Posts Tagged ‘crime gangs’

Deadhead by Glenn Wood illus. Scott Pearson. Pub. OneTree House, 2020.

November 2, 2020 Comments off

This novel for reluctant readers, particularly boys, starts at a rate of knots and never lets the reader go until the end. It has action, it is violent, it is over the top witty, it is very clever and it has a satisfying ending.

You can’t get better than that.

Spenser and his friend Regan are 13 years old. Spenser is very smart and Regan likes to be around him not that he notices her very much in the way she notices him.

Spenser is being bullied by a rich kid, Carl, who forms a gang based on the Yakuza. Spenser provides him with a samurai sword but it still does not stop the bullying. Spenser has a plan to resurrect a copper who was recently killed in a gang confrontation, turn him into a robot with some clever engineering and protect himself from Carl and his pretend Yakuza gang.

Regan and Spenser dig the decomposing body up and create a moveable zombie like character dressed in his ex cop uniform. It solves the problem for a while but then something weird happens but you will have to read the novel to find out what it is.

Needless to say they have created a crazy zombie cop with a heart. The real Yakuza come into it as does a criminal gang.

Superb creative and imaginative novel that will make you laugh all the way through. Told in short chapters with graphic novel illustrations at the end of each chapter that summarise the important action.

One of the best novels of the year.

Terry Teo and the Gunrunners by Bob Kerr and Stephen Ballantyne

October 30, 2015 Comments off

terry teoTerry Teo and the Gunrunners by Bob Kerr and Stephen Ballantyne. Pub. Earth’s End, 2015.

First published in 1981 this classic bit of Kiwiana is back again with some small alterations but the story still the same. Terry while skateboarding down the private driveway of businessman/villain Ray Vegas comes a cropper, head through the hedge and witnesses something dodgy. Vegas sends his two clownish henchmen to capture Terry and a whole battle with gunrunners begins.

The action takes place in the small coastal town of Kaupati where the local copper keeps chickens, is socially responsible but not a lot going on upstairs. Vegas is your obnoxious rich thug who thinks he can do anything at all and the two henchmen are dumb and dumber. Plenty of appeal there.

Bob Kerr’s cartoons are terrific as always and there are lots of little in-house jokes and Kiwi things going on that are smilers when you see one.

Stephen Ballantyne’s written text is to the point and captures the whole Kiwi attitude. The highlight for me was the written dialogue of the gunrunners in an Aussie accent. Priceless.

At the back of the picture book is a section by Adrian Kinnaird on the making of Terry Teo as a NZ icon and the history of the book, TV series and film.

This book has high boy appeal for reluctant readers and is certain to win fans at primary and intermediate schools all over again.

Young Bond: Shoot to Kill by Steve Cole.

November 20, 2014 Comments off

young bondYoung Bond: Shoot to Kill by Steve Cole. Pub. Doubleday, Imprint Random House. 2014.

I have always found James Bond to be irresistable and read most of the Young Bond series when it was written by Charlie Higson. Now Steve Cole has taken over and there has been no loss in excitement, plot or action about the man who has everything or should I say the boy who is well on the way to being the man.

James Bond has been dismissed from Eton and now attends an open privileged but progressive school called Dartington Hall. He immediately meets the nasty Beatrice Judge and the dwarf with charisma, sense of humour and a number of defensive skills called Hugo.

Soon he is watching a film in which real people are being hurt in a brutal manner. A film that is sought by a Nazi type group. There is a murder in the local cinema before James is away at the expense of a powerful film magnate, to Hollywood. The magnate says he has a great interest in education and is comparing school achievement standards on pupils from different education systems. James is one of the chosen pupils along with a very canny, attractive, yet aloof girl called Boody short for Boudicca. James surely should be trying to make it with Boody. But will he, there is competition.

They travel by zeppelin to America, a beautifully described trip, and rapidly get involved with gangsters who are muscling in on Hollywood film makers. Lots of nasty villains in this book and filmmakers for that matter.

Set in the 1930,s when Bond is 16years old.

Great action, brilliantly told and James Bond is growing into the man he is to become. The ending is gripping as James and his friends become the hunted in the ultimate reality movie. Look forward to others from the same series.

For anyone who likes action heroes and novels from Intermediate school upwards

CHERUB2. Book 1. Peoples Republic by Robert Muchamore

September 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Peoples Republic by Robert Muchamore. Pub. Hodder Children’s Books, 2011.

Robert Muchamore is simply the best writer of action novels for Intermediate to Junior High students that there is. The twelve novels in the CHERUB series captured a loyal following not only of boys but girls as well.

