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

The Cold Cold Sea by Linda Huber

bookshelves: summer-2014, britain-england, cornwall, mystery-thriller, net-galley, e-book, psychology, published-2014

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Maxine (Booklover Catlady)
Read from August 05 to 09, 2014

 

Legend Press

Description: When three-year-old Olivia disappears, her parents are overwhelmed with grief. Weeks go by and Olivia’s mother refuses to leave the cottage, staring out at the turbulent sea and praying it didn’t claim her precious daughter’s life.

Not far away, another mother watches proudly as her daughter starts school. Jennifer has loved Hailey for five years, but the child is suddenly moody and difficult, and there’s a niggling worry of doubt that Jennifer cannot shake off. As she struggles to maintain control there are gaps in her story that even she can’t explain.

Time is running out for Maggie at the cottage, and also for Jennifer and Hailey. No-one can underestimate a mother’s love for her child, and no-one can predict the lengths one will go to, to protect her family.

Ms Huber spent ten years working with neurological patients and learnt that people have different ways of dealing with stressful events in their lives. Such knowledge has carved a taut, eye-scorching tale, however the cognitive failure of a feckless husband, which acts as a major plot-enhancer, failed to lasoo my credibility.

This is a gripping, page-turning novel that would make parents think twice about taking the kiddies down to play in the sand. Three and a half sandals left abandoned in the sand.

Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck by Amy Alkon

 

Narrated by Carrington McDuffy

Description: “Miss Manners with Fangs.” —LA Weekly We live in a world that’s very different from the one in which Emily Post came of age. Many of us who are nice (but who also sometimes say “f*ck”) are frequently at a loss for guidelines about how to be a good person who deals effectively with the increasing onslaught of rudeness we all encounter.
To lead us out of the miasma of modern mannerlessness, science-based and bitingly funny syndicated advice columnist Amy Alkon rips the doily off the manners genre and gives us a new set of rules for our twenty-first century lives.
With wit, style, and a dash of snark, Alkon explains that we now live in societies too big for our brains, lacking the constraints on bad behavior that we had in the small bands we evolved in. Alkon shows us how we can reimpose those constraints, how we can avoid being one of the rude, and how to stand up to those who are.
Foregoing prissy advice on which utensil to use, Alkon answers the twenty-first century’s most burning questions about manners, including: * Why do many people, especially those under forty, now find spontaneous phone calls rude? * What can you tape to your mailbox to stop dog walkers from letting their pooch violate your lawn? * How do you shut up the guy in the pharmacy line with his cellphone on speaker? * What small gift to your new neighbors might make them think twice about playing Metallica at 3 a.m.? Combining science with more than a touch of humor, Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck is destined to give good old Emily a shove off the etiquette shelf (if that’s not too rude to say).

Twenty odd minutes into this and I can tell this is not for me at this time.

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks

bookshelves: summer-2014, history, nonfiction, published-2012, sciences, psychology

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Brain Pickings
Read from July 13 to 23, 2014


Read more of this article from Brain Pickings

“While our delusions may keep us sane, hallucinations — defined as perceptions that arise independently of external reality, as when we see, hear, or sense things that aren’t really there — are an entirely different beast, a cognitive phenomenon that mimics mysticism and has no doubt inspired mystical tales over the millennia. In the 18th century, Swiss lawyer-turned-naturalist Charles Bonnet, the first scientist to use the term evolution in a biological context, turned to philosophy after deteriorating vision rendered him unable to perform the necessary observations of science. Blindness eventually gave him a special form of complex visual hallucinations, known today as Charles Bonnet syndrome, but he was otherwise fully lucid and marveled, as a cognitive scientist might, at “how the theater of the mind could be generated by the machinery of the brain.”

Charles Bonnet Syndrome also discussed in Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind

Authoritarian Sociopathy: Toward a Renegade Psychological Experiment by Davi Barker

bookshelves: essays, nonfiction, summer-2014, fraudio, anarchy, psychology, boo-scary, bullies, casual-violence, games-people-play, gardening, gulp, how-to, lifestyles-deathstyles, mental-health, ouch, politics, published-2014, rid-the-world-of-tyrants, totalitarian

Read from July 14 to 21, 2014

 

Description: Numerous studies have shown us that those given authority are more likely to lie, cheat and steal, while also being harsher in their judgments of others for doing these same things. Science tells us people with power feel less compassion for the suffering of others.

