Tuesday, December 26, 2006

All I read before and during Christmas

Allow me to start with a photo taken by my youngest daughter of my eldest daughter, posing with the gingerbread house we assembled on Christmas Eve. It's quite crooked (mea culpa) and the photo isn't too great (sua culpa, but sure she's only nine and a half and anyway I can't work the camera at all). Also available in photo for perusal - a sample selection of our books. See those big white volumes on the left? The Polish dictionary? My husband lugged those home from Poland years ago, unwrapped them, and discovered that a huge section of the P:s is missing. But we still keep it, because all the other letters of the alphabet are there, and every few years he looks something up.

Peter Dickinson: Perfect Gallows

A rather unique story, as the detective part is very much by-the-by. The main character is a celebrated actor, who has cause to remember how he once started out during the War. He is a ruthless person, who for the sake of his art uses people around him as he wants, and drops them as soon as they can't serve him any longer. One of the few people he genuinely liked, the black servant Samuel, apparently killed himself during the war, but the actor has always known he was murdered. He just chose not to mention any suspicions for fear of jeopardizing his budding career. So the novel is about the events leading up to the murder, but it's not about the crime per se, or solving it. It's well written though - also, it's another of Dickinson's racial tension novels; this seems to be a theme with him.

Josephine Tey: The Expensive Halo

Oh, I do like a Josephine Tey. She didn't write nearly enough. I thought this was another detective story, but it's not. However, since someone bursts out with "oh, it's a wonder no-one murdered Father long ago" somewhere in the first third of the book I really thought there would be a murder later on for aaaages, but there wasn't...

It's a lovely "period piece" about two siblings who, independant of one another, get involved with another brother and sister from a higher class of society. Tey captures the 1930s ennui of the upper-class youth beautifully. It's in some ways a very modern book, as we in general don't expect an author of this age to be so outspoken. There is a reference to someone trying cocaine now, the new thing. Also

She had four absorbing interests in life: contraception, the price of boiling beef, the rent money, and the Duchess of York.

"Some of my best friends are musicians. It's the crowd who hang around them I can't bear. Perhaps camp followers are always a despicable bunch. Even a prostitute is better than a pimp, I suppose. [...]"
The poor siblings are tormented by their choleric, religious, hypocritical father, and are desperate to get away, but remain under his roof for the sake of their mother. Women's rights are an important theme, and independance in general. It makes one sad to think that the war was only eight years away.

Ngaio Marsh: Light Thickens

This is the Dame's last novel, she died that very year. It's a novel mostly about Macbeth, with a murder at the end. But Macbeth is at the centre of things, in particular theatre production of the play. It's very charming, because her love of Shakespeare and theatre shines out on every page. We revisit the Dolphin theatre, a theatre than reappears frequently in her books, and even Pergrine Jay, whom we first met as the budding playwright in Death at the Dolphin. Now he is a respected director and owner of the place. It's a fine end to a distinguished writing career.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Visserligen har jag läst...

... men än viktigare: jag träffade på Frida som hastigast och vi jämförde magar. Det gick utmärkt eftersom vi råkade ha på oss samma mammabyxor (H&M, what can we say). Svårt att säga vems mage som var störst, Frida är ju lite mindre än jag dårå, så proportionerna blir fel (men jag tror nog jag var lite större, suck).

Troligen hinner jag inte blogga på riktigt förrän i mellandagarna (the inbetween days), så jag får önska alla läsare en trevlig helg...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Oh. My. God.

Lookee what I found. A King/McDermid novel! I don't read enough news at all. I'd completely missed this! This is what I want for Christmas! Except they don't have it in. *sigh*

Aaaaand we're sinking again

I've got a pile of books from the library to plow through next week at work, so I'd better blog about the last ones from last week before I start. Last week before Christmas, thanks be to Jesus, I don't know if I can take much more... I don't know why all manner of shite has to happen before Christmas, I really don't.

I've read two Michael Innes - not the two best ones I feel. I suspect the earlier work is the best, so I went rooting in the library cellar for older novels, and found a few. Give them a try and then see. I'm down to re-reading all the crime fic I like otherwise I think. The Art of Detection, Laurie R. King's latest is constantly out or reserved. Hey, I'll tell my eldest I want it for Christmas! She did ask.... but she can only afford a paperback, so I may see if that's out yet. Surely not already? I'll just have to wait...

Back to Innes. Death at the Chase features Innes major hero Lord Appleby, nowadays retired from Scotland Yard. Out walking he comes across a local character, convinced he's being persecuted and that his life is threatened over something that happened in France during the war. Appleby witnesses an attempt upon his life, and gets suckered in. Coincidentally his son Bobby also has business with the old man via a new friend. Not the best of books at all. An Awkward Lie also has Bobby cast as the lead, this time he finds a body in a bunker while playing a mornig round of golf. When the body is gone by the time the police get there he wants to clear his name in case he's perceived as a liar. Also forgettable. Although I'd rather read these than say Lisa Marklund. But hey...

Currently I've almost finished 'Tis, the sequel to Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. It's not as good as Angela's Ashes, but it's still a good read, a story that wanted to be told. Angela's Ashes flows better though, and is more well-defined since it ends so well when he goes off back to New York. 'Tis is more vague in its temporal boundaries, and kind of just keeps going. I'd still recommend it though, for people who want to understand the Irish psyche - that psyche I'm touched by myself and desperate to understand...

Good hopes for next weeks reading - found some Ngaio Marsh and Josephine Tey in the cellar apart from the Michael Innes, so that's promising. Those two ladies have all the men whipped.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Friday, December 08, 2006

Christopher Priest: The Prestige

As you all may know, this novel has recently been filmed. We've had it for a while - it's one of those books that just Appear, courtesy of mr Bani, who then proceeds to walk around muttering about all the books we have and how we need to clear the clutter. I swear, for every book I buy he buys fifteen. I decided to read it since my library stash was depleted, even though I didn't really think it would be my Thing. I'm not sure why... I didn't think the cover looked that appealing, and the storyline, about two rival magicians who feud over a trick... I dunno, it wasn't buzzing me. Turns out I was slightly mislead by having seen film trailers.

See, I thought this was a relatively straightforward, linear tale of exactly that, rival magicians, whose feud has impact on their lives and the lives of their loved ones. And possibly a conflict over a girl. Actually, the novel has a distinctly Edgar Allan Poe-ish theme - something that took me so by surprise that I didn't really want to see it. I thought it would be all about illusion and sleight-of-hand, i.e. that the amazing tricks worked would be exposed as illusions. However, there is mysterious machinery and scantily descriped nearly-science with devastating effects - but they are real, not illusion. I've enjoyed the crime fiction I've read with magic themes - Jeffrey Deaver's The Vanished Man and Carol O'Connell's Shell Game - and this did lead me to expact more dénouement (my mot de jour, it seems)... but it was not to be. So I was very disappointed about half-way through, but perhaps unfairly so, I admit it. Anyway, the film trailers point to a more linear, traditional story, so I was taken aback. It seems like some of this Poe-ish feel might well be in the film aswell though, but I haven't read spoilers - yet.

It's not a bad book at all, but the very end is a severe letdown. It goes nowhere, and we the readers are left hanging completely.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I is working really hard

Edmund Crispin: The Glimpses of the Moon

I've read all the Crispin novels the library has to offer, and I need to remember that. I keep borrowing them thinking that I haven't, but I have. I have I have I have. And this one is the one with the pig's head - to help me remember. Not that they're not pleasant, it's just such a downer to think you have a virgin book and instead be left with... hang on, that was a bad metaphore getting worse. Forget it.

TGOTM has a cover proclaiming it to be "his first novel for over twenty years" and "well worth waiting for". It was published in -77, and must have been eagerly anticipated by his fans. Crispin has a very special (I was going to put "very unique", which would have been ironic as that is precisely the type of phrase that a Crispin book would take the piss out of, as something is either unique or not, right? so I changed my mind) style, very funny and literary, as the reviewers sometimes put it. For example:

[...]"Gobbo!" the Major rapped out in an army voice. "Answer the question, please!"

Luckily Gobbo had never been in the forces, so this worked. "Ur," he said. The current had reversed course, and he was coming back inshore again. "Ur. Ur, ur." All at once a spasm of energy seized him. "Er never," he began recapitulating, doppio movimento, accelerando. "Er never killed en. And I'll tell 'ee fer why. Cuz," he coda-ed triumphantly, allegro assai, "I wer talkin' to en."

I think this is hilarious. This is in the very beginning, and I giggled so hard I decided that the book had to be re-read. It's a good start, and we're thrown right in to the story, in which Gervase Fen, our professor and hero, has borrowed a cottage in a small village to get underway with his book on 20th century novelists. The murders interfere. They are actually incredibly gruesome, with decapitated and mutilated bodies, but they are covered with a sheet of Wodehouse-esque humour (I'm not claiming the humour is Wodehouse-esque. The Swedish library review on the inside cover is. I've never read Wodehouse, always been something unappealing about it to my mind. And now I want to even less, because I suspect the more Wodehouse in this Crispin, the less fun for me. It deteriorates into separate humouristic episodes that barely hang together. It's like reading one of those authors who is obviously desperate for his/her book to be filmed, and has the entire dialogue written in funny one-liners).

Let's see, what other notes did I make... From this book I learnt the names of the cow's four stomachs in English! Rumen, honeycomb, manyplies and abomasum. How odd are they??? I had some other potential quotes, but cannot be arsed. Must move on.

