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review 2018-11-13 19:58
The Witch Elm / Tana French
The Witch Elm - Tana French

Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who’s dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life – he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead. Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family’s ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden – and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed.

 

This book isn’t part of French’s Dublin Murder Squad books, so don’t go into it expecting that. She is still writing in the mystery genre, but no doubt feeling the urge to diversify a bit, and not be locked into just one series.

Having said that, Toby (the main character of this book) reminded me in several ways of Rob Ryan from the first DMS book, In the Woods. They both have dodgy memories and both start out each book seeming like happy-go-lucky guys. Ms. French doesn’t let them stay too settled, however. Toby’s kinda-sorta-close family ties also reminded me of Frank Mackey in DMS #3, Faithful Place. Frank, just like Toby, had to sort through family history and old memories to come to some sort of conclusion about the present.

How accurately do we remember the past? I think the general consensus is that we’re all revisionists. (As Stephen King wrote in Joyland, “When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.”) And how much more severe is that situation going to be when Toby has been severely head-injured? Actually, I really didn’t like the Toby of the first few pages and was wondering what had happened to one of my favourite writers! I usually really enjoy even French’s most annoying characters—so I was happily surprised that head-injured Toby was more much interesting and (to me) likeable.

I had a great big soft spot for Uncle Hugo as well. Having done genealogy myself, I loved that French made him a genealogical researcher (and a good one). I’ve got some Irish ancestors, who emigrated to Canada and kept raising money to bring more relatives over. I’ve got to find the time to learn more about them!

The Witch Elm also made me think of M.L. Rio’s If We Were Villains, which I absolutely adored. I thought that Toby resembled Oliver Marks from that novel, particularly when it came to the book’s ending. A lovely messy ending, with only hints at how things will actually resolve when either Oliver or Toby emerge back into the world.

So, I maybe didn’t love The Witch Elm quite as much as the Dublin Murder Squad, but I still found it to be a book well worth reading. Ms. French, I am still a devotée.

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review 2018-11-05 18:44
London Rules / Mick Herron
London Rules (Slough House) - Mick Herron

London Rules might not be written down, but everyone knows rule one.  Cover your arse.

 

Regent's Park's First Desk, Claude Whelan, is learning this the hard way. Tasked with protecting a beleaguered Prime Minister, he's facing attack from all directions himself: from the showboating MP who orchestrated the Brexit vote, and now has his sights set on Number Ten; from the showboat's wife, a tabloid columnist, who's crucifying Whelan in print; from the PM's favourite Muslim, who's about to be elected mayor of the West Midlands, despite the dark secret he's hiding; and especially from his own deputy, Lady Di Taverner, who's alert for Claude's every stumble.

 

Meanwhile, the country's being rocked by an apparently random string of terror attacks, and someone's trying to kill Roddy Ho.

 

Over at Slough House, the crew are struggling with personal problems: repressed grief, various addictions, retail paralysis, and the nagging suspicion that their newest colleague is a psychopath. But collectively, they're about to rediscover their greatest strength - that of making a bad situation much, much worse.

 

It's a good job Jackson Lamb knows the rules. Because those things aren't going to break themselves.

 

I think Mick Herron’s Slough House series just keeps improving! Herron brings his characteristic humour to the creation of the failed spies of Slough House, with characters who all exhibit personal problems that interfere daily with their ability to function.

Eight months of anger fucking management sessions, and this evening she'd officially be declared anger free. It had been hinted she might even get a badge. That could be a problem--if anyone stuck a badge on her, they'd be carrying their teeth home in a hanky.



Roderick Ho, the obnoxious computer nerd, gets to shine not-so-brightly in this installment. He’s been assigned to Slough House because of the ridiculous self-delusionary bubble that he inhabits, not because of a work screw up. And the nature of his personal fantasy life tips him into the hands of North Korean operatives, bent on showing the U.K. that the Hermit Kingdom is its superior.

Despite the fact that all the other damaged members of the House despise Rod, when a car tries to run him down while he is stalking Pokemon on his way to work, everyone decides that they need to protect one of their own. Needless to say, Ho didn’t notice the attempt on his life and remains pretty clueless throughout the book. After four other volumes, we would expect no less (or is that no more?) of the Rodster.

Jackson Lamb, the malignant supervisor of Slough House, is at his obnoxious best in this installment. He is smoking to excess, drinking to excess, not maintaining his personal hygiene, insulting everyone who crosses his path, and (still) emitting reeking farts at will. But as truly horrible as he is, he protects his own. I was particularly happy, when at the end of this book, Lamb insists

that Roddy Ho be returned to Slough House rather than terminated.

(spoiler show)

 

 

As Lamb remarks: Slough House, putting the “us” in “clusterfuck.”

 

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text 2018-11-01 17:18
Reading progress update: I've read 254 out of 336 pages.
London Rules (Slough House) - Mick Herron

Ho's room was heavy with an acrid, non-specific odour which caught and bottled, would probably kill rodents, or old people.  Louisa was breathing carefully.  On any list of rooms she was never likely to find herself in, this one was right behind Benedict Cumberbatch's, though for diametrically opposite reasons.

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text 2018-10-31 16:57
Reading progress update: I've read 100 out of 336 pages.
London Rules (Slough House) - Mick Herron

Lamb had assumed what the slow horses called his hippo-at-rest position: apparently docile, but you wouldn't want to get too close.

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text 2018-10-30 17:01
Reading progress update: I've read 44 out of 336 pages.
London Rules (Slough House) - Mick Herron

Roderick Ho was hunting for Pokemon on the way to work and was saved by a coworker from being run over:

 

"Well then, let's assume it was a tourist.  An unexpected sighting of Roderick Ho would alarm almost anyone, and you know what foreigners are like.  Excitable. And rubbish drivers.  Why didn't Ho bring this up himself, anyway?  Not usually a shrinking violet, is he?  More like poison ivy."

"He didn't notice," Shirley said.

Lamb stared at her for a moment or two, then nodded.  "Yeah, okay.  I can see that happening."

 

*******

 

 

 

Before she could stop herself, she said, "Shirley reckons we should keep an eye on Ho."

"What, watch his back?"

"That kind of thing."

"After hours?"

"The only harm he'll come to here is from us."

"You know he goes clubbing, don't you?"

"I figured."

"With, I can only assume, like-minded people. People like Ho?" He paused. "We'll want hazmat suits."

 

 

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