Book Review 33 – The Weight of Shadows by Karl Holton

A few weeks ago I was approached by Karl Holton to ask if I would be interested in reviewing the first book of his crime trilogy, ‘The Weight of Shadows.’ It turned out that Holton is local to my area so this review is not just for an author, but also for a (kind of) neighbour! I got a free copy of the book, as my fellow bookbloggers say, in return for an unbiased review. So here it is…

The Weight of Shadows follows DCI Benedict’s involvement in a Hatton Garden diamond theft (I loved this fusion of fact and fiction,) and two subsequent murders which are linked to this. The stories of the criminal underworld and their nefarious dealings unfolded in parallel to Benedict’s story. There were a whole host of powerful, impressive characters in this book and Benedict was no exception. Curt and occasionally hostile, he gave everyone short shrift, ever desperate to be the alpha male in the room. You’ve got to love a flawed protagonist!

This book is fast paced, gripping and clever, clever, clever. Holton knows how to create a hook to draw you in. There are multiple strands to this story and each of the characters have a plot that keeps you guessing. The Weight of Shadows moves between each of these stories from chapter to chapter. It kept me on a constant merry-go-round of shady dealings which was on occasion difficult to keep up with.

There are unanswered questions in this book. Remember it is part of a trilogy, so come prepared to read books two and three. In fact the book ended with a question, the answer to which was apparently within a code in the book. Ooh, I’ve got you interested now haven’t I?! Perhaps I shouldn’t take the credit for it however, since it was actually Holton who put this code together! I didn’t work it out though, so anyone who does is welcome to leave a comment below telling me about it.

I do have a minor gripe. You see, I have a thing about dialogue. I need it to sound the way that I speak and this need makes me irritatingly picky. So I did bristle at some of Holton’s characters refusal to abbreviate. ‘You cannot be serious,’ should be left to the likes of John McEnroe. The rest of us say “can’t”. Holton also spelled out a few things for the reader which could have perhaps come across better through dialogue or the actions of the characters. But this is me reaching into my picky bag and picking out a whole lot of picky for you to pick at. It’s picky.

Ultimately if you like crime (the fictional kind, not the real kind that will ultimately land you in jail – in which case you are on totally the wrong blog) and you enjoy the unfurling of a story line with characters who have multiple motivations, then this book is for you. I could see from this one book that there is so much more to find out. Holton has a well thought out cast list and I’m certain that the books that follow will be just as good as the first.

Next week I’m going all self-help on you. I’ll be reading ‘The One Thing’ by Gary W Keller and Jay Papasan. Come back on Monday to find out more.

 

Book Review 32 – Empire of the Moghul (Raiders from the North) by Alex Rutherford

A colleague handed me this weeks book after learning that I am something of a book-a-holic. It turns out that he is  a prolific reader too. The underside of his desk is home to a teetering, leaning-tower-of-books which seem to reproduce and multiply of their own accord.

I must admit that I would have totally judged this book by it’s cover and passed it up. To me, this is a boys cover…

My colleague assured me that it was ‘a bit war-ry, but mostly about the family’ and this was largely true. Besides which, whilst I find books about wars boring, it is mostly modern warfare that makes me yawn. This book was set in the 16th century so even the warfare more or less kept my attention.

The book centres on Babur, the first Moghul emperor who conquered land and settled in India from his native lands of modern day Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Whilst Babur is portrayed as a benevolent king, I did get a bit fed up with him at times. Despite the great destiny that he seemed to think he ought to live up to, most of the things that happened to him were not of his own doing. He didn’t appear to be master of his own destiny.

‘Empire of the Moghul’ was a great way to dive into life in Asia in the 1500’s. Alex Rutherford has a talent for description, so that you really got a feel for the clothes they wore, the food they ate and the local customs and behaviour of the time. There was also a well defined set of characters who felt realistic. I really got into the swing of this book, but I must say it could do with going on a diet. Empire of the Moghul is almost 500 pages long. Come on Rutherford, I wanted to say You can have too much of a good thing! There were multiple battles, multiple quests for glory, multiple times that all was lost and had to be recovered again. Of course this is one of the pitfalls of historical fiction. On one hand there are the facts, the chronology of events and on the other is the need for a good story. I felt like Rutherford stayed a bit too true to the events in Babur’s life – it could have done with a wee bit of pruning.

But if historical fiction is your thing and you are even remotely interested in the workings of ancient Asian empires then Rutherford paints a beautiful picture, rich with the imagery of people and places. I, for one, am very grateful for the day that my colleague placed this book on my desk and advised me to read it. In terms of my challenge I feel that it has brought something all of its own that was missing amongst the books I had read until now. A new subject matter and a new voice. A very satisfactory addition to this years list.

Next week’s review is of ‘The Weight of Shadows’ by Karl Holton. Come back next Monday to find out more.

Book Review 31 – The Illustrated Story of England by Christopher Hibbert

This week I indulged my inner history nerd. The fascination with all things long past is actually quite new to me. I’m not sure where it came from, but I find myself nonetheless obsessed with Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Norman invaders and Tudors. So what better place to soak up the history of our little island than with this book?

The Illustrated Story of England is a neat little book that takes you through from tribal Celtic times right up to Brexit and today. Let’s be clear, stuffing 4000 years of history into a couple of hundred pages inevitably means that things get covered briefly. The Romans appear to pop in for a cup of tea, Charles I loses his head and that’s the end of it, there’s no time for swan songs here.

This book made me realise a few things. For one being a prince or princess isn’t really all its cracked up to be. For many centuries being the offspring of a monarch was a pernicious state of affairs. It wasn’t just Richard III who was prepared to kill for the throne. Other people who held an interest in seeing a certain person make their way to the top would be willing to wage war against or murder someone they didn’t want to see crowned.

Then at the other echelon of society, life was spectacularly shitty for ordinary people for a very very long time. It was only in the nineteenth century that people started thinking more altruistically and situations began, very slowly, to improve for the lower classes, for child labourers, for slaves and for women.

For anyone that has an interest in learning about the history of this country, particularly with a focus on monarchs, this is a great opportunity to thrash your way through the list of kings and queens that have ruled these isles. So come and meet the ancestors of our queen, the good, the bad and the ones who put lead based white paint on their faces so that you most certainly would not call them “ugly”.

Come back next week and check out my review of ‘Raiders from the North (Empire of the Moghul) by Alex Rutherford.