Monday, April 22, 2019

2019 books, #26-30

When the dogs don't bark: a forensic scientist's search for the truth, by Professor Angela Gallop [audiobook]. Read by Sandra Duncan. Audible edition.

Newly arrived at the Forensic Science Service after a PhD in sea-slugs, Angela Gallop's first case was one of the victims of the Yorkshire Ripper. During a career both in the FSS and then later in her own company, Forensic Access, Professor Gallop was involved in many of the famous cases, and also in the re-investigation of many of the miscarriages of justice, from the 1970s on.  She talks about the cases, the development of forensic science, the politics of the Home Office/MoJ involvement in the forensic services, and about being a woman dealing with the police in the 1970s and 80s.  This is really fascinating, and I'll probably listen to it again.  Duncan's reading is as good as ever. Coincidentally, I was also listening to the BBC podcast Shreds, about the murder of Lynette White and the Cardiff Three miscarriage of justice, and Prof Gallop was interviewed; the match of her voice and Sandra Duncan's is excellent to the point of being slightly uncanny.

Prayer for the dead, by James Oswald. Kindle edition.

Another DI McLean mystery. A colleague of McLean's perpetual thorn-in-the-side-journalist, Jo Dalgleish, is reported missing and then found dead in a locked cave, surrounded by Masonic symbolism. Meanwhile McLean's friend Madame Rose, a transgender tarot card reader and fortune teller, is being harassed. DS Ritchie is back at work after the events of the previous book and has joined a discussion group at the local church (Mary, the vicar of that church, is a brilliant character.) which takes her into McLean's local area. Meanwhile the disasters which have befallen both McLean's beloved Alfa Romeo, and his previous home, rumble on; as do the extremely strained relationships he has with his superior officers.  I keep reading this series for the people, despite my annoyance with the often supernatural conclusions of the plots.

One was a soldier, by Julia Spencer-Fleming. New York: Minotaur, 2011.

It's been ages since I read a book with Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne; devoured this in a day. Clare is newly back from Iraq; and while her reunion with Russ should be relatively uncomplicated, her experiences in conflict have changed her. She joins a therapy group of similarly damaged veterans at the local community centre, but the group suffers its own tragedies, several of which also involve Russ in investigation; Russ and Clare's relationship is stretched to the limit when they disagree on the cause of a veteran's death. Loved this; it's definitely a series you need to read in order. Sadly, I gather there's only one more in this series so far...

Daisy in chains, by Sharon Bolton. Kindle edition.

Maggie Rose represents men who are unfairly convicted, gets them out of prison, and then writes books about them. Hamish Wolfe is a convicted serial killer, and Hamish's mother enlists her to help get him out of prison.  Maggie is sceptical, as is DS Pete Weston whose actions helped convict Hamish in the first place. And then there's the Wolfe pack, a team of Hamish groupies... This has a twist in the tail worthy of Jeffery Deaver, but there are several along the way. Highly recommended.

Bookworm: a memoir of childhood reading, by Lucy Mangan [audiobook]. Read by the author. Audible edition.

This is a re-listen - but I didn't review it first time round, and that's a shame. It's quite marvellous. Lucy Mangan is a few years younger than me, so a handful of the books she grew up with aren't familiar; but oh, my goodness, the ones which are... from Teddy Robinson to Judy Blume, the family from One End Street to the Chalet School, Mangan looks at her childhood (Northern Catholic fistbump) and her almost total abdication of the real world in favour of books. It's a glorious book which has you laughing, crying, and nodding furiously. If you're a bookworm of a certain age. The reading is great, too - I'm not a fan of writers reading their own books, on the whole, but Mangan does this wonderfully.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

2019 books, #21-25

Dead men's bones, by James Oswald. Kindle edition.

Perfect companion to a weekend in Edinburgh and Glasgow.  DI Tony McLean is investigating one case, that of an entirely-tattooed man found in a river, but is called away to investigate the death of a prominent MSP who has apparently smothered his daughters, shot his wife and then killed himself in his garden.  Weirdly, his boss Duguid is encouraging him to do his thing and complicate the investigation, unlike his usual request to wrap the case up quickly.  As McLean continues to dig into the case, he begins to realise he's a pawn in someone's chess game... There is a bit of supernatural stuff again in this, which I know is Oswald's USP, but I always find it ever so slightly annoying; but that doesn't detract from a really fascinating plot, and the characters are, as ever, worth reading.

Evil has a name [audiobook]. Narrated by Paul Holes, Jim Clemente and others. An Audible original.

