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Smoking Poppy - Graham Joyce

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Genre: Fiction / Author: Graham Joyce / Edition: New edition / Paperback / 288 Pages / Book is published 2002-10-10 by Gollancz

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      03.06.2009 17:45
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      Background:

      I was wondering around my local bookshop the other day, looking for a different or challenging book ideally both. I had no idea what I was looking for, but after reading a little introduction on the back cover of this book I decided to give this one a try.


      About the author:

      Graham Joyce was born in England in 1954. So far in his very successful writing career he has written 18 novels as well as six short stories. In his spare time Joyce teaches creative writing at Nottingham University and promotes literacy in prisons throughout the country.


      Synopsis of the book:

      Danny Innes is a middle aged man who doesn't believe in sharing his troubles with anyone. He has recently separated from his wife Sheila and hardly ever sees or speaks to his grown up children Charlie and Phil. He is electrician who spends his spare time doing pub quizzes or playing snooker with his friend Mark Williams.

      His life changes dramatically when he gets a call from the Foreign Office. His daughter has been imprisoned awaiting trial for smuggling Heroin in Chiang Mai. Despite this she does not want to see her parents. However Danny decides he must try and see and hopefully get her released from prison, with his friend Mark who is keen to help and his son Phil who is not so keen. So they leave for Chiang Mai.

      Once there, things do not go as planned as the girl they visit in prison is not Charlie. The girl admits she stole his daughter's passport when she met her a few months previously in a remote mountainous village in the North West of the country. An area regarded as a no-go area for tourists run by drug barons. The three men agree they must visit this area and try and bring Charlie back to England.


      My thoughts on the book:

      To be honest I have never heard anything about Graham Joyce's books before I picked this one up. And this is despite all the books he has written!! So my expectations were quite low, as how could an author I have never heard of be any good? My ignorance even does my own head in sometimes! This was a very enjoyable and well written story, I really liked it.

      When I read the introduction and the first few chapters, I expected this to be some sort of legal battle with Danny trying to use the law to free his daughter from the authorities. Something like 'Bangkok Hilton'. However I was very pleased when it was something totally different and very re-freshing.

      Let me start with the story. It was a very well thought out plot from the very start. Yes it had been done before the father trying to get his daughter released from a foreign prison. So when it stepped outside this I was fascinated by what was going to happen next. It was cleverly thought out and full of twists and turns that I was not expecting that made the book such a gem for me.

      His writing was certainly made all the more convincing by a wonderful knowledge of the jungles of Chiang Mai that brought the story to life and made it flow. The concluding chapters were very exciting as the group tried to find a way to return completely intact to their home, I wouldn't say a perfect page turner but very good none the less.

      The only real complaint I had with the storyline was that for a supposedly no-go area it seemed quite a friendly area to visitors, with little evidence of trouble there. My other criticism was about the conclusion to the novel; I just felt everything fell into place a little too easily. I don't think by solving one problem everything in life is goes back to being 'a bowl of cherries.' I know I'm a miserable git but at least I'm a realistic miserable git!

      For me the best bit about the book was Joyce's characters. Not that they were so fascinating but the interplay and dialogue between them. Sometimes I felt it was a comedy with some of the lines and the disagreements between the main characters. I think this for me made the story more compelling as I was never sure what was going to happen next between them.

      The author wrote it in such a way it was written from Danny's perspective. But, he made all the main characters rich in personalities, and so diverse they were bound to clash at various times in the plot. And also in such as a way it was not just Danny's view on life that was shared with the reader but all of there's.

      The way the lead character Danny dealt with everything that was thrown at him was both amusing and also frustrating at times. And only later in the book did he start to even question and look at other people's view points, so he could begin to understand what and why relationships in his family had changed. Creating an interesting and enlightening perspective into his character and how it could change.

      I did enjoy the quality of Joyce's writing throughout. He wrote in such a way you could both sympathise with the main characters but at the same time you could find them both annoying and funny too. His descriptive abilities were excellent and I thought he set each scene very well and very creatively.

      The length of the novel was about right. I would have liked to see an epilogue of some kind a few weeks or months down the line, just to see what had happened and what had changed if anything in the characters lives.

      The chapters too were very short, maybe a little too short in some ways at about eight pages a time. But by doing this the author was able to change the scene effectively and maintain my interest completely.


      Conclusion:

      This was an enjoyable and interesting piece of fiction. It was an exciting adventure which kept me on the edge of my seat most of the way through. I particularly enjoyed the interplay between the main characters. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a slightly different fiction novel. On this performance I will be looking to read more work from this author.


      Pages: 279
      Publisher: Gollancz Fiction
      Price: £6.99 paperback
      Year of Publication: 2002
      ISBN: 0-575-07304-7
      About the author: www.grahamjoyce.net


      Thank you for reading my review.

      This review is also published on Ciao under my user name.

      @CPTDANIELS June 2009

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