Monthly Archives: February 2020

Last Victim of the Monsoon Express

The fact that I actually bought an ebook is testament to my fondness for Baby Ganesh, my most favourite baby elephant. I discovered that Vaseem Khan had published a novella about Ganesh and his Inspector Chopra, [retired]. And I had to have it. (Took me a while to manage to get it to climb into my Kindle, but that’s my lack of IT skills.)

And it’s set on a train! What could be better? Well, according to Chopra, the size of the dead birds they served for dinner could be greater.

Like the Orient Express, this is luxury train travel, Indian style, and very lovely. Or it is for those who don’t end up murdered, or are suspected of having done the deed. To make up for it, there is of course Ganesh. Because there is nothing strange about taking your elephant on board a train. At all.

An unpleasant man dies. Before too long it seems as though just about everyone on that train had a reason to want him dead. Chopra just has to choose which one it might have been.

Adult relaxation

You may have noticed I have been more grown-up lately. In the last few weeks I have both by chance and on purpose read more adult books. I set up Bookwitch mostly for children’s books, while also saying there would be some older crime.

Strangely enough, it has felt more relaxing reading some adult thrillers and stuff. I don’t know why, although it could be the same way I never fancy eating vegetables when I’m ill. Not saying children’s fiction is anything like greens. But you need different things at different times.

The other intention behind Bookwitch was to go on and on about children’s books.

‘Yes,’ I hear you say. ‘You already mentioned that, just now.’

It’s just, I never imagined I’d be reviewing brand new books all the time. It simply happened. I was fully intending to hark back to books I’d read some time ago; occasionally books that were really quite old and not in the news.

I like keeping up with the new (as you might have noticed when I moaned about my lack of Carnegie list success the other day), but there is no doubt about it; it’s hard keeping up. With Jules Verne or an older Celia Rees novel, there is less urgency. You just read, and then write a bit about them. Old Jules won’t even know I have his book in mind, so complete relaxation there.

I don’t know how I imagined I’d be able to feed you on my reading from the past, for 13 years. Even two years. Quite simply, I wasn’t thinking.

An Artful Assassin in Amsterdam

Oh the alliteration in that title! This is Michael Grant’s second thriller featuring his younger alter ego David Mitre, of the symmetrical looks. He’s even given the man an author event at Waterstones. In Amsterdam. It’s as if he knows.

So first someone tries to murder David, and works quite hard at it too. After which more strange stuff happens, and David’s favourite FBI agent – the very special one – turns up and wants him to be useful again.

He obviously has to do what she says, and then he comes up with  ways of embellishing that task a little.

I’m somewhat concerned that a famous Amsterdam museum should be so lax in its security, but perhaps Michael made it up. Every single weakness gets a mention in this novel, so I sincerely hope none of you will want to break the law now.

It’s most satisfying how David plans what has to be done, and how he puts an impromptu team together in order to ‘help’ the Very Special Agent. And Chante is growing on both him, and us, I reckon. Or it’s her cooking.

I could easily read a lot more of these, except I suspect this might be it.

Kirkie’s new one

I was reading the Stirling Observer at breakfast, minding my own business, when I came face to face with Kirkland Ciccone. Not in the flesh, but close enough.

Half a page’s worth, where he tells the story, i.e. the background to his new novel, Happiness is Wasted on Me, all about Cumbernauld, which will be published soon. This one is an adult one, if that is even possible with Kirkie.

We’ll see.

It’s Clare Cain at Fledgling who has been brave enough to take him on.

Back to my yoghurt…

The long Carnegie

Well, I have read four of the books on the Carnegie Medal longlist for 2020. They were all excellent. As I’m sure the others on there are as well. Just wish I’d had the opportunity to read a few more. (I know. I could have kept myself properly informed and gone out and got them.)

The list for the 2020 Kate Greenaway Medal is far worse, when it comes to me. Not a single book. But presumably twenty really good ones, nevertheless.

No granite for me

All I needed to do was keep that one day in February clear. Not too hard a task, you’d think. But as with the unavoidable snow two years ago, I had this lurgy, and I could see it’d last too long. I didn’t want my event with Sara Paretsky to have a The Mirror Crack’d kind of scenario. If the woman was willing to travel all this way from Chicago, I didn’t have to go to Aberdeen to infect her and her fans with anything.

But you’d think a cold could be satisfied with a week of me.

Anyway, what I’m doing instead of seeing Sara with Denise Mina in Aberdeen, is trying not to pass the cold on to a whole different host of people, travelling, when I perhaps shouldn’t. I hope they have fun without me.

I will think back on my snowy journey to Nottingham all those years ago, and my subsequent trip to Glasgow to see Sara talk to Denise, also ‘some’ years ago. One can learn to be satisfied with what one has already had.

Besides, Sara recently admitted to having killed Mr Contreras. I mean, she didn’t, because her heroic husband threw himself in front of the bullet, and Mr Contreras lives. But still…

Bury Them Deep

It’s time for the 10th Inspector McLean novel. Or Detective Chief Inspector as we now need to address James Oswald’s Tony McLean. There’s been a promotion or two along the way since we first met him. And in a way, this doesn’t suit our Tony. He’d rather be out doing than dealing with the overtime of others, or for that matter, the politics of getting on with his superiors.

I have missed the last two books due to the fact that James insists on writing new ones every year. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to keep up, but apart from everyone having been promoted since I met them, they are mostly the same. No MacBride, and some of the bosses are retired, but still rootling around in the basement.

It helped that we revisited an old bad guy I’d come across before, and that I remembered both him and one or two other old cases that got a mention. I’m guessing some of the bad guys were so deliciously bad that it was worth going a second round with them. Though my use of the word ‘delicious’ might not be in the best of taste…

Ahem. Well, this is another ghastly tale set somewhere in and near Edinburgh. We meet the victim early on, and when that happens, it usually means they will come to a sticky end, and that we’ll be right there when it comes. There is some supernatural stuff, again, which you just can’t explain.

Ordinary poor thieves might be bad, but they have nothing on the much better off bad guys. The ones who normally get away with it.

And it’s hot. Tony is still badly dressed for what he is doing, but this time it’s not the lack of gloves that gets to him. But it seems that the police mustn’t cavort around in shorts and t-shirts, while others wear nothing at all…