River Rats by Andy Griffee – A Johnson and Wilde mystery set on the canals of Bath

River Rats by Andy Griffee

 

Living on a narrowboat on the outskirts of the lovely city of Bath sounds an idyllic life for Jack Johnson after the excitement of the encounters with dangerous people in the first book of the series of Johnson and Wilde mysteries. This book would be a good stand alone read, as the characters of Jack, his friend Nina and Eddie the little dog are swiftly described and made very real. Once again Jack and Nina find themselves in trouble, as life on the canals is seldom boring when they allow their curiosity to take over. This adventure, like the first, involves a lot of canal side action, although not so much travelling up and down the canals of Britain. Jack uses his journalistic experience to ask the questions, Nina’s bravery and resourcefulness is called on again, and Eddie is a useful foil to keep the story moving. New characters and situations emerge which keep the action lively, as a murder and threats of violence mean that Jack and Nina’s settled lives are overturned. This is another lively and absorbing novel which keeps the pace up and is a really good mystery or thriller. I was really pleased  to have the opportunity to read and review this excellent book.

 

As the book begins there is a death. A wealthy man is attacked leaving Bath’s Pump Room late at night, but this is not an ordinary mugging. As he is knocked unconscious and pushed into the river, there is the sense that he was targeted. Jack meanwhile is paying his regular visit to the laundrette in preparation for Nina’s regular visit at the weekend. He meets two small children and their mother, but the latter, Linda, is aggressively suspicious of him. Jack’s narrow boat, the Jumping Jack Flash, is once more a cosy home for him at a permanent mooring at the bottom of a friend’s garden. He has also got a part time job as a sub editor on the Chronicle,  a local paper. He discovers that the murdered man was a Mr Rufus Powell, and Ben, the editor, is keen to feature the links with The Canal Pusher which was the subject of Jack’s well received book. Jack later encounters some more people who have permanent moorings on the canal, but they have been offered substantial sums of money to give up their rights. Linda and her children have a boat there, as does an elderly professor who has a beautiful boat filled with his collection of books and other treasures. As the little community decides they wish to stay put, there is a suggestion that pressure is being applied by a company who wish to develop the adjoining site. As Jack and Nina investigate, they discover a complex set up which involves planning permissions and a Hells Angels chapter, newspaper editors and a friendly actor. As the excitement mounts, Jack and Nina rediscover the dangers of life on the canal.

 

This is a lively and entertaining novel of contemporary issues and the particular problems of historic cities like Bath in terms of environmental concerns. I especially enjoyed the characters who feature in this novel; apart from Nina and Jack the professor and Rani are fascinating, and Will is a lovely returning character. The tension is well set up and maintained, and there are elements of thriller in the later part of the book. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a contemporary novel featuring some fascinating characters and an entertaining plot.       

 

Having read and reviewed the first two books in this series, I would love to read others. The canal setting is really well drawn and the characters are really attractive. There is a hint of an Oxford link?

Canal Pushers by Andy Griffee – a thriller set on the waterways of England

Canal Pushers by Andy Griffee

 

Hiring a narrowboat with a view to buy after a trial period does not sound a dangerous thing to do, or even something worthy of publicity, but when Jack Johnson gets divorced and finds himself unemployed, it seems to be a safe option. Cruising around at four miles an hour, he believes, will give him time to consider if he wants to find a permanent mooring and go back to work as a journalist. This book, however, is a thriller, which is quite difficult to achieve when one of the main characters is a long and impressive narrowboat called “Jumping Jack Flash” which anchors the action to the side of a canal. This is the first in a series, and it soon becomes clear that more can happen on Britain’s canal system than could be imagined. This book deals with the canals around and through Stratford on Avon and the contrasting waterways of Birmingham. Jack and his new friend Nina discover many things about each other and themselves after spending a few days in each other’s company, but there are many surprises throughout this well written and entertaining novel.I was excited to have the opportunity to read and review this enjoyable book.

 

This book begins, however, with a description of a lone fisherman, sitting beside a lock and waiting. He has no bait on his hook, however, as what he wants to catch is much larger and more challenging than anything expected from the water way. When a drunken man appears unsteadily on the towpath, he uses his tackle to push the man into the water, and forces him under the water with a large net. 

 

The scene moves to Jack picking up the keys to a sixty four foot narrowboat, and beginning to realise that  it will take a bit of starting, steering and negotiating, let alone getting through locks. When he realises that he cannot even close the door he is very grateful to receive an offer of advice from a younger woman who seems to want to remain independent of further conversation. When Jack’s friend Will lets him down, he is happy to take help from the quiet young woman who calls herself Nina. They have not gone far before they encounter a young man who calls himself Sam and who is begging for money and food. Nina and Jack allow Sam to come onto the barge to get cleaned up with his small dog Eddie, and they send him on his way with a small amount of cash. When Sam’s drowned body is found in the canal the following day, Jack and Nina adopt the dog and make further inquiries into what happened to Sam. Their investigations mean that Jack discovers that Sam may well have been involved in something much bigger and illegal that put him at risk, and frightens Jack when he searches for more evidence. To add to the situation, Nina turns out to have a huge problem that has led to her reluctance to talk about herself. Can Jack and Nina hide themselves, Eddie and a narrowboat from all their potential pursuers in the centre of England?

 

This is a book which has an excellent plot combined with realistic and interesting characters.  There is some humour in the dialogue between the interesting characters, and a lot of realism. I thought the setting was very interesting and the canal side life was warmly described. This is a well written thriller with a lot of suspense and some well drawn characters. I found this an excellent beginning to the series and I would be keen to read more books from this author.