Michael Innes: The Ampersand Papers and Appleby's Answer

I randomly chose two Innes books too. They have in common some incredibly ignorant and hilariously funny (therefore) nobility, FYI. The Ampersand Papers is about possibly valuable literary manuscripts being stored in a delapidated castle tower for a lark, and Appleby's Answer is about a lady writer of detective fiction who provides a madman with a plot for murder - or not. I like Innes style, they are funny, literary (again, ha ha), and make you feel a bit smart, even though they aren't really a difficult read. The latter book also, possibly, contains a veiled P.D. James, as he writes about a woman who is considered the queen of detective fiction and used to work at the Foreign Office. A-ha, as Piglet tried to say.

Carter Dickson: The Ten Teacups

Carter Dickson is the same fella as John Dickson Carr, the master of the locked-room mystery. This is one such mystery, and a good one, if one knows about cricket pitching. He helpfully provides you with notes on where the clues to the solution where during the dénouement, which I find endearing.

Jeffrey Deaver: The Cold Moon

I was sort of watching the film version of The Bone Collector on the telly while I was reading this, and I was struck by how simple the film was compared to a Deaver novel, which will contain subplots in scores and red herrings in large quantities. In this one a serial killer appears called the Watchmaker - but of course all is not that simple, and I really don't want to say too much, as the transition from classic serial killer novel to a different kind of thriller is quite surprising and should be read if you enjoy this sort of thing.

But I will say this: it was OBVIOUS all along that Sachs wasn't going to quit cophood. God.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Ylva Elvin-Nowak: Världens bästa pappa?

The title of this book is in translation The World's Greatest Dad? I found it interesting enough to want to write about it in English, so all my readers can understand... (wink wink!) The author is a psychologist who for her doctoral thesis wrote about how Swedish mothers perceive their lives and roles (based on interviews), and this book is a sort of follow-up. She has interviewed 20 men about how they perceive fatherhood, how they have adjusted to it, what it means to them in everyday life etc.

One of the fundamental differences, she writes, is that women feel so much more guilty than men. To summarize, she argues that mothers today compare themselves to their mothers, who more often didn't work, and thus always come up short since they have more demands on their time. Whereas men also compare themselves to their fathers (who were rather more completely absent), and feel pretty damn good. She spotlights quite well how there is a different scale to measure good motherhood vs good fatherhood. A good mother always has to be a step ahead, a good father doesn't, he just has to deal with problems when they arise. Very interestingly, many fathers don't seem to get that everyday, hands-on responsability for their children until after a divorce, when they become sole caregiver half the time (in Sweden, I must add, it's quite common for children to live every other week with each parents after a separation).

Also, the book is illustrated with Berglin cartoons - always a bonus!

My favourite bit from the book has to be when one father says something to the effect of "it's always nice to see your kids grow up" and promises to take that month (!) of parental leave in the summer sometime. As the author says, a mother who said something similar would be seen as deranged. N.b. that in Sweden we have almost a year and a half of paid parental leave altogether...

I wanted to link here to the blog of a forum friend, who wrote about Spanish fathers a while back, but I can't find it at the moment. If/when I do, I'll come back and edit.

Edited - found link!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More work-reading

I found two Ngaio Marshes that I hadn't read in the section for Large Print. It's a kick-ass section, enabling you to borrow books that you can prop up and read from across the room. No, I exaggerate, but almost.

Death In A White Tie:

This one is set in the late 1930s (first published 1938). Alleyn has a mahoosive crush on Troy, and they've had a good few run-ins in previous novels we deduce (our library is sadly understocked). This is a subplot to the main plot, which is a blackmailer at large in Society, during the débutante season to boot. Alleyn asks a friend to keep an eye open for this blackmailer, and the friend promptly gets himself killed. Alleyn's mother features a lot, which is nice, and we can note that Fox isn't yet committed to learning French.

I liked this one, it has some nice hints at the political situation brewing in Europe, with a Jewish débutante being harrassed by her chaperone among other things.

Opening Night:

...and this one was written more than ten years later. It's set in the world of theatre, a well-known Marsh theme. She does it well, too. It's one of those novels that has a long build-up to the crime, then Alleyn steps in, and since the crime isn't really complicated he solves it in a matter of hours. I mean, the crime-solving is not the main issue in this cathegory of Alleyn novels, it's a story about the people around it really. Not deep psychological stuff or anything, just a different slant to the whodunnit. Our heroine here is a young New Zealander who has come to London to act. Bad luck befalls her, and she stumbles upon a job as dresser to a star, and immediately takes it. The theater troupe is stressed over opening night and riddled with conflict, and her introduction into the close group causes more.

Not a bad book, but not a favourite. Of course, I do always get a kick out of how Marsh brings up "the homosexual issue" in her theatre novels (for lack of a better term). It must have been quite gutsy of her to dare allude to it in those censorious times.

And then I found a new Kathy Reichs! Break No Bones has Temperance working an archaeology site in South Carolina with a group of students. They uncover a more recently dead body, and events are set in motion. It's a decent Brennan novel, I like the banter, the emotional drive and the... well, reality of Reich's stories. Tempe Brennan feels nice and real. So I was sadly reminded of how disappointed I was in the TV series Bones, in which all the characters and even the actual work feels so false and show-cased. Bleurgh.

I tried reading another Ben Elton, one called High Society, all about drugs, but it bored me so I gave up. Life's too short.

In a panicky frame of mind I picked up a very classic, basic whodunnit by Patricia Moyes. Down Among The Dead Men is about a small village/town in England that attracts sailing folks, and where there has been a robbery and a death, seemingly unrelated, but aha! Chief Inspector Henry Tibbett sees more than meets the eye, and ruins his holiday by picking at the scab.

I read this right after reading Peter Dickinson novels, and was slightly shell-shocked at the simplicity, or rather blandness, of a book like this. It isn't terribly good at all, but it does have all those whodunnit triggers, so if you enjoy keeping track of the clues and working out who the murderer is thusly you might like it. I spotted the murderer anyway, without remembering diddly about tides, because it's the type of books where it's obvious.

And this brings me, last but not least, to said Peter Dickinson. First Play Dead, the second of his I've read with a female heroine (the first being The Lively Dead, which I never really wrote about..). It's always refreshing with a male author who can portray women well, not many can. It's more linear than I'm used to with PD, which makes it easier to follow and get "into", obviously. Poppy child-minds her grandson, and is involved in a local playgroup. One day a man is watching them, and then follows Poppy on the way home. Although she manages to lose him, the playgroup is in outrage over what is thought to be a paedophile, and when he turns up murdered even the nannies become suspects. Of course there are more twists, since this is a Dickinson novel and all. It's very enjoyable. He's brilliant at giving you all the clues in the first five pages, in off-hand conversation, and then making them relevant towards the end.

Then Walking Dead, set in the Caribbean. The island dictatorship we visit here was previously mentioned in The Lizard In The Cup, which I read just the other week but seem to have forgotten to blog about! Shame on me. Anyway, our hero David Foxe is a scientist, who via this and that is forced by the island's tyrant to conduct experiments on humans. However, he has with him a laboratory rat who by the believers in the local Voodoo-esque religion is perceived as a symbol of the Sunday Dwarf, and this gives our hero a lot of power.

While reading this novel I reflected on how it isn't possible now to write about black people or, let us say, other cultures in the way Dickinson does here. To Foxe, the islanders are alien in culture. Almost completely. He starts out thinking their beliefs are grotesque. But that's okay. It's a very honest way of looking at things - to an outsider things are strange and ununderstandable. It doesn't make these natives less human though. Foxe doesn't despise them. I'm not explaining myself well, because my brain is dead, but I couldn't help thinking that nowadays it's so hard to be brutal like that, since we're afraid to offend.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

This week's "back at work"

There's not much to do at work now for various reasons, so I sit and read.

Deborah Crombie: In A Dark House
Another Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James mystery. Not bad. I does still annoy me that she quite obviously writes for foreigners, i.e. the US market. A few too many cups of tea, but there are less in this book. This one is about an arsonist, and a women's shelter, and a kidnapped child (she's in the dark house). It's an okay read.

Ben Elton: Dead Famous
I never though Ben Elton wrote anything resembling crime fic, but my friend E said he did. So I picked this one up for a try. I really enjoyed it - it's slightly exaggerated, but still fun. A murder takes place in front of the cameras in the Big Brother house (except Elton calls it House Arrest). The book pokes fun at the reality tv craze - always enjoyable - and it also quite a clever whodunnit. It's even for half the book a whodiedthen, since we don't know who the victim is from the start. Definitely possible TV-script novel.

Lindsey Davis: Shadows In Bronze
The second book in the Falco series, but I hadn't read it before. I liked it more than some of the later ones, since the tentative romance between Helena Justina and Marcus Didius is well described and very moving and effectively counteracts the crime noir thing. Later in the series, when the romance is more certain, Davis tends to lose some of that emotional impact between the cynical one-liners.

Her writing style still tends to annoy me. I wish her editor would tell her to lose the ... she's so fond of at the end of sentences. It breaks the reading flow. And some of the exclamation marks too, please.

This is the one where Falco has to tidy up lose ends from the lead/silver conspiracy in the first book (The Silver Pigs). Helena Justina becomes involved since her ex-husband was.

Peter Dickinson: The Seals
Dickinson is always enjoyable to read. He assumes a lot of intelligence from his readers, and we try to make him proud, don't we? The first few pages are always difficult to follow, since he throws you straight into the story, and then gradually gives you clues to work out the background. I wonder if he's ever been filmed - I'd guess not, since you'd have to tidy up the timeline so much that much of the charm would be lost, not to mention the inner thought processes.

This one is about a religious sect whose obsession is building a stone city on a small island off the Scottish coast. A famous Nobel Prize winner has taken refuge with them - but is he protected or imprisoned? Dickinson's police hero Pibble, is summoned in secret by the old man, which sets events into motion.

