Wednesday, May 29, 2013

2013 books, #41-45

Fear in the sunlight, by Nicola Upson [audiobook]. Read by Sandra Duncan. Rearsby, Leics.: Clipper, 2012.

Another excellent Josephine Tey novel by Upson, this time largely set in and around Portmeirion and playing on Tey's short relationship wtih Alfred Hitchcock, who adapted her novel A shilling for candles for the screen. All the usual figures in Upson's version of Tey's life are present, and the plot is well up to standard, albeit with the usual number of unlikely coincidences... you don't mind that sort of thing when something rattles along as well as this, though.

Gone girl, by Gillian Flynn. London: Phoenix, 2013.

This is quite astonishing.  As far as the plot goes - a guy running a bar in his hometown in Missouri finds out that his wife is missing; it's their fifth wedding anniversary.  Very early on, we also find out that he's lying to the police, but we're not sure what about.  And really, saying anything more about the plot would be bad in terms of spoilers.  If you're not easily upset, read this book.  It defies so many of the conventions of a detective story plot and its resolution...  I'd love to say a massive amount more about this book, but equally, I don't want to spoil something really quite unusual for anyone else.

Dying fall, by Elly Griffiths. London: Quercus, 2013.

Right up to Elly Griffiths's usual standard.  Ruth hears of the death of a college friend, Dan, in a house fire on the same day as she receives a letter from him, saying he's made an important archaeological discovery but is scared; later, she finds that the fire wasn't an accident and that the house was locked from the outside.  When she gets an invitation from the department to view the bones, she also starts receiving threatening texts.  She wouldn't be Ruth if she didn't head straight into danger, daughter Kate and Cathbad the Druid in tow; unknown to her, Harry Nelson is also on holiday in Lancashire with his family.  Excellently plotted with some genuinely scary moments.

Dead scared, by S J Bolton. London: Bantam, 2012.

I've had this for a year; I really should stop buying books because I "keep them for best" rather than reading them when they come in!  This was incredibly good and I sort of inhaled it.  It's a second book with Lacey Flint and Mark Joesbury, but also features Evi Oliver from another book entirely, and set in Cambridge.  A pattern of woman students killing themselves has aroused suspicion, and Lacey is sent undercover as a student called Laura Farrow.  Lacey has been told not to investigate, but can't help herself, exasperating Joesbury; she teams up with Evi and very strange things start happening to both of them.  This gets Cambridge very right, and it has some absolutely terrifying moments... Brilliant.  And I gather there's another one out - only advantage of leaving reading this one very late!

Murder in Belleville, by Cara Black. New York: Soho, 2000.

Tension mounts in Belleville as hunger-strikers protesting about immigration rules come close to death in a local church. Meanwhile, one of Aimée Leduc's friends is almost killed in a car-bombing which murders a mystery woman living under the name Eugénie Grandet (the French equivalent of calling yourself Jane Eyre). Aimée becomes involved in the networks of Algerian nationalists and Islamic fundamentalists, mixing with everyone from government ministers to explosives dealers.  As with the previous book, Murder in the Marais, Paris is a character in this book and you can follow the track of the action through Google maps - the events taking place in a primary and nursery school are based on actual schools in that street.  (As this is the general area of the school I taught at for a year in the late 1980s, this is very pleasing!)  Black's plotting isn't the tightest out there - this is an action thriller rather than a detective puzzle - but it's an immensely enjoyable book.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

2013 books, #36-40

Rubbernecker, by Belinda Bauer [audiobook]. Read by Andrew Wincott. Oxford: Isis, 2013.

A man recovering from a coma thinks he's seen a murder.  A student with Asperger's syndrome begins a course in anatomy.  A nurse starts an affair with the husband of one of the other coma patients.  As well as being a really excellently-plotted thriller, this is also a study in our inability to communicate.  In the case of the coma patient, this is a physical thing; in the case of Patrick, the student, a function of his inability to understand people and to make friends.  Excellent and very creepy; and well read by Wincott who's best known for being the voice of Adam Macy in The Archers.

The ghost of Lily Painter, by Caitlin Davies [audiobook]. Read by Annie Aldington, Jilly Bond, Mike Grady and Julie Maisey. Oxford: Isis, 2011.

I saw a reference to this when I was looking up the Finchley Baby Farmers while reading Nicola Upton's Two for sorrow earlier in the year, and I'm extremely glad I did.  I don't know what the audiobook equivalent of unputdownable is, but I listened to all 10 hours over 2 days; the ensemble reading was excellent and it's an extremely well-crafted story covering four generations of a family and a century of secrets, from the death of Queen Victoria to the present day.

Lost cat: a true story of love, desperation and GPS technology, by Caroline Paul.  Illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.

This was lent to me by a lovely colleague who'd borrowed it from Westminster Libraries; and it's a fabulous little book I really wouldn't have come across otherwise.  Caroline Paul had a horrible accident, and then while she was recovering, her cat Tibby went missing.  Weeks later, Tibby suddenly reappeared, but Caroline was desperate to know where he'd been in the meantime; and this is where the GPS technology, and the insanity, creeps in.  This is a lovely little wonder of a book, beautifully and copiously illustrated by Paul's partner Wendy, and containing so much stuff familiar to anyone who's been owned by a cat.  Hilarious, sad and joyful all at the same time.

The moon tunnel, by Jim Kelly [audiobook]. Read by Ray Sawyer. Oxford: Isis, 2008.

A body is found in a tunnel near a former World War II internment camp at Ely; but it turns out to date from the 1970s or 1980s. not the 1940s, and the body seems to be heading into the camp, not out.  Dryden investigates, and becomes embroiled with the history of the Italian community in the area, which leads to the unveiling of many family secrets.  Excellent.

The best of everything, by Rona Jaffe. London: Penguin, 2011. Originally published in 1958.

Rona Jaffe's semi-autobiographical novel is apparently a favourite of Don Draper in Mad men. (Or at least, that's what the reviews say.)  Four young women arrive in New York in 1952 to make their way in the world and find themselves working for a slightly downmarket publishing company.  Radcliffe graduate Caroline is recovering from a broken engagement, ingenue April is initially stunned by the city, actress Gregg has poise but also fragility, and divorcée Barbara supports her mother and child by writing her beauty column.  And then there are men - lecherous men, treacherous men, weak men, overly nice men... The combination of the modernity of some of the women's attitudes and the continuing desperation to "make a good match" are incongruous, and in some cases exasperating.  I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it, but neither of the other two at my book group were very keen!  (I think this is probably the first book I've read with a pair of legs in tights and high heels on the cover since briefly dipping my toe into the murky water of Jackie Collins as a teenager.)