==Synopsis of the book:==
When walking with his dog one day Surveyor Douglas Young discovers an old derelict building called Underwood House. He purchases the property and starts getting a team together to convert it into flats. And because he is so interested and likes the place he decides to keep a flat for himself from where he can project manage not only this project but his affairs. As the flats are completed and then sold he becomes the appointed leader of the new residents and as such their focus for all communication regarding them.
However, while working one day Douglas and his young assistant Tash are asked to check out one of the flats as one of the residents as not been seen for a few days. They discover Stan Eastwick dead under unusual circumstances and soon find themselves involved in a Police investigation. The dead man had worked for Douglas previously and was an 'odd job' man for him. And very soon they discover that while in the other flats the dead man also put camera's in them so he could secretly watch the residents from his own living room. Now the Police must find out who has murdered him and why.
==My thought on the novel:==
I found this quite a disappointing crime thriller. It was certainly not what I expected and from that viewpoint it was quite a nice change but I still found it to be a slow, quite dull piece of fiction. When I picked up the book I expected a murder and a routine Police investigation but instead the story focused little on that investigation and the officers that carried it out. Instead it focused more on Douglas and Tash and what happened next, to them and the other owners of the flats.
I am quite familiar with the works of this author so I thought I knew roughly what to expect. From my perspective I would not describe Gerald Hammond as a great writer. Although to give him his due he does write about places he knows about. This story was set close to Edinburgh and it was clear that this Scottish writer had a clear idea of this place and in particular this hidden run down old House. That is the way it came across to me in his excellent descriptions.
Gerald Hammond is a successful writer. In a long career he has written a total of 75 books of which the vast majority are within the crime fiction arena. With this book being one of his latest being published in 2011. In the past while I have always enjoyed the authors stories I have criticised him also for a lack of depth within them and this I found to be the case again in this story. I find it frustrating because he does come up with excellent ideas initially, I just feel he doesn't do the concepts justice.
Recently I have read several crime thrillers by Peter James so this week I was looking for a slightly shorter and less complex read as I knew I would not have too much spare time. And that in a nutshell is what I got. What appealed to me initially was the interesting title to the book as I found the idea of spying on people strangely fascinating. Especially as there are many angles this could come from and I hoped it would lead to someone discovering murder.
So I checked out the stories summary on the rear of the book. This was quite short and told of Douglas finding this house and his plans for it. It sounded a little different and I was immediately interested when it advised me that one of the new residents was discovered dead having been spying on the other flat owners. I thought this meant he could have numerous enernies as anyone discovering this would have very angry. In this basis I decided to purchase it and as I was at a local car boot sale it was on sale for just 30p so I couldn't go far wrong.
When I started the book in earnest I was quickly disappointed by it. I found although I liked the initial concept, the story was slow and instead of an action packed thriller we got a daily update of the progress and developments in the new community. As a result I started to flag and look forward to getting to the end of the chapter I was reading. Although I felt the author was setting the scene quite well and introducing a variety of very different characters who had now purchased the different flats.
The murder I had patiently waited for happened about a quarter of the way through the story. I liked all the ideas around it and the way you could quickly see that many would have a possible motive for wanting him dead. Although at the same time I was surprised I expected the Police investigation to be the main subject matter from this point on but I was wrong. As Douglas and Tash still held centre stage and it was only their meeting with the Police and other residents that was recorded. From this perspective it was different, but I thought maybe as a result little seemed to be happening in solving the crime.
What also disappointed me was from halfway through the story it lacked any good twists or turns within it. There seemed one genuine suspect and so little in way way of mystery. But on the positive side the author did have a ending to the story that was full of action and suspense. It helped make up for the slow start and at least left we feeling it was a worth while read. Although I would have preferred more in the way of clues and evidence being found, as I kept thinking this was all a smokescreen and a new suspect would surprise me, but that never happened.
I think one of the main reasons I did not particularly enjoy this thriller was the lead character Douglas Young. I found I had little in common with him and I found his relationship with the young Tash very hard to believe in and find realistic. As this as it turned out to be an important concept within the book and one I had not expected or indeed looked for in a thriller. I felt I did not understand or indeed really know Douglas, maybe more detail about him and sharing more of his thoughts may have helped.
For me this book is ideal for a light or holiday read as there is not too much to tax the reader. As for me a murder mystery that is only 170 pages long is not likely to be too complex and twisting a story. I would have preferred a more old fashioned mystery involving several suspects but I think far to early in the story the guilty party became apparent. That said it is difficult (although I have tried!!) to be too critical of a book that cost me so little money.
I do not think this is a piece of crime fiction I can recommend. While I liked the concept behind it I found the real lack of mystery a disappointing feature. Although I was surprised that the story focused so much on Douglas and Tash and not the actual Police investigation of the crime, it made for a different read in any case. The story although initially slow going did improve and the ending of the story as full of suspense and was exciting.
Year first published: 2011
Thanks for reading my review.
This review is published under my user name on both Ciao and Dooyoo.
© CPTDANIELS March 2013