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Tuesday May 31, 2022

Books in May

  • The Cook by Ajay Chowdhury
    BOM-TheCook.jpg Overall, despite its having a decent plot and potentially interesting characters, this book was not really to my taste. I don't think that should put anyone else off reading it - my taste is by no means everyone's. Kamil Rahman appeared first in The Waiter, and although I prefer to read books in order, when the publishers via Netgalley kindly offered me Kamil's second outing to review, I decided to read it first. I feel that may have been my mistake. Reviews of The Waiter, explicitly mention the vivid interweaving of cultures by alternating between past events in Kolkata and the present in London being so enjoyable. However, unlike the first book, the action here is based solely in London, and I found it very hard to engage with the characters and the communities. Even though I the fault may be with me, (in that the age and background of the players is well outside my demographic), I think the author should have made me engage more, and thus given me more of an interest in things about which I know little. I have the slight impression that the author said all he wanted to about the characters in the first book, (perhaps an indication that they are a little shallow?). Even the themes of homelessness and domestic abuse - which are shocking and ever-present in our society - failed to raise the emotions in the way they should have.
    Despite the good story, I felt Kamil's investigation came across as implausible; the concept of a familiar crew getting together to solve a mystery on their own smacked almost of children's books. All books with "amateur detectives" have this kind of inherent problem - I heard one experienced author saying: "why would a person in reality accept being questioned by anyone other than the police?". However, again, I think it's the author's job to answer that question, and make me suspend my disbelief. Despite all this, I am still keen to read "The Waiter", and I hope we might get improved characterisations as the series - and the author - progress.

  • A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz [Read by Rory Kinnear]
    BOM-ALineToKill.jpg Of course, as with most of Anthony Horowitz's (may I call you Tony? no?) output - I loved this next book in this series. The plot is good, the characters wonderful, and ... well, what more can I say?
    As this was an audio book - and I would say again what an appropriate reader they have found in Rory Kinnear - they followed an apparent trend, by including an interview with the author at the end. I found this really interesting, not only in Anthony's opinion and insights about writing this and other books, but in his sheer irrepressible enthusiasm for his craft. This is reminiscent of some anecdotes I heard from friends who worked with him in his youth in advertising, when "all he ever wanted to do was to write and write".
    I was also very pleased to discover that far more books are in plan for this series, (beyond the "three book deal"). True to the professional he is, Anthony explained that he will need to vary the form in those future books, and how he might do so, to avoid his own fictional role as "Watson" becoming stale.

  • Hot to Trot by M C Beaton with R W Green [read by Penelope Keith]
    BOM-HotToTrot.jpg As Marion Chesney died in 2019, I thought this would be the last Agatha Raising book I would read; however, this book credits Rod Green as a co-author, and it seems clear he will continue to write the Agatha books*. He makes it clear that Marion worked with him and supplied him with some future storylines - as well as approving his first few chapters on her behalf - before she passed away. I think he really has done a good job, although I do detect a slight mellowing - and I suspect he will be unable to bring himself to make Agatha quite as outrageously foolish as she has been under Marion's watch. (I always likened Agatha to an adult version of Blyton's Noddy - he is based on naughty 3 year old mentality, while she is a naughty 50 year old.)
    * R W Green also seems to be continuing the Hamish McBeth series - a delight yet to come for me - I loved the TV series with Robert Carlyle, and was rather put off to discover that it and he ("not a Highlander!") were intensely disapproved of by Marion. I hope sooner or later Green will achieve full credit for the books that he's responsible for.

  • Swallowdale and Peter Duck by Arthur Ransome
    [Read by Gareth Armstrong] BOM-Swallowdale.jpg BOM-PeterDuck.jpg
    Swallowdale takes place the year after Swallows and Amazons. The Swallows - so excited with the prospect of another summer holiday in the Lake District - have to deal with an accident which holes their boat, putting it out of action for the duration of the story (a couple of weeks); this means they cannot camp on Wild Cat Island until it is mended. Instead they find a "secret" valley in which to camp, and a cave - both of which in fact remembered by their relatives from when they were children. Not to mention the "shipwreck" itself at the start of the book, again, there is a very scary element when a sudden mist descends while the the two youngest children (by then, aged only 8 and 10) are making their way back to camp on their own after an "expedition", and they become lost. Once again - despite knowing the outcome - this is especially frightening to read as an adult where you can not only clearly see that, for all their certainty, they are nowhere near where they should be, as they try to follow the (wrong) beck, but you can also fully understand the true peril of being lost and exposed on the fells.
    Peter Duck is quite a different sort of book. Although it still features the S&As, and although it is described very realistically, it is definitely a bit of a tall tale of adventure. Peter Duck himself is a (fictional) old seafaring man living in retirement on the Norfolk Broads. He is referenced in Swallowdale more or less as Titty's imaginary friend, and she names the "secret" cave after him. It is suggested that this is a story made up while the S&As were staying on a Norfolk wherry with Captain Flint, during the winter between the first two books*. Because of he nature of the story, Ransome has a degree of freedom to write an exciting thriller with somewhat larger than life villains and heroes - and yet at the same time staying on the edge of reality - definite shades of Treasure Island.
    * [I see wikipedia describes it as "metafiction"]

Posted by Christina at 9:57 AM. Category: Books of the Month

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