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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
My formal education in history ended in 1985 when I was just 13, despite it being my favourite subject, if not at that time, then certainly since. Owing to a quirk in the syllabus at my senior school, studying history... Continue reading
Posted May 26, 2021 at Material Witness
A lot of dystopian fiction is stronger in the first half of the story than the second. The narrative of the unfolding disaster itself is so powerful and critical, once it's been told the air goes out of the story and it loses its way. Not here. In fact the second half is probably even more compelling than the first (that kept me up to 3am) as Sweeney-Baird allows her characters to develop their own stories and to tell the story of a world coming to terms with men as a micro-minority. Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2021 at Material Witness
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” The final line of A Tale Of Two Cities is one of the most celebrated in literature. It is an exquisite piece of writing that strikes the perfect chord at the end of a truly great novel. I knew the line long before I read the book for the first time, which was about a month ago. What I didn´t know was just how tumultuous, how dramatic and how emotional the final quarter of the book is. Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2021 at Material Witness
A historical thriller set in the Marshalsea debtors prison, and recommended by one of my favourite writers, was always going to be difficult to resist just a few weeks after finishing Little Dorrit. As Antonia Hodgson points out in the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2021 at Material Witness
It´s been dreadful, hasn´t it, this absolute disaster of a year? Few of us will look back on it with any great fondness and the overwhelming memory of it will be confinement, masks and hand gel. It´s fitting then that... Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2020 at Material Witness
Over the summer, a friend told me that her 13-year-old daughter planned to start reading the novels of Charles Dickens. I was impressed and appalled. The former by the young lady´s enterprise, the latter by the fact that despite being... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2020 at Material Witness
What is in a name? As an A-Level student of French in the late 1980s, Manon has always called to mind a beautiful, wrathful French peasant girl who wreaks revenge upon her neighbours for their wicked treatment of her father.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2020 at Material Witness
My obsession with crime novels stretches back to 1997, when a chance pick up of a James Lee Burke novel at Gatwick Airport - a book judged entirely by its cover - has led me to reading (and listening to)... Continue reading
Posted Apr 23, 2020 at Material Witness
Memories are curious, fragile, temperamental things. I know I attended this or that match at Twickenham in 2018 or the Ricoh in 2019, but not much of what happened. But I can remember some matches like they were played yesterday,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2020 at Material Witness
The lifeblood of live sport is drama - whether it´s controversy, tension or a turnaround in fortunes, it is the capacity for the unexpected and the heightening of emotions that really gives an event its edge. If I didn´t know... Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2020 at Material Witness
A recent Twitter post I saw provoked me into thinking about the most memorable live sporting events I have attended. Live sport has been a huge part of my life since childhood, when our family were season ticket holders at... Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2020 at Material Witness
This is less a single book review than a reflection on the 17 (seventeen) novels by Elly Griffiths that I´ve read in the last eight months. The books span two series, five decades and (essentially) three counties. I´ve spent time... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2020 at Material Witness
It is cruel to us, this world of publishing. It makes us wait two years for a book, the reading of which is the work of a frenzied day and then the waiting begins again. Here is is then, the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2020 at Material Witness
The Dry, which earned the Sunday Times' crime fiction of the year title for 2017, is billed as the first in a series featuring Aaron Falk, a Melbourne-based detective. (That's Melbourne Australia rather than Derbyshire, for the 2 per cent... Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2020 at Material Witness
Meet the Casey boys! Johnny: handsome and charming, married to his best friend's widow, the effervescent gourmet entrepreneur, Jessie. Ed: solid, reliable, completely in love with his lovely wife Cara, whose knows her secret problem, but not how to help... Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2020 at Material Witness
We are all, unfortunately, grimly familiar with the drill now. You see something on social media, a rumour of something happening in a school far away (usually in the US). In the minutes that follow the story migrates from Twitter... Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2020 at Material Witness
‘What do they know of England, who only England know?’ Rudyard Kipling made his anguished lament at the insularity of his countrymen in a 19th Century poem, but it is jarringly contemporary. A process that began with Theresa May declaring... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2019 at Material Witness
There is no superlative quite strong enough to describe just how brilliant The Lost Man is. Jane Harper's third novel held me completely in its spell from start to finish and I felt quite bereft at putting it down for... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2018 at Material Witness
Dear Prime Minister, Today you told us that in 2018, we will feel ‘renewed confidence and pride’ in Britain. Are you the same Prime Minister who throughout the last 18 months has been telling us that we’re all coming together... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2017 at Material Witness
La Belle Sauvage is enchanting, fascinating - really quite brilliant. It's the book I hadn't realised I needed. Only when I started reading the opening chapters of Phillip Pullman's triumphant return to the Oxford of His Dark Materials trilogy did I understand how much I had missed this world in the 17 years since The Amber Spyglass was published. Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2017 at Material Witness
Thanks J.W. - good advice. So many books though and never enough time. Do you have any advice on other series you've enjoyed?
Toggle Commented Aug 4, 2017 on REVIEW: Cast Iron by Peter May at Material Witness
1 reply
There is little more satisfying than settling into the first couple of chapters of a new crime series and thinking, 'Yes, this is the real deal. I'm going to enjoy this.'So it was with Susie Steiner's Missing, Presumed, the first in a series featuring Huntingdon detective Manon Bradshaw. Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2017 at Material Witness
The second novel of Becky Chambers' wonderful Wayfarer series might be the most surprising book I read this year. Her debut novel, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet was one of the most enjoyable I read in 2014... Continue reading
Posted Jun 26, 2017 at Material Witness
2017 is the 10th anniversary of Steve Mosby first terrifying me with his dark, off-beat crime novels, a process that started with The 50-50 Killer. It's fitting therefore that this year he has graduated to giving me actual nightmares in his latest brilliant outing, You Can Run. Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2017 at Material Witness
Need You Dead classic Grace and classic Peter James, another lively chapter in a series that has maintained a high pace, high readability and high quality since the start. All the hallmarks of James’ earlier work is here: the meticulous research and attention to procedural detail that has earned him the plaudits of real cops around the world; the intricate, mystery-laden plots that keeps the reader guessing; the care in character development. Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2017 at Material Witness