Saturday, November 05, 2016

2016 books, #71-75

A rare interest in corpses, by Ann Granger [audiobook]. Read by Maggie Mash and Glen McCready. Rearsby, Leics.: WF Howes, 2006.

In 1864, Lizzie Martin comes to London from Derbyshire, as companion to her godfather's widow.  On the way to her employer's house, she sees a body being taken out of a house which is being demolished to make way for the new St Pancras Station.  As time goes on, she discovers that the household and the house at St Pancras have a connection, possibly a dangerous one; and that she's already acquainted with the police inspector charged with the investigation.  This is tightly-plotted, and I love the details on the building of St Pancras as someone who sees it every day.  The dual reading is a nice format, given the two narrators, and there's some real humour here.

Roughing it in the bush, by Susannah Moodie. Kindle edition.

Susannah Moodie and her husband emigrated to Canada in 1832, with their small baby in tow; this is the story of the first few years of their life in the new territory.  Susannah is at time exasperating - she has the sententious Christianity of her age - and the poetry at the beginning and end of each chapter did absolutely nothing for me; but it's a fascinating account, occasionally very humorous.  It has the attitudes, and language, of its age, but is often very refreshingly not what you'd expect from a Victorian matron.  And there's some awful hardship along the way, too.  I don't think I'd have carried on with this after the first few chapters if it hadn't been a book-group book; but on the other hand I'd have missed a lot by giving up.

I let you go, by Clare Mackintosh. London: Sphere, 2014.

A five-year-old, Jacob, is killed by a hit-and-run driver; the grieving mother of a dead child runs away to the Welsh coast; two police detectives on the verge of an affair can't let the hit-and-run case go, and continue to investigate.  It all seems pretty straightforward for the first half of the book, until there's a breakthrough - and a cliff-edge for the reader worthy of Jeffrey Deaver at his finest.  And it all gets even darker. I would warn (and this is slightly spoilery) that if you've found the Helen-and-Rob plot arc on the Archers distressing, this may not be one for you.  I found it hard reading at points but the need to know is very strong by that point.

Triumphs and turbulence: my autobiography, by Chris Boardman. London: Ebury, 2016.

Normally, I read for a bit on the train and then pick up my knitting and put on a podcast.  I started reading this on Thursday night, had to lever myself away from it to switch the light off, and finished reading on the train nearing home on Friday night.  I slightly regret reading this so quickly, but it had to be back at the library on Saturday...  This is a wonderful book.  If you like Chris Boardman and have heard him commenting and commentating, and podcasting, you can hear this in his own voice. It's self-deprecating, sardonic, funny, often painfully self-critical.  Boardman's fully aware of the degree of self-obsession required for performance sport, to the extent of having missed the birth of his second child because he needed to recce a course ahead of a race; and of the difficulty of leaving that mindset after retirement from competition.  And there are some great pen-portraits of the people he's worked with and raced with and against over the years, and a sense of the deep debt of gratitude he owes to his wife Sally, who's kept it all together all these years.

One day ahead: a Tour de France misadventure, by Richard Grady. Kindle edition.

You couldn't get a higher contrast to the last one than this book, read on the Eurostar on the way to Alsace in September.  Four amateur cyclists decide to race the 2012 Tour route one day ahead of the professional péloton , and rope a motley collection of friends in for the ride and as support workers. It's an occasionally very funny account of the attempt, and the love of France comes through strongly; but it's also an honest, warts-and-all account of what happens when you get eight disparate people, with different expectations and senses of entitlement, living in close quarters in two camper-vans for nearly a month.  It's a combination of a tale of massive, heroic endeavour and a warning never to go on holiday with people you don't know well...

Saturday, October 22, 2016

2016 books, #66-70

Cheer up, love: adventures in depression with the Crab of Hate, by Susan Calman. London: Two Roads, 2016.

