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Search tags: british-authors
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review 2017-07-24 20:00
Broken Homes / Ben Aaronovitch
Broken Homes - Ben Aaronovitch

This installment meanders a bit, as it juggles multiple story lines, plus lessons in architecture. Thomas "Oh was that your Tiger tank?" Nightingale gets to show why he's the teacher and Peter & Lesley are the apprentices. I particularly enjoyed Toby's increased role in this book, being Peter's magic detector (the yap-o-metre) and camouflage (a man with a dog is virtually invisible, apparently).

Peter has matured since the first book. Lesley gives him a hard time, needling him about why he and Beverly Brook aren't sleeping together yet. In the first couple of books, Peter would have jumped in first and thought things through later, but he has learned to think with his big head and is suitably cautious. After all, if your relationship with a goddess goes pear-shaped, you know who is going to suffer most (and it won't be Beverly).

I'm still enjoying the effortless multicultural and inclusive cast of characters, however don't imagine that I have no criticism! I'm not wild about the Faceless Man as an antagonist (although I did enjoy Peter's reference to his lab as the Strip Club of Dr. Moreau). But, having read to the end of this volume, how can I doubt that I will read the next to see the next event in the drama?

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review 2017-07-04 22:23
The Essex Serpent / Sarah Perry
The Essex Serpent - Sarah Perry

Set in Victorian London and an Essex village in the 1890's, and enlivened by the debates on scientific and medical discovery which defined the era, The Essex Serpent has at its heart the story of two extraordinary people who fall for each other, but not in the usual way.

They are Cora Seaborne and Will Ransome. Cora is a well-to-do London widow who moves to the Essex parish of Aldwinter, and Will is the local vicar. They meet as their village is engulfed by rumours that the mythical Essex Serpent, once said to roam the marshes claiming human lives, has returned. Cora, a keen amateur naturalist is enthralled, convinced the beast may be a real undiscovered species. But Will sees his parishioners' agitation as a moral panic, a deviation from true faith. Although they can agree on absolutely nothing, as the seasons turn around them in this quiet corner of England, they find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart.

 

Being a fan of Mary Anning, I couldn’t help but be charmed by the story of Cora Seaborne, a fellow admirer of the female fossil finder. Perry manages to illustrate the debate between the scientific and the spiritual as Cora debates these matters with the local vicar, Will Ransome. They especially clash over the issue of the Essex Serpent, possibly a relic of the Cretaceous haunting the Essex shoreline. Which beliefs are true? When is belief harmful?

Released from a brutal marriage by her husband’s sudden death, Cora gets to indulge her inner naturalist and spend time wandering the trails, forests and shores of Essex. She finds freedom in dressing like a man and trying to forget the societal limitations on her gender. Her son, obviously depicted as somewhere on the autism spectrum, is a cause for concern.

A parallel story is that of Cora’s secretary/companion, Martha, who is a socialist and passionately interested in social justice issues. When a man of means fancies her, Martha uses that interest to point him and his fortune towards housing issues in the East End of London.

There’s a lot going on in this novel, but Perry manages to keep all the balls in the air and the plot ticking along quickly. Recommended for those who enjoy reading about the Victorian time period, albeit with a very modern view point.

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review 2017-06-13 19:11
Clouds of Witness / Dorothy L. Sayers
Clouds of Witness - Dorothy L. Sayers

Rustic old Riddlesdale Lodge was a Wimsey family retreat filled with country pleasures and the thrill of the hunt – until the game turned up human and quite dead. He lay among the chrysanthemums, wore slippers and a dinner jacket and was Lord Peter's brother-in-law-to-be. His accused murderer was Wimsey's own brother, and if murder set all in the family wasn't enough to boggle the unflappable Lord Wimsey, perhaps a few twists of fate would be – a mysterious vanishing midnight letter from Egypt ... a grieving fiancée with suitcase in hand ... and a bullet destined for one very special Wimsey.

