Wednesday 24 December 2014

Hello everyone. Has it really been 3 months since my last post here? Where does the time go these days? Lately I have been posting very brief review tweets on Twitter @ricsreviews so you can keep up to date there but hopefully I'll get back to regular updates here as soon as possible.

I plan to do an end of year post (however light in content) next week so please check back soon.

Have a fantastic Christmas.


Thursday 25 September 2014

Film: A Walk Among The Tombstones

Liam Neeson takes on the role of Private Detective Matt Scudder in this film adaptation of the novel by Lawrence Block.

A fellow addict asks Scudder to speak to his brother regarding a missing person. Turns out that the client isn’t exactly a law abiding citizen and even though he paid the ransom asked for by his wife’s kidnappers, they killed her anyway.

Despite his initial reluctance Scudder takes on the case and follows a trail that eventually leads to a pair of ruthless murderers.

If you aren’t a fan of Neeson then give this a miss as he is in practically every scene and only briefly disappears from view throughout the entire film. Thankfully I enjoy Neeson’s films (Taken and The Gray are recent stand-outs) and he easily carries the film along on it’s atmospheric journey.

I haven’t read the novel but can guess that this film incorporates elements from several books as we get the character’s history and we meet TJ, a local street kid who I’m guessing is a series regular. Maybe someone can confirm or correct my thinking.

Gritty, violent and completely absorbing, A Walk Among The Tombstones only suffers by not providing more of a story for the villains of the piece. Neeson gives a towering performance as Scudder and hopefully this is the beginning of a franchise as I’d be keen to see more of this character.

Catch it in cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.  

Thursday 11 September 2014

Book: The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones

Stephen Lloyd Jones’ debut novel is a tale of murder, revenge, love and erm Hungarian folklore. The Hozzsu Eletek are a rare breed of people. Blessed / cursed with exceptionally long life they also have the ability to replicate the appearance of any other person. One of their kind is a misguided young man who is eventually outcast and hunted by his own. Desperate and alone Jakab decides to dedicate his long life to tracking down and killing the descendants of those responsible for what he sees as a terrible humiliation and betrayal.

The book jumps between present day, the late seventies and the eighteen hundreds as we follow all the relevant participants in the story. We have a young Jakab, a university lecturer and his daughter Hannah, who along with her family provide the most exciting chapters of the book.

This is quite the epic tale and a bit of a challenge for someone used to regular crime fiction. The challenge was almost too much at times but that was down to the slow pace of some passages, not the quality of the writing, which is superior throughout.

The String Diaries is interesting and entertaining but lacks the tension required to compel the reader to continue with the next chapter, especially when it takes you away from the action.

Give it a try if you fancy something a bit different but be prepared to stretch your imagination.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy      

Thursday 21 August 2014

Book: The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

Meet eighty year old Edward Shank, former chief of police, highly respected pillar of the community.... and serial killer.
During his police career Shank famously cornered and shot dead a serial killer but unbeknown to anyone it was Shank himself who was the killer known as The Butcher.

Long retired and about to move into an old folks home Shank decides to let his Grandson in on the secret and although his body might not be what it used to be the old man is helpless to prevent the urges which are beginning to return on a frequent basis.

Jennifer Hillier’s first stand-alone thriller delivers an anti-hero unlike any other. Edward “The Chief” Shank is a thoroughly despicable but totally captivating character who completely dominates the book. The supporting cast of grandson Matthew, his girlfriend Sam and detective Sanchez add important elements but when The Chief appears it feels the same as when an acting legend with great screen presence appears in a movie.

In fact, The Butcher is prime movie adaptation material and my ideal choice for the part would be Clint Eastwood. Until that happens make sure you catch this absorbing and unique serial killer story.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.

Tuesday 5 August 2014

Book: The Cold Cold Sea by Linda Huber

A family day out at the beach takes a tragic turn when 3 year old Olivia Granger goes missing. Time passes and with no sign of Olivia she is presumed drowned.

Meanwhile 5 year old Hailey Marshall starts school and her Mother Jennifer couldn’t be any more proud.

As we follow both families it isn’t clear where this story will take us but slowly the horrible truth begins to reveal itself.

Following her impressive début novel, The Paradise Trees, Linda Huber returns with another tension filled tale depicting a young girl in a very worrying situation. As the growing sense of dread builds you anticipate certain things happening, only for events to transpire somewhat differently.

I’m not entirely sure that this sits comfortably under the crime fiction umbrella. Yes, there is a crime being committed, but there is no sign of the hackneyed genre favourites of serial killer and streetwise detective. This is far removed from those types of novels but it is no less entertaining whilst also managing to instil an excruciatingly uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach.

