Beyond the Point by Damien Boyd

Beyond the Point by Damien Boyd

The opening section of Beyond the Point is a continuation of the story in the previous book, Deadlock. I have read all the books in this series, but even so had to rack my brains to remember what had happened in a book I had read over a year ago (I cottoned on eventually). Some reviewers have even had to go back and read Deadlock again. This is a minor quibble, but might be off-putting for a reader who is new to the Nick Dixon books.

As always, the main investigation is a complex one that requires Nick and his team to delve back into old cases until the motive becomes clear. A lot of the action takes place in the unusual setting of the construction site for a new power station (Hinkley Point C). This is a restricted area and further complicates the investigation, bringing Nick Dixon into conflict with senior officers. Like most other fictional detectives of his rank, he does not have a lot of time for his media-conscious, budget-obsessed superiors, but does not let it hold him back from doing what he needs to do.

Another thread to this gripping story is the poisoning of Dixon’s dog, Monty; as if he did not have enough to contend with. As regular readers will know, Dixon’s favourite way to wind down, and think about the case he’s working on, is to take Monty for a walk on the beach at the end of a long hard day. Nevertheless, he manages to stay focussed on the case as he waits for news of Monty.

Beyond the Point is the ninth book to feature Nick Dixon and his colleagues; one of the reasons I really like reading a series like this is that you are already familiar with the team of detectives, you don’t have to spend time becoming acquainted with them, and you can just jump straight into the story.

The Somerset countryside plays a large part in these books and, if made into a TV series, would surely do for the tourist industry there what the books by Ann Cleeves have done for Shetland and Northumbria. As I didn’t read this immediately when it first came out, there is not long to wait now for the next in the series, Down Among the Dead. I hope there will be many more books in this series.

Motherwell by Deborah Orr

Motherwell by Deborah Orr

Motherwell is the heart-breaking, poignant story of Deborah Orr’s difficult relationship with her mother, and her home town. But this is no misery memoir. There is a lot of humour among the pathos. It feels like she is trying to make sense of her past and move on. It must have been cathartic to get it all off her chest. It is a real shame that she did not live long enough to reap the benefits.  

Having grown up in another Lanarkshire town less than ten miles north of Motherwell, and only a few years earlier than Deborah Orr, reading this book took me right back to what it was like growing up there in the 60s and 70s. She captures the place and time with such attention to detail; it reminded me of stuff I’d long forgotten.

Although set in central Scotland, there is a universality to this story. Her parents, Win and John, do not come out of this well, but you can relate to their inability to understand their clever daughter and how the world had changed. That she got out and made a successful life for herself is testament to her strength of character.

I always enjoyed reading her columns in the Guardian; she had a unique voice. Who knows what she might have gone on to accomplish next, had her life not been cut so cruelly short.

Unknown Male by Nicolas Obregon

Unknown Male by Nicolas Obregon

After a gap of ten years, Kosuke Iwata has returned to Tokyo to investigate the murder of a young British student, Skye Mackintosh. The Olympic Games are about to begin, the eyes of the world are on Tokyo, and the Japanese authorities have to be seen to do everything by the book. DC Anthea Lynch from the Met has been sent over with Skye’s family to assist as she speaks some Japanese. Like Iwata, she has a disregard for authority but is also an excellent detective.

There is a parallel storyline about the disappearance of sex workers; there does not appear to be any connection between the two cases. The story mostly focuses on Iwata, interspersed with the thoughts of Mr Sato – an ‘invisible’ man in a suit, with a horrific secret.   

I have read all of Nicolas Obregon’s books featuring Kosuke Iwata (Blue Light Yokohama and Sins as Scarlet) and this is his best yet – a gripping thriller with just the right mix of description, action and dialogue. Even though Nicolas Obregon is not a native of Japan, his poetic descriptions of the neon-lit streets of Tokyo, and insights into Japanese culture, make Unknown Male a wonderful example of Japanese noir. It remains to be seen whether this is the last book to feature Kosuke Iwata, but I hope we catch up with him again one day. Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a copy to review.

House of War by Scott Mariani

House of War

Passing through Paris on his way home to Le Val, Ben Hope is minding his own business. A young woman accidentally bumps into him in the street, and when she has gone on her way he finds her mobile phone in the gutter. He goes to her address but is too late to save her; she has been brutally murdered. He passes a man on the stairs and realises they have met before, many years ago, when Ben was in the SAS. Warning bells are ringing; this man – Nazim al-Kassar – was captured in the Iraq War, and reported dead by the Americans.

In this relentless, action-packed thriller, the twentieth novel featuring Ben Hope, a dangerous terrorist is on the loose and the clock is ticking. Ben is forced to turn to Tyler Roth, a Delta Force colleague involved in the original capture of Nazim al-Kassar, in order to track him down. He is obviously not to be trusted, and his anti-Muslim tirade is really over the top, but Ben has no choice; he must follow the only lead he has.

House of War is slightly different to the other books in this series as it does not have the usual historical element to the story. The up-to-date theme of terrorism makes Ben’s task seem much more frightening because it is rooted in reality. There is always a point in Ben Hope books where you wonder how he is going to get out alive, the tension is ramped up, and you have to keep reading feverishly to see how he does it; this is no exception.

Looking forward to Ben’s next adventure, The Pretender’s Gold, when it comes out in May. Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

Raw from a break-up she had not seen coming, Laurie gets stuck in a lift with Jamie Carter, the office Lothario, and together they hatch a plan to their mutual advantage – Laurie can make Dan jealous and stop feeling like a victim; Jamie can impress his boss and get a promotion. I’ve read quite a few ‘fake romance’ novels over the years (try Something Stupid by Victoria Corby) and this is one of the best. The plan is to put photos of their dates on social media, but, of course, these things never go to plan.

Laurie accompanies Jamie to a family party and sees him in a new light – the real person underneath the façade – and the inevitable happens. They both seem to bring out the best in each other; Laurie comes out of her shell and Jamie is much more caring than his office image.

It becomes clear with hindsight that the relationship between Laurie and Dan had not been quite as idyllic as she had believed. She had given in to what he wanted quite a lot and repressed her true self. Once she got over the pain, she would realise what a lucky escape she had had. The way he had broken up with her and his behaviour since should make her realise how selfish and despicable he was. Add in that she still had to work in the same office, a toxic den of malicious gossip, racism and sexism, and no wonder she was looking for payback.

I have read (and loved) all of Mhairi McFarlane’s books and this is no exception – dry humour, well-drawn, believable characters, witty dialogue, and Manchester setting. It would make a great rom-com. Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for a copy to review.

SfEP badge Intermediate Member Social