Sunday, March 31, 2013

2013 books, #21-25

The racketeer, by John Grisham. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2012.

This is quite a departure from Grisham.  His main character, Malcolm Bannister, is a lawyer, but one in prison for money-laundering.  When a federal judge is murdered at his holiday cottage, Bannister knows who killed him, and why, and uses the information to negotiate his release.  From then on, though, the story becomes somewhat strange, and for a couple of hundred pages you (well, I) have no clue what's going on, until a final meeting of people involved in a very complicated plot.  I've always found some of Grisham's endings slightly disappointing, and sadly, after a terrific roller-coaster, this one is, too; I'm also pretty sure I don't like the main character by the end, too, which is a new one for a Grisham protagonist.  Definitely worth a read though!

Two for sorrow, by Nicola Upson [audiobook]. Read by Sandra Duncan. Rearsby, Leics.: Clipper, 2010.

Josephine Tey is the protagonist in this third period novel by Upson; she comes to London to research a novel she's writing based on the Finchley baby farmers, having become interested in the topic as a student, when the daughter of one of the executed women committed suicide on learning of her mother's crime.  Unfortunately, the crimes of 1902 are still capable of reaching forward into the 1930s, and it's in someone's interest to make sure that Tey never completes her investigations.  Very nicely paced, with a slow realisation of the criminal's identity at the end.

Heaven's prisoners, by James Lee Burke. London: Orion, 2012. Originally published 1990.

The second of the Dave Robicheaux novels, and one I raced through in a couple of sittings.  Robicheaux has left the New Orleans police and settled down with his new wife to run a bait shop and boat hire business on the bayou.  It should be idyllic, but one day a small plane carrying five passengers bursts into flames and comes down into the bayou near Dave and Annie's boat.  They save one passenger, a small girl, but the other four are already dead.  The next day, they are told that there were only three passengers on the boat. Robicheaux can't help investigating, despite pleas from Annie to leave the situation alone, and the results are terrible.  I read this book to a soundtrack of alternating zydeco and Mountain Goats and that definitely worked.

Military blunders, by Saul David. Kindle edition.

I found this this after listening to an interview with Saul David on the BBC History Magazine podcast, and before I watched a couple of episodes of his Bullets, boots and bandages series on iPlayer recently.  I know next to nothing about military history, but David's very commonsense divisions (Bad commanders, Lack of preparation, Meddling politicians, Misplaced confidence and Failure to perform) probably apply to any situation, and it made the examples he gives easier to understand. This is a very clear and cogent explanation of some reasons why military operations go horribly wrong, with some humour and the odd informative anecdote (the US term "hooker" for a prostitute came from a US general of that name who was inordinately keen on encouraging camp-followers, for instance). I wouldn't have read this if it hadn't been free/extremely cheap on Kindle (only way I buy ebooks), although my enjoyment of the book would have been enhanced by the maps of battlefields and formations being at all legible...

The blackhouse, by Peter May [audiobook].  Read by Steve Worsley. Oxford: Isis, 2011.

Excellent thriller set in the Western Isles. Fin Macleod is sent north from Edinburgh to investigate two murders with similar MOs, one in Edinburgh, one on the Isle of Lewis; as well as being the CIO on the case, he's also a Lewis native.  Coming back to Lewis for the first time in 18 years, immediately after the loss of a child, he's forced to face his past and fill in the fractured memories of a rite of passage at An Sgeir, a rock housing nesting gannets the Lewismen are permitted to slaughter.  The reading is lovely here, too - Steve Worsley has a combination of Scottishness and clarity reminiscent of David Tennant.


littlelixie said...

Have added Tey and Blackhouse to my list. Have you read Europe by someone Davies? Norman maybe. My history prof cousin in law recommended it as a good way to get a taste of all types of history inc military. You want an e version though. Book is a giant! Will be starting it next.

Steve Worsley said...

Thank you for the comparison to David Tennant. I am truly flattered. :)