Monthly Archives May 2016

Book review: The Blood Detective

I raced through this book, a hybrid mixture of crime and genealogy mystery. Author Dan Waddell is also a journalist and genealogist, having written The Genealogy Handbook [below] to accompany the Who Do You Think You Are? television series. So, he knows his stuff and it shows. Usually a crime novel features a lead detective and team, here we have two lead characters: Detective Chief Inspector Grant Foster, and genealogist Nigel Barnes. Waddell’s plotting is ingenious. The past really does come back to haunt the present. There is a serial killer in West London who leaves a clue carved into the skin of his victims. This clue prompts DCI Foster to call on the specialist help of researcher Barnes. The murder hunt takes parallel paths: Foster chases living suspects, Barnes searches the archives for the true 1879 story of a serial killer, his victims and their descendants. What is the link? The final chapters are a thrilling race against time. I really enjoyed this. The linking of historical and present-day crime was clever, and the characterization was convincing and not of the stereotypical detective form. An enjoyable mixture of fast-moving crime novel with genealogical research and historical gems about this particular
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Categories: Book Love and Family history research.

Great Opening Paragraph 85… ‘The Pelican Brief’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“He seemed incapable of creating such chaos, but much of what he saw below could be blamed on him. And that was fine. He was ninety-one, paralyzed, strapped in a wheelchair and hooked to oxygen. His second stroke seven years ago had almost finished him off, but Abraham Rosenberg was still alive and even with tubes in his nose his legal stick was bigger than the other eight. He was the only legend remaining on the Court, and the fact that he was still breathing irritated most of the mob below.” ‘The Pelican Brief’ by John Grisham  Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘Diary of an Ordinary Woman’ by Margaret Forster ‘To Have and Have Not’ by Ernest Hemingway ‘Bel Canto’ by Ann Patchett And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: THE PELICAN BRIEF by @JohnGrisham #books http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1V5 via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

Book review: The Lighthouse

Over the years, the character of Commander Adam Dalgliesh has become a real person. Helped by the TV series of PD James detective novels, whenever I read a Dalgliesh book I see the face of actor Roy Marsden. The Lighthouse, the 13th in the series of 14, is perhaps her best. There is no doubt that as the series progressed, the writing acquired depths earning it the label ‘literary fiction’. A lot of the action is in the mind, intellectual detection. The Lighthouse is a long way from Cover Her Face. This is another closed room mystery. The room is an island off the North Cornish coast, a secure, secluded get-away-from-it-all holiday destination for politicians, celebrities and entrepreneurs. Dalgliesh, with his team Kate Miskin and Francis Benton-Smith, become residents on the island with its small number of suspects. Dead, is a famous writer, Nathan Oliver, found hanging by a rope from the railings of the lighthouse. Nothing, from this point, is as it seems. All the island’s guests, residents and staff could have a motive. Oliver was not generally liked. But you can rely on James to unwind a story which brings unexpected depths, difficulties and an unpredictable motive for
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Categories: Book Love.

How Kevin Maher writes

Kevin Maher “…I did loads of research on the Millennium Dome. I wasted hundreds of pounds on books on the Dome. I’m probably one of the world’s foremost experts on the Dome but, very kindly, my editor cut everything on the Dome out of the book, all of the information about rivets and steel beams. It was that classic, crap amateur novelist thing of trying to show off everything you know, when you definitely don’t need to.” [in an interview with ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, February 6, 2015]  This made me chuckle. Novelists who were formerly journalists are probably the most guilty at over-researching, if Irish writer Kevin Maher is anything to go by. The Times journalist has written two novels, The Fields and Last Night on Earth, and it is his experience writing the second which he refers to here.   See how these other novelists write:- Donna Leon Paula Hawkins Hanya Yanagihara ‘Last Night on Earth’ by Kevin Maher [UK: Abacus] And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: Why author @KevinTMaher cut down on his research http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1VV via @Sandra_Danby #amwriting
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

New books coming soon

Ezekiel Boone The Hatching, plus two sequels, by US author Ezekiel Boone, will be published in the UK by Gollancz. The Hatching, described as a “fun as hell” thriller, is about a desperate fight against a long-dormant, ancient species that hatches from an unusual egg following a nuclear bomb drop. Comparisons have been made to Crichton’s Jurassic Park and Max Brooks’s World War Z. TV and film rights have been signed by Lionsgate on behalf of Joel Silver, who produced The Matrix and Die Hard. Boone promised the book was “fun as hell and just scary enough to make you afraid to put it down.” Due to be published in July 2016, this [above] is the US cover design. For more about Ezekiel Boone, here’s his website. Jussi Valtonen They Know Not What They Do by Finnish writer Jussi Valtonen [below] will be published in September 2016 in the UK by Oneworld. This is Valtonen’s third novel, but the first to be translated into English. The Know Not What They Do is a “sweeping literary thriller, offering a complex, multi-layered story of family conflict and the search for identity.” The story, set in Finland and the US, opens with an attack on a US neuroscience research lab by animal rights activists. One of
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Taxidermist’s Daughter

