Ghost in the Machine – a review

A woman is sitting in a bar, waiting for someone, presumably her date, to arrive :

“She looked for anyone vaguely resembling Martin’s photo on Schoolbook. Nobody even came close.”

And there you have the two, short sentences that convinced me to buy Ed James’ ‘Ghost in the Machine.”

Like a lot of Kindle owners, many of my ebook purchases are fairly impulsive and this book was no exception. It caught my interest so I bought it. Only later, when I began reading it did I realise that this was a police procedural. And that it was set in Edinburgh, with many of the place names I’d grown used to from reading Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series.

And right there is the one real problem I have with the Ghost in the Machine – I can’t help comparing it to Ian Rankin’s creation, even though Scott Cullen, the young policeman in Ghost in the Machine, is nothing like Inspector Rebus. Or perhaps because he is like the person Rebus mightΒ have been in his youth, before disillusionment and alcohol killed his joie de vivre [love of life for those who don’t want to look it up] and turned him into such a complex and compelling character.

Sadly, Scott Cullen is not all that compelling. He is likable, and just as smart as Rebus, but he lacks the depth that makes Rebus someone who tugs at the heart strings. Β I care about Rebus. I’m not sure I care about Scott Cullen, however as this is book 1 of the series the author may develop Cullen a little more in the later books.

So, the worst thing I can say about Ghost in the Machine is that it lacks the character development of one of my favourite fictional characters. Everything else, however, is excellent. The plot is tight and kept me guessing right till the end. The background feels authentic, and the cast of supporting characters often seem to be more vivid than the main character himself. The dialogue, too, is good. Every so often the author reproduces an accent in the dialogue, if it is particularly relevant, and I found it was just enough to add flavour without becoming difficult to read. Others may disagree with me on that one, but I loathe flat dialogue where everyone sounds the same.

Now to the big question : did I enjoy Ghost in the Machine?

The answer is a surprising ‘Yes’.

Despite the fact that Ghost in the Machine was written by an indie author, instead of a famous one, did not have the benefit of a professional editor [yes, there are a few typos but only a few], and did not quite have enough character development for my tastes, the story was such a good read that I intend to buy the next book in the series.

I’m also putting Ed James on my Watch List because he is a young author going places. Highly recommended.

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About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

19 responses to “Ghost in the Machine – a review

  • edjamesauthor

    Hey – just spotted this review and blogged about it.

    http://edjamesauthor.com/2012/12/01/another-5-star-ghost-review/

    The review is one of the best I’ve had, not just in terms of praise but in terms of insight and criticism. My post above is a “defence” of sorts, but the points you raise are all intended. Hopefully you’ll see the character development happening on the page in book two – DEVIL IN THE DETAIL – and future books.

    I’ve just finished the latest Rankin (and Rebus) and the character writing is second to none in it.

    Cheers!

    — Ed

    Like

    • acflory

      Thanks so much Ed. I never review a book I haven’t liked and I very much liked Ghost in the Machine. I know Ian Rankin is a hard act to follow but I do believe you are a new, fresh voice in the genre.

      Not sure if you read some of the other comments but one of them mentioned that another Rebus fan had already read your book and liked it too!

      Off to check out that link, and I might grab Devil in the Detail while I’m at it. πŸ™‚

      Like

      • edjamesauthor

        Thanks – Rankin is a really hard act to follow but that’s the decision I made! I could have set it in Dundee (where I’m from originally) but I’ve known Edinburgh almost half my life now and it’s got thousands of books in it.

        The comments blow my mind – it’s weird to see people talk about my work not at my insistence… πŸ˜‰

        Hope that DEVIL stands up to the first book.

        — Ed

        Like

        • acflory

          No promises but… I just bought it and I’ll be starting tonight. πŸ™‚

          Btw I noticed on your site that you also write sci-fi? I didn’t have time to ferret it out but sci-fi is my big love so I’d be interested in reading any sci-fi books you have as well.

          cheers
          Meeks

          Like

          • edjamesauthor

            I’ve written stuff but it’s just not very good – scifi and crime are very different. There’s s really good idea I’ve got that I’ve sort of never managed to get quite right. And besides, I’m on a roll with Cullen just now – that said, at some point I will need a break so I’ll dig that out.

            I read more scifi than anything but writing in the genre is a horrific time commitment…

            — Ed

            Like

          • acflory

            Yes it is, a time commitment that is, but it still gives me a buzz like no other. We’ll have to swap favourite sci-fi authors one day πŸ™‚

            Like

          • edjamesauthor

            How about now? Peter F Hamilton, Iain M Banks, Alastair Reynolds, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ken McLeod…

            — Ed

            Like

          • acflory

            Oh! lmao – I’ll match you a Banks and a Robinson and raise you a William Gibson, Frank Herbert, Ursula Le Guin and a C.J.Cherryh!

            I haven’t read any of Ken McLeod’s stuff – any recommendations?

            Like

          • edjamesauthor

            Huge fan of Gibson.

            McLeod – the Stone Canal trilogy is pretty good, if a bit out there. Also, if you like Reynolds then Gary Gibson is pretty good.

            Like

          • acflory

            McLeod sounds interesting. I’m always looking for that something different so I might give the Stone Canal a try. Thanks!

            Btw have you read China Mieville’s Embassy Town? It’s probably the only ‘straight’ sci-fi he’s written but he always reinvents the wheel. πŸ˜‰

            Like

  • Candy Korman

    Thanks for the heads up about this one. I just sent it as a gift to my mom β€” a big Ian Rankin fan β€” as we’ve got long plane rides ahead of us for the (U.S.) Thanksgiving holiday. I’ve loaded my Kindle with assorted genres, indie authors and have advised her to to do the same.

    Like

    • acflory

      -gulp- Oh… you did tell her not to expect Rebus though… didn’t you?

      Like

      • Candy Korman

        This is so funny! My mom had already bought it and read it. She liked it β€” had pretty much the same opinion as you did. Since I’d gifted it to her at .99, Amazon is giving her a .99 credit. So, alls well that ends well. She wanted me to tell you.

        Like

        • acflory

          lmao – Oh I’m so glad she liked it! When you said she was an Ian Rankin fan I hoped she wouldn’t be disappointed. Fate works in odd ways doesn’t it?

          I’m a bit hesitant to recommend Blindman of Seville, by Robert Wilson, because it has some very adult themes, but if your Mum enjoys psychological police procedurals/thrillers then she may love this one. I do. In fact it’s probably my favourite book in the entire genre. Just warn her ok?

          Like

  • Carrie Rubin

    I’m impressed you’ve had time to read with NaNo going on, let alone write a review! Well done. πŸ™‚

    Like

  • lorddavidprosser

    A good and honest review which gives the book’s creator the opportunity to re-look at his hero’s development whilst knowing he has the skills to create a good plot. Hopefully the hero will grow in depth as the series develops. Here again is proof that Indie writers are as good as published authors and just lack the luck that gains an agent and publisher.
    Here acflory proves why she is a formidable reviewer able to get to grips with the writers style and substance giving us all a vision of what to expect.

    Like

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