I live in Bristol UK literary fiction and crime are my books of choice and when not reading I like to run
You will either love or loathe Reservoir 13 from Costa Book Award winner Jon McGregor. It is to me an odd book and tells the story of the disappearance of Rebecca Shaw, a young girl on holiday at a village in the peak district in the early years of this century. If you are expecting a crime novel than think again, the reader is instead assailed with images of village life the day to day mundane existence, the finite detail of the residents as they stumble from one event to the next, from one year to the next, from one decade to the next, and written in a prose devoid of any punctuation. The actual murder (or disappearance) is rarely mentioned and I failed miserably to understand its poignancy if the authors intention was merely to highlight the drabness of village life…..and drab it is. The writing style is very compact, very hard to assimilate, each sentence seeming to introduce a new event or happening, and over a period of years this becomes somewhat laborious. I have read some brilliant books by the author namely; So many ways to begin, and his astounding new novel; Lean, Fall Stand, but unfortunately Reservoir 13 is not amongst them.
This is the 10th outing for Nesbo’s brilliant yet somewhat troubled maverick detective Harry Hole. The plot is interesting, police officers are being murdered at the site of crimes they failed to solve in the distant past and Oslo’s finest are frankly clueless as to how to approach the case, never mind solve it. Harry, banished to the academic world of lecturing, has his own troubles in the form of a fanatical student Silje Gravseng stalking our hero, and fighting his own demons in the form of alcohol. I enjoy the writing style of Jo Nesbo, a true exponent of scandi noir, but the problem I have with this book is our hero does not actually enter the story until 200 pages in. Up to this point a twisted brutal killer is leading the local Oslo police on a merry dance! But very soon the good citizens of Oslo can once again rest easy as within a very short time Harry is putting the pieces of the jigsaw together and they know with confidence that the perpetrator of these evil acts will soon be held accountable. The troubled relationship between Harry and Rakel reaches an unexpected but pleasing conclusion. I love Jo Nesbo’s writing and even if our antihero is not present for the first 3rd of the novel “Police” is still an excellent read and a great addition to the series.
An interesting read the last 100 pages poignant as the tragedy that is Hamnet unfolds and family must learn to come to terms with a great loss.
To read John Irving is to surround yourself in his world and enjoy his amazing story telling ability. There are a number of themes throughout his books; his interest in wrestling, his love of the underdog, his battle to glorify small suppressed individuals in society, and help them gain recognition and a right to have their voice heard. The virtues of women, the strive for equality amongst transgenders, and the condemnation of misogynists who choose to vilify rather than praise.
TS Carp, the illegitimate son of a WW pilot and a mother Jenny Fields who was to devote her life to the wellbeing of women in a world that seems increasingly hostile. From struggling author to devoted father Garp faces many challenges throughout his life devoted to his much admired mother Jenny fields and wife Helen. The writing of Irving is colourful, attentive to detail, never boring with rich characters in abundance. Highly recommended.
It is with more than a little trepidation that I start book 1 in a new detective series. The reviews for The Burning men have been many and positive, so I was hopeful that such praise was justified and my goodness how right they were.
The past: A fire is blazing at One Pacific Square, a multi-billion-pound regeneration project. One resident is in situ and the first 4 fire fighters on the scene enter the burning building with little thought for their own safety. The consequences that follow will have fatal repercussions long into the future.
The present: DI Alex Finn & DC Mathilde (Mattie) Paulsen are assigned a new case. Finn has returned to full time duty following the sad demise of his wife Karin. He has much to prove, so many of his fellow officers will be suspicious of his early return and wonder if his state of mind can cope with the pressures of a new and at times complex investigation
Finn and Mattie attend the scene of a brutal crime.The charred body of a young man is discovered in the bathroom of an hotel….it was his wedding day. This is the start of seemingly random killings, but as the body count mounts, a tenuous association emerges between the Pacific Square fire and an historic bank heist. To me the mark of a good story is how believable the main characters are and how much of an impression they make on judgemental readers. DI Finn is a pedantic, organised, considerate private man always concerned with the minutiae, and the great responsibility placed upon him..."how smart his appearance was- the closely trimmed hair, the crisply ironed shirt, the carefully moisturised skin"........"He was a man of certainties and police work was the area of his life where he felt most certain".....DC Poulsen has to prove herself as a capable partner but does little to endear herself to Finn when she berates him in a moment of uncontrollable rage and unprofessionalism.
