Storm Front: Jim Butcher

Storm Front by Jim Butcher book 1 in The Dresden Files series.

I’m on a reading group social page on the intranet at work and this series is constantly mentioned. I’d been meaning to start the series for ages and as I was going away for a week camping in Somerset decided it’d be a good time to start.

Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is a private investigator in modern day Chicago, and also a wizard. It’s an odd setting, but I was drawn in from the start. The group at work largely say that the series takes three or four books to get going but I loved this book so should be in for a treat further down the line.

When a gangster and his “date” for the night are found in a sleazy hotel with their hearts exploded the local police turn to Harry as they suspect magic has been employed. From the off Harry is a likeable character. The story is told in the first person and Harry struck me as a cross between Fletch and a cooler, grown up Ron Weasley. It’s written with humour and considering the gruesome nature of the crimes is tastefully done and an easy read.

The supporting cast are well portrayed and promise development in the subsequent books. I can’t wait to read the rest of them, and they’ll be on heavy rotation in the coming months. As I was in the middle of nowhere with no Wi-Fi I couldn’t go straight to book two, but instead chose The Bat by Jo Nesbo, book one in the Harry Hole series. I’d downloaded this for my holiday in 2018 but it had been slipping off the first page of my Kindle for months.


The Devil’s Kingdom: Scott Mariani

The Devil’s Kingdom by Scott Mariani book 14 in the Ben Hope series.

The conclusion to the two part story that began with Star of Africa picks up where the last book left off and continues the pace and violence with little let up. A few new characters are thrown into the mix and the believability levels continue to descend.

As I said for the first part, it’s far from my favourite in the series, and now after finishing it I can safely say it’s my least liked. The tale takes so many twists and literally unbelievable turns as to have it bordering on the impossible. Saying that, if you can stomach the casual attitude to life it’s an enjoyable read. I won’t say too much about the plot, but the quest for the fantastic treasure continues apace. It’s well written and a quick read due to the continual action as the cast tussle over the prize.

It suffers from the James Bond baddy syndrome in my eyes though as the lead wrong un kills someone on every other page, but keeps Ben alive despite him obviously being a great threat to his plans. Hasn’t he seen Goldinger and the laser scene?

I’m taking a break from this series for a while now, and hopefully the next in the series, The Babylon Idol goes back to a more believable narrative. How many billionaires can one person know? I struggle to meet people with five figures to hand, but Ben bumps into numerous fabulously wealthy individuals at the drop of a hat!

My next book is a new author to me and a series I’ve heard good things from on a reading group website at work.  Storm Front by Jim Butcher is the first book in the Dresden Files series which follows private investigator and wizard Harry Dresden, as he investigates supernatural occurrences in modern-day Chicago.

Backwash: Bill Rogers

Backwash by Bill Rogers. Book 8 in the DCI Tom Caton series.

The eight book in the series sees an upturn in the tale and a definite upturn in the proofreading, although there are still some jarring mistakes such as the town of Stalybridge being jumbled and one of the victims being called Qureshi, Quereshi and for the last half of the book Coreishi! Baffling.

The story follows Caton and the team on the trail of a killer who is seemingly targeting unrelated victims. Or are they? High tech help is required when it emerges that the victims are all part of a sinister bullying ring.

The characters develop nicely and we get to learn more about the families of the team and much more about Caton’s impending marriage. It’s a good story with not too many far fetched elements and back on form after the last far fetched tale The Frozen Contract.

I’m coming to the end of this series (to date there are ten titles) and were it not for my Mancunian bias I may have given up on them by now. I hope I can be made to eat my words and the series wins me round eventually…

Next up is The Devil’s Kingdom by Scott Mariani, the second part to Star of Africa reviewed earlier in the year.

Star of Africa: Scott Mariani

Star of Africa by Scott Mariani. Book 13 in the Ben Hope series.

Another series on heavy rotation with me is the Ben Hope series. It all began with The Alchemist’s Secret and as usual I’d heartily recommend you read them in order. Ben Hope is a troubled character and his story progresses and unfurls with each installment. He’s an ex-SAS major who initially branches out as a “crisis consultant” helping out where the forces of law and order can’t or won’t…

This isn’t the best in the series, far from it, but it’s an enjoyable romp taking in pirates, diamonds and the high seas. It’s a lot more graphically violent than its predecessors and a lot less believable. The series has a lot of “no way would that happen!” moments, but this sees them coming thick and fast. And, it’s the first of a two part story, another new occurrence in the series. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good book, well written and with plenty of cliffhangers, but I just found it a little too far fetched, even for this genre.

