Saturday, June 09, 2012

2012 books, #51-55

The skeleton man, by Jim Kelly. London: Penguin, 2008.

The fenland town of Jude's Ferry was bought out and evacuated by the Army in 1990, to be used as a live firing range; Philip Dryden, now of the Ely Crow, was present at the evacuation for his Fleet Street paper.  Now, in 2007, he is present at one of the live firings when a stray shell demolishes a farm building, and a skeleton is found hanging from the rafters of a cellar which shouldn't have been there.  Meanwhile a man with amnesia is pulled out of the Ouse lacking the fingers on one hand; and there's another connection with Jude's Ferry.  Dryden investigates, to uncover long-hidden secrets.  Another fenland mystery from Kelly; excellently plotted and with characters you care about.

Black out, by John Lawton.  London: Orion, 1995.

Set in London in 1944, this is a very atmospheric novel; Sergeant Frederick Troy is handed a man's arm which has been found on a bomb-site by a dog.  Details point to the man being German, but there's no indication of where the rest of the body could be.  The actual murder then becomes secondary as there are political ramifications and the US Army Command becomes involved.  Like the blackout itself, the plot is only visible in small flashes, and Troy becomes steadily more confused and entwined.  There are a couple of fairly dramatic twists in the tail of this story too, but it does become a little shapeless before the end.

Nothing to lose, by Lee Child [audiobook].  Read by Jeff Harding.  Whitley Bay: Soundings, 2008.

That great combination of Lee Child and Jeff Harding works again here.  Jack Reacher is in Hope, Colorado, and takes a detour to its neighbouring town of Despair, just for the sake of it.  Unfortunately, the residents of Despair fail to provide him with the cup of coffee he was hoping for, and instead charge him with vagrancy and run him out of town.  This is, of course, just the sort of thing which whets Reacher's curiosity, and he becomes determined to find out the town's secrets, particularly when two women ask his help in locating their missing husbands, last seen in Despair...

Killing the beasts, by Chris Simms [audiobook]. Read by Toby Longworth.  Bath: Chivers, 2006.

Set in Manchester in 2002, around the Commonwealth Games.  Two rugby-playing friends, DI Jon Spicer and advertising executive Tom Benwell, are both feeling the pressure for different reasons.  In the aftermath of the games, a series of brutal killings send Spicer looking for a serial murderer.  It's a strangely-shaped and -paced book, this one, and I'm not sure I'd have kept reading it, but Toby Longworth's performance made it worthwhile...

Eleven days, by Donald Harstad.  London: Fourth Estate, 1998.

Four people are murdered in a normally tranquil area of Iowa, and the sheriff's department calls in help from the FBI in the shape of agent Hester Gorse.  Gorse and the main protagonist, deputy sheriff Carl Houseman, make a great combination, and the other characters in and around the police station would make this book worth reading even if the plot wasn't as tightly-controlled and gripping as it is.  An extremely well-put-together book which I found irresistible reading.  Turns out that the author is a former deputy sheriff in a similar part of Iowa, so I'm assuming that a lot of the station banter and the relationships are taken from his own experience.

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