Sunday, August 07, 2011

2011 books, #61-65

This body of death, by Elizabeth George. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2010.

In contrast with the Kate Atkinson, this intertwining of improbably coincidental stories is, in the end, just annoying. I keep reading because I like Barbara Havers; there's just enough Havers in this one to keep me going, but I can understand why this one has provoked exasperation in Elizabeth George's fans. There's a parallel narrative which is allowed massively too much space and detail for the eventual connection, and a very unsympathetic senior female police officer as a major character. I ploughed through this one but never warmed to it.

Harry Potter and the deathly hallows, by J. K. Rowling [audiobook]. Read by Stephen Fry. London: Bloomsbury, 2007.

A re-read (or first listen) in preparation for seeing the film, as I'd largely forgotten what had happened in the first half of the book/seventh film! Fry's reading is, as ever, masterful, and the book definitely bears re-reading.

Mortal remains, by Kathy Reichs. London: Heinemann, 2010.

Tempe Brennan is called to the scene of a death which looks like autoerotic asphyxiation; the problem? the victim supposedly died in Vietnam in the late 1960s. The father of the Vietnam war soldier refuses to accept the DNA results, and the story is complicated further when other unidentified bodies turn up, some unclaimed Vietnam casualties and some in the present day, mauled by sharks off Hawaii. While I enjoyed this one - Reichs has wry moments which keep you reading - I had two problems with it. The first is (the Ellery Queen Problem) that at least part of the eventual dénouement does depend on medical knowledge which hasn't been exposed to the reader before this, so there's a slightly "not fair" element. The second is that there seems to be a rule that Forensic Examiners Have At Least One Irritating Female Relative or Nearly-Relative, and this one is played out to an annoying extent here.

Angel with two faces, by Nicola Upson [audiobook]. Read by Sandra Duncan. Rearsby, Leics.: W F Howes, [n.d.]

The second of Upson's Josephine Tey novels; this one set in Cornwall at the family home of Tey's friend Archie Penrose. Penrose is also an inspector at Scotland Yard, which comes in handy when he returns home for the funeral of a friend, only to find that there are suspicious elements to the death. Somehow this one doesn't work quite as well as the previous novel, partly perhaps because both Tey and Penrose are outsiders in a tight-knit community so some of the opportunities for extracting information are somewhat forced. However, the style is still very much Golden Age writing, and the reading here is extremely good.

Body line, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. London: Severn House, 2010.

It's a Bill Slider; really, no extra comment needed. Puns, Porson's malapropisms and general bad jokes and wordplay abound, alongside a tightly-written, compelling plot. A supposedly very successful, wealthy, womanising doctor is murdered in his flat, but as Slider, Atherton and the wonderful DC Connolly investigate, the facts seem to slip increasingly through their fingers. One of the things I love about these books is that Slider now has a happy, successful home life, friends, and family. My only peeve is that there must have been something in the water a couple of years ago - the business behind the crime being committed seems to have been used by several crime writers published in 2009/2010 (I wonder if there was a pub session at the Harrogate Crime Writers' festival!) - I'm sure "oh, no, not again" wasn't the reaction Harrod-Eagles was going for. Still totally worth reading, though.

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