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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Reviews: 5 Shooting in the Dark

Baker is a funny, playful and clever storyteller, who weaves popular philosophy and gentle observation into his tale of a glamorous blind woman and her murderous stalker. The Sunday Times.

John Baker is a very classy writer and is one of my two tips to be the next big thing in British crime fiction. He has got the telling of this story down to an art form. The pieces of the puzzle we are allowed to see are intriguing and pull us into this intelligent novel. The villain is seriously bad and creepy, he would give Hannibal Lector pause for thought. And the hero and his colleagues are real people, when you read about them they do not seem to be fictional in any way. This is way, way above run of the mill crime fiction. Pure Class. Ottakar’s The Verdict – Issue 2.

Baker’s theme is redemption – how anyone can escape from the gutters into which society dumps its unwanted members. This is a thoroughly enjoyable, exciting and thoughtful novel. Mat Coward, Morning Star.

Baker has produced an urban thriller with a difference. There’s no doubting his skillful, often lyrical writing. Homelessness, desperation and obsession are some of the themes of the book, but so is redemption, and there is a vein of humour threading through the pages. Baker’s strengths are in the wonderful characters who staff his hero’s detective agency. Credible, human, they all serve to advance the plot. The relationship between the characters is an integral part of the story (and) the solution is satisfyingly chilling, maintaining the tension, and gripping the reader, until the very end. Janice Young, Yorkshire Post.

Refreshing. A gritty and engaging story of courage, determination and revenge. It’s extremely well written with a strong cast of characters and a healthy dose of humour. It should shoot Baker into the premier league of British crime writers. Simon Ritchie, Yorkshire Evening Press.

One of Britain’s most highly regarded crime writers returns in this powerful story of vicious obsession and murder. York based Sam Turner (is) one of the best British private detectives in the business. The Mystery and Thriller Club.

Shooting in the Dark is the fifth in the excellent Sam Turner series and certainly sustains the excitement for his long-term fans. For those who have not been converted to Sam Turner’s cause, he is one of the most genial of private eyes. Gnarled, frequently beaten by life as well as the York winters, but never defeated. Add to that an unreconstructed womaniser, a reforming alcoholic, a long-time champion of Bob Dylan and all things good in rock music, and a person much given to espousing hopeless causes with a tenacity which must even surprise him at times. Throw in a good supporting cast, as John Baker does regularly, and you have most of the ingredient of a best-selling detective novel. Bob Cartwright, Shots.

John Baker’s Sam Turner thriller, Shooting in the Dark, is his best yet. The plot moves along stylishly, the writing is as crisp and delicious as the perfect popadom; this could well be Baker’s Black and Blue – the novel that made Ian Rankin a superstar. Jim Driver, Time Out.

A compassionate, intelligent thriller. I really enjoyed this. The group of characters from the Sam Turner series are always fascinating and although the personal challenges they face are serious and often traumatic there’s a refreshing vein of humour in the stories. The plot, with a blind woman being stalked, is engrossing and builds to a climax which could have gone on even longer. The observations on relationships and the struggle for people on the margins to build and maintain a life with meaning is compelling. John Baker also uses the story to look at ideas and assumptions around seeing and failing to see. Cath Staincliffe, novelist, Amazon.

The characters from the Sam Turner series are a joy to read. Their various struggles to make sense of often damaged and absurd lives are as compelling as the plot to catch the murderer. Baker brings compassion, intelligence and deft touches of humour to the story. Cath Staincliffe, novelist, Tangled Web.

Also with a European setting — York, England, in this instance — is Shooting in the Dark (Orion UK), John Baker’s fifth adventure for accidental private eye Sam Turner and his eccentric crew of crime-solving assistants. If you aren’t already familiar with the Turner series, do yourself a favor and read it. J. Kingston Pierce, The Rap Sheet, January Magazine.

There seems to be a developing cult for private-eye series set in northern Britain, such as Liverpool, Edinburgh and York. John Baker sets his Sam Turner stories in the latter city and Shooting in the Dark is his latest epistle about the reformed alcoholic who runs a chronically under-funded detective agency. Baker is a very good writer, as the plaudits on the jacket from critics in ‘the heavies’ attest – and for once they are right! The basic story is a straight-forward and fast-paced thriller, but the book is made more complex by the sub-plots – the major departure from the usual crime story is the interpolation of chapters written by the killer, who calls himself The Watcher, a professional psychologist and sado-masochist. The excellent writing is heavily laced with philosophical and psychological asides, with Descartes and Kant receiving frequent plugs. An unusual and satisfying thriller with a nail-biting finale. Bernard Knight, Tangled Web.

Ambitiously conceived with narrative spliced with commentary by serial killer and a strand of metaphysical musing. Several cuts above the norm with first-rate characterisation, true (as opposed to souped-up) romance and violence intended to punish as well as please. What’s also welcome is a nice chippy anti-establishment vein which questions society while taking its shilling. Five novels into the Sam Turner series, Baker now ranks among the best that Brit crime-writing has to offer. Philip Oakes, Literary Review.

