Lanterne rouge: the last man in the Tour de France, by Max Leonard. London: Yellow Jersey Press, 2014.
This was a good year to read this book - the last man to finish on the Tour de France this year was the lovely Sam Bennett, who rode all but the first stage with stitches in his right hand and a clamp holding his little finger together. Sometimes a bit of a joke, sometimes, like this year, a badge of honour and survival, the people who've "won" the lanterne rouge are a fascinating bunch. Leonard picks a dozen from all eras of the tour, and looks both at the Tour they rode that year and the rest of their careers; and in doing so sheds light on this fascinating "honour". Sam Bennett joked that as more riders finished the Tour than in any previous year this July, he was "the last of the last". This book shows he's in extraordinarily good company.
Telesa: the covenant keeper, by Lani Wendt Young. Kindle edition.
This was a book group book, a YA novel. 18 year old Leila's father dies, leaving her with only her autocratic grandmother; rather than spend her summer at an academic camp, she travels to Samoa to try and find out more about the mother who died when she was a baby. Far from being overjoyed, her mother's family are anxious and fearful at first. Leila settles in well at school and makes friends for the first time, but strange things are happening to her physically, and she's also awakening sexually. There's some fascinating stuff about Samoan traditions and superstitions here, and I think if I was a teenager I'd love these; as it was, reading about the perfectly-sculpted bodies of teenage boys made me feel uncomfortably like some middle-aged voyeuse.
How the light gets in, by Louise Penny. New York: Minotaur, 2013.
This is a stunning book. I like this series in general; but it's rare that a book manages to totally transcend its series, and this is one of those rare times. The title comes from Leonard Cohen's Anthem; Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in. After the events of Beautiful mystery, Gamache and Beauvoir are estranged, the Homicide unit of the Sécurité du Québec has been decimated by malevolent high-ups, and Gamache himself feels defeated. And in the middle of all this, Gamache has a call from Three Pines - Myrna's Christmas guest never arrived, and subsequently is found dead in her apartment in Québec City. Her secret is that she was one of a set of quintuplets who were astonishingly famous as children. But as Gamache looks into the crime, he's also being watched... There is so much despair, beauty and hope in this book. It's worth reading the entire series just to get to it.
The murder road, by Stephen Booth [audiobook]. Read by Mike Rogers. Oxford: Isis, 2015.
There's only one road out of the village of Shawhead; and now that road is blocked by a lorry which has got stuck under the bridge. There's no sign of the driver, but the cab is bloodstained. Ben Cooper starts to investigate, but the villagers of Shawhead are a strange lot, and his investigation isn't the only thing on his mind, as he drives back and forth to Nottingham to visit Diane Fry. Another extremely good book in this series, and I love Mike Rogers's Derbyshire voice.
Dirty work, by Gabriel Weston. London: Jonathan Cape, 2013.
The book starts with a disastrous surgical operation; and moves on to the disciplinary hearing before the British Medical Association. A young female doctor is charged with gross misconduct. We hear the entire process through her point of view, and the book's divided into four sections, one for each week of the hearings. We find out about her, about the events around the operation, about her family background and how she became a doctor; and as we move through, it becomes steadily more disturbing. This is definitely not one for the squeamish, either physically or morally; it's one which will stick in my brain for a long time. Weston is a doctor and writer, and recently presented a BBC series on the history of forensics, which led me to this book.