Saturday, February 1, 2014

Judgement Call: Nick Oldham

My normal approach to mystery series is to start at the beginning, no matter how many books are in the series. When I started the Gregor Demarkian series by Jane Haddam, the 18th book had just been published. I bought that one and started at the beginning. Luckily I really liked the series and I read all 18 books in 3 months. But that was then, and now I realize that I cannot read every book by an author and keep up with all the new (and old) authors I want to try.

So I decided to start the Henry Christie series by Nick Oldham at the 20th book in the series. I was very pleased to find out that this book was a prequel, and it would not feel like I was missing a lot of back history on the series.

Summary of the book at the author's website:
    It's 1982 - and Henry is a young cop with a point to prove and an attitude to control. His youthful enthusiasm can sometimes cloud his better judgement. When a series of rash decisions results in disaster, Henry determines to put things right his own way - despite being warned off by his detective inspector. Setting out to smash singlehandedly a dangerous criminal enterprise, Henry's impetuous actions lead to more conflict - and a very real threat to his own life.
This story is set in Rossendale Valley in Lancashire, and starts with Henry arresting a man in a case of domestic violence, and then having to let him go because a superior doesn't think the victim will follow through with the charge. He is idealistic, and unhappy with the cynical approach of his superiors. He has some good ideas and can see where his department is lacking in planning skills, but he also is too sure of his own opinions and goes out on his own too much. In other words, he has a lot to learn.

For the most part I liked this book and I plan to follow up and read some other books in the series. I like Henry's idealistic approach and hope that he continues to hold on to some of that as he matures in the job. The action was fast-paced and I got involved in the story. Nick Oldham was a policeman for many years before he retired, so I am sure he knows a thing or two about police procedure.

The negative side of this book was the plethora of sex scenes. I am not a prude, but in general I don't think a lot of emphasis on the policeman's sex life is going to advance the story. In this case it was not realistic; too many women throwing themselves at Henry in too short a time. I did not find Henry's attitude in this area appealing. But there are readers who would not be bothered so that is really just a preference I have. This element was balanced by a good plot involving primarily Henry and his superior. This police procedural is a bit more dark and gritty than the previous book I reviewed: Hard Going by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.

Thoughts on other books by Nick Oldham:
  • A post at Petrona has some nice things to say about some of Nick Oldham's earlier novels.
  • At Scene of the Crime, Nick Oldham talks about using Blackpool as the setting of most of the series.
This book was provided to me for review by Severn House via NetGalley. The book was published in the US on February 1, 2014.

If anyone has experience or thoughts on the books in this series, I would love to get your opinions.

8 comments:

  1. Tracy - It does sound like a solid series. I've heard of it but not tried it. I'm glad you thought this was a good read and I do like it when an author brings her or his background into a story or series. I think it adds realism. But like you, I don't see the need for a whole lot of sex scenes. It's easy enough to get a point across without the details...

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    1. Margot, I have read some good reviews of later books in the series so not sure whether to start earlier in the series or just hop around.

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  2. I saw this on Net Galley and was tempted, especially as I saw it was a prequel. I somehow managed to resist! I have a couple of random series books from him that I haven't got around to yet. if I had less books already and more time I would be tempted.

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    1. Col, I am torn between trying some of the early ones or going for later ones. Some of the later ones have decent reviews at Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly.

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  3. Yet another new author and book for me, Tracy. Thanks for the review. I've a couple of books from NetGalley that I still have to read, so I'm going easy on more requests.

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    1. I know what you mean, Prashant. I overloaded on books from NetGalley in January, not going to do that again.

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  4. Never heard of author or series or detective... and after Cynthia Harrod-Eagles with her huge number of books, I don't want to find out about another long series! I know this is totally unreasonable and unfair...

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    1. Moira, I think you would like the Harrod-Eagles books better anyway. Some of the books in this series sound very attractive, but I get the impression that they are variable and some are more gritty, violent than I usually like.

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