Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet

Author Archive

Murderous Reviews: The Hangman’s Song – James Oswald (Inspector McLean #3) (2014)

The Hangman's Song (Inspector McLean, #3)

Inspector McLean is once more dragged into supernatural shenanigans when what appears to be a suicide by hanging begins to look like something more sinister when an identical suicide occurs not long after. It isn’t the last.
McLean also has to cope with his love interest coming out of a coma and not knowing who McLean is, and sullen resentment from most of his colleagues. They are not only jealous of his unexpected inherited wealth but consider him a Jonah as other police officers tend to die around him.
Luckily McLean has some people on his side such as the dour sergeant Grumpy Bob and the wonderful Madame Rose, a transgendered medium and book dealer.
These are great books. This one made me miss my stop on the Tube, which is always a good sign. The only real criticism I can level is that McLean, being an intelligent and well balanced detective, seems still in denial about the paranormal hootenanny that’s been going on around him for the last three books.
Madame Rose does her best to convince him as well, but he’s not having it. I don’t understand that. The penny should have dropped by now surely.
And, I’m worried about Mrs McCutcheon’s cat, for reasons I can’t go into. I’m going to have to read the next book for some form of closure.


the neighbour’s cat (2016)

black and white cat
trap patient
set waiting on the child high wall
furred flat by sun.
a young boy’s scream
‘that cat scared me!’
registered, is unacknowledged.
an eyelid raises
a claw sighting
then slowmo droops
slides to the lock position.

she’ll get him on his way back.

ramadan (2016)

at ramadan
the coffee shops
cups abandoned
starving chairs
nurse these empty bears
smoking to themselves outside
to eat the time
till dusk
fretting worry beads
through fast fingers
as the sun proceeds to set
sweating a drop
down the sky’s dry face
pulling the blind
on their patient will

August 2010

I steal these faces from random strangers
rendered mute by heat and humidity.
Patient one-eyed predator, I pounce,
ferry expressions home in a black box,
stash them neatly labelled with the rest,
a hide where August nurtures a flint heart.
Glints of winter wriggle out through the cracks
to the sunshine, steal the shape of rain
through the window, bouncing mad on the slate.
The sun returns but the heart remains chill.
My thoughts skirt round it like a survey team.
Where is the source? It shows no signs of thaw
reaching out to grab September’s shirt tails.
The faces point. It’s lodged behind my ribs.

perseus’ camera (2008)

i shot her on the third floor landing,
‘look to the sky and see angels’ i said.
i can only work with sounds
i hear music in a fan motor.
my ears have knives
that carve sense out of white noise,
shape something
that could be jazz from the next flat
or a badly tuned radio station
playing big band music
into the voice of a ghost poet

she once said
‘clouds are a kind of white vision;
the rorschach test of the gods.’
some turn them into faces or giraffes.
i snap at eyelids raising like a curtain,
hoping i’ve trapped it
along with the reflection of the skies.

like perseus i cannot see it directly.
gorgons or angels
reflect from other people’s eyes.

Murderous Reviews: Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes – Denise Grover Swank (2011)

Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes (Rose Gardner Mystery #1)

Rose Gardner is a twenty-four year old innocent, living with her abusive and overly religious mother in Lafayette County, Arkansas. Her mother thinks Rose is demon possessed because she occasionally has visions of the future, as she does one morning at her job in the DMV office when a man called Daniel Crocker hands her his papers. She sees herself dead at the hands of Mr Crocker and collapses at her desk.
After being sent home she has a long overdue argument with her mother and storms out, but returns to find her mother murdered.
It’s a decent enough book with some good characterisation although one does get irritated with Rose occasionally for being a teensy bit dumb. You can’t accuse of her of not being brave, but one would have liked a little less cluelessness. The demographic for this novel is clearly young women and I am conscious that I am neither young nor a woman, but that fact does not directly relate to the flaws in this book.
Rose has a handsome young neighbour called Joe McAllister who is a man with a secret. It was fairly clear to me what that secret was very early on, but Rose doesn’t cotton on until it’s explained to her at the denouement.
The title refers to a list that Rose makes on the back of a Walmart receipt, a list of things that she has got to the age of twenty four without doing. So she sets about doing them. This is a nice device that weaves in and out of the plot, and sees Rose transformed from the mousey rowdy put-upon daughter to an attractive young woman. More could have been made of this and it’s a shame there wasn’t more of a character development throughout the book.
About 70% in it kind of loses its way and Joe’s ‘I can’t tell you what’s happening but I will next week’ act gets a tad tedious, as does the running joke about Rose’s dog’s toilet habits.
Stick with it though. It picks up and comes to a satisfactory conclusion.
Will I be reading more of Rose Gardner’s adventures? Right now, no, but I don’t discount it. This is above average in terms of setting and characterisation, although I was wondering if Arkansas has only white people in it since there seems no sign of any other ethnicity.
The plot is a tad wobbly but not so much that it was an issue.
I’ll bear it in mind.

