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==Synopsis of the book:==
Madeline Gilby decides to take her son Ryan on a holiday to Nice in the South of France. She finds a cheap last minute deal as she is keen to get away from a soon to be violent ex-husband as soon as possible. In the knowledge she will soon be getting the Court settlement from him and her life will be so much sweeter. However while sitting at a Café on day she meets a handsome man who introduces himself as Johann Bellocq, they very quickly become friends and despite her misgivings the two seem naturally attracted to each other.
Meanwhile Britain is in the grip of a very cold and bitter winter. The Peculiar Crimes Unit is once again facing closure with its top two senior citizen Detectives Arthur Bryant and John May stuck in the middle of nowhere in a blizzard on their way to a spiritualist's convention. And unknown to them also stuck in the line of stuck motorists is a dangerous murderer who is hunting his pray.
==My thoughts on this novel:==
In truth I found this quite a difficult crime thriller to read. The reason basically for this was not that it was not written well because it was; the problem I had was I found it confusing as there were several different stories within the book. Usually I love stories that have different and seemingly unrelated strands to them, but on this occasion I really struggled to follow and fully understand who was who and what was going on.
I think to a greater degree this can be explained by the fact this is a new author to me. It often takes me a book or two to get used to a new writers style. But added to this, this is not a one off story it forms part of a series of stories featuring Detectives Bryant and May. It would certainly I'm sure been easier if I had simply selected the first in the series as there in all probability would have been more general background on the main characters and the Office they work in. But I didn't I selected the 5thbook in series that was written in 2007. I did this as I like to see if I can understand and enjoy a book from anywhere in a series without any prior knowledge of the series and I have to say on this occasion it did not really work for me and I found the book at times hard going.
I found this book at a car boot sale recently. I was looking for a new and different crime mystery and I came across this one. I am a big fan of Peter James's thrillers so when I saw on the front cover of this one he had heavily endorsed this book; I thought it must be good!! It was that alone that sold me the book, plus it was only sale for just 30p so I knew I couldn't go far wrong.
The title of the book puzzled me and I thought given the picture and the summary on the back cover it was referring to the snow. I'm glad to say it was more complex than that and it turned out to be a good and clever title for the book. I thought the summary was good although it failed to really mention Madeline and her son trying to get away from this new and unusual man they had met in the South of France. It focused largely instead on the two Detectives stuck miles from anywhere in a remote road in Devon. To me this was missing an opportunity as Madeline was a key character and I thought this would draw more potential readers in.
When I settled down and started reader the story I was surprised they was no prologue before it began in earnest. I usually find one of these useful in setting the scene for the reader. The story began by focusing on Madeline and while it was not the most gripping start I found it easy to get into and I was interested in this troubled woman's life and what was happening to her.
However the story then started also follow what was happening to various members of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. And while I needed to learn who was who I started to find myself confused especially as this seemed to have nothing to do with what I had read previously involving Madeline and her son. What really confused me was I thought this would be an introduction to them but as it turned out they were involved because there was a murder involving them and they were expecting a royal visit in the next few days.
I just found it all confusing and kept wanting the story to focus on Madeline and Johann as this seemed the most interesting story and it very quickly had real mystery and suspense about it. So I really enjoyed when the story returned to them and not when it involved these to Detectives stuck in a blizzard or what was happening back at their office.
It was only more than half the way through the story that I really started to understand what was happening. Which was me confused for far too long!! There were too many strands and I found myself only really interested in what was happening to Madeline. For me this could have been the main and most important part of the story because it was not only the most interesting but it also had the most potential for mystery and excitement.
The story was always well paced and despite my lack of enjoyment at times always seemed to be heading towards an exciting ending. Which was for me an excellent one, it was unexpected and had a couple of twists that I never saw coming and really impressed me. It was fast paced and because it was all explained finally all made sense. It was in some ways the most bizarre conclusion I have ever read but that was good and I enjoyed it being like that.
For me the two leading characters in this series of books namely Bryant and May were disappointing. Maybe because I had not encountered them before I found them quite dull. Although having said that they were very different characters that I usually read about. I just found it somewhat unlikely they were both going to this convention knowing they had a Royal visit to arrange in a few days and why would the top two men go to a Spiritualist meeting miles from anywhere. Yes I appreciate they are eccentric and in some respects quite brilliant men but it seemed a little unlikely. Although I did enjoy they way despite the blizzard and they were stuck they were still able to help solve a mystery back in the office.
However for me the two star characters in the story were Madeline and Johann. I thought these two were excellent characters because they were so complex and you were never sure what they would do next. I felt the whole story should have focused around them as it would have been more enjoyable and interesting. I felt a real tension when these characters were involved and with the conclusion was my favourite part of the book, it was just a shame they were not in it all the time.
The story had a real sense of mystery within it. I enjoyed this and while some of the answers to it were very unexpected and a little hard to believe. It was well thought out and it actually made sense bearing in mind what you had learnt before in the story. For me the length of the story was about right although as I have said previously the focus was not quite so. Although to give the author his due when he was changing the scene and the characters within it he usually created a new chapter and only when they were at the same location did he not so you were always aware of who you were with in the story.
Yes at times there was humour within the story, but this was largely wasted on me as I struggled to understand all the new characters and their roles in the story. Peter James described this 'a page turner' but for me it was quite a disappointing book and it various times especially on the first half of it I wanted to give it up as a bad job. I stuck with it and while it did get better and easier to follow I still was not in my comfort zone with the story and all the characters within it.
Sadly I do not feel this is a crime thriller that I can recommend. For me there were too many strands in the story and this made me at times confused and wishing the story would focus on just one. I liked the story involving Madeline and really found a lot of suspense in this and I would have liked the whole story to have focused on this as from my perspective this was easily the best part of it. I really must try another in the series and see how it compares because I am sure it will be more enjoyable than this one.
Year first published: 2007
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
© CPTDANIELS July 2013