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Throwback Thursday: Lock In

Book cover: Lock in - John Scalzi (red and white figurines on a white background)The flupocalypse didn’t wipe us out, but it left 1 in 100 people paralysed – or ‘locked in’. One of them was the POTUS’s wife, so we gave a shit. But 25 years later, a new US government is stripping away the life lines that keep Hadens in touch with the physical world, and there’s a killing to be made… literally.

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Throwback Thursday: Rivers of London

Book cover: Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch (a snarkily contextual map of London, with a suggestively bloodstained West End)Easily distracted, PC Peter Grant is a probationary officer with a dull future of tedious admin ahead of him – until he takes a witness statement from a ghost in Covent Garden and finds himself recruited into the Met’s little-advertised supernatural division…

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The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf (Hobson & Choi)

Book cover: The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf - Nick BryanAngelina Choi is on work experience, keen as mustard to make a good impression. When the irascible Hobson gets her to set up a Twitter account for his detective agency, she starts a trending topic and wins them a client. Now John just needs to fight a wolf if they hit 400 followers…

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Liar! Liar! BASTARD!

Calling all Gentleman Bastards! As part of the wider (re-)read of the Gentleman Bastard sequence championed by Kaja (http://ofdragonsandhearts.com/) and DJ (https://mylifemybooksmyescape.wordpress.com/), I’ll be hosting an epic read-along.

More details and sign up

Top Ten Tuesday: crime tropes I can’t stand

Top Ten Tuesday banner

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.

It’s a freebie this week, so I’ve decided to have a little look at rant about tropes following some disappointing reads over the past year.

Top crime tropes I can’t stand

Last Rituals: not actually the Scandinavian Secret History

Book cover: Last RitualsWhen single mother and local lawyer Þóra Guðmundsdóttir (or Thora Gudmondsdottir (ish) to you and me) is asked to investigate the ritualistic murder of an eccentric German history student, she finds herself researching the history of Icelandic witchcraft. But would someone kill to keep the secrets of the past?

Presumably, or there wouldn’t be a novel in it

Ragnar Jonasson – Snowblind

Snowblind has several things going for it. Firstly, the central character, Ari Thor. Young, smart, impetuous, and deeply confused, he’s a convincing mid-20s bloke tackling his first job – all desire to prove himself and no common sense. Secondly, the location. I have developed a big soft spot for Iceland, and Siglufjordur is a perfect pot-boiler setting – a small settlement on the north coast, which is inaccessible in deep winter as the sea is wild, the mountain pass iced closed, and the single-lane tunnel through the mountain gets blocked by avalanches.

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London Falling: more supernatural crime in the capital

Book cover: London Falling - Paul Cornell (a flaming pentagram above a night-time London skyline)When a suspect is murdered in custody, DI James Quill is determined to solve the case. His small but dedicated squad soon find themselves chasing a supernatural opponent neither they – nor their procedures – are remotely equipped to deal with. Can they conquer their fear and bring her to justice?

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Lloyd Shepherd – The English Monster

I've had this on my Kindle shelf a long while. It's a curious novel of two stories: in Elizabethan England, young Billy Ablass goes to sea to make his fortune alongside an equally young Francis Drake; and in 1811, London is rocked by the vicious murders of a household in Shadwell (the historical Ratcliff Highway murders). Billy's innocent eyes are opened to the grim realities of colonial exploitation; while Constable Horton adopts the then-novel approach of investigating a crime rather than finding a scapegoat.

For much of the novel it is unclear what these tales have to do with one another, but each are engrossing enough. Shepherd largely succeeds in spinning a good yarn (or indeed two) with intriguing characters – this is an easy enough read that's well enough written.

However, I found the final collision of the two storylines somewhat dissatisfying. Having spent much time with constable Horton admiring his investigative ambitions, it was a shame he was undermined by the PRS simply handing over the killer's identity on a plate. It rendered his efforts meaningless and with replaced a satisfying outcome with some fumbling violence in the dark. Similarly, the fate of Billy Ablass was a little underwhelming – the dire warnings of the Florida tribe seemed to imply much worse.

There are other missed opportunities: Francis Drake is little more than an unnecessary bit of flair, as is Henry Morgan, and the business with the Sheerness mutiny felt like it might have a more philosophical purpose than the rather blunt plot instrument it ultimately became.

I think this last point is my main beef with the book. It's an interesting glimpse into the Elizabethan slave trade and the pre-Peel policing of London, but I felt the author flirted with a more thoughtful piece on humanity, morality and mortality than he served up.

Edit: I didn't have any context when I picked this up, so it seemed to over-promise and under-deliver. Now I know it's the first in a string of slightly paranormal mysteries investigated by Constable Horton and Magistrate Harriott, I find I'm less judgmental. As an example of paranormal potboiler crime (rather than a genre-flirting literary outing), it was entertaining – although my reservations about the climax remain intact and it doesn't gain extra stars. However, I thought I should note that I would consider reading those further instalments 🙂

***1/2

Arthur Conan Doyle – A Study in Scarlet

A long flight seemed like a good reason to finally pop my Sherlock cherry. I'm happy to say the novella exceeded expectations, being accessible and entertaining, although I was a little surprised by the mid-novel swap to villain's back story.

There's little I can add to volumes on the subject, so suffice to say I enjoyed it and would consider reading others, although I'm unlikely to seek them out specially – I like a shot at guessing whodunnit, which is not the Holmesian formula.

****

The Shining Girls

Book cover: The Shining GirlsScifi meets crime as a time-travelling serial killer hunts his victims across the 20th century, and the girl that gets away tries to unravel the mystery of her attacker.

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Bookworming again

I commented a while back that this was at risk of turning into nothing but a bookblog, and I suspect that 2014 will see it go one step further and become largely dormant as my bookblogging transitions across to LibraryThing. However, I started so I’ll finish – my final round-up of 2013 before my look back at the year to see whether any of it was really up to scratch.

You know this is largely for my benefit, right? But if you’re curious…

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