The Cold Cold Sea also gives us a wonderful main character that has you completely emotionally invested in her. I haven’t rooted for a character as much since Thor the dog in Wayne Smith’s story.

With only her second book Linda Huber has written a wonderful tale that puts the reader through the wringer and then drags them back again. Thankfully every suspense filled page is worth it.

The Cold Cold Sea is available now from Legend Press. 

Ric’s Rating: Essential

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Film: The House Of Magic

A stray cat finds its way into a large foreboding house and discovers that there are some very strange residents, and not all of them are welcoming.

After 10 minutes or so of this animated tale I was doubting its suitability for my 6 year old daughter. Nothing seems to go the little cat’s way. He is tossed out of a car, chased by an aggressive dog and then meets a pair of very angry animal inhabitants of the house. Luckily things change for the better when old magician Lawrence discovers the stray and names him Thunder.

Unfortunately Lawrence’s sneaky nephew plans to sell his Uncle’s house so the animal and magical creatures set their differences aside to unite in their efforts to thwart his plan.

There aren't too many laughs for the grown ups here but this charming film should keep under 10’s entertained as they root for Thunder and his gang of oddballs.

The House Of Magic is in UK cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Good.

Monday 28 July 2014

Film: Homefront

An undercover cop (Jason Statham) retires to the country with his young daughter but the past soon catches up with him in this action thriller scripted by Sylvester Stallone.

A schoolyard dispute escalates into a family dispute and Broker (Statham)  learns that in this town these things are best put to bed as quickly as possible  so he grudgingly apologises to the parents of the other child. Unbeknown to him they have already involved the local drug dealer (James Franco) who finds out that there are some very unsavoury characters on the look out for Broker.

A wonderful supporting cast that includes Clancy Brown, Frank Grillo and Winona Ryder help elevate this above the usual action movie standard. When it all kicks off Statham cements his status as a bona fide action star but he is also competent as the doting Father. Special mention has to go to James Franco who steals the show as the menacing Gator.

With engaging characters, a real sense of dread and some excellent action scenes Homefront is a must-see for any fan of the genre.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended  

Sunday 20 July 2014

Book: The Nightmare Place by Steve Mosby

Detective Inspector Zoe Dolan is experiencing a recurring dream that gives her the strange feeling that something awful is coming. This is happening while she is working on a troubling case. There is a rapist on the loose who stalks women and then attacks them in their own home, he is known as The Creeper.

Steve Mosby’s latest sinister crime story grips from the chilling first chapter until the last. As well as the ongoing investigation we have a dispute between neighbours and a volunteer helpline worker who soon regrets doing the right thing.

Short  chapters make this a quick easy read which is over all too soon. A real pity as Mosby isn’t the most prolific of writers.

For more information on the author and his work visit and click on the Steve Mosby label below for more reviews and an interview.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.

Sunday 13 July 2014

Film: Elysium

In the near future wealthy people no longer live on Earth. They life a blissful life on a space station known as Elysium. Thanks to the latest technology there is no illness on Elysium as all known diseases and conditions can be repaired.

Back on Earth factory worker Max (Matt Damon) receives a fatal dose of radiation and decides that he must get to Elysium to save himself. Along the way he meets up with old friend Frey (alice Braga) and her leukaemia suffering daughter who also needs the healing technology.

In their way is a ruthless politician (Jodie Foster) and a crazy enforcer (Sharlto Copley) who do not plan on allowing any poor person access to the potentially life saving equipment.

Damon turns in another competent action turn and Foster is fine as the nasty and ambitious politician but it’s District 9’s Sharlto Copley that steals the show as he revels in the brutality of Kruger, a man with his own ideas on how Elysium should be governed.

Ric’s Rating: Good.

Sunday 22 June 2014

Book: Field Of Prey by John Sandford

You wouldn’t think that it would be possible that the 24th book of an ongoing series would be one of the best but that’s exactly what Field Of Prey by John Sandford is.

A young couple make a gruesome discovery and the hero of the Prey series, Lucas Davenport, is soon on the case. Aided by a local sheriff’s deputy Davenport must track down a killer responsible for the deaths of many young women as well as a colleague of his.

This is gripping stuff from start to finish and Davenport is back to his dangerous best as he throws protocol aside in the race to catch up with one of his most formidable foes yet.

As with all ongoing series I’d recommend starting at the beginning but Field Of Prey also works as an entry point to the series or a one off.

For more reviews of John Sandford books click the tab below.

Ric’s Rating: Essential. 

Thursday 5 June 2014

Film: X Men: Days Of Future Past

In the near future there are hardly any X-Men left. They, along with all other mutants, have been relentlessly hunted down by the Government endorsed android killing machines known as Sentinels.

On the brink of extinction Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) decide to use the time travelling abilities of Pryde to travel back and attempt to stop the Sentinels before they are even invented. For a time trip that could potentially rip anyone’s body and mind apart there is only one candidate, the quick-healing Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).

Wolverine must convince the younger Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to work together to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) trigger a chain of events leading to the war against the Sentinels.

This collaboration of X-Men franchises from original director Bryan Singer gets off to a blistering start as the remaining X-Men battle the Sentinels in a fantastic, super-power laden, fight scene. However, when we join Wolverine on his trip back to 1973 the pace slows considerably. The highlight of the whole 1973 story (which makes up the majority of the film) is the Magneto prison break featuring a stand out performance from Even Peters as Quicksilver. Jennifer Lawrence also makes up for the omission of original blue beauty Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as Mystique with an action packed and emotional turn.

Huge credit must be given for this ultimate X-Men film which successfully meshes all previous films but more action was required for it to be as exciting and fun as the likes of Avengers Assemble or Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

X-Men: Days Of Future Past simply left me wanting more, maybe that was the plan.

Catch it in cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Good.        

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Book: Wolf by Mo Hayder

DI Jack Caffery returns and this time he’s off duty.

Jaded and disgruntled by his workload Caffery decides to take some time out, much to the chagrin of his superiors. This sabbatical will be spent finding out what became of his brother Ewan, who vanished when they were both children.

In order to progress his private investigation Caffery must first solve the puzzle of a lost dog that carries a note which simply says “help us”. The case of the little dog takes Caffery on a journey to trace her owners and find out if they really do need help.

The family are caught up in a hostage situation which unfolds alongside Caffery’s investigation and you are urging him on each step of the way as he slowly gets closer to them. But will he make it in time?

Wolf is another top notch thriller from Mo Hayder and assuming she continues with the series I can’t wait to find out what’s next for her captivating main character.

Ric’s rating: Highly Recommended.      

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Film: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

In Marvel’s latest adventure we catch up with Steve Rogers aka Captain America as he attempts to capture a band of modern day pirates. Aided by Black Widow the Captain leads a group of soldiers against the bad guys who include George St.Pierre of UFC fame.

Rogers (Chris Evans) then learns of the development of huge flying gunships being developed by SHIELD that have the capability of targeting any person on Earth. Bear in mind that the Captain is a very patriotic American (hence the name) so he doesn’t approve of anything that infringes on personal freedom.

To say more about the story would give away too much so I’ll concentrate on the film itself. Playing to the man out of time storyline (Captain America was a WWII soldier who was frozen then reanimated) this manages to bring emotion to what is otherwise an epic action movie. Think Terminator 2 and you’re in the vicinity. The shoot-outs and fight scenes are wonderfully extravagant (look out for ole Cap vs a fighter jet) and although there are super-hero elements on show here this manages to transcend the genre pigeon-hole.

Evans is fine as the straight-laced Rogers and there is excellent support from Samuel L Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Frank Grillo to name but a few.

If you think they couldn’t top Avengers or that super-hero films aren’t for you I urge you to think again and catch Captain America: The Winter Soldier while it’s on the big screen.

Ric’s Rating: Essential

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Book: Rubbernecker by Belinda Bauer

Patrick Fort has Asperger’s Syndrome so he sees the world around him a bit differently than most people do. When his father is the victim of a hit & run Patrick decides to try to understand death. This leads him to an anatomy class where the dissection of a human body focuses Patrick’s mind on the cause of death and he doesn’t believe the cause listed here.

Meanwhile a recovering coma patient makes a startling discovery but struggles to communicate with anyone in a position to act on the information he has.

Belinda Bauer again manages to absorb the reader into a fascinating murder story woven around a coming-of-age tale featuring a brilliant main character who overcomes many obstacles in both the investigation he begins and the awkwardness of teenage life.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.

Saturday 8 March 2014

Film: Big Bad Wolves

A meek schoolteacher emerges as the main suspect in a series of grisly child murders in this black comedy from Israel.

Following a run-in with local police the schoolteacher is freed and the cop on the case finds himself suspended. Convinced he has the right man the cop decides to kidnap the suspect but soon has to co-operate with the Father of a murdered girl who is out for revenge.

The duo take the suspect to a remote house for interrogation but things don’t go as planned when the grieving Father becomes the subject of his own elderly parents’ attention.

