Book Review - This Present Darkness

A history of Nigerian organised crime by Stephen Ellis (Jacana) ISBN 9781431423743 


419 is the Nigerian criminal code which was first documented in a letter written in 1920. By 1980 this international fraud activity is known as a 419 crime. 

Nigeria started as a British protectorate in 1914 and was amalgamated as a country under indirect rule, which meant each region had its own leaders under colonial guidance. Wealth and prosperity was initially maintained through social networks and providing gifts which generated indebtedness. Corruption began with the various governors in their regions. It eventually escalated to the people and their secret clubs and societies. 

In 1956 oil was discovered in the Niger Delta and was soon to become the major source of wealth. Universities were built and many people acquired a tertiary education. Sadly there were not enough jobs and people began to move abroad where they devised scams and schemes to generate an income. Amsterdam seemed to be one of their favourite centres for fraud, and then Madrid became a victim to a huge Spanish lottery scam. Drugs, fraud, cybercrime, smuggling, human trafficking and prostitution spread to other counties.

The author has managed through extensive research to unravel a fascinating, complex and complicated account of this country, comprised of 36 states. It certainly gives an insight into Nigerian politics, spiritual influences and history. 

Stephen Ellis was a professor of social sciences at VU University of Amsterdam. Sadly this was his last book as he died just before its completion. However his wife, Gerrie Terhaar and fellow professors helped to complete the work and get it published. 

Dawn Blankfield
www.writerswrite.co.za
3.5/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - NYPD Red 4

by James Patterson & Marshall Karp (Century) ISBN 9781780892771


Max Bassett has designed an exquisite necklace for the famous movie star, Elena Travers for premiere of her new movie. There is a gun blast and a white Cadillac swerves out of control into an NYPD traffic van, and then straight into the searchlights which are lighting up the night. Elena is dead. 

NYPD Red is the elite task force that serves the rich and famous. Zach Jordan and Kylie MacDonald are assigned to investigate the murder. Who is behind it and what is the motive? Two suspects emerge but there is more to discover. Meanwhile there is another case to pursue at the same time. Plus Zach and Kylie have their own personal issues. 

NYPD Red has a difficult task. They risk their lives but tirelessly forge ahead. Their quest involves people from Manhattan's Underworld to rich celebrities. There is a cold-blooded killer out there who must be stopped before he strikes again. 

If you like crime stories you will like this one. I did not find it all that engaging. It had a slow start, and is more of a traditional police procedural than a thriller. 

Dawn Blankfield
www.writerswrite.co.za
3/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - Love You Dead

by Peter James (Macmillan) ISBN 9781447255819
 

Peter James was inspired to write this story by a metropolitan policeman who has unusual pets: poison dart frogs.

James thoroughly researches police operations and even provides a glossary on police terminology. He also researches technical, medical and scientific information, which undoubtedly adds to the story's authenticity. The book is part of the Roy Grace series. 

Jodie is the ugly duckling in her family and made to feel an outsider. Her beautiful sister is the favourite. Jodie decided from an early age that she needed to change this. She would be beautiful, rich and powerful. Her philosophy is: If you can't earn it, marry it. The only problem with this is how to discard the husband when necessary. Jodie acquires these skills in a venomous way. She is a dangerous manipulator - a typical black widow - yet, even she can make mistakes. 

Detective Roy Grace is still working on a previous case. Another escaped criminal is also on his radar. To top it all, he suspects a black widow is in town. All three are cunning, elusive and lethal. Roy is feeling pressure from his superior whom he dislikes anyway. His personal life has become complicated: His wife who disappeared has been located. 

There are some horrific moments, but the story is also sprinkled with humorous moments. The police work is interesting and informative rather than tedious. Altogether, it is a splendid read. 

Dawn Blankfield
www.writerswrite.co.za
4/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - The Wonder

by Emma Donoghue (Picador) ISBN: 9781509818396


Donoghue’s latest novel is yet another delightfully dark exploration of the human condition, this time drawing attention to a phenomenon tucked away in the Irish Midlands. 

