Joe Country (Slough House #6) by Mick Herron

Cover of Joe Country (Slough House #6)

I feel like I might get lynched for saying that I didn’t think this was quite as good as I expected it to be. I love the characters and they were great here, the regulars were regular and the deaths upset me. The plot, however, was, forgettable, and a week after reading it I can’t remember much of the detail about it. It didn’t seem as closely tied to current affairs as previous books have, but maybe that’s more to do with *gestures at state of world in May 2020* than anything to do with the book. Obviously I’m not expecting the author to have pandemic forecasting capabilities, though it does occur to me that getting a take on *gestures again at 2020 normality* from the likes of the slow horses will be an interesting thing to look forward to in the next couple of years.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

The Zig Zag Girl (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery, #1) by Elly Griffiths

Cover of The Zig Zag Girl (Stephens & Mephisto Mystery, #1)

I’ve enjoyed (on the whole) Elly Griffiths’ other series about Ruth Galloway but haven’t looked at this one before. Well, I didn’t look at it now. I listened to the audiobook. Just the right level of intriguing and entertaining for my news-addled brain to cope with at the moment. The last audiobook I enjoyed was a World War II story, this one is post-war Brighton, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’m finding that kind of historical setting relaxing at the moment. Everything will be alright in the end, somehow or other. I worked out one of the elements of the story before the characters did, which made me feel clever for seeing the clues, but not the main mystery plot bit which still surprised me nicely. I liked the characters and will be back for more.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

How to Argue With a Racist by Adam Rutherford

Cover of How to Argue With a Racist

As expected this was an excellent book full of explanations for why racist beliefs are a load of rubbish, which I won’t try and summarise for fear of arsing them up. It’s not a long book and it’s one I’m planning to keep on hand to make sure I get my facts right in future. I’m more of a “roll your eyes and keep well away from the racists” type but it’s good to be certain that the science is on my side all the same should I feel brave enough to start arguing.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

Us by David Nicholls

Cover of Us

Not really sure what I think of this one to be honest. I found it all a bit of a mixed emotional bag. My partner asked me what I thought of it when I was just getting into it and I commented that I found it odd how much high praise it seemed to have garnered, including a Booker prize listing. I said then that if it had been written by a woman I thought it would just have been in the “chick lit” corner, nothing special. Perhaps I’m being gullible to the review quotes on the cover etc which are, of course, supposed to make you think it’s the best … book … ever.

But then the central character seemed to be set up as someone to make fun of, even though he was the narrator. A clumsy scientist who didn’t quite get the wider world. I liked him, and understood a lot of his dilemmas and his social awkwardness. I didn’t want him to be a comedy character, I wanted the book to make you understand people like him.

But maybe it did. Towards the end of the book everything got smoother and nicer and he fitted better into the in-book world (though I thought the very end of the book was weird and a bit out of place with the rest of the narrative).

So overall I enjoyed the book but had a lot of “but”s about it, I enjoyed the book but not the story perhaps would be a better way of putting it. I think it just hit a few resonant frequencies in my brain and I can’t quite make sense of how I feel about it.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

Ruin Beach (DI Ben Kitto, #2) by Kate Rhodes

Cover of Ruin Beach (DI Ben Kitto, #2)

I read the first of Kate Rhodes other series a few years back and enjoyed it, but never got round to reading more of that series and it felt like it might be one of those series where you’d be missing the full value if you’d forgotten what was happening in the book before. When I saw she had another series going I picked this one up to try it out. It turned out to be the second in the series but that’s ok with me.

This is more of a straight forward police detective murder mystery than I was expecting, but I think that means I’m more likely to read another in the series! The setting is the Scilly Isles, which in this case means lots of sea, scuba diving and shipwrecks. The detective is Ben Kitto, thirtysomething and returned to his home from undercover police work in London (I’m not clear if that might be something covered more in the first book of the series) and generally I found him amiable enough. He felt like a character you could get to know over time rather than someone who puts all his cards on the table at once, again that’s something good for a series character.

