Thursday, 25 September 2014

Film: A Walk Among The Tombstones

Liam Neeson takes on the role of Private Detective Matt Scudder in this film adaptation of the novel by Lawrence Block.

A fellow addict asks Scudder to speak to his brother regarding a missing person. Turns out that the client isn’t exactly a law abiding citizen and even though he paid the ransom asked for by his wife’s kidnappers, they killed her anyway.

Despite his initial reluctance Scudder takes on the case and follows a trail that eventually leads to a pair of ruthless murderers.

If you aren’t a fan of Neeson then give this a miss as he is in practically every scene and only briefly disappears from view throughout the entire film. Thankfully I enjoy Neeson’s films (Taken and The Gray are recent stand-outs) and he easily carries the film along on it’s atmospheric journey.

I haven’t read the novel but can guess that this film incorporates elements from several books as we get the character’s history and we meet TJ, a local street kid who I’m guessing is a series regular. Maybe someone can confirm or correct my thinking.

Gritty, violent and completely absorbing, A Walk Among The Tombstones only suffers by not providing more of a story for the villains of the piece. Neeson gives a towering performance as Scudder and hopefully this is the beginning of a franchise as I’d be keen to see more of this character.

Catch it in cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.  

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Book: The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones

Stephen Lloyd Jones’ debut novel is a tale of murder, revenge, love and erm Hungarian folklore. The Hozzsu Eletek are a rare breed of people. Blessed / cursed with exceptionally long life they also have the ability to replicate the appearance of any other person. One of their kind is a misguided young man who is eventually outcast and hunted by his own. Desperate and alone Jakab decides to dedicate his long life to tracking down and killing the descendants of those responsible for what he sees as a terrible humiliation and betrayal.

The book jumps between present day, the late seventies and the eighteen hundreds as we follow all the relevant participants in the story. We have a young Jakab, a university lecturer and his daughter Hannah, who along with her family provide the most exciting chapters of the book.

This is quite the epic tale and a bit of a challenge for someone used to regular crime fiction. The challenge was almost too much at times but that was down to the slow pace of some passages, not the quality of the writing, which is superior throughout.

The String Diaries is interesting and entertaining but lacks the tension required to compel the reader to continue with the next chapter, especially when it takes you away from the action.

Give it a try if you fancy something a bit different but be prepared to stretch your imagination.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy      

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Book: The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

Meet eighty year old Edward Shank, former chief of police, highly respected pillar of the community.... and serial killer.
During his police career Shank famously cornered and shot dead a serial killer but unbeknown to anyone it was Shank himself who was the killer known as The Butcher.

Long retired and about to move into an old folks home Shank decides to let his Grandson in on the secret and although his body might not be what it used to be the old man is helpless to prevent the urges which are beginning to return on a frequent basis.

Jennifer Hillier’s first stand-alone thriller delivers an anti-hero unlike any other. Edward “The Chief” Shank is a thoroughly despicable but totally captivating character who completely dominates the book. The supporting cast of grandson Matthew, his girlfriend Sam and detective Sanchez add important elements but when The Chief appears it feels the same as when an acting legend with great screen presence appears in a movie.

In fact, The Butcher is prime movie adaptation material and my ideal choice for the part would be Clint Eastwood. Until that happens make sure you catch this absorbing and unique serial killer story.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Book: The Cold Cold Sea by Linda Huber

A family day out at the beach takes a tragic turn when 3 year old Olivia Granger goes missing. Time passes and with no sign of Olivia she is presumed drowned.

Meanwhile 5 year old Hailey Marshall starts school and her Mother Jennifer couldn’t be any more proud.

As we follow both families it isn’t clear where this story will take us but slowly the horrible truth begins to reveal itself.

Following her impressive début novel, The Paradise Trees, Linda Huber returns with another tension filled tale depicting a young girl in a very worrying situation. As the growing sense of dread builds you anticipate certain things happening, only for events to transpire somewhat differently.