Nightingale-trained Lib Wright is hired to investigate the case of a fasting girl who remains miraculously healthy, yet her determination to expose eleven-year-old Anna and her family as frauds dwindles the more she sees. As Lib fights an internal battle of sense against her morality, whatever miracle keeping Anna alive begins to fade, and she must choose between the objectivity of her training or saving the life of a child. 

The Wonder is a chilling story of fundamentalism and fragile mortality that left me reeling. I’ve always enjoyed Donoghue’s writing, but this novel demonstrated her exquisite storytelling ability like never before. Building tension and subtle shifts in emotion had me riveted right from the first chapter, the story and characters slowly weaving their way through my mind until I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. The author didn’t let me slip out of her grasp for one moment until I’d turned the very last page. 

Haunting, beautiful and deeply moving, The Wonder is a perfect fit for those who enjoyed The Children Act and Burial Rites.
 
Amy Bouwer 
www.writerswrite.co.za
4/5

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The Wonder is set in the Irish Midlands in 1850. Mrs Wright, an English nurse trained by Florence Nightingale in Crimea, is summoned to work for a family for two weeks. After a long journey, she arrives at the home in the small village where there are few home comforts.

The following day she meets her patient, an eleven-year-old girl named Anna who has refused to eat for four months, yet appears to be well. A committee instructs Mrs Wright and Sister Michael, a nun, to watch Anna day and night to see if she secretly eats. People are fascinated, saying Anna will become a Saint. Mrs Wright is highly suspicious that this is a hoax. Meanwhile a journalist also wants to investigate. 

Anna is slowly dying yet no-one chooses to acknowledge it. The story is creepy, chilling and compelling. Catholic fundamentalism supersedes a mother's love. In essence, Anna becomes a spectacle to study what nourishes the body and the soul. 

Emma Donoghue was inspired to write this story upon hearing about cases of girls who were hailed for surviving without food for long periods of time. Some were put under surveillance for weeks. Some ate again. Some were force-fed or coerced and some died. Some lived claiming they had no need for food. 

This is a thought-provoking book. How does this compare to eating and psychological disorders today? Also, how much does your faith affect your thinking? The author of Room has written another nail-biting novel.

Dawn Blankfield
www.writerswrite.co.za
4/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - This One Time

by Alex van Tonder (Macmillan) ISBN: 9781770104235
 

Jacob Lynch moved to the big city and was not making it. Eventually he found a job that paid just enough to keep him afloat. A friend suggested he start a blog, which he did. Slowly it began to take off. He realised that the more he insulted people and the more sexual and outrageous it was, the more popular it was, until he became a multi-millionaire. His TV show contract was renewed and he had a book deal as New York's most notorious blogger, stage name Brodie Lomax. 

He is now suffering from writer's block and he needs to go on a retreat to write. He chooses a hunting lodge in Alaska, but then a beautiful woman, Alicia suddenly appears at the lodge telling him she is there to look after him. The next day, Jacob wakes up chained to the bed, captured. 

The story itself could be captivating but after a while it was tedious and repetitive. If it had been cut down it would have been more of a thriller. The point of the story was to expose how the Internet and reality television allow people to take pleasure out of other people's misery as long as it does not affect them. The concept was thought-provoking and disturbing. 

Dawn Blankfield and Amanda Blankfield-Koseff
www.writerswrite.co.za
2.5/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

Book Review - The Melody Lingers On

by Mary Higgins Clark (Simon and Schuster) ISBN 9781471148538 

Parker Bennett has been missing for two years along with millions of dollars from the fund he managed. Anne, Parker's wife, decides to leave her mansion and move to a smaller place. Glady Harper, a renowned interior designer is asked to decorate pro bono as she did an expensive job on their mansion. Lane Harmon is Glady's assistant. 

Lane becomes involved with the Bennetts and gets drawn into their glamorous lifestyle. Eric, Parker and Anne’s son, charms her and assures her that he is not involved in his father's scandal. 

