It had been far too long since I had read a Peter Robinson novel so I treated myself to the 23rd DCI Banks novel, When the Music’s Over. It is marvellous.
In When the Music’s Over Alan Banks has been promoted to Superintendent and is senior investigating officer in two important cases. The first is a historical sex crimes case that comes to light after the victim finds courage after the Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris cases amongst others. I found it interesting that there was reference to the real historic cases throughout the book.
The victim, Laura, a celebrated poet, was raped whenshe was fourteen years old by a famous entertainer, Danny Caxton and another man. Banks and Winsome Jackson work tirelessly to unravel what happened and who was involved over fifty years ago during that attack.
Meanwhile, Cabbot and Masterton investigate a day of present day grooming when the corpse of a fourteen year old girl is found. The girl was naked and has been raped, beaten and stamped on and left dead on a country road.
There are the usual twists and turns the reader has come to expect from Peter Robinson and the reflection of the historic case in the modern one is beautifully crafted. Needless to say, the end is not predictable.
When the Music’s Over is a fine crime thriller: an excellent police procedural. It would be a great read for a book group as well as for anybody who enjoys the crime thriller genre. I highly recommend it.
Peter Robinson was born in Yorkshire. After getting his BA Honours Degree in English Literature at the University of Leeds, he came to Canada and took his MA in English and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor, with Joyce Carol Oates as his tutor, then a PhD in English at York University. He has taught at a number of Toronto community colleges and universities and served as Writer-in-Residence at the University of Windsor, 1992-93.
It is many years since I was first introduced to John Rebus, the detective created by Ian Rankin in his novels set in Edinburgh. It was just as long since I had first read Knots and Crosses the first of the series. It recently came up my back to read it again and, like all good fiction, it has stood the test of time.
In Knots and Crosses, Rebus is confronted by the brutal abduction and murder of two young girls. He then hits John Rebus particularly hard as his own young daughter has been spirited away south by his estranged wife.
Rebus, heavy smoking and drinking too much, is one of many policemen hunting the killer. However, when messages begin to arrive: knotted string and matchstick crosses these taunt Rebus and he becomes aware that this is a puzzle only he can solve.
It is a tautly written thriller that I thoroughly enjoyed. If you enjoy this genre, I recommend Knots and Crosses.
I am sure that all writers have different books, experts and texts that they refer to with a view to ensuring that the background to their novels is correct. I write crime novels and so it was a real gift to discover The Crime Writer’s Casebook after it came out last December.
The two authors of this book deal with quite different aspects of crime: Stephen Wade reveals the truth behind various murders throughout Britain’s long history while Stuart Gibbon, a retired DCI, explains the processes and challenges facing the modern day police men and women dealing with serious crime.
It is usually to the modern day sections that I turn in order to try to get procedure correct in my novels. However, when I am flicking through to find the correct page, I often find a historical term or incident that catches my eye and causes me to digress.
The Crime Writer’s Casebook is meant as a research tool for authors and to be read by those with an interest in crime. I fall into both categories and find this book most useful resource as well as an interesting read.
It is an excellent guide to police investigation past and present containing detailed information on police and criminal procedures. It also features true crime case studies from two leading experts in their field.. The Crime Writer’s Casebook is a real treasure and I highly recmmend it.
Eric Blair used the pen name George Orwell when he wrote many of his most famous works, including 1984. Written in 1948 the novel of a dystopian world, this book has often been banned on the grounds that it contains communist and sexual content. For example, 1984 was challenged in Jackson County, Florida (1981) because the novel is “pro-communist and contains explicit sexual matter.”
1984 tells the story of Winston Smith. He is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London, in the nation of Oceania. Everywhere Winston goes, even his own home, the Party watches him through telescreens; everywhere he looks he sees the face of the Party’s seemingly omniscient leader, a figure known only as Big Brother. The Party controls everything in Oceania, even the people’s history and language. Currently, the Party is forcing the implementation of an invented language called Newspeak, which attempts to prevent political rebellion by eliminating all words related to it. Even thinking rebellious thoughts is illegal. Such thoughtcrime is, in fact, the worst of all crimes.
As the novel opens, Winston feels frustrated by the oppression and rigid control of the Party, which prohibits free thought, sex, and any expression of individuality. Winston dislikes the party and has illegally purchased a diary in which to write his criminal thoughts. He has also become fixated on a powerful Party member named O’Brien whom Winston believes is a secret member of the Brotherhood—the mysterious, legendary group that works to overthrow the Party.
Winston works in the Ministry of Truth, where he alters historical records to fit the needs of the Party. He notices a coworker, a beautiful dark-haired girl, staring at him, and worries that she is an informant who will turn him in for his thoughtcrime. He is troubled by the Party’s control of history: the Party claims that Oceania has always been allied with Eastasia in a war against Eurasia, but Winston seems to recall a time when this was not true. The Party also claims that Emmanuel Goldstein, the alleged leader of the Brotherhood, is the most dangerous man alive, but this does not seem plausible to Winston. Winston spends his evenings wandering through the poorest neighborhoods in London, where the proletarians, or proles, live squalid lives, relatively free of Party monitoring.
One day, Winston receives a note from the dark-haired girl that reads “I love you.” She tells him her name, Julia, and they begin a covert affair, always on the lookout for signs of Party monitoring. Eventually they rent a room above the secondhand store in the prole district where Winston bought the diary. This relationship lasts for some time. Winston is sure that they will be caught and punished sooner or later (the fatalistic Winston knows that he has been doomed since he wrote his first diary entry), while Julia is more pragmatic and optimistic. As Winston’s affair with Julia progresses, his hatred for the Party grows more and more intense. At last, he receives the message that he has been waiting for: O’Brien wants to see him.