Previous experiments also show us that those who are obedient to authority are capable of the worst forms of murder, and tolerant of the worst forms of abuse. They will even chastise those of us who resist corrupt authority. They become facilitators of evil, believing that obedience to authority absolves them of personal responsibility.

This is the fifth draft of a renegade psychological experiment on authoritarian sociopathy, specifically on police brutality. We aim to show the world beyond a shadow of a doubt, that power corrupts absolutely, and corrupt authority deserves no obedience.

Interesting front about plagiarism being about love, and who wants love policed. Hmmm

Stamford experiment just got worse
Milgram experiment
– Government has the monopoly of violence in a designated area

Nothing new here, really. Refresh yourselves with the videos linked to above so you don’t forget how we can all act like either laboratory rats or merciless tyrants.

Just the two hazard signs as rating

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” ― Aristotle, Metaphysics

Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville

bookshelves: currently-reading, vienna, victorian, gothic, e-book, net-galley, newtome-author, fantasy, anti-semitic, eugenics, historical-fiction, cults-societies-brotherhoods, austria, eye-scorcher, witches-and-wizards, superstitions, published-2014, psychology, lifestyles-deathstyles, gardening, food-glorious-food, doo-lally, cover-love, adventure, a-questing-we-shall-go, austro-hungarian-empire

Read from July 10 to 13, 2014


** spoiler alert **

**WARNING: there are spoilers galore in the reviews of this book, so don’t check down through the community book page.**

Description: Gretel and the Dark is Eliza Granville’s dazzling novel of darkness, evil – and hope. Vienna, 1899.

Josef Breuer – celebrated psychoanalyst – is about to encounter his strangest case yet. Found by the lunatic asylum, thin, head shaved, she claims to have no name, no feelings – to be, in fact, not even human. Intrigued, Breuer determines to fathom the roots of her disturbance.

Years later, in Germany, we meet Krysta. Krysta’s Papa is busy working in the infirmary with the ‘animal people’, so little Krysta plays alone, lost in the stories of Hansel and Gretel, the Pied Piper, and more. And when everything changes and the real world around her becomes as frightening as any fairy tale, Krysta finds that her imagination holds powers beyond what she could have ever guessed . . .

Eliza Granville was born in Worcestershire and currently lives in Bath. She has had a life-long fascination with the enduring quality of fairytales and their symbolism, and the idea for Gretel and the Dark was sparked when she became interested in the emphasis placed on these stories during the Third Reich. Gretel and the Dark is her first novel to be published by a major publisher.

This as change of pace from the huge and delicious dip-in/dip-out read of Der Turm: Geschichte aus einem versunkenen Land

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a young adult read. The main narrative is from the point of view of a young girl who doesn’t quite catch the meaning of all that happens around her, yet you the reader will discern straight away just what is unfolding if you remember your history of the time and the place.

Karl Lueger: The populist and anti-Semitic politics of his Christian Social Party are sometimes viewed as a model for Hitler’s Nazism.

Turn of the century Vienna is a time of blossoming psycho-analysis, uprise in anti-semitism, a rumbling of discontent with the emperor Franz Joseph, and the poor are becoming poorer. This is the backdrop to ‘Gretel and the Dark’, where the deeds are dark, superstitions run rife and most important, the writing superb.

Lambach Abbey: In 1897/98 Adolf Hitler lived in the town of Lambach with his parents. It is often claimed that he attended the secular Volksschule at which Benedictine teachers were employed, but also that he attended the monastery school, where each day he saw swastikas among the carved stones and woodwork, which included the symbol.

Just as Oskar in The Tin Drum is one step removed from the events, so here with Krysta, and her real thoughts sometimes are only revealed when she is conversing to her doll. This is clear at the death of her father where she vocally tells everyone that papa is not dead, then she whispers a query to her doll about what are they going to do now.

