“Deadline” John Sandford (Simon and Schuster) – novel review

Deadline by John Sandford book cover

Virgil Flowers, with the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, has a knack of making work for himself. In tracking down a dognapping gang, he uncovers a meth lab and then a possible connection to the murder of a journalist on a local paper, all in the backwoods of south east Minnesota, where he only agreed to help out with the dognapping case to stop the local rednecks turning into lynch mob. Readers, having been party to the school board meeting where a motion to kill local journalist Clancy Conley was passed, already know the who, why and how of the murder, which means John Sandford has set himself an uphill task of keeping readers hooked through the twists of investigations and getting them to care about the outcome.

Luckily there’s a lightly done thread of humour and well-drawn characters, who aren’t stereotypes or there to add local colour, to keep readers interested. It doesn’t take Virgil long to discover a flash drive that belonged to Clancy Conley with all his notes and evidence of the story he was working on that got him killed. Virgil’s clue is a song title. Readers have already figured out the hiring place due to the frequent references to it every time Virgil enters or leaves the journalist’s trailer. Conley had uncovered the school board’s scam: overcharging on essentials like fuel for the school buses and creaming the profit for themselves. Over the best part of a couple of decades, that amounts to sizeable profit. A profit the school board aren’t above protecting with murder. Their initial plan is to kill Conley to kill his story. Then, to throw Flowers off the scent, they agree to kill one of the town’s undesirables, who happens to be linked to the dognappers, and then throw in an arson attack on the offices the school board uses as good measure. Sandford keeps the pace fairly slow so readers get to know the individual school board members, their reasons for getting involved in the scam and, in a couple of cases, their getaway plans if they were caught. Although one of the board members does observe that Flowers is “sharper than he looks”. The incongruity of school board meeting to pass a unanimous motion to commit murder is played for humour.

Meanwhile Flowers has to keep the lynch mob, who know the dogs are on their way to be sold to bunchers who then sell the animals on to research laboratories, at bay so the DEA can take down the meth lab, as well as figure out the weakest link in the school board so they give each other up. No one pretends that’s not going to happen. Flowers is a laid-back fisherman with a love of vintage rock tee shirts, cowboy boots and his current girlfriend, Frankie. Frankie, a single mother of a brood of children, has survived two of the eight novels in the Virgil Flowers series so far so she looks like a keeper. Unlike most detectives’ love interests, Frankie copes with the danger inherent in Flowers’s job. Flowers doesn’t drink excessively, have anger issues or a dodgy family background so manages to escape the clichés and avoid looking too much like a Minnesota version of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux or Elmore Leonard’s Raylan. But John Sandford does share the same observant eye for the landscape and rural poverty and treats his subjects with compassion.

The one weakness was the touch of sentimentality that crept into the final scenes. After anti-vivisectionists gate-crash a dog fair, to prevent dogs being sold to research laboratories, and the ensuing chaos, one dog takes to following Virgil and Virgil winds up taking the dog home. I didn’t see Virgil actually doing this. From “Deadline”, Frankie seems far too practical to take on the challenge of another mouth to feed. The scene felt more like an opening into the next novel rather than integral to “Deadline”. I didn’t buy it.

“Deadline” is a smooth read, a thriller with more focus on humour than grit or motivation, written by an author who has justified confidence his characters will hold the readers’ focus. It’s a book to be read for the story rather than as a whodunit.

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“Beyond the Tune” Jayne Stanton (Soundswrite Press) – poetry review

Beyond the Tune Jayne Stanton book cover

The title comes from the opening poem, “Grace Notes”, a journey to Ireland via ferry where the final stanza invites readers to

“Wave on your luggage, walk the only road there is
till it runs out of tarmac and the salt air draws you. Listen
for the notes between the notes. Slip beyond the tune.”

It’s an apposite title because most of the poems invite readers to look beyond the words on the page to the images and thoughts conjured within. For example in “Suave and debonair” a girl’s pride in her father glosses over but still recognises his faults:

“Daddy’s girl, my angle’s blind
to a thinning crown, the comb-over;
a weak heart under peacock swagger – and
you’re taller, somehow, out of overalls
in slacks with knife-edge creases down
to split and polish; hands in pockets
weighing small change possibilities.
You shrug your shoulders
into a hounds tooth blazer, square
the broken checks of green and cream;
leather buttons left undone, token casual.

