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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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There can’t be many people now who don’t know that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym of J K Rowling. Having never read any Harry Potter – or seen any of the films – I have the luxury of not being able to compare her books for adults to her books for children.

The main character is Cormoran Strike, ex-Army, having lost a leg in the Afghan War. He now works as a private investigator but is only just scraping by and is forced to live in his office, as he has just broken up with his fiancee. So he is not best pleased when a temping agency sends him a secretary named Robin, who he did not want and cannot really afford to employ. However on the same day that this happens, the brother of an old schoolfriend walks into his office wanting Strike to investigates the death of his sister, supermodel Lula Landry. The case had previously been ruled a suicide, but Lula’s brother John is convinced that someone murdered her. Strike reluctantly takes the case, and it becomes clear that there is a lot more to Lula’s death than it first appears.

I had actually already seen the TV adaptation of The Cuckoo’s Calling, so I already know who the guilty party was, so I guess it says something that this book still held my attention all the way through and I really enjoyed it. Galbraith (I’m still calling her that for the purpose of this review) pays attention to small details and has a descriptive style of writing which I liked a lot. I also really liked the characters of both Strike and Robin. Strike always seemed to be verging on shambolic in his appearance and style, but was obviously very astute and intuitive. And Robin – well…yay for a female character who is balanced, cheerful, intelligent and resourceful, and also one for whom romance is not her main storyline. Strike and Robin grow to like and respect one another but – minor spoiler – there is no romance there and no suggestion of it (although I haven’t read any of the subsequent books in the series, I hope their relationship remains this way).

The mystery itself is quite tangled and I felt that I did need to pay attention to the storyline, but my attention didn’t wander, and I thought the final reveal was done extremely well. Had I not already been aware of who the killer was, I don’t honestly think I would have guessed.

So all in all, this book gets a big thumbs up from me. I also highly recommend the TV adaptation, and intend on reading the other books before watching the adaptations of those.

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I picked up this book because I had heard lots of good things about it, and because despite the fact that fantasy is not, and never has been a favourite genre of mine, the premise intrigued me.

The story is set in London and is narrated by Peter Jones, a young PC in the Metropolitan Police Service. This strange tale starts when he is trying to glean information about a vicious and unprovoked murder, only to find himself interviewing a witness who died more than a hundred years ago…

More murders follow and Jones and his partner Lesley and mentor Thomas Nightingale quickly work out that they are all linked, and something strange and unusual is causing them.

As if that weren’t enough, Peter and Nightingale also find themselves caught up in a feud between Mother Thames and Father Thames, who are arguing over who has jurisdiction of their River Thames; as a result, Peter meets the exotic and alluring Beverley Brook.

I enjoyed this book a lot – but not quite as much as I had hoped to, or indeed quite as much as the first fifty pages or so led me to think I might. I really liked the characters of Peter and Nightingale, and as narrators go, Peter is witty, likeable and extremely engaging. However, I think the plot got a bit too convoluted, mainly because the feud over the River Thames seemed pointless and really added nothing whatsoever to the main mystery, which was that of the murders. The  murders themselves were quite interesting and I liked that Peter had a foot in both the mortal world and the underworld of London where he could learn magic and make deals with ghosts.

So despite feeling that it was something of an anti-climax, the main two characters are enough for me to want to try the next book in the series. I also find that generally with series such as this one, the first book is never the strongest. This book has had very strong reviews elsewhere, so if you are thinking of reading it – and especially if fantasy is a genre you enjoy (bearing in mind that it is not one I usually choose to read) I would recommend giving this a try.

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