Friday, September 21, 2012

2012 books, #81-85

How mumbo-jumbo conquered the world: a short history of modern delusions, by Francis Wheen. London: Harper, 2004.

Jeremy Paxman's comment, reprinted on the cover, was "Hilarious".  I'm not sure I'd agree but Paxo's a battle-hardened journalist who probably hears some of this stuff every day.  Wheen's fervent beliefs in Enlightenment values such as secularism, science and reason are battered at every turn by the forces of religious states, New Age mysticism and just plain silliness.  From the ascent of Ayatollah Khomeini and Margaret Thatcher to the death of Diana and the dotcom boom, Wheen looks at what happens when leaders  and thinkers take leave of their senses and descend into emotionalism and dogma.  A fascinating analysis, but with very few laughs...

The body farm, by Jefferson Bass.  London: Quercus, 2011.

Another excellent Jefferson Bass novel; this one set in and around Tallahassee, Florida.  If you want a guide to quite how creepy this one's going to turn out to be, do listen to the Mountain Goats' song of the same name.  Actually, "Oceanographer's Choice" from the same album, would do the job too.  Bill Brockton goes to Florida to help a fellow forensics person with the apparent suicide of her sister, and becomes embroiled in older killings which are potentially even more sinister.  Warning: if you get the hardback do not  read the synopsis inside the cover.  "Soon" does not mean what the composers of this think it means and you risk spoiling two thirds of the book...

Protect and defend, by Vince Flynn. London: Simon & Schuster, 2007.

A commenter, I think it might have been Babalor, talked about a previous book by this author as an exercise in seeing what the other side was thinking; and it does become increasingly like that.  I don't like Mitch Rapp very much, and although this is a well-plotted, very convincing book centred around the Iranian nuclear programme at Isfahan, I'm not sure I'll be going on to the next book.  I'm pretty convinced that some US dark ops do go to this lengths, given the results; but I'm also fairly determined not to read about it in fictional form.

The visitor, by Lee Child [audiobook]. Read by Hayward Morse.  Whitley Bay: Soundings, 2000.

Jack Reacher is picked up by the FBI because he fits the profile of a killer who's targeting victims of harassment by the US Army; but actually all's not what it seems and he's recruited as a consultant to help out.  I think that if you hadn't worked out who the killer was and why on the 4th cassette of 14, this would have been gripping.  Plot-wise this was a major so-what for me as a result, but then this is the first time I've outguessed Lee Child so this may have been a total fluke.  Having said that, I like Reacher; unlike Mitch Rapp, his sense of morality works with mine, and this is an interesting one from the point of view of personal relationships...

Fade away, by Harlan Coben.  London: Orion, 2002.

The third Myron Bolitar novel, and the best so far.  Myron's trying to deal with the unlikely revival of his basketball career (destroyed by injury before his first NBA match) allied with a new detective case, a renewed relationship with his ex-girlfriend Jessica, a very old relationship with his ex-girlfriend Emily, his sports agency business, and the undying loyalty of sociopathic, martial-arts-expert, ├╝ber-WASP Winston Horne Lockwood III.  Any semi-hard-boiled detective novel which makes you want to cry several times is a good one, in my opinion...

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