However, the FBI is not satisfied and want to find the truth. People warn her not to pursue the relationship with Eric but she ignores them. Anne would like to believe that her husband is innocent. Lane is starting to care about Anne. Meanwhile we learn about others who have been affected by the fraud and all the intrigues that follow. 

The author is a prolific writer and a global best-seller. It is a great holiday read that holds your attention throughout by wanting to see how she ties it all together. 

Dawn Blankfield
Www.writerswrite.co.za
3/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

Book Review - Liar Liar

A DI Helen Grace Thriller by M.J. Arlidge (Penguin) ISBN 9781405919210

Luke is terrified as he scrambles through the open window. Should he jump? What else can he do if he is to avoid being burned alive? Everything he has - the house, books, football kit is all utterly destroyed by the fire. 

DI Helen Grace encounters a case of arson worse than she has ever known. Three fires are raging in different areas simultaneously. This is surely no coincidence. 

A girl says she saw someone running behind a house; an off-duty fireman is seen taking pictures. Now another three fires have destroyed three more properties. What is the perpetrator trying to say? What is the motive? How and why are the victims chosen? These are all deliberate and calculated acts of murder. 

M.J. Arlidge keeps us guessing. Who is the perpetrator of these horrific fires? Towards the end the suspense is compelling. The author has also written for television. 

Dawn Blankfield
Www.writerswrite.co.za
3.5/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

Book Review - Capital

by John Lanchester (Faber & Faber) ISBN 9780571234615


If you like to be a fly on the wall, this is the book for you. The author has a knack for describing other people's lives and mind-sets, which often rings true. Capital is about a group of people with very different backgrounds and cultures, who all live in London. The only connection between them is Pepys Road, which has a long history. 

They are the British banker, Pakistani shopkeeper, the Polish decorator, the Zimbabwean traffic warden, the Senegalese footballer and so on. Each character is portrayed with depth and insight: some are amusing, others annoying and many elicit the reader's compassion. We are involved with the characters as onlookers. 

Every household has received a card containing a simple message, 'We want what you have', which gets the plot rolling. The book is thought-provoking and depicts the diversity in society. An epic contemporary novel that looks at life in modern London.

Dawn Blankfield
3.5/5

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

The Black Echo

by Michael Connelly (Orion Books) ISBN 9781409139485 



Harry Bosch, LAPD Homicide Detective, is called out to investigate the body found in a drainage tunnel. On seeing the man's face, he remembers Billy Meadows from long ago in another tunnel. He is led to believe the cause of death is a drug overdose but he has his suspicions. He proceeds to investigate further which is an unpopular decision amongst his peers. Nevertheless his determination urges him forward against all odds, of which there were plenty. 

The author's characterisation is believable and consistent, which elicits the reader's sympathy. Your attention is held by suspense, intrigue and many surprises. There is a realism which is appealing as the author did real life research about ‘a day in the life of a detective’ which adds to the believability. 

This is Connelly's first book from 1992, which has been reprinted, so if one has not read any of his other books, there are many more to look forward to. 

Dawn Blankfield
4/5

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - Writing courses for business, email news@writerswrite.co.za

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One Man's Shadow

by David Roberts (Olive Tree Publishers) ISBN 9780620522489
 

One Man's Shadow takes place in South Africa during the early nineties, during a time of political change. The characters are fictional but the political parties and the election are factual. 

Don Keenan is a commercial investigator who accepts a lucrative assignment from a friend concerning the death of a prominent businessman. It appears that the man has committed suicide. Keenan completes his report, which seems like a straightforward assignment only to be dragged into a network of politics, and intrigue, espionage and murder. He fears for his life and those around him as he becomes one of the hunted. 

The main antagonist tells Don that he casts a long shadow, longer than most. He is compared to a leopard - a stealthy, secretive, silent, lonely predator. This is a gripping thriller taking place in the bush and in the city, creating an exciting, varied and interesting atmosphere with familiar descriptions and events that South Africans can relate to. 

Dawn Blankfield
4/5

Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - Writing courses for business, email news@writerswrite.co.za

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

Follow @Writers_Write

Writers Write - Write to communicate