The Absolute Book

A few chapters into The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox I was ready to give up. It didn’t seem to be going anywhere and there was a lot of book ahead of me. One more chapter I thought, and kapow! suddenly the book really lifts off, you start to get an insight into the clever plot threads and then it is a delight.

I don’t know how to describe The Absolute Book without spoiling those first revelations so I will just say, if you enjoyed Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and American Gods then there is a good chance that you will love this.

4/5

The City of Tears

Kate Mosse does historical fiction really well, she sets her novels in an interesting period, the religious wars in France and the earlier Albigensian Crusade, and populates them with engaging characters and page turning plots.

The city of Tears is the second in the Burning Chambers trilogy based around the religious wars of the 16th century Reformation. The plot switches between France and Amsterdam, the City of Tears from 1572 until 1594 and spans the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, the overthrow of Catholic leadership in Amsterdam and the coronation of Henri 4th.

This is great history, we all need to understand more about how the Reformation shaped Europe as it is today and a compelling story of family intrigue, religious fanaticism and the enduring power of relationships. Read it after you have read the Burning Chambers.

4.5/5

Like Flies from Afar

Like Flies from Afar by K Ferrari is a staccato violent novel based on a single day in the life of Mr Machi. If that sounds like it should be a gritty page turner then you may be disappointed.

Machi discovers a body in the boot of his car and spends the day pondering who planted it and why while endeavouring to dispose of the body. The plot is interspersed with incidents from Machi’s violent rise to power and a catalogue of people who might have a grudge against him.

I found Like Flies from Afar to be tedious and pointless, I didn’t care what the end was going to be, only that it would come soon. Thankfully it is pretty short.

According to his publisher

“Ferrari works as a janitor for the Buenos Aires metro at the Pasteur-Amia station on line B. In the 1990s, he was deported from the United States, where he and his wife were trying to find work.”

I wouldn’t encourage janitors across Latin America to give up their day jobs. This may appeal to some and has been heralded as a sensation by some critics, I’d recommend giving it a miss.

2/5

Bobby March Will Live Forever

Bobby March Will Live Forever by Alan Parks is brilliant. It starts off at a cracking pace and doesn’t let up until the last page, it has several overlapping plot threads which you struggle to see how they will get tied together, it has twists and turns and surprises and most of all it is dark. I loved it.

Harry McCoy is a rebellious detective at war with his ambitious senior officer and excluded from the search for a young girl who has been abducted. Instead he is diverted into two dead end cases, the overdose of rock musician Bobby March and a series of unsolved violent robberies – both lead to unexpected conclusions. Meanwhile his childhood friend, protector and Glasgow crime boss is spaced out on heroin and his empire is in danger of collapsing. How does this all work out? Well worth reading to see.

Alan Parks is a newish Scottish writer (at least to me), his Harry McCoy series will appeal to anyone who enjoys Rebus.

4.5/5

A Burning

A Burning by Megha Majumdar is a powerful novel set in Calcutta tracking the interweaved stories of 3 characters – Jivan, Lovely and PT Sir

Jivan is a young muslim woman who is wrongly accused of aiding terrorists in firebombing a train when she was only carrying a parcel of old school books for Lovely. Lovely is a Hijra who is set on pursuing her career as an actress who is being taught English by Jivan. PT Sir is a PT teacher who used to teach Jivan and is now intent soon becoming politician in the opposition party.

Some ill advised social media activity puts Jivan in the frame for the firebombing when the police cannot trace the perpetrators. Someone has to be responsible and it looks as if it will be Jivan, both Lovely and PT Sir are witnesses for the defence. As the narrative evolves you wonder whether either will stand up for Jivan, leading to a good twist at the end.

Burning is a compelling read which brings an insight into the under class in Calcutta and the corruption of local politics. Read it!

4/5

How not to be Wrong

“How not to be Wrong” is James O’Brien’s latest book following on from “How to be Right”

O’Brien is the Marmite of radio chat show presenters, I am a fan but a critical one. His technique of persistent questioning and focus enables him to ridicule people he doesn’t agree with in a seemingly reasonable way. It’s entertainment but sometimes it feels cruel.

How to be Right was quite a self righteous book using sequences from the chat show to illustrate how questioning can puncture firmly held beliefs that are not backed up by evidence and fact.

How not to be Wrong is much more self reflective, O’Brien writes about his own personal crisis, going through therapy and how that process lead him to re-evaluate some of his own firmly held beliefs and to regret some of his past evisceration of callers to his chat show.

How not to be Wrong is thought provoking for all of us who are equally convinced about the rightness of our views on politics, social issues and life. O’Brien’s key lesson is that if you are convinced that you are right and are trying to persuade others of the folly of their opinions then you have to be able to change your own mind and reconsider your own beliefs as well. Seems like a good message to me and well worth a read.

4/5