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~ ~ How many of you have ever tried out one of those painting by numbers kits? You know the sort of thing. You fill in the numbered sections with the appropriate colour to eventually end up with a completed painting. The idea works well in theory, but the painting you end up with looks about as original as a Rolex watch from Del Boy costing a tenner in the Sunday markets!
~ ~ Well, this book by author Colin Forbes, No Mercy, reminds me very much of one of those painting by numbers kits. Except in this case, its writing by numbers. The whole book smacked of someone simply following a tried and tested formula for writing a crime thriller, with more of an eye for how it would shift off the shelves of the bookshop than writing an entertaining and original book that would please the reader.
~ ~ Anyways, enough criticism. (For now), Whos the author and whats the book about?
Well, the author is a fairly highly rated English thriller writer called Colin Forbes. Hes now in his early 80s, and since he began writing novels back in 1966 has been what might be described as fairly prolific, turning out books at the rate of approximately one every year. (Over 40 titles in total)
This book (No Mercy) is based on one of his more popular characters, an ex-Scotland yard copper called Tweed, who now heads up the SIS. (What does that stand for by the way? Is it the Special Intelligence Service?) Tweed is called in to investigate the puzzling case of a businessman called Michael who is suffering from amnesia, and who was found sitting on the steps of a house in Whitehall constantly repeating only three words. I witnessed murder. Along with his stunningly attractive assistant Paula Grey and the rest of his investigative team Tweed soon uncovers a series of particularly gruesome murders, with the mutilated skeletons of various people being discovered in such multifarious locations as old mine shafts on Dartmoor, houseboats, and stuffed into fridge freezers in a London flat.
~ ~ Suspects abound! You have Drago Volkanian, the charismatic Armenian CEO of a supermarket chain with a sideline in arms manufacturing. Then you have Volkanians executives. His niece Lucinda; sultry, sexy, hot to trot with Tweed, and an expert in ju-jitsu. Various other family members make up Volkanians management team and are also suspects. Larry, Michaels brother, and managing director of the company, and the womanising and boozing Aubrey Greystoke. (Wasnt he Tarzan in another life, heh, heh)
Throw in a forensic accountant, (murdered) a private detective, (also murdered) a strange religious sect on Dartmoor, a French assassin hired to kill Tweed, and a bunch of Islamic Fundamentalists intent on doing all sorts of mischief to Britain and Europe with some of Volkanians missiles, and you SHOULD have the makings of a real pot boiler of a novel.
~ ~ Unfortunately it doesnt work at all, and what you end up with is a distinctly below average thriller with nothing new to offer, and characters that could have easily been lifted straight from the pages of an old kids comic book. All the characters have the feel of cardboard cut outs, and its practically impossible to warm to any of them, simply because the author doesnt develop them in any meaningful fashion. The book just bumbles along, going nowhere fast and nowhere in particular, and the ending is about as obvious as a double-decker bus. I had guessed by about halfway through who the murderer was, and could have told you after only a few chapters exactly how the plot was going to pan out!
~ ~ Perhaps Im being unkind to the author Colin Forbes. After all, the Daily Mirror once (only ONCE, mind you) described Forbes as having no equal, a quotation he is inclined to repeat on the covers of ALL his novels. I reckon the Mirror critic must either have been bribed or half cut when he read the book if he reckons this total drivel has no equal. You could also accuse me of being unfair in that Ive only ever read one of Forbes novels. But if this is an example of the stuff he trots out on such a regular basis, then let me tell you he wont be earning any further royalties from this particular reader any time soon!
While researching this review I happened across an unofficial fans website (http://www.colin-forbes.co.uk/books/30.shtml) where one of his regular readers claimed that this book wasnt actually written by Forbes at all, but penned by a ghost writer. Now whether this is true or not I have absolutely no idea. But certainly the book has all the hallmarks of something simply trotted out to remove some spondoolicks (money) from the pockets of unsuspecting readers, who couldnt begin to imagine how bad this novel actually is by looking at the cover.
