Wednesday, August 05, 2015

2015 books, #46-50

Bad blood, by Linda Fairstein [audiobook]. Read by Barbara Rosenblat. Rearsby, Leics.: Clipper Audio, 2007.

Another Alexandra Cooper book, and for me a curiously flat one. Cooper is prosecuting Brendan Quillan, a rich businessman who's accused of killing his wife.  When Quillan's estranged brother is killed in a tunnelling accident, the focus of the investigation shifts and Cooper investigates.  This one fills in a bit of detail about Cooper's later boyfriend (this is a rare series I'm not reading in order) but otherwise really didn't appeal to me; Rosenblat did the usual bang-up job with the reading, but I couldn't stop it just being background noise.

Common people: the history of an English family, by Alison Light. London: Fig Tree, 2014.

Weirdly, a colleague and I found we were reading this one at the same time.  We then worked out we'd both heard about it via the BBC History Magazine...  This is a strange book; Light looks at the history of her family, but uses it to mirror the history of England at the time.  There's a huge amount of poverty and an unexpected amount of mobility (geographical and only occasionally social), and she takes us through the world of the workhouse, the mental hostpiral and the building trade as these affected her family in their time.  I couldn't keep track of who all the people were, but it didn't seem to matter; it's a fascinating book which talks about profoundly ordinary people through the last couple of centuries.

Flowers stained with moonlight, by Catherine Shaw. London: Allison and Busby, 2005.

Another not-in-order series... Vanessa Duncan is a teacher in a Cambridge school for girls, but a notorious court case she was involved in four years before has brought her to the attention of a distraught mother.  Mrs Bryce-Fortescue's daughter is accused of murdering her husband, an extremely wealthy landowner living near Haverhill.  While Vanessa doesn't believe Sylvia committed the murder, she also doesn't believe Sylvia's story.  Investigation of the case takes her to Paris (with her fiancé and two other mathematicians) and to Calais.  I guessed what was going on quite quickly, although there was a twist I wasn't prepared for; and there's a fascinating real little episode in mathematical history built in (Catherine Shaw's alter ego is a professor of maths at Jussieu in Paris).

The truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, by Joël Dicker. Translated from the French by Sam Taylor. London; MacLehose Press, 2014.

This is a brilliant book.  I wish I'd been able to sit down and devour it in one sitting, but it's a brick of a book so not one I could carry around.  Young star-of-the-moment author Marcus Goodman has a mentor, Harry Quebert; when bones are unexpectedly dug up in Quebert's garden in 2008, Harry tells Marcus of a love affair he had with a 15-year-old girl, Nola Kellergan, in 1975.  The bones are identified as Nola's, and Harry is arrested.  Marcus is suffering from severe writer's block (that difficult second novel) and when his publisher gives him the alternative task of writing Harry's story, he takes it on both to save his skin and to try and prove Harry innocent.  On the way, many secrets and lies are uncovered and there are some real switchbacks which make you re-examine everything which has gone before.  It's also a book intertwined with ideas of fame, and the art of writing, and reputation; a tour de force.  (Ironically, Dicker is now in the position Marcus was in at the beginning of the book.)  The front cover says it's a Great American Novel in all but authorship, and I think this is probably true; there's a slight detachment from American life which is probably necessary, but it feels American in the way that an Edward Hopper painting does - there are gaps, and loneliness, and everyone has a story to tell.

Dust, by Patricia Cornwell [audiobook]. Read by Lorelei King. Rearsby, Leics.: Lamplight, 2013.

I shouldn't have started listening to this. I really shouldn't. But some of the recent Scarpetta books have been quite good.  This, however, isn't one of them. Kay and her husband Benton (and every time she calls "Benton" I think of that bloke in the park, which really doesn't help) investigate a series of murders; while simultaneously trying to avoid Benton's evil boss.  It goes along really pretty tediously for about 9 of the 11 discs in this set, and then I had to listen to disc 10 three times to work out what the hell was going on.  The plot was OK (given that)... I think the thing which irritated me most was Cornwell/Scarpetta's inherent rush-to-judgment; always there but so much in this book.  "It's a masculine space, lacking warmth or creativity" (WTF?)... and while I don't have the exact quote, there was a statement that the lack of pens/pencils/mugs on a desk was an exact correlative to a lack of hobbies and hinterland... And why use more frigid when you mean colder?  Yes, I'm really grumpy.  Lorelei King does her best with this one, but really... no.