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Taken

#TAKEN . . . Between the covers

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OK, so Liam Neeson and Luc Besson got their anti-Albanian-gangster campaign in first, but Tony Parsons’ version has a hashtag, and only two citizens of the Adriatic republic bite the dust during DC Max Wolfe’s latest investigation. So, what do we have? Fans of the previous Max Wolfe novels The Murder Bag (2014) The Slaughterman (2015) The Hanging Club (2017) Die Last (2017) Girl On Fire (2018) can look away for a moment during a quick bio of DC Wolfe. He lives in a flat overlooking Smithfield Market. He is a single parent to daughter Scout (as in To Kill A Mockingbird), and has a dog called Stan, to whom he is devoted. Wife Anne is vaguely in the background, but is more concerned with her looks, career and latest boyfriend than she is about her daughter. The Wolfe household is run by a benevolent Irishwoman called Mrs Murphy.

Taken#Taken kicks off, appropriately enough, when a young ballet dancer, Jessica Lyle, is snatched from her borrowed car just yards from the gated luxury home she shares with another girl. From here, Wolfe and his alcoholic boss DCI Pat Whitestone face a veritable University Challenge of questions. Their starter-for-ten is to decide if Jessica was actually the intended victim. Although her father is a retired copper who may have run up an impressive list of enemies, isn’t it more likely that Jessica was mistaken for her flatmate, Snezia? After all, Snezia is not only a dancer of a different kind from Jessica (think ‘gentlemen’s’ clubs, tiny thong and shiny pole) but she is the mistress of fabled former gang boss Harry Flowers. Jessica was driving Snezia’s car when she was taken. Isn’t this just another example of the stupidity of hired thugs?

As if Wolfe doesn’t have enough on his plate, he is forced to cover for his boss when she gets herself into a whole world of trouble. He is far from being a stupid man, but makes assumptions about the Lyle abduction which lead him down a succession of dark alleys, with Whitestone’s obsession with nailing Harry Flowers adding more heat than light as he gropes for the truth.

Parsons takes us on a white knuckle ride through London’s gangland, a place where unpredictable violence à la Ronnie Kray is a marketable commodity, and luxury homes on the Essex fringes are paid for by dark deeds committed in the shadows cast by mountains of wrecked cars in scrap dealers’ yards. Lovers of London will be entranced by some of the locations, including a ghostly disused underground station and the spectacular mortuary extravagance of Highgate West cemetery.

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Amid all the thuggery, armed police raids and visits to some of London’s least-visited curiosities, Parsons (above) finds space and time to deal with Wolfe’s tortuous relationship with his estranged wife. The writing here is full of emotional intelligence, sensitivity, perception, and not without pain. Wolfe’s devotion to his daughter, Scout, could not be more of a stark contrast with Anne’s insouciance, and yet there is still a sense that, to paraphrase Bobby McGee’s un-named companion, he would trade all his tomorrows for a single yesterday. Those who are familiar with Parsons’ best-seller Man and Boy will know that he is writing from the heart.

#Taken is published by Cornerstone/Century and will be out as a Kindle on 1st March, and in April as a hardback. If you click on the image below it will take you to a video of Tony Parsons talking about the book, and reading the first chapter.

Reading

ON MY SHELF . . . Late January 2019

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The TBR pile is beginning to look menacing, but that’s fine. It’s January. It’s bleak outside. The rain sluices against the window panes. The central heating is working a treat, so all is good. How do I find the time? It’s called being retired, and I can thoroughly recommend it. So, in alphabetical order of author, here we go.

