WWW Wednesday: 15 August 2018

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WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading:

I’ve started my Classics Club Spin book, He Who Whispers by John Dickson Carr. Set not long after the Second World War end this is a ‘locked room’ type of mystery, in which the body of Howard Brooks is found, stabbed to death, on the top of a tower, but the evidence shows that no one entered or left the tower during the time the murder took place.

And I’m still reading Wedlock: How Georgian Britain’s Worst Husband Met His Match by Wendy Moore, non fiction about Mary Eleanor Bowes who was the richest heiress in 18th century Britain. She fell under the spell of a handsome Irish soldier, Andrew Robinson Stoney and found herself trapped in an appallingly brutal marriage. Fascinating reading that if it was fiction you’d say you couldn’t believe it.

I’ve recently finished:  

The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola, which was published on 26th July 2018. See yesterday’s post for the opening paragraphs and synopsis. It’s beautifully written and as I like folklore and legends, with a mystery interwoven within it, I’ve been enjoying this very much.

I’ll post my review in the next few days.

 

My next book could be:

The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry, co-written by best-selling crime writer Chris Brookmyre and consultant anaesthetist Dr Marisa Haetzman, to be published on 30 August 2018.

Synopsis

Edinburgh, 1847. City of Medicine, Money, Murder.

Young women are being discovered dead across the Old Town, all having suffered similarly gruesome ends. In the New Town, medical student Will Raven is about to start his apprenticeship with the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson.

Simpson’s patients range from the richest to the poorest of this divided city. His house is like no other, full of visiting luminaries and daring experiments in the new medical frontier of anaesthesia. It is here that Raven meets housemaid Sarah, who recognises trouble when she sees it and takes an immediate dislike to him. She has all of his intelligence but none of his privileges, in particular his medical education.

With each having their own motive to look deeper into these deaths, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh’s underworld, where they will have to overcome their differences if they are to make it out alive.

Have you read any of these books?  Do any of them tempt you? 

Favourite Books: October 2007 – 2010

Each month I’ve been looking back at some of my favourite books I read during the years 2007 ‘“ 2010. These are some of my favourite books I read in October in each of those years. October seems to have been another great month for books as I rated so many 5/5, but I’m highlighting just one for each month in this post. Revisiting these books makes me want to re-read all of them.

Click on the titles to see my original reviews.

2007

Crossing to SafetyCrossing To Safety by Wallace Stegner – was Wallace Stegner’s last novel published when he was 78 years old. It’s a beautiful, and thought provoking novel and I loved it. It’s a story about love, marriage, friendship, relationships, ambition, illness and death; in other words it’s about life and death. In essence, the novel recounts the lives of two couples who first met during the Depression in 1930s America and the joys and difficulties they encounter throughout their lives.

The painful honesty of this book in portraying life’s happiness, joy, pathos and sorrow is what touched me the most and makes it a book to remember and treasure.

2008

Behavior Of MothsThe Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams, a brilliant book! It’s the story of two sisters, Ginny and Vivi. Vivi, the younger sister left the family mansion 47 years earlier and returns unexpectedly one weekend. Ginny, a reclusive moth expert has rarely left the house in all that time. What happens when they meet again is shocking to both of them. It’s a story full of mystery and suspense as it is revealed that the two have very different memories of their childhood and the events of the past.

Two events in particular affected their lives. The first is when Vivi aged 8 fell from the bell tower and nearly died. She was impaled on an iron stake and as a result lost her ability to have children; the second when Maud, their mother died having tripped down the cellar steps changing their lives for ever.

And I loved all the detail about moths. They are not an aside but are integral to the story.

2009

The ComplaintsI thought The Complaints by Ian Rankin was one of the best books I read in 2009.

It’s the first book featuring Inspector Malcolm Fox of the PSU, or Professional Standards Unit, part of the Complaints and Conducts office.  The PSU is sometimes called  ‘˜the Dark Side’. He is asked to investigate DS Jamie Breck, a likeable young cop who is allegedly involved in a paedophile site run by an Aussie cop in Melbourne. Then Jude’s partner, Vince is murdered and Breck is the investigating officer. As Fox gets to know him it becomes increasingly difficult for him to know just who he can trust. Just who is the good guy?

I grew to really like Fox, yet another divorced cop with a drink problem. He is a good guy, he plays by the rules and looks after his family. He’s bit of a philosopher, an outsider mistrusted and hated by other cops.

2010

Quite Ugly One Morning (Jack Parlabane, #1)Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre begins with a graphic description of a particularly nasty murder scene, which is normally guaranteed to make me stop reading. But it would have been a great shame if I’d let it put me off this book, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was  first published in 1998 when it won the First Blood Award for best crime novel of that year.

