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A Kind of Acquaintance - David Armstrong

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Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: David Armstrong / Paperback / 214 Pages / Book is published 2008-06 by Severn House Paperbacks Ltd

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      24.07.2010 10:09
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      Average Detective novel

      =Synopsis of the book:==

      In the fall of 1986 a tragic accident happens as a young student Leah knocks and kills a Paperboy when struck by her car. Instead of going to the Police she put the dead boy in the boot of the car and drives off again. As this is very early in the morning in rural surroundings no one witnesses this event.

      Two decades have past, when the body of a middle-aged women is discovered in a canal near the boat she owns on the Grand Union Canal. She has been missing for a few days, but little is known about this reclusive woman. On examination she is recognised by many of the locals but none of them admit to really knowing her, only to say hello to her it seems.

      DI Frank Kavanagh and DC Jane Salt are called into investigate this unusual murder. As they initially struggle to find anyone with any reason to want her dead as she has so little interaction with anyone. Although she has had several short-term relationships with men via a dating site. They also discover that the dead woman was at one time a successful writer producing one very popular novel many years before but was never able to recreate her initial success.

      ==My thoughts on the novel:==

      On balance this was a well-constructed and enjoyable crime thriller. It was the type of mystery that was very easy to get into and then once into it you needed to discover the truth behind it. As there were many avenues this cleverly written story could have gone down as the author explored many potential storylines, Always sucking the reader in, as you were never sure which story would develop.

      This is a new novelist to me and despite having written several books not one I had heard anything about either positive or negative. But as the book was on sale for just 25p I thought even if I didn't like it I couldn't go far wrong at that price. And it's always important to try new styles of writing and this seemed an ideal opportunity to do just that.

      To be honest when it comes to Detective and Crime stories I do find I like most authors I try and even if I don't I can usually find things in either the story or the writing style to enjoy. The exception to this rule seems for me to be American authors I think that is because the cultural differences and the different scale of everything over there. As this is an English author I was confident I would enjoy this one and as it turned out I was proved correct.

      However when I first glanced at the front of the book my impression was not favourable. The title seemed a bit flat and bland and unappealing but despite this I flipped it over and read the two glowing compliments about this book. This had me more intrigued as this for once was actually related to this story not the authors work in general.

      My fears where silenced when I read the summary on the inside cover of the book. It was two good-sized paragraphs that talked about two events separated by 20 years. They both sounded interesting and although there was nothing to link these two occurrences you were sure they must somehow be linked, else why put them in the same story? This had me wanted to know more and the mystery for me had begun.

      I also felt the book began in earnest in the best way possible with a prologue. This took the reader back to 1986 when the paperboy was unfortunately killed. It was a good introduction but it should have been longer than the meagre two and bit pages for it. I would have liked more depth but at least by limiting the information he was creating more mystery.

      The story then moved to 2006 and brought you up to date with what was happening now with the discovery of the body in the canal. The story would then flick between 1986 and 2006, always telling you with a new chapter when this was happening. I found this quite confusing as the chapters were incredibly short and the depth and detail about what was happening was in short supply. For me it would have been better if the story was actually told chronologically then I would not have got confused as I found I needed to always be thinking which generation I was in.

      Although I did find something strangely familiar and easy to get to grips with the authors style of writing. I felt I had read something similar but knew I hadn't. The concept behind the story was good and I enjoyed the unusual circumstances and the way the Police struggled to find a motive for killing this woman.

      I found as the story developed the author kept bringing in new characters around the main story. This all added to the mystery as you were always wondering if they were associated with the murder and how where they linked with the dead woman. And because the author did not give much away about their personalities or backgrounds they all seemed possible suspects.

      In hindsight there were too many of these characters and the little insight the reader was given into them was quite frustrating. As they all seemed well thought out characters and could easily be expanded and taking a bigger role in the story, as it was they very often just disappeared and never returned again. But you could never be sure if they were going to re-emerge.

      The chapters that were on average between five and six pages I thought where breaking the effective and interesting story up too much. I kept expecting the investigations to really focus on the investigating officers and their lives but found they were strangely kept at arms length and it was only through briefings we were kept completely up to date with the latest developments.

      As a result of this it was only when I was 2/3rd's of the way through the book that I realised the two investigating officers had a relationship away from the Police force. I would have liked to know more about them, their feelings, thoughts and ideas on the case. As it was I didn't feel I understood them as well as some of the interesting suspects.

      Despite the short chapters I found the story was well paced and I enjoyed the way all the threads of it came together, demonstrating a well thought out story. I always felt there was enough in the story to make up for what it lacked in depth. The concepts being good and the suspense the author managed to wrap around it.

      In the context of this series of stories Frank Kavanagh and Jane Salt despite being the main characters where often conspicuous by their absence. As a result I built up little in terms of a relationship with them. I am not sure if in previous books he has covered their relationship but I found I hardly knew them at all and little affinity with them. More depth would have helped me understand them better and like them more.

      The same could have been said about the other characters within the story. As to give the author credit he was good at bringing an impressive variety of characters into the story. I kept thinking I needed to remember who had done what and every little detail about them only for them not to reappear later in the story against my expectations.

      That said it did not stop me enjoying the books, as I liked the way the Police pieced the puzzle together. As a result at the end of the book I felt I understand the dead girl a lot better and all the pieces annoyingly bar one fitted perfectly into place. Which could and should have been cleared up for me in the epilogue, except there wasn't one!!

      It was an honest, frank and hard-hitting crime story. It was in many ways very sad as it dealt mainly with dark ideas such as depression, guilt and anger and how people do or don't deal with these feelings. As a result there was little humour within the story and that seemed appropriate for this particular book.

      The novels length was about right within the confines the author was working within. Yes I would have liked a lot more depth and really got to know the characters better, but I think by doing that the book would have lost its mystery and darker side. Although I did not feel this thriller really stretched my mind it did have me hooked and needing to know the truth right up to the end.

      ==Conclusion:==

      This was a good well thought out Detective story and gets the thumbs up from me. I found a lot to like about the way the author cleverly linked all the themes together. It was admittedly not the most thought provoking thriller ever as it lacked depth but it still had enough about it to keep me entertained. I will be looking for another story from this series in the coming weeks to compare this one with.

      ==Other Information:==

      Pages: 214
      Price: £8.99
      Publisher: Severn House
      ISBN-10: 1847510418
      ISBN-13: 978-1847510419
      Year Of Publication: 2007
      About the author: www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/a/david-armstrong

      Thanks for reading my review.

      This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.

      @CPTDANIELS July 2010

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