Review: Looking for Mr Piggy-Wig by Andy Secombe

Title: Looking for Mr Piggy-Wig
Author: Andy Secombe
Publisher: Macmillan
Published: 18 July 2008
Review Copy


It’s twenty years after the ‘New’ Battle of Britain, and rationing is still in force. Our hero, Jack Lindsay, is a private investigator of the old school If he has a weakness, apart from a fondness for garibaldi biscuits, it is for a woman with a sob story – and one has just walked into his office, and into his life. Jack finds himself becoming embroiled in a worldwide criminal conspiracy involving gun-smuggling, political assassination, and a chain of burger outlets.


All the best private investigator stories start with a beautiful woman walking into an office and bringing with them nothing but trouble or maybe that’s just the impression I’ve picked up from the few that I’ve read. That’s what happens to Jack Lindsay and he finds himself into a lot of trouble.

Andy Secombe sets the tone at the start with the banter between Lindsey and his assistant Mango Pinkerton and Jack’s description of the arrival of Marian into the office. You can see that Secombe loves word play and enjoys a surreal sense of humour.

And that sense of fun continues with the rollercoaster of a trip that takes place following that meeting. Secombe keeps everything moving with Jack and the reader thrown in the deep end.  With its futuristic setting Secombe has been able to create a world that’s familiar but at the same time surreal and hopefully our actual future. Thankfully policing doesn’t seem to have changed much and I’m not saying if that’s a good or a bad thing. You’ll have to read it to find out.

There is a lovely mix of characters from Mango with his extreme sense of fashion to Detective Sergeant Lana O’Hara who adds a lot of tension and offers of relief to Jack’s time in the office.  The quest for garibaldis ensures we know what Jack finds important.

I loved every second of it.


A 21st century detective story that’ll keep you reading and entertained until the end.  And hopefully it’s not the end of Jack Lindsey and Mango Pinkerton as I’d love to read more.


Review: Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

Un Lun Dun by China MievilleTitle: Un Lun Dun
Author: China Miéville
Publisher: Pan
Published: 5 Feb 2007
Price: £6.99
Review Copy

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading Un Lun Dun. All I knew about Miéville was that he was an imaginative and political writer who could be categorised as writing in the New Weird tradition plus this was his first novel for Young Adults. After reading Un Lun Dun I’d say he was all of the above and then some.

Two girls find themselves in an alternative London where London’s lost and broken things end up along with some of the people. The strange this is that the girls are expected and there is a prophecy to fulfil; the Smog is bent on it’s destruction and the city needs a hero.

Mieville has created a unique twisted take on not only London but on the quest novel where nothing quite works out as planned. And the unexpected is one of Miéville’s strengths. He plays with words, conventions, and draws from a very fascinating imagination. I can’t see anyone else making a pack of blood-thirsty giraffes quite so scary or coming up with the same wide-range of unique areas and inhabitants of Un Lun Dun like rock climbing librarians or ghost houses that fade in and out. But cutting through that is the journey that Miéville takes us on.

What at first seems right and proper is in fact quite the opposite and vice versa. It’s not every novel you read when the hero fails and falls at the first hurdle but then continues in un-expected ways. Miéville is really playful with not only the companions of our hero but also how they go about fulfilling that role.

What I liked the most is that it’s a modern fairy tale with slight mix of politics but it doesn’t preach or moralise. Any messages it does have are delivered through the events and the decisions that takes place.

Overall, Miéville’s furtile and playful imagination along with a strong story telling skills has created a modern fairy tale for young adults and adults who love a good story. Though some of the language is quite complex so it might be a challenging read to some less experienced young readers. It’s well worth reading.

There is also a slight door left open to revisit Un Lun Dun again and I hope he does. But in the meantime I’ll be reading more by China Miéville.


Review: Jack of Ravens by Mark Chadbourn

Jack of RavensTitle: Jack of Ravens
Author: Mark Chadbourn
Publisher: Gollancz
Published: 6 December 2007
Price: £7.99
Review Copy

Jack of Ravens continues Mark Chadbourn’s exploration of myth, archetypes and human nature. He does a lot more besides that but these are the backbone of the cycles of books that started with World’s End. Jack of Ravens starts with return of Jack Church who disappeared (or died depending on your point of view) at the end of the Age of Misrule trilogy and who was brought back following the events at the end of The Dark Age cycle.

Chadbourn has definitely taken the long view when it comes to this series. As one book builds on the next and each cycle seems to come to end only for something greater or deeper or darker is then revealed.

In Jack of Ravens Chadbourn changes tack again in his exploration of the Fixed Lands (here), the Fragile Creatures (us) and the Tuatha Dé Danann (old celtic gods who influence our lives but in this book there is hint that the world also has gods from other denominations) But instead of confining himself to the near future and the ancient sites of Britain of previous books instead Chadbourn takes us through time and across continents as Jack Church tries to stop the darkness that has altered history to make its plans work.

The best part of each book is that as the reader gets more exposed to the world that Chadbourn has created the more he changes the rules. Here he gathers again the heroes and some villains of past books but they are changed and how they act and react is different as the events that have shaped them previously has changed.

I could go on about the layers that have been built into this series and the connections that are pulled, rewired, crossed and severed as the story is told but that would spoil it. The nature and effect of experience is a major theme.

There is one slight problem with Chadbourn’s storytelling is that it relies on the reader putting things together.Lots is left unexplained but makes a lot of sense if you consider what has gone on before. But in the case of this book if you haven’t read The Dark Age and ideally the Age of Misrule you may lack the knowledge to care about Jack’s journey through 2,300 of history.

Which would be a great shame as Jack of Ravens gave me several ooo and ahh moments as I realised how events were playing out. Chadbourn also has a wonderful imagination. The characters and places of the Far (Faery) Lands are as tangible as they are fanciful.

Overall, Mark Chadbourn has again proved himself an amazing and imaginative story-weaver (he’s laid so many threads) that kept me breathless from beginning to end. I can’t imagine what he has planned for The Burning Man but I can’t wait to find out.



Here are links two reviews of books two and three of The Dark Age cycle.

And an overview of the series so far by me is here.

Review: No Dominion by Charlie Huston

No Dominion by Charlie HustonTitle: No Dominion
Author: Charlie Huston
Publisher: Orbit
Published: 5 Jul 07
Price: £6.99
Review Copy

You gotta feel sorry for Joe Pitt. He can’t seem to help finding himself in serious trouble. Out of blood and out of cash and being behind on the rent Pitt needs a job. Though being a Vampyre and a Rogue it can’t be a 9-5 gig. Unfortunately he’s in the wrong place and the wrong time and a job finds him and it involves a trip Uptown.

Carrying on from the sucked dry Already Dead Charlie Huston delves deeper into the Vampyre Clans on Manhattan.  Huston keeps it simple. We see it all from inside Joe’s head as follows the trail set out in front of him.  But Huston isn’t a simple storyteller not by a long shot. He’s created a deep, dangerous and moral man in Pitt and throws that up against the different Clans who are more establishment than Pitt likes getting close to. And Huston plays on this tension, as well as tensions from the hunger for blood and from his girlfriend who needs him a lot right now.

Huston is a master of set-up and pay-off even if the payoff isn’t what it first appears and in most cases isn’t a pay-off at all but another set-up.  Something is about to go down.

I can’t wait to get my teeth into Half the Blood of Brooklyn, which happens to be out now from Orbit.