Tom-All-Alone’s is both clever and ambitious, with a compelling story, great characters and a vividly realised 1850s London setting. It’s the sort ofTom-All-Alone’s is both clever and ambitious, with a compelling story, great characters and a vividly realised 1850s London setting. It’s the sort of book that would repay re-reading, possibly several times. It’s also a better book then the author’s previous novel, Murder at Mansfield Park. Yet while I happily gave that book 5 stars, Tom-All-Alone’s just misses that mark because of its use of an omniscient modern narrator. While this is a playful and, again, clever conceit, I admired it without being able to forget about it, and it did pull me out of the story a couple of times.
There’s a lot going on in this book. When we first meet hard up private detective Charles Maddox, he has recently left the Metropolitan detective force under a cloud. He is hunting a client’s missing daughter with grim determination and little expectation of success. Then the powerful lawyer Edward Tulkinghorn hires Maddox to discover who is harassing a client with threatening letters. Thanks to the omniscient narrator, we learn straightaway that this deceptively simple job hides a sinister secret, one that will test Maddox’s detective skills – and his tenacity – to the full.
Often, when historical novels try too hard to pack in the colourful background stuff, it can overpower the story. Not so here. Maddox junior and Maddox senior are both flesh and blood characters you’d like to spend time with. The scenes between them are a joy, even while heart wrenching. There are also many stand out scenes, as well as some cracking twists. The murder of one character in particular was timed perfectly yet took me completely by surprise. That’s brilliant writing, with only the narrative voice providing the occasional duff note.
Just as with Murder at Mansfield Park, I couldn’t stop reading this novel, even at the expense of my beauty sleep. I can’t wait for the next one. ...more
For all its grittiness and the seriousness of its underlying themes, Blood Tears is also funny and even fun. If I had to sum the book up in one word,For all its grittiness and the seriousness of its underlying themes, Blood Tears is also funny and even fun. If I had to sum the book up in one word, it would be `audacious'.
Detective Inspector Ray McBain is our flawed hero, a successful Glasgow detective with a chip on his shoulder and a few enemies on the force. A brutal killing leads him to the doors of the Catholic orphanage he attended as a boy, but he refuses to reveal his links to the orphanage or step down from the investigation. The question, of course, is why he refuses. If at first it seems like straightforward ambition to crack a high profile case, events soon make us believe that there's much more to it than that.
Having a hero whose mind begins to unravel - and I mean really unravel, as McBain's does here - with the strain of the case is the kind of twist we haven't seen done this convincingly since the glory days of the pulps in the 30s and 40s. Throw in a few well-timed gags, a Rocky montage and a bit of serial killer frippery, and what you've got is an author who refuses to play it safe.
In chapter nine the book veers from a running gag that made me laugh out loud to a revelation about the case involving paedophilia, all in the space of five paragraphs. Now how many authors would dare to do that? And how many authors would pull it off?
Malone does. And it's liberating for the reader, this willingness to take risks. Despite the questions the book raises about organised religion, poverty and the nature of justice, ultimately it feels as though Malone's priority is to entertain us, and in that he succeeds brilliantly. ...more
This is one of the great milestones in social history, academically rigorous while being not just readable, but actually exciting. A book about changiThis is one of the great milestones in social history, academically rigorous while being not just readable, but actually exciting. A book about changing beliefs and why it was that people could start off believing in magic and witchcraft and end up losing all of that belief in under a hundred years. Not only will you learn a hell of a lot about the period, this book also gives you a vivid impression of what it might have been like to live during these times, just by describing the daily grind that most people had to endure. If I had to choose one serious history book for my desert island, this would be the one. Anyone with a passing interest in Tudor bodice rippers should be forced to read this book....more
Lengthy and satisfying narrative history of the US conquest of New Mexico and California from the 1830s onwards, told through the personal stories ofLengthy and satisfying narrative history of the US conquest of New Mexico and California from the 1830s onwards, told through the personal stories of certain standout individuals, such as trapper Kit Carson and Navaho elder Narbona. Informative and exciting. Sides doesn't shy away from the more shameful acts of the time but is evenhanded and fair and avoids judging from a 21st Century perspective. I felt sad when I finished it because I wanted to read more. Will look out for more by this author. Highly recommended to fans of narrative history....more
Senseless is best described as a psychological thriller, a novel that blends crime and horror, harking back through Christie’s And Then There Were NonSenseless is best described as a psychological thriller, a novel that blends crime and horror, harking back through Christie’s And Then There Were None, back through the Sherlock Holmes stories, right back to Edgar Allan Poe, the guy who brought the detective story genre kicking and screaming into the world with his Murders in the Rue Morgue in 1841.
But I digress. Senseless is the brutally short tale of US economist Eliott Gast, abducted from the streets of Brussels by an anti-globalisation group.
The group strips Eliot of each of his five senses one by one, and broadcasts his torture over the internet as an example of the wages of capitalist sin.
The twist is that Eliot’s release depends on the votes of those watching. Will the unwashed, ignorant millions vote for his release, or for another of his senses to be stripped away?
This novel pitches you right into Eliot’s situation and forces you to ask the sort of questions you’d be asking if you were him. Could you really stand to live without any one of your five senses? If you had to choose, which one would you sacrifice? And if you had to sacrifice two of them? Or how about if you had to choose which one you’d want to be left with? Could you do it?
Fitch’s descriptive prose, minimal yet rich, adds to the mundane atmosphere, making the events seem all the more horrific.
In terms of sheer visceral impact, this is one of the best novels I've ever read. I devoured it on a train ride from Edinburgh to Peterborough, and let me tell you, that was one of the most uncomfortable train journeys I've ever had, all because of how much I was squirming while reading this book. If you think you can take it, I urge you to read it to....more