Category Archives: Crime


Orangeboy is just as good as everyone said. Patrice Lawrence has written about being young and black, and male, in London today, without making it.., I was going to say ‘too grim’ but it obviously is grim. Just not in the way it could have been, given its topic.

16-year-old Marlon, from a good home in north London, can’t believe his luck when beautiful blonde Sonya chooses to go out with him. But you know what they say, if it seems too good to be true, then it probably won’t end well.

Patrice Lawrence, Orangeboy

The date from hell gets its grips into Marlon, who so far has tried hard not to be what his older brother Andre was at the same age, finding that it is rather hard to escape crime and gangs once things have gone wrong.

His mum expects him to revise for his GCSEs, while Marlon finds out far too much about drugs and weapons and the police. And much violence. As a loving son he attempts to protect his mum while adhering to the rules that say you don’t tell, even on your enemies.

And he’s only 16, so maybe has to be excused from using common sense and telling trusted adults what’s going on. He does have a great friend across the road, but she’s also young.

I couldn’t see how this could end well, but felt that it had to, at least partly, without selling out and getting too unbelievably sugary. You just want to read on and on, and the 432 pages melt away as you pray Marlon will be safe.


Until there is more

Tuesday was a long day, but not exclusively due to the book festival.

While you wait for more, here is Lindsey Davis; a ray of sunshine after the rain.

Lindsey Davis

The Secret Seven – Mystery of the Skull

The Secret Seven are back, folks. Enid Blyton doesn’t allow just anyone to pretend to be her and write her books, now that she’s dead, but Pamela Butchart has been given the job we all wanted. Hands up those of you who never attempted to write a Blyton book of your own!

I surprised myself by liking this book very much. The Secret Seven were not my most favourite series, but I reckon I read all or most of the books. Between us my friend next door and I mangled the names of all seven, and it’s odd how quickly I discovered I was again muttering Coolinn and Yuck and all those other exotic English names. Barrbarra. Yahnett. You know.

The Secret Seven - Mystery of the Skull

Anyway, Pamela has created a believable Blyton mystery, with skulls and pineapple upside-down cake and passwords, sneaking out in the middle of the night and having police who come when you need them.

The crime/mystery is fun and relatively simple, the baddies are just the right kind of bad, and oh, those feasts in the shed! I could kill for such a feast, even if I could make the food myself now. It’s jolly, and friendly and exciting.

Illustrations by Tony Ross, naturally, and the publishers are re-issuing the old Secret Seven adventures. I don’t know if more new books are planned, but I’d welcome them if they turn up.

Mystery of the Skull took me straight back to childhood, and what a nice visit it was.

The Power-House

‘It’s very short, has absolutely no plot, and would make a good film.’ That’s roughly how the Resident IT Consultant summarised his first holiday read. And I had wondered, because at 108 pages John Buchan’s The Power-House, from 1913, seemed like a book that would be over before he’d even begun.

John Buchan, The Power-House

On that basis, I decided to have a go too, and was given the blessing that I’d not find it hard to read…

I have a certain fondness for the lives of these [purely fictional?] heroes who go about their lives in the early 20th century with not a worry. They have money and usually a good job – this one is both a lawyer and an MP – and they know everyone and they ‘dine out’ all the time, living in ‘rooms’ with a man to look after them.

This one, Sir Edward Leithen, fancies a holiday in the West Country, so buys a motorcar, employs a driver and off he goes! These men can go travelling at the drop of a hat and they buy whatever they need for their adventures. I have long wondered if there ever were real men like that.

So there is a mystery, which we never really understand, but Leithen takes it upon himself to solve it, and through lots of odd coincidences he ends up deeper and deeper (in shit, as we say these days), until his own safety is at serious risk. It involves Russia, and a wealthy and powerful man in London. Leithen is a bit naïve at times, but good will conquer all.

As short thrillers go, this is pretty thrilling. And yes, apart from there being virtually no women in the story at all, it’d make a really good film. The nice thing about it having been written in 1913 is that John Buchan can’t have had either Hollywood or Hitchcock in mind.

