Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two of the 2022 Quick Reads titles from The Reading Agency: The Swimmer by Graham Norton and The Cutting Season by MW Craven. The Quick Reads books are aimed at making reading more accessible for readers of all abilities, and at £1 a book are affordable and entertaining.
About the Book
Helen is a retired teacher living on the Irish coast. She enjoys the peace and quiet – despite the burden of Margaret, her unpleasant sister. Margaret arrived three years ago for a short holiday, but somehow managed to stay and worm her way into Helen’s life.
One day, Helen sees a man struggling in the sea and decides to investigate. She doesn’t quite know what it is, but something about it feels very strange…
The Swimmer is a really atmospheric and engaging read, with a whole lot of mystery packed into such a short book. Relishing in finally having a bit of peace and quiet, Helen takes a moment to herself to sit and watch the ocean just outside her front door. As she watches, she sees a stranger swim out into the ocean, a trip from which he never returns. Missing, presumed dead, there is something that doesn’t quite sit right with Helen about his disappearance …
From the start, Graham Norton sets us up with a really keen sense of time, place and character, and with a wonderful flow to the narrative, the book really held my attention. I found myself at once warming to the character of Helen and becoming as intrigued as she was about what was going on. Being slightly older as a character, she is quite steady and you feel that immediate trust in her instincts, as well as having the odd spidey-sense of my own tingling away. Did I perhaps guess where this story was heading. Certainly there were some suspicions – probably natural under the circumstances, and especially as more clues start to be revealed. Did I expect or anticipate everything that came to pass? Most definitely not, the author keeping vital information hidden until just the right moment in time to feed the mystery and my desire to know more of what was going on.
For a short taster of the author’s writing this has certainly made me want to read more. With a mystery on the cosier side of crime, it still really makes a mark and with some moments of humour in amongst the sadness, and authentic voice in Helen and those around her, it’s definitely one I’d recommend.
About the Author
Graham Norton is one of the UK’s most treasured comedians and presenters. Born in Clondalkin, a suburb of Dublin, Norton’s first big TV appearance was as Father Noel Furlong on Channel 4’s Father Ted in the early 1990s. He then secured a prime time slot on Channel 4 with his chat shows So Graham Norton and V Graham Norton.
Known for his quick wit Graham began hosting a variety of talent shows on BBC One from Strictly Dance Fever and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? to The Eurovision Song Contest and BAFTAs. Graham was soon approached by the BBC to front his own self-titled chat show The Graham Norton Show in 2007.
Graham Norton has won 9 BAFTAs for Best Entertainment Performance, and Best Entertainment Programme. He presents The Graham Norton Show on BBC1, a show on Virgin Radio every weekend, and is a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Norton won the Special Recognition Award at the National Television Awards in 2017.
About the Book
Poe’s just hanging around on a Saturday afternoon…
Dangling from a hook in a meat packing plant isn’t how Detective Sergeant Washington Poe wants to spend his weekend. He’s been punched and kicked and threatened, and when a contract killer arrives it seems things are about to go from bad to worse. He goes by the name of the Pale Man and he and his straight-edged razor have been feared all over London for twenty years.
But Poe knows two things the Pale Man doesn’t. Although it might seem like a hopeless situation, Poe has planned to be here all along. More importantly, a nerdy, computer whizz-kid called Tilly Bradshaw is watching his back. And now things are about to get interesting . . .
You have to love a Poe and Bradshaw thriller, and even though it is short in length, The Cutting Season really still packs a punch. Several in fact if you happen to be Washington Poe. From the outset of this short book you get a real flavour of what this series is about, with sharp, always humorous language, and characters who never fail to make me smile. Everything about the book captures the magic and the spirit of the full length novels, so if you have never read a Washington Poe book before – and if not , why not – then this is a great place to start.
On the hunt for a contract killer, putting himself in the line of fire seems a sure fire way for Poe to catch his man. Or to get killed. Not his first choice, obviously, but with Poe, always a possibility. These stories are always dark but tamed by humour, and the camaraderie between Poe and Tilly Bradshaw, that really off kilter pairing that shouldn’t work but is pure literary gold, really make this one heck of a read. You can see the logic being played out on the page. Voiced literally in Tilly’s case – it’s just her way – but by the reasoning and the progression of Poe’s actions, and whilst the tension sky rockets, there is still that feeling of things being in control. Even if not, Poe is not the kind of guy to give it all away.
Dark, funny, pacy and packed with action, if you want to get a taster of the series, or you just fancy a quick dip into a bit of top notch crime fiction that you can devour alongside your lunch, this is definitely recommended. Then read the full length books. You can thank me later.
About the Author
M. W. Craven was born in Carlisle and grew up in Newcastle. He joined the army at sixteen, and left ten years later to gain a degree in social work. He worked for seventeen years as a probation officer in Cumbria before becoming a full-time author. The Puppet Show, the first book in his Washington Poe series, was published in 2018 and won the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger. The fourth in the series, Dead Ground, was published in June 2021 and became a Sunday Times bestseller.