This is a wonderful book.  It's often extremely funny, as you'd expect; but it's also extremely honest about living with depression, and some of the things Susan Calman has found help with her own depression; there's also a great section on the things to say, and not to say, at difficult times.  Calman looks at the impact of social media on mental health, at talking therapies, at people's attitudes to her being gay and depressed, at physical appearance...  It's all extremely engaging, and beautifully written, and (again) funny.  And obviously, there are cats. Highly recommended!

Out of bounds, by Val McDermid. London: Little, Brown, 2016.

A teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car, killing his three passengers and putting himself into a coma.  When his DNA is analysed to see whether he'd been involved in other car thefts, it seems to hold the key to the 20-year-old murder of a hairdresser killed on a night out. DCI Karen Pirie of the Cold Cases Unit is extremely keen to find the perpetrator of a crime which affected all the people involved so deeply, but it's not as straightforward as it seems; and Pirie also has enemies within Police Scotland who resent her involvement in the present-day crime and wish to stop her.  As the investigation goes on, some very powerful people are stirred up and Pirie's life is in danger.  As ever, this is brilliant.  (There's also an extremely accurate description of a Select Committee session in Portcullis House - Pete Wishart MP of the SNP is credited at the end for help with that one!)

The escape artist: life from the saddle, by Matt Seaton. London: Fourth Estate, 2002.

I had this recommended by the bibliography at the back of another cycling book; and it's a really interesting account of a keen amateur, almost-professional, cyclist in the 1990s, and the sacrifices people make to an obsession.  What I hadn't realised was that it's the Matt Seaton who's also the Family editor for The Guardian and widower of Ruth Picardie, whose heartbreaking Before I say goodbye... columns I read in the Observer in the 1990s.  So it's also a pretty poignant memoir; it balances the exhilaration of racing, and of feeling physically in completely top condition, with the guilt of not spending time doing more responsible, more social things.

The long way home, by Louise Penny. London: Sphere, 2014.

I finished The beautiful mystery, the previous book in the series, just before a meeting in Bloomsbury; and bought this on the way home.  Gamache and Reine-Marie are starting to enjoy a life in retirement in Three Pines, but there's one unresolved mystery - Peter Morrow hasn't returned to his wife Clara after their one-year trial separation, and while Clara is still undecided as to whether she really wants him back, she knows Peter wouldn't stay away if there wasn't something very wrong.  Gamache agrees to help find Peter, and it turns into a slightly bizarre road trip around Québec and Ontario. There's a lot about art and artists, and about losing one's way and trying to find it; and a surprising, heartbreaking conclusion.  Extremely good.

The critic: an Enzo MacLeod investigation, by Peter May. Kindle edition.

The second of the Enzo novels.  After solving one historic unsolved case, Enzo is again taking time out of his day job as a chemistry professor at Toulouse University to look at another case, this time in the vineyards of the Gers.  A prominent US wine critic went missing from the area a decade before, and no trace of him has been found, until his corpse appears displayed in a vineyard, seemingly having been pickled in wine all this time.  Enzo's enquiries aren't popular with everyone, though, and his motley crew of students, his daughters and their boyfriends prove both a help and a hindrance before the mystery is finally (slightly horrifyingly) solved.  This was a brilliant book to be reading in France last month.

2016 books, #61-65

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.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Knitting with Rainbows: a different kind of book review

Knitting with rainbows: making the most of gradient yarns, by Carol Feller. Available through Ravelry, or at Carol's website.

The knitting content on this blog hasn't been exactly stellar over the last few years - long days, much travel and the advent of Twitter are probably responsible - but the book reviews have carried on.  Today, a combination of the two!

I've been enthralled by the number of dyers who've started to produce gradient sets over the last few years; and the very different definitions of gradients - some sets start at one point in the colour wheel and move to another; some are different intensities of the same colour; and everything in between.  Some have four colours, some 6, some up to 15... Some come as mini-skeins, some as a single graduated skein.

