Saturday, October 29, 2011

Possibly foolish...

... but I've signed up for NaBloPoMo again, posting daily in November. I think it'll cheer me up on the long dark nights, and might finally get me posting some of the things I've knitted this year!! I'll hope to do some more of the alphabetical posts, and dig out some of the photos I've taken and not blogged anywhere... wish me luck.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

2011 books, #101-105

Good omens: the nice and accurate prophecies of Agnes Nutter, witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman [audiobook]. Read by Stephen Briggs. Oxford: Isis, [n.d.].

I had forgotten quite how good this was - both the Pratchett/Gaiman team and Briggs's reading. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse meet William and the Outlaws (or Adam and The Them, in this case), with the attendant presence of angels and demons; and it's hilarious. There are some elements I'd imagine are pure Gaiman - such as the notion that every tape left in a vehicle for long enough eventually morphs into Queen's Greatest Hits - and others which are pure Pratchett - but they blend perfectly. I hadn't read any Gaiman last time I listened to this, and it's much more fun having done so.

The Oyster House siege, by Jay Rayner. London: Atlantic, 2007.

Brilliant. A pair of gunmen fleeing from a failed raid on a jewellery shop end up in the kitchen of a Jermyn Street restaurant on Election Night, 1983, and a hostage situation is on. Some of the events are genuinely terrifying, and some extremely funny. The importance of food is never undervalued, and forms an extremely important part of the plot. This is genuinely unputdownable and I'll be looking for anything else Rayner's written because he really can tell a story, and he captures the attitudes and politics of the early 80s in a very perceptive way.

Want to play? by PJ Tracy. London: Penguin, 2004.

Someone is killing people in Minneapolis and the surrounding areas, but the second murder is so bizarre that Grace McBride and her Monkeewrench game-designing team realise that someone playing their test system must be recreating a version of their serial-killer-detection game. They go to the police (and the team of Gino and Magozzi), and another game begins - are they helping the police, or are they suspects?

I started reading this a couple of years ago, I see - and I had a bookmark at page 150 or so and couldn't remember anything about the book. I started again from the beginning, having read Snow Blind (review from the last couple of book posts), and found it completely riveting; I started the next one in the series immediately. The relationships between characters are brilliant, and there are some genuinely moving moments - not something you generally expect from a serial-killer thriller...

The reversal, by Michael Connolly [audiobook]. Read by John Chancer. Bath: AudioGO, 2011.

Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch get together, which is always a good thing. While Chancer isn't quite as good a reader as Jeff Harding, he's still pretty impressive, and this is a tremendous courtroom drama with a lot of compassion and some very interesting twists and turns.

Live bait, by PJ Tracy. London: Penguin, 2005.

Someone in Minneapolis is killing old people; and as facts emerge, the nature of the murders becomes more confusing and more tied up with the past. Gino and Magozzi again investigate; and the relationships they've developed with the Monkeewrench crew from the first book are carried on in this book. For the mother-and-daughter team behind PJ Tracy, relationships are important, and it's very seldom you end up in tears repeatedly during what's essentially a serial-killer novel. I'm really hoping I can get hold of the next in this series soon.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

2011 books, #96-100

Missing, by Karin Alvtegen. Kindle edition.

Again, I'm going with blurb from the author website here...
Sibylla Forsenström doesn’t exist. For fifteen years, she has been excluded from society. As one of the homeless in Stockholm, she takes each day as it comes and has all her possessions in her rucksack. To find food for the day and somewhere to sleep for the night demands all her time and effort. But it does not help her in keeping the thoughts away from the past – from the questions about why her life has turned out the way it did. Then a catastrophe happens. One night, she is in the wrong place at the wrong time. A man is brutally murdered and too many circumstances lead to Sibylla as being the murderer. For fifteen years nobody has asked for her, but suddenly she is the most wanted person in Sweden. She knows how to survive, but now she has to flee…

I really enjoyed this, although there was a tiny bit of anti-climax at the end. Sibylla and Patrik are both very sympathetic, compelling characters, and there are some heartbreaking incidents here. It's a novel about survival, and about whether you compromise with the world to ensure your own safety; and to a large extent, the thriller plot is just about secondary although it's also well worked out. (And without wanting to introduce spoilers, although this book was written in 1999, it was translated at about the same time as many other authors were jumping on the same plot bandwagon, so it would have been much more difficult to guess what was going on if you were reading it in the original Swedish when first published!)

The fifth witness, by Michael Connolly. London: Orion, 2011.

A Mickey Haller novel - a woman whose house foreclosure Haller's firm was dealing with is accused of murdering the chief executive of her bank. The client, Lisa Trammel, is her own worst enemy, but the evidence seems to be circumstantial and the police appear to have cut corners with their investigation. There's more time than usual spent in the courtroom and the cross-examinations are fascinating; well up to the usual standard.

Flesh and bone, by Jefferson Bass. London: Quercus, 2008.

Another very good Body Farm thriller. (Not to be confused with the recent TV crime drama - I thought I'd have a look on iPlayer as it'd normally be the sort of thing I'd like - I lasted about 5 minutes!) A bizarrely dressed body is hung up in a tree in the experimental site to determine cause of death, and shortly afterwards it is joined by the body of the visiting medical examiner, one of protagonist Bill Brockton's closest friends. Brockton is suspected of the murder and the evidence seems compelling. Well-plotted and with an excellent ending.

The spire, by William Golding. London: Faber, 2005. Originally published in 1964.

A book club book, and one which inspired the best discussion we've had for a long time. Dean Jocelin is told by a vision to build a spire on his great cathedral; the builders insist that the foundations won't take the strain, and the congregation is forced to move out as building works continue. How much of Jocelin's vision is due to madness or physical illness is always in doubt, and there are some fascinating contrasts between faith and science in the medieval era, with a large dollop of sexual jealousy dropped into the mixture.

Relentless, by Simon Kernick. London: Corgi, 2007.

The title's pretty apt - a fast-paced thriller set over 24 hours. Tom Meron is enjoying a Satuday afternoon at home with his kids when the phone rings - it's a friend he hasn't heard from for 4 years, who is obviously terrified and being attacked, and the only information he hears is the first two lines of his own address. Tom packs the children into the car and takes them to grandma's and goes to search for his wife at the university, and his life begins unravelling from there. This story really doesn't let up, and one twist after another means that Tom gradually realises nothing in his life so far has been as it seemed. This would make an absolutely terrific film.