There were parts of the plot that I thought were a bit weak, but I don’t want to give spoilers and it wasn’t anything book-breaking, perhaps I just wasn’t paying enough attention, it wasn’t enough to spoil my enjoyment. I’d definitely like to read more of this series.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

Death in the Stars (Kate Shackleton, #9) by Frances Brody

Cover of Death in the Stars (Kate Shackleton, #9)

Not my favourite of the series. The stars of the title refer both to the 1927 eclipse and the music hall stars that are involved in Kate’s murder enquiry. I’d have preferred a mystery that was more about the astronomy myself. Nothing terrible about it, it just never really quite grabbed me and I struggled to care enough about it to finish it. Though I did like the scene in Whitelock’s, a pub in Turks Head Yard, Leeds, which is still there today, and worth stopping in for a drink if you find yourself in the area.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

Mr. Churchill\’s Secretary (Maggie Hope Mystery, #1) by Susan Elia MacNeal

Cover of Mr. Churchill's Secretary (Maggie Hope Mystery, #1)

I selected this audiobook somewhat randomly on the Libby app when I suddenly needed some listening material for an afternoon in the car and none of my podcasts were appealing. I wasn’t expecting much of it but really got into it and enjoyed it. I was put off by the title, if it had been something more like “code breaking girl mathematician can’t get a job doing what she actually wants but saves the day anyway” it’d have been more enticing, to me at least. It was perhaps all a bit of a girls own story but at the moment that’s fine with me and, somewhat paradoxically, I found the wartime setting really comforting. I think that’s because a lot of my favourite childhood books were set during the second world war so it’s an era that invokes safety to me, assured as I’ve always been in the knowledge that it all ends up being alright in the end, even if the characters I’m reading about don’t know that. At the moment that’s a good concept to bear in mind.

In fact I enjoyed this enough that I decided to carry straight on and listen to the next audiobook in the series, but that was a bad idea. There was a different narrator which seemed all wrong, I should have left it for a while. I think I will try reading the next one sometime soon though.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

Accidents in the Home by Tessa Hadley

Cover of Accidents in the Home

This all fell a bit flat for me. It’s the first book by an author whose later books I’ve loved. I think it was a case of the problem being me rather than the book though. It’s a novel in the form of a series of short stories, all about members of the same extended family, and though this is a format I have loved in other books I never really got deeply engrossed with the characters here. Usually I like it when you think a character’s an idiot seen through one set of eyes, but then an alternative viewpoint makes you think differently. Here I just felt that people were acting nonsensically a lot of the time. But also I’ve picked the book up and put it down over a period of three months rather than giving it a good read, and the world is rather distracting right now, so my lacklustre reaction probably says more about me than the book!

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

The Acceptance World (A Dance to the Music of Time #3) by Anthony Powell

Cover of The Acceptance World (A Dance to the Music of Time #3)

I’m losing faith with my commitment to read this series. For the most part this one bored the pants off me. Our hero has finally committed to a girl (I think), and perhaps that might turn out to be an interesting relationship. In the previous two books I’ve thought that some of the background characters were more interesting than the ones in the foreground. Here though, one of the more interesting background characters stepped into the spotlight and proved himself deathly dull as well, so I don’t hold out much hope for an interesting relationship with the girl. If she gets upgraded to wife I expect she’ll never be mentioned again. It noted that the characters said they were “nearing thirty” at some point and I was amazed, in my head I still had them down as just out of college. I’m not sure whether to carry on since I’m finding the characters more rather than less juvenile over time! Still kind of curious though.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy by Tim Harford

Cover of Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy

I’d thought that this book might be a rehash of many stories I’d read elsewhere but was surprised by the amount of tales I’d never heard of that I found here. A couple of the stories that have stuck in my head are the one about how the Irish economy survived a six month bank strike in 1970 by using cheques and IOUs as a makeshift system of tradable debt, and how one of Selfridge’s novel visions for his department store was adding ladies loos so that women would stay and shop for longer. Even if you know these stories and others, there are many more than fifty interesting things in this book, each chapter has numerous examples and the book flows swiftly and interestingly by. It’s important to note that there’s no definite article in the title; these are fifty things that can definitely be shown to have made our world what it is today, but there’s no claim that they are the only ones or even the top fifty. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if there was a sequel to this with another fifty things at some point.

More information about this book can be found on goodreads.