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Archive Entries for May 2020

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Sunday May 31, 2020

Books in May

  • Shell Game by Sara Paretsky [read by Liza Ross] BOM-ShellGame.jpg
    The shell game is one I know as "find the lady" - which, although the latter is the name for the playing card version, I had always heard it extended to the "cup and ball" version. Basically there are 3 inverted cups, under which a ball (or shell) is hidden - you see where the ball starts, the trickster moves the cups around, you bet on which cup contains the ball, you lose your money. You can always find confidence tricksters exhibiting their skills at this around central London, usually with "plants" in the audience who apparently get the better of the trickster when invited to place a bet. I might say, that since this game is so well known, to my mind you can hardly bestow the title "scammer" on these (skilled) individuals; you always "know" where the ball is, and (amazingly) it is never there.
    Paretsky uses the name in the American sense of "a deceptive and evasive action or ploy". The books starts with a stolen artefact, but then moves on to a missing niece and a financial scam. The book seems to have had mixed reviews - some people saying that the underlying financial scam was a bit tedious - and I have to say that I find Kathy Reichs' underlying "exposes" in her books a little wearing - but somehow not Parestsky's as they seem much less heavy handed - more factual and less opinionated, even though she makes no bones about where her heroine stands on the political spectrum.
    [That being the case, one commentator did amuse me by saying "always a fan of Paretsky, but not her politics" which seems to me to be an oxymoron since her books and heroine wholly reflect her politics.]

  • The Swimming Pool by Louise Candlish [read by Gabrielle Baker] BOM-TheSwimmingPool.jpg
    I liked Our House so much that I chose some other books by the same author. This one has a lovely aura around it (if that's possible). This book uses the technique of "then and now" with 3 time lines very effectively intertwined, illustrating youthful guilt, endless summers, and the glossy middle-classes closing ranks.
    Again, mixed reviews - some finding the story wonderful and others, boring. I feel that the more critical readers had read her previous books and were more interested in a classic thriller/mystery with a surprise ending - rather than a book more of the psychological thriller genre. In fact, for me, it did have a rather surprise ending which I had not guessed, as well as some thrilling action. However, I guess you did have to "enjoy the journey" - which I most certainly did. I love swimming, open air pools, and glamorous bohemian lifestyles; so I was easily swept along with the narrator. Like her I was drawn in, but at the same time, all too aware of the underlying anxiety and threat of what might be to come.

  • Treachery by S.J. Parris [read by Laurence Kennedy] BOM-Treachery.jpg
    We have reached the summer of 1585 and the action has moved to Plymouth, making for more wonderful opportunities to describe the old Tudor town and harbour. Sir Francis Drake is preparing to sail on an expedition to attack Spanish-held ports in the Americas, and "liberate" King Philip's treasures. Bruno's friend, Sir Philip Sidney, is gagging to join the voyage (and take Bruno with him) - but against the wishes of Queen Elizabeth, Sir Francis, and very much Bruno himself. Needless to say, the pair are soon drawn into investigating a mysterious death and a plot to foil Drake's mission before it begins.

  • The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid [read by Cathleen McCarron] BOM-TheSkeletonRoad.jpg
    I'm not sure why but I never regarded Val McDermid as one of the "greats" of crime fiction although clearly she is - not only popular, and able to tell a great tale, but also, as far as I am able to judge, a good writer. So why did I never see her on a par with, say, Ian Rankin?
    Anyway, my bad, noting that McDermid appears in at least 3 of the Crime Vault's Desert Island book choices - although some have gone for the more predictable "Wire in the Blood" series. This one had more breadth about it covering a cold case starting in Scotland and moving through Yugoslavia. It is part of her Karen Pirie series, but seems to have had mixed reviews from her fans.

  • The Vinyl Detective by Andrew Cartmel [Read by Ben Allen, and Finlay Robertson]

    Helen put me on to these books - and what a wonderful "find" they are. Again, probably the kind of thing that presses all the right buttons for me; they have a slightly retro feel of the amateur detective, the author appears to have put a lot of himself into the main character (true or not one can never really say), and the perspective of the true (in this case vinyl) collector is really well explained without being either boring or patronising
    Helen thought Rob would like these books and gave me the first one - which I duly passed on to him. In fact, although he liked it, I was more smitten than he, simply commenting that he "does not know much about jazz" - although to my mind that's not really important, so I guess the thriller mystery is of more importance than the music. [Although the Big Band novel did make me go to YouTube and listen to Annette Hanshaw (Blank Bottom) and her trademark "That's All" which was wonderful.]
    The unnamed hero is a specialist collector of vinyl jazz records - as in: he will track down a rare record for you for a fee - not an actual detective. In keeping with his geeky nature, he is also obsessive about coffee, and, rather more oddly, very keen on his cats. Through twists of fate, he is led to track down records of different types and genres and has to compete with others bent on murderous intent. The genres in order are: jazz, psychedelic rock, big band, and heavy metal. Can't wait to read Low Action. [I empathise with the comment of another reader: "I felt I wanted to hang out with most of the characters".]

    BOM-WrittenInDeadWax.jpg BOM-TheRunOutGroove.jpg BOM-VictoryDisc.jpg BOM-FlipBack.jpg

Posted on May 31, 2020 at 8:39 AM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)