Oxford Blues by Andy Griffee – a University city is the site of Jack Johnson’s latest adventure

Oxford Blues by Andy Griffee

Narrowboat life can have its moments, and for Jack Johnson life can be more exciting than most. In this third book in the series he runs into all sorts of problems both off and on his boat, the “Jumping Jack Flash” when he moves from Bath to Oxford. His decision to move has a lot to do with Nina who has moved to the University city to spend time with her niece Anna. Although this is the third book featuring Jack and Nina, I firmly believe this can be read as a standalone mystery and really enjoyable novel, though of course it will encourage readers to think about reading the other two adventures. I found this book so readable and well written that I would recommend it to anyone.

The characters of Jack and Nina, and of course Eddie the dog, are well established. Nina is a young soldier’s widow, who has spent time with Jack on the boat, but who is reluctant to make any sort of commitment. Jack’s affections for Nina are an ongoing theme in the book, but other situations, often dangerous, seem to get in the way. This is a vivid and sometimes touching book which I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review. 

The book opens with the discovery by two magnet users of a body at a weir which marks the meeting place of the Thames and Isis. It appears to be the body of a young woman, but she is not immediately recognisable. Jack then takes up the story of how he has moved the boat single handed from Bath to Oxford, despite the poor weather. He is delighted to see Nina and Anna waiting for him in the approach to Oxford, and to hear how Anna has coped with family tragedy and her first term as an undergraduate. Nina says she has found a place to stay, so is not going to be on her niece’s case all the time. Jack records that it is an ironic statement given what happens. He also knows that he will have to look for work as a journalist soon. The assignments he does eventually find will take him into the heart of some strange events.

As with the other novels, the focus then moves from Jack to describe someone whose motives are far from innocent. Finn Connolly is an ex cage fighter, who now keeps fit and runs dubious business ventures, which include picking up school age girls from downmarket estates to distribute drugs. Jack then meets a very different character in the form of Caleb Hopper, a wealthy and extremely good looking American postgraduate student who is training to row in the University boat. As a tragic discovery is made, Jack’s investigations aided and abetted by new acquaintances and Nina and Anna place several people in active danger as crime and danger collide.

This is a totally engaging book which is difficult to put down. Jack, Nina and other characters have real depth, especially as Jack records their reactions to his unorthodox investigations. Being a “liveaboard” means that each new mooring has its challenges, and a new cast of neighbours who get involved in Jack’s escapades in one form or another. There are moments of real tension in this novel, as well as humour, especially in the lively dialogue. I really enjoyed this book, a sparkling crime, thriller, mystery novel with real depth and a sharp insight into contemporary life.  I cannot wait for more adventures from this extremely talented author.    

Oxford Blues by Andy Griffee -Revealing the cover of a book to come in July!

At last – the third book in the entertaining series of canal boat life, murder mystery and a singular journalist! Andy Griffee is responsible for “Canal Pushers” and “River Rats” – featuring the somewhat hapless but always interesting journalist Jack Johnson and the unpredictable Nina Wilde, life on a canal boat over winter is always challenging. It gets more worrying when a body is found in the canal at Oxford, especially when it turns out to be an undergraduate known to Nina’s niece Anna. What is guaranteed is that Jack will get involved – though not in a straightforward way…

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.