Along Came A Spider by James Patterson

Along Came A Spider by James Patterson

Along Came A Spider by James Patterson

The novel Along Came a Spider written by James Patterson is a great introduction to this prolific and hugely successful writers work.

This book by Patterson introduced us all to Alex Cross and the series which followed. A great thriller which is well plotted and the Alex Cross books have dominated the detective novel lists for years.

Washington, D.C. Alex Cross, the renowned Washington D.C. forensic psychologist and homicide investigator, is tasked with looking in to the violent murder of two black prostitutes and a child in the projects.

Cross is furious when he is removed from the case to investigate a kidnapping of two white children at an expensive private school. He feels that there is a sense that the colour determines which case is the more important. The kidnapper is Gary Soneji, the school maths teacher.

The evil Soneji, buries Maggie Rose Dunne and Michael Goldberg alive, in a coffin made for the task, at a remote farmhouse.

Alex Cross and the FBI make a detailed search of Soneji’s apartment. They find a wealth of information about kidnappings and master criminals. In particular it appears that Soneji has a more than passing obsession with the Lindbergh baby kidnapping of 1932.

Soanji clearly has a warped desire to become infamous.

Cross hooks up with Jezzie Flanagan, the first female supervisor of the Secret Service and the head of the Secret Service investigative team, in a secret liaison which complicates matters.

During the investigation Roger Graham, an FBI agent, is killed by Soneji who disguises himself as a reporter.

A missing little girl named Maggie Rose . . . a family of three brutally murdered in the projects of Washington, D.C. . . . the thrill-killing of a beautiful elementary school teacher . . . a psychopathic serial kidnapper/murderer who is so terrifying that the FBI, the Secret Service, and the police cannot outsmart him – even after he’s been captured.

The police, FBI and the Secret Service are pitted against a true adversary in the guise of the violent psychopath, Soanji.

I don’t want to ruin the plot for you in this cleverly plotted and intricate game of cat and mouse where the stakes are the very highest.

Other authors have spoken very highly of James Pattersons work:

“An incredibly suspenseful read with a one-of-a-kind killer who is as terrifying as he is intriguing. One of the best thrillers of the year.”
Clive Cussler

“The best thriller I’ve come across in many a year. It deserves to be this season’s NO.1 best-seller.
Nelson  DeMille

Along Came A Spider by James Patterson is a superb read.

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

Many of us will have heard of ‘The Dreyfus Affair’ and will remember it as a distant memory from history classes as a child, but I suspect, like me, your remaining knowledge will be selective and riddled with holes and inconsistencies. Such a shame when you consider this pivotal time in French military and political history before the First World War. It gripped a nation at the time and the world more generally. This novel has modern day parallels in the forms of anti-Semitism and whistle-blowers.

The 2013 novel, An Officer and a Spy is a 2013 is a fictional thriller based on these dramatic events in French history. It is written by the supremely talented and diverse journalist and writer, Robert Harris. The novel recalls the true story of the head of counter-espionage, Colonel Georges Picquart, in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

There had been some disquiet about the conviction of Dreyfus for spying and his subsequent incarceration on Devils Island off the coast of South America. An island made famous in the novel Papillon which was written by convicted criminal, Henri Charrière. Picquart began to investigate the evidence against Dreyfus, who was from a Jewish background, which he found to be very weak and that the government and military had manufactured or altered crucial evidence. Picquart was pressured to forget his findings despite his assertion that the actual spy was still operating.

Anti-Jewish feeling was running high at that time and Dreyfus initially had little public support, but following an open letter published by the highly respected writer, Émile Zola, the tide began to turn. The letter, J’accuse, was published in a French newspaper in January 1898 and was a damming indictment of the whole affair – the rest is history….as they say!

The Harris book is the recipient of the Walter Scott Prize and the American Library in Paris Book Award, both in 2014.

Harris has researched many newly released documents and many of the original sources such as newspaper reports, the court transcripts and Dreyfus’s own written recollections. This is a thoroughly enthralling spy and political intrigue thriller made all the more captivating as it is based closely on fact. Picquart is shown as a principled man who strives to expose the truth despite overwhelming opposition from superiors and his peers. His fate is utterly intertwined with that of Dreyfus and so is his final judgement. An Officer and a Spy is a superb novel which brings great clarity to the subject and is utterly thrilling.

Robert Harris was born in Nottingham in central England in 1957. Following a career in television and as a journalist he came to prominence with his best-selling novel, Fatherland. He has subsequently published a succession of top novels including Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost which was made into a very effective and evocative film by Roman Polanski, The Fear Index and Dictator. He is, as you can see, a difficult man to pigeon-hole as his works are quite diverse and expertly crafted.

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The Freedom Trap by Desmond Bagley

The Freedom Trap by Desmond Bagley

The Freedom Trap by Desmond Bagley

Another novel by Desmond Bagley, author of The Vivero Letter, one of my all time favourite writers. I only wish I could have met him.

The Freedom Trap was first published in 1971 and is said to be loosely based on the escape of, spy, double agent and traitor depending on your point of view, George Blake from prison five years earlier. It was made into a film in 1973, called The Mackintosh Man, starring Paul Newman.

