Three stars is decent for a retread, I think. Rankin has repackaged his Rebus short stories previously published in crime magazines and collected in "Three stars is decent for a retread, I think. Rankin has repackaged his Rebus short stories previously published in crime magazines and collected in "A Good Hanging" and "Beggars Banquet" plus a couple of fresh stories to freshen the offering.
The short stories are fine and, rare for a crime short story, actually work. I've read about ten Rebus books, starting around the year 2000, so I know all about John Rebus. Knowing the Rebus background means that stories don't feel rushed, trying to cram in some character along with the plot.
I enjoyed the coda. Rankin gives a nice sketch of his life and career. Veteran authors often have a very different viewpoint from when they first started. Rankin palpability cringes at his early efforts, like "Knots & Crosses", which is understandable. One would expect, and I imagine Rankin would expect, to improve after 25 or novels. I'm a big fan of Rankin and Rebus. For the likes of me, this book is a treat, retread or not. ...more
OK, I'm a bit late to the game on this, judging by the passel of awards that this book has garnered, all richly deserved.
It, I expect, will confound mOK, I'm a bit late to the game on this, judging by the passel of awards that this book has garnered, all richly deserved.
It, I expect, will confound many readers. First off, this is not a Jackson Brodie novel, so not crime fiction. Of course, Atkinson doesn't write straight-up crime fiction, so her avid readers might expect something different. But not this different.
Ursula Todd the chance to live her life again and again until she gets it right. Sort of like “Groundhog Day”, only more clever and subtle.
The scope and style are ambitious. Yes, there is repetition – pretty much unavoidable when Ursula relives a life. This maybe off-putting for some, but the reward is there, thanks to Atkinson’s elegant style.
The book is also prodigiously researched. London during the blitz is a lovingly detailed character. Atkinson mixes in historical characters and events to great effect.
I finished this book on Remembrance Day, appropriately so. As the years slip by, we forget the sacrifices of the Second World War. This book is a reminder of the civilian privations.
Often the prodigious research overwhelms a book. Not here. The characters are vivid, stories are believable. Truly a gem of a work from a confident writer. ...more
1848 truly was the year of revolution; so many events that Mike Rapport spends 400 pages and gives us a panoramic glimpse. Rapport lectures in history1848 truly was the year of revolution; so many events that Mike Rapport spends 400 pages and gives us a panoramic glimpse. Rapport lectures in history at the University of Stirling in Scotland and emphasizes the stick-to-the-facts chronology. It’s refreshing not to be plagued by “it seems that” and “one must imagine.” The book is well-supported by research.
I, however, longed for the approach of the superb Lords of Finance. The context of the times was easier to understand because of the tighter focus on the personalities involved. The events are astonishing but I like it when someone looks under the hood and finds out what makes it tick. Understanding the motivations and psyche of the players makes it easier to see how it changed our outlook forever or how history might repeat itself again.
Many Canadians may be surprised to learn that Germany and Italy did not exist when Canada was founded in 1867. The map of Europe was vastly different in 1848. Rapport doesn’t coddle the reader; knowledge of European history and geography is expected. He chronicles the march toward Venice and mentions crossing the Po a number of times. Had I known the Po flows from Turin to Venice, it would have helped me. When he discusses French political labels, he quotes a leader: “Republicans, Philippistes [i.e., Orléanists:], or Legitimists.” Ok, now that you’ve explained they’re Orléanists, that really clears things up. If you don’t know what a legitimist is, he’s not going to help you.
As revolutionaries are wont to do, there are endless splinterings and movements formed. Rapport duly provides the names and the playing list gets crowded. Aside from all those Italian and German duchies and principalities, we have Banat, Voivodina, Wallachia, Moldavia, Bukovina, Galacia in the Hapsburg Empire. They’re in the same neighbourhood, so the perfunctory map came in handy. When he adds the name of Generals and nobles who make a brief cameos, we get swamped with information.
Rapport is not a great writer but he tries. The writing is to the point and he does take off the panoramic lens to zoom into some ground-level details at times. He overuses similes and metaphors – many clichéd, some inapt. Clichés are Rapport’s bane; the writing sags under the weight of the bedraggled phrasing at times. He does, however, keep the narrative moving and avoids academic jargon.
We get a glimpse of the life and times of the era and this book makes for a good overview. I wished for more, and at times, less. ...more
Another outstanding book from the witty and subversive Kate Atkinson. Like her previous two Jackson Brodie books, this is ostensibly a mystery, but soAnother outstanding book from the witty and subversive Kate Atkinson. Like her previous two Jackson Brodie books, this is ostensibly a mystery, but so many events, people happen in the book, Atkinson only eventually gets around to the mystery. This is not a flaw as the novel provides a rich platform for her sly and wry comments. Atkinson also shows a real talent for converging on an event from several points of view. This makes for a lot of coincidences, usually the bane of fiction and particularly of mystery novels, but the reader doesn't mind in the least here. We're just grateful to see what unspools next from Atkinson's fertile mind. An enjoyable and provoking read. Highly recommended....more
Blending elements of The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe with Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, The Tenderness of Wolves is a suspenseful, densely plotted Blending elements of The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe with Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, The Tenderness of Wolves is a suspenseful, densely plotted tale. This 2006 book won the Costa award for a debut novel, so it has literary underpinnings. Some literary types bristle when the book is described as a mystery, but The Tenderness of Wolves is one mystery on top of another. It starts with a dead body and quickly moves past a simple whodunit. Penney adeptly juggles all of her plot elements.
I’m surprised to learn that Penney is an Edinburgh native who apparently has never been to Canada. Some of her descriptions seem a bit over-romanticized (Jack London, anyone?) but it’s also set in 1867, so it’s understandable. The novel is strong; the little missteps are forgivable.
For a rookie novelist, this book is remarkable. Actually, for any novelist, this book is pretty darn good.