The Spinning Heart

 

Description: In the aftermath of Ireland’s financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires. Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds.

Dedication:

to the memory of Dan Murphy

Opening: MY FATHER STILL lives back the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in. I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasn’t yet missed a day of letting me down. He smiles at me; that terrible smile. He knows I’m coming to check is he dead. He knows I know he knows. He laughs his crooked laugh. I ask is he okay for everything and he only laughs. We look at each other for a while and when I can no longer stand the stench off of him, I go away. Good luck, I say, I’ll see you tomorrow. You will, he says back. I know I will.

Rashomon effect at play in a small town after the Celtic Tiger died, the local employer went to the wall, and rotting canker was all that was left of where hearts used to be.

‘There’s a red metal heart in the centre of the low front gate, skewered on a rotating hinge. It’s flaking now; the red is nearly gone. It needs to be scraped and sanded and painted and oiled. It still spins in the wind, though. I can hear it creak, creak, creak as I walk away. A flaking, creaking, spinning heart.’

Bobby, the main-stay of these linked stories: ‘I had that King Lear’s number from the start, well before the teacher started to break things down slowly for the thick lads: he was a stupid prick.’

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

 

Description: How do you solve a crime when you can’t remember the clues?

Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn’t remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Back home she finds the place horribly unrecognizable – just like she sometimes thinks her daughter Helen is a total stranger.

But there’s one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.

Because somewhere in Maud’s damaged mind lies the answer to an unsolved seventy-year-old mystery. One everyone has forgotten about.

Everyone, except Maud . . .

Some nice ratings around for this one already. Smashing.

I thought this an exceptionally clever debut novel, and we really get inside the mind of senile dementia. But what really is senile dementia if not just the notching up of internal dialogue to the exclusion of all else? Well it’s a safety hazard, that is apparent but not scary per se. I thought the grand-daughter dealt with it all better than daughter Helen.

However Healey did rather over-egg the pudding didn’t she, bet I wasn’t the only one screaming at the pages saying: ‘get the Foxtrot on with it, why don’t you.’

Like I said above, a clever debut where the some of the looseness should have been edited out. Three point five marrow flowers.

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Research by Philip Kerr

 

Quercus Books

Dedication:

For Harry Armfield

Description: If you want to write a murder mystery, you have to do some research… In a luxury flat in Monaco, John Houston’s supermodel wife lies in bed, a bullet in her skull. Houston is the world’s most successful novelist, the playboy head of a literary empire that produces far more books than he could ever actually write. Now the man who has invented hundreds of best-selling killings is wanted for a real murder and on the run from the police, his life transformed into something out of one of his books. And in London, the ghostwriter who is really behind those books has some questions for him too…

Opening: It was the American novelist William Faulkner who once said that in writing you must kill all your darlings; it was Mike Munns – another writer, but like me, not half as good as Faulkner – who made a joke out of this quote when he telephoned my flat in Putney that Tuesday morning.

Ironical it is that this story is published ~ nine months after Prayer. The blurb for ‘Research’ includes this: a book factory publishing many bestsellers a year – so many that he can’t possibly write them himself. Heh.

‘Research’ is a standalone book with unsympathetic, two-dimensional characters and the ugliest cynicism towards the written word and mentality of readers I have ever encountered. I can’t work out if it is full-on satire or just partial but the outcome is the same, readers will be insulted.

Every behaviour has its impact.

Mainly this is an attack on all those combo authorships of test-tosh thrillers that churn out many books a year, yet Kerr is in his own firing line, two crap books in a year.

I took time out half way through just to pick up other stories to reassure myself that some authors still feel passionate about writing and care for their readers; what a breath of fresh air.

Although technically this is marginally a better book than ‘Prayer’ purely because it doesn’t bring Old Scratch out to play, ‘Research’ flat-lined out of any enjoyment factor. There wasn’t enough good stuff to make a feedback sandwich so I’ll just deliver the line: cynicism, snark, distain for readers, and authorial career suicide is not a pretty thing to witness.

3.5* March Violets (Bernard Gunther, #1)
3.5* The Pale Criminal (Bernard Gunther, #2)
3.5* A German Requiem (Bernard Gunther, #3)
3.5* A Quiet Flame (Bernard Gunther, #5)
1* Prayer
1* Research

A Song for Issy Bradley

 

BABT

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04d8dvt

Description: This is the story of what happens when Issy Bradley dies.

