Has anyone heard of Shadow Man?

This weekend, the Times "Knowledge" section (the weekly arts events and TV listings) carried a full-page ad inside the front cover for "Shadow Man" by Cody McFadyen. "Some thrillers care you witless. Very few make you cry. Only this one will do both".  The book is "crime booksellers’ choice at Waterstone’s" and priced at £3.99 (RRP £6.99).  "Coldly, stunningly brilliant. Move over Thomas Harris", writes Lisa Gardner on the cover. (Neither name a hugely enticing recommendation as far as I am concerned.)

Has anyone heard of this book or the author? Any views? New one on me on both counts, I think. I wonder why this particular book is getting this particular treatment — you don’t very often get a book featured in this prime slot that isn’t in the "mega seller Stephen King" category.

Here’s the link to the UK Amazon entry (sorry Waterstone’s), where the book is also priced at £3.99.

Cocktail Party Physics

Link: TypePad Featured Blogs: Cocktail Party Physics.

I was surprised to see this blog on the Typepad featured blogs list — not sure why, but I didn’t think cocktail party physics would be a top seller in blog terms. I’m not sure what to make of Jennifer Ouellette’s blog, "Tales of the Buffyverse" (physics of, you guessed it, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and various postings being rather too hip for a staid type like me. Actually she’s not a physicist by educational origins either, which probably accounts for why her blog is so trendy:  "I’m a former English major turned science writer, through serendipitous accident: I stumbled into writing about physics, drifted further and further into the field, then woke up one day and exclaimed, "Hey! I’m a science writer!" It was a life-changing epiphany. You know how people look for love by making a list of everything they desire in a mate, and then fall for someone who has NONE of those traits? That’s my career in a nutshell……. I share my blog space with Faux-French avatar/alter-ego (some might say Evil Twin) Jen-Luc Piquant, the tres chic hostess who presides over Cocktail Party Physics with a suitably jaundiced eye and cool panache. "

Well — pancreases, cocktail parties, it’s all happening in the world of science these days. Oh, and while I am on science, I’ve been reading a lot about the latest IPCC report on global climate, some of it, frankly, rubbish; more will be written about the topic in the next days and weeks as people share their prejudices and preconceptions with everyone else. For what it is worth, my advice is, go to Real Climate and believe what you read there.

A Good Samaritan

Link: Horganism: My Christian Savior.

John Horgan’s meeting with a modern-day Good Samaritan leaves me humbled. I spend too much of my weekend driving children from A to B and back to A for no benefit to myself apart from my relief that they want to go somewhere, anywhere. But to help out a complete stranger in this way? I fear I would not be so heroic. I have certainly missed my stop in the same way as John Horgan before now, though — most usually by being absorbed in a book. It is easier to do on the Underground than on the regular train, I find.

Bone Machine reviewed at Eurocrime

Here’s a copy of my review of Martyn Waites’ latest paperback, first published on Eurocrime:

Waites, Martyn – ‘Bone Machine’
Paperback: 496 pages (Jan. 2007) Publisher: Pocket Books ISBN: 1416502238

In THE MERCY SEAT, Martyn Waites gave us Newcastle Noir: the seamy depths of the city of the "Get Carter" tour, the Lords of Soccer and the famous brown ale, experienced through the eyes of damaged journalist Joe Donovan. Bone Machine is Donovan’s second outing. He’s recovered from the despair of the loss of his missing young son to the extent that he’s set up an agency, Albion, with the characters we met in the last book: Peta the black-belt private detective, Amar the recreational druggie, Jamal the runaway boy, and Sharkey the lawyer, who nobody likes very much but who provides Donovan with work and the book with its various plot elements. Policewoman Diane Natrass and her team also reappear.

The plot is hard-boiled noir all the way through: Serbian white slave-traders; girls going missing and turning up horribly mutilated; a chief suspect, Michael Nell, given to S&M with willing partners – no genre standard is left out. The action starts when Albion is hired by the solicitor acting for Nell to prove his alibi before the police can fit him up. At the same time, Donovan has rescued Katya, a young Serbian woman who has been forced into prostitution by the local Mr Big. What follows is an interleaving plot featuring lots of lowlife, pimps and prostitutes, people-smugglers, and various likely candidates for the Historian, the warped murderer of an increasing number of missing girls.

If you like pulp fiction, you’ll like this book. It plays by the rules and pulls no punches in the gradual uncovering of the motivations and roles of the players. It is suitably gruesome and nasty for those that like that kind of thing. However, I found it rather mechanical and the story elements a predictable collection of themes – some of them not convincing even within the rather comic-book (or should I say "graphic novel"?) ambience. The Albion team don’t seem to do very much except work on one particular case or experience various personal crises – when a character is not "on page", I can’t imagine what they are doing apart from waiting to come on stage again to play his or her part in the main story.

Despite this flatness, there are some good moments, particularly the twist when we discover the identity of "Mr Big". The parts of the book I found most natural and successful are those concerning Joe’s lost son. The book ends with a real punch of a cliffhanger – quite predictable but no less effective for that, and probably ensuring that readers will want to return for the next instalment.

Originally published on Eurocrime. Check out Eurocrime — the best resource for European crime-fiction I’ve yet discovered. Links to authors’ sites, specially written reviews by Eurocrime’s expert team (;-) ), links to reviews in other publications, author news, awards and lots more. Well done to Karen Meek for putting together such a great site.