Review of the reads – April 2023

Words by:
Yusef Sayed
Featured in:
April 2023

Yusef Sayed’s review of the reads.

The Body in the Shadows
By Nick Louth
Published by Canelo, price £9.99
The latest thriller in the DCI Craig Gillard series centres on the attempt to foil a robbery in the city of London worth half a billion pounds. Undercover police, informants and clues picked up by Gillard’s own team point to an unlikely group of known criminals plotting a raid on cultural treasures on show in London’s galleries – but the further that Gillard is drawn into the investigation the less the story adds up.

Lincolnshire based author Nick Louth has devised a clever plot that is likely to keep most readers guessing right up until the end, bringing together elements of the violent London underworld – the police being prepared for a ‘jemmy and gelly’ job – and the hidden crimes of today’s sophisticated fraudsters, expert in financial scams and cryptocurrency.

Louth creates a diverse social picture, taking the reader from the murky depths of low-level pinching and bugged toilets at the local pub, to high-level meetings and charity fundraising dinners – where a reformed criminal kingpin is guest speaker. Gillard is led from a body found under a motorway flyover to the sixteenth floor of a council estate, and finally a high-speed car chase through Oxford.

The writing creates a very filmic impression. All the technicalities and slang on both sides of the law help build a convincing environment too – even if some of the characterisation is crude: an ‘och’, a ‘cannae’ and a couple of ‘wees’, so that we know DS Macintosh is Scottish, for instance.

There are numerous passing references to recent real life cases and crises in British policing, and the action is firmly grounded in a London recently emerging from the pandemic. But there are no ponderous reflections on wider social issues to slow the immediate action. The reader is carried along at a fast pace, Louth continually throwing up surprising twists and effective scene changes.

And for those unfamiliar with any of the previous novels in the series, The Body in the Shadows will make a good entry point, not relying on the reader’s familiarity with long-running characters.

A-Z of Lincoln
By Wendy Turner
Published by Amberley Publishing, price £15.99

It can be difficult to bring a new, imaginative approach to such a common format as an A-Z focusing on a particular town or city, especially one so extensively covered in previous books as Lincoln. In this recent guide by Amberley Publishing, Wendy Turner includes a number of quirky but unquestionably defining aspects of Lincoln today – for instance, L for the Level Crossing that brings a welcome or frustrating pause to a shopping trip.

There are odd choices of inventory however, with Dunston Pillar also coming under L for ‘land lighthouse’ rather than D. The tidbit about George Orwell’s essay on postcard artist Donald McGill is not without interest but are there really no other highlights of the city that might have been included under the letter O?

Many of the entries offer brief, well written overviews of the main tourist attractions, historical figures and aspects of community life that are suited more for the visitor and newcomer. While progressing through the book it becomes clearer how much of the city’s history and current cultural offer is tied into the story of those towering monuments on the hill – the Cathedral and Castle. Turner zooms in on the fascinating details to be found by those visiting either of these attractions, but without ending up with an A-Z of Castle Square.

From Chaucer connections to Snips the fundraising dog, and the lives of Emily Gilbert and Sir Neville Mariner, there is a wealth of cultural life covered. And the text is supplemented by colour photographs that add interest.

If guidebook authors are to broaden the scope of their research beyond the obvious longstanding tourist attractions and historical personalities, there is always going to be a risk that some events and focal points might become outdated. I don’t think anyone would have expected there to be any problem with including Lincoln’s Christmas Market, here filed under X for Xmas – and now set to be crossed off the calendar. Turner captures a city rooted in ancient history, but one that is clearly in the process of change that can be difficult to keep up with.

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