Playing with angels

26 10 2010

The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man – David Martin – makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books, and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city’s underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner. Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Then David receives the offer of a lifetime: he is to write a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realises that there is a connection between this haunting book and the shadows that surround his home…

Excellent read. Very reminiscent of Shadows of the Wind but no worse for that. Really compelling and gripping throughout.

Bit of a drain

19 10 2010

The Draining Lake by Arnuldar Indridatson

From the 2007 Times review of the book:

In the 1960s, at the height of the cold war, someone killed a man and threw his body into the lake, where it lay undisturbed for almost four decades. Now the water level has fallen, exposing a skeleton weighed down by a radio transmitter made in the Soviet Union.

When the bones, half-buried in sand, are found by a hydrologist, she calls the police and triggers an investigation that leads back to a long-gone era of amateurish espionage and fake trade delegations. The way the body was disposed of suggests a cold-blooded execution, which is not the kind of crime Indridason’s detectives are used to investigating. “We’re Icelanders,” one of them protests. “The last execution in this country was done with an axe almost 200 years ago.”

Very good. I do enjoy these stories and the setting and the characters are extremely well drawn. Not high art but a really good yarn.


5 10 2010

Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

Remember Le Chiffre, Sir Hugo Drax, Rosa Klebb, Dr No? Now meet James Bond’s seventh adversary, the man who has planned the ‘Crime de la Crime’ – Goldfinger!

Good fun Bond stuff this and surprised to see how faithful the movie was to the original. The novel Bond is a rather less attractive and much colder figure than the screen representations of him. But the story is a pretty gripping yarn with the exception of the game of golf between Bond and Goldfinger (during which the latter cheats frequently and is only beaten by better cheating by Bond and his caddie) where every single hole, all 18 of them, is detailed. Really extremely dull passage.

The most bizarre element though is the representation of Pussy Galore as a rough and tough lesbian gangster (a bit different from the film) who, and sorry to spoil this for anyone reading the book in future, is converted to heterosexuality by the sheer manliness of our hero. Hilarious.

Leaving aside these two elements, it’s still worth a read though.

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