=== Background: ===
I was freezing the other day looking round the local Car Boot Sale when I discovered this book. It was in a large box of unwanted and generally tatty novels, and while fishing around in it I pulled out this one. I read the introduction and was impressed and when the seller told me I could have it for just 10p I knew I was onto a winner.
=== About the author: ===
Ann Granger has been writing suspense/thriller novels for many years. In that time she has built up a moderate fan base. The book I am reviewing features Fran Varady as a Private Investigator. The author was born in 1939 and had travelled extensively and worked in the foreign office.
=== About the book: ===
Fran Varady is an unemployed actress; at 23 she is still waiting for her first big break. While waiting for this she tries her hand at being a Private Investigator. She really enjoys this work but it often lands her in trouble with the Police, who don't appreciate her involvement in their investigations.
When Nightclub manager Micky Allerton requests Fran finds his clubs most popular dancer she reluctantly agrees to help. In order for her to do this someone needs to look after her dog Bonnie. Micky says he will get one his bouncers to do that. So that she can find this lady and try and bring her back the Micky and the Club.
Fran soon realises that unless she produces the goods Bonnie will not be returned to her. She decides to travel to Oxford where her parents live. Her problems really begin when she finds the dancer (Lisa) and finds there is far more to this case then she first imagined. She is in danger in a strange town, who can she trust and what is the truth of the matter?
=== My thoughts on this novel: ===
I really enjoyed reading this thriller. It was both well written and a very well thought out story. It was not a classic page-turner maybe but it had a story that was quite different to any I have read before. Its pace was steady and it was always leading somewhere.
I have read most of Fran Varady novels and always enjoy reading all about her exploits. I think in her the author has created a wonderful character, which surprises me as there is a massive age gap between the author and her character. But for me she has got inside this character and written for her superbly. She seems to understand her and her view on life and this is reflected in her writing.
Fran is a woman who has no family, few friends and little in the way of possessions. She is a character full of good principles and will always try and help others less fortunate them herself. In this way she appeals to people as many people admire these principles, as we would all like to help others more.
As soon as I picked up the book, I knew I must read it. To begin with I liked the intriguing title, it opened up in my mind many possibilities and sounded interesting. I then read the brief introduction, this spelt out a very brief outline of what sounded like a good story. I liked the way it told us about Fran helping this Club manager but leaving her dog in his clutches. Leaving her at his mercy if she wanted to see her dog alive again.
The book began in a sedate way; the first chapter was a slow introduction into Fran Varady's life. It talked about her childhood and how profound events had shaped and effected where she was in her life today. It was useful background information particularly to someone who has not read one of these books before.
I really like the concept of Fran needing to find this woman to get her dog back. This must have been a huge incentive for her as she had little in her life and few who cared for her and she cared for. I felt empathy for her and was really keen for her to achieve her goal and get her beloved hound back.
The story itself seemed simple enough. But clearly as in all good thrillers or mysteries it was never going to be as simple or as straightforward as that. Her plight was made more confusing by her discovering a body in the river at Oxford and it being a Bouncer from Micky's Club. Now what is he doing miles from home in Lisa's hometown?
The author brought in many excellent twists and turns into her writing, so that you never really knew whom Fran could trust or believe. Some of these twists were unexpected and required all of Fran's detective skills to discover the truth. And even when this had happened there were still unexpected happening to keep the reader on their toes.
Unlike most books I actually enjoyed the closing chapters. I most admit to being an old misery and I do not like ' and they all lived happily ever after'. In this one everything was explained in detail and the outcome was not one I expected, which is always a bonus. And you know whatever Fran does she will never end up either rich or settled in society.
The book did have an epilogue although it wasn't called that. I always like these as I think they finish of a book properly. It even resolved the Bonnie Fran's dog situation. It not only did that but it also showed what happened to all the novel's main characters which was great as you had got to know about them and their interesting personalities.
Fran is an excellent lead character and I love the way the author gets under her skin to write superbly for her. In other similar books I often do not want the Detective to be successful in their task, but there is something special and unique about Fran Varady that makes you want her to succeed in all she does, as she is such an endearing lady.
Only once in the whole novel does her attitude of doing the right thing annoy me. Just occasionally I would like her to think of herself and her future. She is always doing things for others and for once I would like her to do something that she could benefit from.
All the support characters were well written and well described as well as being interesting and diverse characters. As they all had their secrets and withheld information that would have made Fran's job a lot easier had she known. I thought the author skilfully wrote from their perspectives and considered their viewpoint.
This novel was longer than most Fran Varady novels but for my money the length was about right to tell a complete story. With well described scenes and characters without too much detail to bore you.
