Saturday, June 25, 2016

2016 books, #41-45

Gone to ground, by John Harvey [audiobook]. Read by Andrew Wincott. Rearsby, Leics.: WF Howes, 2007.

Stephen Bryan, a Cambridge academic, is found murdered in his bathroom. Initially suspicions fall on his partner, Mark, or on a random sexual encounter; but the loss of Bryan's laptop also makes the detectives wonder whether something in his research on 50s screen actress Stella Leonard might have something to do with it.  It may be that I listened to this in too many bouts, or it might be that Wincott's delivery was even more mannered than usual, but I couldn't find myself warming to this one, and the plot seemed strangely disjointed given the quality of Harvey's usual writing.

Lila, by Marilynne Robinson. London: Virago, 2014.

A companion piece to Home and Gilead, both of which my book group had read; but does also stand on its own, according to others who didn't belong to the group then.  I found this less satisfying than the previous two books, but still a tour de force of writing.  Lila is a compelling character, constantly poised for flight, and her strained relationship with her kind, elderly clergyman husband is at turns incredibly sad and rather wonderful.  The book roams freely across Lila's life in a sort of kaleidoscope, Highly recommended.

Waiting for Alaska, by John Green. London: HarperCollins, 2006.

2015's most challenged book, according to the American Library Association.  And as good as you'd expect, given that.  Miles is sent to high school at his dad's old boarding school, Culver Creek in Alabama, and meets his roommate Chip (The Colonel), friends Takumi and Lara, and the amazing, unpredictable Alaska Young.  There's smoking, and drinking, and teenage pranks; and a lot about religion and meaning; and something utterly dreadful happens in the middle I won't spoiler.  It's the kind of wonderful, lively, life-affirming book that some people can't resist trying to ban.

Death at Victoria Dock, by Kerry Greenwood. London: Constable, 2014 [originally published in 2002].

Phryne Fisher is blamelessly (for a change) driving through Victoria Dock when she's shot at, and a beautiful young man dies in her arms.  He turns out to be a Latvian, and a member of an anarchist group.  Phryne pitches in to investigate the murder, Meanwhile she's also hired by a man called Waddington-Forsythe to look for his daughter Alicia; Waddington-Forsythe père and fille are both deeply unpleasant individuals, so Phryne's thoughts often tend towards the anarchists.  This is another very pleasant romp.

The woman in blue, by Elly Griffiths. London: Quercus, 2016.

Ruth Galloway is invited to meet an old friend at Walsingham, where the friend is at a conference. Surprisingly, Ruth's fellow archaeology student is now a vicar, and she's been getting threatening letters. Meanwhile Nelson is also in Walsingham investigating the death of a young woman who had left a nearby drug treatment centre in the middle of the night and been strangled.  Relationships, always complicated in this series, become even more tangled in this one, and the very strange atmosphere of Walsingham contributes to this.  Well up to the usual standard of these books, and another unputdownable read.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

2016 books, #36-40

Coffin road, by Peter May. London: Quercus, 2016.

A man wakes up, soaking wet, on a beach.  He has absolutely no memory of how he got there - or, indeed, of who he is.  When he gets back to where he seems to have been living, he finds he's told people he's a writer, but there's no draft of a book on his laptop, and no personal identification in the cottage.  Trying to retrace his own movements, without revealing he has no clue who he is, he stumbles across a body. But did he kill the dead man?  Another brilliant book from Peter May; genuinely gripping.

London rain, by Nicola Upson [audiobook]. Read by Sandra Duncan. Rearsby, Leics.: WF Howes, 2015.

Another of Upson's Josephine Tey novels.  It's the Coronation of 1937; the implications of the Abdication rumble on, but London has put on its glad-rags and is ready to celebrate.  All but Vivien Beresford, anyway; her husband has been unfaithful one too many times, and she's set on avenging her humiliation.  Vivien is the temporary editor of the Radio Times, and her husband Antony is one of the BBC's most respected commentators, so there's a lot of backstage-at-the-BBC in this one.  Josephine is there to watch the Beeb bring Richard of Bordeaux to the airwaves, and gets involved,  Meanwhile Josephine's uncertainty about her on-off relationship with Marta is coming to a head...  If you've enjoyed other books in this series, definitely keeps the standard up.

A trick of the light, by Louise Penny [audiobook]. Read by Adam Sims. Oxford: Isis, 2012.

Three Pines stakes its claim in the murder stakes alongside St Mary Mead and Midsomer, as yet another body is found in its peaceful surroundings, this time after Clara Morrow's triumphant vernissage in Montreal.  Initially, the woman's identity is a mystery; once it's discovered who she is, all sorts of secrets, mainly based around the Québec art-world twenty years earlier, start creeping out. Gamache, Beauvoir and co. investigate; but Beauvoir has problems of his own...  Another excellent book in this series.

The steel kiss, by Jeffery Deaver. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2016.

A Lincoln Rhyme novel (this is obviously the post in which I catch up with series...)  Lincoln has resigned from consultancy with the NYPD after a disastrous case; and Amelia hasn't forgiven him for it. However, a dreadful event in which Amelia fails to save a man from being eaten alive by an escalator motor brings Rhyme back from lecturing to investigation on the civil damages case. And he has a new sidekick...  This is good - it's Deaver - but there are one or two "reveals" which don't quite ring true; still entirely worth reading though.

Smoke and mirrors, by Elly Griffiths. London: Quercus, 2015.

A Stephens and Mephisto mystery, set in Brighton in the aftermath of World War II.  Two children go missing, and Stephens is investigating when he hears of an eerie connection with an earlier murder in the theatre in which Max Mephisto is in rehearsals for Aladdin in panto.  I like the period details here, but somehow this one fails to catch fire...