Saturday 31 December 2022



When a number of scientists mysteriously disappear in Berlin, what seems to be a straightforward case rapidly becomes a journey to the heart of a dark and deadly conspiracy. It is a conspiracy that takes Len Deighton's working-class hero on a journey that will test him to the limits of his ingenuity and resolve, and call on him to prove himself as a spy at the very top of his game.


A book I mostly enjoyed but not as much as I had hoped to. The plot was a bit of a mess IMO, and what started out as an interesting premise, kind of fell by the wayside and morphed into something else.

I liked the unnamed protagonist and hero at the centre of the story. I enjoyed his interactions with his fellow British agents and support team. There's a wry humour in some of the exchanges with Alice and Jean. The salary of a British intelligence agent obviously isn't that great and our man is constantly trying to secure backpay and outstanding expenses from his boss.

There is plenty of action along the way here, at home and abroad with lots of danger for our man and like most espionage tales there's a question mark over people's true motives and trustworthiness which kept me (and our man) guessing.

Everything ties up at the end and makes sense, but I guess I must have missed something that The Guardian spotted. Enjoyable, but not up with the very best of Cold War fiction. Not that it has put me off hopefully reading more from this series in 2023.

At some point I also hope to watch the film version with Michael Caine and the recent TV adaptation. Maybe they will prove a tad more satisfying. 

3 stars from 5

Declarations Of War is my only previous encounter with Deighton's work, back in 2012. My only memory relating to that was it was a bit of a drag.

Read - December, 2022

Published - 1962

Page count - 368

Source - owned copy

Format - Paperback

Tuesday 27 December 2022


Synopsis/blurb ....

When Professor Dominic Hallkyn receives an anonymous phone call late one night from a voice claiming to possess a priceless Chaucerian manuscript presumed lost forever, he doesn't know how to react. Such a find could irrevocably alter the history of literature, as well as his career, and yet, he can't know if the caller is legitimate or merely a student playing a prank.

Hallkyn soon finds himself on a mad dash through the twisting streets of Boston, scrambling to meet the caller's demands. In a struggle for this unique historic artifact, Hallkyn must risk his life to save a work that may be doomed to disappear from history... this time for good.

An enjoyable one-sitting read from Thomas Perry, an author I would like to read more from. But then there's probably a couple of hundred or more that I could say the same thing about.

We have a long short story set in the world of books. This one is part of a long series of book related stories by talented authors mostly commissioned by Otto Penzler (I think). 

The story is about half of the 96 pages, the rest is a preview chapter for Perry's The Boyfriend - a book I've read and enjoyed before - and a reminder of other books in the 30 plus long Death Sentences series.

Medieval literature, Chaucer, a lost work, the world of academia, a sense of responsibility, culture, friendship, money, a wanting and a needing, vulnerability, an understanding of human psychology, a tease, a ransom, and a Boston recovery mission. An outcome - successful or not? Read it yourself and find out.

Enjoyable, satisfying and entertaining. Decent character development for a shortish piece and I'm a fan of book themed stories. A decent reminder of an author I like, but who I kind of neglect to read.

4 from 5  

Perry's The Butcher's Boy, Metzger's Dog, The Boyfriend and The Burglar have been read and mostly enjoyed previously. 

Read - December, 2022

Published - 2015

Page coumt - 96

Source  - Kindle Unlimited

Format - Kindle

Tuesday 6 December 2022



Synopsis/blurb ...

Ever since 1971, when he arrived in Glasgow as an eleven-year-old fresh off the plane from India, Rabinder (call me Rab) Singh has struggled to fit in.

When we join him in 1993, Rab is a plain-clothes Detective Sergeant in Glasgow. And he still doesn’t fit in, not least since his estranged Scottish wife is an Inspector in the same station. After he throws a punch at superior officer Ken Malloy, Rab barely avoids being sacked. Instead, he is posted to the small coastal town of Dunoon.

He leaves behind a workplace shamed by its failure to solve the disappearance of fourteen-year-old Ashna Gupta. Ashna’s and Rab’s parents were friends. Four years after she went missing, and on the day Rab is exiled to Dunoon, the case features on BBC’s Crimewatch.

Calls come in that implicate Rab’s father Baldeep, who died of a heart attack shortly after Ashna went missing. Rab’s mother Ruby, who guards Baldeep’s memory ferociously, interferes with the investigation, and Rab is warned that if he gets involved, he will lose his job.

Meanwhile, in Dunoon Rab faces the disappearance of teenager Zoe McCusker in a case that quickly has the media drawing parallels with the Ashna disappearance. Soon, Rab becomes a suspect in both investigations.

Zoe remains missing, the Dunoon station is barely functional, and the Ashna investigation continues to be led by Detective Inspector Ken Malloy, who is desperate to settle scores with Rab, who is barred from both investigations.

Thirty years ago, not many Scots were ready for a man in a turban turning their lives inside out, but Rab won’t let that stop him being a good detective. His career and the family name depend upon it.

In that order. Never mind what his mother says.

Lots to like with this one. A 90s setting, Glasgow, and an intriguing clash of cultures with a likable Scots-Indian detective in temporary exile from work and his marriage, looking into the case of a missing teenager on his new patch - Dunoon, while developments break in a high profile, four year unsolved other missing person case back in Glasgow - with the added twist of the missing girl, being the daughter of Rab Singh's parent's friends. 

I enjoyed this one. I really liked the main character. We get to see Singh, both as a detective and a father and errant husband. A one night stand has see difficulties arise in Singh's marriage. His wife is also a ranking police officer and despite the hurt Rab has caused her, they still care for each other. She runs the risk of harming both their careers by sharing developments in the Glaswegian missing teenager case, as a new lead casts suspicion on Rab's dead father. Rab is warned to leave well alone, but obviously can't.

I enjoyed how the two cases unfolded, with the author skillfully blending both story elements into the narrative. It's quite a busy book .... football, family, mistakes and regrets, teenage rebellion, father-daughter tensions, an absent mother, Indian culture, expectations and suffocation, the importance of community and appearances, the role of the matriarch, racism, work tensions, small town gossips, police investigations, the pressure of the press, competition, point scoring, conflict and loyalty.

There's a decent pace to the book. Nothing is rushed but we don't hang about getting to where we are headed. There's lots of humour in the conversations and situations, which adds to the enjoyment of the tale. Interesting characters and relationship dynamics - personal and professional and sometimes both at the same time.

The ending tied up nicely and there's a resolution to both cases, which mostly satisfied. If I had a criticism of the book, maybe the outcome was just a little bit too neat and gift-wrapped.

Overall - really really good. This could be the start of a cracking series. 

4 stars from 5

Author Ron McMilan's work has been enjoyed before - Bangkok Belle - back in 2017.

Read - December, 2022

Published - 2022

Page count - 184

Source - review copy from author

Format - ePUB read on laptop