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Psycho Alley - Nick Oldham

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Genre: Crime / Thriller / Author: Nick Oldham / Hardcover / 266 Pages / Book is published 2006-07 by Severn House Publishers Ltd

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      19.09.2009 10:12
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      very average crime novel

      ===Background:===

      This is a new author to me, so when I saw it in the library I thought it was worth a look at. The only problem was half way through it; I by accident posted it back through the library letterbox instead of the one I had already read. Luckily I managed to go to the library at Lunchtime and get it back, I cannot think of many more frustrating things than half completing a crime novel so not knowing the ending, but I was lucky on this occasion.

      ===About the author:===

      Nick Oldham was born in Lancashire in 1956. He spent 30 years in the Police force before retiring in 2005. Since then he has turned his attention full time to writing and so far had written 13 crime novels. All of which are centred around DCI Henry Christie exploits in and around the town of Fleetwood, near Blackpool.

      ===Synopsis of the book:===

      DCI Christie is under mounting pressure, as the Press, Public and Senior Officers are all becoming frustrated by the increasingly brutal attacks in Blackpool, that no-one has been yet been arrested for. These attacks are against young Children who are often persuaded to go with stranger cars where they are attacked and ultimately killed.

      However when a burnt out car is discovered in the boot is found the remains of a young naked girl the investigation intensifies. More resources are drafted in as Christie lack of progress is now under the spotlight of his boss Dave Anger who he seemingly can do no right for and just wants him out of the job and to Christie this is feeling like a personal vendetta.

      Christie in truth never makes life easy for himself in his Personal life too. He is a Womaniser and has had affairs with some of the female officers that currently work for him. As a result at least one now holds a grudge against him while another is dying to sleep with him. And just to make life even harder he is now getting threatening text messages and he feels tormented by the man abducting these girls. It all feels too personal now.

      ===My thoughts on the book===

      My overall feeling was this was a very average crime novel. Admittedly it was my first experience of Nick Oldham's work and sometimes it does take a book or two to get to know and appreciate the new author's ideas and style of writing. But regardless of that I found I could not relate to the book's central characters DCI Christie, while finding his work to be quite old fashioned and certainly lacking Political correctness.

      Of the 13 Crime novels that the author has so far written this is the 9th in the series. It was written in 2006, which I find very surprising, as some of the investigating officers techniques seem a throw back from the 1970's. For example the way he deals with informers, he would also intimidate suspects and he certainly was not apposed to breaking a few laws and giving suspects a good roughing up to achieve his goals. I found this all bizarre and frankly unlikely.

      I think he showed in many ways that the author was once a Policeman. In a positive way because of all his knowledge he displayed and detail involved in a sensitive, high profile investigation. His detail, understanding and explaining all this to the reader was excellent by doing this he brought it all to life. He clearly knows his stuff and the professional way no stone is left unturned really come across to me throughout it. I would not fault the man on his detail and it made the investigation more real.

      On the negative side however, I did find some of the many briefings dull and they seemed to achieve little for the course of the investigation. Maybe this again is honest and what happens during these types of investigation. It just for me slowed the pace of the book down and left you waiting for something more exciting to happen.

      When I first picked up this book, I was immediately impressed by its title. It for me conjured up lots of exciting and dangerous possibilities and as a result I was eager to read the short summary in the inside cover. This also wetted my appetite as I love to read about good quality but difficult to solve crimes and from the sound of this introduction this sounded a very interesting and involved case. As a reader I like to feel challenged and this case certainly sounded like a challenging one.

      Initially and to my surprise I found the story itself hard to understand and exactly what was going on and its relevance to the main story. The author I believe was laying the foundations to Christie's situation and giving background to the work he does and how he works. This for me was done poorly and I nearly gave up reading after 50 pages when I felt nothing meaningful had yet happened.

      But I'm glad to say it improved and my persistence paid off. As the author focused on a very complex, involved and very enjoyable investigation. It was well thought out and I liked the pace of it and the depth of the author's knowledge. There were many unexpected, unusual twists and turns that brought about a very exciting conclusion with lots of suspense and mystery throughout the story.

      Some may think the story was enhanced by Christie's unusual personal life. I would argue that I found it unrealistic and ludicrous. Here you have a Senior Policeman in the midst of a critical investigation trying to seduce all the female characters who all seemed to want to stick to him like honey (god was I jealous of him!!). I thought this seriously subtracted to what was in essence a very good story. I know you need some personal life in a crime novel but this was frankly unbelievable and laughable.

      The only redeeming feature with Christie's love life is it at times very funny and the situations he finds and those he gets himself in. The humorous remarks with some of the dialogue are very good. This at least goes provide some respite from the serious and intense nature of the serious investigation.

      The story was improved by some of the weird and wonderful things that happen to Christie. For example getting attacked late at night, by his car getting vandalised and not forgetting the text messages. All this added an extra and unknown dimension to the story as you never knew till the end who was doing this, the Psycho, the Jilted lover, her ex or even his own boss, the list just goes on.

      Also simmering away in the background of the story was this problematical relationship between Christie and his boss Dave Anger (Great name for a boss!!). With Christie knowing he is after his blood and also knowing that any mistake he makes would have him demoted and replayed but he didn't know why he hated him with a passion as he couldn't remember every wronging the guy.

      What did surprise me slightly was I did not think the author treated the very serious issue of Child Abuse as appropriately as he should of. Yes the Police were very keen to catch the perpetrator and this came through very clearly. But it could have been improved and demonstrated more clearly its effects by having the Child's parent's involved in the story; as they were very distant figures in the story. It would have been good if he could have condoned more what was happening especially as there were many opportunities to do this.

      DCI Christie was undoubtedly the novels main character and the one the investigation centred around. I found him a difficult character to like with his womanising ways. I could not get my head round why all these women were dropping at his feet and the awful way he treated them. It made it seem we were back in the 1970's and women were still being treated very poorly and the only way they could get promotion was to sleep with the boss.

      On the positive side when he was actually doing his job he was a good, thoughtful Detective. He certainly knew his stuff and was good at managing a major investigation. The author had created in Christie a character with a lot of insight into his personality. I wondered if he was based on someone he had worked with as he described both his actions and thoughts very well.

      The other support characters within the novel were all well described and performed their particular functions and roles. I just did not like the author's very sexist and old-fashioned characterization of women. It just seemed they were more interested in sex with Christie than their work, I thought this was poor and lacked insight into them. I think if this novel was ever made into a TV Programme, it would put equal rights back at least 30 years. Yet when there focus was the work like Christie they were efficient and good at what they did.

      The novels length was a little long I thought. The author could have cut out some of the unnecessary background and previous incidents or two. As they did little to add to the story and in my opinion bored me.

      ===Conclusion===

      I would not recommend this as in my opinion this was only an average crime novel. There are certainly better books within the market place. What I did like about this one was primarily the detail and the depth of the story involving the investigation. I thought this showed great insight with some enjoyable and unexpected twists. Negatively I thought the author insight into women was poor and shallow and I think throughout he portrayed them badly.

      Many thanks for reading my review.

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

      @CPTDANIELS September 2009.

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