Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton



Such an unusual novel: it reads rather like a single case study in social psychology or a fly on the wall television documentary, which sees a couple through stages in their relationship with a running commentary to consider what is going on at deeper levels.  It is wry, wise, funny and tender but also oddly objective and interpretative.  It is easy to forget that it is a novel.  It makes for interesting and entertaining reading.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Missing Hours by Emma Kavanagh



The Missing Hours by Emma Kavanagh
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is just brilliant, beautifully written with intricate plot and very real characters. I am in awe of Emma Kavanagh's skill. The detectives are fully fleshed human beings, the conflicts between the job and their home lives being understandably and sympathetically described. The investigation of a missing mother turns into a complex case which turns as often as a mountain road and defies all guessing. A deliciously compelling read.



Hitman Anders and the meaning of it all by Jonas Jonasson

iHitman Anders and the Meaning of It All

A thoroughly charming, engaging, and genre-bending novel which mixes crime thriller with romance, comedy and a bit of light-hearted philosophy to result in a jolly good read.  The main characters are the recidivist Hitman Anders, a priest and a receptionist, and a cast of hoodlums and ne'er do wells.  Serving the masses and survival are the aims, as well as seeking the meaning of it all.  A mirthful Scandi noir and a truly enjoyable book.

If you liked Jonas Jonasson's previous books (The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden) you will be reassured to know that this story is as bonkers as those - all part of the charm. It made me think about morality, and it made me laugh out loud. 

Thursday, April 07, 2016

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick


A truly charming tale of Arthur Pepper, who is numbed and shocked after the death of Miriam, his wife and the love of his life. A strict routine gives him the structure to go on, but it is a joyless existence.  A surprising find sets him on a journey which will allow him to make further discoveries and discover that his life is not over, that there is life after loss.  The plot is clever and this story is well told: a delight to read.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

From Here to Home by Marie Bostwick


This story makes for satisfying reading.  The main characters are  strong and resourceful women and some unusual menfolk, and it is set mainly in the little town of Too Much, Texas, where there are lessons to be learned about the importance of doing what you love.  Horses and making patchwork quilts are central to this tale, as are family and romance.  It's  a really enjoyable book.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

The Girl In The Ice by Robert Bryndza

Such a thrilling thriller: tautly plotted, peopled by well-drawn and convincing characters, with suspense and suprises aplenty.  DCI Erica Foster may be on her first outing with Robert Bryndza, but she comes with a strong and tragic back story as well as a fine investigative instinct and good leadership skills.  Newly arrived in London, she hits the ground running when required to head up a politically sensitive murder enquiry.  The situation escalates and she faces incredible challenges from outside influences and interference, as well as personal danger.  As the cover says, it's a serial killer thriller, blessed with pace and fine writing.  I am so glad there is not long to wait before Erica is back in the incident room on a new case, she's a great character.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air

An extraordinary piece of writing, this book.: intensely moving, deeply thoughtful, intelligent and personal.  Paul Kalanithi was clearly a brilliant human and had a stupendous career ahead of him as a neuroscientist and surgeon. Iit is tragic that his family and the world were robbed of him so prematurely due to his diagnosis of late stage lung cancer.  He had to jump the fence from being a medic to being a patient, and to adjust his goals and ambitions accordingly. He explores what makes life living, and we can all learn so much from his journey.  His wife, Lucy, was his brave companion through his last journey and worked to complete hus book.  It is a masterpiece and a fine tribute to him..  Everyone should read it.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart


Scribe UK have kindly offered me the opportunity to read an advance copy of "Girl Waits With Gun," by Amy Stewart, and to participate in the Official Blog Tour which celebrates its publication. 

Based on real characters and events, the story is a really exciting read.  Constance Kopp, together with her sisters Norma and Fleurette, struggle to eke a living on a farmstead outside the silk manufacturing town of Paterson in New Jersey, USA.  They ride their buggy, powered by Dolley the horse, into town to buy mustard powder and a replacement claw hammer, when their vehicle is mown down and virtually demolished by a new-fangled black automobile, driven by one Henry Kaufman, son of one of the silk company families.  As this buggy is the family's sole means of transport, Constance feels well within her rights to seek recompense to make good the damage.  Little does she realise the chain of events which will be unleashed when she visits Kaufman's Silk Dyeing Works, with an invoice for £50 in respect of repairs to the buggy.

