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This is the third book in the Cormoran Strike series, and they just keep getting better and better!

This one dives straight into the story when Strike’s partner Robin has a severed girl’s leg delivered to the office. Strike immediately and correctly deduces that whoever sent it is trying to send him a message and four suspects come to mind. While the police believe they know which one it is and concentrate all their efforts on that person, Strike is convinced it is one of the other three, and he and Robin focus their investigation on those. Meanwhile, the killer – whose identity is not revealed until the end, but who does narrate certain chapters of the book – is committing other horrendous crimes in London, attacking and mutilating women, leaving a trail of bloodshed in his wake.

As Strike and Robin get drawn further into their investigation, they soon find themselves heading towards real danger.

Considering these books were written by the same mind that created the Harry Potter series, Robert Galbraith aka J K Rowling, takes the reader to some very dark places. This has been a theme in all of the Strike novels, especially this one and the preceding book ‘Silkworm’. If very gory scenes are not your thing, then be warned that this might not be a book for you. However, she writes a great story, and is very capable of springing surprises on the reader and maintaining tension throughout. The relationship between Strike and Robin kicks up a notch in this book, despite remaining platonic, and Robin is still with the odious Matthew.

Strike himself has always been a fascinating character despite his somewhat questionable social skills, and Robin has always been immensely likeable – this is maintained in this third instalment of their work. I’m reluctant to reveal more about the plot for fear of revealing any spoilers, but if you like thrillers, and/or have enjoyed the previous Strike novels, I would definitely recommend this one.

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Okay, this was another audiobook which I listened to over a few long runs. I mention this because I find that books I can quite like as audiobooks are often books that I know I wouldn’t enjoy if I read them as a physical book and this is one of those. The reason is because when running, I want something to divert me and keep me occupied while exercising. When I’m reading a physical book I want it immerse myself in it; it’s not a diversion from something else I’m doing. For this reason I can listen to chick-lit audiobooks but I rarely actually read one. This was narrated by Gerri Halligan, who did a good job, although I did find her American accent slightly questionable (but not enough to annoy me).

The story is narrated in alternate chapters by three characters…

Gemma Hogan is still smarting from her ex-boyfriend Anton falling in love with her ex-friend Lily. Life only gets more complicated for her when her father leaves her mother after 35 years of marriage, causing her mother to go to pieces. Gemma finds herself having to babysit her mother at the age of 32.

Lily is blissfully happy with Anton and their daughter Emer, but she can’t help feeling guilty about Gemma, and is convinced that karma will catch up with her and Anton at some point. She writes a book which is a runaway success, but the publishing world is a fickle business.

Jojo is the literary agent who takes on Lily as a client. Jojo is a strong independent and successful woman – who just happens to be in a relationship with her married boss. She is in a cutthroat business and has a complicated love life. Will her career ambitions and her clandestine romance clash?

I found the story somewhat diverting and it did hold my attention for the most part (it seemed to drift along aimlessly for a little while in the middle, and I think the book would have been more effective if it had been shorter). There’s no doubt that Marian Keyes can write humour very well; however for me the main problem was that I didn’t like many of the characters. Gemma was my favourite out of the main three. She was funny and hapless but obviously intelligent. She was also, in my opinion, far too good for Anton and wasted way too much time feeling sad about him.

I didn’t really like Jojo or her boss Mark. I didn’t like that he was cheating on his perfectly lovely wife, and treated his children like a liability that stopped him from having fun with his bit on the side. I didn’t like that Jojo was complicit in that deception. She was portrayed as a tough woman who takes no s**t, but she was happy to wait around for her cheating boyfriend to let her down time after time.

And Lily!! Don’t get me started. She was supposed to be sweet and sensitive but she came across as such a wet weekend. I felt like shaking her and telling her to get a bloody grip. And Anton just annoyed the heck out of me. Feckless with money and generally  irresponsible, he was full of pipe dreams, which Lily was expected to finance. I kept wanting her to find a backbone and chuck him out.

With all that said, there were things about this book that I enjoyed; I preferred the first third, which featured Gemma’s job a lot more than later, and there was a side character (Johnny) who I enjoyed hearing about.

I remember reading some of Marian Keyes’ other books many years ago – I loved them. This one was not as enjoyable, but whether that’s because of the book or because of my changing tastes, I’m not sure. I probably would give another book of hers a go, as it was pretty undemanding, but it wouldn’t be top of my list.

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This under-the-radar British film delivered far more than I expected, largely due to the (always excellent) Maxine Peake in the lead role.

Peake is Charlotte, for whom a bad day – where she gets passed over for promotion – turns into an absolutely disastrous and terrifying one, when she arrives home and finds her cleaner smoking in Charlotte’s apartment. This leads to a confrontation with tragic consequences.

Things go from disastrous to even more disastrous as Charlotte desperately tries to cover her tracks, and finds herself in situations she could never have imagined, and looking after a young child – something she clearly has no experience with and no clue what she is doing. Eventually she calls her estranged sister Sarah (Christine Bottomley) to help, but things get (even more) worse with the arrival of shifty security guard Roger (Blake Harrison).

I really enjoyed this film – if enjoyed is the right word. It was certainly compelling; it shocked me right from the off, and although Charlotte was initially a deeply unsympathetic character, Peake’s performance was exemplary, and showed just how an ordinary person can end up in a horrific situation.