Laurie R. King: The Beekeeper's Apprentice
Oh, I'd already read this, in Swedish since the library didn't have it in English. But suddenly they did, so I had to re-read it, didn't I? I love the Holmes/Russell novels. *sigh* And in contrast to many other contemporary writers setting their stories in the 20s or 30s, King doesn't make her two heroes too perfect - per definition, Holmes can never be perfect, can he? He may be a great detective, but he is often flawed as a man. And since Russell is his match, she too is not overly sickly sweet.

This first novel is almost the perfect introduction to the two partners. My only problem would be that... oh this has to be written in spoilervision I think! Highlight below to read.

Since we don't become deeply familiar with Russell's and Donleavy's relationship, her betrayal becomes less of a shock to us as readers, and Russell's emotional response a little hard to grasp in full. Thus there is a risk of Russell seeming almost a bit hysterical at the end.

It doesn't really mar the book for me though. I recommend Laurie R. King to everyone, shamelessly!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Witch Hunt by Ian Rankin

I picked this up on a whim, because it wasn't a Rebus novel. This one is about a female assassin, called Witch, the underlying motives that drive her, and the man obsessed with catching her.

I'm not going to call it briliant, but I quite enjoyed it. I enjoyed the fact that people in it were clever enough to understand when they were obviously being manipulated, I enjoyed that the main characters weren't perfect people with perfect morals. But it is fairly riddled with clichés all the same. I suppose it'd make a decent enough film, if they managed to tone down the "femme fatale" element. Because that has been Done To Death, no pun intended.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Maisie Dobbs

A looooong time ago (it feels like) a customer told me that I should read the books about Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. Except she pronounced it "Macy Dobbs", which led to some googling confusion, let me tell you. So now I stumbled across two books in the series at the library, and have read them - albeit in the wrong order; I read Birds of a Feather first, and the debut Maisie Dobbs second. But that doesn't matter.

This series falls into a cathegory that I, as you know, am quite fond of, namely novels about crime-solving during or just after WW1. Our heroine Maisie has been a nurse in France, and though she made it back alive she lost her sweetheart. Maisie is a working-class girl who has had the good fortune of being discovered by the lady of the house she was a maid in and who has been given a singular education. In short, she is a little too good to be true, as she has not only become knowledgable in the hazy science of psychology, but also in a multitude of other subjects including Eastern oum-ish ancient wisdom.

I'm not quite sure why so many of these authors who set their stories in the past have to make their main characters so perfect. Why can't they be good enough for their time? For some reason the writer doesn't want them to be labouring under the prejudices and faults that most people had at that time in history, instead they have to be more modern - but this breaks the spell, in my opinion.

As a contrast, the policeman in Rosa by Jonathan Rabb was not a superman, but an ordinary, weak man. Intelligent, but not always nice. He cheats on his wife, he betrays his partner. This is more real, this is what people are. Rosa, incidentally, is set in Berlin 1919 and is based on the murder of Rosa Luxemburg. I haven't written about it in detail, but I recommend it on the whole.

The other week my husband and I went and saw Babel at the cinema. One of the things I found so appealing about the film (please see it!) was that no nationality or gender was portrayed as inherently better than any other. People were people, sometimes weak, sometimes stronger. And even smart, loving people did stupid things. You didn't get a free pass because you belonged to a minority that has always been short-changed in Hollywood's portrayal of it. People in general are a bit daft, and a hero in a detective story should be no different unless there's a very good reason.

Anyway (I'm rambling, but hey), I'd read more of Winspear's books, but I don't think they're that great all in all. Too idealistic. But the plotlines hold up, and the characters are endearing on the whole. Nothing worth buying in hardback though, if you see what I mean.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa

For various reasons I've been neglecting my blog. Pregnancy, depression... a lot of things combine to make it really hard for me to concentrate.

But since I last blogged I have read:

Rosa by Jonathan Rabb

The Kalahari Typing School For Men by Alexander McCall Smith

The Burglar In The Library by Lawrence Block

The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde

Trådarna i väven
av Uzma Aslam Khan

The Lively Dead
by Peter Dickinson

by Terry Pratchett

Red Dust by Gillian Slovo

and possibly something else that I've forgotten. Let's see if I can write more about them at a later date. I'd especially like to write more about Rosa I think, since it belongs to a genre I find interesting.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Laura Wilson: A Thousand Lies

Another one from the care package. This one an uncorrected manuscript proof, which was quite exciting - made me feel almost like a Real Editor. Oooo. On the downside - I'm hesitant to review it properly, because it's not really the proper book. I mean, I've read a version that might differ quite a bit from the one finally printed. So perhaps a general discussion?

Amy is sorting out her dead mother's belongings when she comes across a diary and some newspaper clippings that lead her to believe that she must be related to the infamous Shand family. The father of that family was shot years ago by his daughter Sheila, who was then given a suspended sentence due to mitigating circumstances - he had kept his wife and two daughters prisoners all their life, subjecting them to mental, physical and sexual abuse. Amy makes contact with Sheila just as a dead body is uncovered in the woods near the Shand home. Who killed this person?

The best novels in this genre manage to create a claustrophobic atmosphere, so tense that it's almost brittle. Wilson's novel isn't quite as successfull all the way through. Amy's neighbour Charlie warns her from getting too involved with the Shands and falling into the trap of viewing them solely as victims. He says that reality is more complicated, and that people learn to become manipulators in abusive relationships. Basically, I expected more twists from the plot with all this building up, but it was pretty straightforward, with Sheila caving and spilling the true story without much probing. When Wilson dives into Sheila's memories of the torture she sometimes reaches that level of tension so unbearable you're hardly able to read, but it all falls a little flat when the plot then continues to march forward without any mishaps.

It's a shame, because the book really isn't bad, and Wilson is trying to tell us something about abusive relationships. Maybe the trouble is so much has been said before?

Never heard of the author before, but she has some critical acclaim to judge from the cover.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Liz Jensen: War Crimes for the Home

Another one from E's care package. And I'm very glad she sent me this one, as I'd never have picked it up myself. It's a very sad and brutally honest tale about a young girl in Bristol during the war, and I found it very touching. We get to know her as an old woman in a nursing home, remembering bits and pieces from the past after her stroke. Her only son has just discovered that she might have lied to him about his background all his life, and starts pressuring her for facts. The young GI from Chicago - was he really her husband, and the father of her child? I don't want to reveal too much about the story, as the gradual unravelling of Gloria's painful wartime past is the whole point of the book. I found it hugely refreshing to read an account of life in wartime Britain that wasn't so to speak coloured by nostalgia, by a sense of loss when thinking about a time when the country united in defiance of Hitler, and shared camaraderie while making jam out of carrots (as Bridget Jones puts it). Gloria's war is harrowing trudgery, with sex as a highlight. It's very sad, but also very funny in parts. Highly recommended, I'm going to read more of Jensen's work.

Terry Pratchett: A Hatful of Sky

Got this for my eldest daughter who is on this fantastic Pratchett-kick, but only for the Mac Nac Feagles. So far.

This is Tiffany the witch at age 11, off to apprentice at an old witch's house. Unfortunately she steps out of her body, and becomes possessed by an ancient creature, full of greed and spite.

Pratchett is always Pratchett, and this is no different. I liked it.

Qiu Xiaolong: En röd hjältinnas död

Vi jobbar på va?

Den här har jag länge velat läsa (eller nåja, länge och länge, DN-artikeln som tipsade mig trycktes någon gång i somras tror jag). Vår hjälte Chen Cao är en poet som blivit polis eftersom det är det jobb han blivit tilldelad. Dock är han inte direkt någon idealist eller drömmare, utan kan vara nog så pragmatisk. Boken inleds med ett kvinnolik som flyter upp i en flod. Det visar sig att den döda är en nationell mönsterarbetare - en sådan som paraderas politiskt som ett föredöme för landet. Hennes mord verkar först vara ett fullständigt mysterium. Hon verkar inte ha haft något privatliv att skapa fiender i, men Chen Cao och hans assistent Yu börjar snart hitta hemligheter. Och fallet är verkligen politiskt känsligt.

Boken är inte tillnärmelsevis så bra som jag hade hoppats efter alla lovord. Den är tungrodd och styltig (och jag tror inte att översättaren ska bära hela hundhuvudet för det, för jag har fått nöjet att läsa "the advance uncorrected proofs" av en av författarens romaner på originalspråk, och mannen är en stilistiskt sett en smärre katastrof). Själva deckarhistorien kommer i skymundan för miljöskildringen, som i och för sig är väldigt intressant. Det är ju inte ofta man får tillfälle att dyka in i den kinesiska vardagen i populärlitteraturen.

Framför allt blir man oerhört hungrig. Oerhört. Jag är så fruktansvärt sugen på god kinamat nu så det är inte sant. Folk bara äter. Åh vad gott det verkar (utom kattköttet då). Tydligen är maten bland det Xiaolong saknar mest från hemlandet, och det märks. Vad ska jag göra? Får kanske åka till Stockholm och äta på Hos (Ho's? En anglicism?) som Frida rekommenderar. Måste bara bli rik först. Så jag känner att jag kan unna mig.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Slowly catching up

I started writing this blog post on the 21/9, but because my home is the way it is and I am the way I am I was interrupted and didn't finish. Sad, isn't it? But here we go again, I have a lot of books to write about, and I'll just have to take them one step at a time.