Just a smidgeon short of five hitlers

An aside: on NetGALLEY(™) you get a chance to vote whether you do or don’t like the cover. I liked it!

Cracker by Jimmy McGovern

bookshelves: summer-2014, britain-england, manchester, psychology, mystery-thriller, series, film-only, families

Read from June 19 to 24, 2014


NB This is the original TV series starring the excellent Robbie Coltrane, not the lame US replication called ‘Fitz’.

1.1 – “The Mad Woman in the Attic”. A young woman is brutally murdered on a train, the victim of a serial killer. The prime suspect is an amnesiac man, who cannot confess to the crime if he cannot remember committing it unless Fitz can crack him.

1.2 – “To Say I Love You”. While his own marriage is falling apart, Fitz goes up against a young couple who would literally kill for their love, leading to an equally literally explosive climax.

1.3 – “One Day a Lemming Will Fly”. The disappearance and death of a 13-year-old boy inflames the local community as a teacher becomes the prime suspect. But Fitz begins to have doubts about the teacher’s guilt and attempts to convince Billborough that the truth is more important than a mere result that seems to fit.

2.1 – “To Be a Somebody”. A Pakistani shopkeeper is killed and a skinhead seen leaving the premises. The police are at first convinced that it is a racist killing until a white, English psychologist helping out with the case and DCI Billborough are murdered by the same man. Fitz, while facing his own problems with his family and a hurt Penhaligon, is brought in to investigate, convinced that the killer is not a mere racist hood but actually an ordinary citizen gone horribly wrong.

2.2 – “The Big Crunch”. A young girl missing for several days is discovered naked, covered in strange symbols and quoting the Bible. The trail leads to a fringe Christian sect and its charismatic leader.

2.3 – “Men Should Weep”. The case of a serial rapist who wears a mask, yet tries to develop a relationship with his victims strikes at the heart of Fitz’s personal and professional life when Penhaligon is raped and the rapist, apparently acting on Fitz’s advice, starts to kill as well. Meanwhile, Penhaligon begins to discover a connection between her rapist and Jimmy Beck.

3.1 – “Brotherly Love”. The brutal murder and violation of a prostitute quickly leads to an arrest, but while the suspect is in custody, an identical murder happens. At the same time, the death of Fitz’s mother reunites him with his brother Danny, and Jimmy Beck, under long time stress from Bilborough’s death, finally reaches his breaking point, leading to a devastating climax.

3.2 – “Best Boys”. When the older Stuart Grady meets the teenage Bill Nash, the instant attraction between the two leads to murderous consequences. Meanwhile, the birth of Fitz’s new son is not the solution to his marital strife that he expected, and Judith begins to seek solace with Danny.

3.3 – “True Romance”. Fitz is the target of a secret admirer who is willing to kill – and keep killing – to get his attention, understanding and love, even if it means targeting Fitz’s loved ones.

Extra Episode – “White Ghost”. While in Hong Kong on a lecture tour, Fitz is asked by the local police to help investigate the murder of a Chinese businessman.

Extra Episode – “Nine Eleven”. Fitz returns to Manchester for his daughter’s wedding, but is soon involved in another murder investigation when an American comedian is killed, apparently without motive.

See also Prime Cracker Comic Relief

The Third Lie by Ágota Kristof, Marc Romano (Translator)

bookshelves: spring-2014, shortstory-shortstories-novellas, series, translation, nutty-nuut, e-book, lit-richer, mental-health, medical-eew, ouch, dodgy-narrator, adventure, betrayal, eye-scorcher, families, hungary, incest-agameforallthefamily, lifestyles-deathstyles, metaphor-parable, period-piece, psychology, published-1991, revolution, suicide, under-500-ratings

Read from April 02 to 03, 2014

 

Translated by Marc Roma.

Opening: I am in prison in the small town of my childhood.
It’s not a real prison but a cell in the basement of the local police station, a building no different from the rest of the buildings in town. It too is a single-storied house.

She says, “Yes. There are lives sadder than the saddest of books.”
I say, “Yes. No book, no matter how sad, can be as sad as a life.”