When I was doing embroidery City and Guilds, I had a couple of sessions with Jean Littlejohn; and she used to joke that she did Mulberry Silks therapy.  This consisted of standing next to a stitcher staring helplessly at a perfect, unopened pack of colourful threads, and intoning Open The Packet... Use The Thread.... And I've felt slightly similar with the gradient packs I've bought.

So this book is extraordinarily topical, and welcome.

There are eleven lovely projects; the one on the cover particularly attracts me; and this pair of long, long handwarmers is beautiful.  There are cowls, and hats, and scarves, wraps and shawls of different shapes, at least half a dozen of which I'd love to make.  In many cases there are two versions of the pattern made with different gradient sets, giving a completely different effect.

This is way more than a book of patterns, though; which is what I love about it.  There's a lot of excellent practical information which helps a knitter lose the slight apprehension which comes with something which looks so perfect in the packet you don't really want to take the skeins out of the bag.

There's advice (and a table! Love tables...) on which techniques might go best with which type of gradient, and on what to do when your gradient set has a different number of colours or different yardage to the ones in a given pattern.  And the fun idea of creating your own gradient sets out of leftovers, sometimes by doubling up the yarn to give the effect you want.

At the back, there's also information on joining those pesky mini-skeins, combining gradient packs for larger projects, and how to break up the sets in different ways.  And there's a short bibliography (which makes my librarian's heart glad...).

Full disclosure: I was sent the eBook version for this review. It's a book I would willingly buy, and think is excellent value both for the patterns and for the number of ideas and the inspiration Carol gives to the reader.

Carol's running a KnitALong for patterns from this book over on Ravelry; so now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to drool anew at my Sparkleduck gradient set, and ponder what to cast on...

Sunday, September 04, 2016

2016 books, #56-60

Port mortuary, by Patricia Cornwell. London: Sphere, 2010.

Sometimes I wonder why I keep reading Scarpetta novels.  This is one which is brilliant in some ways, and then intensely annoying in others.  Scarpetta's called back from Dover air force base, where she's been dealing with the bodies of US troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, to her own centre to deal with the mysterious case of an unknown man who continued to bleed after death... or was not dead when shut up in Scarpetta's mortuary's fridge.  And Scarpetta's husband Benton Wesley is, she suspects, working for the FBI again.  This is an entertaining and gripping read, even while you want to knock the heads of everyone involved together and tell them to get over themselves... I think the most irritating aspect of it is the invention of more back-story which has never been mentioned but is still an overwhelming consideration for Scarpetta...

Ordinary grace, by William Kent Krueger  New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013.

It's 1961 in Minnesota. Frank is 13, with a father who's a Methodist minister and a mother who thought she'd married a lawyer; a mother who directs music beautifully, and an older sister who plays the organ and is about to go to Juilliard; and a younger brother who stammers...  And then that summer a child with a learning disability is killed on the railway tracks; and everything explodes.

This is a beautiful book.  A heartbreakingly beautiful book.  Many books are compared to To Kill a Mockingbird, as this one is in the reviews; and in so many cases this is just rubbish.  This is more knowing in tone; but has an added degree of absolute clarity. There's a murder, but it's sort of incidental.  The writing is so clear, and luminous, and there are some utterly perfect passages here.

Read this book.  And if you have any influence, get this guy a UK book deal; I can't get a single one of his others from the library...

A particular eye for villainy, by Ann Granger [audiobook]. Read by Laurence Kennedy and Maggie Mash. Rearsby, Leics.: WF Howes, 2012.

Thomas Tapley, the neighbour of Scotland Yard Inspector Benjamin Ross, is found murdered with the traditional "blunt instrument" in his rooms. Lizzie Ross (née Martin) realises she saw him only hours earlier, being followed across Waterloo Bridge by a clown.  When Tapley's cousin, a QC appears, the plot thickens.  This is set in 1860s London, but Lizzie and Ben are unconventional enough as a couple to make it a fascinating read; and the geography is pretty good.  The readers are excellent.  I've no idea whether these books would be better read in order as I've come in in the middle of a series, but have ordered the first in the series from the library....

