Saturday, September 05, 2015

2015 books, #51-55

How to speak money, by John Lanchester. London: Faber, 2015.

A book group book; and fascinating.  Lanchester starts with a brief introduction to how he came to write this book, and some background on the financial system as it exists today; then the bulk of the book is an alphabetical dictionary of financial terms; and then he wraps up with some thoughts about the way he sees people's attitude to money changing in the present and the future.  This could be an extremely dry read, but Lanchester has come at this book as a layman, and a funny, engaging layman at that.  (And he does distinguish between BULLSHIT and NONSENSE quite early on...)  Highly recommended.  I'd quote some things, except that my copy's now at work as a quick reference for the next tricky financial term that comes along...

The bones beneath, by Mark Billingham. London: Sphere, 2015.

Absolutely gripping from start to finish.  Stuart Nicklin, a serial killer Tom Thorne put behind bars a decade before, announces that there's another body to find on an isolated Welsh island; but he'll only tell the police where it is if Thorne accompanies him to the island, and another prisoner comes with him to ensure his safety.  Thorne reluctantly agrees.  Despite the accompanying police and prison officers, Thorne is uneasy about the scary, amoral Nicklin, and this concern only deepens as the weather on the island worsens.  While this could be one of those classic "what's that noise outside; let's split up" stories, it's Billingham so it's way better than that.  And there's a strange accompanying narrative which suddenly snaps into focus... in my case, too late...  This is one I couldn't read at bedtime because the suspense was too much to be reading it in the dark!

Natural causes, by James Oswald. London: Penguin, 2013.

DI Anthony McLean has quite enough to deal with; he's been assigned an obviously old murder in the basement of a mansion, while trying to cope with the death of the grandmother who brought him up.  Meanwhile, someone is killing old and influential men...  The cases intertwine... I liked this because we really genuinely get to care about McLean's colleagues, and that's an essential as far as I'm concerned; and because there are a number of twists in the tail of this one.  Oswald's definitely one to watch.

The woods, by Harlan Coben [audiobook]. Read by Carol Monda and David Chandler. Rearsby, Leics: WF Howes, 2008.

Twenty years ago, four teenagers at a summer camp walked into the woods and were never seen again. The brother of one of those teenagers is now the county prosecutor, and is taken to see the body of a recently-dead man who bears an uncanny resemblance to one of the missing.  This is another great book by Harlan Coben, where nothing is as it seems and where the lead character doubts his sanity at various points.  Really excellent stuff, and two very good readers.

The dying season, by Martin Walker. London: Quercus, 2015.

A Bruno, Chief of Police novel and another extremely good one. Bruno is attending a 90th birthday party for a war hero; the following day, one of the guests is found dead. While the man was a known alcoholic and ostensibly the death isn't suspicious, Bruno is wary of taking it at face value.  Meanwhile, Bruno has his somewhat complicated relationship with Pamela, and the presence of hundreds of feral deer encouraged by a fervent but misguided écolo to deal with.  Again, the food, the wine and the landscape of Périgord noir feature as characters in this book, and it's not one to read if you're at all peckish at the time!