The pace of the narration is fast and although the plot is detailed it never becomes over complex and is always accessible. Future books in the series will undoubtedly reveal more in the colourful lives of Finn and Paulsen. The Burning Men has been a delight to read with a new army of admirers and I count myself amongst their number.
There is nowhere better for me to try to understand the mindset of Harry Bosch or indeed his creator Michael Connelly by starting again where it all began book one in the series.
Harry is best described as "a detective who would do the right thing no matter what the cost. A man with a sharp worn code of conduct. A classic outsider.".... In The Black Echo we learn about Harry's activities as a tunnel rat during the Vietnam war and how the horrors of this underground hell helped shape him as a detective with the will to survive and a loner's code of justice. When the body of a fellow "rat" Billy Meadows is discovered in a drain outlet, Harry is determined to find the perpetrator responsible and bring justice to his onetime comrade in arms. In this endeavour he is joined by FBI agent Eleanor Wish, a relationship develops that becomes personal and leaves Harry wondering if her intentions are honourable or does she harbor an underlying agenda.
The weakness of the story is the plot; dirty money profits from Saigon laundered as precious stones and kept secret in a bank vault in downtown LA. The only way to retrieve the hidden stash is to tunnel deep into the innards of the bank. In contrast the strength of the story is the superb charactization of the main players. Bosch, Eleanor Wish and Deputy Chief Irvin Irving who appears to be on a one man crusade against what he views as underhand tactics by a maverick lone detective.
As always Michael Connnelly is razor sharp in his acute observations of the human spirit....."Sunsets did that here. Made you forget it was the smog that made their colors so brilliant, and that behind every pretty picture there could be an ugly story."....."He was a worn-out old man whose eyes had quit caring about anything but the odds on three year olds"..."I believe that shit happens. I believe that the best you can do in this job is come out even".......
Having just reread The Black Echo I have actually awarded it an extra star! Whilst the plot becomes a little laborious there are nice incidental comments that can be made. There is a theme of tunnels running through the story, a young teenager found murdered in a drainage tunnel, bank robberies where the perpetrators ingeniously use tunnels as their mode of entry, and of course Harry Bosch was a tunnel rat in Vietnam and murder victim Meadows was a tunnel rat and friend. The characters of Lewis and Clarke are portrayed as 2 buffoons from Internal Affairs, who under the strict command of Irving have been asked to shadow Bosch and somehow find or witness the detective acting outside the law. There is a particularly funny scene where Harry confronts the 2 and handcuffs them around a tree.....again this sense of comedy does not sit well in the overall theme of The Black Echo....needless to say the conclusion of this affair is swift and bloody.
The Black Echo is an important read not only because it is the first book in a great series but it lays the groundwork for many great adventures to come and the cynicism of dedicated detective that can only increase....
The Moons a Balloon, still flying high, and amazingly first published 50 years ago...why you may ask? It is not only a biography of our very own British born David Niven but also it is an important history of the lives and loves of long ago legendary hollywood silver screen greats....
A wonderful collection of short stories some dark some a little weird but all cleverly written. There is a loose connection theme running along side the clear prose that is always prevalent in Japanese literature. Highly recommended.
A walk through the colourful life of Amory Clay. She is a professional photographer and an early assignment has her investigating the decadent, colourful, sexually liberated Berlin clubs of the early 1930s. There are passing glimpses of a future facist Germany that will soon spread its evil tentacles over an unsuspecting and sleepy world.
Back in London hosting an exhibition of her own work Amory is intrigued by the rise of Oswald Mosley and his facist followers identified and condemned by their famous black shirts. An unexpected and violent event occurs that changes Amory’s direction and focus.Through a number of casual sexual encounters she marries a soldier of the 2ndWW, a man deeply affected by his experiences resulting in an irreversible and permanent blackness with an inevitable sad conclusion. For a limited time she resides in New York until the disastrous American involvement in Vietnam demands her photographic skills.
William Boyd has a wonderful storytelling technique. He takes a life, an interesting life, and highlights the pivotal moments in that life, decisions taken, choices made, and consequences that followed. We are entertained, we are educated, we are party to the changing face of Germany, the slaughter of WW2 and the catastrophic decisions and campaigns that were the killing fields of Vietnam.