My formative years in toughened hands:
our lifelines grafted till you learn the art of letting go.”

The accumulation of details allows the reader to build the picture in their mind’s eye. The use of end of line enjambment hurries the reader over the suggestions of doubt; the “weak heart” is brushed over to the emphasis on “peacock swagger”. “Suave and debonair” isn’t the only poem to touch on memories of growing up, but, like the others, it doesn’t dwell on sentiment. There’s an acknowledgement of things not being ideal, but no hagiographic embellishment either. “Vintage” epitomises this with a look back to family seaside holidays, triggered by discovering an old case in the attic, with its sense of making the best of things.

“Rediscover Pac-a-Macs as beachwear,
resurrect the swing coat, tartan duffle bag;
own the promenade in red T-bar sandals.
Strike a pose in that ruched nylon swimsuit
christened in trawler oil, your profile
caught in the blink of a box Brownie’s eye.”

“Pac-a-Macs as beachwear” is a succinct description of summer on a UK beach. Swing coats are back in for Autumn/Winter 2014 but are never fashionable in summer. Fortunately the Brownie isn’t high definition enough to capture goose-bumps. It’s the telling choice of which details to record that create a solid foundation for these poems.

The tone of the tune changes too. Near the middle is a sequence of four poems, “Some stories from the other side” which take a darker tone. In “2. Pet” an ambiguous her has learnt to reduce her world to his house:

“feigns pleasure, throaty
as his fingers find the chip
that keeps her his.

He likes her stone-bellied;
she dreams of slipped collars,
a quick way out.

Each time he sidles back. Redolent
of feral nights in back alleys, he pins her down
with stories of newborns drowned in buckets.”

There’s love too, and not just in the poem’s title, “Love in Led Zepplin album covers”

“We pissed lyrical in pseudo-psychedelic dreams;
dawns bled tangerine, our zepplins crashed
manila skies with hummingbirds and butterflies
whose roundel-painted wings we glued
in grounded chips of china blue.

The towers on Dudley Road are long gone;
you and I, my rock, my song, still ramble on”.

The shorter “i” vowel sounds give way to the longer “o” sounds as youth became older and the initial urgency of romance became enduring love. “Beyond the Tune” lives up to its apt title.

“Beyond the Tune” is available from Soundswrite Press.

 

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Mimicking a Snowdrop

Mimicking a Snowdrop Emma Lee poetry book cover

Interspersed with contemporary poems, “Mimicking a Snowdrop” features seven poems inspired by reading Lilian Bowes Lyon’s poetry and about her life. She never wrote her autobiography but did write an article for “Orion” (Nicholson & Watson, London, 1945) about life in London during the Second World War and frequently wrote letters to friends and acquaintances. During the First World War, while still a teenager, she helped out when Glamis Castle was converted into a convalescent home for injured soldiers (she was a cousin of the late Queen Mother). Lilian went onto learn first aid nursing and became a voluntary assistant despatch nurse when she left her family home in Northumberland to study at Oxford before moving to London. She’d written poetry throughout her teenage years but her first two published books were novels.

Through her publisher, Jonathan Cape, she met the novelist William Plomer who later proposed marriage. Both of them knew this was not a romantic proposal. William Plomer was English but had grown up in South Africa so felt like an outsider. He thought a marriage to Lilian would be a route into acceptability and possibly a cover for his sexuality. At the time, Lilian was in love with someone else. She and William remained friends so her rejection must have been a gentle one.

In 1939 she became a sponsor for two Czech brothers enabling them to travel by Kinderstransport to England. Initially she placed them with a friend but then moved them to a farm where they could be with other Kindertransport children and speak their own language whilst learning English. She kept in touch with both until her death. Lilian also assisted Anna Freud’s Hampstead Nurseries for war traumatised children. Lilian’s assistance was mostly likely financial because she was busy putting her first aid and nursing skills to use elsewhere.

She left Kensington in 1941 and moved to Stepney in London’s East End. During the Blitz she’d visit bombed houses, offering immediate first aid to survivors while waiting for ambulances to arrive. There were no official air raid shelters in London and most Londoners used Tube stations or Tilbury Goods Depot, which fell into disuse and has since been demolished to pave way for modern flats. Tilbury had no facilities so earth buckets were used. Conditions were damp, cramped and dark. Fights for space were common until a ticking system was introduced.