It is the story of Ian – husband, father, maths teacher and Mormon bishop – and his unshakeable belief that everything will turn out all right if he can only endure to the end, like the pioneers did. It is the story of his wife Claire’s lonely wait for a sign from God and her desperate need for life to pause while she comes to terms with what’s happened.

It is the story of the agony and hope of Zippy Bradley’s first love, the story of Alma Bradley’s cynicism and reluctant bravery, and it is the story of seven-year-old Jacob. But mostly it’s the story of a family trying to work out how to carry on when their world has fallen apart.

Incredibly moving, unexpectedly funny and sharply observed, A Song for Issy Bradley, explores the outer reaches of doubt and faith. Author Carys Bray was brought up in a devout Mormon family. In her early thirties she left the church and replaced religion with writing. She was awarded the Scott prize for her debut short story collection Sweet Home. A Song for Issy Bradley is her first novel.

1/10 It is little Jacob’s birthday, and he wants all the family to have breakfast together.

2/10 Claire is trying to keep control of Jacob’s birthday party, and Issy says she feels unwell

3/10 Issy has been rushed to hospital suffering from meningitis. She is in critical condition.

4/10 It is Issy’s funeral, but little Jacob is hatching a plan to make everything better.

It wouldn’t be the first time that my reticence would be proven unfounded and it was that reasoning that I embarked upon this Book at Bedtime insert. Unfortunately it was as dismal as the description makes out, a real playing on the heart-strings. It is fair to say I am not the target audience here. Abandoned at 40%

NEXT!

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

 

Description: Matthew King was once considered one of the most fortunate men in Hawaii. His missionary ancestors who came to the islands were financially and culturally progressive one even married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the states largest landowners. But now his luck has changed. His two daughters are out of control 10-year-old Scottie has a smart-ass attitude and a desperate need for attention and 17-year-old Alex, a former model, is a recovering drug addict. His thrill-seeking and high-maintenance wife, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat racing accident, and will soon be taken off life support. The King family can hardly picture life without their charismatic mother, but as they come to terms with this tragedy, their sadness is mixed with a sense of freedom that shames them and spurs them into surprising actions.

Jonathan Davis narrates.

Book before film.

LATER: No film for me, it would ruin this story in the mind’s eye. The Descendants is not 5* perfect, however it is pretty darn fantastic debut, and so well read by Davis. I have internal film of all the family members, and that, right there, shows how finely wrought Hemmings has crafted them.

My one-liner sum up is this: Mr King, father to Valley Girls, new millenium style, has to grow thick skin in order to keep his family together in the aftermath of tragedy and amidst revelations of disloyalty.

Four and a half Hawaiian Islands

Dead Men’s Bones by James Oswald

Dead Men's Bones (Inspector McLean, #4)

bookshelves: summer-2014, published-2014, mystery-thriller, series, newtome-author, e-book, fife, britain-scotland, ipad, casual-violence, contemporary, cults-societies-brotherhoods, execution, eye-scorcher, games-people-play, gangsters, gorefest, lifestyles-deathstyles, mental-health, net-galley, ouch, recreational-homicide, revenge, sleazy, superstitions, suicide, twist-on-a-theme

Read from August 02 to 03, 2014

 

Description: Dead Men’s Bones is the fourth novel in James Oswald’s phenomenal Inspector Mclean series set in Edinburgh.

The body of a prominent Scottish MP is discovered outside his home, a remote house in North East Fife. In a horrifying attack, Andrew Weatherly has killed his wife and two young daughters, before turning his gun on himself.

The question on everyone’s lips is why would this successful and wealthy man commit such a gruesome crime?

Inspector Tony McLean is surprised to find himself at the centre of this high profile investigation. The deeper he digs, the more McLean realizes he is being used in a game between shadowy factions from the world of power and privilege.

Pressure is on to wrap up the case. That would go against everything McLean believes in . . . but to carry on will threaten the lives of his closest friends and colleagues.

Opening: The pain is everywhere.
It pulses through his head is if there’s a hole in his skull and someone is squeezing his brain in time to his heart beat.

Several pals have reported that series is incredibly good and given this, my only foray so far, proves them right. It is the marvellous tone of the proceedings that makes this book stand out: the backdrop of Scotland in referendum year, the police coming to terms with Police Scotland and all the insecurities roiling in the wake of these issues. A lot of space is given over to ex-soldiers being unable to connect or settle down to civvy life after the horrors of Afghanistan and Iraq, so they become foot soldiers in the army of the homeless; a stark look at how Community Care fails in the bigger picture.

