My occasional summary of what I’ve been reading and listening to.
Gosh, I get through a lot of books in six weeks! Partly this is because I listen to a lot of audiobooks as I walk and drive, and partly because… well, I just like reading. So some of these comments will be rather brief.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
The Girl who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
E-books on my iPhone
Really superior thrillers with some excellent characterization. It took me a little while to get into the first book because of the slightly off-putting Swedish references and context. But I was hooked by the time Mikael Blomkvist, an investigative finance reporter, is convicted of libel but then offered an intriguing puzzle by Henrik Vanger, an ageing industrialist: what happened to his grand-niece Harriet 40 years ago? The circumstances of her disappearance make it something like a classic “locked-room” mystery.
And we are also introduced to a young woman, Lisbeth Salander – the “Girl” of the titles – an original and memorable character, who drives the plot in some very interesting directions.
Both books were gripping, un-put-downable reading (wearing out my eyes on the small screen of the iPhone – I’m looking forward to buying an iPad).
I haven’t yet read the third in the series The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, though I am looking forward to it.*
Alas, there will be no more Lisbeth Salander books, as the author died of a heart attack not long after finishing the third book in the trilogy.
* I had to buy this in Kindle format, as the epub versions aren’t yet available. I must say that the Kindle app on the iPhone is rather poorly done. Given that Amazon bought up Stanza, I would hope that some of that technology gets put into the Kindle app.
Thrones, Dominations by Dorothy L. Sayers & Jill Paton Walsh
This Lord Peter Whimsey book was left unfinished at Sayers’ death, but it has been splendidly completed by Jill Paton Walsh, who seems to have channelled Sayers in her understanding of the characters of Whimsey and Harriet Vane (now Lady Peter). Very enjoyable mystery, and a wonderful picture of England as it moves inevitably towards war with Germany. I imagine, however, that some of the criticism of royalty developed in the book (the new King Edward VIII and his dallyings with Mrs Simpson, his loose behavior towards security and his dealings with the Nazis) would never have appeared in a book written by Sayers at the time.
The Water’s Lovely by Ruth Rendell
Rendell has an amazing ability to portray the psychological dramas of ordinary people, in novels written either under her own name or under the pen-name of Barbara Vine. And she is brilliant at inventing (or observing) remarkable characters in a seemingly ordinary urban environment.
In this book we have a fascinating and slowly developing story of two sisters influenced by the death by drowning of their step-father some fifteen years ago when they were both in their early teens. The slow revealing of this back story, the different way each of these sisters remembers this event, and the playing out of the consequences make for gripping reading.
Orpheus Rising by Colin Bateman
I borrowed this from the local library on a whim (the selection of audiobooks is limited, so I often pick up something on impulse). It was a bit strange, but quite enjoyable.
It tells the tale of a young Irish man who has moved to Florida, USA and writes a novel called “Space Coast” which after receiving many rejections is at last published and becomes an unexpected best-seller, making him exceedingly rich. So far so good: but his beloved wife is killed in a senseless bank robbery not long after the book is accepted for publication.
Ten years after the tragedy, after a decade wandering the world, rich but miserable, he comes back to the town where he and his wife had lived. After quite a long lead-up, about half-way through the book, strange things start happening… and at this point the book becomes intriguing, if not particularly deep.
I’ll look out for some other books by this author.
The Ladies of Grace-Adieu by Susanna Clarke
I am a huge fan of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which is an astonishingly good book (I’ve read it three times). Set in the 19th Century in a slightly different version of Britain, in which the study of ancient magic and faerie begins to yield positive and practical results.
This book is a compilation of stories which Clarke apparently couldn’t fit into the numerous side stories and footnotes in the original book. They vary greatly in character and seriousness, but most have an underlying humour. I particularly liked “Mr Simonelli, or the Fairy Widower” in which a country pastor discovers he has fairy relations. This is not necessarily a good thing…
Settling Accounts Quadrilogy by Harry Turtledove
E-books on my iPhone
Whew! I’ve finally finished the “Southern Victory” alternate history series by Turtledove – eleven long books detailing the consequences of the Confederate States winning “The War of Secession” in 1862. Great stuff, really, but I think I’m glad I have finished it. I feel like I have been reading this forever.
At least, I think I have finished, unless Turtledove unleashes yet another trilogy taking the history beyond the end of the Second Great War.
Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly
Paperback, my collection
The latest of Connelly’s Harry Bosch books. Bosch’s daughter, living in Hong Kong with her mother, is apparently kidnapped in retaliation for Bosch’s investigation of Chinese Triads in Los Angeles. Bosch charges off to do the Rambo thing, but not everything is as it seems…
I’m currently reading:
- A Presumption of Death by Jill Paton Walsh & Dorothy L Sayers (Audiobook)
- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (Hardback*, my collection)
* Just a note on book prices in Australia – it was cheaper to buy this beautiful hardcover version from Amazon and have it shipped to Australia (admittedly with some other books to share the cost) than it would have been to buy a thick paperback version here, whose spine would have cracked in no time.