Friday, October 11, 2013

2013 books, #81-85

The cuckoo's calling, by Robert Galbraith [audiobook]. Read by Robert Glenister. Oxford: Isis, 2013.

I'm not sure I'd have come across this one if it hadn't been for the news that Robert Galbraith and JK Rowling were the same author; and that would've been a shame.  This is an excellent detective novel with two immensely likeable characters in Cormoran Strike and sidekick Robin (yes).  Strike, an ex-military policeman invalided out of the Army after losing a lower leg in Afghanistan, is engaged by John Bristow to investigate the death of Bristow's sister Lula; the police believe Lula's death to be suicide but the client is unconvinced. The plot twists and turns nicely, and Strike navigates Lula's world of extreme glamour and superficiality to uncover the truth.  Now that I know it's by Rowling, I can recognise some of the concerns - there's a lot about the intrusion of the media into private life, compassion for the unfortunate and poor combined with a dislike of the thoughtlessly rich, and a couple of digs about the demonisation of Gordon Brown - but I'm not sure I'd have picked up the similarities otherwise.  I really hope the early revelation of Galbraith's alter ego won't dissuade Rowling from producing more of this series - I really want to know where this huge, scruffy, profoundly decent man goes next.

Bones are forever, by Kathy Reichs [audiobook]. Read by Linda Emond. [S.l.]: RH Audio, 2012.

The bones of a baby are found behind a bathroom cabinet in a squalid Montreal apartment. Tempe Brennan is brought in, and soon discovers two more babies' mummified bodies. The last resident of the apartment was a woman with at least three aliases; when her path is tracked back to Alberta, there are more grounds for suspicion.  I thought this was a better book than the previous couple of Tempe Brennan stories; unfortunately, damage on the last CD in the set means I only have the sketchiest idea of what happened in the end. If I see it in the library, I'll have a flick through the last few chapters...

XO, by Jeffery Deaver [audiobook]. Read by Marin Ireland. Rearsby, Leics.: WF Howes, 2012.

Kayleigh Towns is a successful country singer, but is increasingly worried about a fan, Edwin Sharp, who is stalking her despite letters from her lawyers.  When an accident happens at a concert venue in her home town, and Edwin appears immediately afterwards, she begins to panic.  Kathryn Dance, visiting the area to record some Mexican musicians, is a friend of Kayleigh - she's also an investigator with the California Bureau of Investigation, and when a murder happens in Kayleigh's entourage, she's on the scene immediately.  This is a typical Deaver book with loads of twists and turns, and a cameo appearance by Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs; there are several endings, each at least as plausible as the others.  I didn't really like the first Kathryn Dance novel, but this one is much more enjoyable.

Blue lightning, by Anne Cleeves. London: Macmillan, 2010.

Bloody hell.  OK.
So, let's go back to the beginning. The manager of a bird observatory on Fair Isle is found dead, just when Jimmy Perez is on the island introducing his fiancĂ©e Fran to his parents. Jimmy is called in to the investigation, and realises he's out of his depth from the beginning.  This is tightly plotted, and has a completely shocking ending; I'm really not sure where she's going to go after this one.

Death under sail, by CP Snow. London: Stratus, 2000. Originally published 1932.

Yes; that CP Snow, Strangers and brothers and all that.  This is an earlier book, and very much in the Dornford Yates mode of thrillers involving racy but idealised women, and chaps who can take a month off to go sailing. It follows the detective novel mode while being completely self-conscious about it; I'd have preferred slightly less snark about Sayers given how much was taken from her novels.  But it's good; really very good; and terrifically interesting as a period piece.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

National Poetry Day

It's got to be Heaney, this year.

Westering (in California)

I sit under Rand McNally's
"Official Map of the Moon" -
The colour of frogskin,
Its enlarged pores held

Open and one called
"Pitiscus" at eye level -
Recalling the last night
In Donegal, my shadow

Neat upon the whitewash
From her bony shine,
The cobbles of the yard
Lit pale as eggs.

Summer had been a free fall
Ending there,
The empty amphitheatre
Of the west. Good Friday

We had started out
Past shopblinds drawn on the afternoon,
Cars stilled outside still churches,
Bikes tilting to a wall;

We drove by,
A dwindling interruption
As clappers smacked
On a bare altar

And congregations bent
To the studded crucifix.
What nails dropped out that hour?
Roads unreeled, unreeled

Falling light as casts
Laid down
On shining waters.
Under the moon's stigmata

Six thousand miles away,
I imagine untroubled dust,
A loosening gravity,
Christ weighing by his hands.

Seamus Heaney, from Wintering Out (1972).