Inspector McLean is a man with recent injuries and who has to attend physiotherapy and counselling sessions and I mean to backtrack to the previous books to find out the answers to some of my questions, however this works well enough as a standalone.

The middle section of this story was eye-scorching, nevertheless, slight cracks started appearing towards the end; a supernatural element was alluded to on several occasions that seemed at odds with the story that had gone before. It could be posited that this was excellent police procedural for a good three quarters and then it seemed to change genre and leave some unresolved issues. For these issues Dead Man’s Bones loses glister where more patience in the fine-tuning would have made all the difference.

Would I recommend it? Oh yes, but with the above caveats. Three and a half bowls from Bobby’s soup kitchen.

‘The Bull’ Roslin Glen

Roslin Glen, cup and ring marks

————————————————————

James Oswald is the author of the Detective Inspector McLean series of crime novels. The first three, Natural Causes, The Book of Souls and The Hangman’s Song are also available as Penguin paperbacks and ebooks. He has written an epic fantasy series, The Ballad of Sir Benfro, which is published by Penguin, as well as comic scripts and short stories.

In his spare time he runs a 350-acre livestock farm in North East Fife, where he raises pedigree Highland Cattle and New Zealand Romney Sheep.

Eyrie by Tim Winton

bookshelves: published-2013, lit-richer, fraudio, contemporary, australia, midlife-crisis, teh-demon-booze, next, abandoned

Read from March 03 to 05, 2014

 

rosado mp3. Read by Michael Veech (sp?)

Description: Eyrie is beautifully written and wonderfully funny and marks the return of master storyteller Tim Winton. Eyrie tells the story of Tom Keely, a man who’s lost his bearings in middle age and is now holed up in a flat at the top of a grim highrise, looking down on the world he’s fallen out of love with. He’s cut himself off, until one day he runs into some neighbours: a woman he used to know when they were kids, and her introverted young boy. The encounter shakes him up in a way that he doesn’t understand. Despite himself, Keely lets them in. What follows is a heart-stopping, groundbreaking novel for our times – funny, confronting, exhilarating and haunting – populated by unforgettable characters. It asks how, in an impossibly compromised world, we can ever hope to do the right thing.

Zikes, the opening tips one straight into an overblown thesaurus session voiced by a whiny middle-aged self indulgent waster. Surely I must have to give it more than 10 minutes to be fair :O/

[not much later] I think this is where Winton and I agree that we are wanting to go to different horizons.

2* Land’s Edge
AB Eyrie

Good Bait by John Harvey

bookshelves: newtome-author, mystery-thriller, series, published-2012, london, britain-england, summer-2014, contemporary, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost, next

Read from April 14 to June 29, 2014

 

Hampstead Pond in winter.

Description: When a 17-year-old Moldovan boy is found dead on Hampstead Heath, the case falls to DCI Karen Shields and her overstretched Homicide & Serious Crime Unit. Karen knows she needs a result. …

G

A body in the pond starts this series off. Karen Shields, a down to earth black officer from the Homicide and Serious Crime Command unit, speaks with a thick London patter. At times it reads like a corpse list, meh. A two icicle read. Next!

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

bookshelves: fraudio, summer-2014, published-2014, north-americas, mystery-thriller, casual-violence, contemporary, eye-scorcher, games-people-play, giftee, hackers-and-computers, lifestyles-deathstyles, ouch, racism, recreational-drugs, recreational-homicide, scary-clowns-circus-dolls, those-autumn-years, chocolate-references, dog-steals-the-show, incest-agameforallthefamily, washyourmouthout-language, poison, suicide

Read from June 27 to 29, 2014

 

14:22:29 Narrated by Will Paton

Description: In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands. In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes. In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the perp; and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy. Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands. Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

In the gloomy pre-dawn hours of a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of unemployed hopefuls are lined up for a job fair. Without warning, a merciless driver plows through the crowd in a roaring Mercedes. Eight people are killed; 15 are wounded. The killer escapes into the early-spring fog never to be seen from again. Until now…

Detective Bill Hodges is a battle-hardened and streetwise crime fighter originally assigned to the Mercedes killings. Now retired, Hodges has lost his way in boredom and depression craving the thrills of taking down the region’s most notorious criminals. When a disturbing letter from the Mercedes Killer arrives at his door, Hodges soon finds himself uncontrollably drawn into a cat-n-mouse pursuit with stakes beyond comprehension.

A locked car problem, according to Jerome,‘a nigger kid with a white name’, is a four pipe problem.