The dead man is Dr Ponsonby, a well- respected doctor working for the Midlothian NHS Trust in Edinburgh. Investigative journalist, Jack Parlabane gets involved as he lives in the flat above Ponsonby and the terrible smell coming up from below leads him into the murder scene. It soon becomes apparent to the reader who did the murder and it is the motive behind it that needs to be ferreted out.  It’s fast, full of action, and surprisingly funny.

Not the End of the World by Christopher Brookmyre

Not the End of the World

Not the End of the World by Christopher Brookmyre is a crime thriller set in Los Angeles at the end of the last century when people were in the grip of ‘1999 Syndrome’:

1999 Syndrome took plain old Things Are Getting Worse and changed it into Things Are Getting Worse Because The End Is Nigh. Crime used to be seen as instances of anti-social behaviour, sins against society. But now there was this resigned attitude at large that it was indicative of a greater, inexorable process of decay. Each crime now had to Mean Something, each new atrocity held up as the next marker on our descent into uncharted depths of stygia. (page 37)

Synopsis (from Christopher Brookmyre’s website):

The crew of an oceanic research vessel goes missing in the Pacific along with their mini-submarine.

An evangelical media star holds a rally next door to a convention in LA devoted to ‘nubile’ cinematic entertainment.

The cops know there’s going to be trouble and they are not disappointed. What they didn’t foresee was the presence in their state of a Glaswegian photographer with an indecipherable accent and a strong dislike of hypocrisy or of a terrorist who seems to have access to plutonium as well as Semtex.

My View

I became absorbed in this book as I read it. The plot is tightly constructed but the novel is interspersed with details of the main characters’ backgrounds and how they came to have their beliefs and personality traits, which slows down the action somewhat. However, this does flesh out the characters – the tension and drama slowly comes up to boiling point.

Larry Freeman of the LAPD is overseeing security at the Pacific Vista Hotel where the American Feature Film Market is being held. Just over the road the Evangelical Festival of Light is being held, including the Mission of Purity and the American Legion of Decency, led by the TV evangelist and ex-Presidential candidate Luther St John. St John has predicted that time is running out, the countdown has begun and a tidal wave is going to hit LA as God’s punishment for all the evil man has committed. St John’s wrath is also aimed at the ‘Whore of Babylon’, the porn actress Madeleine Witherson, whose father is a Republican Senator. Steff Kennedy is a Scottish photographer who falls in love with Maddy and gets mixed up in the whole scene and the result is chaos. Add into this mix diatribes against fundamental religion and this is the book in a nutshell.

I enjoyed it, but could have done with less detail about the characters’ backgrounds. Brookmyre’s style is snappy, cynical and wise-cracking, although in places I thought it was too wordy. I really liked the ancient history references to the Minoan eruption of Thera (Santorini), one of the largest volcanic eruptions of all time, a ‘devastating caldera eruption’, resulting in one of the largest seismic waves in history. I’d like to find out more about that!

Not the End of the World is Christopher Brookmyre’s third book. He is a Scottish novelist whose novels mix politics, social comment and action with a strong narrative. He has been referred to as a Tartan Noir author.

First Chapter ~ First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

First chapterEvery Tuesday Diane at  Bibliophile by the Sea hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, sharing the first paragraph or (a few) of a book she’s reading or thinking about reading soon.

Recently I was looking through my many shelves of unread books and came across Not the End of the World by Christopher Brookmyre, a book I started some time again and put to one side, intending to get back to it quite soon. Time has since whizzed by and now, even though I have a bookmark indicating where I got up to, I’ll have to start it again.

It begins with a Prologue:

Joey Murphy was a fisherman. He was the captain and proprietor of a small trawler that was the whole world to him, but which he knew to be merely a speck on the endlessness that was the Pacific Ocean.

He believed in God.

He believed in Jesus.

He believed in His death, resurrection and bodily ascension.

I could have stopped quoting the opening paragraphs here, but that would not really have given a clear indication of the tone of this book. It continues:

He also believed in ghosts, poltergeists, demonic possession, Satanic possession, flying saucers, alien abduction, Roswell, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, the Bermuda Triangle, telepathy, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, spontaneous combustion, levitation, reincarnation, out-of-body consciousness and the rapture.

There’s more, but I think this should be enough to get the picture that Joey believes in ‘stuff that makes the world seem a more interesting place.

Unlike other books by Brookmyre this is not set in Scotland, but in Los Angeles with Lt Larry Freeman of the LAPD investigating the disappearance of the crew of an oceanic research vessel who had gone missing in the Pacific along with their mini-submarine. But there is ‘a Glaswegian photographer with an indecipherable accent and a strong dislike of hypocrisy or of a terrorist who seems to have access to plutonium as well as Semtex.’ (source: Brookmyre)

Crime Fiction Alphabet – Letter N

This week we’ve reached the letter N in Kerrie’s Crime Fiction Alphabet. My choice is a medley of ‘N‘s.