I’m not entirely sure that this sits comfortably under the crime fiction umbrella. Yes, there is a crime being committed, but there is no sign of the hackneyed genre favourites of serial killer and streetwise detective. This is far removed from those types of novels but it is no less entertaining whilst also managing to instil an excruciatingly uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach.

The Cold Cold Sea also gives us a wonderful main character that has you completely emotionally invested in her. I haven’t rooted for a character as much since Thor the dog in Wayne Smith’s story.

With only her second book Linda Huber has written a wonderful tale that puts the reader through the wringer and then drags them back again. Thankfully every suspense filled page is worth it.

The Cold Cold Sea is available now from Legend Press. 

Ric’s Rating: Essential

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Film: The House Of Magic

A stray cat finds its way into a large foreboding house and discovers that there are some very strange residents, and not all of them are welcoming.

After 10 minutes or so of this animated tale I was doubting its suitability for my 6 year old daughter. Nothing seems to go the little cat’s way. He is tossed out of a car, chased by an aggressive dog and then meets a pair of very angry animal inhabitants of the house. Luckily things change for the better when old magician Lawrence discovers the stray and names him Thunder.

Unfortunately Lawrence’s sneaky nephew plans to sell his Uncle’s house so the animal and magical creatures set their differences aside to unite in their efforts to thwart his plan.

There aren't too many laughs for the grown ups here but this charming film should keep under 10’s entertained as they root for Thunder and his gang of oddballs.

The House Of Magic is in UK cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Good.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Film: Homefront

An undercover cop (Jason Statham) retires to the country with his young daughter but the past soon catches up with him in this action thriller scripted by Sylvester Stallone.

A schoolyard dispute escalates into a family dispute and Broker (Statham)  learns that in this town these things are best put to bed as quickly as possible  so he grudgingly apologises to the parents of the other child. Unbeknown to him they have already involved the local drug dealer (James Franco) who finds out that there are some very unsavoury characters on the look out for Broker.

A wonderful supporting cast that includes Clancy Brown, Frank Grillo and Winona Ryder help elevate this above the usual action movie standard. When it all kicks off Statham cements his status as a bona fide action star but he is also competent as the doting Father. Special mention has to go to James Franco who steals the show as the menacing Gator.

With engaging characters, a real sense of dread and some excellent action scenes Homefront is a must-see for any fan of the genre.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended  

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Book: The Nightmare Place by Steve Mosby

Detective Inspector Zoe Dolan is experiencing a recurring dream that gives her the strange feeling that something awful is coming. This is happening while she is working on a troubling case. There is a rapist on the loose who stalks women and then attacks them in their own home, he is known as The Creeper.

Steve Mosby’s latest sinister crime story grips from the chilling first chapter until the last. As well as the ongoing investigation we have a dispute between neighbours and a volunteer helpline worker who soon regrets doing the right thing.

Short  chapters make this a quick easy read which is over all too soon. A real pity as Mosby isn’t the most prolific of writers.

For more information on the author and his work visit and click on the Steve Mosby label below for more reviews and an interview.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Film: Elysium

In the near future wealthy people no longer live on Earth. They life a blissful life on a space station known as Elysium. Thanks to the latest technology there is no illness on Elysium as all known diseases and conditions can be repaired.

Back on Earth factory worker Max (Matt Damon) receives a fatal dose of radiation and decides that he must get to Elysium to save himself. Along the way he meets up with old friend Frey (alice Braga) and her leukaemia suffering daughter who also needs the healing technology.

In their way is a ruthless politician (Jodie Foster) and a crazy enforcer (Sharlto Copley) who do not plan on allowing any poor person access to the potentially life saving equipment.

Damon turns in another competent action turn and Foster is fine as the nasty and ambitious politician but it’s District 9’s Sharlto Copley that steals the show as he revels in the brutality of Kruger, a man with his own ideas on how Elysium should be governed.

Ric’s Rating: Good.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Book: Field Of Prey by John Sandford

You wouldn’t think that it would be possible that the 24th book of an ongoing series would be one of the best but that’s exactly what Field Of Prey by John Sandford is.

