Death is a Word, Hazel Holt
Player One, Douglas Coupland
Taken at the Flood, Agatha Christie
Before the Rains , Dinah Jefferies
Murder Underground, Mavis Doriel Hay
Defectors, Joseph Kanon
Miss Marple’s Six Final Cases and Two Other Stories, Agatha Christie
The Revolving Door of Life, Alexander McCall Smith
Slow Horses, Mick Herron
Last Fling, Sue Gee
Dead Lions, Mick Herron
A lot of spy and crime fiction this month and more library books than usual. I’m sorry that Death is a Word is ‘the final Sheila Malory’ from Hazel Holt, who has died. I’ve enjoyed the whole series, fascinated by the humdrum doings of the people of Taviscombe while a murder inevitably takes place in their midst. I read the two Agatha Christie books acquired from the Cats’ Protection League shop. Taken at the Flood is an enjoyable Poirot novel. Miss Marple’s Six Final Cases and Two Other Stories is really very slight. Unpopular opinion coming up: I still don’t see why Agatha Christie is so much admired.
I’ve so often been disappointed by a BLCC book but I grabbed Murder Underground at the library because I’d enjoyed the author’s other murder mystery, Death on the Cherwell. (Brief review here.) The murder victim, an elderly and unloved woman called Miss Pongleton, lives in a residential hotel, The Frampton. Such a setting is as good as a country house for providing a wide range of characters and therefore suspects. Basil, her heir, is a prize chump who lies and lies about his movements on the day of the murder, thoroughly muddying the waters. Unfortunately, there are whole chapters relating his ridiculous muddles and it gets boring. Plenty of social interest here, though. There’s an awful lot of detail about Tube routes and I couldn’t help thinking of Mornington Crescent.
Another library book: Player One by Douglas Coupland. I thought this book absolutely brilliant, but don’t ask me what it’s about as it’s too brainy for words. At first, it seems like a book about a set of losers stuck in an airport but things change very quickly. I was irked that you don’t find out what happens to all the characters. At the end of the book is a section called ‘Future Legend’, a sort of glossary.
This one is a lie: ‘Bell’s Law of Telephony. No matter what technology is used, your monthly phone bill magically remains about the same size.’ Mine goes up all the time.
I suffer from this: ‘Dimanchophobia. …a condition that reflects fear of unstructured time. Also known as acalendrical anxiety.’ What a clever clogs Coupland is.
I picked Defectorsbecause I liked Leaving Berlin so much. This one also features an amateur spy, Simon. He’s in Moscow visiting his brother Frank, who defected twelve years before. Simon's been granted special permission to travel because he’s going to publish Frank’s memoirs. I found this a slow burner but just over halfway through, the book becomes a page turner. I spent a whole evening reading solidly until I’d finished it, which I think is a recommendation.
The Revolving Door of Life is the tenth Scotland Street book and I see I’ve missed a couple so I have plenty still to read. It’s become my favourite AMS series, largely due to Bertie. In this instalment, he’s enjoying unusual freedom because his ghastly mother has been kidnapped and is in a harem. Don’t ask.
Now an author new to me: Mick Herron. huskyteer lent me Slow Horses because she thought I might like it and I certainly did. Herron deals with the murkier regions of the Service, the ‘slow horses’ or failures who toil away in Dickensian Slough House while the successes swan around Regent’s Park. In charge of Slough House is Jackson Lamb, an apparent wreck of a man who is actually the smartest bod in the Service; a man with a dazzling past history hinted at, a man not to be crossed. In this story, a young student has been kidnapped and his captors claim that they will behead him online for all to see. Slow Horses to the rescue? This tale is twisty as a corkscrew. After reading this, I was keen for more Jackson Lamb and went straight to the library. No luck there or in the charity shops so I ended up buying the next two. Dead Lions is as gripping as the first and the third book I’m holding in reserve for when I want a really good read. What I particularly like about these books is that, unusually in spy fiction, they are *funny*, full of amusing comments on modern life.
An author I like, a book I really disliked. It can happen. Sue Gee’s Last Fling is a book of short stories and what a miserable, depressing collection it is. Too many of them are not what I call stories at all, but snapshots, glimpses of lives. For goodness sake don’t read this book if you’re feeling the least bit down, or if you don’t want to be brought down. Nothing but sadness and death. Sue Gee writes so well, but I really hated this book and was relieved to finish it. A Radio 4 book, I’d call it. Let me recommend again Rosy Thornton’s Sandlands
as a book of really good short stories.
I’m currently reading two books, one of them Verdi the Man Revealed by the industrious John Suchet. It’s another lavishly produced tome from Classic FM and was sent to me by the publishers. I’m finding it interesting because I know so little about Verdi’s life. The problem is that the book is so heavy, it can only be read sitting at a table, which is not always convenient.