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Jack Ketch's Puppets: Introducing 'The Borough Boys' Paperback – March 25, 2013
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The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
Phil Simpkin is a retired Police Officer, and now writes period and contemporary crime novels, from 1455bookcompany. He is also a keen Poet. The series, 'The Borough Boys', of which 'Jack Ketch's Puppets' is the first title, has been 36 years in the making, with ideas first formulated, when he was walking the beat in Leicester, England, in 1976. Many of his characters and stories, are founded on personal experiences, and he hopes they bring a level of reality and freshness to the novels. His work can be viewed at his website: www.1455bookcompany.com and also through his blog: www.1455bookcompany.blogspot.co.uk. He will be publishing further titles later this year (2013) together with a series of Novellas, featuring a contemporary Detective, Tony Lawrence. All names and titles copyright Phil Simpkin (c) 2013
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And off I went into Jack Ketch's Puppets, then gruesome tale of conspiratorial murder in nineteenth-century England. Not only does the author craft a compelling plot that reminds us that depravity knows no class distinction, he also provides a very stark portrayal of what life used to be like, not so very long ago. I had the feeling I was walking the late-night beat in foggy Leicester and getting to know some of the local color that Simpkin brings to life.
What particularly amazed me was how I found myself laughing along with members of the Borough Boys. I felt like I was one of them, on shift to help keep the streets safe from purse-snatchers and other thugs, but darker crimes kept seeping through this gritty, well paced story.
This book sparkles with personality and wit, setting the stage to dive deeper into the cast of the Borough Boys during a time of police detection when forensic process was chiefly a matter of keen observation, unguarded speculation, and out-and-out brute force.
Why did I give this book five stars?
I gave a star for each of the things (at least!) that Jack Ketch's Puppets has going for it:
1. Strong sense of place - very evocative and atmospheric
2. Believable characters - can't wait to see Tanky, Beddows, and the others soon (and Sally, too!)
3. Compelling plot - sordid and twisted crimes presented for the rational mind; problems to be solved - not to titillate.
4. Personality - the characters are well defined, their dialogue crisp...their wits alive - even to make me laugh along with them.
5. Satisfying conclusion - no spoiler here, but suffice it to say, there will be justice Borough Boys Style!
Phil's characters are so fleshed out, its as if they have come alive. There are some you would willingly shout an ale at the local pub, and others you would cross the road just to avoid. Phil also creates believable female characters, and writes non cringe-worthy love scenes.
To be honest, there are some minor flaws; none of which detract from the overall enjoyment of reading. However, to be fair, from beginning to end there is a noticeable development in this writer's craft. This indicates to me that Phil is in it for the long-haul.
I am looking forward to reading book number two of The Borough Boys, both to find out what happens to my favourite characters, and to see how much the author has progressed in his writing goals. Now stop reading reviews and order your own copy!
This book is written with a Victorian style in mind, complete with capitalization of many nouns that would not be capitalized today. For American readers the use of Britishisms and slang is a minor obstacle, easily overcome by context. This reader found himself sometimes overwhelmed by physical descriptions and street locations that would be a snap for someone familiar with Leicester, UK. When Shepherd and Beddows start putting two and two together, there are a couple of chapters of particularly gruesome description of child abuse and sexual peversion; I would have welcomed some soft-peddling here. These are mercifully short and justice and good prevail, leaving me waiting to start the next Borough Boys adventure. An intriguing, exciting Victorian crime story well told. A terrific first novel in this series. I eagerly await the third novel in the series, which Simpkin is currently writing. Reviewed by Timothy Hurley, author of Shortstack, a collection of short stories.