I suspect if I picked up this book today, without having spent much of the last twenty years waiting impatiently for each of Sara Paretsky's new books, I'd find it over the top. VI starts off on a fairly minor missing person case and end up saving the world yet again. Well not quite, but not far off. This one concerns the altercations of a Chicago based computing giant that stretch back to Nazi-occupied Austria and I loved all the slightly wonky physics and computing stuff at the heart of the plot.
There's a very odd ending device - where the book wraps up and then there are a few notes from the author and then we get taken back to the book for an "extra chapter". I thought this was one of those "first chapter of the next book" teasers and nearly didn't read it. I think it must be intended as a standalone short story as well as a coda to the book and it makes a rather odd, though not unpleasant, read when you read it straight through.
In short, nothing to put me off anticipating the next VI book, but not the place to start if you are new to the series!
This was a hardback.
I read the first titles in this series in the early 80s, then discovered the last few on Kindle a couple of years back - the details are all on my write up of Fourth Year Triumphs at Trebizon if you want the gory details! I left the last one in the series for a rainy day that didn't arrive until I was stuck without a signal to download a new book on my Kindle and discovered I had this lurking about unread.
I'm kind of sorry to have reached the end of the series - there are no "Sixth Form at Trebizon" books as far as I can see and I've not been interested by any of the "Chalet Girls Get Divorced" type of books there are around so I don't think I'd pick up a third party one anyway. I'm happy to leave my childhood friends as they were! It wasn't a great end to the series, the writing seemed much worse in this one than I remembered - far too much foreboding over very little and the plot seemed very much on the level of a bad romance novel in many ways (I'm not an expert of those either though) but I was pleased to be able to leave Rebecca and her friends on a happy note, and glad the author hadn't decided to fill in a "what all the characters did next" bit for us. The characters are pretty much my contemporaries, albeit much more privileged ones, and I know what they've been doing from sixteen to forty and beyond, I'm happy to leave them be now.
Somehow I have always passed over Elizabeth Jane Howard. I think I may have picked up one of her books many moons ago and found it unreadable, I'm not quite sure. But I was surprised by comments when she died a few months ago that made her sound like she might be my kind of thing after all - so I picked this book up to see how it went. It's the first in a series following the Cazalet family through the second world war.
The Cazalets are a well off lot - they have a family business in London, the parents are more or less retired to a large house in Sussex where they all decamp for holidays, the children are three brothers, two of whom work for the company and fought in the first world war, their various wives and children aged from six-ish up to mid-teens. The book is under the constant threat of the war beginning, we know where that story goes but the characters don't. The story constantly switches between characters - I think everyone in the house gets their own page or two at some point, visiting relatives and domestic staff included. It's more a series of ongoing observations than a narrative as such - I don't mind multiple viewpoints at all, but this did stretch the device almost to breaking point. My problem wasn't with the characters who turned up many times, but with the one-off passages through the eyes of someone who barely feature again - I wanted to see them all again.
I've gathered there's a fair amount of autobiography in the Cazalets, certainly the women are more fully formed characters than most of the men, I'd imagine Howard was one of the teenage girls in real life but I might wait until I've read the whole series before investigating that further.
Overall I found the book not terribly well balanced but I enjoyed it and reached the end wanting to carry on reading about some of the family at least... which I will do before too long.
This was a kindle eBook.