Winston and Julia travel to O’Brien’s luxurious apartment. As a member of the powerful Inner Party (Winston belongs to the Outer Party), O’Brien leads a life of luxury that Winston can only imagine. O’Brien confirms to Winston and Julia that, like them, he hates the Party, and says that he works against it as a member of the Brotherhood. He indoctrinates Winston and Julia into the Brotherhood, and gives Winston a copy of Emmanuel Goldstein’s book, the manifesto of the Brotherhood. Winston reads the book—an amalgam of several forms of class-based twentieth-century social theory—to Julia in the room above the store. Suddenly, soldiers barge in and seize them. Mr. Charrington, the proprietor of the store, is revealed as having been a member of the Thought Police all along.
Torn away from Julia and taken to a place called the Ministry of Love, Winston finds that O’Brien, too, is a Party spy who simply pretended to be a member of the Brotherhood in order to trap Winston into committing an open act of rebellion against the Party. O’Brien spends months torturing and brainwashing Winston, who struggles to resist. At last, O’Brien sends him to the dreaded Room 101, the final destination for anyone who opposes the Party. Here, O’Brien tells Winston that he will be forced to confront his worst fear. Throughout the novel, Winston has had recurring nightmares about rats; O’Brien now straps a cage full of rats onto Winston’s head and prepares to allow the rats to eat his face. Winston snaps, pleading with O’Brien to do it to Julia, not to him.
Giving up Julia is what O’Brien wanted from Winston all along. His spirit broken, Winston is released to the outside world. He meets Julia but no longer feels anything for her. He has accepted the Party entirely and has learned to love Big Brother.
I believe that 1984 is one of the seminal texts of the 20th century. It is a rare work that grows more haunting as its futuristic purgatory becomes more real. Published in 1949, the book offers political satirist George Orwell’s nightmare vision of a totalitarian, bureaucratic world and one poor person’s attempt to find individuality.
The brilliance of the novel is Orwell’s prescience of modern life–the ubiquity of television, the distortion of the language–and his ability to construct such a thorough version of hell. Required reading for students since it was published, it ranks among the most terrifying novels ever written. If you hae never read it, I urge you to give it your time. If you have read it as a child, re-read it with an adult’s eyes in today’s world.
I had been avoiding the novel HeSaid/SheSaid by Erin Kelly because I had heard it was about rape and I thought that subject matter would not suit me. How silly I am! I should know by now that when Erin Kelly approaches any topic, she will involve twists and turns that thrill and fascinate in equal measure.
In HeSaid/SheSaid Laura and Kit are at a festival to celebrate an eclipse when they witness a rape of Beth by Jamie. They are called as witnesses but nothing is as it seems and they must escape their past to protect their future. But after fifteen years everything changes.
The story is told through the eyes of Laura and Kit over the period of time from the time they stumble across Beth and Jamie until the story ends fifteen years later. The clever thing is that nobody knows everything: not Laura, not Kit, not the reader.
HeSaid/SheSaid would make a fabulous book group read. I certainly found it an excellent novel. I could not put it down. It is a taught exciting psychological novel and I highly recommend it.
Erin Kelly was born in London in 1976 and grew up in Essex. She read English at Warwick University and has been working as a journalist since 1998. She has written for newspapers including the The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the Express and magazines including Red, Psychologies, Marie Claire, Elle and Cosmopolitan.
Have you ever come across a book that delights you? I had never read any novels by Nina Romano previously, but The Secret Language of Women was recommended to me by so many people, that I decided it would be churlish to ignore this book. I am so glad I picked it up.
The Secret Language of Women is set in nineteenth century China during The Boxer Uprising or Yihetuan Movement. This was a violent anti-foreign, anti-colonial and anti-Christian uprising that took place in China between 1899 and 1901, toward the end of the Qing dynasty. This rebellion has driven apart the lovers, Zhou Bin Lian and Giacomo Scimenti.
Lian is only seventeen years old when she accompanies her Swiss father, a doctor to help the recovery of Italian ambassador. It is here that she meets and falls in love with Giacomo. Their love deepens as the novel weaves its way through a series of adventures.
However, Lian is promised to another in wedlock. She is also unable to follow her chosen path to become a physician.
Lian is also discriminated against because her feet were not bound and she must work in a factory separated from her daughter, Ya Chen. Lian is a determined character and empowers herself to fight against the injustice and determines her destiny. She reveals the story of her life and her hopes for the future in Nushu, the women’s secret writing.
It is a delicious, original story. It would be an excellent book for a book group. I have also discovered that The Secret Language of Women is the first book in the Wayfarer Trilogy. I am looking forward to reading the other novels in this series.
Nina Romano’s Wayfarer Trilogy has been published by Turner Publishing. Book #1 of the historical saga: The Secret Language of Women was a Foreword Reviews Indie-Fab Book Award Finalist. The novel won the Independent Publisher 2016 IPPY Gold Medal in the historical/romance Book Awards. Book #2 of the series, Lemon Blossoms appeared 2/16/16 and, Book #3, In America, was released 7/19/16 and is a finalist in the 2016 Chanticleer Media’s Chatelaine Book Awards for Romance.
Nina Romano earned a B.S. from Ithaca College an M. A. from Adelphi University and a B. A. and M.F.A. in Creative Writing from FIU. She’s a world traveler and lover of history. She lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. She authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, five poetry collections, and two poetry chapbooks. Her most recent collection, Westward: Guided by Starfalls and Moonbows, was published from LLC Red Dashboard. She co-authored, Writing in a Changing World from Bridle Path Press. Romano has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize.