Having enjoyed the first ‘Diary of a Retired Detective’, the second outing of Gary Farrow was a welcome return for the detective turned antiques dealer turned detective (as Mark Forster-Blythe would dryly comment, Gary doesn’t do the simple life).
This time, Gary is all at sea, chasing the fortunes of the glamorous Sabrina following the demise of her uncle, Vincent Colley. Gary hops aboard the nearest cruise ship to see where the inheritance is setting sail to, and to discover if death becomes murder most foul.
Much as with the first ‘Diary’, this is a why-dunnit more than a who-dunnit: the book doesn’t pretend to be something that it’s not, there are few red herrings and there’s no desire to confound the readers into oblivion, an irritating quality in some crime fiction. Instead, the focus is on the journey (quite literally) – finding out how Gary will solve the case and what the comeuppance will be is the biggest part of this novel, and it makes it something refreshingly different.
And, of course, where would this all be without the company of Mark, Gary’s trusted (and much beleaguered) sidekick, who finally gets the recognition he deserves, even if this is from strangers rather than his friend in need. The repartee between the two is the highlight of the book; I’m fairly confident I could read a book full of their day-to-day conversations and name it a hit. Not only are their witticisms and barbs entertaining, they’re hugely real; nothing feels forced, it’s a real relationship that helps to drive the plot towards its final destination.
There’s no doubt about it, setting sail with Gary is light, entertaining and intriguing. Forget the high seas, set sail for Amazon or Smashwords to download a copy!
Having read the first novel by Glyn Timmins, the second offering of ‘Tinsel, Texts and Temptations’ had a lot to live up to – could Gary Farrow really be pushed aside for a Christmas offering? In short, yes – Farrow can sit a bit further back on the shelf while the tale of Julia Carter unfolds.
Julia is everywoman – job, family, mid-life crisis. Her relationship with husband Jim is stale, and her flirtation with colleague Andy is reaching dangerous levels. Add into this a week controlled by a mobile phone, and you begin to see why Julia is feeling just a little overwhelmed by her own life.
Julia, as a character, is very relatable – she thinks as a normal person would, no interior monologues gone wild are presented, no indulging of the author’s personal philosophies or preachings, she’s just a regular person trying to deal with everyday occurrences. Watching her life is sometimes like watching an accident in slow motion, and it gives us an appreciation of why she acts in the way she does as the novel progresses. Likewise, it also drags us into the story emotionally – you get to a state where you have to keep reading (despite the looming call of the alarm clock) because you need to know what Julia will do to escape, allay or fulfil her wants and needs.
Everything else is sort of peripheral – it has its place and its importance, but it’s Julia who is always your focus. That said, the supporting characters are fleshed out realistically – the quirks and traits are built in organically in order to make the experience seem part of life, rather than functional in Julia’s emotional crises. My particular favourites were Jean and Ken, the bickering vision of perhaps every married couple’s future (if they’re lucky) that still shows a spark of love and devotion.
I’m reluctant to say any more as the ending is complex and needs to be read and interpreted according to the individual reader – the climax of the novel is something I feel was handled very carefully in order to make the reader consider their own paths and choices at this time of year where reflection is perhaps a necessity. What it means is down to you, but nonetheless it is sombre and poignant, and Timmins handles this delicately in a manner not to rob us of ambition or hope for happiness, but a way to make us thoughtful of what we desire and how we will achieve it.
Julia’s texts aren’t the only thing worth reading this Christmas – Timmins’ second offering to the Kindle world is a tantalising experience that explores what is truly important in life.
A first publication for author Glyn Timmins, ‘From the Diary…’ is a collection of five short stories about a retired cop-turned-antiques dealer and his attempts to forge a new career but not quite being able to leave the
old one behind.
Our protagonist, Gary Farrow, is an incredibly likeable character, full of dry witticisms and interesting insights which make his discoveries and capabilities plausible and engaging to follow. Likewise, the reluctance and yet near-rubbernecking compliance of his friend and mentor, Mark Foster-Blythe, is incredibly entertaining, playing the role of sidekick well in order to add a unique twist on a budding bromance.
The stories are interwoven with emotional depth, tangible crimes and burgeoning descriptions which bring an element ofsophistication and intelligence to the situations Farrow finds himself in. My particular favourite was The Coffee Shop Conundrum, which was an ideal blend of witticism between the two friends and emotional depth to make you engaged with the characters’ situation.
The beauty of this collection is that it represents an antidote to modern crime fiction which feels the needs to lead you a merry dance before a (sometimes disappointing) conclusion, often without the degree of tangibility that Timmins provides through his former career as (surprise!) a police officer himself. These are light-hearted, enjoyable and cleverly-crafted stories, and show a level of success not often seen in first books. Bring on the next Farrow outings!