The novel veers between bursts of madness emanating from the villain and something which is rather closer to the world of Alan Plater’s Beiderbecke stories. There is an edge of genuine threat and seriousness in the treatment of the incurably venal Ralph, who has an eye but not a brain for the main chance. Sean O’Brien, Times Literary Supplement.

As with all John Baker’s previous books, this is more than a detective story, there is a depth to the characters that gives the reader several stories, within a story. Geordie, who Sam plucked from the gutter and trained to do detective work has just become a father. His amazement with both his new daughter Echo, and new role of his wife Janet, is to him a source of wonderment and to some extent a minefield through which he is just learning to negotiate his way, but there are dark testing days ahead for this new family. Highly recommended. Lizzie Hayes, Mystery Women.

Unusual from the outset. The conceptual concerns, together with the disparate character elements – Sam Turner’s band of misfits, a highly unsympathetic police presence, the villain’s bizarre domestic menage, and the darkly realistic depiction of the heritage-hued city of York, combine to provide a rewarding and recommended read. Paul M. Chapman, Sherlock Holmes Magazine.

We don’t usually associate Brits with the tough-private-eye genre, although they’ve done fine with the likes of Liza Cody. John Baker’s Sam Turner series, set in York, has everything it takes for a great PI novel: plenty of atmosphere, fine characters and a terrific plot. It begins when a blind woman walks into Turner’s office. She and her sister are being stalked. By whom? Why? There are no clues. Baker takes us to the edge of madness, vicious obsession, depravity and assorted other dark sides of the human psyche. Margaret Cannon,

Baker may transpose the private detective hero from New York to Old York, complete with such standards as an alcoholic past and beautiful glamorous client, but avoids falling into overly familiar cliche thanks to characterisation and smart, but not smartass, dialogue. Inverness Courier.

This is the fifth Sam Turner novel in a series by John Baker which includes Walking with Ghosts and Poet in the Gutter. Established fans will welcome it, and for anyone new to Baker, this is a book to be persevered with. Baker has an extraordinary style . . . (and he) is a psychologist and philosopher as well as a crime writer. His insights into the twisted motives of a psychopath are both fascinating and chilling, and his tendency to delve into philosophical profundities is equally fascinating. Through Sam’s own musings and through the character of J.D. – a novelist who is also one of Sam’s eccentric band of sleuths – Baker explores what are clearly his own pet preoccupations. What are the mechanics of writing. What is sight and what is perception? Is sexual attraction a matter of pheromones or advertising budgets? And where does Darwinian theory fit into the equation? This is an edge- of-the seat read – not comfortable but gripping. Although the outcome is never really in doubt, how the story will be resolved will keep readers holding their breath till the last page. The Good Book Guide.

This book moves from the bleakness of noir to the terror caused by a psychotic killer. Baker is a master at creating characters we care about. Sam is on the wagon. Geordie and Janet have found each other, and even the sudden appearance of Geordie’s good-for-nothing brother, only serve to make them stronger. Celia looks years younger, now that she has something other than a lonely retirement to look forward to, and Marie, widow of Sam’s former partner, has also rediscovered a reason for living. This is a very strong entry in the series. Barbara Franchi, Reviewing the Evidence.

John Baker has created a fascinating world that revolves around Sam and his associates. Short on action, but long on introspection and reflection, his books are thoughtful commentaries on the vagaries of modern life and relationships. In this book he pursues the world of the blind as well as the mind of the psychopath who is stalking the sisters.
Mr. Baker has also written a stand-alone book, but his best is reserved for Sam & Company. As a dedicated fan, I can only hope that he continues the series for many years. Lorraine Gelly, Reviewing the Evidence.

SHOOTING IN THE DARK is an excellent entry in the Sam Turner series. All of the series regulars are involved, and Baker wisely devotes just enough time to each of them to have them continue to develop from book to book. Celia, Marie, JD and, of course, Geordie, all seem very real. Their obvious caring for one another is a nice counterbalance to the evil and depraved acts that are depicted in the book. It was also fascinating to see how Angeles handled her blindness and how Sam adapted to her needs. Add in a complex plot, a chilling villain, wonderfully descriptive writing and you’ve got the recipe for an extremely engaging read! If you haven’t read this series yet, do yourself a favor and start out with POET IN THE GUTTER. Satisfaction guaranteed! Maddy Van Hertbruggen Crime fiction reviewer for: * I Love a Mystery Newsletter:
* Reviewing the Evidence:

I was drawn in by the complexity of each (character). They are all vividly written. I was concerned for the fate of these decent, hard working people. A really good read. Daniel Nagrin, the great loner of American dance

From the book jacket, this title picks up a series of books about detective Sam Turner. The prose is just as compelling as it was in “The Chinese Girl.” Sam Turner’s voice is keenly observant, original and yet (despite my being a naif here) seems to meet the classic, “hard-boiled” standard one would expect from a real detective. Kathleen Maher,