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.