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To Read, and what to Read, that is the question!

I was so excited to get three new books this week that I started one last night, the one sat atop my TBR, which, as it happens, was SLOW HORSES by Mick Herron. And, oh dear. I was either not in the mood for this one, or, it isn’t really my kind of read. Not sure which. But, only a couple of chapters in, and already, I’m struggling with the prose. It’s written in short, sharp, almost jarring sentences that are very abrupt.

While this might be the author’s way of making you feel the sense of urgency as our erstwhile spy, River, runs around Kings Cross Station chasing a suspect bomber, it made it difficult to read. There is no flow to the story. Things are either half described in a sort of shorthand way, or, worse, over detailed in their description.

And where the opening chapter should be tense and strained as our spy chases down a suspect, it reads like a badly edited telegram from another era. All sharp and disjointed. And when River chases the bomber down into the underground, instead of being caught up in what should be a terrifying moment, it all kind of fizzles to an abrupt end. Yes, even as the bomber blows himself up, along with, we are told, 120 other people aboard an underground train.

The target pulled a cord on his belt.
And that was that.”

Really? And that was that? Who’s writing this, Donald Trump speech writer?

Then, further in, the author tells us about a hypothetical person sat atop a double-decker London bus, looking up into a three story building’s windows—Slough House—and what they might see there. Several pages then go on the explain how dull the paint job is. Emphasising the colours of the walls—grey and yellowing from nicotine stains—how dirty the windows are, how there is little or no life beyond the glass, and then, about the front door that’s not a front door.

All this torpid description goes on, and on, and, dare I say it, on—ad nauseam.

Hardly the stuff of either a spy novel, or a thriller. What’s more, I really don’t need to read 3 pages of how the rain was dripping down his collar and soaking his back. Because he’s on a stake out for a journalist’s garbage bag.

Let’s remind ourselves. This is a two-time CWA Dagger award-winning series. Yeah, really? No!

I’m shelving this one along with STASI CHILD by David Young, which also had a torturously slow start and a very unlikeable set of characters. All I can say is, I’m probably not in the right mood or headspace, and will set them aside till after the new year.

I think I need Inspector Chopra and some Mumbai whimsy in my life right now.

My Latest Book Haul

Oh, I do love to go book shopping and because I love to buy books as much as I love to read books, I have to temper myself. And while I haven’t actually set myself a budget, I do try to only order 3-4 books a month, given that’s usually how many I read. That said, however, because of this damn virus, and all but being housebound, I am reading more, and yes, therefore, buying more.

What can I say, we’re all probably as bad as one another and why not. Who needs an excuse but hell, I’ll take this one and run with it. So this latest book haul includes:

All The Devils Are Here — Louise Penny

This is Louise Penny’s latest, and the sixteenth Three Pines Mystery (Sept, 2020) featuring the redoubtable Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. And, Toto, we’re no longer in Québec this time around, but the city of eternal light, Paris.

“On their first night in Paris, the Gamaches gather as a family for a bistro dinner with Armand’s godfather, the billionaire Stephen Horowitz. Walking home together after the meal, they watch in horror as Stephen is knocked down and critically injured in what Gamache knows is no accident, but a deliberate attempt on the elderly man’s life.
When a strange key is found in Stephen’s possession it sends Armand, his wife Reine-Marie, and his former second-in-command at the Sûreté, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, from the top of the Tour d’Eiffel, to the bowels of the Paris Archives, from luxury hotels to odd, coded, works of art.

It sends them deep into the secrets Armand’s godfather has kept for decades.

A gruesome discovery in Stephen’s Paris apartment makes it clear the secrets are more rancid, the danger far greater and more imminent, than they realized.

Soon the whole family is caught up in a web of lies and deceit. In order to find the truth, Gamache will have to decide whether he can trust his friends, his colleagues, his instincts, his own past. His own family.

For even the City of Light casts long shadows. And in that darkness devils hide.”

Slow Horses — Mick Herron

Oh, how I love me a good spy novel. I gobbled up a ton of John Le Carré back in the day, and then for dessert, consumed nearly all of Len Deighton’s series of books, Hook, Line, and Sinker. And then Game, Set, and Match. So I was happy to discover Mick Herron and the Slough House series.

“London, England: Slough House is where the washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what’s left of their failed careers. The “slow horses,” as they’re called, have all disgraced themselves in some way to get relegated here. Maybe they messed up an op badly and can’t be trusted anymore. Maybe they got in the way of an ambitious colleague and had the rug yanked out from under them. Maybe they just got too dependent on the bottle—not unusual in this line of work. One thing they all have in common, though, is they all want to be back in the action. And most of them would do anything to get there─even if it means having to collaborate with one another.

River Cartwright, one such ‘slow horse,’ is bitter about his failure and about his tedious assignment transcribing cell phone conversations. When a young man is abducted and his kidnappers threaten to broadcast his beheading live on the Internet, River sees an opportunity to redeem himself. But is the victim who he first appears to be? And what’s the kidnappers’ connection with a disgraced journalist? As the clock ticks on the execution, River finds that everyone has his own agenda.”

