I've copied and pasted the reviews The Big Keep has received since it first came out. Getting people to leave a review is fiendishly difficult so if you've read it and have a few spare minutes I would appreciate a post on Amazon.
Whiles away a train journey
By Andy Scott on 14 July 2011
The best thing about this book is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. Just when you're thinking that our maths teacher has stepped into a James Bond film the narrator will pipe up with "was he trying to sound like a bond villain?" Yes, the plot is ridiculous. No, no normal person would react in the way Mackenzie reacts to anything. But the book is subliminally saying that it knows it's ridiculous and willing on your suspension of disbelief. The writing is extremely tight and in particular the dialogue is sharp, witty and the book's undoubted highlight. It's just a pity there isn't more plot to go with it. It's a blockbuster action adventure: sort of Indiana Jones in print. The fact that the hero tackles everything head on and seemingly without fear does rather limit the suspense. Personally I a prefer a story with more suspense, mystery and twists and turns. But each to their own and I can see there are plenty of people who appreciate the Boy's Own adventure. The first few chapters are a bit clunky ("that football match last year when Grace scored the winner and gave me her bra at half time" is my personal favourite). But bear with it because the writing gets better and better as the story goes on. Good for train journeys, days off sick and any other situation where you need some amusing light hearted silliness that doesn't require too much concentration.
An exciting and sexy read!!
By S. Hughes on 18 July 2011
I was recommended this novel by a friend, and despite not having heard of the author before, I was glad I listened to the advice. The Humphrey Bogart-esque main character provides an entertainingly cocky but equally flawed character, which makes him all the more likable and believable. The book had many hilarious moments, including the nail biting `robbery' scene, but the real pleasure of this read is in the acerbic witticisms of the author, and his shrewd observations of life that really brings all of the characters and the story to life. The teaching scenes are gently nostalgic, as are the memories of the regimental headmaster or boss we can all relate too. The author brings a sense of refreshing honesty to his storytelling and main character, which provides the novel with an engaging vulnerability and warmth. I hope that Dr. Mackenzie will return to make maths sexy once more! Highly recommended as a soother to rainy days and Mondays.
Impressive debut from Chris Grayling!
By psoro on 18 August 2011
Chris Grayling's 'The Big Keep' is a fun debut novel. It's a fast, holiday read with a neat sense of Raymond Chandler meeting Tony Parsons. It's cute, wisecracking and has a narrative which combines intrigue (crime and sex)with social comment (teenagers, teachers, badminton clubs and everyone's relationships). Chris is clearly an Arsenal supporter which is the only downside of an otherwise admirable first effort. He should get a following from the Nick Hornby school of creative writers. Good luck.
By C Hunter-Evans on 11 September 2011
A thoroughly enjoyable read - light-hearted & totally entertaining, with a great variety of characters thrown into the mix. The story itself is both engrossing & funny throughout which makes 'The Big Keep' the perfect holiday read & really good fun!
This book was written by a Maths Teacher ?!
By Ava (ex-cranbrookian) on 25 October 2013
This is very good book to read on the beach and during holiday, but it is not a decent book to the read during exam because it is too addictive ! The author created a very detail Neil Mackenzie's 'typical' world and the image of women who orbit around his life, which is narrated by himself (starring Brid Pitt in my imagination and always felt he is quite a womanizer). As I follow his life being an 'ordinary' maths tutor , I become more attach to his adventure and slowly merge into his world. Finally I really love the ending how he finally settled down with his 'true love' ( will this relationship last in the second book ??).
Hilarious By Emma Day on 9 July 2011
Well written, exciting plot which keeps you in suspense and makes you want to keep on reading until you're finished. Really funny and I especially enjoyed the scenes with Rocky and Gere.
A Gripping tale with relatable characters!
By Yvonne Silve on 20 July 2011
A great fictional novel! Stick with this new author, as you read `The Big Keep' you will find yourself becoming engrossed in the story. The beginning will remind many of their own maths lessons at school and everyone will have been taught by a teacher described in this book. I hope to see another novel by Chris Grayling soon; he writes witty, likeable characters and adapts real life to make it exciting.
A must read!
By Charlie Scanlon on 9 July 2011
A great summer read and such a bargain. You'd be a fool not to buy it! I just happened upon it by chance on the Kindle Store and glad I did.
Hope you enjoy it at much as I did.
By Sarah Walker on 12 July 2011
Witty, funny and charming. This book has it all - action, adventure and romance. If only all maths teachers were as comical as Neil Mackenzie! Looking forward to the next By J Clark on 9 March 2012 This debut sparkles with its omnipresent thread of humour weaved into the author's teasing dialogue, original expression (`holiday lobotomy') and reflective observations of his surroundings. The protagonist's self-awareness adds a likeable vulnerability to his character and others have an amusing air of familiarity. Thoroughly entertaining.
Teaching and excitement, surely not!
By Munchkin on 28 January 2013
Chris gives an amusing commentary of the life of a teacher which has unbelievable been livened up by the lively ex(ish) pupil. This is a thoroughly entertaining read and I would recommend it, particularly to any teachers out there.
