Saturday, May 19, 2012

2012 books, #41-45

Below zero, by CJ Box.   London: Corvus, 2009.

If you've not started reading the CJ Box novels and intend to, look away now and go to the next review.  It's impossible to talk about this one without spoilers from of the earlier books.  OK.  Six years ago, Joe Pickett's foster daughter April was killed in an FBI standoff.  Now they're getting text messages from her. As Joe tries to investigate, he finds himself caught up in a current FBI investigation involving Chicago mobsters and twisted environmentalists.  Nobody can know about April, so Joe goes off on his own with the help of fugitive Nate Romanowski.  This is your typical CJ Box/Joe Pickett novel; the consistency is stunning.

Darkest fear, by Harlen Coben. London: Orion, 2003.

Myron Bolitar is a not-very-successful sports agent and former basketball player; out of the blue, his college girlfriend Emily comes to him to tell him her 14-year-old son desperately needs a bone-marrow transplant from a donor who has been identified but has vanished into thin air.  To seal Myron's commitment, she tells him that Jeremy is Myron's son, conceived the night before Emily's wedding to another man.  Myron starts to hunt down the donor with help from his friend and business partner Win, and quickly finds himself involved with both a very rich and corrupt family, and an FBI investigation.  One of the striking things about this book is the amount of comedy involved; the dialogue is good and snappy and the cast of characters is as absurd on occasion as a Stephanie Plumb novel.  It's also very moving, as Myron battles away to find the donor and save his son.  There are multiple twists and turns, several of which I really didn't foresee.  An excellent novel.

The burning soul, by John Connolly [audiobook]. Read by Jeff Harding.  Oxford: Isis, 2012.

A Charlie Parker book.  Randall Haight killed a 14-year-old girl when he was also a teenager; he served a sentence and built a new life in the small Maine town of Pastor's Bay, but now someone who knows about his past is tormenting him with anonymous messages.  Meanwhile, another 14-year-old girl has disappeared in the same town, and her family also has secrets to protect.  Charlie tries to fight his way through the multiple overlapping lies reaching back over decades, and eventually calls in his friends Angel and Louis to help him.  Somehow, although it was a reasonably enjoyable journey, this one didn't grab me; it's as well-crafted as Connolly's others, but if Harding hadn't been reading it, I'd probably have lost interest before the end.

Backseat saints, by Joshilyn Jackson.  New York: Hachette, 2011.

It was an airport gypsy who told me that I had to kill my husband.

This is definitely the darkest of Jackson's novels to date, and a companion to gods in Alabama, my second favourite novel ever.  Jackson describes the moment she decided to write the novel as a revelation of how Rose Mae Lolley got that way.  And Rose Mae's life is indeed very grim, up to and past the time she confronts Arlene Fleet in gods and becomes a catalyst for Arlene's journey home.  There's a lot of domestic violence in this book, and most of it is experienced by the narrator, which makes for a fairly hairy and depressing first half of the book.  As ever with Jackson, she does end on a hopeful note, but it's a hard old journey getting there.  I did enjoy this book, but reading it was like the weather recently - small bright intervals between lowering clouds and torrential rain.  I finished it in a branch of Byron on the Cut near Waterloo, and was using enough tissues that the waiter asked me what I was reading...

Talk to the hand: the utter bloody rudeness of everyday life [or six good reasons to stay home and bolt the door], by Lynne Truss. London: Profile, 2005.

What I liked about this book was its recognition that not all modern life is totally crap in comparison with the manners of previous centuries, alongside its castigation of rudeness in all its forms, from dropping litter to swearing 8-year-olds.  It is also, as you'd expect, extremely funny, and a lovely quick read.  So many of the situations are instantly recognisable, and I was slightly alarmed at quite how many things about what some people consider normal behaviour were also irritation points for me, too!

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