This is the book where all is tied up and circumstances appear even gloomier because we were treated to a few strands of illumination in Book Two – The Proof. The lies we tell ourselves and others just to make life seem a little more bearable is never worth the cost extracted from sanity.

5* The Notebook
5* The Proof
4* The Third Lie

Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy

bookshelves: published-1899, spring-2014, classic, slavic, lit-richer, radio-4x, prostitution, philosophy, politics, religion, psychology

Recommended for: Laura
Read from April 10 to 20, 2014


Classic Serial

Description: Resurrection (1899) is the last of Tolstoy’s major novels. It tells the story of a nobleman’s attempt to redeem the suffering his youthful philandering inflicted on a peasant girl who ends up a prisoner in Siberia. Tolstoy’s vision of redemption, achieved through loving forgiveness and his condemnation of violence, dominate the novel. An intimate, psychological tale of guilt, anger, and forgiveness, Resurrection is at the same time a panoramic description of social life in Russia at the end of the nineteenth century, reflecting its author’s outrage at the social injustices of the world in which he lived. This edition, which updates a classic translation, has explanatory notes, and a substantial introduction based on the most recent scholarship in the field.

1: Katerina Maslova is a young prostitute on trial for the murder of one of her clients. Serving on the jury, Prince Dmitri recognises the young woman as the girl he seduced many years before. Believing himself partly responsible for her predicament, he embarks upon a complex legal attempt to reverse the sentence passed upon her.

2: Prince Dmitri follows the young prostitute Katerina Maslova to Siberia. Having been unable to reverse the sentence for murder served in error upon her, he proposes marriage in the hope of redeeming the wrongs he did to her as a girl.

But he finds his proposal contested by a fellow prisoner Simonson, a man who has already made all the sacrifices in life that Prince Dmitri only threatens to make.

Katerina Maslova …… Katherine Igoe
Dmitri Nikhloydov …… Richard Dillane
Lydia Menshova …… Vivienne Dixon
Vera Bogovskaya …… Joanna Tope
Princess Marya …… Lesley Hart
Anatoly Krylstov/Rizin …… Joe Arkley
Gudz/Makar Dyerkin …… John Buick

Directed by Lu Kemp.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00772ff

4* The Death of Ivan Ilych
4* Anna Karenina
5* War and Peace
3* The Kreutzer Sonata
CR Resurrection
2* The Cossacks
TR What Men Live By
3* A Letter to Hindu
3* The Sebastopol Sketches

Victory by Joseph Conrad

bookshelves: published-1915, seven-seas, spring-2014, classic, fraudio, indonesia, psychology, adventure, bullies, casual-violence, gangsters, lifestyles-deathstyles, recreational-homicide, revenge, suicide, tragedy

Read from March 13 to April 09, 2014


Narrated by George Guidell. Sometimes known as ‘Victory: An Island Tale.’

Original cover.

Description: Victory presents a philosophical story of a man who learns that his own philosophy has robbed him of a life worth living. The novel is Conrad’s answer to the prevailing view that only facts matter, that emotions such as love have no basis in reality.

The protagonist, Axel Heyst, is the son of a philosopher who once wrote, “Of the strategems of life, the most cruel is the consolation of love.” His philosophy Conrad compares to a “terrible trumpet which had filled heaven and earth with ruins…”After his father dies, Heyst wanders the globe, looking “only for facts” until he becomes enchanted with a South Sea archipelago. Therafter, he is drawn to two people who provide models of friendship and love. Morrison, a small craft owner whose generosity has left him bankrupt, Heyst helps out of his bind only to fail to understand why the man is so grateful and anxious to repay him. But it is the girl Lena who fills him with an emotion that he cannot express or understand until the novel’s end. After rescuing her from a life of exploitation, Heyst takes her back to his island where he is determined to live apart from the world.

This has been a listened to bit by bit over the last month and I found it compelling: couldn’t wait to get a few free moments to listen to some more. A tragic, psychological tale lushly written and so well read by Guidell, whose voice lends itself to the classics. There is a film of this to hunt down – where’s my net!

3.5*

Shall have another tilt at Heart of Darkness to see what I make of it now.

2* Heart of Darkness
3* The Nigger of the Narcissus
3.5* Victory
3* Typhoon