The Last of My Autumn Reading

So here we are, hurtling towards the end of 2018 and it’s the time of year when I scramble to catch up with reviews of those books and movies that I didn’t get around to talking about at the time I read/watched them.

In this post I’m covering three books I read in the autumn, which brings me up to date as I haven’t finished anything else since then.

The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler

I have a tendency to veer towards Scandi noir fiction but only in a very patchy way, which is why I think I hadn’t heard of this husband and wife team writing as Lars Kepler even though they are huge best-sellers and there are already a number of volumes in this series. I started with the first  and it is an odd book.

I read the title and thought “ooh, serial killer hypnotist” but * SPOILER ALERT * – though not really giving anything away – the hypnotist of the title is involved in assisting the police in investigating a family murder. Of course things go horribly wrong, and a chunk of the book is focussed on said hypnotist’s back story. For that reason I don’t think the book is entirely successful – I wanted more of a police procedural rather than a sort of psychological study, but having said that a lot of the writing was very good and I had no problem finishing the thing. I have, of course, already bought the second…..

The Strings of Murder by Oscar de Muriel

Whom I kept on thinking of as Oscar de la Renta; which is very sloppy thinking on my part, possibly offensive to the gentleman concerned and shows that clearly I’m reading too much Vogue.

Anyway, this was recommended in a blog post by (I think – apologies if not) Christopher Fowler, so I thought I’d give it a try only to discover that I had already purchased a copy a few years ago and had just forgotten. The novel is set in Edinburgh around the time of the Jack the Ripper murders, and our hero, Inspector Ian Frey, is sent to Scotland when a violinist is murdered in a way reminiscent of the Ripper’s crimes. Frey is partnered with “Nine-Nails McGray”, a notorious local inspector with Tragedy in his past and an interest in the supernatural and related things. They insult each other constantly and at a wonderfully extreme level which I found very funny. What starts off as a locked room mystery followed, of course, by other deaths is very cleverly done and I enjoyed this thoroughly. Recommended if you like a mixture of horror, historical crime and comedy.

And finally….

Bestial by Harold Schechter

A fascinating, deeply gruesome and upsetting non-fiction examination of the crime spree carried out in the 1920s by Earle Leonard Nelson, starting in San Francisco and ending in Canada. To give you an idea of what’s covered here the blurb on the book screams:

From social outcast to necrophile & murderer, his appalling crimes stunned an era.

So, obviously reader beware – this is only for experienced aficionados of true crime. It’s clearly been throughly researched and is written in a breezy journalistic style but, as a woman in my late 50s, I became increasingly grumpy at the descriptions of Nelson’s older wife by (presumably) the author. Is 58 elderly? Is a woman in her 60s really a crone? I know things were different back in the 1920s and a woman of that age would have had a harder life than the one I have experienced, but who calls anyone a crone? Honestly, says Disgusted of New Malden. But Ann Rule rated Schechter so I will give him the benefit of the doubt.

All caught up on the book front – yay me!

An Unexpected Hiatus

I haven’t written here since * checks blog * oh – last month apparently. This unplanned break was entirely due to my developing a nasty chest infection which required lots of inactivity (believe me, any movement led to the most dreadful coughing fits). But as described by Silvery Dude, I am no longer sickly and off games, so thought I’d catch up with what’s been happening round these parts, besides the coughing of course.

The last thing I did in the great outdoors before succumbing to the dreaded lurgy was visiting the British Museum to see the exhibition on Ashurbanipal, which was fascinating and full of wonderful objects (as in the photo above). I love Assyrian art (I always visit the permanent exhibition whenever I’m in the BM) but recognise that they were a bloodthirsty lot, at least at the kingly level, so some of the images are graphic. I can recommend this if you are in London, I think it’s on until late February.

I may have bought a lot of things in the gift shop, including the book listed below – don’t judge me.

After that it’s all a blur. I was supposed to attend the British Library on 2 December to hear Ian Rankin talk, but just wasn’t well enough and, let’s face it, no-one wanted to hear me coughing over all of the speakers (I suspect there would have been very hard stares and possibly some tutting). I tweeted my disappoint and got a very nice get well soon tweet from Mr Rankin himself, which was unexpected and demonstrates once again that book people are good people.

I did a little bit of reading but didn’t finish anything, so current reading status is still:

  • The Hanging Tree – about 50%, hoping to finish it this weekend
  • Global Crisis – about 11% through but I’m reading this slowly because it is both enormous and full of interesting facts which I may share here on occasion

Actually, let’s go ahead. This week’s interesting fact is about intermarriage in the Spanish royal family which meant that:

Philip IV of Spain boasted only 8 great-grandparents instead of the normal 16; and after he married his niece in 1649, he became the great-uncle as well as the father of his children, while their mother was also their cousin

Books bought in December so far:

  • Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield – A SPELLBINDING, MULTI-LAYERED MYSTERY SET IN THE 19TH CENTURY AROUND THE THAMES shouted Amazon; this was a pre-order
  • The Willows by Algernon Blackwood – short early weird horror
  • The Favourite: Ralegh & his Queen by Matthew Lyons – the 16th century never loses its fascination for me
  • Cradle Song by Robert Edric – dark and grim crime novel, first of a trilogy set in Hull; don’t know why I do this to myself….
  • When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger – I can’t resist reading or listening to podcasts about cults, so this academic study on how a group handles the failure of their prophecy that the end of the world is/was due was a no-brainer
  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean – a book about the fire which destroyed 400,000 books in the Los Angeles Public Library, this was a pre-order that arrived signficantly earlier than I expected; a nice surprise
  • Passing Strange by Ellen Klages – finalist for the 2017 Nebula Award for Best Novella
  • A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P Djeli Clarke – “Egypt, 1912. In an alternate Cairo infused with the otherworldly, the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities investigate disturbances between the mortal and the (possibly) divine” – had to be done
  • New Amsterdam 2 by Elizabeth Bear – more stories from the wonderful Ms Bear
  • Should I Stay or Should I Go by James Ball – and 87 other serious answers to questions in songs, such as how do you solve a problem like Maria?
  • How to be Invisible by Kate Bush – when you discover that one of your favourite authors is a hardcore Kate Bush fan, and then discover that he has written an introduction to a book of her lyrics, well – David Mitchell has gone up even higher in my estimation!

Of course these all break my self-imposed book-buying embargo, but I won’t tell anyone if you don’t (and none of them were on my Christmas list so technically that’s OK. I think.)

Anyway,  have a wonderful reading week and hopefully normal blogging activity has resumed chez Bride!