This is a follow-up, in real life, to Michelle McNamara's I'll be gone in the dark: one woman's obsessive search with the Golden State Killer. Just months after McNamara's tragically early death, some amazing detective work led to an arrest in this series of 40-year-old rapes and murders. Jim Clemente, a former FBI profiler, and Paul Holes, the man who re-opened the investigation into the cases, tell the story of the case; there are also interviews with some of the victims where they're allowed just to tell their stories. A fascinating series, particularly if you've read the McNamara book.

The secret barrister: stories of the law and how it's broken, by the Secret Barrister. London: Macmillan, 2018.

This is an excellent book, funny and horrifying in turns; one relatively junior barrister's view of criminal law as it's currently practiced in the UK. The author takes the system to task, pointing out the impact of sentencing policy, trial practice and the impact of cuts in the legal aid system. At the same time, he acknowledges how many of the people running the courts system are trying to do the right thing against all odds.  Each chapter is illustrated with examples of actual cases, which are told with a great deal of compassion and occasionally a huge amount of humour. Definitely one worth reading for anyone with even a passing interest in the subject.

Threads of life: a history of the world through the eye of a needle, by Clare Hunter [audiobook]. Read by Siobhan Redmond.  Audible edition.

This book sits alongside Elizabeth Wayland Barber's Women's work: the first 20,000 years and Rozsika Parker's The subversive stitch: embroidery and the making of the feminine as a fascinating story of social history through textile craft. Hunter's focus is more on British history than the other two mentioned, and also brings in her own life as an artist-in-residence working with different communities.  From Opus anglicanum to the Glasgow Girls and then into contemporary craft, Hunter has interesting things to say even for people like me who felt reasonably well-versed in the history of embroidery.  The reading is lovely, a gentle Scottish voice which reflects the origins of the author and makes for extremely easy listening.

The Ronde: inside the Tour of Flanders, the world's toughest bike race, by Edward Pickering. London: Simon and Schuster, 2018.

As with several other successful cycling books I've read, this book tells the history of the Tour of Flanders by means of looking at one edition of the race (in this case, the 2011 race), and then widening the shot to give the history of the people and places discussed. It also broadens out to include the history of Flanders, and of Belgium. There are interviews with riders about their memory of that year's race, and with the organisers and team owners and directeurs sportifs. It's a fascinating book; I was about three-quarters through it when this year's race started and I got a lot more out of watching than I otherwise would...

Sunday, April 07, 2019

2019 books, #16-20

The sleeping and the dead, by Ann Cleeves. Kindle edition.

A body is found in a local lake during a summer of drought; it's identified as Michael Grey, a boy who'd attended the local school thirtyyears before. Prison librarian Hannah Morton is particularly shocked: Michael is her boyfriend, and she'd just assumed he'd left the area.  Now she's a suspect in his death, and buried memories are rising to the surface. I quite liked Peter Porteous, the lead detective, a man who thought he'd left the stress of big-city policing behind; I did enjoy this book although not as much as some of Cleeves's others...

Burial of ghosts, by Ann Cleeves. Kindle edition.

Lizzie Bartholomew has a one-night stand in Morocco with a man she imagines she'll never see again. A few months later, a solicitor comes to her with an offer of £15,000 to set up her own business, a legacy from the mysterious man on the Marrakech omnibus, on condition that she try to trace his son.  We gradually find out about Lizzie's background, the incident that has changed her life and meant she can't work in social work again, and as she digs deeper into the circumstances, the danger she's leading herself into by investigating the man's family. This is a fascinating book; it has some elements of a Barbara Vine novel in terms of being quite disturbing in parts.

Rapid Falls, by Amber Cowie. Kindle edition.

Cara's sister Anna was driving Cara and her boyfriend Jesse back from their senior prom when the car went off the road and into the river; Jesse is killed and Anna is incarcerated. 20 years later, Cara is married with a baby, and Anna, newly released from prison, is struggling with drink and mental health issues.  As Anna tries to reclaim her life, though, her memories of that night differ quite markedly from her sister's. Is the established view of what happened actually the truth?  This is really excellent and the reality of what happens creeps up on the reader...

Close to home, by Cara Hunter. Kindle edition.

8-year-old Daisy Mason has gone missing from a family party But her parents' reaction seems very odd - her mother is entirely concerned with keeping up appearances, and her father seems very reluctant to cooperate with the police. As DI Fawley investigates, things become even more unclear, and everyone is under suspicion. Tightly plotted police procedural with some interesting police characters.

In the dark, by Cara Hunter. Kindle edition.

A woman and a child are discovered in the basement of a house, during renovations next door. The elderly man upstairs claims no knowledge of them, and there are no recent missing person reports; and the woman screams every time the child is brought to her in hospital. DI Fawley and his team become embroiled in a series of complications which just make the whole situation more confusing, until the truth comes out.  This is disturbing in parts, but this is definitely a series of books to read.