The lovely and generous E gave me a most marvellous care package, containing not only lovely chocolates, sweets, a cd, bubble bath and more but also a load of books she, well, I guess she needed to clear out. ;-) Anyway, I was thrilled to bits. I got the latest Sara Paretsky, plus the earlier one (Blacklist) which I've read but apparently not blogged about. Also a few non-fiction intellectual ones (fun! the sort of stuff I never choose myself otherwise because I'm lazy) and more. I will be blogging about them all. And it is better to write about one at a time than about none, so I'll start with:

Sara Paretsky: Fire Sale

The latest Sara Paretsky is a crack-down on Walmart. In this one V.I. returns to the South Side to coach basketball when her own old coach gets cancer. The neighbourhood used to be poor, but people had work back in V.I.'s youth, when the mills were open. Now, the biggest employer is the discount supermarket By-Smart, owned by fundamentalist Christian family Bysen. By-Smart systematically keeps employees on part-time contracts (thus being able to refuse them health insurance and other benefits), and is also pressuring local contractors to work more for less. Being practically the only employer left the company has enormous power. V.I. soon gets sucked into (pro bono) drama.

This is one of the best Paretsky's I've read. I like how V.I. has mellowed since your man what's-his-name (can't remember at the moment and can't be bothered to go and find the book) came into her life. She seems more her age now, and I like that. A more believable character, somehow. The intrigue worked well, even if the solution and conclusion was a bit far-fetched - then again, the Knutby incident right under our noses has taught us that nothing really is... The social criticism gives food for thought, as usual in a Paretsky novel, and works very well with the story. Recommended.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The last books from the book-swap

Joan Wallis Martin: Dancing With The Uninvited Guest

I don't think I've read any of Martin's books before. This was a bit of a fumble in the dark, but hey, it was book-swapping day and all books were free and came with no strings attached. So why not try it.

The book centres around the disappearance of a young girl and the lord of an ancient and spine-chilling crumbling manor. Everybody assumes that they've run off together, at first. When evidence suggests otherwise and the police start investigating, they discover that the son of the manor exhibits strange and violent behaviour. Is he mad, or is he possessed? And has he killed the girl? Also, a famous psychic turns up to offer the police his help, and the lady of the manor calls in a paranormal psychologist.

Then there are a few subplots.

Anyway, to sum up. This is not a bad novel really. First, it quite skilfully walks that line between ghost story and detective story, leaving us wondering whether the demonic possession theory is true for example. At the end however, there is a rational explanation for everything, and sadly this becomes something of an anti-climax, as we become too invested in the demonic possession to have it debunked in less than a paragraph - with the possessed not even in the room. So it peters out. But it's a good enough travel read.

John Grisham:
The Broker

Again: it was free, people. I'm not a huge Grisham fan, his characters are always a bit flat, and he's quite rubbish at portraying women. This one's not too bad though, if you don't want your brain to work too hard.

The Broker is Joel Backman, a lawyer/power broker/lobbyist who was sent to federal jail for um, lots of stuff, but keeping the big secret close to his chest. Anyway, so the current president is spending his last few hours in power pardoning prisoners, and the CIA convinces him to free Backman. They hope they will find out what he knows by taking note of which foreign government agency that manages to get him killed. They ship him off to Italy, and tell him to learn Italian because this is where he'll be hiding out from now on. And then the book is about Backman trying to break free from the CIA's clutches and reveal his secrets without getting killed.

Basically, this book is about learning Italian, how great Italian food is and how stylish Italian people are. It's Grisham's version of a travel book, I suppose. You can tell how proud he is of his Italian prowess. Aw.

Next entry will be about books my lovely friend E gave me. Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

What I've read on my travels

I'm back from spending a week in Poland, a trip occassioned by my husband's cousin's wedding. Books where brought and read. I also fried my brain by talking Polish a lot.

Alexander McCall Smith: The Full Cupboard of Life
This is the one in which J.L.B. Maketoni evades a parachute jump and he and Precious Ramotswe get married. And that about sums it up. Still heart-warming books!

Harper Lee:
To Kill A Mockingbird
I was recommended this by my good friend E, who sometimes comments on the blog. She is an editor so has to read a lot of shite for work, and said that it was a pleasure reading something so good. So mr Bani went and bought it and some other books (as is his wont), and I am pleased that he did, even though I despair at the state of our flat.

This is a classic story, and obviously I'd heard of it, but for some reason I'd always thought it was sort of a lad's book, sort of Hemingwayish. I will admit to not actually having read any Hemingway, for I am sorely prejudiced against him for some reason (the laddish themes I imagine his books have most likely), and I really should atone and go and immerse myself in his work right away.

Anyway, this is not a laddish book at all. It's a story about a lawyer in a small town in Alabama in the 1930s, who defends a black man accused of raping a white woman. The book is written from the point of view of his tomboyish daughter, who is about eight. A great part of the book does not concern itself with the trial at all, but tells about the girl's and her brother's childhood pastimes, and most of all their fascination with the next door recluse, Boo Radley. (This becomes important towards the end.) Harper Lee manages to show us the deep immorality of an apartheid system such as this, how it corrupts otherwise sane and reasonable people and poisons their souls. It's not always a case of telling people to feck off and stuff it, you may love them, respect them and like them even if they are beyond reason when it's a question of race. All this through the innocent eyes of a child - which leaves us with a feeling of hope, after all. I enjoyed it very much, and I'm glad I didn't read it earlier, as I think I actually appreciate it more now that I'm older.

Then I came home, and picked up the Ian Rankin novel I'd forgotten. I'd half finished it before the trip, and meant to bring it for the plane. Just as well that I forgot it, I had plenty to read anyway. This one is called A Question of Blood, and is about a shooting at a private school. One of the murdered boys is a relation of Rebus's, and the killer is ex-SAS, like himself.

It's not too bad, but I just can't take to Rebus. I have this feeling that Ian Rankin could've done a lot more with the character, but now he's just this maudlin alcoholic with a gift for punning. I can read it, but it doesn't really leave me wanting more. I only got this one because we went to this book-swapping day at mr Bani's colleague's house.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Michael Crichton: Airframe

Today, on the day that a Tupolev 154 has crashed in Ukraine, killing all aboard, I'd ironically planned to write about Michael Crichton's aeroplane novel.

I have a soft spot for Crichton. I enjoy the technobabble, almost-science. He often crafts quite good characters. He's not bad at portraying women (as this book shows), and that is most impressive for a male author in this genre. He's uneven, but at the same time one gets the impression that he enjoys writing and gets a kick out of experimenting. Anyway, it's not like he suffers if he writes a bad one, he gets his millions anyway.

This one has no pseudo-science, but centers around an aircraft accident that kills three and injures the rest. The company that manufactures the airframe has to try and work out why the accident happened before the media slaughters them and the workers' union riots. At the centre we have Casey, whose actual job I'm a little hazy on, but she works there anyway and is in charge of the operation.

His aim seems to have been to write objectively about the aircraft industry and dispel some of the myths about aeroplane accidents, and also to kick the media in the balls for being shallow and sensationalist. It works, I quite like this one.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

In summary....


I've been reading quite a lot, but I haven't had the patience to blog. I've even re-read LOTR, but that deserves an entry of its own, so I'm going to have to write about that later.

Alexander McCall Smith: Espresso Tales

I mentioned in the previous entry that I was reading this sequel to 44 Scotland Street. There isn't that much new to say about Espresso Tales. The format is the same, so the fundamental problem remains when reading it in one sitting - it's choppy and a bit disjointed. I was a little more bothered by that this time, not sure why. Also, a new character is introduced, reading exerpts from his memoirs. Which is funny, I suppose, but I suspect it's even funnier to someone well accquainted with Edinburgh. Which, sadly, I'm not. It was nice to see how Bertie turns out though, I felt very involved in little Bertie's fate.

Zadie Smith: On Beauty

I never read White Teeth when it first came out, and I still haven't. At that time I hardly read at all, shocking as it may seem. I was in the middle of uni, and had small children. When I read a book I tend to become extremely immersed in it, to the exclusion of everything else, and it just wasn't possible at the time. It's a shame, because not reading dumbs you down terribly. My brain atrofied at uni, and it still hasn't recovered. In retrospect it's painfully clear how much better things would be had I learnt to take better care of myself and my own interests, something I still haven't learnt. I haven't gotten beyond mere selfishness.

Anyway, so I never read White Teeth, and after I was over the not reading phase the hype kind of put me off. But my husband bought On Beauty, so I read it. (As an aside: he's the one who buys books. I respect our very limited living space, and I do not. He will then go around complaining that we have too many. Argh.) This is a very good novel. After reading it, I was left feeling that actually not very much happens in it. It's a sample of a period in the life of two families, in particular one. I'm too distracted at the moment to be very coherent about it (lunch is on the way!)... I'm finding it hard to summarize what it was exactly I enjoyed so much. I liked the insight into the black-white problem that can loom in the background of a mixed-race marriage, even though it's apparently something that's never been an issue. I like how the characters are multi-faceted. The father, Howard, is something of a villain in the piece, but he is also a hero who broke it off with his own father because he couldn't accept Howard's black American wife or, worse, his children, and whose love for his children sometimes achingly fills his heart until it feels like it will burst with pride and joy. It's a good read, and a lot of cleverer people have written about the underlying themes of the book if you're interested.

Val McDermid: The Grave Tattoo

Can't remember why this library book ended up at home. Did my husband lend it for me? In that case, how sweet of him. But I think it was me. However, I have no recollection of it. Scary.

Anyway, this is one of Val's solitary novels (I want to use the Swedish word fristående here, i.e. free-standing, but I don't think it's a proper word in English. Anyway, this one is not part of a series, that's what I mean.). Wordsworth scholar Jane Gresham is struggling to make a London career in the academic world, when a body is discovered in her native Lake District, a body that could be that of Fletcher Christian, the legendary Bounty mutaneer. Jane leaves to explore a possible Wordsworth connection. At the same time a teenager from her council estate becomes wrapped up in a murder case and takes refuge with Jane, and other people also hunt for the Wordsworth connection because of the enormous amount of money to be made.

