Allison by Allen Say

Description: When Allison tries on the red kimono her grandmother has sent her, she is suddenly aware that she resembles her favorite doll more than she does her mother and father. When her parents try to explain that she is adopted, her world becomes an uncomfortable place. She becomes angry and withdrawn. She wonders why she was given up, what her real name is, and whether other children have parents in faraway countries. Allison’s doll becomes her only solace until she finds a stray cat in the garden and learns the true meaning of adoption and parental love.

Lovely title, smashing illustrations, great subject to tackle early on.

Gray Salvation by Alan McDermott


Thomas & Mercer

Description: When the body of an MI5 operative is found floating in the Thames, police frogmen find a significant clue nearby: Nikolai Sereyev, an MI5 informer and mid-level player in a Russian criminal organisation. Both men have been brutally murdered.

Andrew Harvey is tasked with finding his colleague’s killer, and quickly uncovers a plot to assassinate a visiting dignitary on British soil. No sooner has he scraped the surface of the case than the tables are turned and he becomes a pawn in a game of international brinkmanship that leads all the way to the Kremlin.

Harvey’s girlfriend, Sarah, also a secret service operative, is hot on his trail, but when she too becomes compromised, security chief Veronica Ellis knows there is only one man she can turn to. He’s a loose cannon, but she needs his help to rescue her agent and prevent a full-blown international incident. The trouble is, Tom Gray has gone to ground. Finding him is just the beginning.

Opening: PROLOGUE: 15 January 2016: Nikolai tried to spit the blood from his mouth but the damage they’d done to his lips made it impossible. The best he could do was let it dribble down his chin and onto his chest, where it slowly made its way between his man breasts before coming to rest on the top of his distended beer belly.

Jason Willard was working the Russian desk when he ended up a murderee in the Thames at the Embankment, his last appointment was with an informer…

The sanctions imposed on Russia following their annexing of Crimea had hit the country’s economy hard. [..] Far from learning their lesson though, the Russians had turned their eyes to Tagrilistan[*], one of the many former soviet republics bordering Russia to the south.”

This is, apparently, the latest in a series about Tom Gray, yet you wouldn’t realise that from looking at Goodreads site: usually series are well marked as such. However, that remiss fact is a perk in this particular instance, normally mid-series books wouldn’t get requested unless the preceding installments had been read and liked.

Baseline three testost-tosh, with way to much weapon information for my taste.

* For those who are geographically challenged, ‘Tagrilistan’ is a fictional country. The younguns tell me that philosophy, art, history, music and geography are defunct disciplines nowadays unless one wants to ‘speshulise’- talk about trying to make the informed feel like dinosaurs.

At the Jerusalem by Paul Bailey

bookshelves: winter-20152016, books-with-a-passport, hardback, handbag-read, paper-read, published-1967, women, those-autumn-years, gulp, spring-2016, palate-cleanser

Recommended to Bettie☯ by: ·Karen·
Recommended for: ladies of a certain age, or heading for it – that means women everywhere!
Read from January 20 to March 06, 2016


Description: At The Jerusalem (1967) is set in an old people’s home, and won a Somerset Maugham Award and an Arts Council Writers’ Award

·Karen· piqued my interest and her insightful review (that I wish I could of written) is right here.

Then there was a dazzle of green and white, white and green. Then the colours seperated, became clear: the white was above, the green below. Tile, she saw, followed tile. Once, she blinked she realized she stood in a corridor.”

So she went and soon we found out it was a disease of the blood, I won’t put the word down as I can’t spell it but it begins with a L.”

Let me start by saying that if in my dotage someone calls me “a good girl” for eating one more spoonful of frigging dinner, I will not be held responsible for my actions. And I was fair raging when these carers were specifically charged with getting the old dearies speaking, and then they don’t listen to a ruddy word they say, where these said old dearies have lived through far more interesting times than these paid listeners could imagine.

I don’t need the inside flap to tell me that Bailey writes authentically through the eyes of a woman of a certain age, the result in the pages is witness to that fact. It is a masterful piece.

The Secret Place by Tana French


Description: The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says, I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.

Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. The Secret Place, a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.

But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.

Opening: She came looking for me. Most people stay arm’s length away.

