Sunday, February 10, 2013

2013 books, #6-10

Mrs Robinson's disgrace: the private diary of a Victorian lady, by Kate Summerscale [audiobook]. Read by Jenny Agutter.  Bath: AudioGO, 2012.

Sometimes the Victorians seem just like us.  This was not one of those times... Isabella Robinson meets Edward Lane at an Edinburgh society party in 1850, and becomes enchanted by his appearance and conversation.  Unfortunately, Isabella is married, and Edward is ten years her junior.  Their relationship develops, and is discovered by means of Mr Robinson finding Isabella's diaries where glowing details are given.  This is a fascinating exploration of Victorian manners, of the power of husbands in the era, and of the divorce courts in 1850s England, well before the Married Women's Property Act, based on the documentary evidence in the case.

Nightwoods, by Charles Frazier. London: Sceptre, 2012.

Luce's new stranger children were small and beautiful and violent.  Luce has been presented with her dead sister's children by social services; they are traumatised and terrified, violent and angry; they communicate by means of destruction and fire.  Luce is no stranger to trauma and violence, and does her best to build a relationship with the children; but two strangers are heading for her isolated farmhouse, one the grandson of the previous owner, the other the murderer of Luce's sister seeking money and the children.  This is a dark, haunting story set in the North Carolina woods; one which will stay in the memory for a long time.

Cold wind, by C J Box. London: Corvus, 2012.

Earl Alden, the Earl of Lexington and Joe Pickett's current father-in-law, is found spinning around at the end of one of his own multi-million dollar wind turbines; Joe's mother-in-law is arrested for the murder by the local police.  Her behaviour gives no indication as to whether she's guilty or not, and while Joe can't stand her, he does love his wife so starts some investigations of his own.  Meanwhile, Nate Romanowski, usually an ally, has troubles and grief of his own.  The plot in this one twists and turns nicely, and Joe's essential likeability always carries these books through.

Death's acre: inside the legendary Body Farm, by Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson. London: Time Warner, 2003.

Essentially, this is Bill Bass's autobiography; we find out about his life and career, but because so much of his life has been engaged in the study of decomposition and forensic anthropology, there's a lot of that too, and it's also a biography of the site in Tennessee which is home to his research facility.  There's some humour here, quite a lot of well-explained science, and some (not unexpected) very close parallels with Bill Brockton, the lead character in the Jefferson Bass books.  An engaging non-fiction read.

Tripwire, by Lee Child [audiobook]. Read by Garrick Hagon. Whitley Bay: Soundings, 2001.

This was originally written in 1990; had to check this as the d√©nouement is set on the 89th floor of one of the World Grade Center towers...   The second of the Jack Reacher novels, and another excellent one.  Reacher is tracked down by a private detective who is subsequently found dead; he follows the detective's trail back to his client who turns out to be an old friend.  Carrying on the old friend's enquiries into a soldier listed as MIA in Vietnam leads Reacher into a web of list and confusion, and a rather unexpected conclusion. Child is skilful enough to create a villain who is truly evil, but then gives you a small window into his tortured world; this sort of little twist always lifts his writing above the ordinary.  While I always prefer Jeff Harding reading these books, Garrick Hagon does his usual excellent job.


Tracy said...

I love the sound of the Kate Summerscale book, I'll have to search that out. Thanks for the review :)

littlelixie said...

Ooooo good reviews there. Adding the body farm one to my list. I'd hoped i'd be able to get you to come with me to something else before skipnorth but time is flying. Having to work is such a drag sometimes ;)