Saturday, 9 June 2012

Book 44 of 2012: Hope Road

Having treated myself to a Kindle, I knew that I was going to want to read more than just the free classics that are available to download, the problem is, I’ve got a massive stack of book-books hanging around that I needed to work through as well. So it became a question of working out how to balance what I’ve already got to read, with the overwhelming desire to get hold of as many electronic books as possible.

Firstly, I imposed a rule of one book-book for each ebook that I read. I’m still working down my shelves, but in between each book from the bookcase, I read an ebook. Secondly, I’ve got to finish the sets books that I’ve already got on my To-Read pile/bookcase/box before I go buying anything new. Now, anyone who’s seen my book collection will probably think this a strange target, but what I actually mean is as soon as I’ve read the last book in the Hunger Games trilogy, then I’m treating myself to Lord of the Rings in Kindle format. I realise I’ve already got half a dozen copies of it already, but they’re not so practical for carrying around, it’s a book that’s just crying out for my Kindle.

In the meantime, not wanting to let my Kindle sit and gather dust, and wanting to broaden my literary horizons, I’ve signed up to receive some Review Copies of ebooks. Some are self-published and others are distributed by the publishers and in return for a free read, all I have to do is read and review it (which, let’s face it, I’d be doing anyway). I hoped that this would be a good way to introduce myself to some new genres that I wouldn’t otherwise have read as well as perhaps finding some new book series and authors that I’d like to read more of.

The first book that I received was Hope Road by John Barlow. It follows John Ray, who was raised in a criminal family but has done his best to escape from his past and, having taken over the family business, establish a legitimate career as a used car salesman. Then one of his employees is arrested for murder after a dead body turns up in the boot of one of John’s cars, which puts a bit of a strain on John’s relationship with his girlfriend, Denise, who is a police woman. As the investigation reveals links with the criminal underworld of Leeds, John takes it upon himself to investigate and find out what really happened to the dead girl, and so to clear Freddy’s name.

When I went through requesting books, I went for anything which appealed to me. It’s a bit like during NaNoWriMo when you read people’s synopsises and think ‘I’d read that’, I went through requesting anything that jumped out at me. As this was the first of my selections to arrive in my inbox, it was the first I read. Having just finished Kathy Reich’s Break No Bones earlier in the day, I wouldn’t normally go for a crime-based book so soon. My highly organised bookcase is carefully arranged to give me a good spread of genres; I can suffer from genre-burnout very easily at times. But Hope Road was there, so I read it.

Something I’m learning with ebooks is one of the most immediate judgements I make is how like a proper book it is. I realise this may defeat the point of actually reading an ebook in the first place. But if I’m reading a book, I want it to be bookish; if I can’t feel the covers or smell the pages, then I want it to look close enough that I’m fooled into thinking I can. Hope Road didn’t disappoint there. The cover looks great. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect to see in the crime section of any bookshop, I can practically picture it there in WH Smiths, tempting travellers to pick it up so they’ve got something to read on the train home (which is how I came by about half of my Kathy Reichs books).

The formatting felt like a proper book too. My ebook copy of Dracula had chapters starting any old place (which my hardback edition does not). I like my chapters to be on a new page, or at least clearly separated from the text that’s preceding it. No complaints for Hope Road there. The pages were formatted the way I would have expected them to be in a book-book. My one minor complaint were a few little typos/errors which pulled me out of the story as I read, along with ‘uh huh’ being written as ‘u hu’ which I couldn’t help but read as ‘yoo hoo’. As I said, nothing particularly major there, and that last one could just be a colloquialism that I’m not familiar with, so I overlooked it.

I really liked the idea of having the main character, John, come from a lifestyle which he has turned his back upon. Having his girlfriend, Denise, being a member of the police force gave him an interesting link between the police and the underworld he’d tried to escape. There’s a bit of a twist in the tale though, and I’m not wanting to give too much away here, but I preferred the way things were at the beginning, rather than what is revealed towards the end. Though I realise this is setting it up for potential sequels, which I would be interested in reading to see exactly what would come next for John.

All in all, it was a pretty gripping story. There was a good pace to it and the way that just as you thought things were getting wrapped up in one area another little strand would come up that would need to be resolved. The description of the city was great too, never having been to Leeds, it helped to paint a picture of the scene there for me. I came to quite like the characters too, I would’ve liked to have seen more of Denise because I really felt sorry for her in the end. I’ll probably keep my eyes open for the next in the series because I’m curious about the direction that this could take now.

“Yeah, well you’ve never seen a murder…” She stops mid-sentence. Because that’s exactly what he has seen. He’s looked straight into the eyes of the man who killed his brother in cold blood.
Location 1390


  1. Hi, on the off chance that you'll see this, the second novel in the John Ray series is just out!

    John Barlow (mail AT johnbarlow DOT the thing-you-catch-fish-with)

    1. Thank you, I'll have to keep my eye out for it. :-)


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