Friday, February 04, 2011

2011 books, #6-10

One of these days I'll post something other than book reviews. Today I'm off work (woke up feeling really flu-ey) so this may be the day! But first - book reviews.

Trick of the dark, by Val McDermid. London: Little, Brown, 2010.

This is a very good book. It dots around between different points in time while never making that fact irritating (and never having to make you work too hard); the narrator is interesting and sympathetic but complex; there are some really well-drawn characters. The book-within-a-book adds a great degree of depth to the story. However, without spoiling, I found the eventual dénouement a bit of a disappointment - there's too much of an Agatha Christie-style deus ex machina about it. Having said that, maybe I wasn't paying sufficient attention and maybe clues were strewn which I'd missed. I'd still recommend it as a genuinely good read though - McDermid really knows her stuff.

The barred window, by Andrew Taylor. Bath: BBC; North Kingstown, R. I. :Audiobooks America, 2008.

Another very strange and slightly scary novel by Andrew Taylor. The pleasure of listening to this was somewhat marred by disk 6 (of 10) being just about unplayable - does make a bit of a difference to a suspense thriller, really! As with many of Taylor's, it's quite difficult to work out what's happening when, and whether we're in the present or the past. Facts creep up on you gradually, and when the full picture's shown it isn't the one you imagined at all. Definitely recommended (although not worth bothering to get the Cambridgeshire public libraries' set - I'm intending to return it with a label pointing out the faulty disk...)

The hour I first believed, by Wally Lamb. London: Harper, 2009.

A book group book, and quite a substantial one at 600+ pages, this was a seriously good read, and not something I'd have heard of otherwise. Caelum Quirk and his wife move to Colorado to save their marriage, end end up working at Columbine High School. The 1999 shootings there send their lives into even more chaos, and they return to Connecticut. This is a big, shapeless, wide-ranging book which shows the flip-side of the American dream; characters are thrown around like flotsam in their own lives, the lives and dark histories of Caelum's family over nearly 200 years are examined, and although ultimately there's a hint of redemption in the title, and a flicker of it towards the end of the book, the soundtrack to this one would probably be made up of Springsteen's episodic meanderings in "Nebraska" and "The Ghost of Tom Joad", rather than the dark relentlessness of "Darkness on the Edge of Town".

Kill&cure, by Stephen Davison. Kindle edition.

This is a gripping story, centring around gene research for cancer and the lengths to which companies will go to preserve their secrets while trying to gain those of others. Ultimately it's satisfying, but while the first couple of chapters are meant to be fast action and deliberately drop you into the middle of the plot, the effect is more chaos and confusion. My other quibble was with the quality of the proofreading - missing words, and the odd tell-tale signs that the book had been OCRed and then not really re-read properly. Having said that, this was either a free or a £1 book by an author whose work I'll be looking out for in the future.

The burning wire, by Jeffery Deaver. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2010.

A Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs book, and well up to the standard of the first couple. This is a superb rollercoaster chase through New York, in pursuit of a criminal intent on using the electrical grid system to kill, seemingly indiscriminately. There are all the standard Deaver techniques - nothing's what it seems, terrifying scenes melt into anticlimax while the real action is happening elsewhere and so on. But there are some new twists - people who look like classic redshirts, something Deaver's used often before, turn out not to be so, and seemingly random incidents turn out to be connected. The final twist in the tale, another chapter in Rhyme's battle with his own body, is signalled out so far ahead that it might be visible from space, but that's OK.

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