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Over the past few weeks I have been trying a variety of different styles and types of novels. However this week I fancied going back and reading a conventional Detective style story. So when I was in the library I found this one and looked forward to getting to grips with a thrilling crime novel.
==About the author:==
Bill Knox was born in 1928 and died in March 1999. During his working career this Scottish author was both a journalist and a television presenter. He presented a long running series called 'Crime Desk' in the 1970's. He started writing in the 1950's and published well over 50 novels under a variety of pseudonyms such as Michael Kirk, Robert MacLeod and Noah Webster. With his most famous series featuring Thane and Moss accounting for 24 of these. These last of these being completed after his death by another writer Martin Edwards.
==Synopsis of the book:==
Detective Chief Inspector Colin Thane is dealing with four Spanish Fishermen, who have been caught fighting in the Glasgow docks. When the body of a young local lady Doreen Ashton is found in the boot of a burnt out car, on some wasteland close to her home. Provisional autopsy reports show the badly burnt body has been strangled about 24 hours before.
As Thane and Moss begin investigating they discover that a prowler has been hanging round the local area. This man has been seen several times by the dead girl's two flatmates. They also discover this girl was interested in the local Rally scene and she spent the evening of her death with a rookie trainee Robby Deacon from the Police Training Centre.
Also associated with the Rally Club are Peter and Duncan MacRath who are her two managers at the Whisky investment company where she works. Thane is concerned as the night before her death the girl tried to contact him but refused to state her business. Her flatmates also confirm she had been a bit quiet on the days leading up to her death, as if she had something on her mind. Thane and Moss find out what that is and discover who should want to kill the likeable and popular woman.
==My thoughts on the novel:==
For me this was a very disappointing crime thriller. I found only towards the end of the book did I start to enjoy the story and by this time I had virtually given up on it. As I read I kept expecting to suddenly be gripped by the story but it never really happened. In the end I was just pleased that I had managed to complete the novel.
To be honest before I picked up the book, I had never read a book by Bill Knox. Very quickly I found out that he was a very successful writer having written so many respected thrillers. As a result I expected a thoughtful and or fascinating crime novel, but this was not to be one I could get my teeth into.
In truth I found this novel very old fashioned but I should not hold it against the author especially as it was written back in 1973. I found I really struggled with the pace of the story as in the first half of the novel as nothing seemed to be happening. And despite the murder the investigation was slow and seemed to be getting up no head of steam.
What initially attracted me to this book was quite simply its cover. It demonstrated a car taking part in a rally and this and the title sounded like a great concept for a thriller. Especially as on the back cover of the book, there was a long list of compliments about the Thane and Moss series of books from several papers.
I suppose in hindsight these nice compliments are not necessarily written about this particular story. As I would be surprised if anyone would say anything too complimentary about this one. Next I read the short summary in the inside cover of the book. This sounded quite interesting as it brought up all the concepts within a short paragraph and questioned how these were linked.
Ironically I found the first few pages of the story quite interested. It dealt with Thane making a presentation to the Police Training Centre. I liked the relaxed feel to this and the sarcasm Thane shared with his fellow officers, plus their amusing nicknames and the background behind these.
However, my enjoyment didn't last long. The story involving the murder but also the drunk Spanish sailors caught fighting. I thought this second story was awful; it for me was interesting or had any depth to it. But much to my disgust it was on-going and always in the background to the main story.
Even when the murder was discovered, I continued to be frustrated with the investigation. It just seemed that despite a lot of potential clues the investigation was very slow and lacked depth to it. I never thought I understood the main characters and really felt comfortable with them.
The story stayed like this for a long time. Some information took a while to discover plus the original autopsy had to be repeated, as there were some unusual irregularities. The story slowly moved on but continued to fail to inspire me.
I think this in part was because of the lack of insight I felt for the characters. I could not relate to them, even given the situation. Added to this I thought the author's writing style was very average. With a lack of depth in both the scenes but also the descriptions of the characters within them. Maybe I was having a few bad days, but the further I read the harder I found it to believe the success of this author. Maybe as this was my first experience his skills are an acquired taste something I will grow to love.
Finally in the last 30 pages or so the story really started making hay and sense. It became enjoyable at long long last. Not only that the conclusion was fast paced and exciting. I was amazed why hadn't the author incorporated all this so much earlier in the novel, it would have been so much better. As I'm certain many people would have given up on this story long before this.
I felt given the interesting concept of the body in the abandoned car, the author really missed an opportunity here. As I liked the idea of the link to the Rally Club and the Rookie Policeman, there were all the elements for a great thriller. But instead the author painstakingly moved through a dull and unstructured investigation like a swimmer thrashing his way through a pool of treacle. With far too much emphasis of the issue of the Spanish sailors.
The books main characters were Moss and Thane and to be honest they never inspired me. I never felt any sympathy, empathy or even affection for either of them. This was in part because there were not enough descriptions of them and their mannerisms. Their personalities did not grab me either and I found little in common with them. The only thing I did like was their close bond and the way they understood each other without anything needing to be said.
In many ways I felt the same about the novel's support characters. Again I would have liked an awful lot more information and detail on them as I felt the author barely scratched the surface with them. A few had good characters but they were not exploited enough and used to their potential.
Maybe my expectations were too high to start with, in part because this was a new author to me and I hadn't read a crime thriller for a while. But for me this was a very disappointing and flat investigation. The depth and insight seemed to be lacking in this novel and it was like reading a book where all the pages were clued together, that's hard slow and hard I found it to read.
On the positive side and I think if you look hard enough you can always find a positive, the book did on occasions amuse me. I liked the honest, funny and realistic nicknames of the various Police Officers had. While at the same time I found their sarcasm and attitude to the job believable.
The story seemed to lack any sort of mystery. As there were few tangible characters that could have completed the crime. With little suspense built up throughout the novel and what was was lost because of the slow moving plot and the regularity the story switched back to the Spanish sailors.
The length of the novel was a little on the short side. But to be honest that was fine by me as I felt I had achieved something big just by getting through this one! I'm sure with more depth and a few more twists and turns this would have been a good book. My suffering with this book was not helped by it having long chapters about 30 pages each. Shorter, punchier chapters would have helped me to digest and get through the story so much better.
To be perfectly honest this was one of the worst crime thrillers I have ever read. I would not recommend it to anyone. My grass grows quicker and is more exciting than this story because of the awful way it was told. In addition I found the author's writing style to be very average with poor descriptions of both scenes and characters. The only thing that was good was the concluding pages but by that time most people would have given this up as a lost cause. I can only assume his other work is better than this and this was just a very bad day at the office!
About the author: www.fantasticfiction.com/k/bill-knox
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published on both Ciao and Dooyoo under my user name.
@CPTDANIELS February 2010.