Saturday 21 August 2021



Jennifer Egan is a writer whose work I've come to admire. Though I seem to have read her books in reverse order, that feels rather fitting for this title.

Good Squad is a difficult piece to describe. In my mind, it's like a collage of tissue-paper circles that appear to have been placed at random onto a canvas so that they overlap and interlink to form a captivating image of swirls and colours. Upon closer examination, it transpires that they've all been carefully positioned in such a way that the visual effect is maximised and the emotional responses compounded.

There are thirteen stories, each superbly rounded and with an intensity that would grace any anthology were they to be included as individual tales. They are linked together in clever ways, using characters and time periods to make them one powerful whole. 

I'm sure each reader will highlight their own particular interest as being core to proceedings. For me, it helped, initially, that the theme of the music industry was key, more so that it featured the trials and tribulations of moving on from the punk era into a world where those early rebellious cries became inevitably entangled with the world of commercialism. There are two characters who are at the heart of the collection and maintain the pulse, but there's a fantastically varied supporting cast who bring the pair to life.

The variety of stories is quite something and demonstrate that the mind of the author is vivid, inventive and unusual. Things that appear to appear simple on the surface emerge through the story-telling to be deep, moving and sometimes bizarre. 

In essence, for me this is all about journeys through life and the way tangents, relationships, failures and successes form the way people develop. As time goes on, older experiences become paler and less powerful, yet they continue to hold onto personality and decision making and are ever-influential in the present and future. Tragedies, mishaps, moments of madness, insight and good fortune are all in the melting pot and there isn't anyone out there who doesn't have a web of interaction and memory to explore.

Breaking down the stories to give a sense of what they're about would be a fruitless task. Perhaps it would be better to mention that I was fascinated by it all and there were moments in there where the kicks were hard, whether they be of joy, humour, pain or sadness.

Such a work should have been challenging for me given that my memory is poor and that names and places are problematic for me. The issue was removed for me relatively painlessly by gentle nudges and reminders that allowed me to find my place in a way that few could pull off. These hooks were never clumsy or obvious and I was grateful for that.  

It's not a novel (or at least, I don't think it is), yet it still needed an ending to leave me feeling totally satisfied. I've no idea how she pulled it off, but she did. Loose ends weren't exactly tied up, but everything fell into place. 

I loved the variety and the depth and imagine you will, too. I read this a couple of months ago and still hear the echoes every now and then. 



Wednesday 18 August 2021

Crediting the Editing

I've just finished working through the edits for my next novel, the third in the Rat Pack series which will be published by Down&Out Books later this year. The edit was by Chris Rhatigan and if you know his work, you'll also know that he made the process as painless as it could be. In tune with the style, fine attention to detail, can spot an error at a million paces, knows when the train has slipped off the track and when it's steaming ahead, picks up on character and point of view and even offers possible alternatives to those especially clunky sentences. What else could an author want? If you're looking for someone to work on your draft, you could do a lot worse and probably not much better. Highly recommended.

Thursday 12 August 2021



It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was reading and reviewing The Thursday Murder Club. In a nutshell, I found that to be refreshing, fun and intriguing in equal measure. I think I was also aware that the situation and the characters involved would make a follow-on difficult to pull off.

In many ways, I think The Man Who Died Twice is a pretty good sequel and does manage to create a highly-engaging tale that suits the murder club. 

Appearing from the past is Elizabeth's ex-husband, a man who has already died once and, given the title, may find his number's about to come up. He has the charm of Bond as well as the smugness born of being talented and good looking. While working on a secret-service case, he's fallen foul of dangerous gangsters over in the US. Thankfully, he has a personal guard to protect him and a place to hide out (the very same home where the Thursday Murder Club wait for their live's to fizzle out, where else?).   

There are dead bodies and tricks with smoke and mirrors and, for a while, there's that satisfying buzz of wondering what the hell's going on, which is accompanied by the joy of trying to puzzle it out before reality is revealed. Essentially, that makes it a winning cosy mystery; if that's your bag, this is one for the top of your list. 

While meeting up with our gang again is a welcome experience, The Man Who Died Twice doesn't quite match the excellence of book one. In the main, I think that's due to the situation of the setting and having to stretch to create a new and believable situation. The observation are just that bit less sharp, the diary entries of Joyce are less powerful as a way of moving on plot, the police are less involved and more stable in a way that reduces the impact of their story-lines, and there's a tad less chemistry between the group (and so not as much character development as I might have liked). 

TTMC was always going to be a tough act to follow. The second in the series has proved to be a solid and enjoyable follow-on. I'd still read a third, but do worry that a further contortion to find a suitable plot and another dilution due to familiarity may make it a step too far for me. 

Richard Osman is a fine writer who brings his own twist to the genre. His humour is particularly noteworthy and his timing is excellent. Overall, I'm recommending this to anyone who enjoyed the last one and to the cosy mystery fan. It would work as a standalone, but reading in order would be much more satisfying. I worry for book three (for surely there will be one), but there will be many who will lap up each and every title with zeal in a way that may even make this a series that will be viewed as a classic when the world has warmed to the point where paper self-combusts- get it while you can.