Camino Winds – John Grisham

When Hurricane Leo threatens Florida’s Camino Island, the Governor is quick to issue an evacuation order. Most residents flee but a small group of diehards decide to ride it out. Amongst them is Bruce Cable, proprietor of Bay Books in downtown Santa Rosa.

The hurricane is devastating: homes and condos are levelled, hotels and storefronts ruined, streets flooded, and a dozen people are killed. One of the victims is Nelson Kerr, a friend of Bruce’s who wrote timely political thrillers. But evidence suggests that the storm wasn’t the cause of Nelson’s death – he had received several mysterious blows to the head.

Who would want Nelson dead? The local police are overwhelmed with the aftermath of the storm and in no condition to handle the case. Bruce begins to wonder if the shady characters in Nelson’s novels were more fact than fiction. And somewhere on Nelson’s computer is the manuscript of his new novel – could the key to the case be right there, in black and white? Bruce starts to look into it and what he finds between the lines is more shocking than any of Nelson’s plot twists – and far more dangerous.

Seeing the sequel to Camino Island out in paperback, I decided to grab it despite my friend Maxine’s brutally honest assessment about her reading of it – “it’s shit” –  when it first came out in hardback.  This almost stopped me but curiosity is a powerful thing and I had just been paid.

It’s hard not to agree with Maxine’s assessment of the novel, and I won’t even bother trying.   It was a big letdown, aside from the beginning which retained the feel of the first book with familiar characters and their bookish banter.

Camino Winds quickly gets rid of most of the established characters, and with them goes a lot of what made the first book so enjoyable;  the talk of books, publishing, buying, and the opinions of other writers, that was bliss. There is a lot less of all of the above in Camino Winds, and the only noteworthy character addition was student Nick, who wasn’t particularly interesting or likeable. Continue reading “Camino Winds – John Grisham”

Playback – Raymond Chandler

Los Angeles PI Philip Marlowe is mixing business with pleasure – he’s getting paid to follow a lovely mysterious redhead called Eleanor King. And wherever Miss King goes, trouble is sure to follow. But she’s easy on the eye and Marlowe’s happy to do as he’s told. But one dead body later and what started out as a lazy afternoon’s snooping soon becomes a deadly cocktail of blackmail, lies, mistaken identity – and murder.

There are very few series of books with which I feel compelled to collect them specifically based on their covers, but the Philip Marlowe series has such stylish appeal that after reading The Big Sleep, I just had to grab these classy covers before they were reissued.

Reworked from a screenplay – and it shows – written years before, Playback is my least favourite Marlowe novel.  Although tersely written, and straight in with no preamble, I did enjoy the important details picked out by the detectives eye, making for a sparseness of description but one which brings the images given a rich authenticity.

Marlowe is a great character; cynical, intelligent, wary, hard, honest.  He is the greatest strength of the novel, his realist attitude and devotion to what he does allows the reader sympathy with him, despite probably not always agreeing with his life choices. Continue reading “Playback – Raymond Chandler”

What Was Lost – Catherine O’ Flynn

A lost little girl with her detective notebook and toy monkey appears on the CCTV screens of the Green Oaks shopping centre, evoking memories of Kate Meaney, missing for twenty years. Kurt, a security guard with a sleep disorder, and Lisa, a disenchanted deputy manager at Your Music, follow glimpses of the girl through the centre’s endless corridors – a welcome change from dealing with awkward customers, colleagues and the Green Oaks mystery shopper. But as this after-hours friendship grows in intensity, it brings new loss and new longing to light.

The first time I read this book I did so in a twelve-hour single sitting, the writing style and the with the all too familiar take on retail, which I spent years in, were both compelling and moving.  What Was Lost is a  gritty and melancholy read with touches of humour that really hit the spot for those looking for a bit of mystery set in an all too familiar locale.

The story itself switches between two different threads, those of Kate Meaney (private investigator), and Kurt and Lisa, set twenty years later.  The story’s strengths lies in the wonderfully well-written characters and the differences in attitude, both in terms of the time periods and the characters within them.

The Green Oaks shopping centre is a character in itself, much like the island in the TV show Lost, it pulls people into it and changes lives.  It’s a monument to the staggering waste of time, heart and effort spent in these places for both workers and shoppers. Continue reading “What Was Lost – Catherine O’ Flynn”

The Secret: A Treasure Hunt – Byron Preiss

One morning, whilst waiting for my strong cup of coffee to kick in, and the laptop to boot up the latest manuscript that needs going over , I stuck on the Travel Channel in the hope of finding some adventure.  Or more importantly to avoid all the terrible reality TV that ruins the medium.

