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Who's the grass?
Whispering Grass - Graham Ison
Member Name: CPTDANIELS
Whispering Grass - Graham Ison
Advantages: Complex and detailed story
Disadvantages: Lack of depth on characters and scenes
I was looking this week for a good traditional crime thriller to read when visiting my local library. As always there was so much choice, but in the end I plumbed for an author I knew and had enjoyed previously. In total this will be the third novel I have read by Graham Ison, so with some confidence I took the book home to enjoy.
=== About the author ===
Graham Ison has written so far in his career 27 novels. His speciality is crime fiction which understandable as he spent 30 years working for Special Branch at New Scotland Yard. That should give him a good insight into Police work!! The work of this popular writer can be put into four distinctive series, Gaffney & Tipper, Tommy Fox, Hardcastle and Brock & Poole. It is the last of these that I will be reviewing here.
=== Synopsis of the novel ===
Moments after Jimmy Gould is released from Mill Prison having served an eight-year prison sentence, he is shot dead by a sniper. This brings DCI Brock and his partner DS David Poole into investigate. They quickly discover this was not a popular man, as he was well known as a grass as he previously informed on the gang he was working with, plus several other occasions while in prison.
All Brock and Poole's immediate enquiries bring no reason or witnesses to this crime. However the following day another man is also found shot this time on a golf course. The link between the two men is immediately found, they were the only men released from Mill Prison the day before. And it was this second dead man Bernard Pointer who alerted the prison guards that Gould had been shot when he was leaving just after him.
DCI Brock and his Team then look to see what else links these two dead men and why someone should want to silence them. Pointer had just served a three-year sentence for embezzling, but had also previously worked for an Undertaker. Where he escorted coffins from Europe to be buried back in England. However when Brock interviews his ex-wife and the boss of this undertakers their stories about this man and his work are totally different. Why should this be? Things clearly are not what they seem.
=== My thoughts on the book ===
I found I did enjoy this book on the whole; it was an interesting and absorbing crime investigation mainly because it was a long and very complex story. Having already two novels by this author before I had a good idea about what to expect and I wasn't disappointed as it followed a similar structure to the others. Having said that I do think this was the weakest of the three I have read so far.
This novel was one of the Brock and Poole series. It is fifth in this series that currently has seven in it and was written in 2005. I certainly think you could pick up this or any other book from the series and enjoy it without any previous knowledge of what has happened before in the series. As each novel has a new investigation and if anything relevant has happened previously the author advises you of it briefly during it.
When I picked this book up I selected it in the basis of the summary within the inside cover of it. Although to be honest this was ridiculously short and in no way gave the reader the true and adequate picture of the complexity of the novel, there was still enough to get me interested in it. In hindsight the author could have told the reader a lot more without impacting or giving too much away of the story away.
The book was well written throughout and I certainly believe the author uses his considerable knowledge, expertise and wisdom of all the years in the Police Service to write a believable and highly commendable story. There was so much detail to enjoy in a plot that was very complex but at no time did I get lost thanks to some skilful writing.
On the negative side the author's characterisations were weak. He brings a lot of new faces into every novel, but in my opinion he does not do them justice with his descriptive abilities on them. You end up with only a vague impression of what they look like and very little about their histories and personalities. This led me to not ever really feeling I knew them as their characteristics and personalities for me were missing and lacking.
I also found this to be true when the author sets a scene or described a new environment. Again you only get a vague impression of it, he misses the descriptive detail, and the use of the senses and in the end you end up with a bland short description that makes you feel like an important part of the book is missing.
The story itself, I thought initially would be quite straight forward but this was the big plus for me with Ison's work. It is the way he so excellently leads the reader through a long and complex case. I think this is due to all his experience of them but it makes it very interesting and enjoyable following his line of thought. Which meanders around and takes you in some unusual and unexpected places.
The shear complexity of the story is astounding. But to give the author credit you always feel you are heading in the right direction, even when you're not! And you need to concentrate in what your reading as he has a habit of including briefly characters that have important functions within the story, blink and you have missed the significance of it. I think the author has a sound mind to be able to develop such as complex story and let it unwind in such a well-told way.
The pace of the story is always fast. This is due to the amount happening and I don't think it could be any other way with this type of investigation. Ison uses suspense very effectively and as the story develops you really need the answers at to what is going on as much as the Police do!
I would say the conclusion to the story is slightly predictable, but on the positive side everything is well explained so that it all makes logical sense. So that you understand why these people do relate to each other. While unlike a lot of Crime books you also find out what happens a few months down the line, which is a nice change, and you have the feeling that it has been rounded of properly.
The novels main character is DCI Brock and you get to know a lot about his thoughts, impressions and opinions during the book as it is written from his viewpoint. He is a likable character with a surprisingly happy home life with a rich attractive girlfriend. He is a character that is easy to relate to as he is quite down to earth but for me he lacks charisma, but that again could be because of the lack of meaningful descriptions involving him.
While with the other regular characters you do not build up anywhere near the rapport. What I do like about them is it is such a diverse multi-cultural team that works for Brock and the way they interact with one another. Despite being so different they all seem to gel together and it is only the Commander they all seem to dislike. Again with these excellent characters more description about them and their lives would enhance them in the mind of the reader.
While I found all the support characters weak. As they all similar characters because their personalities were not explained or described adequately. They seem to mimic each other and only helped the Police when there was no choice and then they helped to ridiculous high levels.
Humour is a key element throughout the novel. It helps lighten some situations as the author's wit is sharp and sometimes you don't see it coming. The only problem I found was all Brock's team seemed to share the same level and degree of wit and sarcasm. I found this annoying as a result because we all have different humour regardless of whether we work together or not.
I must admit the book was a little on the short side but it worked for me. Yes the author could have added more depth into the story with fuller descriptions but I wonder if that would have slowed the novel down and made an already complex story confusing.
=== Conclusion ===
I think on balance this was an average Detective novel. On the positive side it was a very good complex and intriguing story. However, I found the lack of descriptions by the author frustrating and made me feel I had missed important aspects of the story. As a result I will not recommend this novel and I will look for another from this author to review.
Publisher: Severn House Publishing Ltd
Price: £3.18 (New Amazon)
More about the author: www.grahamison.co.uk
Thank you for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
@CPTDANIELS September 2009.
Summary: Average Detective novel