Monthly Wrap-up · Various Things

Monthly Wrap-up April 2021.

wrapup

I thought that I’d do a wrap-up post for April as I had a really good reading month, at least for me. I managed to read seven books, well, six and a half as I actually started reading IT by Stephen King back in March, but didn’t finish until April.

Three of the books that I read were rereads of some of my favourite books of the last few years, The Whisper Man by Alex North, The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor, and The Taking of Annie Thorne also by CJ Tudor. I also read as you might have guessed IT by Stephen King, and then Judas Horse by Lynda La Plante, Eye of the Sh#t Storm by Jackson Ford, and Buried also by Lynda La Plante.

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Review snippet:

For the last three years around Chipping Norton, an experienced gang of burglars have been actively plying their criminal trade robbing the properties of the wealthy local residents. The gang are professionals, elusive, organised and the jobs well planned. Thanks to a local informant they have information readily available to them about which houses to target and when, and they know the area inside and out.

The private community of Chipping Norton is the perfect playground for the gang of burglars. Targeting the affluent and the influential the gang have stolen items worth several million pounds.

The gang are building to a final big job before leaving the area, ending their reign of terror over the community and disappearing for good. Jack figures out who the informant is and, with time running out he uses them as a ‘Judas Horse‘ baiting a trap for the gang in the hopes of catching them and bringing them to justice.

In Judas Horse the cast of supporting characters are well-drawn, and the majority of them are given the page time to develop allowing them to come across as real people. As the main character DS Jack Warr is very likeable and someone who I can see becoming established as a firm fan favourite amongst readers. A bit of a maverick, he is a driven and talented Detective who doesn’t mind bending the rules to suit the needs of the investigation. He is able to easily read people going on his gut feeling and following his instincts. He has some trouble with authority and his superiors, but he is extremely good with those of a lower rank and has the ability to bring the best out of them. He knows that not everything in life is black and white and that sometimes you have to go outside of the lines. When required he is tough, but he also has a softer side which he shows with his family.

The sign of a good book is that every time you have to put it down, you keep coming back to read more. At every opportunity that I had, I kept coming back to read more of Judas Horse devouring it in a couple of page-turning, suspenseful and entertaining days, it is a damn good book.


Review snippet:

IT tells the story of The Losers Club (Bill, Ben, Eddie, Richie, Beverly, Stan and Mike) and their battle against IT (Pennywise the clown) an evil shape-shifting entity that has insidiously infected Derry, Maine permeating and weaving itself into the very fabric of the town.

In 1957 Bill’s younger brother George is murdered, it is the beginning and the start of IT’s killing spree. After George’s death, a few months later in 1958 Derry is plagued with people going missing and the residents believe that a serial killer is targeting children. A missing child, a death, they are a tragedy, a horror, but they are caused by the evil that men do with a rational explanation. IT has a hold over the town, the adults are blind, they can’t see and they dismiss the dark truth of what’s really happening in Derry that a supernatural evil has cloaked the town in darkness. In their adulthood, they have lost the ability to see, but the children of Derry can see as children have imagination, they believe that anything is possible and they believe in magic. As you get older the belief that anything is possible is taken away from you and the adults are stuck firmly within the confines of logic and reality where the vibrant colours of their childhood have turned to grey. For the children the veil is pulled back, they believe and they can see what is hidden in shadow, what dwells in the depths of the drains, the sewer system and the tunnels and what is preying on them, they can see IT the malevolent and powerful evil that feeds on fear and flesh that is lurking in the poisoned heart of Derry.

IT has a cycle, feeding and then sleeping. Throughout Derry’s history, there have been months of disappearances culminating in a devastating event roughly every twenty-seven years where many people have died. Those historic events, the large-scale disasters, the bloodshed and the massacres of many lives that befall Derry are the end of IT’s eating spree. With IT’s hunger sated IT is able to hibernate before awakening and re-emerging from its slumber twenty-seven years later to start the killing all over again.

In 1958, the group of eleven-year-old Losers face and defeat but don’t kill IT. In 1984, just like with George in 1957, the killing spree starts again with a violent murder. There is a sighting of a clown and in 1985 IT comes back. After their first confrontation with IT, The Losers swore, they made a promise that if they hadn’t killed IT and if IT returned that they would end IT once and for all. It was a promise full of meaning, not the throwaway promise of a child, but a promise of something so much more, a blood oath to release Derry from IT’s grasp.

The Losers all left Derry years ago, moving on with their lives and they have forgotten each other, Pennywise and the events of the summer of 1958. Only Mike stayed in Derry, only he remembers and he has kept the long watch, waiting for IT to return. When Mike can no longer deny that IT has returned he calls The Losers. The Losers don’t remember anything and, at first, they don’t remember Mike, but with the phone call, a vague memory of a childhood friend called Mike flickers into flame and they remember the promise that they made, a hazy recollection, vague parts and not the whole. Mike’s phone call is the catalyst for their return, and back in Derry as thirty-eight-year-old adults, they begin to remember everything that had been lost to the miles, the years and to time. With the magic of childhood far behind them and unsure if they can finish what they started all those years ago the reunited Losers Club prepare for the final confrontation against Pennywise.