The CHERUB organisation employs children usually orphans whom they educate to be spies on the premise that children can go unseen where adults cannot. This makes them very useful agents and very useful they are.

CHERUB2 has a new series of characters and this opening novel introduces them in a realistic actio novel about smuggling people particularly young girls, from Eastern Europe and the East into Britain and other European countries.

Links are made to a Russian Mafia group run by the Aramov family who are based in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan and deal in drugs, arms and people smuggling and a tough ruthless bunch they are.

Ryan is the twelve year old CHERUB agent who is new to everything but has to learn fast. Ethan the son of the sister in the Aramov family, is Ryan’s target. He must get to know this chess playing aloof boy and milk him for information.

The girl hero is eleven year old kick boxer Ning, whose father is a dubious Chinese business man. When Ning’s father is arrested Ning and her scouse mother flee to Kyrygzstan and Ning enters the people smuggling process with all it’s sinister characters and situations.

A great start to a new series.

At The Lake by Jill Harris

At The Lake by Jill Harris. Pub. HarperCollins, 2011.

Simon and his younger brother Jem have been going to the Lake for their holidays for years. They love the place and they like staying with their grandfather who they call Barney.

But this year things are different. There is a big wire fence surrounding re-locatable houses, that is patrolled by a mean man called Squint Lewis and his dog Ace who Lewis says is a man killer. Keep out or else.

Simon tries to get in to see what is going on, is caught by Lewis and is roughed up badly. He tells no-one but is this a mistake?

When younger brother Jem finds another way into the fenced off property and the brothers meet Squint Lewis’s children Rose and Tom things start to happen and the action is thrilling. I can tell you no more except to say crimes involving children are always the most sinister.

This is NZ writer Jill Harris’s third bookj and she links it beautifully with a sound plot,  realistic dialogue and a song by a local singer. A very good children’s adventure story with many family issues highlighted as well.

Middle primary and Intermediate children will love this story or children with reading ages 9-12 years.


Almost True by Keren David

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Almost True by Keren David. Pub. Francis Lincoln Children’s Books, 2010.

This is the thrilling sequel to When I Was Joe which is reviewed earlier on this blog.

It centres on the murder of a young black lad in London that was witnessed by the main character, Ty aka Joe aka Jake and now Ty again. Ty agrees to testify in court against his old friend Aaron and his gangster associates and along with his mother Nikki and gran are put on the witness protection scheme. Changing lives proves too much for any of them and the first book ends in tragedy.

The relationships that Ty made as Joe in When I was Joe still dominate his thinking especially that with Claire to whom he sent an email confessing that he had lied in his statement to the police. What is the nature of the lie?

To complicate matters and to set the scene on the nature of Ty’s upbringing, Keren David brings in Ty’s father Danny and his whole family and Ty finds out things that he never thought possible.

For most of the book Ty is suffering from Traumatic stress disorder and suffers from fits of hallucination and violence. He is an intelligent lad but the whole scenario has made him angry, uncooperative and anti social, his health deteriorates and he makes some very unwise decisions. This of course brings him into severe danger from the thugs who are looking for him.

Keren David once again exposes the social deterioration of urban areas in Britain and the effect that it has on children and the general population. The drugs, the knives , the violence and the feelings of hopelessness and dispair that nothing can be done to stop it.

A high interest book that is long but reluctant readers once they start will not be able to put it down. Easy to read short chapters with hooks to keep you going, mean this will be a popular novel for young men in particular.

Organ Music by Margaret Mahy

November 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Organ Music by Margaret Mahy. Pub. Gecko Press, 2010.

Margaret Mahy is arguably New Zealand’s finest writer of children’s books. The Haunting and The Changeover both achieved international acclaim and in my opinion were her best novels.

When I saw this title I assumed that it was a new book and looked forward to seeing if Margaret Mahy still produced the goods. Alas I was misled. It turns out to be a novel she wrote in 1997 for the Surfers series called Operation Terror.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a very good high interest story with all the brilliance with words and plot  that Margaret Mahy can muster. But it is not a new novel and I think the reader should have been told.

To cut  a short story long, Harley and David, two teenage boys are walking through a rough area of town when they come upon a car with keys in the ignition. They nick the car only to find that it has in fact nicked them.

They are taken to a research institute in the middle of a forest where an unscrupulous Doctor wants to remove their body organs for use by more deserving citizens. Much to talk about here.

