This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell

Cover of This Must Be the Place

An utterly fab book. Each chapter skips around to a different character, a different time, a different place. The sort of device I adore. Sometimes you know what tragedies are ahead of the characters before they do, sometimes you hope things we be resolved differently. It all revolves around the life of a reclusive movie star, but spreads out in all directions. You could end up feeling that it was all spread too thinly but instead I just wanted to know more about some of the minor characters who barely got mentioned. Just more please.

The bit that really made it marvellous was that the chapters skipping around to different characters/times/places were all so distinctly different. Lots of different ways of telling the story – of digging into a character’s personal archives – were embraced which made you want to read on just to see the ‘how’ of the story as well as the ‘what’.

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The Rumour by Elin Hilderbrand

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Random audiobook from the library. Picked because I needed something lightweight and fluffy and it didn’t look like a very deep book. And it wasn’t. It was entertaining enough, I wouldn’t have finished it if it wasn’t, but nothing special. And yes, I am always kind of disappointed when I ask for fluffy and only get fluffy, but that’s my problem and not the author’s!

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A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee

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Second in a series. I read it before the first one. Set in 1920s colonial Indian. Given that the author’s name is Indian I was surprised at first to find the central character is a white British policeman who has headed out to India (which sounds awful when I write it down, after all, I probably wouldn’t have been surprised if I’d opened up a book to find a white author writing an Indian character.) Anyway, I liked Sam Wyndham and I didn’t have any problem getting to know him and his reasons for being in India despite skipping the first book. This story is about the death of a prince and there’s no shortage of non-white characters, including Sam’s sergeant in the Calcutta police.

I’ve since read the first book and my memory has rather merged the two stories together for me so I don’t want to say things that might be about the wrong book. I enjoyed the investigations in both the books but both times had difficulty being very concerned about justice for the victims as neither book really brought them to life. Other characters did come to life though and I’ll probably read some more in the future as I found these an interesting beginning.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

The Venetian Game by Philip Gwynne Jones

Cover of The Venetian Game

I found this very easy to read. A nice jaunt round Venice. It’s billed as an “unputdownable thriller” on the cover and I think that whoever gets to decide on those tags for the cover needs to get a bit more original about it than that as that description almost put me off buying it. It doesn’t really do the book justice. I did read it pretty quickly, I was several chapters in before I left the bookshop, and I guess it does have plenty of thriller elements towards the end but mostly it was just a well written and interesting look at a guy living in Venice who gets mixed up in some rather weird goings on.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

The Fade Out: Act One by Ed Brubaker

Cover of The Fade Out: Act One

Graphic novel of Darren’s that was lying around so I picked it up and read it in one sitting. Nice bit of noir murder mystery. I quite like that it’s in parts so I couldn’t read the entire thing at once (well I suppose I could but all the parts weren’t available to me and that’s fine).

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The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Cover of The Woman in the Window

I borrowed this from Darren, who urged me to read it because he thought it was great. I don’t think I liked it nearly as much as he did though. It was full of film references that went over my head, at that level where they are just low enough to clip me and make me realise that I’m missing something. I enjoyed the story and the main character with agoraphobia seemed both just realistic enough and sympathetically portrayed. The Rear Window connection is one that even my mostly film-ignorant self did manage to make. And I did get to feel a little bit clever when I worked one of the twists out which is always nice.

Good, just not quite really good.

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Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Cover of Force of Nature

I’d really liked the first in this series and had no hesitation picking up the second when it came out. But then it hit one of my things authors do that wind me up points and it took me ages to actually read it through.

The first book which was a very personal story delving back into the main character’s childhood, could a second book where Aaron Falk was ‘just’ a detective be as good? Obviously I was concerned that it wouldn’t be but I think the author pulled it off. I think it helped that Aaron’s not really a murder investigator, he’s some kind of financial shenanigans investigating cop who gets pulled in when a witness in one of his cases disappears. I liked the way the story was told: the events surrounding the murder were related at the same pace as the detectives investigating uncovered the clues and this got the reader very involved in the lives of the people at the heart of the murder investigation. And as in the first book there’s a distinctly Australian flavour to it, the plot wouldn’t have been the same if it was set elsewhere.

Overall then I really enjoyed it and will be back for more. Oh, and the thing that winds me up is that Aaron Falk gains a detective partner in this book, Carmen Cooper, and the author continually refers to them as “Falk and Carmen”, the male barely gets referred to by his first name, the female barely by her surname. It has annoyed me in other books and so I saw it here even though I’d have to admit that Harper doesn’t otherwise have the kind of sexist nonsense going on that has come with this pairing of names in other books. There’s a point late on in the book where I wondered if the author had done it deliberately in order to reveal something else, but I’m not sure, and I can’t see any reason that Carmen couldn’t, at least occasionally, have been “Cooper”. A very minor quibble really but one I wanted to note anyway.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

City of Friends by Joanna Trollope

Cover of City of Friends

Your standard Joanna Trollope book really. Which I know sounds like a put down. I always pick these up to read looking for something easy going, easy reading, nothing serious. And always end up thinking better of them in the end. This one’s the story of four college friends and where they’ve all ended up by the point they are dealing with mature careers, almost grown children and ageing parents.

There’s a part of me (a miserable reverse-snob kind of part I’ll admit) who’d like to write Trollope off as only able to do posh people, but so many times the characters aren’t really posh and they come over as pretty reasonably realistic. I know these women, I went to college with them I’m sure, and I know their dilemmas. I enjoy their company while I read the pages. And there is always good stuff to go with the bad. And I put the book away with just a little bit more emotional knowledge about how to cope with the world, and that’s a worthwhile thing.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

This is How it Ends by Eva Dolan

Cover of This is How it Ends

The story is told by starting at the scene of the crime and tracing one narrative thread backwards in time as another goes forwards. Which is the kind of device I really enjoy, but the book took a long time to grow on me. The first half was completely put-downable, but the second half is superb. It ought to be easy to get lost in the backwardly told story but it works really well, like you are uncovering this from the archives, racing back through time to find out how it began in order to work out how it ends.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.