The corpse bridge, by Stephen Booth [audiobook]. Read by Mike Rogers. Oxford: Isis, 2014.

The Corpse Bridge is the route taken for centuries by mourners from local villagers to the burial ground across the river. When the local landowner announces plans to turn the burial ground into a car park, bodies start turning up along the traditional route...  Back at work after the awful death of his fiancée (I'm sorry, but you don't expect this to be spoiler-free, do you?), Cooper's also got to deal with Diane Fry, about to move, finally, to Nottingham, and still with her TV in the back of his car. The plot here really is secondary to the characters, although it's not bad; and there's a very surprising twist at the end.

The beautiful mystery, by Louise Penny [audiobook]. Read by Adam Sims. Oxford: Isis, 2012.

A body is found in the abbot's garden of a remote island monastery in Québec, a monastery nobody had known about until a recent recording of Gregorian chant had brought them to the outside world's attention.  One of the monks has been killed, presumably by someone else within the monastery. Gamache and Beauvoir travel over to the island and investigate, but bring their past history with them, and this is exacerbated with the arrival of a hated senior colleague.  Meanwhile tensions within the monastery also emerge.  This is very good, and ends on a real cliffhanger as far as the characters are concerned.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

2016 books, #51-55

My brilliant friend, by Elena Ferrante. Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein. New York: Europa, 2012.

Elena and Lila are growing up in a suburb of 1950s Naples, in a neighbourhood where violence is commonplace and the Camorra are always hovering in the background.  Lila is a wild, fierce child, forever in scrapes, but brilliantly intelligent. Elena, although also extremely academically talented, is in her shadow.  Elena is able to pursue her education past middle school; Lila leaves at 14 and joins her father's shoemaking business.  This is the first book of 4; and while it was enjoyable enough, and the atmosphere is conveyed well, my book group all agreed that we had a great deal of difficulty liking any of the characters all that much. The book is roughly chopped off without resolving the cliffhanger the author gives us at the beginning, leading to a slightly cheated feeling on the part of the reader...

The racer: life on the road as a pro cyclist, by David Millar. London: Yellow Jersey, 2015.

This is a wonderful book. Millar takes us through the last year of his career as a member of the pro péloton, with all its ups and downs. Mainly downs, to be honest, but he's never self-pitying.  On the way, he talks about early-in-the-year training (in a chapter called Welcome to the Suck which starts I fucking hate January), the Flanders classics, the Ardennes classics, Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico, the Dauphiné, the gutting experience of being dropped by his team four days before the start of what would have been his last Tour de France, the Commonwealth Games, the Vuelta and the World Championships, the last two of which he raced with two broken fingers.  It's a brilliantly entertaining, often scatological, corruscatingly honest account you can almost hear Millar reading to you.  On the front and back cover he explains that I want to write something else, a book that years from now my children will read and see what it was like, that their dad actually did all those years ago, the racer he was.  But not only that, I want my friends from this generation to have something that will remind us of who we were. There was more to it than doping. We lived on the road because we loved to race.  He succeeds on all counts. Chapeau.

Test of wills, by Charles Todd. Read by Samuel Gillies. Rearsby, Leics: WF Howes, 1999.

Ian Rutledge has returned to Scotland Yard after the First World War; accompanied by the constant voice in his head of Hamish, a man he had executed by firing squad for refusing to fight.  A malicious colleague sends Rutledge out into the shires to investigate the murder of a former officer who was found with his head blown off.  One of the main suspects is a shellshocked man, and Rutledge wonders who at the Yard has it in for him. Nevertheless, he investigates, and discovers a web of secrets, and some thoroughly unreliable witnesses. First in a series I'll be following up on.

