The Appeal

This was one of my impulse buys. These are always risky but in this case, I was pleasantly surprised. An unusual format here, with the story being told through the emails, texts and letters of all the characters, leaving you to try and figure out the mystery towards the end. Well written and original. Perhaps went on a bit but otherwise, I enjoyed it. 

Rivers of London

I picked this as a simple read after a heavy non-fiction. I’d had it recommended to me and so thought I’d give it a whirl. It is essentially a police procedural in a fantasy version of London. For me, it didn’t quite come off. It was fairly mundane and the fantasy aspects just didn’t gel together. It felt as if it had been edited to within an inch of its life, no doubt to make it into a fast reading page turner and I do wonder if a more fleshed out version exists somewhere.

Either way, a middle of the road story at best, a bit like an average episode of the Doctor Who reboots stretched into an entire book. There’s a lot of other books in the series as I understand but I don’t think I’ll be giving them a read. 

The Mountain Shadow

This is a hefty book that is the followup to Shantaram which I enjoyed. I think on the whole, I liked this better. It’s a long book but at no point did I get bored. It is heavily philosophical to the point where some people I think might find it a bit pretentious but I am not one of those people. The characters are well rounded and believable, if not a bit exaggerated. It’s a bit of a fantasy world in a way but gives a feel of such a different way of life to my own that it peaks the imagination. 

Some lovely writing…”Moonlight wrote tree poems on the road”. 

This is recommended. 

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

After my last book, I needed something that I cold devour. I had heard good things about this one so I took a shot. 

What can I say, other than this book has shot its way right into the top five, maybe even top three books I have ever read. It is awesome. The premise is that of a traditional murder mystery in a country estate, the idea of which I love. But, the added feature here is that there is a sort of supernatural aspect in which the main character lives the day of the murder several times, Groundhog Day-style. Knowing this, I was cautious. 

The thing with this is that it would be so easy to get it wrong, or not put enough into it. Not so with this genius. He’s absolutely nailed it. My mind boggles when I think of all the tangled pathways he must have had to have in his head to make this work. But it really does. Bloody awesome. Read it as soon as you can. Apparently his second book is even better!

White Teeth

This was a great read. Not the sort of book I would usually pick out but it was bought for me and I am glad. First novel apparently which makes you feel a bit sick. The writing is immense. My favourite bit amongst many – commenting on a character who is high on morphine… “his head opened up like a deck chair.” Great stuff. 

This is a long read, perhaps a bit too long being my only criticism, but it is one of great wisdom and it is well thought out enough that it is all leading towards something which is not something I necessarily anticipated. I was fully prepared for it to peter out a bit but the ending was surprisingly satisfying. A thorough exploration of race and the intertwined attitudes of all parties. 

The Road

This was a bleak book. It’s not long by any means and has no chapters – relentless then. Just one continuous ream of bleakness. That does not make it a bad read though. Quite the contrary, it is almost poetic in its literary credentials. The prose is descriptive and wraps you up in this post apocalyptic world, engrossing you in the father son relationship at its core and making you think on the merits of survival itself and of the impacts we have on the world and each other. I’ve not seen the film. I don’t really want to. But the book is great. If not a bit depressing for the current times!

Dubliners

I’ve been dabbling in short story writing recently so this was a perfect book to have a shufty at. A bit like a concept album, these short stories are all set in turn of the Century Dublin and there is a thread running throughout making the order important. These aren’t necessarily just stand alone but either way, they provide a masterclass in the short story field. Considered to be one of the best collections, I really enjoyed reading this. My favourite was probably ‘A Little Cloud’.

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.