In the Swinging Sixties, a battle for the soul of the city is fought between cops and criminals, the corrupt and the corrupted.
November 1968. Judy Garland is performing drunk at the Palladium and the city of London is about to catch fire - literally. Summonded to a gas explosion, Detective Sergeant Cathal Breen unearths a shocking discovery beneath the rubble: Mind-bending paintings by Bridget Riley and Peter Blake... and the garroted body of Jacob Pugh, a playboy god in the art world. With Detective Helen Tozer, Breen must infiltrate the artistic demimonde of a volatile and increasingly murderous city.
Seen through the eyes of an irresistible pair of detectives, the real London comes in view in The Kings of London: a gritty metropolis thrives in the shadows beyond the spotlights, and all manner of vice is committed in the name of liberation.
©2015 William Shaw (P)2015 Hachette Audio
Narrative makes the world go round.
This second in a series is an excellent mystery, with storylines that hold up for all 13 hours, quirky and well drawn characters, great period setting, some humour. Main character – Breen – gets slightly darker through his experiences in novels 1 and 2: If the series continues for many instalments, he could became a Rebus!
To the squeamish (me): One corpse description near the beginning and one near the end are a little grisly (and as in the first novel, a small passage in the middle could bother sensitive animal lovers). Apart from that, no graphic violence but some good suspense. I work with technology all day, so I welcome older mysteries or period pieces that don’t hang on digital devices. And my inner social history geek loves Shaw’s ‘68-69 London. Of course the plot is good but secondary to the other elements and is as much about petty office politics and corruption as the BIG corruption described in the blurb -- more about how mundane compromises come in shades of grey.
Stewart's narration continues to be excellent EXCEPT that some of his women’s voices are too shrill, almost Pythonoesque. As in the first novel, I found this jarring for the first few chapters but then either my ear adjusted or he found a rhythm.
I so wish there were a dozen in this series rather than two. I stumbled across the first as a Whispersync bargain – and thought I’d found more in Kindle, but it appears that the novel is published under different titles in the UK perhaps –so shop carefully.
I don't usually rate a detective novel 5 stars - but this deserves it as solid, smart entertainment that provokes a little though but no angst.
With Lotsa Love from gaz regn
I was 17 years old and living in the UK in 1968, and as far as I'm concerned the author captured he atmosphere of Britain at that time perfectly. Coupled with the fact that I really cared about the characters, and the story-line was compelling, I give two thumbs-up for this book. Nice narration too!
If you like police procedurals, this is a terrific story, and one that doesn't require that you have read She's Leaving Home, the first in the Breen/Tozer series. It's 1968 in Swinging London, but it's not swinging for Detective Sergeant Cathal Breen. His father, who suffered from dementia, has died and it's not promising to be a merry Christmas.
Breen catches a tough case; a corpse has been found skinned, drained of blood and with its hands cut off, then burned in a house. It looks like torture, but Breen soon figures out the real story––though now he needs to figure out whodunnit. That's with the help of his partner, Tozer, the only police detective in the London Metropolitan Police, but not for long. With her father ill, she needs to go back home and run the family farm, and is on her last couple of weeks with the force.
The investigation is complex, and brings the team up against resistance from all quarters. But the investigation is almost a welcome respite from the rest of Breen's life, what with the death threats he's receiving, and the arrival of a new upstairs neighbor from hell.
In this series, Shaw unflinchingly portrays the seamy side of Swinging London; the pervasive racism and sexism, and widespread corruption in government, business and the police force. Still, it's not unremittingly grim. Breen and Tozer have some entertaining byplay and it's amusing to see the contrast between her embrace of the modern world and his bewilderment by pop music, wild fashions and rejection of authority.
While I very much enjoyed the book, I was sorry every minute that I got it on Audible, because Cameron Stewart was absolutely the worst narrator I've ever heard, by far, for women's voices. Every woman in this book sounded like some crazy old bat straight out of a Monty Python sketch. I wondered if this was some kind of elaborate joke; that's how bad it was. And Stewart used a very strange, high-pitched tone for one of the male Detective Constables, and gave him a wheedling intonation that didn't fit the dialog or the portrayal of the DS's character. Stewart was actually quite good when voicing Breen's interior observations, but such a disaster in every other way that I will never listen to another book he narrates. I will, however, look forward to the next book (in print) in this series.
