The Pelican Brief

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Read 20/07/2017-22/07/2017

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Road Trip Challenge.

Every so often, because a lot of what I read can be classed as literary fiction and requires concentration, since it often draws on a wider literary context, I need to read what I think of as easy reading. Quite often, this takes the form of crime novels or thrillers, occasionally family sagas. Popular rather than literary fiction, the type of book you can pick up in a WHSmith shop at a train station or airport. I love this sort of fiction because it employs different skills. The author has to be able to hook the reader in quickly and maintain pace and human interest throughout the story.

The Pelican Brief is one of those books. Continue reading

The Dove’s Necklace

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Read 01/06/2017-18/06/2017

Rating: 4 stars

I don’t think I once fully understood what was going on in The Dove’s Necklace, but I can’t say I didn’t have fair warning. The opening sentence of the first part of the book begins:

The only thing you can know for certain in this entire book is where the body was found …

The body, that of a naked woman, is discovered in an alley known as the Lane of Many Heads. It’s the alley itself that narrates the story, introducing the main characters and commenting on their lives. Continue reading

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All

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Read 14/05/2017-17/05/2017

Rating: 2 stars

I’ve read both of Jonas Jonasson’s previous books. I really enjoyed The Hundred Year Old Man. I thought it was an inventive piece of fiction that had some nice moments of comedy and an affectionate warmth running through it. The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden was less successful in its attempts to be inventive, but I found it entertaining enough. While it shared its satirical bent, I thought it lacked the warmth of The Hundred Year Old Man.

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All didn’t completely do it for me, either. Continue reading

Three Craws

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Read 21/04/2017-23/04/2017

Rating: 4 stars

This was a minor risk. I won Three Craws at a book quiz. I think it was a consolation prize, because we never came first in all the times we went. So, it was free, which is something. I chose it because I knew of James Yorkston. He’s a musician. I’ve been aware of him from his Fence Collective days, but never really paid that much attention to his music. I was interested to see, though, whether a musician could translate the stories he tells through song into a story told through prose. Continue reading

SS-GB

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Read 26/02/2017-02/03/2017

Rating: 3 stars

The BBC is showing an adaptation of Len Deighton’s alternative history espionage novel SS-GB. We’re two episodes in, and I’m enjoying it. The storyline seems a bit opaque at times, though.

I decided to buy the book this weekend. I had a book token from Christmas and it was in a half price deal at Waterstone’s. My mum liked Len Deighton’s books, too.

By about a quarter of the way through it became obvious that, for dramatic tension as well as condensing 377 pages of story, the TV adaptation has moved the action around a bit and dropped some of the detail that would help make sense of the story. In the novel, the reasons behind certain things that weren’t yet fully clear, and confusingly so, two episodes into the TV adaptation are more apparent earlier on.

I was hooked into the book pretty quickly. It’s the first Deighton novel I’ve read and I like his writing. He’s very crisp, with an eye for detail that is subtle but pleasing. Exposition is dropped casually into conversation or included as background narrative. The premise is an intriguing one, and I enjoyed reading Deighton’s introduction to the book that explains how he came to choose it. Making a police officer the main protagonist means the story is cleverly framed as a traditional murder mystery, but gives Deighton the scope to also bring in speculation about an alternative outcome to the Second World War and to have an espionage subplot running through the book as well. Continue reading

How Late It Was, How Late

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Read 20/02/2017-26/02/2017

Rating: 4 stars

I decided to buy this after Weezelle mentioned it in her review of Walking The Lights. I put it onto my TBR selection for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge, and this week it came up.

I loved it from the first page. My brother in law is from just outside Glasgow. He’s not as broad as Sammy, the main character in Kelman’s cautionary tale of life on the blag in Glasgow, but the rhythms of his speech are similar, so I felt at home with the narrative style. The book is a single chapter, a stream of consciousness chronicling of Sammy’s fall one weekend from being a regular petty criminal to becoming a blind petty criminal. Continue reading

The Glorious Heresies

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Read 05/01/2017-08/01/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Lisa McInerney won the Bailey’s Prize last year with this, her debut novel. I liked the reviews I read on other bookish blogs, so it went high up on my to read list.

It had a slow start. It felt a little so-so, a little studied at first. I didn’t much care for Ryan and his girlfriend Karine, or Jimmy and his mum Maureen, or Ryan’s dad Tony, when they were first introduced.

Georgie, though, was another matter. Continue reading