Saturday, December 27, 2008

Review: The Watcher in the Woods - Gillian Maisey-Jackson

When Kathleen Ashley’s husband died leaving a failed business behind, Kathleen was forced to take work as a live in carer to make ends meet. Her current job is with the elderly, irascible Cedric. Cedric is very difficult but Kathleen is fairly happy in her job. She likes the little village and the people in it.

Kathleen’s orderly world is thrown into turmoil when she receives an anonymous poison pen letter accusing her of immorality with her employer. She reports it to the police who go through the motions until they discover that a murder victim some months earlier had a similar letter in her possession.

Sergeant Awders and Inspector Brent discover that there are a number of murders over a fifteen year period that could be connected. As they begin to question the people of the village, they uncover the gossip and jealousies beneath the surface.
Reading THE WATCHER IN THE WOOD is like watching a one hour mystery on TV. The setting is a place with a finite number of suspects; in this case a small village. We are introduced to the characters and then one or more of them are murdered. Enter the police who question everyone and solve the crime.

THE WATCHER IN THE WOOD is a puzzle piece. At just 138 pages the reader isn’t really given the opportunity to fully engage with any of the characters. I guessed the identity of the killer before the author chose to share it with me. The book is written well enough, but I felt it lacked substance. It does the job of a light read for the holidays but nothing more.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sunday Salon: Merry Christmas everyone

This is a You Tube Video of one of my favourite fun Christmas songs. I hope you all enjoy it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Book Review: SAWBONES

Author: Stuart MacBride
Publisher: Barrington Stoke
ISBN: 9781842995297
This edition published: 2008
114 pages

Stuart MacBride is a relative newcomer to the crime fiction scene. His first novel, COLD GRANITE, featuring DI Logan Macrae, burst onto the scene to much acclaim in 2006. Since then there have been four other Logan Macrae novels, with a sixth in the pipeline.

SAWBONES is a different kettle of fish. It is set in the USA for a start and is a road trip no one would ever want to undertake. There are three gangsters in a car, a teenage boy who has recently had his “frank and beans” cut off and a dead FBI agent in the boot. They are on the trail of a serial killer who kidnaps young blonde women and cuts off their limbs while they are still alive. This time the killer has picked the wrong victim. He has taken Laura, the sixteen year old daughter of a New York crime boss.

Police throughout the country are making enquiries, but the gang boss doesn’t trust them. His minions are making their own. Their interviewing techniques aren’t what you’d call subtle. After being questioned by this lot, a witness is just relieved to still be alive, let alone still have all their original body parts.

SAWBONES is very violent and definitely NOT for readers of cosies. It could very easily be very grim indeed, but underlying all this blood and gore lurks MacBride’s humour. And that is the attraction for me. While one of the more psychotic members of the gang is wreaking havoc on the most innocent of bystanders, the narrator of the story (another member of the gang ) is standing back admonishing “never poke a bear”.

More a novella than a novel ,SAWBONES is just 114 pages long. But those pages are action-packed with never a dull moment. If you think you can handle the violence, then give SAWBONES a try. I loved it.


Author: Alex Caine
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
ISBN: 9781405038997
This edition published: October, 2008
Price: $32.99 (Aust)
287 pages

Aaah, America. Land of the free, home of economy? Who knew that there are people out there who earn their livings by hiring themselves out to law enforcement agencies, to gather intelligence by infiltrating gangs and organisations? We’re not talking about under cover cops here. These are civilians.
One such civilian is Alex Caine. Caine few up in Canada and had a tumultuous childhood, frequently skating around the fringes of the law. In the late 1960s, looking for something more adventurous he travelled to the USA , enlisted in the army and spent time fighting in Vietnam. On his return he found it difficult to settle down.

Caine was and is a martial arts aficionado. One day while attending a competition he was befriended by a fellow practitioner who was a member of The Bandidos motorcycle gang. In the course of conversation, Caine was asked if he was interested in helping to make a large drug buy. Disconcerted, Caine gave a non-committal answer. He later told his wife who encouraged him to report this offer to the authorities, which he duly did. Not long after, he was approached by the Mounties and asked if he was interested in accepting the offer and infiltrating the gang. So began Caine’s new career.

Over a period of twenty or so years Caine infiltrated gangs such as the Bandidos, the Hells Angels, and even the KKK. He also made contacts with and supplied information on Asian Triads, Russian mobsters and corrupt cops.

BEFRIEND AND BETRAY is an insider’s story of this complex and murky world where you can trust no one. Not only did Caine have to be wary of the gang he was infiltrating, but he also had to be circumspect about who he trusted in law enforcement. His is a story of creating alternative identities and living on his wits, often for months at a time. It makes compelling reading.

Just how such people live, how they maintain their own identity and the effects on their relationships outside their work is as fascinating as the details of the work itself. In some instances Caine’s story raises as many questions as it answers. Just how effective are these types of operations? The biggest success of his career, Caine feels is his first, the infiltration of the Bandidos. It resulted in dozens of arrests across the USA, Canada and internationally, but ultimately it didn’t put a stop to the gang’s drug-dealing activities. It just slowed it down for a while.

I thought BEFRIEND AND BETRAY said as much about the character of Alex Caine as it did about the gangs he was infiltrating. Caine’s seemingly burning need for danger and excitement appeared to come before anything else. With a trail of failed marriages and estranged children behind him , Caine has finally given up this work. At least that’s what he claims in his book. The author blurb tells us that Alex Caine now works as an advisor on motorcycle gang investigations and is a frequent guest speaker at police conferences. He is a certified fifth-degree black belt martial artist. One does wonder about the ultimate cost of his unconventional life. Will he be alone in his old age or will his desire for living on the edge once more take control and lead him back to old life and ultimately cost him his?