 

Dorothy Sayers works seem to me to be perfect for anyone who enjoys the writing of Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse. Sayers imparts an acerbic edge that keeps things from getting too twee. She manages to make sharp observations on both the gentry and the socialists, sometimes at the same time. I’ve recently been cataloguing the works of H.G. Wells, who wrote a lot about socialism in the early 20th century, and I find Sayers’ insights on the complicated societal changes of this time period to be spot on.

She isn’t gentle with her fellow authors either. I loved the following exchange, heard by Lord Peter while dining at the Soviet Club:

The authoress was just saying impressively to her companion: '-ever know a sincere emotion to express itself in a subordinate clause?'
'Joyce has freed us from the superstition of syntax,' agreed the curly haired man.
'Scenes which make emotional history,' said Miss Heath-Warburton, 'should ideally be expressed in a series of animal squeals.'
'The D.H. Lawrence formula,' said the other.


Poor old Lawrence, maligned again for trying to express what he considered to be real emotions and realistic human behaviour in his novels.

For some reason, it made me think of Dilbert, when his pointy-haired boss decrees that, “starting today, all passwords must contain letters, numbers, doodles, sign language, and squirrel noises.”

Being unable to express my review in either animal squeals or squirrel noises, I must tell you in English that this series is worth trying.

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review 2017-04-25 18:26
Spook Street / Mick Herron
Spook Street (Slough House) - Mick Herron

A shakeup at MI5 and a terrorist attack on British soil set in motion clandestine machinery known to few modern spies. David Cartwright isn't a modern spy, however; he's legend and a bonafide Cold War hero. He's also in his dotage and losing his mind to Alzheimer's. His stories of -stotes- hiding in the bushes, following his every move have been dismissed by friends and family for years. Cartwright may be losing track of reality but he's certain about one thing: Old spooks don't go quietly and neither do the secrets they keep.

 

Mick Herron has really hit his stride with the fourth book in the Slough House series! River Cartwright is an inspired creation, grandson of an admired British “spook” (that’s a spy to you & me) who has been sabotaged during a training exercise by a frenemy and ended up in Slough House, the place where failed spies go to be punished for their sins.

There’s been a bombing of a shopping centre, plus River is starting to worry about his grandfather’s mental state. He has the same concerns that everyone has about relatives with dementia, plus the added concern that his grandfather may indeed shoot someone who comes to the door, believing that they are out to get him. That spy-paranoia doesn’t just go away just because he is losing his grip on every-day life.

As per usual, Herron provides a complex plot, with plenty of twists & turns to keep the reader on their toes. There are interesting revelations from the past, political machinations of the most vicious & devious kinds, and Herron isn’t afraid to sacrifice a person or two along the way. The ending is also skillfull—I was given enough resolution to satisfy, while still left with enough loose threads that I am happily anticipating the next installment. Well played!

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review 2017-04-20 18:13
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd / Agatha Christie
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd - Agatha Christie

In the village of King's Abbot, a widow's sudden suicide sparks rumors that she murdered her first husband, was being blackmailed, and was carrying on a secret affair with the wealthy Roger Ackroyd. The following evening, Ackroyd is murdered in his locked study--but not before receiving a letter identifying the widow's blackmailer. King's Abbot is crawling with suspects, including a nervous butler, Ackroyd's wayward stepson, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Cecil Ackroyd, who has taken up residence in the victim's home. It's now up to the famous detective Hercule Poirot, who has retired to King's Abbot to garden, to solve the case of who killed Roger Ackroyd--a task in which he is aided by the village doctor and narrator, James Sheppard, and by Sheppard's ingenious sister, Caroline.

 

M. Poirot, what were you thinking? Retiring to a small village to grow vegetable marrows? I too would hurl them in fits of regret! As if marrows could suitably engage those little grey cells!

Excellent depiction of the competitive sport of gossip. Small communities everywhere suffer from it. That is one of the reasons that I came to live in a city—I can actually keep my private life relatively private!

Dame Agatha really did set the patterns for current mystery literature, didn’t she? Very, very enjoyable and as usual, I had no idea who the perpetrator was until M. Poirot did the big reveal.

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