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benhunt
Madrid, Spain
Hack turned flack living in Madrid with three kids hoping one day to be able to read Arturo Perez Reverte in his native Spanish...
Interests: wine, cooking, family, historical fiction, rugby, crime fiction, us civil war, biography, cricket, american football
Recent Activity
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You cannot keep a good man down. This applies both to the evergreen Ian Rankin and to John Rebus, who refuses to let a minor thing like retirement deter him from chasing down the mad and the bad of the Edinburgh underworld. Here is Rebus in his 21st outing, slower of step and shorn of his warrant card, but energised in another enjoyable and entertaining novel. Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Material Witness
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The triumph of The Crown, the Netflix dramatisation of the British Royal Family following the current Queen's ascent to the throne in 1952, is that it does so much with so little. At its heart The Crown is the story of a young woman coming to terms with her new job and a young family with its new circumstances, albeit that those circumstances are of course somewhat extraordinary. Nothing much of anything happens. Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at Material Witness
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The Lincoln Memorial features in the opening credits of House of Cards, and as I watched an episode the other day, I couldn't help but think, 'what on earth would he have made of what's going on in the US today?' It's not an original question, of course. Every day tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions of Americans must ask themselves the same as they absorb the toxic daily dose of absurdity, banality and profanity that passes for a modern Presidential campaign. Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2016 at Material Witness
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There's a good reality TV novel in Alexandra Oliva's highly acclaimed debut The Last One and the makings of a good dystopian story, but for me they didn't fit together well. It's a promising, if flawed debut, and I'll definitely look out for Oliva's next book. Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2016 at Material Witness
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Anthony Horowitz's pedigree as a writer of period detective tales is unimpeachable, as the legions of fans Foyle's War would be happy to tell you. So it was hardly a shock that he proved adept at writing two classic mysteries in the excellent Magpie Murders. Continue reading
Posted Oct 18, 2016 at Material Witness
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It's been quite the trial over the last few months, walking past piles of Dolores Redondo's second Baztan trilogy novel, Legado en Los Huesos, knowing that I have to wait for the English translation. The Legacy of the Bones, the... Continue reading
Posted Oct 18, 2016 at Material Witness
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They say you know you're getting old when policemen start looking young. Equally though it could be when fictional detectives start joining the ranks of senior management. Alan Banks, Peter Robinson's pragmatic and likable Yorkshire detective turns a fictional 30 next year, having made his debut in Gallows View in 1987, coincidentally the same year that John Rebus first appeared in Knots and Crosses. But while the irascible Rebus is the maverick who never grew up, retiring as a Detective Inspector, Banks has made it into the corridors of power, having been promoted to Superintendent. Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2016 at Material Witness
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On the final day of Spanish school year, the day after the UK's Brexit decision, Agnes asked her school friends to sign her t-shirt because she didn't know whether she would still be allowed to stay in Spain following the vote. For most English 10-year-olds, Brexit is a distant, abstract thing,but for Agnes, it is very real and something she thinks about and worries about. In anticipation of Theresa May's visit to Madrid on Thursday, Agnes has laid out her views on Brexit below. The work is all hers. Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2016 at Material Witness
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As Ian Rankin prepares for the 30th anniversary next year of the publication of the first John Rebus novel, Knots and Crosses, it was fascinating to hear how close we might have come to never hearing of either of them.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2016 at Material Witness
Thanks Pamela! Any recommendations? Always looking for new and interesting stuff...
