Sunday, March 03, 2013

2013 books, #11-15

Seems to be taking longer than usual to get through books; but it's been a ridiculous couple of weeks.

The water clock, by Jim Kelly [audiobook]. Read by Ray Sawyer. Isis: Oxford, 2002.

The first of Jim Kelly's Philip Dryden books and an excellent one.  Even if reading a book set in snowy Fens while sitting in said snowy Fens with a dodgy boiler is a bit of a mixed pleasure.  A body is found frozen in a car which has driven into a drain; sadly, not that uncommon in the Fens in the winter, but it's less common to find the body in the car boot.  Later, a second, much older body is found on the roof of Ely Cathedral.  Local reporter Philip Dryden investigates and personal and historical events interlock.  I love the geographical accuracy of these books - there are very few inventions, and when there are, they make sense.  Nice reading by Ray Sawyer.

How I won the yellow jumper: dispatches from the Tour de France, by Ned Boulting. London: Yellow Jersey Press, 2011.

As a neophyte to the Tour de France in 2010 (I came in via the Tour de Fleece, a parallel spinning event where we spin our wheels in time to the cyclists'), I had no idea about the teams, and the green jersey, and the King of the Mountains, and that it was a team event.  I'm a total Francophile so I was mainly there for the scenery, to be honest...  But as someone who's naturally a bit of a geek (my other sport is cricket which I've been following for years, and I like my rules complicated), the whole complexity of the thing really got me involved.  Ned Boulting was my guide, effortlessly providing information about the teams, the gradients, the politics...  I had no idea he'd arrived in 2003 from football, with no more idea than I had seven years later.  If you've seen Ned Boulting in action, the book is as funny, charming, articulate and irreverent as you'd expect (review on the cover "Quirky, warped, enthusiastic and funny": Chris Boardman), and packed with a huge amount of information.  It was published before the 2011 Tour, so some elements are strangely dated now (Wiggins just a contender who hadn't really made his mark again in 2010 after a good 2009, Lance Armstrong highly suspect but as yet undisgraced).  Even if you've no interest in cycling, if you love good writing from a fan of just about anything, I suspect you'll be pulled in and enchanted by this book.  I raced through it (sorry), and am slightly sad about that; I sort of have a compulsion to read it all again, as it was too good to put down.

The vanishing point, by Val McDermid. London: Little, Brown, 2012.

This is a strange one; but very, very good.  A little boy is kidnapped at a US airport within sight of his carer Stephanie; most of the narrative happens in a small interrogation room at the airport as the FBI attempt to discover what has happened.  It's really difficult to say what else happens without spoiling, but it involves Stephanie, a ghost writer, getting involved with a reality TV star whose career mirrors Jade Goody's, and the spiral her life enters.  I'm really not sure what I feel about the ending, and would love anyone else who's read this to let me know; McDermid drops you down a Deaver-sized hole a couple of times in the course of this book, and I'm not completely convinced it all works; but blimey, it's a good read.

A blink of the screen: collected shorter fiction, by Terry Pratchett [audiobook]. Read by Michael Fenton Stevens and Stephen Briggs. Oxford: Isis, 2012.

The first weird thing about this collection is the introduction by AS Byatt; not necessarily your typical Pratchett anorak (and I used this advisedly given that she re-reads copiously), which is, of course, why she's doing the introduction.  This is a pretty tremendous collection; particularly given that stories written for the school magazine get their turn among later work, and stand up pretty well, considering.  It's the same intelligence and sense of the absurd at work over more than 40 years, and there are so many themes which are developed later...  I think the absolute stand-out story for me is one of the Discworld-related ones, The Sea and Little Fishes.  If you're a fan of Granny/Mistress Weatherwax's headology (and I so very much am) this is an absolute must.  There's also an out-take from the story, which is chilling, given separately at the end of the book.  There's also a very excellent committee-related one called A Collegiate Casting-out of Devilish Devices, which anyone who's been on a committee, or within earshot of teachers, will recognise entirely.  There are also wonderful pieces of whimsy like Lord Vetinari's speech at the official twinning ceremony between Ankh-Morpork and Wincanton, and the Ankh-Morpork National Anthem (unofficially on YouTube; as Pratchett comments, there are scallywags out there on the Internet...lyrics in the commentary afterwards.)

Motion to kill, by Joel Goldman. Part of the Dead times four anthology, available for the Kindle.

I gather these were also available in paperback at one time and may still be.  I got this anthology for Kindle for something ridiculous like free, or £0.70 - but for four really good books, the £6.50 Kindle now want for it is well worth the money.  If you like Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar books, you'll adore these.  There's some of the same element (Jewish professional drawn into detection, network of supporters, funny elements, awkward romance) and the plots are excellent.  I'm going to give a brief note on each separately though, as there are actually four full-length novels here!

In Motion to kill, Lou Mason has moved to a corporate law firm in Kansas City from a small personal-injury firm, to the disgust of his campaigning leftie aunt who brought him up.  Unfortunately, his partners seem to be dropping like flies, and there's a limit to the police's interest.  Mason starts investigating and becomes ever more aware of the cesspit under his law firm.  Lots of twists and turns, and quite a surprising ending.


littlelixie said...

All duly noted! Have made a note of the pratchett

Rosie said...

I really must read some Jim Kelly. Best lecture I ever attended at Cambridge was Dame Antonia (guest lecturer when the English Faculty was fundraising for 9 West Rd). Her topic was narrative and before we knew it, she was majoring on TP.