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The Twelfth Man - John Parker

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Author: John Parker

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      31.10.2012 17:11
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      Weak thriller set around cricket

      ==Synopsis of the book:==

      Roger North is a young professional cricketer. He has recently joined Surrey County Cricket Club and as part of his apprenticeship he is acting as twelfth man for the team. This means he does not bat or bowl he acts as a glorified skivvy, doing all the dirty jobs that no-one else wants to do such as bringing drinks for the players, running errants for them and batting and bowling in the nets when the senior players require it.

      He is twelfth man against Middlesex when after changing his bat the Surrey captain Persee Grace dies while in the middle of another brilliant knock. Despite being a great player Grace is an unpopular captain at Surrey. The Police soon discover he has been poisoned and Roger North finds initially him and later his father suspected of killing him. His father because he supplied and made the bat that the poison came from. Now Roger must find the truth and unravel the mystery before he ends up dead like his captain.


      ==My thoughts on this novel:==

      My two great loves in life are cricket and reading murder mysteries, so a book that incorporated both of these features should be heaven for me. However that was not how a felt after reading this book, as I found this a disappointing piece of fiction. It both disappointed me in the mystery stakes as I found it far fetched and unlikely, while in the cricket sense I found several inaccuracies in what I read.

      I was given this book a while back as a present and on the face of it it was an ideal present. That is because I am a big fan and supporter of Sussex County Cricket Club and the novel is written by John Parker who is the father of one of my favourite ex-Sussex players Paul Parker. It is not often I come across a novel that so heavily features cricket so I was very much looking forward to reading it. The author is a former journalist with forty years experience and a former cricket reporter so for that respect his credentials look excellent.

      And in truth I cannot fault his writing style. It was easy to follow and I enjoyed some of the concepts he created within the story. I think it must be very difficult to put the ideas of cricket, murder, blackmail and a young man struggling to to find his way all in the same story. And as such in some respects it was a clever piece of writing to link them all together as well as the author did. But for a reader that know s a lot about cricket and murder mysteries it just did not work.

      It me start at the beginning of the story. Roger North our hero in the story catch a ball in the crowd that was hit by his captain and that was heading for the head of the unpopular businessman and friend of Grace. Ignoring the chances of this happening was very slim, the author kept saying that North catch had saved the businessman's life as it would have hit him in the head. I just found this unbelievable as I have never heard of a cricket ball killing a grown man after hitting him. There were several examples of this and while I realise the story was set in the late 1980's I found the idea of cricketers drinking alcohol while batting impossible to believe in, as I have never done it at my Club level, I'm sure professionals would not do it at a much higher level.

      Maybe I know a little too much about County Cricket where this was set but several of the concepts I found totally unbelievable. I will not give any more away at this stage but for me it meant the story lost all credibility as I knew the author was wrong. Yes I understand completely the author has a poetic licence and wants to make the story more interesting and exciting but for me this did not work and my enjoyment was ruined.

      Not only that but the mystery that unrevealed about the death of the Surrey Captain seemed to me very far fetched. To me it did not seem that much of a mystery as to me it was obvious who the guilty party was. The question I was interested in was how was it done and why was it done. Although I did admittedly find it good finding out how all the elements in the story were linked. I kept expecting an amazing twist in the story that would change my perspective but it never came. Yes there were a few twists to the story and surprises along the way but I had expected them and they never blew me away as being new or fresh ideas.

      The story was fast paced all the way through and positively there was always something happening usually to Roger North. Again the conclusion to the story while it explained everything and tied all the loose ends up, again seemed very hard to believe, but by know it did not surprise me. The story to my amazement even had an epilogue, not sure if I would call it this though!! It must be one of the shortest I have ever read at half a page long and in my view did not even do a poor story justice.

      Roger North was the unlikely star of the story. A young man trying to break into the first team at Surrey. As a character I was surprised that I took to him as well as I did. I liked his positive and fighting spirit and how he was mainly treading ground he did not know. In that respect I was on his side and I liked the way he dealt with and treated people. The only thing that concerned me and I could not relate to was the way attractive women seemed to fall at his feet. As I struggled to find descriptions of him in the story so this somewhat surprised me.

      The books length was probably about right for this story. With regular chapters breaking up the play successfully. There was quite a lot of depth within it and this allowed the reader to picture the scene that was being set or the character that was being described. I would have liked a few more characters within the Surrey team as I struggled to remember who was who and clever nicknames or greater mannerisms would have helped the reader.

      For a cricket fan who knew quite a lot about life at the Oval this story did not deal with the facts in a satisfactory way. Maybe I know or think I know too much about the concepts the story but I would say if you do not like cricket I think you would find this a very dull book. For me it was a an interesting concepts that because of the inaccuracies never really worked.

      When I researched this book I wan unable to find to find it in paperback format. Which makes the book expensive in Hardback version and frankly not worth it in my opinion.

      ==Conclusion:==

      I do not feel I can in all honesty recommend this book despite my love of cricket and all the cricket information within it. For me the story was hard to believe in and some of the author details seemed incorrect. For the non cricket fan I would not consider this as it would probably bore you. The mystery was well though out but again for me seemed quite unlikely but at least the author did bring up some good concepts.

      ==More Information:==

      Hard cover edition:

      Pages: 208
      Price 13.99
      Publisher: Andre Deutsch Ltd
      ISBN-10: 023398769X
      ISBN-13: 978-0233987699
      Year first published: 1992

      Thanks for reading my review

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

      © CPTDANIELS October 2012.

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