Sunday, 12 October 2014

Book Review: "Full Dark House" by Christopher Fowler...

Full Dark House (2003)
Author: Christopher Fowler
BLM Rating 9 / 10

As I mentioned a few days ago here I've only recently discovered this, the first in Fowler's series about detectives Bryant & May and their adventures. Inspired by watching TV series Foyle's War, I was keen to find some detective fiction set in England in World War II, so this was very much a stab in the dark (ahem...) as I had never come across the authors work before.

The duo work for the Metropolitan Police's little known Peculiar Crimes Unit, an underfunded department thought of by many as a dumping ground for the more irritating or nonsensical crimes that plague London. 

At the book's outset, one of the detectives is killed in 2003, and his desolated partner of over half a century sets out to discover the perpetrator of the crime. We are soon taken back to London during the Blitz in 1940, to the duo's first case together, which seems to have some bearing on the modern murder.

The 1940 part of the story is set in a London theatre where a series of murders plague a new production that is set to shock the city. The scenes depicting London in both eras are wonderfully atmospheric, and though I can't speak to the depiction of wartime London personally, the scenery of early 21st century Camden is spot on.

The author's device of representing the main characters in their early twenties at one moment and then in their eighties the next, is cleverly utilised and gives the reader a great sense of the character's personalities and motivations. There is also a refreshingly humorous side to the author's delivery that does not detract from the tense expectation and drama of the genre. The murder mystery element itself is very well constructed with the obligatory twist in the tail being beautifully executed.

This is a great read and I can't wait to get into more of Bryant & May's adventures soon.

Stevie at B.L.M.

Friday, 10 October 2014

My Week(s) In Books, 14, 15, 16, and 17....

I know, I may as well make this a monthly spot and be done with it right? But hey-ho, busy man etc...

So since MWIB last, I've managed to get myself embroiled in the situation of reading five books at once, something I try to avoid but often end up doing anyway, due to my inability to resist starting a book that looks interesting.

I actually find it quite a fun way to read, rather like flicking through a multitude of TV channels to see what one fancies. I can quite happily read a chapter, switch books, read a chapter etc etc. An odd way to do things perhaps but I like it. I also find this style of reading helps my mind to explore tangents and different ideas via the complexity of processing a handful of story-lines at once and helps to fill in background details when I'm reading non-fiction with relevance to the particular time period.

So, what have I been reading? Well, I've finished a couple recently so I'll begin with those.

Geoffrey Blainey's "A Very Short History Of The World" is an abridged version of his earlier "A Short History Of The World", unsurprisingly, and it still runs to 479 pages, although as it covers a few million years of the human story, so I guess that's fairly short.... It's a very good read, refreshingly non-eurocentric in it's perspective. Of course it will cover many of the historical nuggets you've picked up over the years, albeit briefly, but there's lots of our story in there you won't know so well.

Whilst ducking out of a three hour long IKEA trip a couple of weeks ago by disappearing downstairs to Dymocks (I know, chain store book shopping, but I was desperate for escapism...) I came across a great little Penguin Special, "The Badlands" by Paul French. At only 91 pages, I had read most of it before leaving the shopping centre, but what a fascinating glimpse into an entirely unknown (to me) world of the seedy side of old Peking in the 1930's and 1940's. At once dark and horrifying, but as addictive as an opium pipe, this is a great little book. 

It lead me to desperately seek out a copy of French's earlier work "Midnight In Peking", the true story of a bizarre murder case in the city in 1937. To make up for chain store buying the other one, I decided I'd enrol the help of our local bookstores to track down a copy of this and was entirely unsurprised to find them very helpful, including plenty of polite friendly responses even if their particular store didn't have a copy. 

Beth from Jeffreys Books in Malvern came up trumps for me, getting a copy posted to me within three days!!! Awesome work, thank you! Got to love local bookstores!

As to what I'm working my way through at the moment, as always there's an Agatha Christie in there, "Lord Edgware Dies", indeed murder mysteries are playing a prominent part at the moment as I'm also enjoying "A Morbid Taste For Bones" first in the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters and another great new discovery for me, "Full Dark House" by Christopher Fowler, which introduces the crime fighting duo Bryant & May. This particular novel has a wonderfully irreverent feel to it, with some exquisitely eccentric characters.

I'm still reading Claud Cockburn's "The Devil's Decade" which has taken me months to get through. It's very dry, and more than a little polemic, but I'm determined to finish it as I find the subject matter, (the 1930's) a fascinating period in European history.

Finally I'm also thoroughly enjoying Lloyd Shepherd's latest offering "Savage Magic" that I mentioned in an earlier post.

So that's what's going on in my world of books at the moment, I hope it inspires you to give one or two of those mentioned a read.

Happy reading

Stevie at B.L.M.