Monday, 30 May 2016

The Girl In The Spider's Web - David Lagercrantz

The Reviewer In The Spider’s Web

You know I do understand why this book was written. …… I think. When I was younger I can remember how bereft I felt at the conclusion of a book I really loved. There were times when I simply returned to the beginning and read it all over again so loathe was I to leave the world I had been fortunate enough to enter. So I get that feeling of wanting to keep hold of Lisbeth Salander. For weeks after I finished the Millennium Trilogy I used to ask myself, ‘What would Lisbeth Salander do?’ when I found myself in challenging situations. May I stress that I didn’t do what Lisbeth might have done but there was a comfort in thinking it!

So you would think I’d be ecstatic about another ‘Girl…..’ novel, wouldn’t you? Well I was, I am, I mean I think so, its just that - Stieg didn’t write it. So I had such a strong sense that I wasn’t reading about Stieg’s Lisbeth, I was reading about Lagercrantz’s Lisbeth and they are two different people. Mr. Lagercrantz has done his homework, the physical descriptions are spot on, the actions, the reactions, the interactions are pure Salander but ……… the essence of her isn’t truly there.

Can I say the same of Mikael Blomqvist? He was always a little one dimensional to me but I always figured he was supposed to be, the most perfect foil for Lisbeth. The Yin and Yang of Nordic crime.

So what do we really have here? On the one hand we have a cracking good crime thriller. An intricate plot full of technical cyber knowledge much of which went over my head. A journalist, a hacker, the police, all up against an unknown enemy dealing in  uncompromising violence. So objectively it’s a great read, five stars.

But if you can write a story this good why capitalise on characters who already exist? And maybe the answer to that question lies in the premise of my opening paragraph? May David Lagercrantz just loved the characters so much he wanted them to go on.

I wonder what Lisbeth Salander would have written if she been required to write a review of this book? Easy. She wouldn’t!!!

Friday, 27 May 2016

Splinter The Silence - Val McDermid

I think I'm a little in love with both Tony Hill and Carol Jordan. Make of that what you will, I don't
much care! I've loved them since The Mermaids Singing in 1995, over twenty years now. I think I
know them well. But the downside for book reviewing is that it may make me less than objective.
It's like when you have a really comfy pair of slippers, they are threadbare in places and there
might be a hole developing on the sole but they really are so comfortable they simply cannot be

This novel seems more about relationships than crime although a crime is solved but it seemed
secondary to me. That might put readers off if you're looking purely for a crime novel.
But on a broader level it does work for a possibly biased me! I think I've read nearly all McDermid's
work from the Lindsay Gordon series through to this recent novel. And I so admire how this writer
has moved effortlessly with the times. Taking on board developments in forensics and police
procedures but also embracing wholeheartedly the digital age and allowing the fictions to be driven
forward on a cyber wave.

An interesting aside here which I found quite spooky was that prior to reading this book I had just
read a copy of Lindy West's Shrill which also deals with social media trolls.

So is this a book 'just' for the fans? Maybe. But I defy anyone who enjoys a good thriller not to be
absorbed by the actual crime; the genesis, the execution, the M.O., even if you aren't captured by
the Hill/Jordan relationship and those of other members of the 'team'.

Val McDermid is a master of her art and I will continue to read anything she writes. Even a cereal

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Shrill - Lindy West

You Don’t Have To Be………

……..American to read this book but it is an advantage as the impact of some of the cultural references and names were lost on me. And I am someone who loves baseball and root beer and I can sing The Star Spangled Banner better than my own National Anthem! In fact I think I might have been an American in a previous life! But maybe past lives can’t prepare you for contemporary cyber America. And are things any different in the UK?

I doubt that this is a book I would have picked to read had not Real Readers sent me a copy to review but I am glad I have read it for it will stay with me for a long time. I cannot remember the last time I laughed so much I was unable to continue reading. I can still chuckle to myself as I remember those phrases that made me laugh. Equally it’s been a while since a book made me think as much as this one has and I confess to shedding a tear or two for the aggressive ignorance of so many people who lack the courage to do anything but hide behind the anonymity of the Internet. I loathe the term ‘trolls’ to describe these people but an accurate description probably contravenes any censorship laws. (I had toy trolls when I was a kid, with long hair and kindly faces. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld trolls aren’t threatening at all. )

This book is an often uncomfortable read. It can be seen as one woman’ monologue, a diatribe against prejudice and injustice amongst other things but it is also an autobiography of honesty and humanity. It may upset some peoples’ sensibilities for it is frank. Labelled as a ‘feminist;’ book I think it can be appreciated on wider levels.

Lindy West is a brave, brave woman who should never be defined by her physicality but by her wit and her intellect and the way that, as a wordsmith, she can combine those two qualities.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

All Things Cease To Appear Elizabeth Brundage



I don’t know if the title of this book is a known saying or epithet, it isn’t credited as such but it brought to mind the pragmatic Sanskrit concept of ‘Pratītyasamutpāda’. 

And it was a pleasure to read this book, no, it was more than that, it was a privilege. A beautifully constructed story that luxuriated in the depths of its language. Some perceptive metaphors and observations that make you think ‘Yes, that’s it, exactly’, as you read it. A novel where you savour every word, for every word fulfils its role in this story. Ms. Brundart’s words are characters too.

This is a multi layered fiction; on the surface it tells a chilling, thrilling, unsettling tale of families in a small town, an octopus novel with its tentacles delving richly into the psychological, the spiritual, the supernatural, sometimes gothic, sometimes contemporary, moving between time periods. And it’s also an eloquent piece of prose writing where words and phrases can lift and inspire you as only a good writer can do. 

The characters are keenly observed and developed, brought to life as we are encouraged to both loathe and empathise and our emotions are manipulated almost but with the assurance that what we are feeling is just how we should feel. The writer seems to be able to get under the skin of all, particularly the women in the novel, despite their difference in age and personality. They are all three dimensional.

In some ways it is a book without a conclusion but paradoxically the conclusion was always there right from the beginning. The plot is almost clear from the start but in a curious way the plot is  secondary to the other aspects of the novel, another character, as it were, satisfying its role in this story.

I am tempted to put aside other commitments and seek out all of Elizabeth Brundage’s other work for she is a new writer to me.

But I’ve waxed lyrical about this book long enough. Long enough, I hope, for you to seriously consider reading it.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Five Rivers Meet on a Wooded Plain - Barney Norris

Five Rivers Meet on a Wooded Plain - Barney Norris ****

Merrily Down The Stream

The opening chapter in this book belies what is to follow. And as I began the book I feared my interest would not be sustained throughout. For much as I admired the poetic prose in all its eloquence, at that point I couldn’t see where it was going or see how an entire novel could continue in this way.

But as the structure of the novel became apparent I appreciated the diversity of style. I liked the premise of the book which I guess is to say that we are all tributaries navigating into the great river of life.

I was impressed by how the seemingly disparate lives of five different people were linked through one event. And the narrative of each character was somehow constructed to convey the personality and temperament of that person. There is a certain skill in the rendering of fairly ordinary lives as interesting. These lives are cemented by an extraordinary event. I can say it’s a car crash as the blurb does detail the event so its not a spoiler.I liked the idea that the city of Salisbury was almost an additional character in the book.

For a debut novel this is a credible offering. This writer keenly observes people and their lives in a non judgmental way with a detached yet empathic demeanour.

I note Mr. Norris is also a playwright but I will be interested to see how he develops as novelist. If this first book is anything to go by then we are in for a treat.