Best in 10 years
The way in which it portrayed London in the late 60's
This was a wonderful book that beautifully portrayed the changing London in the late 60's. As someone who lived in Stoke Newington during that very period, I really appreciated how the society and the swinging London was described. Also, the shifting sands around class and one's "place" in society is beautifully described. Finally, the late story twists are well written, very believable and true to the thought that you can't judge a book by its cover.
I don't know if the problem was the narrator or the writing, but I just didn't care about any of the characters. The narration was dull and flat with the exception of the female "voices" which are, as Connie from Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada said, (I paraphrase here) so ridiculous as to sound like Monty Python (Jean Paul, Jean Paul, etc.). Anyhoo. I was warned and they were as described. One wonders what Mr. Stewart could have had in mind.
I hung in for about 2 hours thinking/ hoping that as I listened the characters and the story would grow on me. It did not
Another word about the above mentioned Connie: she is a terrific reviewer and I enjoy reading all her reviews whether I read the book or not. I very much like that she mentions things such as her particular dislikes (too much graphic violence even with good writing - see Val McDerid). It helps one suss out the likelihood of agreement between the two of you.
I review books, mostly audiobooks, mostly mystery. That's about it!
The Kings of London, also published as the House of Knives, is the second book of the Breen and Tozer trilogy, and satisfyingly begins just where the first book ended. Again we are transported back to 1968, well, some of us are, the rest are taken for a visit, a wonderful visit, and given the chance to learn quite a lot about the late 60's. Me? I'm comfortable there, it's the feel good factor of the book bringing alive again the lure of London, the "In" places, Carnaby Street, Biba, Mary Quant, Op art, "England Swings", all there, in London!
Yet the story also served to remind me of the less attractive underbelly of life in the 60's, the almost taken for granted police bullying along with the untouchable attitude which led to corrupted practices. Ordinary people had no voice, that is until a generation rose up against it, but that's another story, and in the interest of fairness, there must have been a few good and right minded people running the country and enforcing the law.
The Kings of London finds Breem embroiled in a murder investigation hampered at every turn by the far reaching hand of political corruption. Of course, initially he doesn't know this, but the path he takes, the questions he asks rattle the nerves of the establishment, the victim is the estranged son of a politician. Along comes the fixer, who's job is simply to prevent any hint of scandal from reaching the ears of the public.
In the first book, A Song from Dead Lips, Breem realised that he was a bit behind the times, with the help of a thoroughly modern Helen Tozer he became acquainted with the puzzling Beatles phenomenon and also learned a bit about the women of the 60's. Even so, he remained unprepared for the weird world of art and art dealers, of drug use and of the ways of free love, so he sets about learning everything he can.
That's not all he has on his plate, someone is sending him death threats he thinks he knows who, and decides to keep quiet, to sort it out himself. He also has more than one murder to deal with, one of which changes his world, he is suspended from duty, yet this doesn't stop him in his relentless investigations.
He becomes quite friendly with a lady who keeps disappearing - more intrigue and a compelling aspect of the story.
DC Helen Tozer once again proves invaluable to Breem, she knows how to communicate with people, especially the younger ones and she succeeds where Breem often fails. She's smart, they work well together.
Meanwhile Tozers leaving date is due, she has decided she is needed at home on the farm as her dad is sick and unable to keep up with the work.
I enjoyed how along the way Breem learns more than he ever knew about his own father and mother, it highlights how bleak family relationships can be when they lack what to most of us is basic communication.
There's just so much going on, so many layers to this tale, yet the author somehow blends all the components together beautifully to produce yet another entertaining tale to captivate the listener or reader.
I'm so much looking forward to the next book.
Once again Cameron Stewart has done the author proud, I enjoy the sound of his voice, he doesn't overdo anything. Just right, a top job.
This audiobook is my own copy purchased from Audible.com, this review is my honest opinion
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