It's not one of her stronger novels IMO, but I appreciate that she's done a lot of research into Wordsworth and the mutany on the Bounty. The ending feels a bit huh?, and some of the characters a little bland. But it's enjoyable enough.

Deborah and James Howe: Bunnicula - a Rabbit-Tale of Mystery

Don't say I don't blog about nearly everything. This is a children's book, I think it's my sister's, but it's been in my bookcase for a while (in the wild hope that maybe my children will read it). Apparently this is quite a famous children's book, but I'd never heard of it. Nevertheless it's a cute little story of a family who accquire a vampire bunny as a pet. Luckily it only drinks vegetable juice. The language is simple, but not too simplistic. Not too bad. Can't think why it hasn't been filmed (but am quite glad it hasn't, since it would probably be mangled the same way as The Grinch was).

Dorothy Rowe: Depression: The Way Out Of Your Prison (2nd ed)

This is one my husband borrowed at the library for me, because I'm.. how shall we put it... in need of therapy, perhaps? Anyway, I was going through a really low phase last week, to the point of having thoughts of self-harm. I saw this in the bookcase and read it, and found it very illuminating. Dr. Roweis empathic and quite funny as she describes how the way we see the world can keep us from leaving depression behind. After reading this I am more ready to say that yes, I get depressed, and also I feel as if there is help other than medication to be had. I'm going to try to keep working on this, even though it's very difficult. It's hard to explain how difficult it is to struggle out of this feeling that really, everything is largely pointless and futile. Her website is also recommended.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Alexander McCall Smith: Heavenly Date and Other Flirtations

So I read on the bus. Shoot me.

My husband bought me this with some gift vouchers he had. The sweetie. He also bought me the sequel to 44 Scotland Street, so stay tuned!

Heavenly Date... is a collection of short stories, dealing with falling in love, or dating, or simply sex. They are a little more sinister in tone than I am used to, and demonstrate quite well that McCall Smith is one of those writers who studies people and has a lot of experience in human behaviour and emotions. Some are better than others (I'm not mad keen on the one with the angel baby), but it's a good read on the whole. The cover quotes a newspaper review saying that he is "reminiscent of Roald Dahl", and that is actually not a bad comparison. But tell you what I was suddenly reminded of - Ray Bradbury. Granted, different genres, but they share that slightly dreamlike, old-fashioned quality, and the focus on people. Bradbury's science-fiction is never about gadgets.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


I was first trying to read R is for Ricochet by Sue Grafton. A few chapters in I was sure I'd read it before. It's the one where Kinsey is hired by a wealthy man to go pick up his daughter who is being released from prison. Sounds a simple job, but turns out the daughter took the fall (note my extensive knowledge of US crime vernacular) for her boss/lover, and now the FBI and the IRS want her to turn stool pigeon (see, I talk the talk).

For the life of me I can't remember how it ends. And it clearly isn't my favourite, since I found it so hard to get into it. Even though Kinsey has sex.

Maybe Graftons are only meant to be read once?

So I put it aside, and picked up Last Seen Wearing by Hillary Waugh, a book I'd never heard of. But apparently it's a classic. Written in -52, it's an attempt to write a crime novel about police procedure. It must have been one of the very first, if not the first, to focus on procedure and forensics. Wikipedia entry here. Now, it almost makes me cringe to read how they break into the subjects house to gather evidence. Anybody hear a "mistrial" being shouted from the back? The (probably very accurate, but still) sexism grates a bit too. By which I mean that I find it hard to find love inside me for the heroes.

The book is about a freshman who goes missing from college, and how the police find out what happened to her by doing stuff the police does, like questioning numerous people, draining lakes, vacuuming cars - no easy ways out. Well, apart form being able to gather evidence with a spot of B&E then.

It's highly recommendable, if nothing else because its an excellent document of its time. I'm not sure if that was even English what I just wrote, but I'm leaving it there.

My blogging will hopefully be highly erratic for some time now, since I started writing my essay again. Unless I decide to blog about law books....

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Caroline Graham: The Killings at Badger's Drift

I've sort of neglected reading Caroline Graham, which is a bit of a shame, since she is very funny in an understated way. (I blame all deficiencies in my reading on the library's selection and availability of literature though!) The cover of TKABD has a quote from the Yorkshire Post:
Probably the most underrated British crime writer. Her talent is rare, combining wit, pathos and an entertaining narrative.

Very true. I offer you this quote as an example:
Troy re-entered the room, giving Barnaby what he fondly imagined to be an imperceptible shake of the head.

Barnaby is Head Cop, Troy his cocky sidekick. The descriptions of Troy's desire to appear cool and competent, like something out of a film, are all first-rate.

This is Graham's first novel. I had previously read one of her later ones (the latest one, perhaps?), The Ghost In The Machine. In that book the sarcasm and cynicism was twisted another notch, slightly OTT as I remember it. TKABD is a good blend of the cynical and the emotional. Graham's Barnaby novels have been televised as The Midsomer Murders. The TV series is an very bleak and shallow version of the novels. It's usually aired on Swedish telly every summer, and this summer is no exception. I tend to watch because there's nothing else on, but I'm not a fan. It's bland, boring and simply unfunny.

Plotline: an old woman witnesses a couple having sex in the forest, and is later found dead. Her friend insists that it can't be of natural causes. Barnaby starts investigating, and discovers that she's been poisoned by hemlock (ha, just like in my recently read Poison in Athens).He discovers blackmailers, child abuse, adultery and incest.

It's a good read, and I recommend it. Plus - it's dedicated to Christianna Brand "with grateful thanks for all her help and encouragment". Now that's cool. Christianna Brand is a classic crime fiction name, and it seems as though she's almost forgotten nowadays (much as Josephine Tey appears to be). But Green for Danger is still a marvellous detective story.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Ngaio Marsh: Enter A Murderer

Goodness, had forgotten I had bought this! Was very pleased to spot it in the bookshelf this weekend, waiting for me to remember. Right next to the phone (that had stopped working, again, dammit. We're phonedicapped here. Telephonically challenged. I can't understand it.).

This is her second Marsh novel, from 1935, although I have a late Fontana edition from -74 (with a fugtastic cover). Alleyn still has Bathgate the journalist as a sidekick, but Fox is becoming quite prominent (which is good, because I like Fox), and is referred to as Foxkin a lot, but not as Bre'er Fox. FYI.

Bathgate takes Alleyn to a play, in which a man is to be shot in the final scene. Naturally the stage gun is not loaded with blanks this time, but with real bullets, and everyone on stage has had motive and opportunity for switching the bullets.

Best thing with this book is the references to the drug trade. There really is nothing new under the sun. At the core of the plot is smuggling and selling of heroine and cocaine. Drugs are dope, and when you're high on them you're dopey. It all seems almost quaint in its 1930s setting.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Another book I need...

... is anything by Jaqueline Winspear, author of the Maisie Dobbs series. They're always gone from the library (and now in the summer we have summer loans, lasting until August, so poo). :-(

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Close Call: Gillian Slovo

I think I've read one of Slovo's before. Am googling, trying to jog my memory. In the meantime - this may have been Slovo's last novel featuring journalist Kate Baeier. Published in 1995 it also deals with a darker economic period, not to mention a time when Europe was again torn by war. Kate has returned to London from working as a war correspondent abroad for five years. She left after the death of her lover, and feels distant and alone, emotionally. She has alienated/fought with her best friends, and is troubled by her father's renewed attempts at communication. She meets a policeman she fancies, gets arrested, is drawn into complicated cover-up with a dirty cop gang.

Not bad, but quite bleak. I'd like to read some more, must remember to do so. And juxtapose it with some happier stuff!

Catnap. I may have read Catnap, the novel before Close Call. I recognize the cover...

I need to get a hold of....

Babes in Beijing by Rachel Dewoskin, and more importantly När rött blir svart by Qiu Xialong (don't know English title, not important since original language is Chinese...). The latter is a detective story y'see. And just noticed that it's published by editor friend's publishing company. How handy! *starts plotting bribery tactics*

Edited to say that Qiu Xialong writes in English, so title in English is When Red Is Black, and I'm an idiot, and now I need it in English.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Anabel Donald: In At The Deep End

This was lovely crime fic! Donald's heroine, television researcher/PI Alex Tanner, is an intelligent, feisty, independent delight. The kind of person you can actually visualize yourself hanging out with. After reading this (finished it at work, slow day thanks be to God) I ran back to the library to get more books by Ms Donald, but they only had Smile, Honey, which is a novel, not a detective story, and reading the back of it I realised I'd already read this, years ago. I mean years. Maybe 12 or so. Wow, I'm old. Anyway, it made quite an impression on me, since the epilogue has stuck with me all these years, without me being able to quite place it. I recommend Anabel Donald in general.

This book is set in the early nineties. The recession is in full swing. I find it hard now to remember what it was like then - the feeling of hopelessness, how there were no jobs, property value was plummeting... Anyway, the general scarcity of money is what prompts Alex Tanner to undertake a doubtful investigation of a teenager who died in a diving accident at his military-style private school. The boy was the son of an English-French celebrity couple, obviously modelled on Gainsbourg and Birkin, which is freaking hilarious. I saw a documentary on Gainsbourg on the telly once (no the whole thing, because hello? Boooring...), and the man is quite mad. He said "I want to fuck you" to Whitney Houston on television! No wonder the woman is on drugs, he's a creep. Donald creates a bogus tv interview for her fictional couple (the Mouches) in the same vein:
I filled her with my angel-milk and she became a slave to love

I also love that Alex's boyfriend brings her two Sue Graftons and a Paretsky when he returns from a business trip to the US. Alex likes Sue Grafton best, so her instinct is to read the Paretsky first, but
on the other hand you shouldn't read two books by the same author one after another because the mannerisms get on your nerves.
Too true, but that didn't stop me running to the library. *blushing*

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Margaret Doody: Poison in Athens

Margaret Doody has written a series of detective stories set in ancient Greece, starring Aristotle the philosopher as detective together with his sidekick Stephanos. I have previously read Aristotle and Poetic Justice, in which Stephanos finds his bride-to-be. Poison in Athens is set later in time, as Stephanos tries to prepare for the nuptials to actually take place, sometime in a near future.