Back to Dublin I go; was there only a couple of days ago with the 4* Lying in Wait.

Solid 3* mystery spread over one day and relating to a murder of the previous year. I shan’t be needing a new dose of text speke or bratty teenagers anytime soon. Indulgently lengthy, and that magical-realism was a stretch too far.

4* In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad, #1)
4* The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad, #2)
4* Faithful Place (Dublin Murder Squad, #3)
4* Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad, #4)
3* The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad, #5)

The Hanging Shed (Douglas Brodie #1) by Gordon Ferris

bookshelves: spring-2016, hardback, paper-read, one-penny-wonder, series, tbr-busting-2016, published-2010, newtome-author, mystery-thriller, britain-scotland, scotland-glasgow, first-in-series, mad-march-2016, eye-scorcher, gangsters, paedophile, serial-killer, teh-brillianz, the-troubles, roman-catholic, rid-the-world-of-tyrants, revolting-rottweiler, revenge, sleazy, tick-tock-clocks, torture, trains-planes-automobiles, wrong-so-wrong, rape, ouch, nowt-as-queer-as-folk, noir, moidah, mental-health, medical-eew, look-behind-you, lifestyles-deathstyles, lifesa-beach, life-is-cheap-around-here, kidnap, kaboom, islands, period-piece, gulp, gruelling, foxtrotted-uniform, chase-me-chase-me, casual-violence, execution, deadlines-whoosing-by, courage, bullies, betrayal

Read from August 11, 2015 to March 04, 2016


Description: A read-it-in-one-sitting, action-packed, gritty, and atmospheric crime novel set on the tough streets of 1946 Glasgow

The last time Douglas Brodie came home it was 1942 and he was a dashing young warrior in a kilt. Now, the war is over, but victory’s wine has soured and Brodie’s back in Scotland to try and save childhood friend Hugh Donovan from the gallows. Everyone thought Hugh was dead, shot down in the war. Perhaps it would have been kinder if he had been killed. The man who returns from the war is unrecognizable: mutilated, horribly burned. Hugh keeps his own company, only venturing out for heroin to deaden the pain of his wounds. When a local boy is found raped and murdered, there is only one suspect. Hugh claims he’s innocent but a mountain of evidence says otherwise. Despite the hideousness of the crime, ex-policeman Brodie feels compelled to try and help his one-time friend. Working with advocate Samantha Campbell, Brodie trawls the mean streets of the Gorbals and the green hills of western Scotland in their search for the truth. What they find is an unholy alliance of troublesome priests, corrupt cops, and Glasgow’s deadliest razor gang, happy to slaughter to protect their dark and dirt

Opening quote:

'I'll take the big sordid
dirty crowded city.'
- Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye

Opening: There are no windows in a hanging shed. Only a sadistic architect would provide a last glimpse of the fair green hills. The same goes for paintings and potted plants. You’re unlikely to divert the condemned man from the business in hand with a nice framed ‘Monarch of the Glen’ or a genteel aspidistra. Besides, he’ll only visit once. Wearing a hood.

Drawn in from the very first page. This book is so full up with plot that to give you anything more than the description would be betrayal. Eye-scorching 5* says it all donchafink?

‘Beneath me and all around me I Feel the ‘Royal Scot’ hurtling through the night, steel wheels clacking remorselessly on the rails.’

Barlinnie Prison

Gorbals 1948

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent


Penguin (UK)

Description: An absorbing, twisty, brilliantly observed story of murder in high places. The last people who expect to be meeting with a drug-addicted prostitute are a respected judge and his reclusive wife. And they certainly don’t plan to kill her and bury her in their exquisite suburban garden. Yet Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimons find themselves in this unfortunate situation. While Lydia does all she can to protect their innocent son Laurence and their social standing, her husband begins to falls apart. But Laurence is not as naïve as Lydia thinks. And his obsession with the dead girl’s family may be the undoing of his own.