Lilian also did voluntary work at a nursery based in a church hall on what was then Great Garden Street. The children were among London’s poorest. Their fathers and older brothers had been drafted into the military. Their mothers or guardians were queuing to buy food, taking in laundry or sewing work and trying to grow vegetables and look after chickens in small back yards. The children had also witnessed the aftermath of bombing raids and experienced bereavement. The nursery’s primary function was to give these children space to be children and a brief respite from war. With very limited facilities, the activities offered were often of imaginary role play. In her article for “Orion”, Lilian describes a game where the children, having spent time chasing each other around the hall, were encouraged to quieten down by pretending to be a flower.

MIMICKING A SNOWDROP
(Playgroup London 1944)

Minnie pulls her arms tight to her sides,
bows her head and stares at the floor,
wishing her thin dress was less grubby.
She senses the rumble of bombers.
She bites her lip, tucks her chin closer:
can’t cry in front of the boys.
She remembers the handkerchief fluttering
amongst the rubble of her aunt’s house,
where she used to have to take her shoes off
and promise not to touch the ornaments
so she’d look at the photo of auntie in a long, white dress
when auntie would say, “It starts with you
unbuttoning his shirt and ends with you ironing it.
See yourself doing it for the next forty years,
before you even think about saying yes.”
Minnie had snatched the handkerchief,
looked up the embroidered flower in a book at school,
wished she had time for delicate stitching
instead of sewing sheets edges to middle.
Swore if she saw one in bloom before her January birthday,
next year would be better.

Mimicking a Snowdrop is available from Thynks Publications.

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“Away from the Dead” Karen Jennings (Holland Park Press) – book review

Away from the Dead Karen Jennings book cover

“Away from the Dead” is a collection of fifteen short stories. Each is clearly located in South Africa and each explores a different facet of life in South Africa so although each is written with a minimalist, light touch, using few but necessary words to enable readers to picture the setting and the characters, no two stories feature the same topic even if similar themes emerge.

The title story focuses on a farm worker forced to leave his home and the graveyard where his wife is buried to search for work where he is no longer required and his age counts against him. He is forced to decide whether to stay in poverty or move away in the hope of finding work. Age also emerges as a theme in “Making Challah” but this time the focus is on an ageing woman with the baking an extended metaphor for her life and need to keep rituals going. The darker sides of South African society are explored in “On the Train” where a young man is returning home after committing murder, “From Dark” which shines a spotlight on illegal mining, “Allotment” where a couple struggle to survive in a zinc shack in the shadow of new stadium being built for the World Cup and “Andries Tatane” who dies during a protest in Ficksburg. The darkest story is Mia’s. “In the Shark” sees her yearning to temporarily throw off her caring responsibilities and see this magnificent shark the fishermen boast and tell tales about. The shark is also a metaphor for darker desires as it circles the fishing village and draws Mia to a course of action that destroys her sense of self.

In each story, the characters are in three dimensions and live on long after the story is finished. Readers feel the huge sense of loss and need for closure of Emily Louw whose husband left to find work but never returned. When she reports him missing to the police, the officer regards her and implies he’s not surprised her husband left when he looks at the poor sight of her, nursing a newborn, shredded by anxiety and barefoot. A young couple struggle to build a relationship when their expectations differ: she expects lavish gifts and him to have thought of everything while he wants simple pleasures and her company when their planned picnic is rained off. It’s hard not to feel for Alletjie who scrapes by from keeping goats and chickens and receiving her brother’s disability grant while her alcoholic husband and brother do nothing and she dreams of turning their hand to mouth existence into a life.

Karen Jennings’ stories explore and develop these themes, using credible characters in realistic settings simply making the best of their lot. She does not moralise or tell the reader what to think. Overall the impression is that South Africa is still trying to find its way post-Apartheid, to process its history and work towards peace. Progress is being made however it is still a very uneven, unequal society. But not without ambition to make change, just as most of her characters are motivated to move towards a better life or at least make the best of their situation. Whilst the stories in “Away from the Dead” deal with the darker aspects of South Africa society, they are not without hope and suggest a society in transition.

