A bagful of reviews: a selection of detective reads

Detective Strongoak coverDetective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf  by Terry Newman.

I liked this; it’s a modern and fresh take on the traditional fantasy classes, with dwarves and elves mixing with other races in a fantasy city rife with racial tensions, murder, gambling and traffic problems. It’s a nice murder story with a few twists; nothing dramatic but enough that meant I didn’t predict where it was going. The main character has a very strong personality, which comes out nicely in the voice and keeps the story entertaining; the side characters are also nicely done, and the worldbuilding is very strong. Overall it’s fun, modern and entertaining – worth a read if you like fantasy murder mysteries.

London falling coverLondon Falling by Paul Cornell.

I keep meaning to pick up the next one of these – I read this almost a year ago now! It’s such a good book; it’s a fantasy piece from a police perspective, making it more in the style of Morse or a crime novel than anything about witchcraft. I love the way magic is made real, tracked and traced by a modern police team responding to a threat completely unlike any other they’ve experienced – and a threat that isn’t just to the city or its inhabitants, but is also personal. Cornell is excellent at characters and the city is skilfully portrayed, picking out details when needed. A brilliant blend between crime, police procedural, mystery, fantasy and thriller – and the next one is still on my TBR pile!

The Stranger coverIn a not-fantasy and definitely-thriller vein, I’ve also read The Stranger by Harlen Coben. I picked this up as part of a book review I did for our journalism students, and never entirely got into it. It’s a good thriller, sure – nice plot and pacing, good characters, pretty tense, nice twist. But I feel that it could have made two stories; the intertwined ones of the Stranger and the American Dream could have been separated. I wanted to know more about the Stranger, and the efforts to link him in – to add extra stories about his victims, to show his effect – felt a little forced and jarring until they all linked up. I would have liked to follow Joanna/the police and their investigation, and have Adam as part of that. On the other side, Adam’s story, the American Dream, could have been expanded…yes, it needed another threat, but I’m not sure the Stranger was the one to pick as it was such a rich vein in its own right. But I know a lot of that is my editor side talking! So, overall it’s a good book. Although I’m unlikely to pick up another Harlen Coben, that’s more a limitation of the genre and my cynicism with it than for any dislike of the writing or story.

Rivers of London coverI’ve also been enjoying the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. The Hanging Tree was due last year but got delayed, so I’m impatiently waiting for that! I like it for a whole stack of reasons; there’s lots of mythology and London-landmark-spotting; the characters are excellent, with Grant himself being both interesting and human, and the surrounding characters very well drawn. The plots can be a little ropey (I mostly object to the Faceless Man stuff…) but overall are enthralling and entertaining. If you like Harry Dresden with less random monsters and blasting stuff or Morse with the addition of magic, give Rivers of London a go!