Book Review – THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND (2015) by Stuart Neville

THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND by STUART NEVILLE (2015, Vintage, 362pp) ∗∗∗½

Blurb: When 12-year-old Ciaran Devine confessed to murdering his foster father it sent shock waves through the nation. DCI Serena Flanagan, then an ambitious Detective Sergeant, took Ciaran’s confession after days spent earning his trust. He hasn’t forgotten the kindness she showed him – in fact, she hasn’t left his thoughts in the seven years he’s been locked away. Probation officer Paula Cunningham, now tasked with helping Ciaran re-enter society, suspects there was more to this case than the police uncovered. Ciaran’s confession saved his brother Thomas from a far lengthier sentence, and Cunningham can see the unnatural hold Thomas still has over his vulnerable younger brother. When she brings her fears to DCI Flanagan, the years of lies begin to unravel, setting a deadly chain of events in motion.

Stuart Neville’s sixth novel focuses on a new lead character, DCI Serena Flanagan, who made her first appearance in a supporting role in Neville’s previous book, THE FINAL SILENCE. Flanagan is a driven character, but also a wife and mother, who has recently recovered from breast cancer surgery. This element of her life links into a sub-plot about the tragic killing of a friend who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. This sub-plot is primarily designed to draw the reader into believing that Flangan’s instinctive approach to detection is accurate and sets her apart from her colleagues as the rest of this particular scenario is played out rather disappointingly.

The main plot, concerning the release of juvenile murderers Thomas and Ciaran Devine, is a fairly straight-forward psychological thriller. Flanagan’s approach in gaining Ciaran’s confidence by playing on the teenager’s crush on her leads to tensions with colleagues in her department. The author highlights Flanagan’s sexual rejection by her husband, following her surgery and contrasts this with her confused feelings for the handsome, but disturbed young man. Flanagan’s exploitation of Ciaran in an attempt to find the truth about a pair of murders – one historic and one present – adds some electricity to an otherwise predictable story. Thomas’ manipulation of his younger brother is well observed and, as ever, Neville’s writing is never less than absorbing.

In its final chapters the story adopts a more conventional approach with the brothers invading Flanagan’s home and then later the resultant manhunt and its ultimate resolution. Neville smartly quickens the pace by shortening his chapters and sentences whilst making effective use of the cliffhanger to keep the reader turning the pages.

THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND, then is an exciting, if predictable, read that confirms Neville as one of the strongest crime fiction writers around. He is to continue using Flanagan as his main character in the follow-up SO SAY THE FALLEN. She is an interesting character and will undoubtedly develop in Neville’ capable hands.

Music Review – PHIL COLLINS: …BUT SERIOUSLY (1989) and THE ESSENTIAL GOING BACK (2016)

The final pair of remastered re-releases of Phil Collins’ studio albums completes the Take a Look at Me Now campaign. A 2-CD and 3-CD collection of his singles (unimaginatively but accurately titled The Singles) will follow in October alongside an autobiography (Not Dead Yet).

...BUT SERIOUSLY (1989) ∗∗∗∗∗
THE ESSENTIAL GOING BACK (2010/2016) ∗∗∗½

…But Seriously was Collins’ monster hit album. It is a slickly produced affair with a very strong collection of songs. Thematically Collins veers between social conscience (“Another Day in Paradise” – the plight of the homeless and “Colours” – racial oppression); relationships (the slow ballad “Do You Remember” and the lighter, upbeat “Something Happened on the Way to Heaven”), regret (the reflective “All of My Life” and bluesy “I Wish it Would Rain Down”). There are also the contrasting tempos from the stomping white soul of “Hang in Long Enough”, the mournful lament at the troubles in Northern Ireland in “That’s Just the Way it Is” and the jazzy instrumental short “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning”. The album closer is a plea to “Find a Way to My Heart” and with this album many listeners did just that. Whilst …But Seriously may lack the adventure of Face Value, it is perhaps the strongest example of the quality of Collins’ songwriting abilities and as such is the most representative album of his solo career. The second CD contains a collection of b-sides, live material and demos.

Collins apparently felt there was too much material on Going Back, Collins’ 2010 release of meticulously authentic Motown covers. The Essential Going Back is therefore an edited version of that well-received album. The biggest debate will be around what songs were left on and what were taken off and as such this release may not find a home in the racks of those who own the original. But the second CD contains a live performance of the songs that makes this an essential purchase for fans.

Google Books preview of Shaft reprint

You can now preview Dynamite Entertainment’s reprint of Ernest Tidyman’s original 1970 Shaft novel at Google Books. The book, with a cover by artist Robert Hack, is set for publication on 27th July. The book will also contain a preview of the promised publication of the second book in the series, Shaft Among the Jews (1972).

Shaft extract

Phil Collins new compilation due out in October

Phil Collins is following his album re-issues campaign with a new compilation of his singles due for release on 14 October. Here is what his press release says:

Coming out this October 14th, all of the highlights from Phil’s career together on one incredible album.

