Book Review: Death by Dangerous by Olly Jarvis

Death by DangerousWhat’s it about?

Death by Dangerous is a compelling legal thriller set in Manchester and Bradford.

John Anderson is one of the North West’s most dedicated and successful prosecution barristers. His career is going from strength to strength and he is on the verge of becoming Queen’s Counsel. But the life he once knew suddenly comes crashing down following a fatal road traffic accident…



My thoughts

Regular readers will know I love a good legal thriller and I’m pleased to say I loved this book!

I’m a huge John Grisham fan and love American legal thrillers so I thought this book might be overshadowed by my expectations with it being UK based also. I needn’t have worried because this book didn’t disappoint and has everything I want in a legal thriller.

‘They’ say you should write about what you know and it’s quite clear that the author really knows his profession as I totally believed everything that was happening.  Each chapter has something going on of relevance and I never felt that they were just fillers.

There’s a great cast of characters; some to love and some to despise. I think Adey was my favourite as she reminded me of Kulinda from my fave show The Good Wife; gutsy and prepared to do almost anything to get to the truth which is not always on the right side of the law!

There’s sufficient police and legal procedure to ensure you understood what was happening and believable but without making it boring and is full of the pomp and circumstance of the English legal system that you’d expect (caps, gowns, wigs etc).

My only small minor teeny weeny concern is that some may be consider one of the suspects a little stereotypical and cliché but overall it works.

I hope to read more from Olly Jarvis and about his characters Anderson & Hussain as this debut was fast paced and tense with likeable characters and unpredictable twists…nothing else to say except give it a go!

Many thanks to Olly for sending me a copy for review purposes (although I did purchase a Kindle copy because I couldn’t get on with the pdf)

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Book Review: Theodore Boone; The Activist by John Grisham

Theodore Boone The ActivistWhat’s it about?

Theodore Boone, young lawyer, has had a lot to deal with in his thirteen years, everything from kidnapping to murder.

But he’s come through it all and, with the law on his side, justice has always prevailed.

Sometimes, though, the law doesn’t seem so just. His friend Hardie Quinn is about to have his family home bulldozed to make way for a bypass. Hardie is not the only one affected: other homes, businesses and schools lie in the path of the road. Theo has to tell his friend the bad news: for once, the law isn’t on his side, and there’s very little anyone can do to end the destruction.

Theo joins the campaign to stop the road. But when he stumbles on a terrible secret about the corrupt men behind the plan – a secret it is illegal for him to know – Theo must figure out how to keep the developers from breaking the law… without breaking it himself.

My thoughts

Having now read the 4th book in the Theodore Boone series I’m up to date with these. I know this series is targeted at younger teens but that doesn’t necessarily other age ranges won’t enjoy it. However, on this occasion I feel that the YA audience will be more appreciative; I found it a litle condescending with an incredibly rushed, predictable ending.

At one point I’d read 197 pages out of 289 and Theo hadn’t become an ‘activist’ and then it was like he became one overnight. Theo’s actually turning out to be an irritating right know-it-all and I hope John Grisham writes a book in the future where Theo is an adult and loses all his legal cases (bitter I know!)

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Book Review: The Children Act by Ian McEwan

The Children ActWhat’s it about?

Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge, presiding over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now, her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.

At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: for religious reasons, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, Adam, is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents share his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely held faith? In the course of reaching a decision Fiona visits Adam in hospital – an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.

My thoughts

This was our book club choice for November and having not read Ian McEwan before, I was looking forward to trying a new author. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s one I’ll read again.

In this book, Ian McEwan dissects a judicial career alongside a long-standing marriage over 5 loooong chapters. Fiona has really made it in her career but at what personal cost and sacrifices? In between the falling apart of her marriage, we’re privy to the cases that she is presiding over, all of which have some kind of moral or ethical dilemma; any of which would have made for interesting reading but McEwan concentrates on the case of a teenage Jehovah’s Witness refusing a blood transfusion and the relationship she forms with the patient and the professional dilemma that ensues.

It’s a highly intelligent, well written novel but it all felt so cold and clinical, and I found it really hard to warm to any of the characters. I found Jack to be completely arrogant, expecting that his wife of considerable years would be ok with him going off to have an affair. They were both as equally as frustrating in that they couldn’t communicate with each other and therefore their marriage lacked the passion they both still seemed to crave.

There are some parts that I would question the believability – I wasn’t entirely convinced that a judge of Fiona’s standing would visit the hospital and she would engage in the singing that she did – a minor point though.

Overall, an interesting view into judicial matters from an author who obviously knows his stuff, but slow and boring in places as it concentrates heavily on description; however it made for a very lively and interesting reading group discussion.

