Some Books I’ve Read Recently

I read too many books. I know this. It’s an addiction, I can’t help myself.

There are worse things to be addicted to, so I don’t really mind. Though it is hard to keep the blog updated with all the books I’ve read in a given time frame. Currently the backlog is about twenty books long, I think, but hopefully at some point I’ll get around to bringing it up to date again. 

Here are some of the books I’ve read recently.

Cast Iron by Peter May

Although I hadn’t read any of Peter May’s books before, I came in on the sixth book in the Enzo McLeod series and found it easy to keep up to speed.

Fourteen years after being interred by her killer, Lucie Martin’s body rises to the surface of a lake during a drought. Enzo McLeod is tasked with solving the case… but doing so will imperil both him and those he loves.

In a twisty, political thriller, Peter May lays out a crime and a solution you might not be expecting.

I picked this up in a 2-for-£7 at the supermarket, and it shows. Enzo McLeod, despite not being the most sympathetic protagonist, is interesting enough to make the reader want to see what happens. His complex personal life is not exactly realistic, but if you’re looking for some mindless crime fiction to see you through the weekend, you’re in the right place.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

This one sounded so interesting! And it came from a charity shop: one of my favourite places to pick up books! Alas, it was shit.

I should have realised that when the Daily Mail called it “wonderful” on the cover.

Anthony has been acquiring lost objects for decades. He has an entire room filled with them: keepsakes and buttons and random items he’s found strewn across the pavements. His assistant Laura is the only one who seems to understand, so it is to her that he leaves his collection when he dies.

Trepidaciously, Laura creeps into his study with the key he’s given her. What will she find there? She’s already seen the photo of the woman Anthony loved propped up next to his bed, but she’s always suspected there was more to her employer than met the eye.

I really wanted to like this book, but it was far too clunky in its writing style. I just googled it, and it’s Hogan’s second novel, but it feels like a debut: it has that clumsy, not-quite-finished feeling of a first novel that hasn’t had a great editor.

In my notes I wrote:

Unlike We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, this book’s big words feel like the author is showing off because they’re not so seamlessly woven into the story. If Anthony were saying them it might be different, but Laura has “an unfinished education” and they jar against her sentences.

Too much alliteration – it definitely reads like a debut and the lack of finesse in writing style makes it feel clunky. If the author hadn’t tried so hard it probably would have been a better book.

The villains are very one-dimensional.

I don’t think I like the author. She seems to be quite like Laura herself: someone desperate to move into the upper echelons of society but not quite able to pass. The author looks down on the undisciplined and uneducated, except for Laura, who is excused because she was misled by an undisciplined and uneducated man whose previous girlfriends “dropped their knickers and their aitches”, apparently.

In summary, the book was written by someone who probably reads the Sun or the Daily Mail. Someone who believes everyone on benefits is a scrounging, lazy idiot, but that sometimes there might be an exception, like the protagonist Laura. Look how accepting I am! crows the author through the pages, I can see that poor people might be able to move into the middle class!

Oh, fuck off.

“[The headteacher could not control] a school of chip-fed, benefits-bred kids, most of whom already believed the world owed them a council flat, a baby and the latest pair of Nike trainers.”

That was the point at which I gave up. I’m all for writing about stuff you don’t know – otherwise we wouldn’t have sci-fi or fantasy or a lot of other fiction – but this person sounds like they’ve never been near a council estate, and like they’re writing specifically for an audience who hate poor people.

If you read the Daily Mail, you’ll probably enjoy this. But if you do, why the hell are you reading my blog?

Blood Harvest by Sharon Bolton

In the small town of Heptonclough, things are about to get spooky. There’s a new vicar in the church, and he’s beginning to wonder what’s going on in the local community. While he’s willing to overlook the not-quite-Christian local rituals that happen every few months, he draws the line at bloodshed.

Meanwhile Evi, a psychiatrist and counsellor who’s recently moved to the area too, takes on a new patient whose daughter died in a fire… except that the grieving mother is convinced her child is still alive.

What is going on in this strange place? As Evi and the vicar grow closer, they fight to understand the complex web of lies, confusion and murderous intent around them.

This was surprisingly compelling for a horror story. I liked that Evi – one of the main characters – used a wheelchair and it was just another fact about her, whilst also obviously having an impact on her life.

However, some of this was depleted by the tired trope of “ghostly little girl or disfigured disabled person?” which wove its way through the rest of the book.

On the whole though I did enjoy the story, and IMO the more ambulatory wheelchair users we can get into fiction, the better.

Die Last by Tony Parsons

When twelve women are found dead inside a lorry in London’s Chinatown, DC Max Wolfe is tasked with solving the case. Soon he discovers the passport of a thirteenth woman: the one who got away. How exciting.

Or not.

The only notes I made on this one were:

Unremarkable. The only thing to say about it is that every time I looked at the title I read ‘Die’ in a German accent and was then confused because the next word wasn’t “letzte”.

So, there you have it. The only interesting thing about it was that my brain mixed up the title. Don’t read it: there are far better books out there. Thousands of them.

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan

Alongside her day job as a schoolteacher, Margot Lewis writes an advice column in a local paper. Both are jobs she enjoys: she likes helping people and feeling like she’s making a difference.

Then one day Katie, a student of Margot’s, disappears. As the police search for clues, it becomes evident that Katie’s disappearance shares certain commonalities with the abduction of Bethan Avery, who was snatched away from her life two decades ago, and has never been found.

When Margot’s advice column receives a letter purporting to be from Bethan, something tells her her life will never be quite the same again.

This was a good, gripping thriller. I had a premonition of the twist a few pages before it happened, but I think that was only because the author wanted me to.

If you’re into dark, disturbing psychological thrillers, this book is for you.

What have you read recently? Leave me a comment and let me know!


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