Really enjoyed this flawed but engrossing eye-scorching read. Bill Hodges is adorable as a retired cop with old school values and a legal pad always to hand. Jerome is a local lad who is scorching hot on all things computer, which, as it turns out, is an asset because there is a meeting in The Blue Umbrella chatroom with Mr Mercedes in the offing…

Special credit goes to Jerome’s dog, an Irish setter, who survives a death plot in favour of a more deserving target.

Good solid three pipes here; totally enjoyable romp where I feel glad this was a weekend encounter so the straight fourteen hours+ didn’t really impact on anything urgent.

3* Joyland
3* Mr Mercedes
4* The Shining
3* The Stand
4* It
5* Misery
3* Carrie
5* The Gunslinger
3* Pet Sematary
4* 11/22/63
3* ‘Salem’s Lot
3* The Green Mile
3* Needful Things
3* Cujo
4* Different Seasons
3* The Drawing of the Three
3* Firestarter
5* The Waste Lands
3* Wizard and Glass
4* Insomnia
2* Dreamcatcher
3* Desperation
4* Four Past Midnight
2* The Tommyknockers
4* Dr Sleep
2* The Mist
4* Hearts in Atlantis
3* Rose Madder
4* Full Dark, No Stars
3* From a Buick 8
3* Just After Sunset
3* Blaze
3* Storm of the Century screenplay
1* UR
3* Children of the Corn

The Cold Song by Linn Ullmann

bookshelves: translation, spring-2014, under-500-ratings, published-2011, mystery-thriller, norway, currently-reading, books-about-books-and-book-shops, one-penny-wonder, paper-read, abandoned, bettie-s-law-of-excitement-lost, casual-violence, contemporary, doo-lally, duck-shit, families, gulp, lifestyles-deathstyles, mental-health, midlife-crisis, newtome-author, ouch, next, room-101, slit-yer-wrists-gloomy

Read from April 10 to 30, 2014


Description: Ullmann’s characters are complex and paradoxical: neither fully guilty nor fully innocent

Siri Brodal, a chef and restaurant owner, is married to Jon Dreyer, a famous novelist plagued by writer’s block. Siri and Jon have two daughters, and together they spend their summers on the coast of Norway, in a mansion belonging to Jenny Brodal, Siri’s stylish and unforgiving mother.

Siri and Jon’s marriage is loving but difficult, and troubled by painful secrets. They have a strained relationship with their elder daughter, Alma, who struggles to find her place in the family constellation. When Milla is hired as a nanny to allow Siri to work her long hours at the restaurant and Jon to supposedly meet the deadline on his book, life in the idyllic summer community takes a dire turn. One rainy July night, Milla disappears without a trace. After her remains are discovered and a suspect is identified, everyone who had any connection with her feels implicated in her tragedy and haunted by what they could have done to prevent it.

The Cold Song is a story about telling stories and about how life is continually invented and reinvented.

Translated from the Norwegian by Barbara J Haveland

Dedication: For Niels

Opening quote: ‘Tis Love that has warm’d us?’ – John Dryden

Opening: Jenny Brodal had not had a drink in nearly twenty years. She opened a bottle of Cabernet and poured herself a large glass. She had imagined the warmth filtering down into her stomach, the tingling in her fingertips, but there was none of that, no warmth, no tingling, nothing, so she drained the glass and waited.

Linn Ullmann is the daughter of actress, author and director Liv Ullmann and director and screenwriter Ingmar Bergman.

THOUGHTS DURING READING: Not far enough in (~40 pages) to say if the storyline is good or not but two points have struck me thus far:

1) affected, forced and belaboured descriptions that say more about a writers’ workshop than sincere heartfelt scribbling:

exhibit 1: the brushing of the hair
exhibit 2: Liverpool FC

2) too many views of Ullman’s real-life family connections – it smacks of thinly veiled name-dropping and it leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

exhibit 1: Fårö
exhibit 2: Liv

That said, I am intrigued enough to continue on…

Trivia – two hours south of Oslo is Arendal and a spit off shore is the island of Tromøy, where the main man and I hunkered down for a year. Knausgård’s book one of My Struggle (A Death in the Family, first published 2009) was set on that island, an estate just up and over from our gaff. SO, the point I am getting to is this bit in Ullman’s book:

The final part of his trilogy was to be about time. Jon planned to write a hymn to everything that endures and everything that falls apart.

It all seems connected in a plate of worms type way.

Dreadful is closest.
;O)