A boatload of burned out spies spend their twilight years in Sough House participating in deadend jobs until retirement. They are known affectionatley as Slow Horses. Their rather unothodox leader is Jackson Lamb, an overweight, chainsmoking, narcissistic misogynist who finds it amusing to pass wind in public. In a throwback to the cold war and possilbly in homage to George Smiley our assortement of oddballs seek out and destroy the threat of communists wherever these devious and cunning moles materialize. Some may enjoy Herron's humour and style of writing but personally I found it laborious.
Sometimes, even after many years of reading and reviewing, I encounter a novel that is outstanding in its content and thought provoking in the message the author conveys. The Kite Runner is a book that instantly demands the attention of the reader with writing that is simply sublime. Kabul, Afghanistan, a city, a country torn apart by endless occupation and constant fighting. First the Soviets attempt to influence and control then the Mujahideen emerge slowly changing into the more radical face of the Taliban. Often in the background America, the supplier of arms to influence and perhaps overthrow the government.
It is 1975 and a 12 year old Amir, together with his best and most loyal friend Hassan, are hoping to be successful in the local kite flying contest. An incident occurs that will alter the lives of both boys irrevocably as they follow their chosen path. Guilt and blame remain and many years in the future the opportunity occurs for some form of redemption. This is not an easy read there are no perfect happy endings and nor should there be because life is a game of chance, good and bad. The Kite Runner gives wonderful insights into the day to day hardships of a city at constant war with the fear of death always present from explosions, and gunfire. This is a society where women have few if any rights and men who view them as a possession to be used, threatened and abused at their desire. The heart-wrenching conclusion may be difficult to accept but offers a type of closure and hope for an uncertain future. A truly remarkable read, a book to be read and reread by young and old alike
Kazuo Ishiguro is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. His writing is seamless, it gently flows along unhurried soothing….Stevens is a long serving butler at Darlington Hall, this is a world of servitude, a world of privilege at a time where class distinctions were recognized and viewed as important. Stevens is content with his role, like his father before him he is a butler, he takes his daily duties very seriously and performs them with quiet efficiency. Through his eyes we the readers are silent observers to important historical events under intense discussion between elite decision makers in the days before WW2, a pivotal time in world history, the rise of Nazism and the impossible rush to inevitable conflict. Amidst this activity Stevens adheres to his expected and daily routine, and has little time to question his relationship, or otherwise, with the seemingly untouchable Miss Kenton. At heart The remains of the day is a love story told with sadness and humour, duty and loyalty appearing as more important than unrequited love. Lyrical and colouful this is a book that will delight from start to finish.
Possibly the worlds best known thriller writer turns his penmanship to analysing the Kennedy dynasty. A very enjoyable, easy accessible, account of a family renowned as much for their abuse of privilege as their charasmatic leadership ability. To be a Kennedy seemed to imply that anything and everything was possible but history recorded a much more sombre account with death an uneasy bedfellow on many occasions.
If you indulge in Irvine Welsh then expect to be shocked, his writing and his descriptions are at times excruciatingly painful to read. Sergeant Bruce Robertson is a typical Welsh character, he takes what he wants lives life to access and does not care if his actions harm or destroy anyone in the process. He is at heart a narcissist possessing an inflated sense of his own importance involved in numerous female liasions with little or no empathy for others. However underneath this facade is a very troubled possibly suicidal man, and the author uses a very clever way to disclose this to the reader. Robertson's use of alcohol and recreational drugs, with little or no intake of nutrition, have caused a deterioration in his health and he appears to be harboring an intestinal worm. This parasite becomes the main source of information for the detectives's increasingly bizarre behaviour, a very original and highly entertaining element in a narration not for the faint hearted.
A truly delightful story. Imagine sipping a cool lager on a sunny afternoon or slipping away on a cloud of your dreams. Japanese storytelling is written in a clear and direct language, so easy to follow and engage with. Locations often range from the atmosphere of cocktail bars to the sleepy world of jazz music. Nocturnes by the wonderful Kazuo Ishiguro has as its theme love and music from the sights and sounds of an always romantic Venice to the picturesque quintessentially English Malvern Hills. It comprises 4 stories, loosely connected, cleverley presented, lovingly told….Highly, highly recommended.