Human Racing

18 06 2017

The Humans by Matt Haig

 

After an ‘incident’ one wet Friday night where Professor Andrew Martin is found walking naked through the streets of Cambridge, he is not feeling quite himself. Food sickens him. Clothes confound him. Even his loving wife and teenage son are repulsive to him. He feels lost amongst a crazy alien species and hates everyone on the planet. Everyone, that is, except Newton, and he’s a dog.

What could possibly make someone change their mind about the human race. . . ?

A really clever, inventive and witty tale told from the perspective of an alien sent to earth to carry out a very particular task. An easy and entertaining read which nevertheless manages to cover some of the big issues about what it really means to be human.

 

 

 





Selling out fast

10 06 2017

The Sellout by Paul Beatty

 

 

A biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game.

Born in Dickens on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, the narrator of The Sellout spent his childhood as the subject in his father’s racially charged psychological studies. He is told that his father’s work will lead to a memoir that will solve their financial woes. But when his father is killed in a drive-by shooting, he discovers there never was a memoir. All that’s left is a bill for a drive-through funeral.

What’s more, Dickens has literally been wiped off the map to save California from further embarrassment. Fuelled by despair, the narrator sets out to right this wrong with the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.

An unusual Booker winner perhaps. It’s funny, brutal and pretty shocking at times. Reminiscent of Joseph Heller it is genuinely dark and challenging satire which takes on the big current and historical issues of racism in the USA in the most extraordinary way.

 

four stars





Magnetic field

20 05 2017

The Field of the Cloth of Gold by Magnus Mills

 

‘The field looks completely wrong now,’ she announced, one blustery afternoon. ‘It’s all gone out of balance’

The Great Field lies in the bend of a broad, meandering river. Bounded on three sides by water, on the fourth side it dwindles gradually into wilderness. A handful of tents are scattered far and wide across its immensity. Their flags flutter in the warm breeze, rich with the promise of halcyon days.

But more and more people are setting up camp in the lush pastures and with each new arrival life becomes a little more complicated. And when a large and disciplined group arrive from across the river emotions run so high that even a surplus of milk pudding can’t soothe ruffled feathers. Change is coming; change that threatens the delicate balance of power in the Great Field.

 

Strange, surreal, dark and deadpan, this is absolutely pitch perfect and a classic Magnus Mills work. It might be allegorical but then again it might not be. Peculiarly outstanding in many strange parts.

four stars





Golden years

13 05 2017

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford

 

One rainy evening in November, a handsome young stranger fresh off the boat pitches up at a counting-house door in Golden Hill Street: this is Mr Smith, amiable, charming, yet strangely determined to keep suspicion simmering. For in his pocket, he has what seems to be an order for a thousand pounds, a huge amount, and he won’t explain why, or where he comes from, or what he can be planning to do in the colonies that requires so much money.

Should the New York merchants trust him? Should they risk their credit and refuse to pay? Should they befriend him, seduce him, arrest him; maybe even kill him?

Set a generation before the American Revolution, it paints an irresistible picture of a New York provokingly different from its later self: but subtly shadowed by the great city to come, and already entirely a place where a young man with a fast tongue can invent himself afresh, fall in love – and find a world of trouble.

Hugely impressive debut this. Set in mid-18th century New York it is full of rich period detail and lots of plot twists and turns. A real rollercoaster ride which remains compelling right to the very end. Recommended.

 

four stars





Lost in the snow

6 05 2017

Strange Shores by  Arnaldur Indridason

 

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A missing woman. A missing boy. Detective Erlendur returns – for the last time 

A young woman walks into the frozen fjords of Iceland, never to be seen again. But Matthildur leaves in her wake rumours of lies, betrayal and revenge.

Decades later, somewhere in the same wilderness, Detective Erlendur is on the hunt. He is looking for Matthildur but also for a long-lost brother, whose disappearance in a snow-storm when they were children has coloured his entire life. He is looking for answers.

Slowly, the past begins to surrender its secrets. But as Erlendur uncovers a story about the limits of human endurance, he realises that many people would prefer their crimes to stay buried.

 

Quite a powerful tale this, the final outing for Erlendur, the complex Icelandic detective, who is probing and digging to get to the truth of a mystery from many years ago. At the same time though he is struggling with his own history and guilt about his childhood. Overall it’s a measured, well-paced, subtle and very evocative story. A fitting end to a really good series.

 





White smoke time

22 04 2017

Conclave by Robert Harris

 

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The Pope is dead.

Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election.

They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals.

Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.

It’s perhaps a surprising topic for a thriller but works extremely well. The insider accounts Harris has managed to source really do ensure this has a really credible setting.

Overall, it’s another cracking effort from an author who has a number of outstanding novels to his name. And there is a really very good twist at the end.

four stars





Blackening the Widow

15 04 2017

Black Widow by Christopher Brookmyre

 

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Did she do it? Did he deserve it?

Diana Jager is clever, strong and successful, a skilled surgeon and fierce campaigner via her blog about sexism. Yet it takes only hours for her life to crumble when her personal details are released on the internet as revenge for her writing.

Then she meets Peter. He’s kind, generous, and knows nothing about her past: the second chance she’s been waiting for.

Within six months, they are married. Within six more, Peter is dead in a road accident, a nightmare end to their fairytale romance.

But Peter’s sister Lucy doesn’t believe in fairytales, and tasks maverick reporter Jack Parlabane with discovering the dark truth behind the woman the media is calling Black Widow…

A classic Brookmyre with plenty of fun and games for everyone’s favourite investigative hack, Jack Parlabane. Entertaining to the end.

four stars








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