The story centres around several high-profile lawcases. A prostitute is accused of impiety, a well-respected citizen of hogging a female slave for his own sexual pleasures, a widow of murdering her husband with hemlock. Sex and the role of women is a theme of the book. Doody does not make it easier for us by creating a central character with modern views and thoughts. Aristotle and Stephanos are firmly rooted in their society. Women are the property of their families, slaves of their owners etc. Frankly, this became a bit tedious to read at times, which is why the blog update has been delayed. There was a lot of oratory; on why slavery is necessary in society, on morals good and bad, on philosophy. On the whole I think it's well worth it though. This series is not a bad introduction to Ancient Greece. I prefer Lindsay Davis' cynical Falco, but this is well written and well researched.

The final speech by the female slave Marylla is, I suppose, a little too modern - perhaps her ideas are just a trifle too sophisticated for a female slave of the time... but how can I know? Just an idea.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Julie Parsons: The Hourglass

Wham! After reading a few gentle, civilized mysteries I picked up the latest Julie Parsons at the library. Damn, the woman throws you straight in with the wolves, doesn't she? As the cover quote from Irish Tatler says: "You won't be able to put it down and you won't be able to sleep". Too right. The thing with Julie Parsons is that she might just kill everyone, you can't be sure. I was so tense reading The Hourglass that I just had to check the last pages to see who dies - because someone does, count on it. Also, the book starts with a - what's the opposite to flashback? flashfront? whatever - to events occurring near the end, so you know Bad Things are coming.

This book is about Lydia Beauchamp, an old garden designer, all alone in her old house in Co. Cork. Her husband killed himself years ago, and she hasn't seen her daughter for twenty years. She meets a young man, whom she takes into her confidence, but he is there by design, to exact revenge for things that happened a long time ago.

The villain of the piece is superbad indeed, and very scary. Indeed, I was a little disappointed by the end, because with such an efficient killing machine out and about you'd expect more slaughter. She chickened out a bit actually, did Julie. Not that I'm complaining, I'm a wimp. From a literary point of view though it feels almost a trifle unresolved.

I especially love Parsons' books for the insight into a modern, darker Ireland they provide. Growing up half-Irish I had to put up with a lot of "ooo, lovely country, everyone so friendly, lovely pubs, leprechauns" nonsense. Made me want to go "ooo, xenophobia, institutionalized racism, alcoholism". I haven't been to Ireland for over a decade, and I need these glimpses of modern Ireland now and then.

Now, must go help Minima wrap parcel, before she combusts.

Edit: remembered what I wanted to ramble about, really. This is the second Parsons novel I've read where one big theme is the strong love/same sex relationships forged in prison, between people who would otherwise not identify themselves as gay. In the first book, Eager To Please, the relationship was between women, here it's between men, and has more destructive power. Another theme is what prison does to inmates, how destructive it is. I wonder what personal experience Parsons has of prison life? Must try to find some interviews.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Sunday Philosophy Club

By Alexander McCall Smith.

I've been eager to read this one, because I wanted to see what AMS has to say about his hometown Edinburgh. The novel centres around Isabel Dalhousie, a middle-aged lady of independent means who is editor of a philosophical magazine. She also heads the meetings of the Sunday Philosophy Club, a club that is mentioned but never brought into action here. Anyway, Isabel witnesses a young man fall to his death, and becomes obsessed with finding out how.

I found the book a little lacking in drive, but the exerpt at the end from the next one in the series (Friends, Lovers, Chocolate) looked a lot more promising in that respect. I did like it though. Isabel has a lot of internal discussions about ethics and philosophy, so that's fun. This is the one to make my husband read, to introduce him to AMS.

Kantians would be in no doubt about the answer to that, but that was the problem with Kantian morality: it was so utterly predictable, and left no room for subtlety; rather like Kant himself, she thought. In a purely philosophical sense, it must be very demanding to be German. Far better to be French (irresponsible and playful) or Greek (grave, but with a light touch).

Friday, June 02, 2006

Keith Oatley: The Case of Emily V.

I stumbled across this book in the crime fiction section of the library (all crime fiction obligingly marked with a yellow dot and grouped together, I only have to browse...). My attention was caught by the title, and on the back I read that it's
a terrific quasi-mystery set in Vienna and featuring a melancholic Sherlock Holmes, a smug Sigmund Freud, and an entirely engaging young classics teacher named Emily V.
Well, I had to borrow it then, didn't I? After all, I had to check if it was comparable to Laurie R. King's fantastic Sherlock Holmes pastiche.

Well, quasi-mystery is right. This is not really crime fiction, as the crime is very much by-the-way. The background idea is that three manuscripts from ca 1904 (or something) have been recovered, one by Emily V., one by Dr Watson, and one by Freud. They all centre around the same events, from different points of view. Emily V. was sexually abused as a child, and now blames herself for the death of her abuser. She starts seeing Freud on the advice of a friend. And later Holmes and Watson show up, investigating the death of the abuser, who was also a British diplomat and spy.

The novel combines these three manuscripts into one. It's cleverly done, with Oatley capturing the original narrative styles of Doyle and Freud (no that I've read much Freud, but Oatley's a professor of psychology himself, so I'm sure he knows what he's about). The last chapter is a postscript by a dr Ellen Berger, which analyzes the manuscripts you've just read. An interesting twist! I can't find her name on Google, so I'm not sure if Oatley has made her up entirely or borrowed bits of her from medical accquaintances...

This novel reminds me of Sofies värld by Jostein Gardner, in that it presents an area of learning in a more accessible manner. Or, for that matter, Nils Holgerssons Underbara Resa... If you want to be introduced to Freudian theory it might be a good place to start.. or if you want some long-winded flowery descriptions of people having sex. The only good thing with that passage is that it is "put into context" in "Berger's" analysis at the end. (I'm too old to be interested in reading about sex, or seeing it on film. I prefer having it. I am no longer 14.) It took me a while to finish the book, partly because of said long-windedness, not only on matters of lesbian sex. It's part of the early 20th century style the book is written in, but it's a bit tedious. Well, at least if you were expecting more crime novel. The story tends to drive itself forward then.

To sum up, recommended, on the whole.

Finally: In today's DN there is a review of the Swedish translation of Dan Brown's novel Digital Fortress (which I've read. It's crap, but I liked it better than the others, probably because I'm ignorant in computer matters so he was able to feed me shite while calling it soup and I wouldn't have noticed). In the last paragraph the journalist mentions that what is truly terrifying is that Brown previously taught "creative writing". Where will this lead? Will we be flooded with "thrillers" in ten years time?

Scary thought indeed. Let's hope the students surpass the teacher, in that case.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Another dentist visit

Today we didn't discuss literature, but Little Britain. I did however read, namely a brochure that places me in premium group 2 (out of 11, 0 being perfect teeth) for dental insurance thingie.

I am ridiculously pleased with this.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I may have to order

This book seems interesting. Maybe I could find out if there is anyone writing about a male homosexual detective. For some reason there are several lesbian heroines in the genre, but I have yet to come across a gay man. Which is interesting in itself.

FYI, my birthday is in October. :-P

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bryson and Bentley

Hb has commented, on my Bryson post below, that he does visit his family in Notes From A Small Island. And that is true. And that reminded me that I should have updated that blog entry, since after writing it (naturally, why do research before you write, when you can publicly humiliate yourself afterwards) I googled a little, found some interviews, and deduced that he just doesn't write about the family trips. Also he confirms that his books are not meant as, and in fact are rubbish if read as travel guides. (That was a bad sentence. But I can't piece it together in a better way at the moment. Very annoying.) So colour me embarrassed and efterklok.

Spent all weekend feeling sorry for myself as I have a cold. Reread Trent Intervenes by EC Bentley. This is a book I picked up somewhere quite accidentally, and I'm glad I did. Bentley only wrote three books featuring his detective/journalist/artist Philip Trent, and they are hard to find. By which I mean that no library in town has even one copy, and I haven't come across them in any second-hand book stalls. I'm not desperate enough to start trawling the internet for copies, but that day may come. Trent Intervenes is the last in the series. It was published in 1938, and preceded by Trent's Own Case in 1936 and Trent's Last Case (great title, considering!) in (wait for it) 1913.

Apparently Dorothy Sayers was a Bentley fan, which is of course a mark of quality. The book itself is a collection of short stories. Trent sometimes aids the police, sometimes acts alone to help a friend or an accquantaince. He always reserves the right to choose how to act on what he has discovered. They are clever, not complete whodunnits as Trent has more information than we do, but close, as there are enough clues so as to help us guess the truth. Recommended.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Marsvinets paradox

Ur dagens DN:

Det vi inte får se fyller katalogen ut med anspråksfulla curatorstexter. På golvet står ett litet marsvin med propeller på ryggen, knöligt skulpterat av Malin Bryntesson. Varför? Jag har svårt att ryckas med av katalogtextens tal om att verket tvingar till reflektioner över "marsvinets paradox - att det å ena sidan symboliserar begreppet experiment och å andra sidan passiviseras som husdjur i stadsmiljö".

