August 29 2015
There’s a definite French feel to the reviews this week. Linda Wilson enjoys the Dordogne setting of Martin Walker’s The Dying Season, even if she does worry about the fate of Balzac the dog each time, and also grumbles about the obligatory love interest! Chris Roberts says that Bernard Minier throws everything but the kitchen sink at the action in A Song for the Drowned Souls which has the brooding backdrop of the Pyrenees. And he had another dark read in Pascal Garnier’s Boxes, where a man’s life falls apart after he moves to the country. Chris says it’s quality writing with moments of real humour.
Arnold Taylor has been savouring the reissues of Georges Simenon’s books. The mystery angle of The Saint-Fiacre Affair isn’t particularly convincing, he says – but adds that that’s not the point when you have a writer so talented in portraying people with all their hopes and disappointments. John Cleal, meanwhile, has been hanging around down the dark alleys of London and Calais in Bruce Holsinger’s The Invention of Fire which, he says, brings the 14th century to life.
Maddy Marsh ventures a bit further south to Barcelona for Antonio Hill’s The Good Suicides. She says it’s a beautifully-written book with real depth.
Hold on to your hats … John Cleal has got his one Scandi a year to review! And he found Mons Kallentoft’s The Fifth Season to be well-paced, but brutal. Noir he can cope with, but not pitch black! Ewa Sherman did better with Arne Dahl’s To the Top of the Mountain which, she says, is a thoughtful read that’s not to be rushed.
Sharon Wheeler met some unusual investigators this week. She was very struck by the cabal of strong female characters in YA writer Annie Dalton’s move into the adult market, The White Shepherd. And she also praised former submariner JS Law’s debut novel Tenacity, a claustrophobic and intense novel featuring a female Royal Navy special branch investigator.
Linda Wilson always seems to root for the bad boys, and is very fond of DI Josh Derwent in Jane Casey’s tense and complex After the Fire. And John Cleal ended up with a raft of bad boys in Mike Thomas’s Ugly Bus – and loved this realistic plunge into the sordid life of law enforcement, set in a Territorial Support Group van.
Across the pond, we have Craig Johnson’s The Cold Dish. Chris Roberts enjoyed the laconic dialogue. And Patrick Hoffman’s The White Van, set in the dodgier parts of San Francisco, is an understated, grim and edgy tale, says John Cleal.
For the YA fans among you, Linda Wilson says that Jonathan Stroud’s steampunky Lockwood and Co: The Screaming Staircase is fast-paced, stylish and fun. And she reckons Peter Jay Black’s Urban Outlaws is a very modern version of The Famous Five, with a group of intelligent, resourceful and loyal kids.
We’ve waved our arms to bring keen motorcyclist Deon Meyer to a halt for the Countdown slot this time. The South African author has eclectic taste in drinking companions and some unusual sights in his French holiday apartment.
We’ll be back in a fortnight with 16 new reviews and an interview with a top author (we are unfeasibly excited by the next victim, an old favourite of ours!) If you have time before then, nip over to see our friends at Reviewing the Evidence, who have reviews of US, Canadian and Aussie releases.
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Ten words to sum up your working life to date ...
Waiter, then just words, words, words: journalist, advertising, branding, novelist.
Nine things you can see from where you're sitting ...
(You’ve caught me on a working holiday in Bordeaux …)
1. The arches and roof, on the inside of a medieval cloister, converted to an apartment 600 years later.
2. Out the window: ‘Coiffure’, on the other side of the street. Marianne says she has never seen a city with so many places to do your hair.
3. Out the window: At least 20 very ugly bicycles locked in bunches on the pavement. (I am still trying to figure out why most city dwellers in Europe (especially in Amsterdam, Munich and Bordeaux) own and ride such ungainly machines.
4. Marianne is reclining on the couch across the room. I can see her very scraped knee. We took the tram to a huge sporting goods store today to buy two decent mountain bikes (because I can’t face another day of riding the ugly bikes for rent). We rode the bikes back – about five kilometres. And my beloved unsuccessfully tried to jump the pavement.
5. A fine bottle of Bordeaux red. The landlord left it as a gift. We want to take it home to brag to our friends.
6. My white thin Panama straw hat (medium brim) hanging by the door. I bought it in Rome for ‘a bargain’ last week, at one of those flea market stalls at the Piazza Navona. Probably made in China. It won’t last a month, but Marianne says it makes me look dashing. She has that mischievous smile when she says that.
7. My iPhone. How on earth did I travel without it? Apple and Google maps, apps for AirBnB, public transport, my calendar, email, camera …
8. Elena Ferrante’s novel The Story of a New Name lies on the coffee table. Marianne is reading it. She says it is brilliant. But nobody knows who Italian author Ferrante really is. Except for her publisher and editor, and they are not telling.
9. Two quite weird leather chairs, triangular and minimalistic. Strangely enough, they are quite comfortable.
Eight minutes to prepare a meal. What's it going to be ?
Omelette with biltong dust and camembert.