A young couple make a gruesome discovery and the hero of the Prey series, Lucas Davenport, is soon on the case. Aided by a local sheriff’s deputy Davenport must track down a killer responsible for the deaths of many young women as well as a colleague of his.

This is gripping stuff from start to finish and Davenport is back to his dangerous best as he throws protocol aside in the race to catch up with one of his most formidable foes yet.

As with all ongoing series I’d recommend starting at the beginning but Field Of Prey also works as an entry point to the series or a one off.

For more reviews of John Sandford books click the tab below.

Ric’s Rating: Essential. 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Film: X Men: Days Of Future Past

In the near future there are hardly any X-Men left. They, along with all other mutants, have been relentlessly hunted down by the Government endorsed android killing machines known as Sentinels.

On the brink of extinction Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) decide to use the time travelling abilities of Pryde to travel back and attempt to stop the Sentinels before they are even invented. For a time trip that could potentially rip anyone’s body and mind apart there is only one candidate, the quick-healing Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).

Wolverine must convince the younger Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to work together to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) trigger a chain of events leading to the war against the Sentinels.

This collaboration of X-Men franchises from original director Bryan Singer gets off to a blistering start as the remaining X-Men battle the Sentinels in a fantastic, super-power laden, fight scene. However, when we join Wolverine on his trip back to 1973 the pace slows considerably. The highlight of the whole 1973 story (which makes up the majority of the film) is the Magneto prison break featuring a stand out performance from Even Peters as Quicksilver. Jennifer Lawrence also makes up for the omission of original blue beauty Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as Mystique with an action packed and emotional turn.

Huge credit must be given for this ultimate X-Men film which successfully meshes all previous films but more action was required for it to be as exciting and fun as the likes of Avengers Assemble or Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

X-Men: Days Of Future Past simply left me wanting more, maybe that was the plan.

Catch it in cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Good.        

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Book: Wolf by Mo Hayder

DI Jack Caffery returns and this time he’s off duty.

Jaded and disgruntled by his workload Caffery decides to take some time out, much to the chagrin of his superiors. This sabbatical will be spent finding out what became of his brother Ewan, who vanished when they were both children.

In order to progress his private investigation Caffery must first solve the puzzle of a lost dog that carries a note which simply says “help us”. The case of the little dog takes Caffery on a journey to trace her owners and find out if they really do need help.

The family are caught up in a hostage situation which unfolds alongside Caffery’s investigation and you are urging him on each step of the way as he slowly gets closer to them. But will he make it in time?

Wolf is another top notch thriller from Mo Hayder and assuming she continues with the series I can’t wait to find out what’s next for her captivating main character.

Ric’s rating: Highly Recommended.      

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

In Marvel’s latest adventure we catch up with Steve Rogers aka Captain America as he attempts to capture a band of modern day pirates. Aided by Black Widow the Captain leads a group of soldiers against the bad guys who include George St.Pierre of UFC fame.

Rogers (Chris Evans) then learns of the development of huge flying gunships being developed by SHIELD that have the capability of targeting any person on Earth. Bear in mind that the Captain is a very patriotic American (hence the name) so he doesn’t approve of anything that infringes on personal freedom.

To say more about the story would give away too much so I’ll concentrate on the film itself. Playing to the man out of time storyline (Captain America was a WWII soldier who was frozen then reanimated) this manages to bring emotion to what is otherwise an epic action movie. Think Terminator 2 and you’re in the vicinity. The shoot-outs and fight scenes are wonderfully extravagant (look out for ole Cap vs a fighter jet) and although there are super-hero elements on show here this manages to transcend the genre pigeon-hole.

Evans is fine as the straight-laced Rogers and there is excellent support from Samuel L Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Frank Grillo to name but a few.

If you think they couldn’t top Avengers or that super-hero films aren’t for you I urge you to think again and catch Captain America: The Winter Soldier while it’s on the big screen.

Ric’s Rating: Essential