Category Archives: 4 Star Books

A Review of The Black Mile by Mark Dawson

The Black Mile (Soho Noir #1)

by Mark Dawson

Mr. Dawson will transport you back to the mean dark streets of London as the Nazi bombers were pounding the East End. He puts you right there, in the thick of the action and tension, the terror of bombs falling while girls are being butchered. He shows you the reality of the slang and prejudices of the city under siege. He demonstrates the brutality of the cops, and the crooks. You wonder if there is a difference. He brings two feuding brothers together, Charlie and Frank Murphy, to butt heads, to grow apart, to fight, but to come back together as honest policemen. You learn about a reporter, Henry Drake, who makes up details of his stories, so that they are more interesting, and will sell more papers. He learns that the real story is more important, but much more dangerous.

The Black Mile is a good mystery thriller. It seems to be an authentic portrayal of London at the beginning of World War II. Mr. Dawson uses a lot of period slang. This adds to the feel of the time. Since I am an American, much of the phraseology is foreign, but after a few chapters, it’s possible to figure out most of what is being said. I would be curious what a resident of the UK would think about the accuracy of the book. Some of the things that happen seem to not fit the time period.

I enjoyed this book, but have some reservations about the historic accuracy. I give it 4 Stars out of 5 and a Thumbs Up. This is not my normal type of book, but I think that I will read more by Mark Dawson in the future. I may try his John Milton series. If you think that you might like a noir novel set in wartime London, give The Black Mile a shot. You probably will like it.

I received a copy of The Black Mile from the author.

Book Description

The Black Mile by Mark Dawson
The Black Mile by Mark Dawson

London, 1940: the Luftwaffe blitzes London every night for fifty-seven nights. Houses, shops and entire streets are wiped from the map. The underworld is in flux: the Italian criminals who dominated the West End have been interned and now their rivals are fighting to replace them. Meanwhile, hidden in the shadows, the Black-Out Ripper sharpens his knife and sets to his grisly work.

Henry Irving is a disgraced reporter on a Fleet Street scandal rag. Genius detective sergeant Charlie Murphy is a fresh face in the Metropolitan police, hunting corrupt colleagues but blinkered by ambition and jealousy. His brother, detective inspector Frank Murphy, searches frantically for his runaway daughter, terrified that she will be the killer’s next victim. As the Ripper stalks the terrified streets, the three men discover that his handiwork is not quite what it seems. Conspirators are afoot, taking advantage of the chaos to settle old scores. The murders invade the lives of the victims and victimizers on both sides of the law, as everyone is sucked deeper and deeper into Soho’s black heart.

Based on a little known true story, The Black Mile is a rollercoaster ride of a novel that was previously the most downloaded novel on the Kindle Store. If you enjoy the thrillers of James Elroy, Peter James and Dennis Lehane, you’ll love THE BLACK MILE.

PRAISE FOR MARK DAWSON ‘A brilliant debut novel from a very promising writer.’ Subject ‘Ultra-addictive, super-stylish – a viciously good novel.’ Toby Litt. ‘A talent to be watched.’ Birmingham Post

PRAISE FOR THE BLACK MILE ‘This is far and above the best small/independently published novel I have ever had the pleasure of reading.’ The Kindle Book Review ‘Dawson has shown himself to be a true master of suspense’. Siobian Minish ‘A first class historical mystery.’ Luke Walker ‘This book is worth it for the arcane London slang alone. Fascinating. If want to get a feel for what it was like during the early part of WWII this will knock you out. If you like character development you’ll love it. If you like peeking in on the lives of people in a long gone world — you really love it.’ David E Johnson

Book Details

Paperback: 422 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (January 25, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1482051346
ISBN-13: 978-1482051346
Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 8 inches
Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds

About the Author

Mark Dawson was born in Lowestoft, in the UK. He has worked as a DJ, a door-to-door ice cream seller, factory hand and club promoter. He eventually trained as a lawyer and worked for ten years in the City of London and Soho, firstly pursuing money launderers around the world and then acting for celebrities suing newspapers for libel. He currently works in the London film industry.

He is presently writing two series.

