Some other book blogs

I thought it would be useful to list a couple of other book blogs which I read regularly, and which might be of interest to readers of this offering.

Quippe is as voracious a reader as I am. She is certainly much better at writing up reviews of what she reads. Covers a wide range of books, veering towards fantasy.

Corrigan doesn’t seem to read quite as much, but what he lacks in quantity he certainly makes up for in quality. A welcome addition to the list of Irish bloggers.

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Kissing cousins: Next of Kin by John Boyne (2006)

Set against a background of the abdication crises of 1936, with the plot deftly woven between real events, this erudite and entertaining historical thriller has a neat twist at the end.
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Shooting Lions & Tigers: Manly Pursuits by Ann Harries (1999)

This book had been sitting on Mt TBR for over two years before I finally got around to reading it the other week. It started off well, and I was enjoying it, but it seemed to run out steam a bit, or perhaps I did, and it took me far longer than I would have liked to finish it. It is well written, ludicrously funny in places, and yet it never really sparked for me.

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Birds of a feather: The Silver Swan by Benjamin Black aka John Banville (2007)

I was intrigued by the first novel in this new series by the pseudonymous Black, Christine Falls, which I reviewed last year. As I recall the thing that struck me most was the way the protagonist, Quirke lacked a first name – he still does. Is this literary pretentiousness on the part of Banville, or merely lack of imagination? Whichever, I find it’s beginning to grate. And get in the way of the story, which is always bad, especially when, as here, the story is actually pretty good. But then I know nothing about the working practices of pathologists in 1950s Ireland, and it may be total mince for all I know.

The story begins naturally, with a body. This time of an apparent suicide. Quirke is asked to do the autopsy by the body’s grieving husband; an old chum of Quirke’s that he hasn’t seen for years. Billy Hunt is desperate that his beloved’s body not be cut up, and Quirke agrees. But then he finds puncture wounds on the woman’s arm, and his curiosity gets the better of him. As in Christine Falls we have a picture of a society where inconvenient answers, indeed inconvenient questions are swept under the carpet, and the road to find the truth about the woman’s death is rocky indeed. Along the way, Banville creates a wonderfully evocative atmosphere that is so grim and claustrophobic that it makes you wonder how on earth Quirke is going to stay on the wagon until the end of the book.

I understand Banville is very dismissive of these two novels, claiming to have knocked them out in six weeks. Well good luck to him – I wish I could write that fast.

Stabbed through the heart: The Wounded Name by DK Broster (1922)

This is another of Broster’s adventure tales set during the French Revolution, similar to Mr Rowl, which I read 18 months ago. Like that book, it features two protagonists one of whom is a French royalist who displays a demeanour of noble suffering, which I have to say, is entirely self inflicted. It has a very slashy subtext, which I am beginning to realise is true of much of Broster’s work, although I’m sure this wasn’t intentional.

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Gossips Galore: Detection Unlimited by Georgette Heyer (1953)

Pretty much my first thoughts on finishing this novel were, what on earth has the title got to do with the book? It sounds like the name of a firm of private investigators, but the plot is another of Heyer’s village set mysteries, and the only investigators are the police.

Hated local bigwig Sampson Warrenby has gone and got himself murdered. Unfortunately for the police there is a rather large pool of suspects (just about everybody).

Once again we meet Inspector Hemingway, whom we previously met in Envious Casca. He also appears in Duplicate Death and No Wind of Blame which I have not yet read, but there is no attempt to round him out as a character in the way that, for example Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Alleyn is rounded out.

There is at least, a lot of detail in this novel – for a start there’s a map of the village, so we can properly visualise all the convoluted descriptions of where people said they were at the time of the murder and the routes they took to get there. I always use maps when writing anything complex, so I could appreciate this. The characterisation was also quite good – as noted above, everyone has a motive – it’s because everyone has something shady in their past. Everyone also has a theory as to who committed the murder, and none of the suspects is shy about informing the Inspector who they think did it. For him, the task is to filter out the noise and the misdirection from gossipy neighbours, including the killer and identify them.

As if that wasn’t enough two of the suspects decide to investigate, and end up falling in love in the process. But it’s still hopelessly clichéd, and definitely not the best of Heyer’s detective novels.

Baker’s Dozen: The Thirteenth Apostle by Michel Benoit (2007)

I read this book last year, but for some reason never posted the review I wrote at the time, but as we’re coming up for Easter it seemed appropriate to post it now. At first glance this appears to be yet another example of the Dan Brown bandwagon. I read these when I need some brain candy, but I don’t often review them because they don’t tend to be particularly well written, and reviewing bad books can be tedious. This is different: I’m not sure that it is even on the DBB; for a start it’s a translation. I suspect it’s more in the tradition of the likes of Arturo Perez-Reverte’s The Dumas Club Whatever its origins, it’s being marketed to the Dan Brown crowd, although I suspect they may be a bit nonplussed by it.
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