Monday, April 09, 2012

2012 books, #31-34

The drop, by Michael Connelly. London: Orion, 2011.

Another Harry Bosch book, and another excellent read.  Bosch has two cases to investigate; one is his Open-Unsolved work - DNA found on a victim is found to be that of a convicted paedophile; but the man was only 8 years old at the time of the murder.  The other case is the apparent suicide of a councillor's son; unfortunately that councillor is Irvin Irving, Harry's nemesis and himself a former senior policeman.  Office politics and some of the darker parts of the history of the Los Angeles Police Department come to the fore, and Bosch risks losing both a good friend and his shift partner while trying to solve both cases.  This was pretty unputdownable; Connelly's consistency is amazing.

Blood hunt, by Ian Rankin writing as Jack Harvey [audiobook]. Read by Christian Rodska. Bath: Chivers, [1995].

Gordon Reeve is a survival expert in the Scottish Highlands, with an SAS past.  Then his journalist brother dies in San Diego, and when Reeve starts to disbelieve the official theory of suicide and investigate the matter, someone starts trying to kill him too.  The action criss-crosses back between Scotland and California, as Reeve goes on the run and tries to shelter his family.  There's a fair amount of gore in this book, and Reeve is seriously out of control at times, which makes for uncomfortable reading.  I think I'd probably have given up on this one before the end if it hadn't been superbly read by Rodska, who slips in and out of Scottish, English and American accents in a convincing way.

They also raise chickens, by Martin Parker. Kindle edition, 2011.

This is a very strange book.  It dots between 1918, 1962 and 1988, sometimes slightly confusingly.  The title comes from a quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery in The little prince:  "Men", said the fox. "They have guns and they hunt. It is very disturbing. They also raise chickens. These are their only interests."  Two series of murders in the same small town, normally a tranquil place, alert both Harry Dangerfield (then a police sergeant, now an inspector) and his ex-wife Susan (now chief editor of the local paper).  Surely there must be a connection between the two groups of killings, despite the 1962 sequence having been closed after the suicide of a local policeman?  Dangerfield has never really subscribed to this theory, and the repeated rumours of the presence of a WWI soldier in the area enhances his suspicions.  The tone of the book is quite jokey in parts which doesn't really fit with the crimes being committed.  Patchy, but good fun in general.

Tom-all-alone's, by Lynn Shepherd. Kindle edition, 2012.

A new detective novel set among the characters of Dickens's Bleak house (published as The solitary house in the US); but you don't need to have read your Dickens recently (or at all, probably) to enjoy this for its own sake.  Shepherd captures the squalor and degradation of 1850s London, and the lack of law or order in the poor neighbourhoods (it's amusing to find with hindsight that these are Seven Dials and the Strand). The omniscient narrator is able to draw sly 21st-century parallels; this sometimes works very well, and sometimes breaks into the narrative in a disruptive way. The main character, Charles Maddox, is hired by the lawyer Tulkinghorn to investigate a case of anonymous letter-writing, but all is now what it seems with the assignment.  There is also a parallel narration by Hester, as there is by Esther in the original novel; but again, there is a much more sinister story behind this.  Shepherd is able to deal with even more disturbing themes than Dickens was, and Charles's investigations strip away the veneer of respectability to uncover some chambers of horrors.

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