Away from the Dark” is available from Holland Park Press

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“Species” Mark Burnhope (Nine Arches Press) – poetry review

Species Mark Burnhope book coverMark Burnhope is also known as a disability campaigner, challenging ableist attitudes as well as the purely medical model of disability, tackled in poems such as “Am I DisAbled” and “A Self-Diagnosis Questionnaire”. His poems are not to be written off as sloganeering. “I Still Recoil at the Smell of Fast Mustard” recalls a true event where a drunk woman pushes a hamburger into his face after a night’s clubbing after saying she didn’t know people like that went clubbing. The poem doesn’t ask for sympathy but shows readers why addressing such attitudes is key.

Unsurprisingly Atos is also a target. Atos are the commercial organisation who won the government’s contract to carry out the Work Capability Assessments, which have been deservedly criticised and found in the High Court to discriminable against people with mental health conditions (although this decision is being appealed). The most controversial aspect has been the discovery that Atos had targets to increase the numbers of people being assessed as “fit for work” and the high level of successful appeals against these assessments. Mark Burnhope also considers the legacy of the Paralympics, in the sequence “Paralympic Lessons: the Atosonnets”, in “Preliminary #3” (the sequence works through preliminary rounds, quarter and semi-finals, etc).

.“                                     even as you light a candle

for every Atos victim, some children themselves.
Tolerate Coldplay during the closing ceremony,
random cavalry choirs, singing para, para, para…

Lift hymns. Some will try to disable you further
for it. Ignore: finally impairment fills the sky.

With your seated soul-kid, say: He has one leg,
he must be an athlete. Hit the point dead-centre.”

The triumph over adversity stories are uplifting but not much use when every day involves adversity and discrimination. Singling out Coldplay’s “Paradise” might seem nit-picking, but when faced with constant ableism, you do become sensitive to others’ insensitivity. No one would ever say when looking at the crowd in a football or athletics stadium, “he must be a sportsman”. The attitudes are illustrated and questioned but don’t tell readers what to think. “Taxonomical” has been read as part of the disability series, but it can also be read as a break-up poem,

“We labelled aspects of our house
with collective nouns: idle of sofas, gleam
of lamps, sympathy of teaspoons,
as zoologists do.

When she left me, I willed every day
to scuttle back under the gravel, gathered
a grievance of takeout menus,
had a man fling a fold
of furniture into a van
.                             and move me
to a flat in a town
overrun with one man flats

wherein I released the idles, gleams,
sympathies, grievances, folds – resolved
to call the rest by my own names.”

It’s not a mournful poem though, there’s a resilience in the final line. Mark Burnhope’s scope is far wider than just disability activism. His poems are crafted and those written in traditional or new forms demonstrate an understanding not just of the rules of the form but also the spirit. There’s a series of abnominals, which use the letters of the dedicatee’s name at least once in each stanza in a twenty line long poem beginning and ending by addressing the dedicatee with the title being an anagram of their name. “A Dab-Toothed Grin Virus” is dedicated to naturalist David Attenborough and ends

“That shit hasn’t died. Those trends, traditions,
He set. Our revisionist brings a threat to bathos.

In his bright irreverent demeanour. An adder but
No bite – nearer to god, and other gravid designs.”

David Attenborough was also a pioneer of TV programming – he not only brought wildlife films onto the screen but understood how to use the medium to ensure the wildlife were the stars of the show and creating a model that many wildlife documentaries still follow. The form of the poem follows its sense and creates a picture of its dedicatee. Mark Burnhope writes of wildlife too. There’s a sequence, “fragments from The First Week of the World: the Herpetological Bible”, focusing on the leopard gecko. in “Day Five”

“A crack and a shriek. She flickers away.
Awakened from sleep, she flickers away.

A branch or a leaf, a bat or a bird.
The leopard is meek. She flickers away.

A wind in the brush, a bray in the herd?
A step and a creep. She flickers away.

The gathering guns a thorn in her side.
Unable to weep, she flickers away.

Afghanistan play. Afghanistan hide.
Afghanistan seek. She flickers away.”

It’s recognisably a ghazal, just as the subject is recognisably a gecko. It moves from natural observation to political without altering a beat because it takes advantage of a form where the couplets need not be related but keep a structure of rhyme/repetition.

Mark Burnhope’s poems demonstrate craft and sensibility to their vocabulary, form, rhythms and sound patterns which complement and reinforce their message. He intelligently explores identity, disability and otherness without didacticism and tempers anger with wryness.

“Species” is available from Nine Arches Press here.