Det är sånt här som ger konstnärer dåligt rykte.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Bill Bryson Thoughts

So while reading In A Sunburned Country I was struck by the fact that Bryson always travels alone. Sometimes he'll have a companion, but it's never family, instead perhaps an old high school friend (Katz, in A Walk In The Woods) or a colleague. Maybe he never writes about his travels with his family? Maybe that's too personal? It would be sad to think that his kids never get to see all the things he sees. I was thinking that while his solitary travelling gives him time to think about what he sees, ponder and take notes, and then write these great books that I love, it at the same time makes them vaguely useless as travel guides for those of us who lug the kids along. Hm. What I'm trying to say is that instead of feeling like I want to follow in Bryson's footsteps, I feel like there is no way I can. At the same time he writes in such a way as to make me feel as though I am there too, and so I've already been where he's been.

If you see my point. Rambling though it may be.

Why is Agatha Christie so popular?


My copy of Unnatural Death has about a thousand printing errors in it. I am seriously disappointed. Luckily I have read it before, so I knew that it wasn't meant to be incomprehensible in the places where it was incomprehensible. Now, do I chuck the book (that rhymes, pleasingly)? I can no longer lend it to my editor friend, she'll go into crazy work mode and explode.

Then I re-read Ten Little Niggers. Note: I have never read the book in English, and it's been at least ten years or so since I read it in Swedish. This time around, I was struck by how mediocre it was, really. Not at all as scary as I remember. Plus, the constant use of the word nigger really grates on you. Makes you want to turn up on the island and smack everyone upside the head. In the Swedish translation it was neger, which is not, you know, good, but it's better than nigger. Must've been an excellent translation on the whole, since it made me love the book so much for so many years. She's terribly overrated, Agatha Christie. Don't understand it at all. This is the only book that's ever done anything for me, and now I find out it's all a lot of ... ... ... ... at the end of every single fecking sentence.

Then my husband's colleague (also my former teacher, did I mention that? Pretty cool) lent me 44 Scotland Street, not knowing that I've read it. Still very sweet gesture that I appreciate, and I also got a present! A little Reading Diary. So I shan't be needing to blog anymore, I guess. ;-)

Then I got sick. *coughs* So I'm mostly lying in bed reading Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country, laughing out loud. Because, let's face it, Australians are funny without even trying. The accent is enough. Bill Bryson just ices the cake, really.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Blue Shoes and Happiness (and More)

Blue Shoes and Happinessis the latest from Alexander McCall Smith. My darling husband borrowed it for me from a colleague (so this is the first one I've read in hardback, incidentally).

It feels a bit repetitive to gush about how much I enjoy these books, so I was going to say that I first found myself a little disappointed in this one. I think I was a little surprised that there weren't more references to stuff that has already happened, like the adopted children and the Kalahari Typing School (note to self: you haven't read that one). But then I found myself backtracking on that sentiment, since this book is a little more introspective than the others. Just a little, but it seems like the theme is a different - the action takes place as much on the inside as on the outside. And there are still beautiful passages (that yes, make me cry), such as this one:
She thought of her father, the Daddy as she called him, every day. And when she had those dreams at night, he was there, as if he had never died, although she knew, even in the dream, that he had. One day she would join him, she knew, whatever people said about how we came to an end when we took our last breath. Some people mocked you if you said that you joined others when your time came. Well, they could laugh, those clever people, but we surely had to hope, and a life without hope was no life: it was a sky without stars, a landscape of sorrow and emptiness. If she thought that she would never again see Obed Ramotswe, then it would make her shiver with loneliness. [...] And there was somebody else she would see one day, she hoped - her baby who had died, that small child with its fingers that had grasped so tightly around hers, whose breathing was so quiet, like the sound of the breeze in the acacia trees on an almost-still day, a tiny sound. She knew that her baby was with the late children in whatever place it was that the late children went, somewhere over there, beyond the Kalahari, where the gentle white cattle allowed the children to ride on their backs. And when the late mothers came, the children would flock to them and they would call to them and take them in their arms. That was what she hoped, and it was a hope worth having, she felt.

Oh Lord, that has me in tears again. On to something funnier.

I also reread Dorothy Sayers' Strong Poison, which is still brilliant. Got so bitten that I'm reading Unnatural Death now. So a quote from the latter:

'I wish you wouldn't talk so much', complained his friend. 'And how about all those typewritten reports? Are you turning philantropist in your old age?'

'No - no,' said Wimsey, rather hurriedly hailing a taxi. 'Tell you about that later. Little private pogrom of my own - Insurance against the Socialist Revolution - when it comes. "What did you do with your great wealth, comrade?" "I bought First Editions." "Aristocrat! à la lanterne!" "Stay, spare me! I took proceedings against 500 moneylenders who oppressed the workers." "Citizen, you have done well. We will spare your life. You shall be promoted to cleaning the sewers." Voilà! We must move with the times. Citizen taxi-driver, take me to the British Museum. Can I drop you anywhere? No? So long. I am going to collate a 12th-century manuscript of Tristan, whole the old order lasts.'

I just realised typing that (whew!) that it might just be several slurs against Jews. The words pogrom and moneylenders in combination... Which would not be funny at all. But I never saw it like that before, maybe largely because I have never viewed DLS as an antisemite. As a matter of fact, in Strong Poison, Lord Peter's friend Freddy Arbuthnot announces his engagement to a Jewish girl, and the whole thing has a anti-antisemitic feel to it. Hm. Must think about that some more.

Anyway, Eurovision in 10 minutes now!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Dental Literature

So today I went to the dentist. At 8 o'clock in the morning no less, which translates into "stupid o'clock in the morning", although not as stupid as 7.40 which is when my youngest went the other week (yawn). So I'm thinking "mutter mutter, brilliant start to the day this" and to ice the turd cake someone I really would rather not meet or even see was in the waiting room... :-((( But anywhoo. I get up on the chair, and we start chatting, and we went from anaesthatic to pulling out teeth to Louis XVI (I thought it might have been) to my dream of future dental care, which will involve the extraction of all my (crap) teeth and then the stimulation (via tricorder or similar instrument) of my genes to grow new, sparkly ones, and then conversation turned to science fiction.

See, I don't like going to the dentist. They always get on my case about not flossing etc., and refuse to listen when I say that it's really hard for me to floss, because my teeth are all cramped into my mouth and the floss WON'T FIT, and I think they should cut me some slack because the dentists obviously let me down bigtime when I was a kid. But when I first walked into this dentist's office I knew he was okay, because he had a Matrix screensaver on his computer. And this was before Matrix 2 and 3, which are rubbish. So he's pretty cool.

We ended up chatting about sci-fi books (I'm going to have to read Asimov now, as per his instructions) and films, and Swedish literature as taught in schools, and

Nurse: "Remember that phase when we read all those Russian authors? Tolstoy, Gogol..."

Dentist: "Gogol...Gogol... Dead Souls... and what was the other one?"

Me, with mouth full of stuff: *points to nose*

Dentist: "Nose? The Nose?"

Me: "Mrgh."

Dentist: "Don't remember it. Hang on, I'll let you speak in a moment."

And so on.

Not a bad way to start the day after all.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

More Dorothy Sayers!

Found Strong Poison in the second-hand book stall today! This is the one where Lord Peter meets Harriet Vane, the love of his life, who is on trial for murder. She is accused of poisoning her former lover with arsenic. It is a brilliant little novel, especially enlightening if you wish to learn more about the moral code of the time, and really understand better how people thought re: marriage and free love. Am very pleased.

Moby Dick is not going so well. *blush* Perhaps I should give it a rest for a bit.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cheating on Moby

So at 2 o'clock Saturday morning my husband came back from Paris. He had naturally (for him) left something behind somewhere along his itinerary, this time his jacket with his house keys - luckily only in the car that gave him a lift from the airport shuttle. Anyway, he had to ring me to let him in. At 2 o'clock in the morning. Brutal.

Anyway, he bought me books. In English. It's funny really, how one of his favourite stops in Paris is Shakespeare and Company, a more or less English-language bookshop, but then he doesn't speak French. He got me The Girl Who Married a Lion by Alexander McCall Smith, which is a collection of African stories/fabels. Probably very good, so I'm glad to now own it, but I'd come across it before and elected not to read it since I didn't want to read fairy tales at the time. But it'll come in handy one day, I'm sure. Also he bought A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson - again, a favourite of mine. I'm always in stitches reading his books, and it's best when he's writing about things I know nothing or little of, as I won't spot any glaring errors then. ;-) This is a good one, of how he and his annoying friend Katz hike the Appalachian Trail. A lot of info, environmental debate, hilarious episodes. Recommended.

Also, yesterday down town I bought myself two books, because they were there. For any out of town readers I have - in Uppsala, on Saturdays, you find second-hand book stalls along a part of the river. Sort of "diet Paris" style. On my way to my bike I peeked, and found two old paperbacks: Ten Little Niggers by Agatha Christie, and Unnatural Death by Dorothy Sayers.

Ten Little Niggers was obviously renamed Ten Little Indians later for the film (which the cover of my paperback also points out, almost apologetically). It's a truly awful title, I cringe even typing the word. But hey, those where the times, that's the word she used, I can't change it. :-/ Substituting "indians" for "niggers" is really not a great improvement either. This is still one of the creepiest crime stories I've ever read. Admittedly, I haven't read it for years, I might start picking holes in it now, but as a child on summer holidays with my grandparents in Värmland I'd always read their (Swedish) copy, and it freaked me out. Storyline is that ten people are invited to a mansion on an isolated island. They don't know the others or that they are coming, and have nothing in common. They think. Once there, the supposed host is missing. A recording informs them that they are all going to be punished for being murderers that have escaped the law. And then they die, one by one. Most chilling.

