Saturday, December 14, 2013

2013 books, #96-100

Black diamond, by Martin Walker.  London: Quercus, 2010.

An Inspector Bruno novel.  In this one, Périgord's most prized product, the truffle, is threatened by reports of adulteration at the local market. At the same time, the horrific murder of a local truffle-hunter drags Bruno into French-Algerian history, and past and present crimes intertwine.  As ever, there are some great characters here, and Walker keeps a light touch while talking about serious subjects.  I'm very glad there are a few more of these to read before I catch up...

Shattered, by Dick Francis [audiobook]. Read by Tony Britton. Bath: Chivers/BBC Audiobooks, 2000.

For those who've read all these, this is The One With The Glassblower.  I was spending the weekend at the sewing machine, and wanted something I'd already read - and Tony Britton is such a consummate reader of Francis...  As it was - I really can't remember reading this one at all, so it was a pleasant surprise!  Gerard Logan, the glassblower, goes to Cheltenham Races with his friend jockey Martin Stukely on Millennium Eve; Martin is crushed by his horse and killed, and his valet hands his saddle and a videotape to Gerard. That's when everything goes a bit mad - Gerard's workshop is burgled, as is his house and Martin's, and the tape is stolen without his having an idea of what the thieves wanted.  This is vintage Francis - you learn interesting things about glassblowing, it rattles along at racing pace, and as ever Britton's reading is excellent.

The search for Richard III: the king's grave, by Phillipa Langley and Michael Jones. London: John Murray, 2013.

This is a very readable account both of the short kingship of Richard III and of the recent dig which uncovered his bones under a social services car park in Leicester.  It's arranged in alternate chapters of straight history and fundraising/archaeology/fannishness.  Michael Jones seems to play it quite straight with the history - he's sympathetic to Richard but also concedes his ruthlessness in some circumstances. Phillipa Langley is the first to admit her partiality, but her account of how the dig was arranged is fascinating for anyone (like me) who's worked as a volunteer around an established dig; I could sort of have done without her repeated stressing of her intuition as to where the body was buried, but as she turned out to be right, and as her obsession was a large part of getting the job done in the first place, fair play to her!

The people's songs, by Stuart Maconie. London: Ebury Press, 2013.

I'd forgotten to review this, until I had a short exchange with the chap himself on Twitter earlier and realised that this had had to go back to the library sharpish at the time because there were other people in the queue behind me, so it hadn't hung around on the review pile... This is the book of the recent Radio 4 series - because this is arranged chronologically, and the series wasn't, and I managed only to dip into the series and catch up with more episodes on iPlayer, I'm not quite sure whether these are the scripts for the series slightly elaborated and without the additional voices of people who remember the era, or not.  But actually, that won't matter now the series has ended; it stands up as a book. What you get here is 50 short essays on life in Britain during and after the Second World War, each introduced by one representative track.  So the Asian experience in the UK is represented by Brimful of Asha; pop's social conscience by Do They Know It's Christmas?; Britain's changing climate for LGBT people by Smalltown Boy, etc... This could be an unsophisticated way of looking at the subject - but it's Maconie, so obviously it's way better than that.  These are thoughtful, thought-provoking, entertaining pieces; and it goes without saying that there's a lot of humour, too.

The detective's daughter, by Lesley Thomson. Kindle edition.

Terry Darnell, a detective who's carried on investigating a twenty-year-old crime into his retirement, is found dead outside a Co-Op in the town where the victim was buried.  The death's due to natural causes, but his daughter Stella has to deal with his effects and with clearing out his house, and becomes curious despite herself in the father she's been detached from for most of her life.  As she becomes more and more interested in the mystery, her entirely organised life (running a cleaning business, living in a brand-new spotless flat, dumping the boyfriend when it's all too complicated) also begins to disintegrate, and she makes the acquaintance of Jack, a superb cleaner but a deeply private man... I enjoyed this, despite finding the main character almost entirely unsympathetic throughout, and despite finding a couple of holes in the plot difficult to deal with.  Definitely worth reading.

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