A call for help is received when a fantastical prize is fought over by utterly ruthless parties. Part two , The Devil’s Kingdom is in my to read pile, but I needed a break after the non-stop, action packed tale. Hopefully it’s tied up in the usual way that Mariani has with his tales.

The Ben Hope books are earmarked to become a film or television series and with number twenty due for release later in the year, now is the time to get a head start and get your impression of Ben Hope in your mind before the rest of the country.

Raven Black: Ann Cleeves

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves. Book 1 in the Shetland series.

I’ve been meaning to read this for ages and wanted to read the book before watching the highly acclaimed television adaptation. DI Jimmy Perez is the laidback romantic detective spurred into action when a young woman is found dead in a remote corner of the even more remote Shetland Islands. A strange loner (Magnus Tait) is the obvious suspect and comes under the accusing eyes of the locals after a child vanished years before near his house. The fact that the recent incident also took place over the road from his cottage leaves him out on a limb and guilty before he’s even been arrested.

Tait is further hampered as he has learning difficulties and communication issues. The supporting cast are brilliantly portrayed and the landscape comes alive with each chapter. It’s a great story, beautifully written and superbly paced. It’s definitely a series I’ll be sticking with to learn more of the enigmatic Perez and the fascinating setting.

Next up is Star of Africa by Scott Mariani, the 13th book of the Ben Hope series.


The Frozen Contract: Bill Rogers

The Frozen Contract by Bill Rogers. Book 7 in the DCI Caton series.

The DCI Caton books are a strange lot. Bill Rogers writes good, gripping and well thought out tales, however the proof reading on the series leaves a lot to be desired! This book stated it was the 7th edition, the preceding six editions must have been shocking…

The grammar is atrocious, characters are transposed and words are frequently missed out or added on a scatter gun basis. The most jarring is the muddling of the characters as a football agent and a National Crime Agency agent are swapped for larger portions of their comparatively small roles in the book. Names of characters are included without capital letters, sentences end with a full stop and a comma and speech marks begin descriptive sentences. If you read this Bill, send me a copy of your next book prior to publication and I’ll give it the once over for free. I really like the books, but whoever is proofreading it isn’t up to the job.

Anyway, the story.

The Tom Caton tales return to Manchester after being in Bolton and the USA in the previous two books. A Premier League footballer is found frozen to death in a cryotherapy unit on the stadium forecourt. Gordon Holmes, Joanne Stuart and the team reassemble after being thrown to the corners of Greater Manchester Police jurisdiction to follow the trail. Political and football corruption intertwine with sinister characters from previous books to give a fast paced enjoyable thriller.

Caton’s personal life is developing and you get to feel you are learning more about him and his character with each novel. Again, you could read this as a stand-alone novel, but I’d recommend starting at the beginning with The Cleansing.

I’m from Manchester so always like books set in the area. The Caton series are enjoyable reads and if you can bear the jarring errors I think you’ll enjoy them too. The next in the series is Backwash. It’s on my list despite my grammar police siren flashing throughout this but next is a new author to me, Ann Cleeves’ Raven Black, the first in the Shetland series, now a highly acclaimed drama on the BBC.

Click here to see Bill Rogers’ website including a contact email address. It hasn’t been updated for some time though.

The Infirmary: LJ Ross

The Infirmary by LJ Ross. Book 11* in the DCI Ryan series.

* Let’s get the asterisk out of the way firstly, as I think it’s quite an important footnote…

This is the eleventh book in publication order, but the story takes place before the first book, Holy Island. I’d heartily recommend reading this first if you are new to the series as if read in publication order you’ll know the outcome of this story.

Now, that could be a major downside of this book but I enjoyed it as much as any of the others, if not more. Yes, the ultimate cliff hanger is somewhat lessened but I was absolutely hooked and even read it on a weekend morning to finish it, something I never do. My reading is (usually) strictly on the bus to and from work, on holiday or in bed before sleep.

A brutal killer is wreaking havoc on the streets of Newcastle and the city is in lock down. When the killer starts to escalate the spree and taunts the police, Ryan and the team take over in tragic circumstances.

It really is a great book. Perversely I wish I was new to the series and could experience the tale without knowing the ending although as I’ve said it takes nothing away from a brilliantly suspenseful thriller. It’s a little more gruesome than the rest of the series however not at all compared to some of the genre I’ve previously read. Given the subject of the book it’s very skilfully written to evoke the fear of the characters and their thought processes.

The countdown begins to the release of book 12, The Moor on the 27th of April now. I can’t wait.