Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Horace Rumpole had been a novice at Number 4 Equity Court, fresh from a quiet war in RAF ground staff and a law degree at Oxford, when the murders at Penge first hit the headlines:  two war heroes, bomber pilots who'd flown numerous sorties together over Europe, apparently shot dead after a reunion dinner by the son of one of them, young Simon Jerold.

Finally we get the story of the Penge Bungalow Murders, the famous case that Rumpole has referred to constantly down the years while entertaining us mightily.

This is a full novel, a great story and one where the reader discovers how the Timson family adopted Rumpole as barrister of choice for generations of one of London's more inept criminal families.

The reader is also entertained with how Rumpole came to  marry  Hilda ' She who must be obeyed' and how he was introduced to 'Chateau Thames Embankment'.

As P.D. James states on the rear leaf ' Rumpole,like Jeeves and Sherlock Holmes, is immortal' .

Whenever I read Rumpole I forever see Leo McKern , great stories, great reading.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

FOREVER AND A DAY - Anthony Horowitz

M laid down his pipe and stared at it tetchily.  'We have no choice.  We're just going to bring forward this other chap you've been preparing.  But you didn't tell me his name'
'It's Bond, sir' the Chief of Staff replied.  'James Bond'

We have prequel to Casino Royale, where Bond is introduced into the Double O Section and first becomes 007.

Bond then travels off to France to solve the death of the agent he replaces.

This is Horowitz's second Bond book. He establishes Bond as a killer, a lover and a fighter and gives him a reasonable villain to deal with.  The only complaint is Bond gets a bit 'goo goo eyed over a woman which is a contradiction considering he is this stone cold killer.

What I've liked about the two books by Horowitz is he has left Bond in the time and place that Fleming set his books. 

The keeping Bond contemporary has been the biggest failure of the film franchise and the several other authors who have had a crack at writing a Bond book.

This is a good light read and will fill a weekend nicely.


For John Rebus, forty years may have passed, but the death of beautiful, promiscuous Maria Turquand still preys on his mind.  Murdered in her hotel room on the night a famous rock star and his entourage were staying there, Maria's killer has never been found.

Meanwhile, the dark heart of Edinburgh remains up for grabs.  A young pretender, Darryl Christie, may have staked his claim, but a vicious attack leaves him weakened and vulnerable, and an inquiry into a major money laundering scheme threatens his position.  Has old-time crime boss Big Ger Cafferty really given up the ghost, or is he biding his time until Edinburgh is once more ripe for the picking?

A Rebus story is always worth any money you pay.  This is no exception our hero is on top form after knocking smoking on the head and drinking light beer only. As always there are several threads to this story , all are interesting, all involving Rankin's brilliant characters many of whom are worth a story of their own. 

I've been into this series since the beginning and I have only one more to read. There has not been a single dud, a couple of weaker ones but no rubbish which is outstanding considering this is a series of twenty.


The story revolves around a CIA agent and a British Agent trying to uncover a mole supllying information to the Russionas.  To do this they have to become involved in the defection of a Russian scientist.

This is more a 'Bond' type caper than a the solid spy story Deighton is best known for, in fact it all gets a bit silly.

Deighton is a quality author I think this was his 'monday book'.


George Smiley, the cleverest and most self effacing man in Security, investigates a murder in one of England's leading public schools - a murder that was forecast by the victim.

This is an early Le Carre which has Smiley 'helping out' in a murder investigation rather than a spy story.  It is a whodunnit and it is excellent.

Smiley is one of the great fictional characters and he is surrounded by other solid characters in this story.  Read it , there will be no disappointment.

ZOO STATION - David Downing

As the Nazi hold tightens over Germany in 1939, British journalist John Russell is living in Berlin, where he has spent fifteen years working as a freelance journalist.  Despite his hatred for fascism and the signs of the coming war, Russell is determined to stay in Berlin to be near his son, Paul, and his longtime girlfriend, the German film actress Effi Koenen. For paying work, which has become hard to find, Russell agrees to take on jobs that take him increasingly deeper into an espionage web.  When British, Soviet, and Nazi intelligence all attempt to recruit him, Russell must struggle to survive and maintain his integrity.

This is a solid espionage story with a few too many coincidences even for the genre to make it remotely plausible but its a solid read.  Not one that would make you rush out and buy the entire series but if you see them cheap worth picking up.

Strangely, despite the situations Russell finds himself in there is no tension  built, the story just rock along to a conclusion that isn't remarkable.

Philip Kerr and Alan Faust are doing this historical crime / espionage stuff much better.

THE CORPSE ON THE DIKE- Janwillem van de Wetering

A recluse has been shot between the eyes as he stood looking out his bedroom window.  His neighbour, a school teacher who is a pistol champion, admits she discovered the body and failed to report it.  Is she guilty?

This is a very entertaining police procedural featuring the Amsterdam detectives Grijpstra and de Gier.  Its not a mystery but a journey through an investigation that is highly entertaining, lots of humour and filled with  great characters and a cat.

A recommended series.


What made the beautiful bit player, Gloria Scott, cast herself off Waterloo Bridge that dark night?
Was it her affair with Stuart North, the famous actor? 

We have a here a regulation murder mystery with Gervase Fen, Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford University leading the chase to solve the crime.

This isn't one of Crispin's best efforts , not to be avoided but put at the bottom of the stack.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

HOLY ORDERS - Benjamin Black

1950's Dublin.  When a body is found in the canal, pathologist Quirke and his detective friend Inspector Hackett must find the truth behind this brutal murder. But in a world where the police are not trusted, and the secrets often remain buried, there is perhaps little hope of bringing the perpetrator to justice.

As spring storms descend on Dublin, Quirke and Hackett's investigation will lead them into the dark heart of the organisation that really runs this troubled city: the church.

This another very good story, not an outstanding mystery but Black is an outstanding writer and it is an utter joy to read .  In Quirke we have a cliched hero ( alcoholic loner with a need for the truth) but again Black writing lifts this above a cliche.

The BBC have made the Quirke stories into a series starring Gabriel Byrne and for a change the television plays are the equal of the books. 

There are now seven in the series and I have only two to read; I'm hopeful Black writes a few more but his "serious author"alter ego John Banville may try and write another Booker winner rather than these stories.

Sunday, July 15, 2018


Paul Johnson delves deep into the 4000-year history of the Jews: a race of awe inspiring endurance, steadfast homogeneity and loyalty and, above all, the belief that history has a purpose and humanity a destiny.

With exacting precision and enthusiasm, Paul Johnson has mapped the lives pf these people from their early ancestors in the House of David, through great periods of  creativity and enterprise, alienation in the ghettos, Adolf Hitlers obsession to obliterate the race, up until the present day.

As the title states, this is "A History..." not 'The History..."  but the amount of information Johnson packs into 600 pages is astonishing.  As with all his books the reader could, if he was inclined segue off into the internet and a library tracking down and expanding on information from every two or three pages and be lost for years.

For the casual reader this is hugely enjoyable, a great overview and a mine of information.