dream monkey (2009)

i’ve painted a mandril behind your head
glaring out from your dream
watching your eyelids tremble

i’ve tasked him to guard your thoughts
when you’re not awake
his pupils bleed oiled orange

sits soft in a jungle, moonlit
half-dissolved in shadow
so not to frighten other dreamers

rough paw clutches silk pillow
long mask face tilts like a threat
balanced. it could fall either way

but behind that, miles beyond his warpaint
there’s a calm wilderness where nothing
uses words or mobiles

Murderous Reviews: Never Preach Past Noon (Leigh Koslow #03) – Claire Edie (2000)

Never Preach Past Noon (Leigh Koslow Mystery #3)

It’s really nice to have a series of books where you look forward to reading the next one.
Leigh Koslow’s Aunt Bess is on the board of ‘The New Millennium Church’. Leigh is summoned to hospital where her aunt is being treated for burns and an an ankle injury, having apparently saved the new pastor, Reginald Humphrey, from burning alive in his parsonage.
The truth is somewhat different since Aunt Bess has her suspicions about Humphrey and had sneaked in to the parsonage to look for evidence. Humphrey arrived back however and while Bess was in hiding, someone threw a Molotov cocktail through the window. Trying to escape she fell down the stairs and was carried out by the pastor.
Subsequently the pastor goes missing and Leigh finds herself dealing with yet another mystery while trying to keep secrets from practically everyone, as well as sorting out her complicated relationship with her neighbour.
Edie writes those novels that fit into the ‘cosy murder’ genre although labeling them thus would be doing her a disservice. She does pay close attention to plot, and I have so far always been surprised and blindsided by the subtlety of her clues and last minute revelations.
She almost stretches the boundaries of credibility here at one point but just about gets away with it.
Her strength is her characterisation, as she manages to deftly sketch even the minor characters into living breathing real people.
Got the next two lined up now.

Murderous Reviews: A Journal of Sin – Darryl Donaghue (2014)

A Journal of Sin (Sarah Gladstone, #1)

OK. Somewhere in England the village of Sunbury is cut off following a devastating storm which floods the surrounding countryside.
A policewoman, Sarah Gladstone, is visiting her mother and finds herself – along with the rest of the villagers – cut off from escape, electricity and communication.
The local Catholic priest then goes missing and is subsequently found dead by a Yorkshire terrier and its alarmed owner.
Sarah then has to mount a single handed murder investigation, handicapped by uncooperative locals, and their fear of having had their confessions recorded for posterity in Father Michael’s secret journals.
It’s not a bad read but I had several problems with it.
The premise relies on the priest being Catholic since he has recorded details of his confessions in several journals.
I’m not convinced that a village like this would have a large enough Catholic population. It’s not clear to me where Sunbury is, but presumably somewhere in Middle England prone to floods.
Catholics in England, in my experience and I am happy to be proven wrong, tend to live in towns and cities. but, even given that there may well be villages with large Catholic populations, the characters that may have confessed are either not Catholic or don’t appear to be. The one person with an Irish name, Sean, has not it appears confessed himself but wants to see the confessions of someone else.
Then there’s the characters. There’s not a lot to make one care about any of them. There’s a kind of bleak realism that isn’t supported by any tension or real drama. The characters are defined only by their bad behaviour and one sees little of another side to them. Some occasional light relief would have been welcomed. They come over as cold and unlikeable. Even the heroine herself goes through the novel in a state of worried annoyance.
Thus, now and again, the reader’s switch gets flipped from exciting to depressing.
It’s well written and I stuck with it. Given some work on characterisation and perhaps a subplot I would have been more sold on it but as it stands it doesn’t encourage one to read more.

Murderous Reviews: The Dark Vineyard – Martin Walker (Bruno #02) – (2009)

The Dark Vineyard (Bruno, Chief of Police #2)

Bruno is another of my favourite detectives. St Denis, in the Dardogne, is a French kind of Midsomer, and St Denis happens to be the domain of Bruno, Chief of Police, a fit young police chief who, between hunting, raising hens, making omelettes and training the local rugby team, somehow finds time to solve crimes and have a complicated love life.
It must be the French air.
An arson attack on an unsanctioned experimental GMO farm generates an investigation by a Brigadier as it appears there was government involvement in the farm. Meanwhile American investors are planning to buy half the valley to mass produce cheap wine. Things get complicated when the chief arson suspect is found dead and Bruno finds himself torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool, as Shakespeare once said.
I recently criticised a novel which was set in London, but if you didn’t know London, you’d be no better off after reading the book. It might as well have been Hull or Omsk.
Here the setting is so well realised that I ache to be there. It is a separate character in the novel. I want to be invited to Bruno’s dinner where one eats the birds that Bruno shot himself, wiping the plate with fresh bread to make way for the next course and drinking a fantastic variety of local wines.
I don’t care if I’m in line for murder. I am seduced by the writing and the characters and the place.
More Bruno… and more wine please.