Want a taste of it?  Here's an authorised extract, which describes what she finds:-

"Behind an enormous oak desk sat Henry Kaufman in yet another elegant suit, his hair slicked back the way men wore it if they were going out for the evening. But with that round, soft face, he looked more like a child trying to dress like his father. He couldn’t have been much younger than me — thirty, perhaps—but he had the pampered manner of a boy who had been too long at boarding school. He would’ve seemed entirely harmless if there hadn’t been a cold distance in his eyes and an angry set to his mouth. Here in this factory, he seemed like a man who didn’t want what he had, but also didn’t have exactly what he wanted.

And in leather chairs all around the room were his friends, his unsavory, no-good friends. There was the droopy-eyed man with the wooden leg, slumped over in a brown suit that was two sizes too big for him, and a beefy character with arms like stovepipes and the broadest set of chins I’d ever seen. The rest were lean and angular types who each seemed to have lost something in a fight: one lacked a third finger on his left hand, one was missing a patch of hair above his ear, and another wore a milky glass eye. They all held cards in their hands, and a bottle of whiskey sat on the table between them.

I wanted out of that room.

“Oh, you’re the one,” Henry Kaufman said. “She came in here talking about a girl wanting money and I told her it could have been half of New Jersey.”

The other men snickered and drew on their cigarettes.

I stood a little straighter and looked down at him with what I hoped was a calm and dignified air. “Then you remember me. I am Constance Kopp, and —”

“And these are your sisters,” he sneered. “Or haven’t you brought them along? Who is the youngest one? Fleurette?”

I felt a little sick when he said her name.


“We haven’t had a reply to our letters,” I said, “so I’ve brought you another one. You owe us fifty dollars for the damages to our buggy, and I will take payment now.”  "


Constance is an unusual woman, being nearly six feet in height, and of an independant disposition.  She is feisty and has a strong sense of what is right.  In some respects, she reminds me of Philip Pullman's wonderful heroine, Sally Lockhart (Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North and so on), a strong woman living when women were supposed to be weak and dependent on men, a very modern woman who would be much more comfortable living in the world of today.  As it is, she is more than ready to accept the social changes slowly developing in her lifetime, a woman who wants to work rather than to disappear into domesticity.  She and her sisters are beautifully drawn characters and in the course of the pages of this novel, I grew very fond of them: women of character, resourcefulness and humour, stubborn and steadfast in their refusal to give way to bullying and threats to their safety.  

Luckily, the law (and its agent) is on their side, and Sheriff (Bob) Robert N. Heath does his best to protect the Kopp girls despite constant constraints to his budget (also so very contemporary).  I believe he would be Constance's love interest, were there no impediment, but he is certainly a reliably good friend to them.

Amy Stewart is a wonderful writer who can bring history to life and thrill the reader with suspense and danger, tell a mighty fine story and create characters who really come alive on the pages and in our minds.

Amy Stewart photographed by Terrence McNally
A visit to her website reveals that Girl Waits With Gun is the first in a series of novels, which is a great relief:  I am not ready to say goodbye to her lovely girls yet.

Do give yourself a treat and read this extremely entertaining work, which is published on 10th March 2016.

The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon


A most enjoyable sojourn exploring the convolutions of Venetian calles, bureaucracy and crime in the company of the  cultured, well-connected and clever detective, Commissario Guido Brunetti and his colleagues.

The first mystery presents itself indirectly and historically, in that it happened fifteen years previously with tragic conseqences.  I don't wish to give any spoilers away, so I will just say that, once again a lot of brilliant and patient untangling goes on, and there is potentially a happy ending.  This book is almost as good as a trip to La Serenissima herself, a joy to read and a most agreeable return to Donna Leon's Venice.