Tag Archives: Simon Mayo

Review of ‘Knife Edge’ by Simon Mayo

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Transworld for the ARC of this book.

The start of this book is absolutely thrilling, it follows a journalist called Famie as she reports of seven stabbings in London and begins to realise that all of the people who were stabbed were her colleagues. I found it utterly gripping and moving and actually found myself crying. I don’t think I have ever cried so early in a book.

Unfortunately, the book is unable to sustain this pace and engagement. Once the funerals are over, it loses its momentum as it follows Famie and several of her journalist friends having lots of puzzled conversations with each other but not really doing all that much clever investigating. They look at a couple of devices, receive a couple of cryptic notes and then end up embroiled in a terrorist plot which takes place in Coventry for, as far as I can tell, the sole reason that Simon Mayo went to university there and enjoys including tidbits of his own life in his novels.

It is one of those thriller novels where everyone is connected to everyone else and when it got to the end and the big villain was revealed, you end up feeling like ‘hang on a minute why would they do that, and how did they know about it?‘. It’s kind of neat and messy at the same time. I had no idea really what the terrorists were aiming to achieve, but then it is fairly impossible to empathise with most terrorists.

It’s a shame because there is the kernel of a brilliant idea in there, but after the opening, it just isn’t that well executed or interesting. The characters were fairly bland and interchangeable and didn’t really develop over the course of the book. I also had an issue with the lead character’s name, Famie, which is unusual and not pronounced phonetically so every time I read it my brain jarred slightly and it reminded me I was reading a book and took me out of the story.

Simon Mayo’s young adult books, the Itch series, are really engaging and fun to read, but I don’t think he has quite mastered the art of writing adult thriller fiction yet.

List 6: Great book podcasts

When I’m not reading, I love listening to podcasts about books. They cause me problems because they discuss so many books that I end up wanting to read everything and there’s simply just not enough time in the world to read all the books I want! Nevertheless, they are a great source of book news and recommendations and a good way to find out about new authors or to hear from authors you love.

So I thought I’d share some of my favourite listens with you.

List Number Six: Nine great podcasts about books, reading and authors.

1. The Weekly Mayo

Weekly MayoSimon Mayo is a British radio presenter who hosts the daily drive time show on Radio 2, Britain’s most popular radio station. His show has a fortnightly book club which is usually featured on his weekly podcast from the BBC. They talk to the author and get reviews from people who work on the show and from listeners. The reads they recommend tend to be of a very high quality and this podcast helped me discover two of the best books I’ve read in the past couple of years: Wonder by R J Palacio and The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

2. The Enthusiasticast

EnthusiasticastThis podcast features two Canadian blokes, Mark and Jon, taking it in turns to pick a book to be enthusiastic about and they often recommend other books during their discussions. They’ve been on hiatus for a while but they’ve got a big back catalogue of podcasts to listen to.

3. and 4. World Book Club and Book Club

world book club radio 4 book club

More podcasts from the BBC. The World Book Club is from the World Service and Book Club is from Radio 4. Each month they interview a best-selling author about one of their books and put questions to them from listeners from all over the world. They’re quite serious podcasts but they allow you to get a real insight into some great authors including Alice Walker, Donna Tartt, Malorie Blackman, Harlan Coben and Lionel Shriver.

5. and 6. The Guardian Books Podcast and The Guardian Children’s Books Podcast

guardian guardian kids

Two podcasts from British newspaper The Guardian. A really good source of literary news. Podcasts often have a theme such as specific genres, books from certain countries or winners of book prizes. The children’s book version often gets interviews with great YA and kids authors.

7. Popcorn Dialogues

Popcorn dialoguesNot strictly about books, this is a podcast where romance authors Jennifer Crusie and Lucy March watch and talk about films in order to pick up tips to improve their writing. Jenny Crusie is probably my favourite romance author and these podcasts are funny and interesting. Unfortunately they stopped podcasting in 2012 but there’s a back catalogue of about 80 podcasts to listen to on iTunes.

8. Authors on Tour – Live!

authors on tour

Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver
Tattered Cover Bookstore

A weekly podcast from The Tattered Cover Bookstore, an independent bookshop in Denver, Colorado. They get an amazing number of fascinating authors who come to do book events at the shop and podcast these events which usually include an author reading followed by audience questions. I loved this podcast so much that I forced my husband to go on holiday to Colorado in 2011 just so we could visit the bookstore!

9. Books and Authors

books and authors

A final entry for the wonderful BBC. This is a weekly podcast featuring clips from Radio 4 book programmes Open Book and A Good Read. They are quite literary and fairly similar to the Guardian books podcast, but they get good author interviews and can often be quite fascinating.

Do you listen to any book podcasts? I’d love to hear your recommendations for good ones which I’ve overlooked!