Bodies brought up

15 09 2012

Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel

By 1535 Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s son, is far from his humble origins. Chief Minister to Henry VIII, his fortunes have risen with those of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife. But Anne has failed to bear a son to secure the Tudor line. At Wolf Hall, Cromwell watches Henry fall in love with plain Jane Seymour. The minister sees what is at stake: not just the king’s pleasure, but the safety of the nation. As he eases a way through the sexual politics of the court, he must negotiate a ‘truth’ that will satisfy Henry and secure his own career. But neither minister nor king will emerge undamaged from the bloody theatre of Anne’s final days.

In Bring up the Bodies, sequel to the Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel explores one of the most mystifying and frightening episodes in English history: the destruction of Anne Boleyn.

Terrific sequel to Wolf Hall this. Cromwell is a fascinating character and his interactions with Henry, the politics around the king and just the sheer madness of the goings on in court as the Boleyn period comes to its messy conclusion make for a fantastic yarn. Mantel’s writing is first rate and the story really rolls along to its inevitable bloody conclusion.

Looking forward to the next one already.

A back to school tale

1 09 2012

A Tale Etched in Blood and Hard Black Pencil by Christopher Brookmyre

We could tell you about the bodies. We could tell you their names, where they were found, the state they were in. We could tell you about the suspects too, the evidence, the investigators; join a few dots, even throw you a motive. But what would be the point? You’re going to make your own assumptions anyway. After all, you know these people, don’t you? You went to school with them. We all did. Granted, that was twenty years ago, but how much does anybody really change? Exactly. So if you really knew them then, you’ll already have all the answers. If you really knew them then Put on your uniform and line up in an orderly fashion for the funniest and most accurate trip back to the classroom you are likely to read, as well as a murder mystery like nothing that has gone before it. Forget the forensics: only once you’ve been through school with this painfully believable cast of characters will you be equipped to work out what really happened decades later. Even then, you’ll probably guess wrong and be made to stand in the corner.

I really quite enjoyed this one. Split between West of Scotland school days in the 70s and 80s and some more contemporary criminal investigations it manages to convey perfectly many of the primary and secondary experiences I recall (albeit in a non-denominational East coast high school) and then bring the relationships bang up to date. Full marks for the school years but the here and now seems, unfortunately, a bit weaker and not quite up to normal Brookmyre standards. Still a good yarn though and well worth a go.

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