Sunday, February 21, 2016

2016 books, #16-20

The climb, by Chris Froome, with David Walsh. London: Penguin, 2015.

I enjoyed Cav's first autobiography (see last reviews post); but this one really is fascinating, mainly because Froome is always a bit of an enigma when you hear him in interview (other than Ned Boulting's great Sports stories documentary last year set mainly in South Africa and Kenya, which was lovely).  Froome takes us through his childhood in Kenya and South Africa - first in Kenya with his mother, and then later at boarding school in Johannesburg.  You realise quite how... different... his upbringing, and cycling experiences, are from the norm of UK and European riders. There's the story of his having sent an e-mail purporting to be from the Kenyan minister for sport to get himself into the 2007 World Championships as manager, team-leader and sole rider (and then felling a race official on the first corner of the time-trial); a heart-stopping story about his having nearly killed an old man who was coming out of an Italian off-licence; and the odd funny, never insulting, stories about team-mates.  (This, about the Sky Tenerife training camp: The rooms have small prison-cell TV sets that only trade in Spanish. There is nothing interesting to do and no distraction. We rely on each other for entertainment and, knowing just how entertaining we all are, we take the precaution of bringing box sets of television series.)  Over and over, there are the twin pillars of fairness, and hard work; Froome's passionate anti-doping stance comes through, as does his complete dedication to a goal.  There's a fair amount about the Wiggins/Froome rivalry here, but really, that's not what this book's about.  I like the fact that David Walsh (the man who worked so hard to expose Lance Armstrong over so many years) has a proper place on the title page - but he's let Froome speak here, and it's a funny, engaging, book about a very nice chap.

Career of evil, by Robert Galbraith. London: Sphere, 2015.

The third Cormoran Strike, and utterly true to form.  Robin receives a severed leg in a box; and discovers to her horror that there are potentially four people who might want to send such a thing to Strike. One motive is entirely personal; the other three accumulated in Strike's career of making himself unpopular with very nasty people. Strike and Robin investigate, while Robin's relationship and impending marriage to (the rather awful) Matthew also cause problems.  There are a couple of really horrific characters here, notably the dreadful Tempest, bullying and self-obsessed webmistress of a 'transabled' forum for apotemnophiliacs and those who wish to become disabled (this doesn't, as you'd imagine, go down well with Strike). Brilliant, occasionally scary, sometimes extremely funny, often moving; I think this series may be getting better as it goes on; but I'm a sucker for series where the characters' relationships and personalities are as strong as the plots.

Lifetime, by Liza Marklund [audiobook]. Read by India Fisher. Bath: AudioGO, [n.d.]

Journalist Annika Bengtson has separated from her husband; then she and her two kids only just escape a house fire.  Meanwhile, one of the most famous police officers in Sweden is found murdered in his bed, his 4-year-old son missing, his wife suspected of the crime which was committed with her police weapon.  Desperate to take her mind off her own troubles, Annika starts to investigate the police officer's killing - if the wife is innocent, as she claims, who could have abducted the child and murdered her husband?  As ever, Annika is unable to stay away from trouble... and the fact that the police think she might have torched her own flat isn't helping.  I do enjoy these - but I wonder if I'd sit down and read the books, rather than listening to the audiobooks - Annika annoys the hell out of me...

Rogue lawyer, by John Grisham. London: Hodder, 2015.

After Gray mountain, I was expecting something equally epic from this book; but this is effectively a set of short stories tied together by one character.  Sebastian Rudd is someone famous for defending the indefensible client, and is hated by the police, prosecutors and his ex-wife.  We see his custody battles for his small son interspersed by cases where defendants of various stripes appear. Rudd has ethics, but those ethics don't necessarily correspond with the law; and he is prepared to bend rules in what he regards as a rightful cause.  It's Grisham, so it's tremendously entertaining; but not one of his greats.

The black sun, by James Twining [audiobook]. Read by Andrew Wincott. Rearsby, Leics: Clipper/WF Howes, 2006.

In London, an Auschwitz survivor is murdered in hospital and the arm with his camp tattoo is removed; in Maryland, an Enigma machine is stolen; in Prague, mindless vandalism at a synagogue fails to conceal the theft of a Czech painting.  Tom Kirk becomes involved, and soon realises nothing's quite what it seems.  This started off fascinatingly, but it degenerates into the normal Nazi-gold type of conspiracy thriller, and is less interesting for that.  I'll carry on with this series, and hope the theme's different next time, as I do like Kirk and his sidekick.

1 comment:

Shiela Dixon said...

I enjoy your reviews Liz, and it's good to see one that I've read.

I also enjoyed Career of Evil very much, a good story with lots of suspense. And yes, the relationships. We all want Robyn and Strike to get together, but of course they couldn't, part of the appeal of the books is the tension between them.

I find it difficult to believe that this series is written by the same author as Casual Vacancy; a terrible book with no plot and a clumsy writing style.