Thursday, November 03, 2011

2011 books, #106-110

A very private murder, by Stuart Pawson. London: Allison and Busby, 2011.

A Charlie Priest novel; and another excellent one. The girlfriend of a royal prince and the local mayor open a shopping precinct and business park, only to open the curtains on a carefully-crafted swear-word in foot-high lettering. When said mayor is then found dead, the hunt really is on. There are some lovely characters in here, alongside some good detective stuff; and the sort of graveyard humour one hopes for in a Pawson novel.

Silence of the grave, by Arnaldur Idridason [audiobook]. Read by Saul Reichlin. Rearsby, Leics. : Clipper/WF Howes, 2006.

A new author to me - picked it up because of Saul Reichlin's reading, and the recent tales from Iceland told by Franklin. Pretty dark, this one - Detective Erlendur investigates a dysfunctional family from the 1940s after bones turn up during excavations for a new development, while waiting to hear whether his own estranged, junkie daughter will emerge from a coma having lost her baby. There's also domestic violence galore; I think Reichlin's reading of this is the only thing which kept me going with it. I'll try another because Erlendur is an engaging character...

Act of treason, by Vince Flynn. London: Simon and Schuster, 2006.

Another Mitch Rapp thriller, this time dealing with corruption at the highest level of government. When the Republican presidential candidate's wife is killed in an attack on the campaign motorcade, Rapp is called in to track the assassin, but this only really starts a deeper level of intrigue. These books are a somewhat guilty pleasure, given that they can sometimes provide a justification for such modern US "security" measures such as rendition and what constitutes torture. It's a very different mindset.

Hope and glory: the days that made Britain, by Stewart Maconie [audiobook]. Read by the author. Bath: AudioGO, 2011.

Maconie is a bit of a genius - here, he takes ten days, one from each decade of the twentieth century, and uses the themes raised to explore what it is to be British through them. Whether it's the death of Queen Victoria or the Live Aid concert, the Somme or the arrival of the Empire Windrush, he takes the wider ideas of empire and celebrity, war and multiculturalism, and riffs on them as only a former music journalist can. If you've ever heard Maconie on the radio (currently 6 music from 1-4pm, irritatingly), it's impossible to read his books without hearing him reading them, so this audiobook is a special treat.

Solar, by Ian McEwan. Kindle edition.

This was a book club choice (mine) and one that none of us liked very much. Michael Beard is a Nobel prize-winning theoretical physicist; he's also now fat, balding, middle-aged and his fifth wife is shagging his builder. Beard is a very unattractive man in all senses, and his constant womanising, and constant eating of rather disgustingly described food of all sorts, don't help us like him. Sections of the book are curiously old-fashioned, reminding me of Malcolm Bradbury's Eating people is wrong, a Kingsley Amis or an early David Lodge, with its implication that the academic conference circuit is rife with sex and drugs. There are a few funny moments, mainly to do with Beard's chronic lack of self-awareness, but there's a lot of eating without pleasure, having sex through a sense of obligation, earnest banging on about climate change.... As one of my fellow book club participants said, it was difficult to tell what sort of novel this wanted to be, and I'm not sure McEwan ever decides.

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