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Book Review: Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty

Apple Tree YardWhat’s it about?BBC 2014

Yvonne Carmichael has worked hard to achieve the life she always wanted: a high-flying career in genetics, a beautiful home, a good relationship with her husband and their two grown-up children.

Then one day she meets a stranger at the Houses of Parliament and, in the dark, secret corners of London, begins an impulsive and passionate affair with him-a decision that will put everything she values at risk. At first she believes she can keep the relationship separate from the rest of her life, but a life-changing act of violence sends Yvonne’s carefully crafted plans into a downward spiral of deceit, betrayal, and murder.

My thoughts

I’ve been meaning to read this book for ages and have only just got round it and now I wish I’d read it sooner.

At the start of the novel, it feels very much like the end as we seem to be in the midst of a court case but without any details. All is revealed as the time line flips back and forth between the court case and the events which lead up to it.

One of the first things I noticed is that no names are mentioned until the end of the book, Yvonne’s lover being only referred to as X until almost the end of the book. I found X/Liam to be quite manipulative of Yvonne but she was only too happy to be swept along with the excitement of it all; albeit completely oblivious to the consequences.

Told in the first person from Yvonne’s point of view what starts as a chance encounter leads to a passionate affair with devastating consequences. Yvonne comes across as quite normal, relatable, a highly respected scientist who later finds herself jointly accused of a joint enterprise crime. I loved all the legal stuff, and all the court room drama – it’s pretty tense stuff and what seems to be a good insight into criminal proceedings.

Although the pace is quite slow, it’s the kind of book that still has the abilty to make you keep reading and with an ending that came totally out of the blue for me…didn’t see that coming! Just goes to show you never know what goes on behind closed doors…or even outside them!

Overall, a really well written, highly charged story of deceit, infidelity and their consequences. I loved it! 🙂

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Book Review: Sycamore Row by John Grisham

Sycamore RowWhat’s it about?

Jake Brigance has never met Seth Hubbard, or even heard of him, until the old man’s suicide note names him attorney for his estate. The will is dynamite. Seth has left ninety per cent of his vast, secret fortune to his housemaid.

The vultures are circling even before the body is cold: the only subject more incendiary than money in Ford County is race, and this case has both.

As the relatives contest the will, and unscrupulous lawyers hasten to benefit, Jake searches for answers to the many questions left by Seth Hubbard’s death:

What made him write that last-minute will leaving everything to a poor black woman named Lettie Lang?

Why did he choose to kill himself on the desolate piece of land known as Sycamore Row?

And what was it that Seth and his brother witnessed as children that, in his words, ‘no human should ever see’?

My thoughts

Regular readers of my blog will know that I’m a massive Grisham fan and none of the adult targeted books will ever receive less than 5 stars from me and for us Grisham fans we had to wait 20 years for this sequel – so was it worth it I hear you ask?

Set only 3 years after the big Hailey trial of A Time to Kill we’re back in the Deep South of Clanton, Mississippi with a contested will case and we welcome back familiar characters in Jake and his family but also in his friends and colleagues – glad to see the return of Lucien Wilbanks, I think he’s a great character and also Ozzie and Harry Rex.

Jake’s situation doesn’t seem to have improved much, his family are still recovering from the loss of their house, their dog and are the fighting insurance company for money…overall Jake’s success with the Hailey case doesn’t seem to have helped his career or personal life that well.

There’s 2 real themes running throughout – will the will be deemed valid and what event did Seth and his brother see. The latter not really taking a major part in the plotline until almost the very end of the book. Of course I had and you will have your suspicions along the way, I was wrong by the way (again!). It’s also still very much black vs white, race relations have not moved on at all and the end brings about a particularly difficult scene to read.

Once the preliminaries of  the suicide are discovered and dealt with, much of the book is very legal orientated, discovery, jury selection and location of beneficiaries.  There’s a lot of characters in this book, potentially too many but Grisham manages effortlessly to give them all their own piece of the action. Even all the over the top, ostentatious lawyers who all want to jump on the money band-wagon and I love it when they get put in their place by Judge Atlee – who by the way, must have broken I don’t know how many legal procedural rules throughout the trial.

I enjoyed this sequel but I didn’t feel it packed quite the punch that A Time to Kill did. There’s a lot of money at stake but it’s not a man’s life and I think that’s why it’s a little less tense, you don’t care whether the kids get a share because they’re not particularly nice. However, it still manages to deliver the dramatic courtroom scenes especially when the jury delivers their verdict.

You don’t need to have read A Time to Kill to read this, it could be read as a standalone even though there are significant references to A Time to Kill throughout, but if you haven’t you really should.

Overall, not the best Grisham, one that probably needed a few less pages but he does the details well!

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