The John Milton books involve a disgruntled British assassin who is trying – without much success – to put his past behind him. In order to atone for the blood on his hands he has decided to help those in need. The first full length novel in the series, The Cleaner, sees Milton struggle to adapt to life amongst the gangs of East London during the riots of the summer of 2012. The Cleaner, and the other books in the series, have all been best-sellers in their categories at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

The Soho Noir books, beginning with The Black Mile and continuing with The Imposter, follow the glitz and glamour of criminal life in London’s West End from the 1940s to the present day. The Imposter picks up the nefarious goings on of the Costello crime family and a protagonist who is rather more than meets the eye. Think of The Sopranos set in Soho and you’ll be on the right track. This series, too, has been downloaded tens of thousands of times.

Mark lives in Wiltshire with his wife and two young children, plus a dog and two cats.

Book Description and Details are from Amazon. The Black Mile


A Review of Helsinki Noir edited by James Thompson

Helsinki Noir

edited by James Thompson

This is a collection of new stories from Finnish writers that take place in and around Helsinki. The stories range from very dark and horrific to brighter and nearly upbeat. Most of them were quite good. Some of the stranger stories are at the beginning of the book, so don’t let that stop you. If you aren’t too sure what is going on, just keep working through it. I think that you will like it.

I enjoyed this collection, but since I haven’t read any of the other books in this series, I can’t tell how well it stacks up with the rest. I used this book to get a small feel for Finnish mystery writers. Most of the stories were originally written in Finnish or Swedish, and the translations are very good. They flow nicely and read naturally. I will be looking to add some of the books from these authors in the future. It was an interesting glimpse into life in Helsinki.

I give Helsinki Noir 4 Stars out of 5, and recommend it to anyone looking to expand their mystery story experience. It would be an eclectic addition to anyone’s library. Use it to expand the group of authors that you read.

I received a Digital Review Copy of this book from

Book Description

HelsinkiNoir1-509x800“Readers should be prepared to keep the lights on at night after finishing this unnerving collection.”
Publishers Weekly

Launched with the summer ’04 award-winning best seller Brooklyn Noir, Akashic Books continues its groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies. Each book is comprised of all-new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book.

Featuring brand-new stories by: Leena Lehtolainen, Johanna Holmström, James Thompson, Antti Tuomainen, Jesse Itkonen, Joe L. Murr, Jukka Petäjä, Tapani Bagge, Pekka Hiltunen, Teemu Käskinen, Tuomas Lius, Riikka Ala-Harja, Karo Hämäläinen, and Jarkko Sipila.

From the introduction by James Thompson:

“Finland, the myths and truths. Internationally, it has a reputation as perhaps the best place in the world to live. A great economy. A low crime rate. Good and nearly cost-free health care. The needy are provided for by the state and live in reasonable comfort. Finns: peaceful and quiet people, living in the perfect example of a social democracy functioning as it should. A tourist, or even a person who has lived here for a length of time, might well view Finland as such. There is some truth to this, but like every country, Finland has many truths…

Finland is, like the theme so often explored in Star Trek, a parallel universe in which, on the surface, all seems normal, but under that shell lie vast differences…As this book demonstrates, Finland is a noir nation [and] this anthology is, I believe, the best representation of Finnish noir ever offered to the international community. Every word rings true. It holds Finland up in a way that not only exposes this wonderful and fascinating country to the world, but acts as a mirror that reflects its people and culture in a way every Finn will recognize, vocalizing those truths that are so seldom spoken here amongst ourselves.”

Book Details

Series: Akashic Noir
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Akashic Books (November 4, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 161775241X
ISBN-13: 978-1617752414
Product Dimensions: 1 x 5 x 7 inches
Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces

About the Editor

JAMES THOMPSON has lived in Finland for over fifteen years and is one of the most popular representatives of Nordic noir, with his work being published in a dozen countries. His novel Snow Angels, the first book in his acclaimed Kari Vaara series, was one of Booklist’s Best Crime Novel Debuts of the Year and was nominated for Edgar, Anthony, and Strand Critics awards. Kirkus selected Lucifer’s Tears, the second book in the series, as one of the best books of 2011. G.P. Putnam’s Sons will release Helsinki Dead, the fifth installment in the series, in 2014. He is a reviewer for the New York Journal of Books and holds a master’s degree from the University of Helsinki. He is the editor of Helsinki Noir.

Jim has suddenly passed away on August 2, 2014.

Book Description and Details are from Amazon. Helsinki Noir