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Throwback Thursday: Broken Homes

Book cover: Broken Homes - Ben Aaronovitch (bloodstained London streetmap in yellow and red)Peter’s early adventures in architecture finally stand him in good stead as the Isaacs try to figure out the magical ambitions of a long-dead German architect. Meanwhile the Faceless Man is back in town, and he has an alarming (and rather fabulous) new ally…

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Throwback Thursday: Whispers Underground

Book cover: Whispers Underground - Ben Aaronovitch (an artistic take on a London streetmap, dripping blood)When the son of a US senator is found dead in a tunnel just before Christmas, the heat is on to find his killer and get the trains running (London priorities). Given the scarcity of leads, it’s just as well Lesley May is back to lend Peter a hand with some Proper Policing…

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Throwback Thursday: Moon Over Soho

Book cover: Moon Over Soho - Ben Aaronovitch (illustrated map of London)Credentials established, PC Peter Grant is settling into life in the Met’s supernatural policing division. But with both Lesley May and Thomas Nightingale on medical leave and corpses stacking up across Soho, how much trouble can Peter get into? ALL THE TROUBLE.

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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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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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Richard Guard – Lost London

Lost London is an A-Z of buildings, professions and other aspects of London that haven't survived to the modern day, from Roman times through to the earliest twentieth century.

Its weakness is the author's attention span, which means he sometimes forgets to tell us why a certain building is no longer with us. Its strong point is the wealth of curiosities in London's past, which means there's at least one curious or funny entry for every dull one.

A great loo book, which improved markedly when I stopped trying to read it cover to cover and just dipped in and out from time to time.

***1/2

W Somerset Maugham – Liza of Lambeth

When my 's grandmother downsized, I was invited to rescue any books she was shedding from her sizeable collection. This led to a random assortment of older volumes leaping onto my shelves that I would never otherwise have heard of (or acquired) – this is one; others include various early Penguin non-fiction titles of the colonially-incorrect variety, some fringe erotica (cool grandma!) and a much-thumbed copy of Usage and Abusage, which the family couldn't believe I didn't already own. I picked up Liza of Lambeth because I vaguely thought I ought to have read some Maugham and because I used to live in Lambeth.

Liza is a gay young lady of the working class, who lives on Vere Street with her self-absorbed drunk mother, an assortment of cheerful children, and various hard-drinking men and endlessly-pregnant or bruised wives who claim their husbands are gentle when they haven't been drinking. The novel charts Liza's downfall from the well-loved young woman out-dancing the street in her new purple dress to the social outcast pushed into a public fistfight with her rival for the amusement of her neighbours.

Having learnt that it draws heavily on his experiences as a doctor in Lambeth, I take it that Maugham was aiming for a truthful representation of his experiences of the London working class. The picnic sequence lived up to this – I rather enjoyed this glimpse of a day off in the country – but elements such as the dancing in the street to the Italian organ grinder and much of the faux-Cockney language felt like cliches. Perhaps I'm being too harsh (were these tropes already well-trodden by 1897?), but I can't blame anyone but Maugham for the strong whiff of moral and social superiority that accompany them.

Liza is a difficult heroine to root for, being self-absorbed and hard-hearted (perhaps unsurprising, considering her mother); the only likeable character, Tom, is perceived as weak or wet and is rejected repeatedly. Although the narrator never overtly comments on Liza's choices, it's difficult not to read the novel as a cautionary tale. That said, it's even-handed in its disdain for slum life as the men – Tom excepted – are all drunks, braggarts and wife beaters.

However, I found myself most troubled by the start of Liza's affair, largely because spoiler

The Rook: On Her Majesty’s Supernatural Secret Service

Book cover: The Rook by Daniel O Malley

When Myfanwy Thomas wakes up surrounded by dead bodies in a London park and no memory, she’s ever so grateful for the note in her pocket with instructions. Now she just has to fake she knows what she’s doing as a very senior member of a very secret government agency, save Britain from supernatural threats and figure out who stole her memory… without anyone noticing.

Supernatural spies with superb snark

Sixty-One Nails: London gets a faerie make-over

Book cover: Sixty-One Nails - Mike ShevdonWhen Niall has a heart attack mid-commute, he is rescued by Blackbird, a little old lady who is demonstrably more than she appears. She introduces him to the Feyre and none-too-gently informs him that he is part-Fey – and consequently on the Untainted’s death list.

Niall must master his talents, dodge his pursuers, help Blackbird stop the barrier keeping the wraithkin at bay from crumbling, and earn the protection of a Feyre Court if he and his daughter are to have any sort of future…

Faerie urban fantasy

Tales from the back of a black cab

I love that cabbies often self-edit for female passengers, trying (often in vain) to suppress their swearing without ever sense-checking their moral compass or unpleasant prejudices.

Cue big burly Londoner relating his run-in “with some f- err with some pikeys (I hate f- err pikeys)” who jumped in the back of his cab when he wasn’t looking and began a food fight as he drove them home to the camp under the A40.

My cabbie’s highlight? The bit where he squared up to a now half-naked lad offering to fight him instead of paying fare and cleaning bill, only for the patriarch to wade in and tell the kid “‘e’s a working man trying to earn a fair wage you f-‘ err I won’t say what he said, but it was rude, ‘so fuckin’ pay the man'”

Nobody can self-edit indefinitely. Or at all, when channelling the Daily Mail. It was a long trip.

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPhone.

small things

My random observation of the day: it is oddly reassuring to see a pair of legs stuck out from under a jacked-up car parked at the side of the street. Instantly, the street transforms from a row of houses in which strangers live, passing each other without speaking on their way to work each morning, and becomes a community in which people live and play and fix their cars.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in London before. It affected me rather profoundly.

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