RUN AWAY by Harlan Coben

harlan-cobenOne of the more reliable tropes in crime fiction, and one that never fails to hit a nerve, is the one about the father whose daughter is taken from him by fate, circumstance or – memorably in the case of Bryan Mills/Liam Neeson – by the bad guys. In this case, however, Simon Greene has lost his daughter to a more complex enemy – drugs, disenchantment and mental instability. Greene’s wife has had enough of the wayward Paige and has shut her out of her life, but Greene never stops looking. And then he finds her. Emaciated, filthy, and addicted. His determination to follow her down into her own private hell and bring her back is a terrifying journey through New York’ dark side, and a stark portrait of human obsession. Century will be publishing Run Away on 21st March, and there’s plenty to read about Harlan Coben on the Fully Booked website

TOO CLOSE by Natalie Daniels

claraNatalie Daniels is the pseudonym for screenwriter, author and actress Clara Salaman who starred as DS Claire Stanton in the long running British TV cop show The Bill. Her talent as a writer is on display here in a psychological drama about a woman who wakes up in a secure mental hospital, her hair torn out in clumps, emaciated and with no memory of how she got there. What is the connection between Connie’s present state and the friendly lady she met in the park watching their children play? Can psychiatrist Emma Robinson untangle the twisted knots that make up Connie’s memory, and come anywhere near to rationalising what Connie has done? Transworld Digital brought out Too Close in November 2018 as a Kindle, but people who like to get their hands on the printed page can get a paperback version on 7th March.

THE PASSENGERS by John Marrs

john-marrs-author-imageIf you are long in the tooth and a bit ‘old school’ like me, you may well share my bafflement at the concept of driverless cars. It will all end in tears, I say, and this entertaining mixture of crime fiction and SciFi may add weight to my argument. Eight driverless cars set off on their separate journeys. The passengers are: a TV star, a pregnant young woman, a disabled war hero, an abused wife fleeing her husband, an illegal immigrant, a husband and wife – and parents of two who are travelling in separate vehicles – and a suicidal man. What could possibly go wrong? Someone hacking into the IT system which controls these vehicles is precisely what goes wrong, with predictably disastrous consequences. Marrs  is the author of best sellers The One, The Good Samaritan, When You Disappeared, Welcome to Wherever You Are and Her Last Move. The Passengers will be out in Kindle on 1st April, and there will be a paperback version from Del Rey at the end of May.

TAKEN by Tony Parsons

tony_parsonsThere are few modern writers who know London as well as Tony Parsons, and his intrepid London copper Max Wolfe gets to explore the many nooks and crannies, foibles, eccentricities – and dark places – of England’s capital in the course of his investigations. When a gangland revenge kidnapping goes spectacularly wrong, Wolfe is drawn into the nightmare world of London’s underbelly, and he is pitted against men for whom power, money, sex and horrific violence are simply tools of their trade. I am a huge fan of Tony Parsons and his Max Wolfe novels, so while you wait for Taken to appear –  on 18th April –  check out my reviews of Die Last and Girl On Fire.

 

NO ONE YOU KNOW by Michelle Richmond

michelleEllie Enderlin’s life has been blighted by the unsolved murder of her sister. Lila’s death cast its black shadow over her parents, too, but when Ellie finds her sisters notebook what she reads opens up the possibility that Lila’s killer may, at last, be identified. Knowledge, however, rarely comes without a price, and as Ellie reconstructs her sister’s life – and death – she comes to realise that when heavy stones are lifted, there may be unpleasant things scuttling around underneath. Set in San Francisco, this first came out in 2008, and second hand copies can be picked up fairly easily, but this is a brand new paperback reissue, and is out now,

 

KARIM, KING OF ENGLAND by Baz Wade

karimThis is a futuristic political thriller which takes as its subtext the anxieties many British people share about the rise and rise of Islam in the commercial, educational and social life of the country. Readers will not need subtitles to recognise the real-life palimpsest of this story, where a dazzling English princess bears a child whose father is a wealthy middle-eastern playboy. Karim is that child, and when he returns to England after a Muslim upbringing in Dubai, he becomes involved in a political and social struggle which threatens to engulf the country, and turn his golden dreams into ashes. Karim, King Of England came out late last year and is readily available.

 

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