Last writes

21 10 2009

Last Rites by John Harvey

last rites

Getting towards the end of the Resnick series and they do just get better and better:

Lorraine Preston’s brother, Michael, was sent down for life for the murder of their father – and now he’s being allowed out for their mother’s funeral. A hardened criminal, Michael Preston is the last person Resnick wants back on his patch, even is it’s only for a matter of hours. Heartsore and world-weary, Resnick is struggling to contain an explosive situation on the streets, where the spread of guns has led to a frightening escalation in drug-related crime. The local force, meanwhile, is riven by internal rivalries and rumours of corruption. With his previously stable relationship with Hannah Campbell wavering, Resnick is forced back on his self-belief, his understanding of people. Why – himself included – they do the things they do.

Really don’t want them to end.

4 star

Who let the dogs out?

16 10 2009

The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell

dogs riga

Second in the Wallander series – and some exceptional challenges for Kurt:

Sweden, winter, 1991. Inspector Kurt Wallander and his team receive an anonymous tip-off. A few days later a life raft is washed up on a beach. In it are two men, dressed in expensive suits, shot dead. The dead men were criminals, victims of what seems to have been a gangland hit. But what appears to be an open-and-shut case soon takes on a far more sinister aspect. Wallander travels across the Baltic Sea, to Riga in Latvia, where he is plunged into a frozen, alien world of police surveillance, scarcely veiled threats, and lies. Doomed always to be one step behind the shadowy figures he pursues, only Wallander’s obstinate desire to see that justice is done brings the truth to light.

It is rollercoaster stuff and the Lativan escapade is particularly exciting. Also serves as a reminder of what already seems like a different age.

3 star

Mazy business

13 10 2009

The Maze by Panos Karnezis


A really well written (and translated) novel following the mazy journey of a lost Greek brigade towards the coast and salvation:

Set in Anatolia in 1922, a Greek expedition, lost in the desert, bickers among itself and blunders forwards toward the coast. Brigadier Nestor is as addicted to morphia as he is to Greek myths; Father Simeon is as disappointed in himself as he is passionately sincere in his religion; and the Bolshevik Major Porfirio, who has failed in his attempt to win any men to his cause, save for his colonel, are each wonderful creations.

Lying in the recent memory of all these men is a massacre of Turkish civilians carried out by the brigade, which weighs on them heavily. Coming across a town the brigade settles in for a few days. Here Nestor can investigate fully the recent thefts that have plagued him and try to work out who is behind the communist propaganda circulating the camp. As readers we are given the opportunity to meet, among others, Mr Othon, the schoolmaster, the foolish Mayor and his fiancĂ©, the town’s beautiful and exotic prostitute Madame Violetta, her maid Annina and her lover Yusuf the gardener.

Really excellent characterisation here, particularly the Brigadier, his chief of staff and the Padre, but having set the scene extremely well in the first two thirds of the book the later sections feel somewhat underdeveloped and rushed. Bit of a missed opportunity perhaps but nevertheless a good read.

3 star

Times is Hard

10 10 2009

GradgrindapprehendshischildrenHard Times by Charles Dickens

Seems a bit churlish to be at all critical of such a classic but there is something ever so slightly unsatisfactory about the ending and the moralistic dimension of the novel. Having said that, there is much to be enjoyed, including a number of the central characters, especially Gradgrind, Bounderby and Sissy.

Slightly ashamed to recall writing an essay on Hard Times at university without ever having read the book (until now). Got a good mark for it too.

four stars

Thrilling stuff

6 10 2009

The girl with the dragon tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her uncle is convinced it was murder – and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family.

dragon tattoo

He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the tattooed, truculent computer hacker Lisbeth Salander to investigate. When the pair link Harriet’s disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vangers are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves.

This really is an excellent yarn, an exciting and compelling thriller. Seems also to have sold squillions of copies worldwide and is one of those books always recommended on Amazon, no matter which other books you are interested in. Was genuinely surprised how much I enjoyed it. The back story about the author is also intriguing:

Stieg Larsson was the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine Expo. He was a leading expert on anti-democratic, right-wing extremist organisations. He died in 2004, soon after delivering the text of the novels that make up the Millennium Trilogy.

Looking forward to reading the next one. And no doubt the movie is already in production…

four stars

Songs recalled from the Potterrow jukebox, circa 1985-86

5 10 2009

Songs recalled from the Potterrow jukebox, circa 1985-86

Rise – Public Image Ltd.
Where Do You Go To My Lovely – Peter Sarstedt
Kiss Me – Sthounds of loveephen Duffy
Running up That Hill (A Deal With God) – Kate Bush
Daydream Believer – The Monkees
Road To Nowhere – Talking Heads
Close (To The Edit) – The Art Of Noise
The Power Of Love – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
Brothers In Arms – Dire Straits
Sex Crime (1984) – Eurythmics
You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) – Dead Or Alive
Since Yesterday – Strawberry Switchblade
A New England – Kirsty MacColl
Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Simple Minds
Slave to the Rhythm – Grace Jones
A Good Heart – Feargal Sharkey
See The Day – Dee C. Lee
West End Girls – Pet Shop Boys
Smalltown Boy – Bronski Beat
Eloise – The Damned
I Don’t Want to Be Friends With You – Shop Assistants

Museum piece

2 10 2009

Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson


From the back cover:

Ruby Lennox was conceived grudgingly by Bunty and born while her father, George, was in the Dog and Hare in Doncaster telling a woman in an emerald dress and a D-cup that he wasn’t married. Bunty had never wanted to marry George, but here she was, stuck in a flat above the pet shop in an ancient street beneath York Minster, with sensible and sardonic Patrica aged five, greedy cross-patch Gillian who refused to be ignored, and Ruby…Ruby tells the story of The Family, from the day at the end of the nineteenth century when a travelling French photographer catches frail beautiful Alice and her children, like flowers in amber, to the startling, witty, and memorable events of Ruby’s own life.

Rapturously received first novel this and one that I did enjoy but perhaps not quite as much as I had hoped. Whilst there are many entertaining and compelling characters in the family cast the episodic and slightly uneven and disjointed nature of the tales as they jump across the generations made matters (and the family tree) rather difficult to follow at times. Still, very well written and a pleasure to read although subsequent novels are stronger I think.

3 star

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