Sunday, July 14, 2013

2013 books, #51-55

Bloodline: a Dick Francis novel, by Felix Francis [audiobook]. Read by Michael Maloney.  Bath: AudioGO, 2012.

This is a classic from the Francis stable (sorry); so glad Felix Francis has taken on the family business.  This time, his protagonist is a young race commentator, Mark Shillingford, with a twin sister who's a top jockey.  In a meeting at Lingfield, he sees sister Clare deliberately stop her horse; when he takes her up on it, they argue, and later that night Clare is dead, having jumped from the 11th floor of a London hotel.  Or so it seems...  This is seriously vintage Francis, without being a complete repetition of what's gone before; and Michael Maloney's reading is excellent, particularly in the commentary sections; he maintains the clipped, stiff-upper-lip decorum of Tony Britton and Nigel Havers while bringing his own edge to it.

Like this, for ever, by S J Bolton. London: Bantam, 2013.

11-year old boys are disappearing from South London and being found by the Thames, their blood drained. Mark Joesbury and Dana Tulloch investigate, but wherever they go, they run into Lacey Flint.  Lacey's young neighbour Barney is convinced his dad has a secret; Tulloch suspects Lacey; Lacey and Joesbury carry on their complicated dance.  Another excellent, complex thriller from S J Bolton, with some switchback twists and turns.  You need to read the other two Joesbury/Flint novels (Now you see me and Dead scared) before this one to understand some of the situation, but it would also work well as a standalone if you're not as hung up as I am on reading books in order!

How to be a woman, by Caitlin Moran. London: Ebury Press, 2011.

I recognised so much in this book, even though I'm four years older than Moran, from a small North East town, not a large West Midlands one, my family was totally different and I've had a completely different life.  In fact, I think the only thing we do have in common other than the 80s references (and let's not underestimate those) is both being women.  I was shocked, air-punchingly-in-agreement, immensely entertained and very occasionally actually appalled by this book, and would recommend it to anyone with a reasonable tolerance for sex and sweariness.  Sometimes Moran will go off on a rant and I'm thinking "sing it, sister!", and then sometimes I'll think "what? hm? hang on!!"; but it's well-written by someone who's never less than compassionate, with a fine self-deprecating edge.

Sidney Chambers and the shadow of death, by James Runcie [audiobook]. Read by Peter Wickham. Oxford, Isis, 2012.

I enjoyed this; a nice gentle read.  But I think I'd expected to enjoy it a bit more.  Sidney is interesting enough - an upper middle-class vicar of Grantchester - and the Cambridge setting is just right.  I think it's the fact that instead of one overarching plot, it's quite episodic, in the tradition of Father Brown.  I also didn't have a lot of sympathy for the main female character...If you like the "cosy" end of detective fiction, this is one for you.  And as ever, I'd recommend Peter Wickham's reading for this sort of book.

The Dazzle, by Robert Hudson. London: Jonathan Cape, 2013.

A novel about a strange phenomenon in 20th century history, the tuna-fishing craze centred around Scarborough in the 1930s.  The book's much more than that, though - Hudson seems to capture exactly the sort of cast-adrift, aimless self-destruction of the inter-war fast set which is depicted in books by Dornford Yates, and in the party set shown so well by Sayers in Murder must advertise.  Well known real-life characters such as Martha Gellhorn and Zane Grey feature along with real tuna-fishers from the period and fictional additions, and the tuna-fishing expedition turns out to cover something entirely more sinister.  The narration takes place from several shifting, unreliable positions, and important events have several versions... An excellent novel from one of the co-writers of Radio 4's Warhorses of letters.


littlelixie said...

Are the Dick Francis books good even if you don't have any interest in horses? My Dad had them all when I was growing up so that was an automatic turn off. Haven't considered them since.

Rosie said...

Am amazed by the tuna fishing in Scarborough. Will have to investigate the novel.

Daisy said...

The OH was most bemused by me readin g How to be a woman as he thought I already knew how to be one!!