Sandraker by Heide Goody and Iain Grant – Sam Applewhite, Vikings and an unstately home

Sandraker by Heide Goody and Iain Grant

Sam of Skegness is back with her preposterous job with DefCon4 in this third volume of her adventures. This time it features a local big house, Candlebroke Hall and its memorable inhabitants, Lady Kiki Lettuces, Antoine and the somewhat threadbare Hugo. As can be guessed from the title, it also features the infamous Odinson clan, self styled modern day Vikings and their brilliantly constructed longship, Sandraker. 

While this book picks up themes, characters and settings from the previous two books, it can be read as a standalone as each character is introduced with their defining qualities, which is quite an achievement as it includes a creatively minded junk shop owner, a retired magician and an extremely tall policeman. It also focuses on Hilde Odinson, the brilliant engineer and granddaughter of the founding father of the Viking clan, who Sam is particularly interested in, as are the local police who seem to have caught her at the scene of a burglary red handed. There are the usual occasions of physical challenges, dangerous stunts and complex situations for Sam to cope with, as it soon emerges that life in a stately home is not really stately and never quiet. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this funny and enjoyable book. 

Sam’s latest unusual job is to act as an appropriate adult for Hilde, while she is being questioned in relation to her  arrest in the grounds of Candlebroke Hall in possession of a valuable antique drinking horn. Her grandfather Ragar thoughtfully attempts to supply her with an escape kit, realising that as she has a criminal record, she is in deep trouble. Sam is also given the task of inspecting the alarms at the Hall, and she therefore meets Kiki, aging actress and widow of the owner of the house, which is now run by “National Heritage” in the person of Phoebe. It emerges that Kiki is now relegated to living in a small damp and inconvenient apartment and the top of the Hall, where she lives in relative discomfort with her memories of past near glories. Sam has cause to investigate the supposed burglary, and finds that there seems to be more going on than anyone else supposes, as well as many missing items. Antoine, “confidante and personal psychic” has a murky past and an even murkier present, convinced as he is of his personal charms. Sam meanwhile has the unenviable task of arranging the transportation of the huge Sandraker back to its origin in a way, and recruits a surprising workforce. She decides to construct an inventory of the objects in the hall, and has to enlist the bingo playing help of Della and her father, fuelled as always by a unique cocktail or two. This causes some desperate acts to take place, and as is often the case with the Applewhite novels, danger and casualties are only to be expected. 

This is a lively, funny and wildly inventive book lovingly created by Goody and Grant. Those fortunate enough to read the other two books will welcome back old favourites, as well as witness the excesses of new ones, including the increasingly deluded Kiki. Sam’s approach to the tasks imposed by her anonymous employers is as funny as always, including a disciplinary session with her new colleague, Doug Junior. This is a lovely if sometimes wince-inducing read in a unique style, and I recommend it to established fans and those yet to discover Sam Applewhite and her unusual job with DefCon4.    

Sealfinger by Heide Goody and Iain Grant – the first adventures of Sam in Skegness

Sealfinger by Heide Goody and Iain Grant

Sam is DefCon4 in Skegness. She is a young woman who works for a company with wide aims, and is alone apart from her boss who she represents with a cactus. She gets her instructions and work targets from an app on her phone, however unusual they may be. She is also trying to cope with her father who is a retired magician with hoarding issues, and her ex boyfriend is unreasonably Rich by name and in reality. When she meets a junk shop owner who is determined to upcycle anything she can get her hands on, she has a full and busy life. That is before she encounters a hungry and badly behaved seal and a pushy builder called Jimmy. Jimmy has his own problems with his boss Jacinda and his labourer Wayne who has unusual strength and resilience, but nothing really goes right. 

This is a somewhat surreal and funny book, which takes every opportunity to inject humour into situations that emerge in a somewhat strange series of events. The two authors have come up with a laugh out loud novel in a contemporary setting of a rather depressed Skegness with dangers of a very unconventional kind. There are some pretty gruesome images, but overall it is a balanced and enjoyable read. Sam is a coper, with plenty of initiative, which is fortunate as Jimmy and co along with circumstances beyond anyone’s control would challenge anyone. The dialogue is very realistic and funny. The subject matter, including mobility scooters being misused and the testing of a drone with suicidal tendencies is unusual, as well as a local business guild with a cocktail mixer in attendance. It takes a huge amount of confidence to write a book which pushes all the boundaries, as well as create a set of characters with such unusual tendencies. It is the first in a series, and I am looking forward to reading more of this unusual comedy/crime concept. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book.

Sam’s first job is to distribute some meals on wheels to people in the area. It is a job that she quite enjoys, and she carefully sorts out the food for a Mrs. Skipworth who reports that there are some rather active ghosts in the churchyard opposite her house. Sam does nothing about it at this stage, as when she returns to her van she discovers that she has acquired an unusual passenger as well as a mannikin. Meanwhile a very dubious order is issued to widen a road at all costs, which Jimmy and Wayne attempt with unforeseeable results. As everything collapses around Jimmy, there are interestingly named dolls, a badly behaved family and a lot of exciting events to negotiate as Sam tries to complete her tasks and help her father. 

This is undoubtedly an unusual read, but it is quickly possible to suspend disbelief and join in with the highly unlikely flow. Goody and Grant have created a strange group of characters and exaggerated a setting with some subtle comments on housing, the treatment of older people and the behind the scenes life of a decaying seaside town.  This is certainly a memorable book, and I look forward to reading the further adventures of Sam.