In an effort to introduce some variety into my reading material (Stephen King and crime fiction are fine - reading nothing but Stephen King and crimeIn an effort to introduce some variety into my reading material (Stephen King and crime fiction are fine - reading nothing but Stephen King and crime fiction is not so fine) I recently joined a book group through my local library. Depths is the first book I read for it, and for the first 50 pages or so, I was almost regretting joining. Almost. It's a weird book, that's for sure. It's stark, it's bleak, it's excessively detailed, and in places it's so minimalist that entire chapters are a single sentence long.
While the prologue is fantastically gripping, what follows it really wasn't, for me, until I settled into the style. The main character is obsessed with measurements, so there's a lot of intricate detail, plus an underlying tone of total despair. Yet by the final third of the book, I stopped having to force myself to read a set number of pages per day, and began racing through it of my own volition. It's a tough one to explain - the protagonist is a reprehensible excuse for a human being, there's no one and nothing to root for here, and yet it became highly compelling nonetheless. (view spoiler)[It didn't help that around the mid-way point, I read a bizarre Guardian review that said the main character is a serial killer. He isn't. I spent the rest of the book waiting for this to be revealed. It wasn't. (hide spoiler)]
All in all, I'd definitely be interested in checking out more of Mankell's work (I really must try some Wallander, resolution to read less crime fiction be damned) because there was some really beautiful prose here.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I've been a big fan of Val McDermid for over a decade now, but her standalone novels have always been a bit hit or miss for me. I think the only one II've been a big fan of Val McDermid for over a decade now, but her standalone novels have always been a bit hit or miss for me. I think the only one I've truly loved was 1999's A Place of Execution. That's not to say that the others aren't generally all very respectable crime thrillers - I certainly pre-order them months in advance without fail, and don't expect to ever stop reading them. I just don't go in expecting to be bowled over, and The Skeleton Road was no exception to that pattern.
At its heart it has all the makings of a good murder mystery. A skeleton is discovered on a roof in Edinburgh with a gunshot wound to the skull. Someone has been systematically killing figures from the Balkan Wars who escaped official punishment, and General Dimitar Petrovic has been missing from Oxford for eight years. These plot stands weave together into an intriguing thriller that just fell short of really working for me.
The novel has multiple POV characters who each advance the plot in fragments - the problem being, especially towards the end, the reader is often ahead of the lead characters - which is a frustrating hold-up in what should be a rush to the finish. I ultimately found the solution a bit of a let-down, having guessed around the right ballpark five or six chapters in, but with an additional infodump of explanation that couldn't reasonably have been seen coming. The novel attempts to deal with a brutal period of Balkan history but only ever skims the surface, showing events through the eyes of an Oxford post-grad who observes but is never truly threatened by the conflict.
All in all, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend The Skeleton Road to established fans of McDermid's work, but for the uninitiated there are much more satisfying thrillers out there.
[Disclaimer: I received a review copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]...more
I'm hopeful that The Pregnant Widow will be the worst book I read in 2014. It surely can't get more abysmal than this dire affair, that I only finisheI'm hopeful that The Pregnant Widow will be the worst book I read in 2014. It surely can't get more abysmal than this dire affair, that I only finished through sheer force of will. Our protagonist Keith, a posh twit who thinks far too much of himself, takes a summer's holiday to Italy with his girlfriend and other companions. He spends the whole holiday trying to get into other girls' knickers, and has a sexual encounter so epic it alters the course of his life. This summary doesn't really do the book justice, in that it sounds a lot more interesting than it actually is. This is a dry, dull, painfully long tome in which very little of interest happens for exceptionally long stretches. It's stuffed full of literary allusions that must have made Amis feel oh-so-clever but in actuality make it near unreadable in places. In case it's not obvious, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone but an insomniac....more
This was a real non-event of a book. Inspector Montalbano wakes one morning to find a horse beaten to death on the beach outside his home. He spends tThis was a real non-event of a book. Inspector Montalbano wakes one morning to find a horse beaten to death on the beach outside his home. He spends three hundred pages occasionally investigating illegal horse racing rings, having clandestine trysts in stables and having his home ransacked by burglars, but mainly eating fish courses and admiring picturesque views.
I was given this for my monthly book group, never having read Andrea Camilleri before, and I can't say I ever will again. As the twelfth in a series, there's a lot of assumed knowledge at play. None of the supporting characters are ever really introduced, and they all act and speak like terrible charicatures. Perhaps it's a translation issue, but the way their Italian dialect is written seems like a horrible parody. Our hero Montalbano doesn't seem like a particularly nice chap - he casually cheats on his girlfriend, then later feels sad about it for all of half a page. The ending is utterly bizarre, and look, I'm sure this makes a lovely television series with some spectacular scenery, but it's written like a very lazy script outline and there's just absolutely no substance to it. The whole thing only took about four hours to read, but I couldn't recommend it....more