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Archive Entries for November 2021

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Tuesday November 30, 2021

Books in November

  • The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley BOM-TheParisApartment.jpg
    A second exciting thriller from Lucy Foley.
    Again she favours the "locked room" idea, with the suspects based around the characters inhabiting an apartment block in Paris (clue's in the name). But... I say "suspects", and yet what exactly are they suspected of? True, there seems to be a lot to be suspicious of, and much disquieting behaviour ... but mostly it's just a sense of fear and anxiety, nicely conveyed through the eyes of Jess, who is (as in The Hunting Party) one of multiple narrators - and she is the one we most readily identify with. Right from the start, we are drawn into the mystery as the relatable Jess is stumbling around Paris, with little ability in the French language, trying to reach her brother's home - only to find, once there, that her brother seems to have taken off. Jess herself has done a moonlight flit from England (Brighton), so with no funds she has no choice but to stay in "The Paris Apartment".
    As each character takes over the narrative, they each reveal their own individual nameless fears. I'm reading that other reviewers find the characters (including Jess) unlikeable - but I think that's pretty well the whole point. Gradually the overall picture of the relationships between the apparently unconnected residents begins to emerge, making it a mystery thriller that is hard to put down.
    There is a wonderful twist at the end - and the end itself, (again at the risk of a spoiler), while not conventionally boy/girl/sunset, nonetheless provides a satisfying conclusion.

  • The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman [Read by Lesley Manville]
    BOM-TheManWhoDiedTwice.jpg Another delightful outing for the old folk. Once again, I loved the book - perfectly read by Lesley Manville. If there is any "but", it's a similar concern that I had after the first one: namely that, if this is to be a lengthy series, it has to evolve to rely more on plot than lovable characters. For me, like many others I feel sure, the characters are all, and the plot much less so. I have no quibble with the design of the plots so far, but it's the characters that melt your heart, (assuming you have one - no offense to my my sister but she simply did not warm to the first book at all, and expressed the view that the plot was too complex to follow - but then I have no doubt she will not read any more in the series notwithstanding the plots).
    My favourite quote?
    "She looks over at Bogdan, sitting there, silent in his sunglasses - like Mr Darcy."

  • The Killings at Kingfisher Hill by Sophie Hannah [read by Julian Rhind-Tutt] BOM-TheKillingsAtKingfisherHill.jpg
    All the special audiobook treats saved for one month....
    Again - I love Sophie Hannah's extensions to the Poirot catalogue. They are written with such love of the subject, as well as tongue-in-cheek respect. I feel she knows Poirot so well, and through Catchpool (slightly less in awe of his friend than Hastings was) she is able to poke gentle fun at the greatest detective mind of all time. This plot truly is convoluted to say the least, but very much in the Christie style, with a murderess already destined for the gallows waiting to be exonerated by Poirot, and with double bluffs and mistaken identities abounding.
    It was not possible for me to read (listen to) this and not be interested to know more of "Peepers", the board game broadly described in the book. It's not a wholly key part of the plot, but Poirot and Catchpool use their (mock) enthusiasm for the game as a means of inveigling themselves into the victim's household. You can read about it on agathachristie.com, and even take up the challenge to write your own rules and describe how to play. What we know so far is:
    • The rules are complex
    • The minimum game players are two
    • The game has a board, and a number of round discs with eyes on them
    • It is unlikely to be a large board game, as Poirot packed it into his luggage
    • It is not like chess
    • It is not like Monopoly
    What are you waiting for...?

  • Their Little Secret by Mark Billingham [read by Mark Billingham]
    BOM-TheirLittleSecret.jpg In this book Mark takes on the interesting subject of the psychosis known as "folie à deux", told in part from the insane criminals' points of view. Mark has proved to be excellent at writing in this way - notably in my opinion in Rush of Blood and Die of Shame - and this is no exception. Investigated by Thorne with the help of Tanner, and (of course) his old china plate Hendricks. The plot is thrilling with a twist at the end (which I sort of guessed at but not through any shortcoming in the writing).
    I have two quibbles - the first is quite minor. I am occasionally exasperated at Thorne's apparent ignorance about certain topics which I consider to be general knowledge. I know that the concept of "general knowledge" is a bit false - to quote Chris Tarrant in respect of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? "all questions are easy if you know the answer". So I accept that what I consider to be general knowledge about, for example, "art" might be a closed book to a highly focussed North London DI with an abiding interest in country music. However I cannot believe he is totally unfamiliar with the concept of folie à deux given that it has been applied to one of the most notorious cases in the UK in the last half century. Some of Thorne's other areas of ignorance cannot reflect Mark's own, and therefore occasionally it comes across as a bit false.
    My second quibble is completely personal. As I suspected he eventually might, Mark has chosen to ditch Helen, Thorne's most recent love interest. This has lost my respect for the character - and the author to some degree. I think it is hard to write about an essentially flawed (only in so far as we all are) personality in such a tough job and also have him keep a stable home life - in fact it's probably not even realistic - but I wish Mark had risen to the challenge. Instead Thorne is apparently going to remain in his laddish drinking-after-work-followed-by-a-take-away-curry-then-back-to-his-flat, interspersed with unlikely love interests (how old IS he? is he THAT attractive as a proposition?); and sadly, I suspect, all simply because it's too hard to write a happy home life. It's no coincidence that our popular fictional detectives seem to live alone* [even "Lewis" had to lose the wife once he took over the franchise]. Weirdly though, for me (again very personal), the most realistic point of contention was the problem of adjusting to living arrangements south - as opposed to north - of the river. It may seem bizarre but having lived around London I have observed that my friends retain a deep allegiance to one or the other, and I can see it might be one of those apparently trivial things that make a relationship impossible to sustain.
    But I really did like Helen.
    [* A notable exception is Caroline Graham's DI Barnaby, who was probably more realistic in the books than in the TV adaptations, though long-suffering wife, Joyce, was portrayed in a fairly balanced way.].

Posted on November 30, 2021 at 2:39 PM. Category: Books of the Month. | Comments (0)

Monday November 1, 2021



George was also the driving force behind our second cinema visit. Like (in my mind) everyone in the 1970s, we all read the sci fi trilogy sensation "Dune" - which then promptly spawned a 4th volume. [G tells me there are a good few more now and Frank Herbert's son has taken over the "franchise"].
There was a David Lynch film made in the 1980s, which was led to much disappointment and general criticism - but it is now, like some other notorious "flops", (OHMSS), deemed to have be misjudged and unjustifiably maligned. Considering it was said to be "unfilmable" at the time, and without the possibility of CGI, I think it was quite an achievement, staying true to the spirit of the film.
This latest film is excellent, overcoming any slow plot development, and creating great tension and excitement in the assassination attempts, and battle scenes. This is all aided by modern filming techniques, and also by splitting the story over more than one film, which is almost a necessity for such complex plots. In this "part 1", we get only hints at the astonishing way the native Fremen use the giant worms, and in the final scenes, just a glimpse of their ingenuity. [No issues now in visually depicting worms "the size of an airport runway".]
I read that prior to 1984, there was a lot of other film production preparation, with various scripts - one associated with Ridley Scott, which was also due to be split over 2 movies. He dropped the project and went to work on Blade Runner. One can only imagine what might have been, I suppose.

Posted on November 1, 2021 at 10:28 AM. Category: Art and Culture. | Comments (0)