With a small main cast (the only other major character was the baby!) and a claustrophobic atmosphere, as well as tight pacing, this film had a lot of elements that I  really like in a movie. It is undoubtedly bleak (I watched an episode of Gilmore Girls afterwards to put me back into a lighter mood!), but it is definitely worth a watch.

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The Blurb

You wake. Confused. Disorientated.
A noose is round your neck.
You are bound, standing on a chair.
All you can focus on is the man in the mask tightening the rope.
You are about to die.

John Wallace has no idea why he has been targeted. No idea who his attacker is. No idea how he will prevent the inevitable. Then the pendulum of fate swings in his favour.
He has one chance to escape, find the truth and halt his destruction. The momentum is in his favour for now. But with a killer on his tail, everything can change with one swing of this deadly pendulum…

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My Thoughts

I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Luke Thompson who did a great job. The narrative hits the ground running – rather than any introductory back story, it starts slap bang in the middle of an attempted murder. When photographer John Wallace is attacked in his apartment, he feels sure that he is about to die, but manages to escape by the skin of his teeth. However, his attacker is relentless and seemingly able to track John, no matter where he hides. John has to find out who is trying to kill him, and more importantly why – but his journey will take him across an ocean and down some very dark paths.

I really liked the first part of the book – the action was fast moving and the characters were well fleshed out. However, when the story moved to New York, it faltered somewhat for me, as it began to include elements of cyber terrorism (don’t worry – no spoilers here) and it became unbelievable as Wallace seemed to be able to somehow defy numerous attempts on his life, while around him the body count continued to rise.

Hamdy definitely knows how to write an action sequence, and Luke Thompson’s narration matched the pace of the storyline. However, the second half of the story was something of a slog for me. This book is the first in a series, and although it’s easy to see where the set up for the next book comes in, there was enough closure here for anyone who didn’t want to read any more. I fall into that category – this wasn’t awful, but didn’t interest me enough to want to read any more about the Pendulum case.

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Year of first publication: 2016

Genre: Thriller, action, mystery

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Lively and engaging retelling of the audacious Hatton Garden Heist which took place over Easter Weekend in 2015. This is the third film to be made about this particular event, and it features a stellar cast.

Really enjoyed it, even if I always feel a bit bad when (some of) the bad guys are so damned likeable.

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Year of release: 2018

Director: James Marsh

Writers: Joe Penhall, Mark Seal (magazine article)

Main cast: Michael Caine, Charlie Cox, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent, Michael Gambon, Tom Courtenay, Paul Whitehouse

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Genre: Heist, crime, dramedy

Highlights: The excellent cast, especially Jim Broadbent

Lowlights: None 🙂

Overall: Definitely recommended – plenty of British humour, and although it makes the crooks somewhat likeable, it never lets you forget that what they were doing was very wrong

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The Silkworm is the second book in the Cormoran Strike detective series, by Robert Galbraith – who everybody and his wife knows is J K Rowling writing under a pseudonym.

I really enjoyed the first book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, despite having seen the excellent television adaptation, and therefore knowing ‘whodunnit’. I was determined to read the rest of the books available before watching their respective adaptations, and as the adaptation of this particular novel has been sitting in my recorded items for some time, I felt I should probably get around to reading it.

The plot here revolves around a writer named Owen Quine, who has written a provocative novel, which casts aspersions about many other people in the literary and wider world. It has given several people reason to detest Quine, so when he is found murdered in extraordinary circumstances, there is no shortage of suspects. With the police choosing the most convenient suspect, it is left to Strike and his assistant Robin to try to get to the truth.

If anything, I enjoyed this book much more that the first one in the series; the writing seemed much more pulled together somehow and the mystery was more satisfying. As I say, I did actually really enjoy The Cuckoo’s Calling, but it did have a convoluted plot, which meant that knowing the outcome from the start probably helped. With The Silkworm, I had no idea of the outcome, and while the plot was tightly woven, I was able to follow it and found myself getting pulled in. It’s wonderful when you find a book that you actually look forward to coming back to, as I did with this one. They mystery kept me guessing and there was a twist at the end, which I did not predict but which was not so out of left field as to be completely unbelievable.

Also the characters of Strike and his assistant Robin were much more fleshed out in this novel. I continue to adore Robin, who is intelligent, compassionate and a good foil for the gruff and imposing Strike.

All in all, I can’t find anything to complain about with this one, and I look forward to reading more in the series.

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I generally love movies that are set in one location, and therefore was predisposed to enjoy this. A run down council tower block marked for destruction has just 15 tenants left, all on the top floor. One night they witness a young man being murdered outside their doors. Several months later, they become the target of an unknown sniper, and despite past differences they have to now pull together if they have any hope of escape.

As expected, I did enjoy this film a lot. The cast were excellent, but special mentions must go to Sheridan Smith as Becky – although this is an ensemble piece, if there is a main character, then she is it – and Jack O’Connell as the thuggish Kurtis. Russell Tovey was also great as lonely alcoholic Paul.

I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but safe to say that this did keep the tension high, and also did a good job of peeling the layers away from various characters so we did get to know more about them – Kurtis in particular. It’s fair enough to say that the sniper’d eventual identity and motive were a bit ropey, and there are a few plot holes, but if you are willing to just immerse yourself in the storyline, this is a little gem of a film, and proves that low budget doesn’t have to mean low quality.

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