Margaret Mahy combines science fiction with fantasy in a situation that probably happens in places like India, and tells an exciting yarn in less than a 100 pages.

Still worth purchasing if you don’t have it already and will be eagerly read by middle and intermediate school students.


iBoy by Kevin Brooks

September 24, 2010 Leave a comment

iBoy by Kevin Brooks. Pub. Penguin Books, 2010.

This novel is just brilliant and perfect for reluctant boy readers at secondary school level.

Tom Harvey lives in a tower block in South London where crime and gangs rule the world. Nobody’s life is untouched by this criminal world. One afternoon as he is walking home somebody throws an iPhone from the top of the tower block and it hits Tom in the head.

The iPhone was thrown at the same time Tom’s teenage friend Lucy was being beaten and raped by members of a local gang, in her own apartment. Tom is unconscious for 17 days and when he awakes he feels different, like a billion bees buzzing around in his brain.

The surgeon tells Tom that pieces of the iPhone had buried themselves deep in his brain and couldn’t be surgically removed and when these pieces start to react with his brain Tom becomes iBoy.

iBoy can do everything an iPhone can do but inside his brain and he can turn it off and on at will. Powerful stuff. He can tune in to any cell phone message he wants, he can film an event and send it wherever he wants. The scope for corruption is open to him, but Tom wants revenge for those who raped Lucy. He is an avenging angel and boy does he make hay while the sun shines.

I can tell you no more except that you will stay reading this book until the end, it is gripping.

Kevin Brooks is one of my favourite authors. He has great ideas and he writes them well. The ending is stunning. How about this for a line  “if I ever catch you even thinking about killing yourself, i’ll make sure its the last thing you ever do”.

Weep with desire.

When I was Joe by Keren David

September 15, 2010 Leave a comment

When I was Joe by Keren David. Pub. Francis Lincoln Children’s Books, 2010.

Just before Ty turns fourteen he witnesses the murder by stabbing, of a black boy, involving his life long friend Aaron, and two associates who have connections with the criminal world of East London. Ty lives in a hard world in which carrying a knife is considered part of the school uniform.

Ty is prepared to testify against those that did the murder so they petrol bomb his home forcing him and his mother Nicky to go under the witness protection scheme. They move out of London, change names and appearance and try to adapt to a new life. Ty becomes Joe and adopts a different persona in which he is confident, becomes fit, mixes with girls, and he generally likes the person he has become.

Then things change again after his Gran is brutally beaten in his old neck of the woods. Will Ty aka Joe and his mother adapt again? Do they want to? What will happen to the new life and relationships that they have made? Will Ty testify?

Well you find out some of the answers but not all. This book has a sequel called Almost True which hopefully will be out this year and I for one will be looking forward to reading it. So will you I think.

A very readible novel which looks at teenage culture, problems and relationships within the context of this murder. A powerful look at the  deteriorating  world for young people particularly at school, in big cities. A topic that many British writers of young adult fiction explore. Read The Knife that killed me by Anthony McGowan and see what I mean.

This is compulsive reading and  there is hope. Ty aka Joe aka Jake has a social conscience, is doing the right thing under extreme pressure and meets some caring people along the way.

Has a cover that will appeal to boys in particular, they will certainly pick it up, but there are some interesting girl characters in this book as well, so it has something for everybody.

No Way to Go by Bernard Ashley

February 12, 2010 Leave a comment

No Way To Go by Bernard Ashley. Pub. Orchard Books, 2009

Jacqueline Wilson described this book as “a tautly written, tough-talking teenage crime story”  but it is a little bit more than that. This is also a profile of a hard urban culture that has evolved in British cities. A hardness that begins in the home, flows over into schools and leads to a spiritless, don’t give a damn attitude that is epitomised in the gang cultures that menace the lives of ordinary people.

This is the story of 10 year old Connor Long who falls from a 10 story building. There are three ways of falling from a building – you can jump, be pushed or slip. Connor’s 17 year old sister thinks he was pushed and the solving of this crime is the gist of the story.

The role of the press, of the police, of the school and of a persons friends are also developed and Bernard Ashley’s stand on gangs is “if the home is fine, the gangs have no attraction”. In this story Connor’s father is in jail, his mother is a drunk but his sister Amber cares.

The story becomes involved with other aspects of the crime scene such as gangs, the drug wars,  the niteclub scene and racial issues. It is a portrait of a society falling apart, but the action is thrilling and the ending has you on the edge of your seat.

Suitable High School students who want something different. There are not many teenage crime stories out there and Bernard Ashley is an expperienced writer who has put this story together well.

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