1 reply
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I readily acknowledge that publishing 500 posts in the 10 years that I've been writing Material Witness does not make this crime fiction's most prolific blog. But perhaps a silver star for longevity? When I wrote the first post in April 2006, aiming to 'create this site as a resource for crime/mystery/thriller/historical fiction fans'. it was one of a relatively small number of blogs doing that. In the intervening 10 years - save a sabbatical that covered most of 2012 - I've been reviewing, interviewing and sharing various other bits and pieces here, and I've thoroughly enjoyed it, even if time has become increasingly hard to come by. So I hope readers will forgive an entirely self-indulgent post in which I discuss the 10 favourite books I've reviewed in the 10 years of Material Witness. Continue reading
Posted Sep 29, 2016 at Material Witness
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Steve Mosby has been a staple of my reading diet since this blog started and I hold to my belief that he's the most under-rated novelist I read. This is another brilliant, chilling outing. Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2016 at Material Witness
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If you've ever wondered where you come from, where you're going and why you (and the rest of us you share the planet with) behave as you do and believe what you believe, you should read Sapiens. If you love great story-telling and whip-smart writing with a sense of humour as sharp as its sense of purpose, you should read Sapiens. If you're curious at all about the human condition, you should read Sapiens. Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2016 at Material Witness
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As predicted yesterday Edward St Aubyn's Some Hope did not make it on to the holiday reading list after all, having been finished last night courtesy of a massive thunderstorm outside that coincided with early attempts at sleep. Today's list... Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2016 at Material Witness
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The beach beckons and so for the past couple of weeks I've engaged in one of my favourite annual activities: drawing together my holiday reading list. Most years I can manage about 10 in 14 days, depending on a variety of factors that include weather, word counts and levels of familial peacefulness. This year's dozen (optimism abounds) - split more or less equally by hard copy and Kindle version for ease of travel purpose - cover everything from the origins of man and Finnish famine to Venetian crime-fighting as a cover for gastronomy and twentieth century social satire. Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2016 at Material Witness
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With the ten weekly installments delivered, Belgravia is complete and destined for the bookshelves as a hardback very shortly. So what can new readers of Julian Fellowes' serialised Victorian drama of etiquette and love expect? Well for one thing they... Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2016 at Material Witness
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At the age of 10, in 1982, I went on a school French trip to Normandy where we followed a well-trodden path around the region’s famous sites: the Basilica at Lisieux, the Bayeux Tapestry and of course the Normandy Beaches.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2016 at Material Witness
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Cronin has delivered a dramatic, smart finale to his series full of great storylines, pulsating writing and an action-packed denouement. But this is more than an ordinary vampire story, it's a multi-layered exploration of what it is to be human and I found it endlessly fascinating and thought-provoking. Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2016 at Material Witness
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Pleasantville is a tour de force. It is part political thriller, part courtroom drama and part murder mystery laced with nuanced social commentary. It excels in delivering riveting reading on all these fronts. But it is in the political sphere that it is at its most compelling, foreshadowing the controversial George W Bush election of 2000 and posing the question: What will money stop at to buy political outcomes? The answering is nasty and terrifying and in turn foreshadows the current ugly scenes in the US where a billionaire populist uses race and fear to propel himself to the brink of the White House. It details the loss democracy as something belonging to the people, instead becoming a tradable commodity, exclusive the preserve of the rich and powerful. Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2016 at Material Witness
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In the day-to-day grind of school runs, Spanish homework, cello practice and meal preparation in which all fruit and vegetables have to be disguised as Haribos, it's easy to lose sight of how beautiful and miraculous our children are. For... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2016 at Material Witness
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The Inspector McLean novels of James Oswald have become a firm fixture in what I often think of as the serial detective season. McLean comes early in the year, Rebus typically late. Peter James' Roy Grace is a harbinger of... Continue reading
Posted May 25, 2016 at Material Witness
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Sleeping Giants is a brilliantly conceived and executed novel that is part political conspiracy thriller, part action movie (it will make an outstanding film) and part science-fiction drama with a foreboding of dystopian nightmare. And it is greater than the sum of those parts. It is packed with big, keep-you-awake ideas. They touch ethics, politics, science, philosophy, psychology and much in between. Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2016 at Material Witness
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If a rewriting of Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre as Orphan, Governess, Serial Killer sounds unlikely, well so it is, but Lyndsay Faye pulls off the trick brilliantly in the wonderfully entertaining Jane Steele. Don’t waste any time, buy and devour this novel. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2016 at Material Witness
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The first thought that entered my head when I read that Julian Fellowes was to release a serial novel was: Coffey on the Mile. I spent a lot of time in the summer of 1996 heading in and out of... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2016 at Material Witness
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People often ask if I have a 'favourite' author. And the truth is that I don't. It is also true, however, that the new Charlie Parker novel from Irish writer John Connolly has become my most eagerly anticipated book of the year. Over the course of 14 books - after today's publication of A Time of Torment - and 17 years Connolly has developed one of crime fictions most enduring characters in Parker, and with him a series that stays fresh, exciting and fascinating. Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2016 at Material Witness