Unnatural Death is Sayers' third Lord Peter novel, so he's still very much happy-go-lucky and debonair in character. Not that he ever really was, if you read between the lines. Sayers was much too good a writer for that. I love her work, and have read all her Lord Peter novels, including the one finished by Jill Paton Walsh (Thrones, Dominations). So I've already read this one too, but couldn't pass up a chance to own it for 20 crowns. Anyway, I don't seem to remember every detail of the storyline, so I'll have to re-read it sometime - the snappy Lord Peter dialogue should make it well worth it! It's something about an old woman who dies, and some people suspect her nurse murdered her. The doctor however concludes that there was no foul play involved, but Lord Peter is interested and starts picking at the problem. Then the maid is murdered, and things escalate.

The best thing about this one is the introduction of the estimable Miss Climpson, the shrewd middle-aged lady who sleuths for Lord Peter, writes lengthy italicized letters and runs his secretary school (or whatever it is). She's great. Oh, and there is a Reverend Hallelujah Dawson in this one, that's something to remember.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Du viet, han är polacken

I bloggens begynnelse tyckte Frida att jag skulle läsa Hjälp, jag heter Zbigniew av pseudonymen Zbigniew Kuklarz. Jag var lite avog, för maken hade just fått boken i födelsedagspresent av sin moder, och han tyckte inte den var så fantastisk. Men häromkvällen (innan han for till Paris den lyckans guldgossen) läste han upp ett stycke högt för mig, och nu har jag läst hela boken själv. Om än inte i ordning. Den är väldigt episodisk, och jag bläddrade fram och tillbaks till de roligaste/sorgligaste/mest givande bitarna. Påminner om Baktharis Kalla det vad fan du vill på det sättet.

I alla fall, stycket min man läste:

Tomek är inte ensam om att prata mycket. Det gäller de flesta polacker, i alla fall de jag träffat i Sverige. Framförallt efter att man ställt en simpel fråga. Då får man ofta en föreläsning till svar. De kan inte bara svara ja eller nej, det skulle vara alldeles för enkelt, och ett missat tillfälle att få bevisa sin smarthet.

Här började jag rågarva. Det är PRECIS SÅ DET ÄR. Maken skrattade också medan han läste, och sa vänta vänta, det kommer mer! Så fortsätter han läsa, med en grym polsk brytning:

Jag frågar: "Har du klippt dig?"
Polack svarar: (lång inandning) "Du viet... (lång suck) när min mormor var litten hon bodde i en by. Där fanns en man som rakade alla fåren med en maskin. Så varje år min mormor lät håret växa och sen hon gick till fårmannen och gav till honom en påse potatis så att han skulle klippa lite med maskinen i hennes hår va... bla bla

Jag höll på att krevera. Detta måste läsas med polsk brytning. Det är så exakt. Been there, heard that! Hur kul som helst! Usch, jag kanske är typ lyteskomiker? Det är brytningsskildringarna jag uppskattar mest i Kalla det vad fan du vill också. Läskig tanke. Föredrar att tro att det är mitt stora språkintresse som spelar in. I alla fall:

Vid det här laget ångrar man sin frågvishet [...] Lik förbannat ställer man dumt nog en fråga till som för att avbryta babbelsvaret från den första.

Jag frågar: "Vilket dagis valde ni åt er dotter?"
Polack svarar: "Nej du viet, (lång suck) kommunen har problem va. De diskutierar och diskutierar förbättringar utan att komma fram. Du förstår, det är politik i en nöt. Och var går pengarna, jag frågar sig...?"

Herregud, svara på frågan idiot!

Nu är mitt nya favvouttryck "nej du viet". Bara så ni viet. Vi tillbringade en god stund med att prata om alla polacker vi känner som är precis så där. Och min man hade en stunds ångest över huruvida han var en av dem (vilket jag försäkrade honom om att han inte var).

Moby Dick knallar på. Jag uppskattar geniet bakom, men historien i sig tilltalar mig inte, så det går trögt. Dock ändock, det går.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Elbereth Gilthoniel

My husband and sister are watching The Fellowship of the Ring (extended) on dvd at the moment. Reminds me of how disappointed I was with these films. First one - alright, tough book to film, not a bad effort on the whole. But second one was worse and third one pretty dismal.

The LOTR trilogy are some of my favourite books of all time. They are a huge part of my life, and I cannot understand how they could cut out good bits and leave the goddamned AWFUL computer game "congratulations, you've reached the next level" scenes in. What were they thinking? Sad sad sad.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


One fundamental problem, of course, is that I'm not interested in men going off to sail the high seas and find themselves through gruelling labour and incredible danger. I'm told that this is not what the book is all about, but it feels like it. It's going very badly at the moment. I just want him to stop yapping so fecking much, find Ahab's ship, get on and start harpooning or whatever. For Christ's sake. You rambling selfish prat.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Made my own link list now

And I'm very smug about it. Ha. I'll be working on making a better one sometime. More organized, like.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Sarah Dunant: Under My Skin

Lord, I forgot to write about this one. I actually read it before Moby Dick was started upon (and Lord, it's proving slow work. Work of genius and all, I can see that, but I'm just so grateful that I don't have to spend any time with a drunk Ishmael. The man doesn't know how to shut up, does he? Makes you see where Hemingway was coming from.).

So, this was a delightful detective story, with a snappy, witty heroine - Hanna Wolfe. Never read any of Dunant's before, but must read more. Funny and cool! Dunant respects her readers' intelligence, and doesn't repeat background story ad nauseam. Instead Wolfe mentions what has obviously happened in previous books more in passing, which is more natural.

A health spa is suffering from somebody sabotaging treatments and equipment. Luckily no-one has been hurt badly. Hannah poses as a patient to find the culprit, but even after she has there is more to the story. The book wants us to think about how we view our and other peoples' bodies, to think about cosmetic surgery and the shallow, visual way our society has turned out. Can be a bit preachy, but not much. It's offset by Hannah's wise-cracking sarcasm.

I like.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Long between updates

I started reading Moby Dick. So I may be gone a while... Unless I pop in to write about all the Other Things I Read, like cookery books ("jellied consommé is a traditional summer delight") and newspapers.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Staying off the Internet for Good Friday, therefore in an Update Panic, and how long can the title be? Pretty long, it seems.

That's the plan. So then of course I get really antsy and feel that OMG, I need to blog now, don't I? But I feel so restless and can't focus on giving my books and posts the TLC they deserve. Although, some books don't deserve TLC. I have recently started on two books that I just abandoned due to crapness. This is a skill (?) I have picked up in my old age. In my, like, youth I could not not finish a book, but hitting 30 and starting to sport a fetching moustache has made me realise that life is, indeed, much to short. So the books I ditched are The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern by Lilian Jackson Brown, and The Poisoned Chalice by Paul Doherty. The first one just didn't grip me, but I'll keep it around, just in case war breaks out and I become really desperate for something to read. The second is, according to the cover, the "best of its kind since the death of Ellis Peters". My arse it is. God, I was bored stiff with the narrator cum hero ten pages in. Argh. Could not cope. If you think frolic is a good word to use in a sexual context you might like this.

But this leads me on to Ellis Peters, whom I have read. Again. Yay! An Excellent Mystery is the latest find. I may have read all her Cadfael novels now, but I'm not completely sure. I am especially not sure if I view this as a good thing (job well done, closure) or with a sense of loss... Her other books are much harder to get a hold of, and they are a little less captivating. Her style works so brilliantly in a mediaeval (ha! spelt right on first attempt!) context.

In AEM the abbey recieves two brothers who are refugees from the war. Their home abbey has been burned to the ground and their brethren scattered. One is a former Crusade hero, the other his devoted mute helper. One day a soldier who used to serve under Crusade Hero's command turns up, to ask his blessing as he goes to court the hero's former betrothed. However, it turns out that the woman, who was supposed to have become a nun, has disappeared. And the hunt is on for clues, and meanwhile things are tense in Shrewsbury Abbey...

This book has a "gay" theme, much more explicitly than I expected. One of the brothers of the abbey is tormented by memories of the woman who scorned him and drove him to take vows. He is now tempted by two of the younger and better-looking brothers, and tries to find ways to get physical with them. Since this is Ellis Peters it doesn't get ugly, of course. No rape on her watch. But it's interesting that she isn't afraid to breach the issue. Well, and Brother Sex-Mad isn't gay even, he's just desperate. Which is also nice, that he isn't gay and therefore crazy. He's straight and crazy. Or temporarily so. In general there is theme of scandal in this book - brothers who can't stay away from tempations of the flesh, women in the monastery... I recommend it. It might not be a novel to bring to the Pride Parade... but it's enjoyable and thought-provoking.

After that I read an Agatha Christie I had nicked from Daddy's (who we helped move to a new flat last weekend - a great source of stress and anguish and another reason for not blogging). Murder on the Links, featuring Hercule Poirot. I'm not a mad Christie fan, and this isn't one of her strongest novels, IMO. I can't be arsed to go into detail, suffice it to say that the victim is found in a grave dug in a golf course. In France. It's set in France. However, it gets bonus points for Poirot being a little less of a caricature than usual. Well, not that I've read many Poirot mysteries or anything, but I remember him as a caricature, and I've never been that keen.

I also had borrowed a Margery Allingham novel, The Crime at Black Dudley, but I think I've read it. It starts with a dagger hunt in a dark house - pretty distinctive, and I know I've read that before... but for the life of me the rest is a blank. I can't have enjoyed it that much then, so I probably shouldn't bother re-reading, right?

Anyway, a Happy Easter to all of you who happen to read this! May you all find time for some påskekrim, regardless of where you are!