Friday, February 22, 2019
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...