Josh Gates was on doing his Expedition Unknown, and at first my heart sank when his quest involved  a book called The Secret,  thankfully it wasn’t referring to that terrible specimen that came out some years ago.

What Josh was referring to was a book that leads to real buried treasure,  and instead of  a classic  ‘X’ marks the spot treasure maps, there are twelve fantasy images  with clues of real world landmarks cryptically embedded within. Accompanying each illustration is poetry with additional clues to entice the reader into this deceptive maze.

Published in 1982, creator Byron Preiss tapped into the The 80’s love of fantasy but he layered it with the theme of immigration, from the Old World to the New.  The fantastical creatures of Europe came over, and morphed into something else, along with those that told the tales.  It is also an encouragement to get out and travel, to appreciate nature, and enjoy a bit of lateral thinking at the same time. Continue reading “The Secret: A Treasure Hunt – Byron Preiss”

Patty Lou Cutting: The Clive Cussler Conundrum

As we all know, odd little facts about a story can stay with the reader for years, so after last week’s team success in finding a book I had sought for years, I thought I would throw another wider ranging mystery your way to capture your imaginations.

I touched on this a few years ago in another aged post, along with some other various things. It comes from the book Inca Gold, a book of action, adventure, and a lost treasure, which always adds something thrilling to a story.

Towards the end of the book, protagonist Dirk Pitt comes across the grave of 10-year-old girl, Patty Lou Cutting, in the Sonoran Desert, Mexico, upon which the are the words:

The dark night some stars shine through.

The dullest morn a radiant brew.

And where dusk comes, God’s hand to you.

The significance of which is never expanded upon, it just hangs there cryptically, tantalisingly challenging the reader with its nebulous presence. Continue reading “Patty Lou Cutting: The Clive Cussler Conundrum”

Keep the Mythsteries Up

At the moment, I’m reading a decent book on most people’s favourite submerged island Atlantis.  With the advent of things like Google Earth and what not it seems more difficult to be romantic about such things these days, a lot of the mystery of exploration has been whittled away but who doesn’t love a good mystery, now and then.

Is ignorance, in this case, bliss, though?  It’s always great to speculate and dream about the wonders of the past or the universe or what not but isn’t the ending always a bit disappointing?


Take TV shows for example, It’s the magic of not knowing that keeps us hooked and wanting to follow the journey and speculate on forums or in the pub about where it’s all going and what can be ruled out.  I tend to find that the answer to most mysteries become a let down, no matter how well conceived the story, it is done with and I long for the magic of tantalising clues, for the story to continue…for something more.

Take speculation on Atlantis…reading this book (Gateway to Atlantis), as with all history books about exploring, it conjures images of a freer time of cleaner air, wide open spaces, genuine mysteries and rubbish standards of living.  Once you realise how epic any speculation is on old-time exploration and myth then it becomes something more of an experience to read about, a long gone but heroic time where unicorns and gold digging ants, as big as foxes, roamed. Continue reading “Keep the Mythsteries Up”

Surprisingly Poetic

Once again life continues to surprise me, this time a lot closer to home than I would  have thought to expect.  Namely the book case situated 90 degrees to the left of the direction I am facing.  Let me start at the beginning and paint a picture of the scene as it was and ever shall be…

tumblr_static_vintagebook1It was a rainy afternoon, I was soaked through after a brisk walk/jog from town and the only thing that could possibly warm me up that was ready to hand was the warm non judgemental tactile experience of book handling.  With hands sufficiently dried, I turned to my happy task.

So there I was having some me time with the books, you know the drill, randomly picking them up, reading a sentence or two, caressing the backs, eyeing up the blurb in a borderline flirtatious way when I come to a particularly old book that I haven’t looked at for years.  A barely remembered book that has been occupying the same space with me for the best part of a decade.

Now flicking through it was an experience in itself, hearing that crack of the spine and feeling the gentle waft of a breeze from speedily flicked pages, complimented nicely by the aroma of warm mustiness.  Suddenly something slipped from betwixt these olde pages and, to my eyes, in slow motion didst flutter to the floor.  Unmoved, as the last time this happened it was an old pizza and kebab menu from one of the local, only inviting when drunk, take out places.   Not this time however, sighing I reached for the rectangle of paper and realised that this was something special…. Continue reading “Surprisingly Poetic”

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