travis Bickle but, as it turns out, his job has no relevance as such to the reasons for him turning to kill, although it does help with his constant search for information on potential targets and a nice touch that one of his kills becomes mistaken for a gangland hit.

Lastly, and most importantly I guess, is the fact that I’ll remember this book.  It has some of the most descriptive and believable scenes I’ve read in a serial killer book for some time – no doubt helped greatly because as the reader you also become the killer.  And, with a closing scene that I’ll recall for some time to come, it has the distinction of being a novel where I’ll always recall how it ended – not something I can honestly say for a lot of crime novels I’ve read in a while.

I ‘think’ I’m looking forward to meeting Craig next month, but may choose to keep any personal details guarded…..mind you, he did interview three recent Prime Ministers and Susan Boyle and he’s spared all of them.

Keith B Walters

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