Book Reviews

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Arrowood and the Thames Corpses by Mick Finlay

This book was published in April 2020 in paperback by Harper Collins.  This is the third book in the Arrowood series following the publication of Arrowood in December 2017 and The Murder Pit in January 2019.  The tag line for the series is “London Society takes its problems to Sherlock Holmes. Everyone else goes to Arrowood”.

If you enjoy period crime thrillers, you will revel in soaking up the atmosphere that Mick Finlay creates.  The characters are further developed in this third instalment.  The author’s research into Victorian London is meticulous and you will be transported back in time to the grimier side of the capital city where our heroes, William Arrowood and his trusty side-kick Norman Barnett are never far from personal danger.

This book begins with a visit to Arrowood by Captain Moon who is concerned about the sabotage and victimisation of his business, a paddle boat steamer on the Thames.  The intrepid duo’s investigations into the damage being caused to the captain’s paddle boat lead to the discovery of skulls in the river Thames and a far more sinister investigation proceeds.  Arrowood detests his better known counterpart Sherlock Holmes who he claims gains all the credits and the best cases.  Arrowood relies on psychology, picking up on nuances in the suspects, to resolve his cases whereas Holmes follows a chain of clues to get results.  Arrowood survives hand-to-mouth compared to his more illustrious nemesis and does not appreciate the fact. The rights for the book series have been bought by a production company for TV and I have no doubt that the books would transfer very well to this medium.

Seeds of Doubt by Pamela Vass

You will probably not have heard of Pamela Vass.  She lives in Devon and wrote this novel based very much on true facts.  On the evening of August 15th 1952 the worst floods to ever hit the West of England destroyed the beautiful coastal village of Lynmouth in North Devon.  Torrential rainfall transformed the moorland streams of Exmoor into raging rivers carving a terrifying path to the sea, sweeping away roads, bridges and homes.

Thirty four men, women and children lost their lives that night.

Running from the ghosts of her past Ingrid Clarke, who works for a local newspaper, stumbles across evidence that the tragedy was not so much an Act of God as an Act of Man.  Others are determined that it remains a truth that will never be told and will go to any lengths to conceal their manipulation of one the greatest powers on earth – the weather.

This novel is set against the background of actual events and all references to official documents are factual and available from the Public Record Office.  The idea for the book came about when the author first discovered the release of these documents.  I met Pamela when I purchased the book and she stated that she had to write it as a piece of fiction because if she had written it as fact she feared the repercussions from the establishment.

This is a fascinating read, particularly for someone like myself who has great affection for the north Devon coastal area, but at the same time is very concerning if the implications were to be true. Seeds of Doubt is available from Waterstones, Amazon and other good bookshops and online retailers

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The book opens in a rather macabre fashion with a lone assassin killing the main characters parents and older sister.  The 18 month old child escapes from his cot and wanders down stairs and out of the front door unbeknown to the knife wielding assassin.  Bod, as he becomes known, wanders along the high street and into a disused graveyard.  By the time Jack, the assassin, eventually arrives at the graveyard gates Bod has been taken in under the protection of the resident ghosts and a between worlds guardian.

Now you do need to suspend your sense of realism to enjoy this novel but suffice to say that Bod, or Nobody Owens to give him his full name, is brought up by and educated by the ghosts and enjoys all manner of adventure both within the confines of the graveyard, in other lands and also in the real world where he attends school for a while.  Jack never gives up trying to kill Bod and his guardian provides food and clothes for him and also offers protection when required.

This book was recommended to me when I was manning a book stall at a charity bazaar by someone browsing the stall and as it didn’t sell I bought it at the end.  I am very glad that I did so and happily whiled away some summer evenings enjoying the rather far-fetched antics that Bod and his cohorts got up to.  The book is wonderfully illustrated throughout by the excellent Dave Mckean. 

Well worth a read if you should come across a copy.

The Graveyard Book is published by Bloomsbury and is available from Waterstones, Amazon and other good bookshops and online retailers.