Bad Day At The Vulture Club — Vaseem Khan

Another favourite series of mine is the Baby Genesh Agency books by Vaseem Khan. Funny, whimsical, clever, and oh so endearing, not only because our erstwhile hero, Inspector Chopra─who has an elephant for a sidekick─but because the stories, set in Mumbai, India, are so very different to the usual run of the mill for a crime series.

The Parsees are among the oldest, most secretive and most influential communities in the city: respected, envied and sometimes feared.

When prominent industrialist Cyrus Zorabian is murdered on holy ground, his body dumped inside a Tower of Silence – where the Parsee dead are consumed by vultures – the police dismiss it as a random killing. But his daughter is unconvinced.

Chopra, uneasy at entering this world of power and privilege, is soon plagued by doubts about the case.

But murder is murder. And in Mumbai, wealth and corruption go in hand in hand, inextricably linking the lives of both high and low.

So, what do you think? Three more excellent reads to look forward to. And you, dear reader, what are you reading or looking forward to reading next?

#MurderMondays: Fallout by Sara Paretsky

Book Summary

Before there was Lisbeth Salander, before there was Stephanie Plum, there was V.I. WARSHAWSKI. To her parents, she’s Victoria Iphigenia. To her friends, she’s Vic. But to clients seeking her talents as a detective, she’sV.I. And her new case will lead her from her native Chicago… and into Kansas, on the trail of a vanished film student and a faded Hollywood star.

Accompanied by her dog, Peppy, V.I. tracks her quarry through a university town, across fields where missile silos once flourished — and into a past riven by long-simmering racial tensions, a past that holds the key to the crimes of the present. But as the mysteries stack up, so does the body count. And in this, her toughest case, not even V.I. is safe.

What I thought

FALLOUT is Sara Paretsky’s 18th novel in the V. I. Warshawski detective novel series. And instead of being at home, in the safe and familiar confines of Chicago, Paretsky has Vic off on a road trip to Lawrence, Kansas. Vic has been hired by her wayward niece, and in-training hockey player, Bernadine ‘Bernie’ Fouchard, to look for her friend, August Veriden, who is missing after being accused of ransacking the gym where he worked.

But, as anyone who reads Paretsky’s Warshawski series knows, everything is never as it seems. 

It turns out, Veriden left Chicago with ageing black actress, Emerald Ferring, ostensibly to film Ferring’s ‘origins’ documentary. But, somewhere along the road, the two have gone missing. 

This is the set-up to have Vic follow their route, and uncover more than she bargained for. For Lawrence, Kansas, where the University of Kansas is located, has more buried secrets than the CIA. And as Vic digs into the pair’s mysterious disappearance, she starts to uncover layers of deceit, lies, moral ambiguity and ultimately, a cover-up worthy of Watergate that puts Vic in the line of fire.

Every character in this book is there for a reason, and carries the weight of an intricate story that Paretsky skillfully pulls together, meshing a seemingly random number of loose threads, into a tightly woven tapestry, that’s both thrilling, revealing, and oh so plausible. 

Of all the characters Paretsky gives us though, none quite match up to the two who I found the most intriguing: professor Nathan Kiel and his wife, Sonia. Bombastic, loud, outrageous, and thoroughly reprehensible, nonetheless, they are the train wreck you can’t help but stare at. They are, in essence, Burton and Taylor in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” majestically flawed on a whole other level.

The plot, on a whole, holds up without too much scrutiny, much of which is due to the expert writing skills of Paretsky who, once again, delivers a thoroughly enjoyable read. 

Fallout is just that, the human, emotional, and physical costs of years of lies, deceit, and betrayal.

FALLOUT
Sara Paretsky
William Morrow
9780062663186
Detective | Suspense | Mystery

Short Fiction: Expressions

“I need an expression, dammit!” Tom barked from the spotlit corner of the room where he was writing.

Teddi closed her eyes, placed a finger in the book she was reading, and shut it. Two heartbeats, she opened her eyes, “How about pi as expressed as a fraction over…” she never got to finish as Tom yelled.

“No, no, no, not a maths expression—” careful to not add the word ‘idiot‘ at the end of his rebuke. “I need something witty for my main character to say to his girlfriend.” His head bobbed over his keyboard as if the keys themselves would start typing.

Teddi chewed the inside of her lip. She knew it had been a mistake to let Tom have his ‘office‘ there, in the lounge not four feet away from the couch—her reading couch. Ever since he had ‘moved‘ in, putting his small computer desk against one wall, and setting up enough standing lights to illuminate the Eiffel Tower, she’s not had a moments peace to read uninterrupted. And woe betided her getting up to go to the kitchen, thereby disturbing his concentration. The filthy looks still unnerved her. Not sure who this man was, sitting in their lounge. She didn’t recognise him anymore.

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