Great fun! Less plausible than ‘Forest Gump’; more self-indulgently readable than most novels of this ilk
By Kindle Customer on 8 Aug. 2016
This is a worthwhile read if you take it for what it is: a decent first attempt at a novel. I can't help feeling that it might be lost on non-teachers but alas I cannot claim such a status and found myself grinning with self-righteous gratitude at the fact that someone had articulated the current educational malaise so adroitly. There is an unrepentant machismo about the plot line and the main character himself. I found myself oscillating between liking and loathing the latter – and maybe even the former. Mind you I've spent over 500 pages of a Dickens novel feeling ever-increasing hatred for a protagonist before so maybe the problem is me. The last 100 pages or so were great – and I'm glad I persevered. If I'm honest there was a degree of perseverance required: for me at any rate the long and leisurely flashback didn't really work. I didn't expect the plot to be plausible; I did hope for internal plot consistency and credibility and felt that in this regard the book did not live up to my expectations. Still – all in all worth the effort. Certainly a reasonable holiday read. I took to reading The Big Sister at once so that speaks for itself. UPDATE: Have now just finished the second instalment - vastly better, and actually makes TBK better too. I'd award another star, but then I couldn't show improvement for books #2 and #3 (ever the teacher...)
Enjoyable Holiday Read
By E Curry on 3 September 2016
Admittedly not my normal read, but an enjoyable holiday read nonetheless. It did take me the first 130 pages, give or take, to get into; copious character building and scene setting, and perhaps a little literary self indulgence from the author's personal memoirs. However, perseverance paid off, and the story really did build quite nicely and I did get carried along with the adventures of Neil. I wonder what the second and third instalments hold....
By LucyP on 24 August 2016
I thoroughly enjoyed this lively page-turner depicting a Chandleresque Kent. You can sense the author's enjoyment in the writing which never failed to bring a smile to my face. Also some perceptive comments about the world of teaching! Looking forward to cracking on with the rest of the trilogy!
A real feel-good book
By Icedaisy_1 on 29 August 2016
Neil Mackenzie is a Competent Man. He is charming, witty, irresistible to women, and a black belt in karate. The first instalment in "The Big" trilogy tells the story of the Great Marc Gilbert heist and Neil's exploits chatting up attractive Greek waitresses. Lots of action and jokes on every page. A real feel-good book - I loved it!
A Wisecracking Read
I've just had a little peek at the Big Keep. I could say that it's comfortably the worst novel I've read all year; for an author, Dr Grayling makes a fine maths teacher. As it happens, it's the only novel I've read all year (so I guess that also makes it the best) and I do believe Dr G is indeed a fine maths teacher. Things aren't always what they seem and context is everything. OK, this invariably means that any review from me is of limited value, since I tend to prefer fact to fiction when it comes to holiday reading and haven't much to compare it to. But an enthusiastically positive review from someone in the other camp must surely be a good thing.
And a cracking read it was, too. Maybe its semi factual side – did I recognise the Woodman pub? – it's a cracking story, well paced and something of a page turner. I was always interested how the various situations were going to resolve themselves. Surely there’s no way out of this one for Neil Mackenzie? Maybe Chris Grayling will turn his sights on James Bond in due course. What I liked most of all, and would have enjoyed more of, was that the various strands in the story were all neatly broken up with bits of educational philosophy and other personal insights. Cleverly giving a bit of time and distance to events, I liked the wryness of the commentary on teaching, something to which I very much relate. And as a fellow gooner writing in a year when St Totteringham’s day will not happen, it was nice to indulge in a bit of reminiscing about a time when Arsenal really were better than Tottenham Hotspur.
Of course, it's easy to point out some soft targets; the range of vocabulary perhaps and a terminal reliance on wisecracks in the first half of the novel from our South East superhero. But they're good wisecracks and if you can't be a superhero in your own book, when can you be? I rather liked to think that the students were every bit as clever as our superhero, which was a nice touch, and that so much of life (and the majority of the exploits in The Big Keep) relies on luck. And as luck would have it, The Big Keep was my holiday literary partner this Easter. I'm rather looking forward to making #2 & #3 my holiday partner this summer. Who knows, perhaps Neil Mackenzie will convert me to a fiction reader after all?
Refreshing Fun Read
By Lindy on 6 May 2017
Well worth reading, fun, light hearted and then the suspense as the story unfolds, thoroughly enjoyed it. Parts of it made me laugh out loud, not often a book makes you do that, but honestly it is so witty. Always good to find a new author, will certainly read more of his work.
Really Enjoyed This Book
By Barbara Barrett on 19 December 2016
Really made me laugh out loud when I read this book I found it Entertaining and easy to read Will look forward to the follow up.
A Crime Novel With a Difference
By Fireycolin on 9 November 2016
Lovely to read a British crime novel set in the UK and where the hero isn't either a jaundiced cop/private detective, or a billionaire with rippling muscles and a penchant for tying up beautiful young women up and lashing them with whips. A great read with plenty of sense of humour.
A most readable romp in which the worlds of maths teachers and gangsters collide
By Pavopavo on 25 September 2016
A most readable romp in which the worlds of gangsters and maths teachers collide. A chain of events that starts at a girls’ football match leads our hero (the maths teacher) to take part in a burglary at a gangster’s mansion … what could possibly go wrong? Not for the last time in this story does a pretty face lead him up the garden path. Our hero’s hero is Philip Marlowe – note the book’s title - and he looks to that great PI for inspiration as he battles hoodlums and encounters alluring but unreliable females.
I much enjoyed the action sequences, especially as I know the area in which most of them are set. Sometimes we take a break from the action while our hero gives us his personal (and critical!) take on the world of secondary education today. Careful plotting brings action and education together in an ingenious climax. On the way we may have learned of the tedium of invigilating exams but we have also raced round Kentish country lanes and dined in Greek tavernas.