Saturday, March 28, 2009

Booky Update

I've been doing a lot of reading this week - I've been back at work for a few days now - and I've finally finished The Given Day by Dennis Lehane which fulfilled all it's early promise and was a really good book with a fascinating storyline and interesting characters, plus as you would expect from Lehane it was very well written. I took my time reading it as I wanted it to last. It's the story of a young policeman, from a family of policemen, in Boston just after the First World War. It's a time of strife in Boston with riots and strikes and much poverty and Lehane weaves a lot of historical detail into the plot. It's just wonderful.

Meantime I've fitted in A Thousand Bones by P J Parrish - a serial killer crime novel in the Northern US - Illinois or Michigan I think it was - almost Canada but not quite. It was one of those books that I picked up on a whim, not expecting anything great. I'd actually picked it up because I thought it was set in Florida, but it turned out that, though it had book-end chapters set in the Sunshine State, all the main action took place Up North. The main protagonist was a rookie female cop, desperate for a chance to do something other than make tea and hold hands. The plot revolved around some bones found by a dog in the woods - did they belong to a particular missing girl or did they come from multiple skeletons? Was there a murderer in that small Northern town or had a hiker got lost and died? I liked it. In addition to being well-plotted and carefully written it posed some interesting ethical questions along the way and didn't solve everything in a trite or obvious way. I'd certainly read another of these.

I moved on to The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett. He'd been on my mental must-read list for a while. Customers in the shop kept raving about him and he's now on his fourth (or fifth?) novel so I thought I'd better try one. The Chemistry of Death is the first one and I have to say that I found it a bit clunky in places. There was a little too much emphasis on the back story of Dr David Hunter - former forensic anthropologist, now humble GP in a little village in Norfolk. There was also a tendency to try and educate the reader just a little too much about all the "Chemistry". It just felt a little heavy-handed in places. Still, it was his first novel and he very nearly had me fooled about the identity of the murderer, I only just cottoned on right at the end, so I'd certainly try another one and see if he managed a slightly lighter touch as he gains in experience.

I've been dipping in and out of Sherlock Holmes in America - an anthology of short stories by leading American writers. As with all of these things there are some that work better than others, but mostly these are pretty good so far. More on this as I get more read.

Just as I finished The Chemistry of Death, what should flop onto my doormat but a review copy of The Death Maze by Ariana Franklin. You may recall that I raved about it's predecessor Mistress of the Art of Death and I've been looking forward to reading this one which is out in paperback next week. Looking around the blogosphere opinion appears to be divided about whether or not it's better than the last one, but all I can say is that I think it's great so far and I've only got a hundred or so pages to go so it's keeping me pretty hooked.

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