Saturday, January 25, 2014

2014 books, #1-5

Refusal, by Felix Francis. London: Michael Joseph, 2013.

Another extremely good book by Felix Francis; as Francis finds his stride, he's even dared reprise one of his father's classic heroes, one-handed former jockey (and, when we find him, former private detective) Sid Halley, and managed it very well.  Sid is married, with a daughter, making his living by playing a different sort of form book on the stock exchange, when the chair of the British Horseracing Authority asks him to help in what looks like a serious case of race-fixing.  While Sid is deliberating, the BHA chair dies, apparently having committed suicide, and Sid and his family are threatened.  Classic Francis but with the benefits of technology like GPS tracking the original Halley books would have loved to have employed.

Final jeopardy, by Linda Fairstein. London: Sphere, 1998.

The first of the Alexandra Cooper series - thought I'd go back and read them in order. Alex finds that she has been reported in the media as dead, because someone has been killed in the driveway of her holiday home in Martha's Vineyard; the victim turns out (somewhat improbably) to be a film star Alex has met through a literary agent friend.  The mystery deepens when it becomes apparent the victim was complaining about being stalked, and was also staying with a male friend nobody knew about.  This is well-paced; these books are always somewhat histrionic, but worth sticking with.

Die trying, by Lee Child [audiobook]. Read by Garrick Hagon. Whitley Bay: Soundings, 1998.

A typically excellent Lee Child, one of the early ones. Jack Reacher stops on a Chicago street to help a woman struggling with a door, a crutch and her dry-cleaning, and is abducted along with the woman. When the woman turns out to be an FBI agent, and the daughter of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he realises this is a high-stakes abduction.  Tightly-plotted as ever. Two slightly comic elements for Brits of a certain age - the FBI agent's name is Holly Johnson, which means I had Two Tribes running round my head throughout the book; and it features the Montana Militia, who are sinister enough, but combine with the original Chicago setting to give the Illinois Nazis...

Raising steam, by Terry Pratchett. London: Doubleday, 2013.

The railways come to Ankh-Morpork.  And in fact, many places on the Disc.  As with any innovation, Moist von Lipwig is right there in the vanguard, or in this case in the guard's van, with Harry King and the Patrician. This is classic Pratchett, not afraid to be a little bit emotional at the power of technology in the hands of Yorkshire lad Dick Simnel, but also slyly combining all of those classic railway moments, such as Brief Encounter and The Railway Children, as well as introducing us to the first trainspotters; and just a hint of sapient machinery. Excellent.

Nightrise, by Jim Kelly [audiobook]. Read by Ray Sawyer. Oxford: Isis, 2012.

Philip Dryden is somewhat surprised to be informed by police that his father has just died in a car accident, as his father drowned during the fenland floods in 1977; Dryden Senior's body was never found though, so Dryden can't help wondering...  Two other stories are demanding Dryden's journalistic attention, though; that of a body found hanging in the middle of a lettuce field, and a couple whose baby daughter's remains were buried in a mass council grave and want to reclaim the body for burial.  Another of Kelly's Ely-based books; the setting, as ever, is very accurate although it would be lovely if there really were a fabulous Italian restaurant in the alley next to Oxfam!

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