I will say up front that the taxidermy sections were too much for me, too much gory detail. That aside, this is a mystery set in the South Coast marshes of Fishbourne in 1912. In fact it seemed timeless, difficult to place the action only two years prior to the outbreak of the Great War. The weather is ever-present to set the tone of the story: wind, rain and storms and Fishbourne is a real place. Kate Mosse, a Chichester resident, uses her local knowledge to good effect. But, I struggled to connect with the story and cannot put my finger on why. The storyline focuses on 22-year old Connie Gifford and her father, the taxidermist and his daughter, who live in an isolated house on the marshes at Fishbourne. In the Prologue, the village gathers in the churchyard to celebrate the Eve of St Mark. At the end of the evening, a woman is dead. So, already there is one dead woman and some secrets. Connie, it turns out, had an accident 10 years earlier and she has no memory either of what happened that day or of her life prior to the accident… more secrets. Are the two
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Noise of Time

This Julian Barnes book is about big subjects: creativity and power, moral courage and cowardice, love and fear, autocratic government and political manipulation of the arts. Oh, and music. But I couldn’t work it out. Something didn’t work for me but I struggle to explain why. I started it, got bored, put it aside, picked it up and got through to the end. The subject matter is interesting – Soviet attitudes to art, creativity and music – the writing is eloquent, weighty and thoughtful, this is Julian Barnes after all. There is some drama as the book opens, a man, the Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich, spends another night by the lift in his apartment building, waiting to be arrested. He is afraid for his life, but that fear seemed flat on the page. Like the reader, Shostakovich is left not knowing what is happening. At times it felt like reading an essay rather than fiction, albeit a fictionalised biography. Perhaps it is this fuzzy genre which is at the root of my inertia. I read on because it is Barnes and because the exploration of music interested me. But I did not care about him. Is this because he was
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: Pretty Is

This is not your ordinary abduction tale. The truth mingles with re-invention and obfuscation. Pretty Is is a promising debut by Maggie Mitchell, a study in memory, an examination of our ability to move on from difficult experiences, and how today’s celebrity culture makes it impossible to avoid the past. Two 12-year old girls – Louis and Carly May – go missing in separate incidents, they are assumed dead. This is the story of their abduction, their life with their abductor Zed, and more importantly their life afterwards. But is what we are reading the true story, a lie, an embroidered version of what happened, or total fiction? The story of the girls is told in tandem with what is happening to the adult women today. Both girls tried to move on but inevitably they felt cut off from everyone else so, as adults, they re-invented their pasts, their names, their identities. And so, page by page, the true story of what happened to Lois and Carly May is told. Or is it? Which of the girls is the most reliable story-teller? Carly May becomes actress Chloe Savage, Lois is a university lecturer but also writes novels under a pseudonym.
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Categories: Book Love.

Book review: The Language of Others

A young girl who prefers to be alone, who lacks the social skills to have friends, who marries young and rapidly becomes a mother. This is the intense story of Jessica Fontaine who longs for the air in her house to be hers alone, who manages a difficult marriage and worries about how she is raising her son. This is a story of a lifetime of self-discover and self-acceptance. This description may make the book sound as if nothing happens but it does and, as in any Clare Morrall, subtlety is layered on subtlety. Jessica grows up at Audlands, a country house which is decaying around the family. Her father was a successful chocolate manufacturer and the house a symbol of his success. As he grows older and the company fails, so does the house. Jessica and her sister Harriet grow up side-by-side, loving the house, the dirt and cobwebs, but not really knowing or understanding each other. Only when Jessica discovers the piano does she find freedom. This is a novel about Asperger’s and the autism spectrum and one woman’s acceptance of her own emotional issues and how they impact and intertwine with the emotional issues of her unpredictable
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Categories: Book Love.

Great Opening Paragraph 84… ‘Lucky You’ #amwriting #FirstPara

“On the afternoon of November 25, a woman named JoLayne Lucks drove to the Grab N’Go minimart in Grange, Florida, and purchased spearmint Certs, unwaxed dental floss and one ticket for the state Lotto. JoLayne Lucks played the same numbers she’d played every Saturday for five years: 17-19-22-14-27-30.” ‘Lucky You’ by Carl Hiaasen Amazon Try one of these 1st paras & discover a new author:- ‘These Foolish Things’ by Deborah Moggach ‘Super-Cannes’ by JG Ballard ‘Herzog’ by Saul Bellow And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet: LUCKY YOU by @Carl_Hiaasen #books https://wp.me/p5gEM4-1Uw via @SandraDanby
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Categories: Book Love.

A poem to read in the bath… ‘The Dead’

A popular American poet, Billy Collins [below] was praised by John Updike for writing “lovely poems…Limpid, gently and consistently startling, more serious than they seem, they describe all the worlds that are and were and some others besides.” He has been Poet Laureate twice: the US Poet Laureate from 2001-2003, and New York State Poet Laureate from 2004-2006. I like his idea here of the dead looking down on those they’ve left behind, keeping an eye on us. Because of copyright restrictions I am unable to reproduce the poem in full, but please search it out in an anthology or at your local library. ‘The Dead’ The dead are always looking down on us, they say, While we are putting on our shoes or making a sandwich, They are looking down through the glass-bottom boats of heaven As they row themselves slowly through eternity. I am new to Billy Collins, and found this poem in a Bloodaxe anthology. I ordered his first collection, Taking Off Emily Dickinson’s Clothes and was immediately won over by the endorsement by Carol Ann Duffy on the cover: “Billy Collins is one of my favourite poets in the world”. That’ll do for me then. Here’s
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Categories: Book Love and Poetry.