My dining hell: twenty ways to have a lousy night out, by Jay Rayner. London: Penguin, 2012 (ebook), 2015 (print).

I think if I'd realised what a slim little volume this was (72 pp), I'd have bought the e-book, or forgone it altogether.  It's a compendium of 20 of Rayner's more disaffected reviews of bad restaurants, with a bit of an introduction. While I love Rayner's turn of phrase: The twist in 'Julian's Vegetable Lasagne' was that it didn't contain pasta. Instead, it was a dense block of finely mandolined root vegetables that tasted mostly of salt and pepper and effortless regret - I also respect him as an accomplished novelist and a very entertaining writer about food beyond the reviews.  I picked this up as an accompaniment to the Food commandments book he's just released, probably didn't read the blurb carefully enough, and so my disenchantment with this book might be my own fault.  I still don't quite understand why Penguin thought it important enough to publish in print edition though.  If anyone would like to read it, do drop me a line with some way to contact you, and I'll stick it in the post.

The soul of discretion, by Susan Hill. London: Vintage, 2015.

This is an excellent book. Don't get me wrong, it's back to form after a couple of slightly luke-warm books in this series.  Simon Serrailler is sent under cover to try to trap the leaders of a paedophile ring; while continuing to be a complete git to his girlfriend who's just moved in.  Meanwhile, his father's being accused of rape in the loos during a Rotary Club function.  The plot is tight; the relationships are as sharply observed as ever and the finale is absolutely gripping.  And then you go to the author's website, and find that although she's left at least three cliffhangers, she has no plan to write another Serrailler novel... and it all feels a bit futile.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

2016 books, #46-50

Missing you, by Harlan Coben [audiobook]. Read by Kerry Shale. Rearsby, Leics.: Clipper, 2014.

Detective Kat Donovan is signed up for an online dating site by her friend Stacey.  Out of curiosity, she logs in and finds the profile of her ex-fiancé, a man she hasn't seen for 18 years. But when Kat gets in touch, she realises all isn't as it seems.  And then the son of another woman hacks into the site, and enlists her help in trying to trace his mother... A classic Harlen Coben standalone, where nothing is as it seems; tightly plotted and terrifying on occasion, with a twist in the tail.

Faster: the obsession, science and luck behind the world's fastest cyclists, by Michael Hutchinson. London: Bloomsbury Sport, 2015.

I was a little bit dubious about this one, but I'd massively enjoyed Michael Hutchinson (or @Doctor_Hutch)'s previous book The Hour; this is all about the somewhat arcane discipline of the individual time-trial, and the physiology and psychology of speed.  It explains why Mark Cavendish is a completely different racer from Hutchinson, or from Froome; it explains that you can have a huge pair of lungs, but if you have the wrong kind of muscles, you can't take full advantage of it.  Hutchinson talks to people at the top of UK sport, as well as sports scientists, aerodynamics experts and dietitians to explore the notion of the world's fastest riders.  And he makes learning about DNA and wind-tunnels fascinating, and funny.

The hangman's song, by James Oswald. London: Penguin, 2014.

An Inspector McLean novel.  McLean's hated boss Duguid AKA Dagwood has seconded him to the Sexual Crimes unit, but he also answers his phone one night and ends up at a hanging.  When a second body is found in similar circumstances, McLean investigates much to Duguid's dismay.  And at the same time, McLean's domestic life is complicated by Emma Baird, newly out of a long coma and seemingly haunted by her experience.  Quite literally - one of the things I'm less keen on in these books is the presence of the supernatural; I keep reading them, but there is a lot of what the Americans would call "woo" in these books...

The redeemed, by M R Hall [audiobook]. Read by Sian Thomas. Bath: AudioGO, [n.d.].