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
 They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
 And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
 By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
 And half at one another's throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
 It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
 And don't have any kids yourself.
--Philip Larkin

Sited in and around Dublin, a setting I love so well, we kick off in 1980, and Lydia is protesting that her husband didn’t mean to kill ‘the lying tramp.’ What’s the betting I don’t get to sympathise with Lydia…

Andrew – feckless
Annie – the lying tramp
Karen – Annie’s sister
Laurence – Lydia and Andrew’s son.
Helen – Laurence’s girlfriend
Paddy Carey – con man

Initially, it wasn’t just Lydia that I couldn’t sympathise with, the writing style was ‘all tell no show’, with each character recounting their perception of events, arranged in first-person blocks of narrative, ultimately leaving the reader feeling a step removed.

However, by part II, 1985, the author had defrosted, the deviously twisted plot escaped, and with mummy’s boy Laurence stepping in as main character, this here reader started enjoying what was on offer.

By the time I reached

I think I love you too"

my fingers were splayed across my face at the trainwreck unfolding on the page.

Navy blue Jaguar Sedan 1960.

The Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin, Chi-chen Wang (Translator),

bookshelves: books-about-books-and-book-shops, china, dip-in-now-and-again, epic-proportions, e-book

Read from February 15 to 21, 2016


Guardian article

Read the novel here Hattip to Wandaful

Opening: Chen Shih-yin, in a vision, apprehends perception and spirituality — Chia Yü-ts’un, in the (windy and dusty) world, cherishes fond thoughts of a beautiful maiden.

This is the opening section; this the first chapter. Subsequent to the visions of a dream which he had, on some previous occasion, experienced, the writer personally relates, he designedly concealed the true circumstances, and borrowed the attributes of perception and spirituality to relate this story of the Record of the Stone. With this purpose, he made use of such designations as Chen Shih-yin (truth under the garb of fiction) and the like. What are, however, the events recorded in this work? Who are the dramatis personae?

A stone hurled by an Empress feels neglected, desolate and unfit…

The Empress Nü Wo, (the goddess of works,) in fashioning blocks of stones, for the repair of the heavens, prepared, at the Ta Huang Hills and Wu Ch’i cave, 36,501 blocks of rough stone, each twelve chang in height, and twenty-four chang square. Of these stones, the Empress Wo only used 36,500; so that one single block remained over and above, without being turned to any account. This was cast down the Ch’ing Keng peak.”

So how long is a chang so that we can picture this thing? Answer: 3.58 metres or 11 feet 9 inches Ta-dah! Yet that is only half the story, this heavenly stone can expand or contract – become the apex of a mountain or lay in the palm of a curious hand.

What fun! Not like Pauline Collins talking to ‘rock’ in Shirley Valentine*, this rock talks back.

* Damn! couldn’t find that clip of her talking to ‘rock’ yet did find this bit, which is smashing

As regards the several stanzas of doggerel verse, they may too evoke such laughter as to compel the reader to blurt out the rice, and to spurt out the wine.”

The True Story of Martin Guerre by Jean de Coras

bookshelves: published-2016, france-languedoc, winter-20152016, play-dramatisation, radio-4x, historical-fiction

Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from February 20 to 21, 2016…

Description: Charged as an imposter, Guerre’s trial is dramatised from notes of the 16th-century French judge, Jean de Coras. Stars Sean Bean

I would so love to see the film!

Martin Guerre, a French peasant of the 16th century, was at the center of a famous case of imposture. Several years after he had left his wife, child, and village, a man claiming to be Guerre reappeared. He lived with Guerre’s wife and son for three years. The false Martin Guerre was eventually suspected of the impersonation. He was tried, discovered to be a man named Arnaud du Tilh, and executed. The real Martin Guerre had returned during the trial. The case continues to be studied and dramatized to this day.
wiki source

Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles…

Description: On a balmy summer’s day in 1930 the great and the good of the county are out in force for the annual, much-anticipated tennis party at the Bickleighs, although not everyone has much enthusiasm for the game. The tennis party exists for other reasons – and charmingly mannered infidelity is now the most popular pastime in the small but exclusive Devonshire hamlet of Wyvern’s Cross. Which is why, in his own garden, the host, Dr Edmund Bickleigh, is desperately fighting to conceal the two things on his mind: a mounting passion for Gwynfryd Rattery – and the certain conviction that he is going to kill his wife …

Hywel Bennett as Dr. Edmund Bickleigh

Think twice before accepting high-tea from a genial Devon country doctor.