... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Saturday 28 February 2015

Books I read in February

Ruth Rendell, No Man's Nightingale [crime]
I used to be a massive fan of Rendell - in the early eighties I had a complete set of her works to date - but she has been turning out rubbish for the last decade and more. This new Wexford story from 2014 is not as bad as some, but it still appears to have been written on autopilot. I used to like the way we only ever see the action from Wexford's point of view - it made the whodunnit puzzle more honest - but the flip side of this is that the other characters can, and in this case do, come across as one-dimensional. We never really feel involved with or invested in them. On top of this, Rendell, has taken in her later work to incorporating clunking political correctness, and constantly commenting on it. This is very annoying. (PD James does the same: two old ladies letting you know very loudly that they've noticed that the world has changed and they're fine with that, really; only you suspect that actually they're not).

Andrew Nugent Soul Murder [crime]
Short but engaging murder mystery, nicely written if a little self-consciously, at least at first, with some vivid characters, including a building.

Maggie Lett and Geoff Rowe Flood Waters [local history/historical fiction]
A fictionalised account of the Sheffield flood of 1864 which killed 240 people. Although it starts out looking amateurish (although one of the authors is a journalist), the account of the flood itself, caused by the failure of a dam, is gripping. The book however continues into a rather over-long Dikensian melodrama, before all is happily resolved in the end.

M.E. Thomas Confessions of a Sociopath [memoir]
Well written, interesting, very engaging (of course) and slightly frightening. Not just, or even mostly confessions, but an apologia and a plea for sociopaths' special qualities to be recognised and valued.

Peter Robinson Abattoir Blues [crime]
Robinson at least hasn't lost his touch yet - maybe not outstanding, but good, sound stuff.

Steven Dunne Deity [crime]
Good characters, well written, but a pretty outlandish plot spoilt it a bit.

Prue Leith  A Serving of Scandal [fiction]
Feeble, poorly written political scandal/romance, with food porn shoehorned in.

Stephen King On Writing [memoir/non-fiction]
A book of two halves - engaging memoir, setting out how he became a writer, followed by advice (albeit far from comprehensive) for (aspiring) writers drawn from his experience as a craftsman, rather than an artist.

Gill Hasson Brilliant Communication Skills [non-fiction/self help]
I would be really pissed off if I had paid money for this book.

Caroline Graham The Envy of the Stranger [fiction]
From the author of Midsomer Murders, apparently, which I have neither read not seen. Second rate (which is not to say terrible, just not very good) stalker thriller which doesn't, really.

Elly Griffiths The Crossing Places [crime]
In contrast, the characters here are immediately alive - fat Ruth the forensic archaeologist, Nelson the grumpy cop, and Cathbad the pseudo-druid. There's only so much variety you can get out of having an archaeologist in every story, but very enjoyable nonetheless. This is the first in the series, and set the scene for what I know is to come later.

Ian Rankin A Cool Head [crime]
A 'Quick Reads' novella, more like a short story than a novel in its construction. The characters were worthy of a longer work, but this never got the chance to draw you in.

Ross Raisin Waterline [fiction]
Undeniably well written account of a former Glasgow shipbuilder going to pieces after his wife's death. The representation of dialect is spot on - just right, not laboured or false (thankfully the person who started correcting it to standard English in my library book gave up after page one). Suitably depressing, but ultimately perhaps, a bit empty.

Anna Richards Small Gods [fiction]
A first novel, rolling in descriptive language but always teetering on the edge of incredibility. The characters were never quite real, too much described and not enough felt. I struggled to finish it despite the quality of the writing.

Ellis Peters A Morbid Taste for Bones [historic fiction/crime]
I don't normally care much for historical fiction but Brother Cadfael is wonderful escapism. Well crafted, easy reading. Pure entertainment.

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