Jenny Cooper's another with a complicated domestic life; she really can't decide whether to throw in her lot with Steve, and her son's now living with his father.  Among all this, she's dealing with an inquiest on Eva Donaldson, a former porn star, now Christian and seeking to eliminate pornography through a house church movement which is sponsoring a private members' bill on the subject.  Alongside this, there's also the case of  Alan Jacobs, a psychiatric nurse found in a graveyard with a cross carved into his chest and forensic evidence of very recent gay sex.  The cases seem very separate, but it's never that straightforward, and the politics around the bill leads to a great deal of pressure being put on Jenny by her masters in Whitehall.

Hillsborough: the truth, by Phil Scraton. 20th anniversary edition. Edinburgh: Mainstream, 2006.

Having recently seen the documentary based on this book, I didn't learn a huge amount more; this is such a dreadful example of misconduct and a total lack of sympathy for the bereaved families that it makes hard reading.  I've had a fascination for the tragedy because friends should have been at that end of the ground that day, but had a non-life-threatening car crash on the M1 coming up from London that morning.  One of the best things about this book is the sheer tenacity of the families who refused to be fobbed off and carried on fighting for a full exposition of what had happened.  It's a horror that it took 27 years.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

2016 books, #41-45

Gone to ground, by John Harvey [audiobook]. Read by Andrew Wincott. Rearsby, Leics.: WF Howes, 2007.

Stephen Bryan, a Cambridge academic, is found murdered in his bathroom. Initially suspicions fall on his partner, Mark, or on a random sexual encounter; but the loss of Bryan's laptop also makes the detectives wonder whether something in his research on 50s screen actress Stella Leonard might have something to do with it.  It may be that I listened to this in too many bouts, or it might be that Wincott's delivery was even more mannered than usual, but I couldn't find myself warming to this one, and the plot seemed strangely disjointed given the quality of Harvey's usual writing.

Lila, by Marilynne Robinson. London: Virago, 2014.

A companion piece to Home and Gilead, both of which my book group had read; but does also stand on its own, according to others who didn't belong to the group then.  I found this less satisfying than the previous two books, but still a tour de force of writing.  Lila is a compelling character, constantly poised for flight, and her strained relationship with her kind, elderly clergyman husband is at turns incredibly sad and rather wonderful.  The book roams freely across Lila's life in a sort of kaleidoscope, Highly recommended.

Waiting for Alaska, by John Green. London: HarperCollins, 2006.

2015's most challenged book, according to the American Library Association.  And as good as you'd expect, given that.  Miles is sent to high school at his dad's old boarding school, Culver Creek in Alabama, and meets his roommate Chip (The Colonel), friends Takumi and Lara, and the amazing, unpredictable Alaska Young.  There's smoking, and drinking, and teenage pranks; and a lot about religion and meaning; and something utterly dreadful happens in the middle I won't spoiler.  It's the kind of wonderful, lively, life-affirming book that some people can't resist trying to ban.

Death at Victoria Dock, by Kerry Greenwood. London: Constable, 2014 [originally published in 2002].

Phryne Fisher is blamelessly (for a change) driving through Victoria Dock when she's shot at, and a beautiful young man dies in her arms.  He turns out to be a Latvian, and a member of an anarchist group.  Phryne pitches in to investigate the murder, Meanwhile she's also hired by a man called Waddington-Forsythe to look for his daughter Alicia; Waddington-Forsythe père and fille are both deeply unpleasant individuals, so Phryne's thoughts often tend towards the anarchists.  This is another very pleasant romp.

The woman in blue, by Elly Griffiths. London: Quercus, 2016.

Ruth Galloway is invited to meet an old friend at Walsingham, where the friend is at a conference. Surprisingly, Ruth's fellow archaeology student is now a vicar, and she's been getting threatening letters. Meanwhile Nelson is also in Walsingham investigating the death of a young woman who had left a nearby drug treatment centre in the middle of the night and been strangled.  Relationships, always complicated in this series, become even more tangled in this one, and the very strange atmosphere of Walsingham contributes to this.  Well up to the usual standard of these books, and another unputdownable read.