My biggest problem with the novel to be honest was the book literally fell apart in my hands and several pages became detached from the book. Luckily for me after reading!!
=== Conclusion: ===
This was an excellent and very realistic Private Detective novel. Too often in these types of books to the star get involved in cases that are too complex in my view for their abilities. In this one it was on the face of it a simple request that would be manageable for Fran. It was always well written and the story developed in ways the reader would not expect. The lead character was superb and one I could easily relate to and empathise with.
Publisher: Headline Books
About the author: www.fantasticfiction/co.uk/g/ann-granger
Thanks for reading my review. I
It is written on both Ciao and Dooyoo under this name.
@CPTDANIELS February 2009
Fran Varady, amateur sleuth, is minding her own business one day when she is given a task by club owner Mickey Allerton. Fran is reluctant to take the work - finding a missing dancer, Lisa, from Mickey's club - but she is forced into it when Mickey dognaps her dog, promising he will return it once she has found the girl in question. Annoyed, Fran goes to Oxford where Lisa's family are based and eventually manages to track down Lisa, who is not pleased to see her and refuses to return with her to London.
Knowing that she will not get her dog back without some kind of progress on the Lisa front, Fran refuses to give up and keeps pressing Lisa for her cooperation. They arrange to meet one morning in a local park. However, when Fran arrives, she finds a dead body in the river - what's even worse, it is someone she recognises as a bouncer at Mickey's club. Confused, she is interviewed by the police, but is unable to shed any light on the death, although she is secretly convinced that Lisa had something to do with it. Can she find the murderer and return Lisa to Mickey before something happens to her dog?
I've read a couple of books by Ann Granger before, although not any in the Fran Varady series. Ann Granger writes another series featuring police detetives Mitchell and Markby, which are very much in the cosy traditional English village style of crime fiction. This series is quite different; Fran is from London and frequently mixes with London's low-life. The types of crimes that she deals with tend to be slightly less cosy as well.
As a character, I took a fairly instant dislike to Fran. She has had a hard life and for the last few years, has had to look after herself because all her family are dead. She lived on the streets for a while, before eventually finding a place in a hostel. As a result, she is quite hard and it is difficult to really take a liking to her. Another thing that put me off her was that she is very obviously based on US PI Stephanie Plum. Like Stephanie, Fran is the sort of person that falls over crimes just by walking out of her front door. This adds an amusing streak to the novel, which I found too similar to Janet Evanovich's books to be true. I also think that whereas Stephanie Plum is based in the US and somehow anything is possible there, Fran is based in London and it just doesn't seem very realistic to have a female private investigator.
Having said that, towards the end of the book, I did find Fran growing on me and I even laughed out loud once or twice on the tube, much to the disturbance of the other passengers! The likeness to Stephanie Plum aside, Fran is quite an original character for UK crime fiction and makes a change from the usual detective stories. I also enjoyed her relationship with best friend Ganesh, who despairs of Fran's ability to get herself (and often him) into trouble. This relationship took the hard edge off Fran and made her a lot more likeable.
Plot-wise, again, to begin with, I wasn't too impressed. There are a number of coincidences that disappointed me. However, about half way through, the pace does begin to pick up and there are a couple of surprises thrown in which adds a little more sense to the story and makes it a lot more enjoyable. Then towards the end, there is a real twist in the plot; one that I did not see coming and I thought was very well done.
Ann Granger's writing style is nothing to write home about. The language used is simple, although she does keep to the point and doesn't gabble. I did like the understated humour though. I don't remember this in the Mitchell and Markby books, and it does add a enjoyable element to the book. If it had been completely serious, I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much as I did.
I do recommend this book to fans of crime fiction. It isn't a brilliant book and began weakly; had I not been on a train at the time, I probably wouldn't have got past the first couple of chapters. However, it does pick up and luckily the main character does become more likeable throughout the book. I certainly haven't given up on the series; I probably won't go out of my way to look for more Fran Varady books, but if I do come across them, I'll certainly pick them up. Recommended; three stars.
This book is available from play.com for £5.49. Published by Headline Publishing, it has 320 pages. ISBN: 9780755320417
Fran Varady isn't keen to help seedy club owner Mickey Allerton track down Lisa, a dancer who's done a bunk. But since Mickey's holding Fran's dog Bonnie hostage till the job's done, she doesn't have much choice. She quickly locates Lisa and they arrange to meet - but when Fran gets there early, the first thing she sees is a body floating in the river. It's Ivo, one of Mickey's nastier bouncers. If Lisa wasn't terrified already, she is when she gets this news, and Fran finds herself tom between helping the frightened girl and doing Mickey's bidding. And it's all about to get a lot more complicated.