This has probably been the most varied month of crime-fiction-devouring that I’ve had since beginning this blog.
I began by finishing C. J. Sansom’s Heartstone - a massive read at over 700 pages. Sansom’s Shardlake series spans the second half of Henry VIII’s reign with increasingly detailed volumes. As usual, the crookback lawyer Matthew Shardlake allows his devotion to duty to lead him into political hot water. This time his investigations take him to Portsmouth on the eve of a French invasion. There’s a good twist and a striking (if unavoidably predictable) set-piece on board the Mary Rose. The only jarring thing for me was the use of the phrase ‘mad as a box of frogs’ – surely not proper Tudorese. Four stars.
Next came Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent. I’ve always imagined legal thrillers wouldn’t be for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed this intelligent and sensitive book, which pitches Prosecuting Attorney Rusty Sabich against the legal and political system of Kindle County when he is accused of murdering a colleague. Five stars.
Definitely not for me is Aunt Dimity: Detective. I bought this because the Aunt Dimity of the title is a fellow Westwood. Aunt Dimity is the deceased advisor of an American woman living in the improbable English village of Finch. Improbable not because of the ghost or the murders, but because it manages to support a thriving pub, a teashop and an ‘emporium’. Go and look at an English village. Seriously. Anyway, somebody has killed a woman called Pruneface and a couple of amateur detectives flirt their way to a solution. Two stars.
London Falling is an urban-fantasy-cum-police-procedural by the man behind some of Doctor Who’s better episodes – Paul Cornell. A team consisting of two undercover policemen, a traditionalist copper, and an intelligence expert are thrown together when they gain the ‘Sight’ - the ability to see supernatural London in all its hideous glory. It plays out like a TV miniseries and has obvious series potential. Three stars.
All Fall Down by Louise Voss and my fellow Wulfrunian (look it up) Mark Edwards is a fun if hyperactive thriller with terrorists, a superflu devastating Los Angeles, chases, escapes, explosions and pretty much everything else you can think of. Evil scientists. Egyptian death cults. Three stars.
And yesterday I finished Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn, a nineteenth-century tale of a young girl trapped in the machinations of the band of Cornish smugglers led by her monstrous Uncle Joss Merlyn. But Mary Yellan is no second Mrs Danvers and gives as good as she gets. Four stars.
Last month, I forgot to mention a December book, which I read on Christmas Day: The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson. Jansson’s one of my all-time favourite authors, but to be honest I found her first novel over-slight and probably just for completists. Still, even on a bad day Jansson can do ‘hauntingly lovely’ like nobody else. Also, a nice, attractive edition by Sort Of Books.
Pick of the month: Presumed Innocent.
As usual, this post is linked to the Pick of the Month at Kerrie’s Mysteries in Paradise blog.