30.3.15

BREATHING WATER, by Timothy Hallinan

3/series. Set in turbulent Bangkok, starring Poke Rafferty, this mesmerizing novel will have you pinned to your seat from the opening scene to the very satisfactory ending. Poke, in a card game that's really a sting he's helping the cops , finds himself pitted against Pan, one of Thailand's wealthiest nouveau riche. Poke wins the hand and the right to write Pan's biography. Which ought to be a blockbuster: rags to riches always conceals great crimes. Da, a young country girl, is forced to beg on the streets carrying an infant that's not hers. Click below for more...

27.3.15

THE LADY AND THE UNICORN, by Tracy Chevalier

Total immersion in 15th century Paris and Brussels, with a meticulous look into the world of the lissier, the makers of tapestries. The iconic images of the unicorn, with which few of us are unfamiliar, is the starting point of this novel. Nicholas des Innocents, Parisian artist and compulsive womanizer, is asked to do a series of tapestries for the Grand Salle of a recently ennobled Frenchman. The nobleman's wife convinces Nicholas that love and not war should be the subject. Surprisingly, he talks the nobleman - who has little interest in art, but much in impressing people - into the new scheme. Click below for more...

24.3.15

THE MAN FROM BEIJING, by Henning Mankel

Perhaps I am shallow. Perhaps I read only for entertainment. Perhaps I like easy reads. And perhaps I can't take a global look at a doorstopper of a novel without getting bored witless. Certainly the latter is true of my recent slog through The Man From Beijing, which is highly praised - on the back of the book - by many major European reviewers. "Not a typical crime novel... Powerful and exciting", says the Berner Zeitung (Switzerland). "Mankel's best thriller in fifteen years", from Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden). To add to the reviews: "Not exactly readable," says Nuts4Books. Click here for more...

23.3.15

THE HUMAN BODY, by Paolo Giordano

From the author of the award-winning The Solitude of Prime Numbers. A company of young Italian soldiers are sent to Afghanistan, to a FOB, Forward Operating Base, in remote and hostile Gulistan. The place is little more than a sand pit, exposed on all sides to the Taliban fighters, supplied when possible by helicopter drops. One such drop tangles, and their food is destroyed, forcing them to live on local supplies. A wave of dysentery from contaminated food strikes them, with horrific results that reveals the character of their companions.  Click below for more...

18.3.15

TERRA INCOGNITA, by Ruth Downie

2/series. In 100AD, Roman Britain under Hadrian was - until you got up near present-day Scotland - under firm Roman control. Local deities had been subsumed by hybrid Roman-local gods; the Druids had been vanquished; Roman roads and forts were everywhere; even Roman wine was the drink of choice. When medicus Ruso arrives in the north with the Twentieth Legion, his Briton housekeeper (purchased in a bazaar) Tilla accompanies him. She has returned to her birthplace, and the place where she was kidnapped and sold into slavery. Click below for more...

12.3.15

THE GOOD THIEF'S GUIDE TO PARIS, by Chris Ewan

2/series. Another funny, convoluted, how-not-to-see a great European city, this time Charlie Howard - whodunit author and second-story man - gets embroiled in a variation of the Amsterdam novel (first in the series). An English bookstore is the venue for an odd assortment of Parisian expats and wanderers, and Charlie is invited to read excerpts from his novel. No author turns that down, and post-reading Charlie is hired by one of the attendees to show him how to burgle an apartment: his own, presumably. Later, Charlie's fence and contact Pierre, offers him a job: burgle an apartment and take only a painting. Click below for more...

10.3.15

MIDNIGHT IN EUROPE, by Alan Furst

From one of the acknowledged masters of historical international espionage comes a tale of the Spanish Civil War and the political alignments that helped lead to World War Two. The story opens with a loyalist in Madrid, who has chivalrously gone to save an agent. Later, we meet Christain Ferrar, Spanish-born emigree, who lives and works (and plays) as an attorney in Paris for an international law firm. As his country is savaged by the implacable Franco in battle after battle, Ferrar agrees to become an arms finder through the Spanish Embassy for the embattled Royalists. Click below for more...

6.3.15

HALF A KING, by Joe Abercrombie

Satisfying young adult (but suitable for the "older reader") fantasy/adventure doesn't get a whole lot better than this. Along the shores of the Shattered Sea, in the country of Gettland, crippled Prince Yorbi, a second son, studies at the feet of Mother Gundring to become a Minister. When his father and brother are killed in an ambush, Yorbi's forced to become king. Seldom has the country seen a more inept leader. When he must declare war against those held responsible for the murders, he finds the carnage and cruelty of battle even more hideous than he'd imagined. Click below for more...