And so I’ve finished reading another two books, look you see. If a tradition has formed around this then it is tradition which dictates some reviews from me. Well, I don’t know if they are reviews as such, more musings if not observations.
So as usual, then, a look at the books which have been read, followed by some quick, spoiler free overview comments. And then the business end, which may contain spoilers.
The Hanging Club by Tony Parsons is a quick, tight and mostly good thriller. It’s the third to feature DCI Max Wolfe and the second one I have read. Black Water Lilies is the second book by Michel Bussi to be translated into English. It’s a murder mystery story that doesn’t quite fall into the “thriller” category. That said, it is one of the finest, most involving and interesting novels I have encountered.
If you’ve been interested in either and were wondering, stop reading this. Go and grab either or both and enjoy, if my opinion is of any validity or influence in such things. From here on out, for the most part, consider a *** SENSATIONAL SPOILER WARNING *** to be in place about the books.
As ever, any links below are purely for ease of reference or ordering, no matter where you are in the world. Thus far I have managed to resist the temptation to switch advertising on here, so links are not a form of affiliation, endorsement or otherwise from me.
The Hanging Club by Tony Parsons. The provenance of my copy, going on the sticker which seems to be on both books, is Tesco. Strangely, though, whilst they are part of a ₤7 for 2 promotion I am convinced I bought them on separate occasions.
Plot? DCI Max Wolfe is pretty much as I left him in the first novel to have him in. He combines being a single parent with his career. This career usually sees him having to investigate and solve serious and seemingly unsolvable crimes. In this instance, a vigilante group has taken to kidnapping and hanging men who have served time for crimes. Popular opinion is on the side of this vigilante group. This makes Max Wolfe’s job tricky, as he is hunting down a group that has become public heroes. Not helping is his own impulsive drive to seek justice outside of the law he is sworn to obey.
As I have said in the past on this blog, I have a lot of time for Tony Parsons purely because he is a very knowledgeable man when it comes to A Clockwork Orange. He’s also, bar none, the UK’s finest tabloid journalist. Maybe you interpret that as a dig or a slur, but I do not intend it as one. What I rather mean is he knows how to make a big emotive impact within a taunt and tight controlled amount of text.
This serves to make the novel possibly one of the more controversial, if not dangerous, I have encountered. Parsons presses the buttons. You, just as the London public represented in the text, come to overtly or covertly have admiration for the vigilante group and wonder if they don’t have a very good point. This comes at the expense of a loss for sympathy for the narrator, or if you like protagonist. A bold move.
Much of this book screams “brutal and celebrated 80s ITV cop drama miniseries”. With television always looking for constabulary related source material for audiences it’s only a matter of time before this, if not all the Max Wolfe books, get snapped up in the rights sense of things. I have little doubt Parsons has had this in mind, and that’s no bad thing.
But of course Tony Parsons presents Tony Parsons in many areas of the novel. I am certain it is no accident that the biographical elements of Max Wolfe echo the real life of the author. And I would be all but certain that the recurring journalist character, Scarlet Bush, is a not even close to thinly veiled reference to Julie Burchill. Write what you know is the advice always given to authors, so there you go.
Why have I read only 1 and 3 of the Max Wolfe novels? I never saw 2 on sale. This, I suspect, is mostly due to the cigarette counter at Morrisons not stocking books any more, and me not being near Tesco or similar when it came out. Perhaps one day I will get it. These two, mercifully, have been self-contained despite the recurring characters.
Black Water Lilies. The provenance of my copy is establish in the above, and so I shall waste no time on that subject save for this sentence.
Plot? A murder occurs in the small, peaceful village of Giverny. This village is known for being the home of Monet, and the source of inspiration for his celebrated paintings. Certain aspects of the murder seem to echo Monet’s work, and indeed the impact he had on making sure the village appeared as it did. In attempting to solve the murder the police must first find a motive. This is no easy thing, as many yet also no possibilities seem to exist for this. Could it, however, all relate to a mythical, final painting by Monet, one believed to feature the black water lilies of the title of the novel?
I first encountered Michel Bussi when I gave the first novel of his, After The Crash, a go. From what I remember I didn’t give that novel all that a great review. And yet here I am, a year if not more later, remembering After The Crash a lot. Whilst reading that felt like it took some endurance, the story and twist of it has remained with me.
Not so here. Black Water Lilies is just sheer excellence. As my regular readers will know I’ve read quite a few novels of various natures and I can quite honestly say that this is one of the finest I have ever had the pleasure of reading.
The frustration is that I can’t say too much, less I give away a very genuine and brilliant sequence of twists. No, you absolutely do not “see it coming” and no, it is not absurd. Genius, is what it is.
Perhaps the best I can do is say that as a novel this is an engaging and engrossing story, wonderful to read and, indeed, very difficult to put down. Credit, perhaps, to the translator of this novel, but I’d like to think the bulk of praise should always remain with the author.
How very splendid to have taken a chance on two novels and both turned out to be very good reads. Well, yes, the Parsons was a calculated chance, but Michel Bussi was something of a risk. On to the next books, then, and hopefully something of a good luck streak continues.
With good fortune these comments or if you like reviews have been of some use to someone out there!
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!