Sunday, August 21, 2011

2011 books, #66-70

The Blackstone key, by Rose Melikan [audiobook]. Read by Jane Collinwood. Rearsby, Leics.: W F Howes, 2008.

In 1795, Mary Finch sets off from Cambridge to the Suffolk coast to visit her wealthy uncle and end a family estrangement. However on the way she encounters a man dying after a coach accident who is carrying a watch very similar to one she inherited from her father, and with her uncle's initials. On arriving at White Ladies, the uncle's estate, she finds her uncle has died. The plot turns to intrigue, the Napoleonic wars, contraband and espionage, and rattles along very nicely. I'm not a great fan of historical novels, but this one doesn't overdo the period details while making it clear that this is a very different world.

Body work, by Sara Paretsky. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2010.

Another extremely good VI Warshawski novel. I like the way Paretsky is allowing VI to age naturally - although her instincts are still to go and tackle the bad guys, she's also extremely aware she's not in her thirties any more! This time she also has a grown-up niece to contend with, and a client accused of murdering a young woman outside a nightclub. There's also a strange elusive character called the Body Artist who performs naked onstage and allows people to paint her (possibly the least convincing part of the setup, but vital for the dénouement). Despite the unlikeliness of one or two elements of the plot, Paretsky's writing makes this very difficult to put down.

The Oxford murders, by Guillermo Martínez. New York: Penguin, 2006.

This was a present from a friend in Toronto; a quick, fascinating read. A visiting Argentine postgraduate mathematician finds his landlady murdered in her Oxford living room - the landlady is a former Bletchley Park employee, and a note sent to one of her friends, also a mathematician, indicates that this is the first death in a series. There are some good twists and turns along the way, and some very surprising reversals towards the end, which make this a little gem of a novel.

Bones of betrayal, by Jefferson Bass. London: Quercus, 2009.

A new-to-me author although I've seen these on the shelves in libraries a few times, and will have to see what we have in the village library. In fact, not a single author - it seems that the books are largely written by Jon Jefferson but from information provided by Dr Bill Bass, a forensic anthropologist who runs a facility called the Body Farm depicted in the novels, where studies in decomposition are carried out. In this book, the body of an elderly nuclear scientist is found in a frozen pond; the cause of death, a pellet of iridium-192 found in his gut, puts everyone in the autopsy room in danger of death and makes the pathologist carrying out the autopsy critically ill. Trying to discover how and why the scientist was murdered leads to another body, and into the history of the Manhattan Project and the Oak Ridge Nuclear Laboratory, along with discussion of the ethics of nuclear bomb research. Very well written, and the subject matter is fascinating; you do care very much about the characters by the end, too.

The bone thief, by Jefferson Bass. London: Quercus, 2010.

The previous book was one with the first chapter or two of the next book at the back, so as this was a two-pack of books (thanks, Wibbo! I'll bring them down when I next see you!) I went straight on with it; particularly as one of the more important human-interest elements of the previous book was left in limbo! This one takes up six weeks later when the characters are still dealing with the damage caused by the radiation leak. However, a routine job - the exhumation of a body to obtain a DNA sample for a paternity suit - turns into a mystery when it appears that the body's limbs have all been removed prior to death. Later, a woman dies of a virulent infection when she is given a piece of contaminated bone in a spinal fusion operation. Brockton is recruited by the FBI to investigate the world of black market body parts, and put in touch with sleazy Ray Sinclair. Meanwhile Glen Faust, R&D director of a medical technology company, is also interested in the Body Farm's work, donating a CT scanner and research funding. Because of the secrecy involved, Brockton can tell nobody, and realises he is risking his professional career, the respect of his colleagues, and perhaps his life. Again, very tautly-plotted, and written with a great deal of humour.

1 comment:

Sadie said...

I quite enjoyed The Oxford Murders when I read it, but as an Oxford resident I did find the liberties Martinez takes with geography a bit distracting. To say nothing of the off-duty policeman with the gun!