John Le Carre Our Kind of Traitor (local library)
In a different class; the quality of the writing, the knowledge it assumes in the reader. I've had trouble in the distant past following LeCarre's plots, but not this one. Unnerving and moving.
Paula Hawkins The Girl on the Train (local library)
Fair-to-middling chick-thriller (yup, that is definitely a genre) on a par with many I've read over the past year, and nowhere near deserving of all the hype.
By Its Cover
A Noble Radiance
A Question of Belief
The Golden Egg
(all local library)
The Temptations of Forgiveness (Kindle)
Earthly Remains (Kindle - downloaded onto the iPad on the train!)
So, I've discovered Donna Leon's Venice detective, Guido Brunetti. In many ways these are classic police procedural - Brunetti has his loyal sidekick, Vianello, plus, latterly Claudia Griffini; he has the classic useless boss, Vice Questore Patta, and the secretary who knows more than anyone else in the place, Signorina Elettra. So it's comforting; you know where you are with it. Leon's writing is good and unflashy. She doesn't play games with flashbacks and forwards; the narrative, always from Brunetti's perspective, unfolds in unhurried chronological order. Brunetti is neither a maverick not a goody-two shoes, but a good man trying to do good in a sometimes murky world. There's more intrigue than suspense; not always a murder, and not always a simple solution - but never, so far, hard to follow. They're just really nicely crafted books with low key, believable characters. She manages to drop in just enough Italian words and phrases (a mobile phone is always a telefonino, which is lovely) to create the atmosphere without labouring it or showing off. And while Venice is ever-present, she doesn't labour that either - but it is very interesting the way she draws out the differences between, say, the Venetian Brunelli, Sicilian Patta, and Neopolitan Griffoni - their differences and their prejudices about each other. There are, I think, twenty-seven books in the series, so I've only read just over a quarter of them. I am very much looking forward to curling up with the rest.
Sam Blake No Turning Back (local library)
Back to the usual - run of the mill Irish-set police thriller, instantly forgettable cybercrime/terrorism; manufactured suspense and too many coincidences. Dull and generally unpleasant.
Ian McGuire The North Water (local library)
There's nothing Booker judges like better than a sordid tale set on board a Victorian ship - a whaler in this case. McGuire does marvellous things with language (much of it exceedingly bad language) only occasionally tipping over the edge into labouring it. The language is the joy of this book; even as it creates the most appalling characters and scenes, and increasingly preposterous events. It does feel a little rushed as it approaches the end, though.