Agent Running in the Field

I was a bit nervous about this one on account of that fact that, let’s face it, the title is a bit rubbish. In bringing the spy world into the modern era, Brexit, Trump and everything else, I was concerned that Le Carre, would seem rather out of date. Not so. For an old chap, he doesn’t sound like one and this is a brilliant book. 

It is classic Le Carre – tense, intelligent, well thought out and in possession of that extra dose of sophistication it is hard to put your finger on. There is no action, no explosions, no car chases. Just pure espionage and is actually quite touching towards the end. It wouldn’t surprise me if the machinations of the story were not quite an original template, it doesn’t feel stale and the modern applications are not jarring at all. 

An excellent read. 

Killing Commendatore

This is a wonderful book. It is ethereal, contemplative and fantastical to the point that it never quite explains itself but somehow, that doesn’t bother me. Reading this book is like meditating. The style of writing is assured and mature, which I suppose one would expect from someone like Murakami, although I have never actually read any of his other books. I will be doing so after reading this one.

The Truants

I bought this book on the basis that the cover looked cool and  also down to some of the testimonies – “A cross between a wicked Donna Tart and Agatha Christie,” hypnotic”, a ” deftly plotted” murder mystery. More fool me. 

I am never a fan of panning a book that has probably taken someone a lot of time and effort to write, especially since I have nothing published of my own, but perhaps it is that very fact that annoys me so much. This is a terrible book. It is a non-event. Nothing happens. You could sum it up in a sentence. I genuinely don’t get it. There is barely even a murder, let alone a mystery. That something like this is published is mind boggling to me considering the plethora of talent that undoubtedly lies amongst the slush piles. 

The one positive I can take from this book is that the cover really is everything. That and the fact that it doesn’t matter if you lie unashamedly in the testmonials on the front and back of the book. 

Trash.

Periodic Tales – Hugh Aldersey-Williams

I thought this would be quite a good one. Unfortunately, I’m not a great fan. the concept was great – what the elements of the periodic table do and how they affect us day to day, practically and culturally. 

I was expecting loads of useful anecdotes and concise and interesting histories of the elements involved. Not so. It reads rather like an a-level English lit essay, (albeit an accomplished one) complete with tediously detailed accounts of various chemistry experiments mixed in with assorted quotes from various historical literary works – in fact almost drowned in them. He references all sorts of obscure authors and artists (to me at least) and uses a lot of subjective waffling that is of really no great interest. 

It may be to some people’s taste, but I’m afraid this chap is not for me. He is probably the sort of guy that you would try and avoid sitting next to at a dinner party. Needless to say I won’t be reading his newer book on tides!

His Dark Materials trilogy – Philip Pullman

I have been meaning to read these 3 books at one time or other for a long time. I think I started the first one when I was at school but somehow didn’t get on with it and stopped reading very quickly, which is unlike me. 

I went back to them as they ahve garnered so muhc hype that I thought I must give them a read and they were quick reads anyway if I didn’t like them. 

The story is certainly very in depth and incredibly imaginative. It is quite deep at times. They are however, nothing more than ok in my eyes. There are better books for young adults out there. No doubt Pullman is a brilliant writer and brilliantly descriptive but it was all just a bit too wacky for my liking. 

The Money Machine – Philip Coggan

I have never been primarily a numbers man. I am alright at maths, but not brilliant. My times tables,  I am not ashamed to say are sketchy at times. So every now and again I like to read books like this to give a bit of context to every day financial requirements that I might need to consider. Useful read this one. A bit like a text book but I was ready for that. Quite complex in places  – although I’m sure many in the field would find it too simplistic. It didn’t change my world but certainly broadened the horizons a bit.  

For Esme – with love and squalor

This was a bit of a different one – a collection of short stories by J.D Salinger of ‘Catcher in the Rye’ fame. 

In general, I liked it. I would highlight three of the stories, the rest being perhaps a bit odd, a bit rubbish, or a bit over my head maybe. 

The three of note were, For Esme – with Love and Squalor, (the ‘title track’ and genuinely quite moving), The Laughing Man, (a whacky story within a story that also has a poingent twist at the end) and Teddy (about a child genius who gets all philosophical while on a boat.)

You could polish it off in an afternoon if you wanted to check it out. 

The Chestnut Man

This was meant to be another quick and easy filler and again, it fulfilled that perfectly. And then some. I haven’t seen ‘The Killing’ but it’s apparently by the same guy that did that. Suffice to say, I might give it a watch as this book was awesome. It was a classic two-page-a-chapter thriller. Loved it. Although perhaps a little predictable (Ok massively predictable), that did not detract at all from the overall experience. Roller coaster ride from start to finish and genuinely chilling. Probably another one for the poolside. 

Blood and Sugar

This book is as topical as it gets being based around the slave trade in 18th Century London. That certainly was not planned but nevertheless provided an interesting context to everything going on at the moment in the real world.

That aside, this was meant to be a quick easy read after a long non-fiction. That it was, but it was also excellent. A real murder mystery and brilliantly written and imagined. I would thoroughly recommend it – perfect for the sunlounger by the pool as they say, although there’ll be little of that this summer I suspect.