The story starts with Joseph Rearden who is a villain from South Africa . He meets an agent of MI5 in London called Mackintosh, who recruits him for an assignment. It is a dangerous task and is to trap The Scarperers  who are a well known gang of criminals who gaol-breaking long-term prisoners. He is also to catch Slade who is a Russian double agent whom they recently helped to escape. Rearden is told to rob a postman with a packet of uncut diamonds. He is then  ‘caught’ and sent to jail in hopes that he can contact the Scarperers. It is a clever and exciting plot which races to Malta and beyond……well worth a read.

In the mid 20th century, British writers such as Hammond Innes, Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley set out the conventions of the thriller genre. Their heroes were  a resilient and resourceful ordinary individuals facing tremendous odds. The villains were utterly ruthless in pursuit of their goals.

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The Gold of Malabar by Berkely Mather

The gold of malabar

The gold of malabar

The Gold of Malabar was written by  British author, Berkely Mather, in 1967 Berkely Mather was a Nom de Plume for  John Evan Weston-Davies, whose family emigrated to Australia shortly before World War I.

He published fifteen novels and a book of short stories whilst also writing for radio, television and for films.   Mather enlisted in the Royal Horse Artillery but failing to gain a commission he next joined the Indian Army where he became a sergeant at the outbreak of World War II. Serving under Slim in the Iraq campaign he finally ended the war as an acting lieutenant-colonel. After Indian independence in 1947, he rejoined the British Army, entering the Royal Artillery and eventually retiring in 1959. The Achilles Affair Mather’s first novel, was published in 1959 and was a minor best-seller. His second novel ‘The Pass Beyond Kashmir’ written in 1960 received high praise from Ian Fleming and Erle Stanley Gardner and it did even better. It is said that Ernest Hemingway owned copies of these two novels

A desperate adventure starting with a prison escape in search of gold. A thoroughly exciting novel which traces its way across India. While banged up in a prison in Goa Mike O’Reilly speaks with a dying Dutch prisoner called Rokkjer. He gives O’Reilly a gold medal asking him to bring it to a Buddhist monk called Nu Pau in Bombay and to say, “Rokkjer said to keep faith.” Rokkjer also gives a mysterious quote of, “Pythagoras, northeast, and the word is try, try, try…”  O’Reilly escapes into a dangerous world of greedy looters all looking for the secret map that will bring them to the hidden cache of gold………………

This is a classic adventure written by a skilled author who clearly knew India. Unputdownable…..if that’s a word!

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The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, is a 2003 mystery-detective novel. It tells the story of Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu who investigate a gruesome murder in the Louvre Museum in Paris. It relates to a supposed battle between Opus Dei and the Priory of Sion. The title of the novel relates to the murder victim being found in the Louvre in the Grand Gallery. His body was naked and artificially posed to resemble Leonardo da Vinci’s famous drawing called, the Vitruvian Man. A pentacle is drawn on the victims chest in his own blood and a cryptic message scrawled beside his body.

The fictional book has been very successful though, it has come in for criticism on many levels.

In a 2008 issue of The Paris Review Umberto Eco said , “Dan Brown is a character from Foucault’s Pendulum! I invented him. He shares my characters’ fascinations—the world conspiracy of Rosicrucians, Masons, and Jesuits. The role of the Knights Templar. The hermetic secret. The principle that everything is connected. I suspect Dan Brown might not even exist.”

During a lecture, the writer Salman Rushdie said, “Do not start me on ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ A novel so bad that it gives bad novels a bad name.”

Stephen Fry has been more vitriolic saying of Dan Brown’s work, “complete loose stool-water” and “arse gravy of the worst kind.” He went on to say, “I just loathe all those books about the Holy Grail and Masons and Catholic conspiracies and all that botty-dribble. I mean, there’s so much more that’s interesting and exciting in art and in history. It plays to the worst and laziest in humanity, the desire to think the worst of the past and the desire to feel superior to it in some fatuous way.”

Stephen King said of Dan Brown’s work that it was like, “Jokes for the John,” calling this level of work the “intellectual equivalent of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.”

The New York Times said the book was “Dan Brown’s best-selling primer on how not to write an English sentence”.

The New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane said its “unmitigated junk” and described “the crumbling coarseness of the style.”

Among others, linguist Geoffrey Pullum called Brown one of the “worst prose stylists in the history of literature” and saying Brown’s “writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad.”

Roger Ebert described it as a “potboiler written with little grace and style,” and then went on to say “I should read a potboiler like The Da Vinci Code every once in a while, just to remind myself that life is too short to read books like The Da Vinci Code.”

The author has also been embroiled in legal battles over alleged plagiarism in two of his novels.

I thought Tom Hanks who played Robert Langdon, Audrey Tautou and Sir Ian McKellen were very impressive in the film and that managed to transform the written work into something quite acceptable.

However, I have to agree with the other detractors as I did feel that the book was surprisingly purile, badly written and I found it quite turgid. Not what I expected. I wouldn’t personally bother reading any others that he writes.

He said of The Bourne Trilogy by Robert Ludlum that, ‘Ludlum’s early books are complex, smart, and yet still move at a lightning pace. This series got me interested in the genre of big-concept, international thrillers.’

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The Da Vinci Code (2 Disc Special Edition) [DVD]


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