Today’s book review of a crime novel 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.
Synopsis: The body of Reginald Williamson had been well concealed under a bush in Middlesbury Common and the murder efficiently carried out – a single stab wound to the chest. Reggie’s dog had been killed just as efficiently. With no clues or obvious motive, the case is going nowhere. Then he (Morgen: Warren not the dog!) gets a break.
Warren’s instincts tell him that the informant is dodgy – a former police officer under investigation. But when Warren hears the incredible story he has to tell, he’s glad to have given him a chance to speak. Suddenly, a wide criminal conspiracy, involving high-level police corruption, a gangster and a trained killer, is blown wide open… (Morgen: repetition of ‘wide’!) and Warren finds that this time, it’s not just his career under threat, but his family – and his life.
This novel is available via https://www.amazon.co.uk/Silent-Grave-Warren-Jones-crime-ebook/dp/B00ULOOOIY and https://www.amazon.com/Silent-Grave-Warren-Jones-crime-ebook/dp/B00ULOOOIY etc.
- Like all good crime stories, we start with a dead body… two in fact. There are lots of threads going on but not so many that we can’t keep track as they weave throughout the story.
- The character names are distinctive so readers shouldn’t get confused. I always recommend not having characters names with the same beginning letter (as it’s how we remember them if they’ve not been mentioned for a while) and not look similar, e.g. Tim, Tom, Bill, Will etc.
- There is a lot to like in this novel including ‘”Whatever the crisis, boil the kettle” was based on solid, empirical evidence in Warren’s experience.’ It works for me. 🙂 Warren is, especially as a boy, an avid reader so I like him all the more.
- Paul is great at characters especially their description (Windermere is brilliant) and with a rogue ex-boyfriend being one of them, it’s easy to feel even more sorry for the murder victim’s niece.
- Writers should pull at their readers’ heartstrings (to use a cliché!) and having read the first two novels in this series, the mention of Warren’s father’s death pulled at mine.
- I suspect that Warren’s choice of radio stations (BBC Radio 2 and Heart) are also Paul’s favourites, as he and I are similar ages and they’re my favourites too.
- There are some technicalities in this novel, especially when talking about body temperatures. The worst thing to do when writing any kind of fiction is to get a fact wrong as there will always be readers who know what you are talking about and if there’s one thing they don’t believe they will loose faith that you either know what you’re writing or that you’ve done your accurate research. Paul is a teacher rather than having a police background but it all felt authentic.
And now for writers…
- The title is a cliché but that’s fine because it’s the title. Clichés are best avoided (unless said by a character who uses them which makes them distinctive) in the narration and I spotted ‘clutching at straws’, ‘snow white’, ‘like the back of his hand’, ‘as white as a ghost’, ‘as long as your arm’, ‘grabbing at straws’, ‘bolt upright’, ‘spun on his heel’, and ‘pitch black’ (the latter in the free short story after the novel).
- There is some switching of points of view in the same scene, e.g. ‘If she thought the question strange, she didn’t let it bother her.’ Most readers wouldn’t pick up on this but it does slip from Warren’s point of view to the woman, because we’re talking about her emotions and she may be bothered but not showing it. Everything that’s narrated has to stay with the main character’s point of view so it should have been ‘‘If she thought the question strange, it didn’t show.’ In a scene where Sheehey and Warren are talking about Warren’s father’s death, we are both the two characters’ points of view whereas we should only be in Warren’s, so be careful with your writing that you stick with your main character only unless you start a new section with the other character taking the lead. Then in chapter 26, Warren has woken up after a nap and the scene with his wife going into her point of view as well as his.
- Ago versus before: when writing (narration) in past tense, timings change, e.g. yesterday isn’t yesterday because you’re already in the past. It’s ‘the day before’ or ‘a day earlier’. Ditto ‘ago’ e.g. ‘until he retired a few years ago’ should be ‘… a few years earlier’. Characters speak in present tense so timings are accurate for them.
- There are very few other slips in tense with ‘the man that they believe is behind the operation’ that should have been ‘believed was behind’.
- Whilst vs while: I’ve been picked up (in a review) for using the old-fashioned ‘whilst’ rather than ‘while’ and there are 58 ‘whilst’s in this manuscript (thank you, Mrs Kindle search) so they do become obvious after a while… whilst. 🙂
- ‘Well’ is one of my bugbears when used as a dialogue pause. We say it but we also so ‘er’ and shouldn’t use them in our writing.
- A lot of writers (in my experience) have said ‘started to’ (or ‘began to’) unnecessarily, e.g. ‘John started to sing.’ You only need the ‘started to’ if he’s interrupted.
- Another issue to be careful of it when you have two characters of the same gender; make sure that all the ‘he’s and ‘she’s refer to the last character name mentioned. If there could be any doubt, it’s something that could make the reader come out of the flow of the story – it happened to me here – and you want to avoid that.
- Something else I come across is the shaking of hands. You wouldn’t think it would be too tricky but here we have ‘Taking his cue, Warren stood up and stuck his hand out. Jordan met him, shaking firmly.’ The reader could think that Jordan’s body was shaking so it should be ‘shaking it firmly’. *which itself is a split infinitive so should be ‘stuck out his hand’.
- Again, it’s seeing our writing from a reader’s point of view. We know what we mean by something but regardless of how good a writer you are, you always need someone else (at least one person, and ideally a professional) to look through your manuscript to tell you something they don’t ‘get’. An example here was when a character was ‘dragged into the living room by a foot’. There are three possibilities here: they were only dragged a short distance (a foot = twelve inches), someone was using their own foot to drag them, or what I assume was intended: they were dragged by one of the feet.
- Other repetitions: ‘Pretty scrupulous / pretty much’, at least two ‘back to the present’, a few licking of lips, ‘we were able to build that link between him and the case we’d built’, and ‘to reconstruct the ancient structure’ jarred with me. Later there is ‘tall man in his early Although he’d lost the brawn of his early…’ Also slipping through the net was ‘…kill him after all these years? After all, … your father’s death. He did him a favour, after all.’ And ‘…never turned coffee down* – and sent me down… jotted a few numbers down*’, ‘could have lifted him off the floor and twisted his head off*’. It’s all too easy not to spot this kind of repetition but it becomes more obvious when reading our work aloud (in my case via my Kindle Fire’s text-to-speech function). I’d recommend everyone doing that. *split infinitives should be ‘never turned down coffee’, ‘jotted down a few numbers’, ‘twisted off his head’.
- There weren’t many typos but I spotted: ‘It is alleged that while he one of the most successful crime lords…’, ‘What did do Reggie afterwards?’, ‘little more that hearsay’, ‘I need you to take (the) briefing’, ‘he prayed silently as (he) took…’, ‘she needed to tell to you…’.
- Finally, this is a very personal bug bear but I really don’t like ‘long moment’ / ‘long second’ and we have both in this story. Like a reader not reading a prologue – I don’t if they’re more than two pages – it’s not the writer’s fault if there’s a phrase a reader doesn’t like so if you like those phrases then keep them in.
A very enjoyable read for fans of crime novels with solid characters, vivid description and realistic dialogue.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a freelance editor, online tutor, prolific blogger, 2015 Head Judge for the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition, Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition, RONE 2015 Judge.