  • I had thought I would review Peter James’s Not Dead Enough, and I started it a while back but put it down to read other books. Not because I didn’t like it, but it’s a very long book – 610 pages of very small font, which is difficult for me to read, especially late at night when my eyes get tired quickly. From the back cover:

On the night Brian Bishop murdered his wife he was sixty miles away, asleep in bed at the time. At least that’s the way it looks to Detective Superintendent Roy Grace, who is called to investigate the kinky slaying of beautiful young Brighton socialite, Katie Bishop.

  • Another choice for the letter N that I considered is A Necessary End, an Inspector Banks mystery by Peter Robinson but I haven’t finished that book either. From the back cover:

In the usually peaceful town of Eastvale, a simmering tension has now reached breaking point. An anti-nuclear demonstration has ended in violence, leaving one policeman stabbed to death. Fired by professional outrage, Superintendent ‘Dirty Dick’ Burgess descends with vengeful fury on the inhabitants of ‘Maggie’s Farm’, an isolated house high on the daleside.

  • My third choice is Not the End of the World by Christopher Brookmyre. I started reading this after enjoying Quite Ugly One Morning. The bookmark shows I’m up to page 30. I think I didn’t finish this book because I was expecting it to be set in Scotland like Quite Ugly One Morning and was put off by it being in Los Angeles – silly I know!

 

  • Then there is Agatha Christie’s Nemesis, which is the last Miss Marple mystery. I only bought it recently and I’m itching to read it soon. Mr Rafiel, an old acquaintance (see A Caribbean Mystery), has died and left Miss Marple instructions for her to investigate a crime after his death.

 

  • And finally the book I’m currently reading is Janet Neel’s Ticket to Ride, which so far is making very interesting reading. But I don’t want to write much about it before I’ve finished it. Ticket to Ride features Jules Carlisle a newly qualified solicitor. She takes on the case of Mirko Dragunoviç, an illegal immigrant who claims that one of the eight dead bodies, found on the beach west of King’s Lynn, is that of his brother.

Janet Neel is the nom de plume of Baroness Cohen of Pimlico who sits as a Labour peer in the House of Lords. She started out as a solicitor, then went to the Board of Trade and then to Charterhouse Bank. She has written several crime fiction novels. The first, Death’s Bright Angel won the John Creasey Prize and both Death of a Partner and Death Among the Dons were shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger.

Crime Fiction Alphabet – C is for Christopher Brookmyre

At first glance I wouldn’t have thought that Christopher Brookmyre would be my sort of author. He writes gritty,down to earth crime fiction, with no punches withheld. And when my son first lent me Quite Ugly One Morning I wasn’t at all sure that I would like it. I was wrong, I loved it – see here.

Brookmyre, a Scottish author, tackles corruption and social injustice in his books; they are satirical and full of bite, full of tension and pace. Before he became a full-time writer he was a journalist. After writing Quite Ugly One Morning he went on to write:

(Links go to Wikipedia)

For a critical perspective of Christopher Brookmyre’s work see this article at Contemporary Writers and for summaries of his books go to his page at Little, Brown Book Group.

Crime Fiction Alphabet is hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.

Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre: Book Review

Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre begins with a graphic description of a particularly nasty murder scene, which is normally guaranteed to make me stop reading. But it would have been a great shame if I’d let it put me off this book, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was published in 1998 when it won the First Blood Award for best crime novel of that year.

The dead man is Dr Ponsonby, a well- respected doctor working for the Midlothian NHS Trust in Edinburgh. Investigative journalist, Jack Parlabane gets involved as he lives in the flat above Ponsonby and the terrible smell (think blood, poo and sick) coming up from below leads him into the murder scene. It soon becomes apparent to the reader who did the murder and it is the motive behind it that needs to be ferreted out.

The book alternates between current events and the back stories of the characters – Dr Ponsonby, his ex-wife Sarah, Stephen Lime, the Chief Executive of the Midlothian NHS Trust and above all Jack Parlabane. This is not a police procedural, and Inspector McGregor, in charge of the investigation, has just a little input. It’s fast, full of action, and surprisingly funny. There are some really despicable characters and Jack himself is not a shrinking violet – but I liked him.

I went to see Christopher Brookmyre this week at an author event in Livingston. He’s an excellent speaker and very funny too.  He read an extract from his latest book, Pandaemonium, but he’s written quite a lot more which I want to read first. Fortunately my son has all his books, so I’ve borrowed a few.