Friday, February 22, 2019

2019 books, #6-10

The stone circle, by Elly Griffiths. Kindle edition.

The eleventh of the Ruth Galloway/Harry Nelson books. This time, another circle is found on the Norfolk Coast, as in the first book, and the coincidences pile up as the son of Erik, the leader of the first dig, appears to lead this one. Leif is one complication. A recent body found at the site of a prehistoric burial is another. And Nelson's entangled private life takes another turn at the birth of his son, while Ruth has a decision to make.  I enjoyed the last one, set in Italy, but this one takes us back to King's Lynn and North Norfolk with a side of Cambridge. I just wish I could read these more slowly - I devoured it in 24 hours...

Six degrees of assassination, by MJ Arlidge. Audible full cast recording.

This is a series of 10 half-hour episodes, really well acted by Andrew Scott, Freema Agyema and others - and a free Audible series for subscribers.  Ten years after 7/7, the Prime Minister is visiting a charity in East London when he is shot three times in the chest. Alex Townsend (Scott) and Ellen Townsend (Agyema) investigate, and find layers upon layers of conspiracy. I thought this was excellent.

The moonstone, by Wilkie Collins [audiobook]. Read by Peter Jeffrey. Audible edition.

One of my favourite books, and an excellent reading by Jeffrey. The account of the dreadful Miss Clack is particularly well done. Popularly supposed to be the first detective novel in English, and still an excellent read/listen.

The Tour according to G: my journey to the yellow jersey, by Geraint Thomas with Tom Fordyce. London: Quercus, 2018.

This starts off in a slightly awkward way, unlike Geraint's previous book; but once racing is underway, Fordyce does an excellent job of capturing G's voice and we're taken stage by stage through last year's race. As ever, I'm amazed at the recall of riders of the different stages, and there's also a great deal of humour and some interesting stuff about the Team Sky dynamics which were a subject of great interest from commentators. There's also a good chapter about the craziness of the media storm around Geraint's win, and some contributions from Tim Kerrison, Dave Brailsford, Sara Thomas and Chris Froome. Definitely brought back some of the joy of seeing Geraint win last summer.

Twelve patients: life and death at Bellevue Hospital, by Eric Manheimer. Kindle edition.

This is the book which inspired the new Prime series New Amsterdam, which I found myself binge-watching last weekend; and, as so often, the book is better than the series.  Manheimer gives an unflinching view of public medicine in New York, through twelve different patient stories, one of them his own treatment for throat cancer. He looks at the horror of illness and the extreme damage sometimes done by its cure; and also at the wider issues of poverty, immigration status, obesity, insurance (and the lack of it) and so on. But it's also a hymn to public health care, the dedication of staff, the strange families which are created around both long-term treatment and long-term work relationships, and the beauty and diversity of central New York.

2019 books, #1-5

Attempting to get back into the swing of book reviews this year; and hoping to put in some crafty-type posts as well!

The cadaver king and the country dentist, by Robert Balko and Tucker Carrington, with an introduction by John Grisham [audiobook]. Read by Robert Fass. Audible edition.

I heard about this one on one of the criminal justice podcasts I listen to; the story of coroner Dr Steven Hayne and dentist and "bite mark analyst" Dr Michael West. Hayne ran an "autopsy factory" in Mississippi, single-handedly performing the vast majority of the state's autopsies for many years, while West hired himself out as a jack of all trades in the forensic science expert witness business, specialising in science such as bite mark analysis which is now discredited as "junk science".  Between them, they made vast amounts of money, and contributed to some blatant miscarriages of justice, condemning (mainly black) defendants to prison, often for many years.  This book exposes their crimes, and is introduced by John Grisham, chair of the Georgia Innocence Project.  It asks some disquieting questions about prosecutorial conduct, the reliability of professional expert witnesses, and institutional racism in the criminal justice system as a whole. Definitely worth a read/listen.

Longstone, by LJ Ross. Kindle edition.

Another of the DCI Ryan mysteries; this time, a marine archaeologist disappears while diving for a Viking longship he believes he has discovered.  Dr Anna Ryan is there when the body is found, and Ryan isn't far behind. This one is set in and around Seahouses, which was where we often went for day trips out, and several times for school trips, so the setting added to the interest for me.  These are always workmanlike and interesting; the style sometimes grates but the plot makes them more or less unputdownable...

The sealwoman's gift, by Sally Magnusson. Kindle edition.

Set in 17th century Iceland and Algiers, this is based on a true story of slavers' raids on Iceland. As such, it's historically fascinating; there are several historical sources for the male protagonists, but very little for the females, and Magnusson attempts to fill in the gaps.  The first hundred pages or so are not for the squeamish, in that a journey on a slave ship is portrayed in its gory reality; and it says interesting things about religion, class and sexual dynamics.  I have to say that I found it pretty heavy going, but that didn't seem to be the case for most of the other people in my book group.

Gallows View, by Peter Robinson [audiobook]. Read by Simon Slater. Audible edition.

I'd forgotten how good the early Peter Robinson books were; may have to go back to them. In this one, Banks (newly moved from London to Yorkshire for a less stressful life) is faced with a peeping tom, a pair of glue-fuelled robbers and a potential murder of an old lady. He's also dealing with pressure from a local women's group who feel the peeping tom incidents aren't being treated with the necessary seriousness. Tightly plotted, and well read by Simon Slater.

If we were villains, by ML Rio [audiobook]. Read by Robert Petkoff. Audible edition.

Recommended by Jan - thanks, Jan!  This is brilliant. A group of seven young acting students are in their final year at a prestigious private college specialising in Shakespeare; up to now, the group dynamics have worked well, even if it has been predictable who will land all the leading roles. As the year goes on, though, things begin breaking down, and the framing device - the release of the narrator from prison - indicates that a tragedy of some kind has happened.  The book is broken down into acts and scenes, each act with a prologue set in the present, and the story gradually unrolls.  It's absolutely compelling from start to finish, and the reader is also excellent. Highly recommended...