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Thursday September 30, 2021

Books in September

  • A Song for the Dark Times by Ian Rankin [Read by James Macpherson]
    BOM-ASongForTheDarkTimes.jpg I've been saving this book to listen to as a special treat. In that respect it did not disappoint. It is clear that the author is now desperately trying to keep Rebus in the action - as we all love him - with some creative (though nicely plausible) strategies. In this book, he achieves it with essentially two story lines - one revolving around Rebus and a murder affecting his family, while the other is a "normal" police case handled by Siobhan Clarke and Malcolm Fox. The cases have a tangential link, allowing for necessary communication between our heroes, but equally could have stood alone.
    I am glad Rebus still has his place in the books, but I do think Clarke and Fox are strong characters in their own right, and could easily carry a plot without him.

  • Guilty Not Guilty by Felix Francis [Read by Martin Jarvis]
    BOM-GuiltyNotGuilty.jpg Overall a well-plotted thriller, despite not being my favourite kind, as we "know" the murderer all along. However there is a certain delight in the totally unexpected twist at the end - playing excellently on the book's title. The final resolution (though not the "guilt" aspect) is left open - but even if you don't like that kind of ending, I think everyone will feel one way or another that they "know" what will happen.
    We all know Martin Jarvis is a genius so I expect to be largely ignored if I say "I would not have read it like that". As I'm not a professional - actor or narrator - I could never have voiced the characters in any plausible way to allow the listener to understand who was speaking and generally what was going on. However, I think the hero's agonised pontifications about his dear wife and her problems - which were, in all seriousness, extremely tragic - could have struck more of a cord with me if voiced a little differently. Even though we are hearing the character's inner thoughts, which may indeed be desperate, he has a long-term agony which I think just catches him unexpectedly when he thinks of her - rather than a continual wailing lament. As I've said before, I don't think Felix writes emotions very well, but I do think that that part of the story could have perhaps been improved by reining in what was written on the page by tone of voice.
    Other than that, I did find the hero's attitude to being suspected of a murder a little different from how I feel I might have behaved. Luckily it's never happened to me, so who knows...? Maybe it's a man/woman thing. I think I might not have stood up to the police - which undoubtedly would have been a mistake in any case - and tried to persuade them to look elsewhere.

  • The Complete Steel by Catherine Aird [Read by Robin Bailey]
    BOM-TheCompleteSteel.jpg I've had a few Catherine Aird books on my radar for a long time without knowing anything about the author or her style of story. I now find she writes slightly-tongue-in-cheek police procedurals, with a suitable inspector (Sloan) and his sidekick (DC Crosby) - whom I internally equated to Lynn Truss' (did I place the apostrophe correctly?) Constable Twitten, despite the fact that Sloan is a very intelligent copper with a very dry wit, rather than an idiot, and the stories are not outright comedies.
    The tone of the novels is definitely nostalgic, and a bit cozy; the author has been likened to M C Beaton and Caroline Graham - I would say somewhere between the two, and if you like them you will probably like Aird. Lastly but no means least(ly), Robin Bailey provides the perfect voice for the narrative.

  • The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle [Read by Glen McCready]
    BOM-TheLostWorld.jpg This is an excellent adventure story. I did wonder if it pre-dated the first Holmes book as in A Study in Scarlet the solution to the murder mystery is explained in the "story within a story", which takes up half the book. It led me to think that Doyle was perhaps happier writing tales of adventure. Indeed I think Doyle found it hard to sustain complete novels based on the Holmes type of mystery and deductive reasoning, finding it more suited to the short story format. However Lost World was serialised in 1912 - long after his interest in Holmes had essentially ceased.
    At any rate, Doyle's output was prolific, so by this time his writing was no doubt sharpened to a point - and his ability to tell a tale is second to none*. Despite knowing the basic story and having seen the film on TV from time to time, I found it wholly gripping, most entertaining, and worryingly plausible (!) throughout.
    * (maybe second to Kipling...).

Posted by Christina at 8:31 AM. Category: Books of the Month

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