Friday, 6 August 2010

Books, glorious books...

What have I been reading recently and what’s on the TBR pile, I hear you ask. You didn’t? Well here goes anyway...

Tana French – Faithful Place

The blurb wallahs are giving us this - The course of Frank Mackey's life was set by one defining moment when he was nineteen. The moment his girlfriend, Rosie Daly, failed to turn up for their rendezvous in Faithful Place, failed to run away with him to London as they had planned. Frank never heard from her again. Twenty years on, Frank is still in Dublin, working as an undercover cop. He's cut all ties with his dysfunctional family. Until his sister calls to say that Rosie's suitcase has been found. Frank embarks on a journey into his past that demands he reevaluate everything he believes to be true.

First line: My father once told me that the most important thing every man should know is what he would die for.

Verdict - this is a 5 out of 5'er. Tana French is a wonderfully evocative writer and she's on top form here.

Caro Ramsay – Dark Water

The promo goes thusly - A bitterly cold February in Glasgow. Hanging from a rope in the attic of a deserted tenement is the body of a criminal believed to have been hiding out on the Costa del Sol these last ten years. His face has been hideously disfigured. Investigating officers DI Anderson and DS Costello believe the dead man to be a suspect in a decade-old case: the rape and attempted murder of a young student by two men. And there are other, similar cases on file. But what has happened to the dead man’s accomplice, ‘Mr Click’? And with the discovery of another young woman who has been brutally attacked, detectives Anderson and Costello realize this terrifying psychopath has started working once more. They must use every trick in the book to stop him. For Mr Click has developed a taste for his bloodthirsty trade. And to satisfy his lust he will strike again and again . . .

First line: Emily Corbett flicked the headlights of the Punto on to full beam, highlighting the puffballs of soft drifting grey fog.

Verdict - not finished yet. Police procedural set in the West of Scotland. Her last 2 were excellent and I'm expecting this to go the same way.

Lin Anderson – The Reborn

When the body of a pregnant teenager is found in a Hall of Mirrors with the full-term foetus surgically removed, forensic scientist Rhona MacLeod is called in to assist the police. Suspicion falls on Jeff Coulter, a psychotic inmate at a nearby hospital whose hobby is making Reborns – chillingly realistic baby dolls intended for bereaved parents or those unable to conceive. But how could he have orchestrated the murder from a secure mental facility?

The investigation leads to a group of teenage girls who seem to have all got pregnant at the same time. Then a Reborn doll is discovered near the crime scene and a second girl from the group is found dead...

First line: It was the fear of the clown that drove Kira inside.

Verdict - not started yet. Lin's career is going from strength to strength with the recent announcement that her books were being adapted for TV. Rankin and Rebus comparisons are fatuous but nevertheless will be delivered by the skipful.

Kate Atkinson – Started Early, Took My Dog

A day like any other for security chief Tracy Waterhouse, until she makes a purchase she hadn't bargained for. One moment of madness is all it takes for Tracy's humdrum world to be turned upside down, the tedium of everyday life replaced by fear and danger at every turn. Witnesses to Tracy's Faustian exchange in the Merrion Centre in Leeds are Tilly, an elderly actress teetering on the brink of her own disaster, and Jackson Brodie who has returned to his home county in search of someone else's roots. All three characters learn that the past is never history and that no good deed goes unpunished. Kate Atkinson dovetails and counterpoints her plots with Dickensian brilliance in a tale peopled with unlikely heroes and villains. "Started Early, Took My Dog" is freighted with wit, wisdom and a fierce moral intelligence. It confirms Kate Atkinson's position as one of the great writers of our time.

Beginning: 1975 9 April – "Leeds: Motorway City of the Seventies". A proud slogan. No irony intended. Gaslight still flickering in some streets. Life in a northern town.

Verdict: Not started yet but I'm expecting BIG things. Kate Atkinson could copy out the phone book and I'd read it. She's THAT good.

Tony Black – Long Time Dead

Gus Dury is back on the drink. While in hospital after a hit-and-run accident, his best friend, Hod, asks him to investigate the ritual, on-campus hanging of an Edinburgh University student. The murder victim's mother is a high-profile actress, who has promised a big-money reward. Gus, desperate for money, goes undercover at the university, taking a janitor's job, and soon uncovers a similar ritualistic hanging which took place in the 70s. Few of the students are prepared to talk about it - until another one of their group turns up dead by the same method. But Gus now moves into very dangerous waters as he begins to discover what and who is really behind it all - and he becomes the next target for the executioner.

First line: The doctor was a non-nonsense west-coaster type that called a spade a shovel and if you didn’t like it would add, You got a problem with that?

Verdict; Squemish much? This is as noir as they come; as dark and intense as a day under the stairs of  a haunted house.

As per, the reviews will end up on te website eventually.

A couple of things occur to me as I write this – thing 1 – most of these writers are based in Scotland – Tana French is in Ireland which is as good as (and thing 1B - all are bloody brilliant) – thing 2 – four of them are women.

Thing 2 reminds me of a comment from the stage at Harrogate Crime Writers Festival last year (if you haven’t been yet and you love crime fiction, do yourself a favour and go). The comment was that male readers don’t read female writers. And it was Val McDermid who made it. A woman who surely knows her crime writing onions.

For me it’s all about the quality of the writing and being captivated by the storytelling. I NEVER check the gender of the writer first. When I look at the books on my book shelves, floor, stairs, bathroom floor – pretty much everywhere in my house – the gender mix is pretty even, with I have to be honest a leaning towards male names.

Am I out on a limb here? One of the enlightened few?

Tell me what you think, fellas.


  1. I'm afraid she's onto something Michael. I have read one of Val's books and books by numerous other female writers but with the exception of Mo Hayder I can't say I'm a fan of any although I'm open to suggestions. Books written from a female perspective with a female main character mean I don't relate (or imagine that I relate) as much.

  2. Fair comment, Ricky and impressively honest in an age where gender bias is so unPC. Have to say though that the writers included here mix their view points across the genders. Mo Hayder haven't ever gotten round to read her. Where would you recommend I start?

  3. I thought I was taking a chance admitting that, but it is what goes through my head when picking a book. Start with Birdman, it's brilliant and the sequel,The Treatment is just as good if not better.

  4. Interesting comment from Ricky. I enjoy books written from male POV quite well, like thrillers and fantasies, though I know there are a lot of women who prefer female pov predominantly.

    One author I recommend who I thought was a male detective when she first started her new series twelve years ago is J.D.Robb aka Nora Roberts. I'd venture to say men have picked up her books and thought the same. Gritty, dark, and fast paced set in New York 2059.

    As usual, your recommendations will be taken seriously. You haven't failed me yet.