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“Trust in Me” Sophie McKenzie (Simon and Schuster) – novel review

Trust in Me

Livy, turning up for a pre-arranged lunch date, lets herself into her best friend Julia’s flat and discovers Julia’s body. Julia’s family are satisfied that Julia took her own life – there were no signs of a break-in or struggle and fatal levels of Nembutal in Julia’s system plus a note on her laptop, which had been left on. However, Livy suspects foul play. She is not in denial, but keenly aware that Julia’s strength of character and attitude towards life rules suicide out as an option. Julia’s mother arranges a lacklustre funeral designed to wrap up the tragedy. However, at the funeral, Livy meets Julia’s boyfriend who also doesn’t believe Julia would have taken her own life.

Livy lets herself into Julia’s apartment – they both have keys to each other’s homes in case of emergencies. The police have taken Julia’s laptop, but not her appointments diary. Livy can’t find any other clues. Julia had made an appointment to meet a Shannon in a local night club. Livy goes in Julia’s place, but Shannon makes a quick exit before Livy can find out what the meeting was about. Leaving the club, Livy bumps into Julia’s boyfriend Damian and they move on to a pub. During their conversation it quickly becomes apparent that they both agree Julia’s death wasn’t suicide and both want answers so agree to team up. Damian tells Livy that Julia had turned detective and was trying to solve Kara’s murder.

Kara was Livy’s younger sister who was raped and murdered while at university. Julia blamed herself because Kara went to a party that Julia was supposed to go to and Julia feels if she’d been there, Kara’s death wouldn’t have happened. Livy and her family never blamed Julia. The murder was never solved. Damian tells Livy that Julia had solved the case but wanted to talk to Livy before going to the police. Livy points out that there were no files in Julia’s apartment and the police have her laptop so they have no way of reviewing what Julia had discovered.

Between them, they work out Shannon worked for a honey-trap agency where clients engaged employees to make a date with husbands or boyfriends suspected of cheating. Livy has the perfect set up to get an appointment at the agency. Her husband, Will, had had an affair with a colleague. After much soul-searching, Livy had decided to forgive him, largely for the sake of their two pre-teenage children. So they concoct a story that Livy will say she thinks Will might be cheating again and Damian will barge in to create a scene hopefully giving Livy chance to find out who Julia had engaged to be a honey trap for. Their plan works and they learn two things. Shannon no longer works at the agency and Julia had hired her to trap Will.

On a visit to Julia’s mother, to hand over Julia’s keys and get her keys back, Livy learns that Julia’s mother has burnt Julia’s things including notebooks and her laptop which have been left in the bin bags just off the drive. Julia’s mother accuses Livy of stealing an emerald and diamond ring from Julia’s apartment. Livy denies stealing. After the exchange of keys, Livy leaves, shoving the bin bags in the boot of her car as she does so. Back home, she and Damian try to go through the bin bag contents to see what they can find. Damian thinks the laptop’s hard drive might be salvageable but the remaining embers don’t reveal much. Later, when Damian’s left, Livy sticks his name in a search engine but can’t find anything about him, the results only link to people with the same name.

Livy decides she has to ask Will about Julia’s honey trap. Will reacts angrily, accusing her of not trusting him and denying that Shannon had approached him. While he is at work, Livy gets a call from his manager’s wife who tells her that Will has reignited the affair he had previously. Livy has no reason not to trust what the manager’s wife tells her. Livy searches through Will’s things, trying to find any evident of this affair. Finding none, she puts a load of laundry in the washing machine and discovers she’s out of washing powder. Going to the garage to get more, she realises that the garage makes a perfect hiding place because she rarely goes there. She decides to search. Hidden in a tool box Livy finds Julia’s emerald and diamond ring.

Devastated by her discovers, Livy now has to decide who she can trust. Is Will lying when he denies his affair and how did he get Julia’s ring? Can Damian be trusted to help her prove Julia’s death wasn’t suicide? Can she find Shannon and, if so, can Shannon tell her why Julia hired her to trap Will? Can she trust her own instincts and uncover what Julia found out about Kara’s death?

Layered amongst Livy’s detective work are chapters from Kara’s murderer’s viewpoint, although he is not identified until Livy figures it out. Kara is not his first victim but the one he is most proud of. Like most serial killers, he has a box of mementoes taken from his victims. When he realises that Livy is close to finding out who Julia had identified as Kara’s killer, he decides to make plans for Livy’s death before she works out who he is.