King is a masterful storyteller who has a deft hand at creating flawed and fully-rendered characters that come to life and that, to the reader feel like real people. Main characters, minor and even those who only gently caress the very edges of the story are all given a level of depth to their character. In IT the characterisation is exceptional and throughout the mammoth page count, I really came to care about The Losers Club, rooting for them in their battle against Pennywise. They managed to worm their way into my heart and they truly are a loveable bunch of losers. I also have to admit to loving Pennywise too.

Often with King, it’s about the journey that he takes you on and the places that you go before reaching the final destination and the journey in IT is unforgettable.


Review snippet:

Eye of the Sh#t Storm is another non-stop thrill ride and the third book in the wildly entertaining Frost Files series following on from The Girl Who Could Move Sh#t With Her Mind and Random Sh#t Flying through the Air. I’ll say that yes, you could read Eye of the Sh#t Storm as a stand-alone, there’s enough background given to grasp in broad strokes what has previously happened, but I’d suggest starting from the beginning and experiencing for yourself all that Teagan and China Shop have been through. The action and adventure, the damage, destruction and drama that follows as they go from crisis to crisis, the madness, the loss, the hell that they have endured, and the continuing conflict-filled and fraught relationships that are present within the team.

Starting a couple of months after the earthquake, in the aftermath and with LA still reeling Eye of the Sh#t Storm begins with a ferocious high-speed chase that sees Teagan and China Shop pursued by a gang of bikers after their latest job goes terribly wrong. The job should have been simple, acting as buyers, all China Shop had to do was broker a deal and acquire a sample to prove that the bikers were gun-running high-powered military-grade weapons in LA, easy.

However, their cover was blown and the bikers knew all about China Shop and that it is a front for a US government-run operation. Escaping, Teagan’s PK picks up something strange and the team discover a meth lab and a large amount of meth. To keep it off the streets, China Shop steal take the meth, but the detour and delay mean that on their way out they drive straight into the furious bikers who are looking for them.

Destruction and mayhem ensue as the bikers chase China Shop through the LA storm drains before a spectacular crash and a meth explosion ends the chase, and that’s just the beginning.

Wherever Teagan Frost goes, she is a beacon for chaos and it always follows her. She’s trying to be better, to think things through, to not rush in and to be more of an adult, but whatever decisions she makes the end result is still always the same, chaos. Teagan is a sarcastic wise-ass with a superpower, but she is very much not a superhuman. She is flawed, like the rest of China Shop.

Teagan is an absolutely terrific main character with a big and bold personality that shines neon bright, but the rest of China Shop aren’t just bit-part players in what could easily be ‘The Teagan Show‘. Along with Teagan, the whole team are well-developed and a couple of her teammates have their own big personalities to rival her. Each member of China Shop shines brightly when given the opportunity in Eye of the Sh#t Storm and all add something of their own to the story.

Eye of the Sh#t Storm is an action movie masquerading as a book, the only difference is that action movies aspire to be this good.


Review snippet:

Rose Cottage, Aylesbury was the former home of the deceased mounted police officer Norma Walker. Now abandoned, a fire destroys the isolated cottage, and in the remains of the building, a body is found. A large quantity of charred paper is also found in the cottage hearth. The stacks of paper are almost all burnt beyond recognition except for one small scrap of paper, a single scrap that has been caressed by the flames rather than consumed. The scrap is identified as an old five-pound note that is no longer legal tender, and there are over one-and-a-half million pounds of burnt money in the hearth.

The money is linked to a twenty-four-year-old case. In 1995, a mail train was robbed by an armed gang, and twenty-seven million pounds was stolen. It is the biggest train robbery in UK history. The gang of thieves were never caught, no arrests were ever made, and the money was never found.

At the time of the robbery, The Grange, a manor near Rose Cottage, was owned by Dolly Rawlins, wife of the deceased and notorious 1980s gangster Harry Rawlins. After her release from prison, Dolly purchased The Grange from Ester Freeman who had briefly been in the same cell block as her, and who had previously used the property as a brothel. Dolly hoped to turn The Grange into a children’s home, and she lived there along with Ester and a group of female ex-convicts. All the women of The Grange had criminal backgrounds, and Dolly links to organised crime. The Grange was searched during the original investigation into the train robbery, nothing was found, and they were dismissed from having anything to do with the robbery.

Buried finds Jack coasting in his career. Fourteen months ago, Jack transferred to the Metropolitan Police from rural Devon after he and his partner, Maggie, a trainee surgeon, moved to London for Maggie’s work. Jack is trying to find his place and figure out who he really is. At a crossroads, he has been a DC for many years, he isn’t driven, and he lacks both ambition and focus. There is a promotion available within the department to DS, but Jack isn’t sure if he wants to apply for the position.

Something changes in Jack, and for the first time in a very long time, he finds himself excited about his work. The Rose Cottage case is the case that makes him, igniting a fire in his belly, and he finds he cares about his job. Uncovering the truth allows Jack to find himself finding his future in the past, and discovering who he really is.

The compelling and layered story is full of drama, tension and mystery. There is also a depth to the character of Jack Warr, and Buried is his becoming, his journey of self-discovery; and by the end, he has found out who he really is.

Expertly crafted, cleverly plotted, well-paced, and confidently written Buried is an entertaining page-turner, and a strong series start, I liked it, I really liked it.


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