Mark Cunnington's a good old boy. I've fished the same lake as him quite a few times over the years and we always meet up for a chat and to put the world right. Just like real carp anglers do, come to think of it.
However, I must admit that I was a bit concerned that he'd lost the plot a bit before I even started reading the latest instalment of The Syndicate series of carp fishing novels. Glancing at the cover, I was convinced he'd used that cover shot before. To me, Mark's covers are part and parcel of what the book is about. He sets them up in such a way that they get you thinking, as they hint as to what's inside. But a bivvy, with a chair in front of it beside three rods on a pod? I just KNEW I'd seen that one before!
Having unlocked the vault to my treasured underground art gallery, where all my original copies The Syndicate books are stored in a controlled environment in order to preserve them in pristine condition (Okay, I wrote that bit to make Mark feel special. They're in bookcase at the top of the stairs, next to Andy McNab), I got my mitts on the first ever book in the series. I was right!
Hang on, no I wasn't. Where did that ******* cat appear from?!! Hmmm.....and that spare 'S' on the end of the word 'syndicate'? Mystery, and I hadn't even opened the book yet.
As with previous novels, the latest volume in The Syndicate series starts off nice and peacefully, with our hapless heroes looking forward to setting down to a life of carp fishing and syndicate-running. All you need to do to expand the empire, surely, is find a new water and put some big carp in it. “Stock it and they will come”. Simples. What could possibly go wrong?
This final part to Volume One of The Syndicate series has a proper mixture of intrigue, industrial espionage, sex, violence and boilies. With a journalist sniffing around, and Rambo being about as subtle as a kick in the family jewels when it comes to 'sorting things out', it was always going to be that way! However, there's a twist at the end. In true Rolf Harris-stylie.... “Can you guess what it is yet?”
Our suspicions are first alerted when Rambo manages to obtain some quality carp at a crazy price. Nothing dodgy about the carp themselves (they don't whiff of garlic and swim on the wrong side of the lake), but how come he's getting such a good deal from somebody who, surely, shouldn't be selling them so cheaply? From then on, things go downhill quickly and the action comes thick and fast.
As I've stated in previous reviews of The Syndicate books, these are adult novels based around the world of syndicate carp fishing. When I say 'adult', I don't mean that they'll turn the air in your bivvy blue, but they do contain occasional uses of bad language and even rarer sexual references. Most adults would regard them as 'real life', but just don't lend them to your 8-year old nephew.
To get a full understanding of what is going on, it's pretty helpful if you've read the previous six books. In fact, this review is pretty pointless – if you've read the previous six, you wouldn't need me to tell you to read Part VII. You'll have already bought it! If you haven't read them, check out the latest deal on the Carp Books website - http://www.carpbooks.co.uk/offer.html
If you have read all the books so far, I'm sure you'll agree with me that, not only have the story and the characters developed fantastically over the years, but so has Mark Cunnington as an author. It's not very often I hassle an author to get their next book out, but Mark's the exception. It feels like we've all grown a bit older together.
The Syndicates Part VII is out now, priced just £11.95 plus shipping. Click here for all the latest ordering information. And if you're a Syndicate virgin, lucky you. You've got seven chapters of something quite special to devour over the coming weeks. Enjoy.