Livy is entirely engaging and sympathetic as someone who’d overcome her sister’s murder, settled into the role of wife and stay at home mother to two children, Hannah just coming up to teenage and Zack is younger, deciding to stay with Will after his affair to give their marriage a second chance. The twists and turns of the plot keep readers guessing and drawn to make the same mistake as Julia. In “Trust in Me” Sophie McKenzie has written a pacey, page-turning thriller that explores a reader’s darkest fears that you may not be able to trust your closest friends and partners when the worst happens, the murder of someone close.

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“The Way You Look Tonight” Richard Madeley (Simon and Schuster) – book review

The Way You Look Tonight Richard Madeley Book Cover

Stella Arnold, first class psychology student, is staying with American family friends for the summer before taking up a place at Smith College in 1962. The family friends are academics, one of whom has written speeches for John F Kennedy and has the opportunity to introduce Stella to him. The meeting is serendipitous because the Kennedys have a political headache in the shape of a serial killer operating in the Florida Keys who is targeting young women. Not only does the local governor want to stop the killings but is also concerned about the effect on the tourist trade and local economy because these will affect his ability to be re-elected. Stella is drafted in as an advisory assistant to the FBI to help draw a psychological profile of the killer.

Stella has a strong personal interest in studying psychopaths. Her biological father was one. Just before the Second World War, her parents married hurriedly because her father was in the Royal Air Force. His plane was shot down over France and he was presumed dead. However, Stella’s mother found him years later. He’d carved out a career as an extortionist and murderer. As part of his scheme to buy his way into a French criminal family, he kidnapped Stella, then aged ten, until her maternal grandfather came to the rescue. In self-defence, her grandfather had killed her father. Stella’s interest was partly triggered by wanting to understand what made her father act in this way and partly by concerns that she may have inherited some of her father’s psychopathy.

Interspersed with Stella’s story are chapters from the killer’s viewpoint. Through these readers learn that he’s a taxi driver who drives a nail into one of his victim’s car tyres then follows her so he can offer to help when she stops to deal with a slow puncture. He kills by stabbing and dumps the body near a beach, usually leaving the murder weapon stuck in one of the victim’s eyes. He buys a new knife every time he plans to kill. He developed a taste for killing whilst serving for the army in the Korean war. Typically he enjoys the feeling he’s smarter than the police and follows newspaper reports when a body is discovered.

The FBI agent, Lee Foster, soon discovers that Stella’s no pretty pushover. She may be young but her academic credentials are impeccable and she doesn’t hesitate to stand up for herself. It’s not long before she works out the killer is a taxi driver. She also figures that the killer’s escaped by boat when police roadblocks limit the killer’s options. Discovery of the boat narrows the search to the Keys. Stella returns to start her term at college, still tending the flame of a nascent romance with Lee Foster. An invitation to a White House reception follows because politicians believe the killer has been identified and it’s now a simple case of catching him. The reception is postponed due to the Cuba missile crisis.

However, the press has published a photograph of Stella, the English rose advising the FBI. The killer knows what she looks like and who she is. More chillingly, she fits the profile of his victims. In wanting to celebrate her success and keep their careers on track, the politicians have put Stella’s life in danger. Lee Foster and the police department still think this is a simple case of tracing and finding the killer. Readers know that the killer actually plans to capture and crucify Stella. When she fails to turn up for a press conference, Lee Foster knows she’s been captured. But can he find her before the killer puts his plan into action?

“The Way You Look Tonight” gambles that the reader is prepared to suspend disbelief at the incredible coincidence of Stella’s arrival and connections to the Kennedys but this is merely a device to get the story started and Richard Madeley’s storytelling abilities soon overcome this. The book also gives the impression that the author is a little in love with Stella: occasionally she’s just too perfect. Although “The Way You Look Tonight” follows on from “Someday I’ll Find You”, it also reads as a stand alone novel.

However, Richard Madeley is a natural storyteller with a gift for timing. His killer’s background gives his motives credibility. He targets women because he thinks they’re weaker and more compliant not for sexual reasons. His weakness is his perceived invincibility. Lee Foster is engaging as a young, jaded agent tired from a previous case when he’s pulled in to work on the Keys Killer but finding interest in his job is rekindled as Stella ignites his passionate side. He remains professional though, not allowing love to cloud his judgment. His respect for Stella influences the team he’s working with. A great story to read for distraction from a chilly, damp late summer’s evening.

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