This film features the harrowing subject of child abduction and murder but amazingly manages to be hilarious at the same time, without detracting from the serious nature of the issue. The introduction of the Grandad adds much to the comedy element, bringing real-life family dynamics into a potentially lethal situation.

Funny and disturbing in equal measures, it’s easy to see why Big Bad Wolves was called the film of 2013 by none other than Quinten Tarantino and a US remake is no doubt inevitable.

Do yourself a favour and see the original before that happens.

Big Bad Wolves is available on DVD in the UK from 28th April 2014.

Ric’s Rating: Essential.    

Film: Riddick

Vin Diesel returns as Richard B Riddick, the anti-hero from Pitch Black, in the third instalment of this sci-fi action series.

This time around we join Riddick on an unknown planet populated by various types of lethal creatures that see him as their prey. As the daily struggle for survival continues two rival sets of mercenaries turn up looking to claim the bounty for the notorious criminal, and it’s doubled if he’d dead.

Pitch Black was a fantastic film, a low budget but effects laden sci-fi adventure that gave Diesel the opportunity to be at his snarling best. The sequel, The Chronicles Of Riddick, was largely forgettable.

Unfortunately that is also the case here as Riddick sets about dispatching the mercenaries one by one without any great action scenes or real moments of tension. I also have little doubt that the budget for this film was substantially larger than that of the original but it manages to look much worse. The scenes involving the motorcycle/hovercrafts are reminiscent of old time films with actors sitting in cars while the same background is repeated again and again.

Riddick is available on DVD now but only die hard fans of the character will enjoy.

Ric’s Rating: Dodgy. 

Thursday 27 February 2014

Book: Poppet by Mo Hayder

DI Jack Caffrey investigates the bizarre goings on at a local Mental Hospital while also attempting to find closure for the troubled Mother of a missing young woman in the latest thriller from Mo Hayder.

Some years ago I read Hayder’s fantastic debut book, Birdman, which was closely followed by The Treatment. Those books lived long in the memory as they effortlessly combined a surreal feeling of horror with repulsion at the criminal acts described within their pages. The books also introduced the character of Jack Caffrey, a police officer haunted by the disappearance of his Brother when they were both children.

Much to my surprise Hayder’s next novel did not feature Caffrey, and neither did the next. Cafferey eventually reappeared in 2008’s Ritual but I hadn’t got round to catching up with him….until now.

Having long left events of the first two books behind we join Caffrey in Bristol, where reports of strange sightings of a figure known as The Maude followed by some particularly nasty incidents bring a concerned Mental Health Nurse to his office.

Can Caffrey get to the bottom of the mysterious sightings and will colleague Flea Marley tell him what happened to that missing girl?

Having read this sixth instalment of the Jack Caffrey series I now can’t wait to get my hands on the ones I missed. The author yet again manages to create a truly eerie atmosphere, the type of which is usually only found in quality horror novels, and combine it with fascinatingly macabre crime scenes. Throw in an interesting and complex cast of characters and you have a novel that will appeal to both crime and horror fans despite having a rather predictable twist.

Poppet is available everywhere now.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.  

Thursday 13 February 2014

Film: The Seasoning House

During the Balkans war of the early-mid nineties a young deaf / mute girl is taken from her home and after witnessing the murder of her Mother she is moved on to a house used for prostitution.

Evil pimp Victor is attracted to her silence and decided to appoint her special duties which include administering drugs to the other girls, general housekeeping and of course being available for Victor whenever he wishes.

Things change when another of the girls begins to communicate through sign language and the soldiers who killed her Mother turn up.

A violent quest for revenge follows which features some particularly vicious scenes.

The Seasoning House adequately presents the feeling of hopelessness and defeat that the captured girls feel as well as the brutality of both their customers and their benefactor but despite the almost overwhelming gloom this remains compulsive viewing.

Fans of Hostel and Saw will enjoy.

Ric’s Rating: Good

Book: The Survivor by Sean Slater

It’s Detective Jacob Striker’s first day back on the job following stress leave and what a day it turns out to be. He gets called into the office of his Daughter’s school to discuss her absenteeism and while he’s there a massacre takes place. For the first time ever Striker is glad his daughter has skipped school! After the shoot-out Striker and his partner peruse a fleeing gunman but do not manage to capture him.

After starting with a literal bang this cop v killer tale descends into an onslaught of clichés. The author seems to have taken elements from all the police procedurals he’s read and tried to include them here.

We have the depressed rebellious cop who only takes shit from his equally rebellious daughter and one of the things she rebels against is his affair with his partner!

The Survivor had plenty of promise and I usually don’t mind stereotypical characters but I just didn’t like this main character enough to see past it all. 100 odd pages were enough.