~ ~ I paid a whopping 10.30 for this piece of literary crap in my local bookstore, but if you dont want to take my word for it that its pooh and insist on reading it then you can buy it online at Amazon for only £1.40. My own advice would be that youd be better off buying a copy of the Beano!
Not recommended by the mad cabbie.
Length: 322 pages
Publisher: Simon and Schuster (Paperback)
ISBN: 0 7434 9001 0
PS. My apologies to my dooyoo mate Andy.mack, who seemed to enjoy this book. (Horses for courses pal)
© KenJ March 2005
Having recently finished reading my first Forbes novel I was keen to follow it up with another. So after Target 5 I spotted No Mercy in Smiths as part of a buy one get one free offer and thought it might be worth a read. I hadnt realised that No Mercy was the latest in a long running series following the adventures of Tweed and his team. In fact I never realised until Id finished the book and there was no way you could tell from reading it.
When the Superintendent of the police finds a man sat on the steps of White Hall he seems a little confused. The man only seems to know three words, I Witnessed murder ... Superintendent Buchanan names him Michael and hands him and the case over to the head of the SIS, Tweed. After a few hours with Michaels psychiatrists Tweed decides to take Michael on a route he seems to have etched in his memory. Accompanied by his assistant Paula Grey, Tweed discovers a couple of skeletons on the moors of Dartmoor.
It turns out that Michael is part of a rich family, known all over the country as the Volkanian family. It turns out his name actually is Michael and that it was a coincidence that Buchanan happened to call him Michael. As Tweed investigates further another couple of corpses turn up and there seems to be a link between them, the Volkanian family and a strange cargo ship spotted in the Med. Its a race against time for Tweed as someone keeps trying to take him out. Will he be able to solve the case before he becomes corpse No.5?
I have to say having read Target 5 I was pleasantly surprised to find that the story seemed to follow in order. From beginning to end Forbes seems to have got rid of the annoyance that almost spoiled Target 5 for me. Instead the story is mostly told from the perspective of Paula Grey and works a lot better for it. There are a few chapters she isnt in but on the whole its told through her eyes and Forbes goes into detail about her feelings of certain situations.
Like Target 5 the story is quite simple and follows quite a simple formula, but it does work well. I found myself being drawn into the book and trying to read it every chance I got. The story is incredibly gripping and even includes a few twists and turns along the way. Im glad to say I did work out who did it well before the end, but Forbes succeeds in casting doubts in your mind. Throughout the story I kept thinking it could be that person but eventually ended up back at the same one.
It becomes quite an engrossing story once you get to about the middle and I found it almost impossible to put it down. It again helps that Forbes, although now almost 0, still researches each location to make sure he gets it just right within each book. The settings really help with the engrossing story, from the misty Dartmoor to the sun drenched Mediterranean island.
There were moments throughout the book where I thought the writing was a little week. There were a few moments where he got a little confused as to whether we should be seeing things through Paulas eyes or not. It wasnt a massive problem though and didnt take too much away from the storyline. Again like Target 5 I didnt have any major problems with the story or the story telling as both seemed to work well, creating an enjoyable read from front to back.
The characters were quite good as well. There were a number of occasions where Forbes gave certain characters darker characteristics to make you suspect them. The one constant throughout though was the empathy you feel with Tweed and his team. You want to succeed and more importantly you want to help them as Forbes makes them such likeable characters. It seems to be quite a strength of his as he defines a line between those he wants you to like and the ones he wants you to suspect.
Overall its another enjoyable read. He wont set the literary world alight as his books arent amazing. He does however write the perfect stories to sit down and enjoy rather than thinking too much about. They engross you within the story but rather than being a hard core read at just 322 pages its quite easy going and rather enjoyable. I seem to be enjoying Forbes work more with each book I read and from here Im going to investigate the Tweed & Co. series further. If you havent already and you like a good crime thriller then this will be a good book for you.
ISBN 0 - 7434 - 9001 - 0