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Book review – for readers and writers – no.137: Morgen Bailey reviews Trouble on the Heath by Terry Jones

03 Dec

Today’s book review of a crime novella is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

Being a writer and editor, I read and review books with both hats. If you’re a writer reading this review and found it useful, do let me know.

Trouble on the Heath by Terry Jones

Trouble on the HeathSynopsis: A comedy of Russian gangsters, town planners and a dog called Nigel. Malcolm Thomas is not happy. A view he loves is about to be blocked by an ugly building. He decides to take action and organises a protest. Then things go badly wrong and Malcolm finds himself running for his life. Along the way, he gets mixed up with depressed town planners, violent gangsters, and a kidnapped concert pianist. Malcolm starts to wonder if objecting to the building was such a good idea when he finds himself upside down with a gun in his mouth.

This novella is available via http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B008HHYN9W.

Review of the paperback:

A mere 104 pages, it is designed for “an avid reader who wants a quick fix or if you haven’t picked up a book since school”. This author is Terry Jones from Monty Python, and given the synopsis it is bound to be funny (He had me at a dog called Nigel).

– After Malcolm spots the planning notice, he calls an emergency meeting, which is hilarious.

– It is a very English story, especially with named characters such as Trevor and Cynthia. Lady Chesney is superbly portrayed and I love her view of Malcolm and his cheap suit and Liverpool accent, struggling to believe that he is a professor.

– We then meet the brilliant Russian, the evil Emperor, here miss understand the intentions of the residents association and plots – from his eye and fortress (very pretty 19th century house) to bring it down.

Thereafter comes a proliferation of peaks and troughs to form a true comedy of errors.

And now for writers…

– Regular readers of these reviews will know that I am not a fan of ‘well…’ as a pause in dialogue, and on page 17 we have three, and not by the same character. (then another one on page 18, and two more on page 19, and two more on 26 from another character). Writers, I urge you, please check your ‘well’s and if you have to have any keep them to one character.

– There are lots of laugh-out-loud moments including ‘Trevor heaved such a deep sigh it seemed to have started in his trousers’ and ‘in his particular business if that meant taking vital organs out of someone’s body and replacing them with their own credit cards, so be it’.

– There is a ‘started to’, that isn’t needed, and regular readers of these reviews will know that is also a bugbear of mine.

– Something else I mention on a fairly regular basis is when writing in past tense timeframes such as ‘ago’ should be ‘before’, i.e. yesterday should be the day before, likewise ‘by now’ should be ‘by then’.

– Although the names Terry uses are very English, I felt they were too old. I imagined Malcolm and Angela (and Malcolm’s sister Glenys) to be of almost retirement age because of their names but they have a six-year-old son Freddie. Of course this is feasible but it threw me out of the story and Malcolm is later described as a young man.

– When you’re writing third person omniscient, where you are in several characters’ heads, you need a section break between each main character.

– Chapter endings should generally be cliffhangers or summarisations, and Terry has a mixture of both. I especially like the tease reveal at the end of chapter seven (just under half way), and the opening of chapter eight is brilliant.

– Generally, the tenses are spot on but one sentence glared at me: ‘it always surprised him how violent a mother can get’ (where it should be could get)

– There were a handful of coincidences, one of which was one too many. If you have to have coincidences, just have one and make it believable. Do not make it solve the main problem or your reader will see it as a cop out… from the writer.

– Clichés included ‘hurt her to the quick’ and ‘stopped in his tracks’.

Conclusion

The writing is simple, as it is to be expected for a Quick Read, but there were a couple of times when the tone felt a little condescending, as if talking down to children. There is loads of humour including ‘transparency in action’ being described as ‘stupidity in action’ (I would agree), and the barometer reference in chapter 13. Historical fiction fans will enjoy this story as Malcolm is a history teacher and there are several references to historical texts. So, an entertaining and somewhat educational easy read, albeit improved by tighter editing, especially the removal of the overabundance of ‘well’s. Lots of best bits including a very cleverly written twist, and a superb ending.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.

Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.

She also helps other authors with an inexpensive freelance editing and critiquing service, and welcomes, and actively helps to promote, guest authors on her blog – see opportunities.

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If you would like to send me a book review, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

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Morgen Bailey Cover montage 2I now run online courses – details on Courses – and for anyone looking for an editor, do take a look at Editing and Critique.

If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.

 
 

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