Ric’s Rating: Abandoned.

Monday 27 January 2014

Film: 12 Years A Slave

New York in 1841 and talented violinist Solomon Northup is approached by a duo offering well paid work with a travelling show. Northup decides to take the job, leaving his family behind.

Unfortunately the potential employers are really particularly devious slave traders who specialise in kidnapping free black people (men, women and children) and selling them into slavery.

So begins Solomon’s ordeal as he is quickly stripped of his identity and told by other captives that he will undoubtedly be killed if he reveals himself as an educated man.

The examples of human cruelty endured and witnessed are soul-destroying to watch. From the young boy made to run on the spot for a future master to a hard working girl’s life being made unbearable when she becomes the apple of her master’s eye. This and many more of the same are perpetrated in full view of all around who meekly get on with their business as they are fearful for their own lives.

Performances all round are fantastic with Chiwetel Ejiofor delivering a powerhouse display as the always dignified Solomon. Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Fassbender and newcomer Lupita Nyong'o are also fantastic.

12 Years A Slave is a bit of an endurance test for the audience, there is no let up in the despair, leaving the viewer emotionally drained when it ends. However, this true story is a moving account of one man’s journey through a very dark period in American history.

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended.

Book: The Pack by Jason Starr

Simon Burns’ life changes dramatically when he unexpectedly loses his job. Gone are the office politics and deal making meetings. These are replaced with the responsibility of caring for his 3 year old son. With a marriage already on the rocks how will Burns adapt to his new role?

Relief from the stress comes when Simon meets a trio of full-time Dads at a local playground and the guys immediately welcome him into their company. Following a night out with the guys Simon wakes up in a very strange place and that’s just the beginning of his new experiences….

Ok, the guys are Werewolves, headed by the mysterious Michael but this isn't a typical stalk, slash and devour horror story. The guys all have their own problems to deal with, especially Michael, making this much more a human drama than a cheap gore-fest. There are also wonderful moments of toddler – related humour that any parent can relate to.

The Pack is an excellent horror / thriller / comedy and with a sequel already available I can’t wait to take another bite! Hoowwwlll !!

Ric’s Rating: Highly Recommended   

Thursday 16 January 2014

Book: The Death Box by J.A Kerley

In the 10th book of JA (Jack) Kerley’s Carson Ryder series the author decides to take a chance and relocate the main character to Miami, leaving behind his previous life and friends in Alabama.

After an unenthusiastic welcome from his new colleagues Ryder is called to an alarming discovery. Numerous bodies have been buried in a cistern type box which has then been filled with concrete.

The investigation leads the dogged Detective to a despicable people trafficking organisation headed up by some truly awful individuals.

Kerley has a knack for bringing characters in for one book but never returning to them. Some are perhaps worthy of spin- off novels. However, this new setting for Ryder feels like a whole new beginning and I have the feeling that several of the new supporting cast will turn up again. Old favourite Harry Nautilus is gone (forever?) but the brilliant Jeremy (Ryder’s fugitive Brother) does appear with a vague promise of more future interaction.

Kerley’s story-telling and ability to present well-rounded characters ensure that this series easily survives the bold move and fans should embrace this change rather that be sceptical of it. The Death Box also works very well for anyone new to the books.

Easily one of the best ongoing detective novel series around.

Ric’s Rating: Essential

Sunday 5 January 2014

Film: 47 Ronin

The New Year begins with a cracker as we join Keanu Reeves as Kai, a half-breed outcast in the ancient Japanese world of the Samurai.

Found abandoned in the forest, Kai is taken in and raised by Lord Asano, much to the annoyance of his feared and devoted Samurai but his daughter Mika seems taken with the unusual boy.

Years later Lord Asano falls victim to witchcraft and treachery which leads to the imprisonment of his chief Samurai Oishi and the disbandment of the troop. On his release he vows vengeance and first seeks the help of the mysterious Kai before re-assembling his men and embarking on a quest that will most likely cost them their lives.

Spectacular martial-arts mixed with cool special effects make this a visual treat and the fantasy aspects of the tale weave into the more traditional elements effortlessly. You will believe in The Demons of The Forest and in a shape-shifting Witch.

The film is perhaps more suited to a proper Asian cinema release with subtitles for us English speaking folk but the Hollywood studio has to be admired for giving a totally Japanese story the full Stateside treatment while retaining the appropriate levels of integrity.

47 Ronin is an absolute must-see for fans of Asian cinema and martial-arts movies in general. Catch it in cinemas now.

Ric’s Rating: Essential.