Besides, don’t you just love the kind of set-up where marooned ‘gentlemen’ could simply call in at a respectable house and be taken in and fed and watered and given a bed for the night?

Not glum in Glommen

The pace in Sweden is slower. Not all book festivals have ‘their own’ beach, or the weather in which to enjoy it. Had we brought our swimsuits, that is. As it was, the Resident IT Consultant spent the time in the shade behind a bush on the beach…


Litteraturfestival Glommen had its very first outing yesterday afternoon. Yes, right slap bang in the football match. Not to worry. They merely started an hour earlier to facilitate the buying of books. Not that I did worry, having zilch interest in one of the two things. Guess which one.

Ulrika Larsson

To kick things off – that’s the book festival, obviously – local bookshop owner Ulrika Larsson talked about all 25 authors and their books, only muddling some of the characters and putting them in each other’s books. She’s part of the Larsson dynasty, meaning her father was a student of Mother-of-witch’s, back in the day, and I remember her grandfather from when I was very small.

There were children’s books, and there was crime – book type only – and lots of feelgood novels. That’s the very latest, I believe. Most authors were local, although I confess I didn’t see Lars Kepler, who’d have been very local indeed.

Erika Widell Svernström, Therese Loreskär och Johan Rockbäck

They sold books. They raffled books. There were free chocolates and biscuits and stuff. There was also pay-for buns and cakes along with tea and coffee – served on the shaded and just the right windy verandah with a view of the sea across the road – as well as hot hot dogs. Well, the weather was hot.


Two authors had book launches, and I swear I heard at least one champagne (?) cork flying. Or was it the over-excited pear cider?

Some of the authors had a past on the local paper, Hallandsposten, and I learned about revenge blogs. Just to be safe, I don’t think I’ll engage in that.

Svensk flagga

The Girl Who Got Revenge

George, George… What shall we do with you? You run into danger with scant thought for your safety, and you run from commitment to a man who’s a bit too ‘dense’ to commit back. If it’s OK to call our detective dense?

In this fifth outing for Dr George McKenzie, she’s still using very bad language and falling out ever faster with the people around her. Van Den Bergen doesn’t understand her personal needs because he’s a grandfather with duties. And he has a lorryload of immigrants, one of whom is dead, to deal with.

Plus the unexpected death rate for 95-year-old men in Amsterdam is on the up.

There’s a lot going on here, but gruesome though the deaths are, they are not nearly as bad as they were, even if Marnie Riches still kills and maims quite inventively. Today’s crimes might have something to do with the war, but how?

Marnie Riches, The Girl Who Got Revenge

I made some pretty intelligent guesses as to what and who and how, and I was wrong about every single one. This is good stuff, if you can tolerate the blood and the suffering, and I don’t mean Van Den Bergen’s stomach. (But I have now gone off fruit and veg imports from the Netherlands, rather.)

Have made a note of how to arm myself for those awkward meetings with mass murderers. Thanks, George.

(All five George McKenzie novels are now available as paperbacks. High time they were!)

Childhood covers

Freda M Hurt - Andy books

I didn’t even remember the author’s name – Freda M Hurt – but the books have stayed with me. Especially the ‘rule’ quoted in Andy Gets the Blame, whereby twins don’t save on buying Christmas presents, because while they can share their gifts to others, they still ‘have to’ buy each other a present… Odd how very weird little things remain in one’s mind for half a century.

When hunting these books out again, I was struck by how much like Blyton’s George Kirrin Andy looks, and it’s not surprising since the same cover artist was used, H Baldorf Berg.

The Andy series of books number about ten adventures, from the mid-1950s to the middle of the 1960s. I liked them a lot. I only own two, but will have borrowed others from the library. Trying to find out more, I discovered that they only appear on French Wikipedia, but it seems Freda wrote several children’s books series as well as adult books.

Did anyone else read these?