‘The Singles’ will be released as 2CD or 4LP versions, plus on all download and streaming services and a Deluxe 3CD edition which compiles all 45 of his hit singles on one album for the first time.

The artwork was designed by Phil himself using his personal ‘stick’ man – so we hope you like it!

Here is the track list for the 3-CD Deluxe edition:

Disc One
1. “In The Air Tonight”
2. “I Missed Again”
3. “If Leaving Me Is Easy”
4. “Thru These Walls”
5. “You Can’t Hurry Love”
6. “I Don’t Care Anymore”
7. “Don’t Let Him Steal Your Heart Away”
8. “Why Can’t It Wait ‘Til Morning”
9. “I Cannot Believe It’s True”
10. “Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)”
11. “Easy Lover”
12. “Sussudio”
13. “One More Night”
14. “Don’t Lose My Number”
15. “Take Me Home”

Disc Two
1. “Separate Lives”
2. “A Groovy Kind Of Love”
3. “Two Hearts”
4. “Another Day in Paradise”
5. “I Wish It Would Rain Down”
6. “Something Happened on the Way To Heaven”
7. “That’s Just the Way It Is”
8. “Hang in Long Enough”
9. “Do You Remember?”
10. “Who Said I Would”
11. “Both Sides of the Story”
12. “Everyday”
13. “We Wait and We Wonder”
14. “Dance Into The Light”
15. “It’s In Your Eyes”

Disc Three
1. “No Matter Who”
2. “Wear My Hat”
3. “The Same Moon”
4. “True Colors”
5. “You’ll Be In My Heart”
6. “Strangers Like Me”
7. “Son of Man”
8. “Two Worlds”
9. “Can’t Stop Loving You”
10. “The Least You Can Do”
11. “Wake Up Call”
12. “Look Through My Eyes”
13. “No Way Out”
14. “(Love is Like A) “Heatwave”
15. “Going Back”

Film Review – APOLLO 13 (1995)

Apollo 13 (1995; USA; DeLuxe; 141m) ∗∗∗∗½  d. Ron Howard; w. William Broyles Jr., Al Reinert; ph. Dean Cundey; m. James Horner.  Cast: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, Kathleen Quinlan, Mary Kate Schellhardt, Emily Ann Lloyd, Miko Hughes, Max Elliott Slade, Jean Speegle Howard, Tracy Reiner, David Andrews, Michelle Little, Chris Ellis. True story of the moon-bound mission that developed severe trouble and the men that rescued it with skill and dedication. Thoroughly absorbing account, authentically portrayed and superbly acted – notably by Hanks as mission leader and Harris as flight control. Based on the book “Lost Moon” by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger. Won Oscars for Editing and Sound. A digitally remastered IMAX-format version was released in September 2002 and was 20m shorter. [PG]

Film Review – THE BEGUILED (1971)

Beguiled, The (1971; USA; Technicolor; 109m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Don Siegel; w. John B. Sherry, Grimes Grice; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Lalo Schifrin.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Page, Elizabeth Hartman, Jo Ann Harris, Darleen Carr, Mae Mercer, Pamelyn Ferdin, Melody Thomas, Peggy Drier. A wounded Union soldier who has been taken in at a Southern girls’ school. The girls become curious and then sensuous. But when jealousy sparks, the anger is ultimately focused on the soldier. Haunting tale with Eastwood playing against type. Themes of repression, sodomy and sexual frustration are well-handled by Siegel and Page is excellent as a headmistress with her own secrets. Based on the novel by Thomas Cullinan. [15]

Film Review – JOE KIDD (1972)

Joe Kidd (1972; USA; Technicolor; 88m) ∗∗∗  d. John Sturges; w. Elmore Leonard; ph. Bruce Surtees; m. Lalo Schifrin.  Cast: Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, John Saxon, Don Stroud, Stella Garcia, James Wainwright, Paul Koslo, Gregory Walcott, Dick Van Patten, Lynne Marta, Pepe Hern, Joaquin Martinez, John Carter, Ron Soble. An ex-bounty hunter reluctantly helps a wealthy landowner and his henchmen track down a Mexican revolutionary leader. Eastwood and Duvall add class to an otherwise routine Western. Superbly photographed by Surtees who uses the location to maximum effect. Story lacks a satisfactory resolution but has its moments in through a number of well-staged set-pieces. [15]

Film Review – JAWS 2 (1978)

Jaws 2 (1978; USA; Technicolor; 116m) ∗∗∗  d. Jeannot Szwarc; w. Carl Gottlieb, Howard Sackler; ph. Michael C. Butler; m. John Williams.  Cast: Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton, Joseph Mascolo, Jeffrey Kramer, Collin Wilcox Paxton, Ann Dusenberry, Barry Coe, Keith Gordon. Police chief Brody (Scheider) must protect the citizens of Amity after a second monstrous shark begins terrorising the waters. Okay sequel with most of the original cast returning. Although not as tightly edited or rich in characters as its predecessor, it has some effective moments. The largely teenage support cast is often annoying however and the series would go rapidly downhill from here. Followed by JAWS 3-D (1983). [PG]