Category Archives: Crime

The Fowl Twins

Would it work, this move from Artemis Fowl to his twin brothers Myles and Beckett? Could they be as charmingly bad as their big brother, and would we miss Butler, and what if Eoin Colfer had lost his touch? Yes, yes, yes and no.

They seem so young! Eleven is nothing. But the Artemis we first met was similarly young and just as crooked, and intelligent, calculating everything he did to suit him. Myles is a cold fish, not hesitating to hack Artemis’s security system to get things his way. And Beckett, well, a delight, but one who would quickly wear you out if you actually met. If he was actually real. Charming, and not quite as stupid as he makes you think he is.

Eoin Colfer, The Fowl Twins

Being twins they have that unspoken way of working well together, and the mere fact that Myles has prepped Beckett to do what needs doing, when it needs doing, is a testament to both their abilities. And they have NANNI, an AI minder (who can also be a little hacked).

We have fairies. (It’s an Irish story, after all.) One Barbie-sized troll, who is quite vicious, or would be, were he not encased in plastic. One small, but ancient, non-magic pixel (half pixie, half elf), who is less invisible than she thinks.

And we have baddies. A Spanish speaking nun and a Duke from Scilly, who is very old. Plus the requisite horde of stupid muscle.

Together they all make for a fun and fast paced reading adventure.

There is no point in me explaining anything that happens in this first book about the Fowl twins. It’s just one of those times when you sit down and read and enjoy the ride. I mean, maybe not when face-to-face with the shark. But otherwise it was – mostly – lots of fun. What am I saying? It was fun the whole time. Except maybe for the nits. And, er… yes. Fun.

The Good Thieves

‘What do you think of Katherine Rundell?’ I was asked in an email, chatting to one of ‘my’ authors, some time last year. My response was that I didn’t think, really, as I’d not read any of her books, but that her new one, The Good Thieves, looked very promising. Except I’d not been sent a copy, and when I checked in the shops it was a hardback and a bit pricey.

Katherine Rundell, The Good Thieves

But I had gathered that Katherine Rundell is an author of interest in the business. So she and her book went on my Christmas wish list, and here we are. (Father Christmas took pity on me.) I’ve had a most enjoyable read of this children’s ‘light crime’ novel, set in New York in the 1920s. It’s not just the cover that is gorgeous.

The pace is slow to begin with, detailing the arrival in New York of Vita and her mother, on a journey of mercy to rescue her bereaved grandfather. But she has plans, and accidentally coming across three unusually talented children, she plans another kind of rescue than the one her mother is working on, with lawyers, etc.

Vita wants to restore her grandfather’s lost castle to him, and throws herself and her three new accomplices into a minor war with a mafia style group of vicious men. They may be powerful and cruel, but they’ve not counted on Vita, or Silk, Arkady and Samuel. Each has very useful skills.

The plot as such isn’t necessarily all that original. What makes The Good Thieves such a special tale is the way this plot is executed. There are little surprises here and there, and there is so much warmth, and courage.

I’d have been quite happy for the book to be longer. But on the other hand I wouldn’t have wanted to inflict more pain and injury on our young heroes. And I suppose I can always run away and join a circus.

(My thoughts on Katherine Rundell are that she’s a very good thing. I might have a need to read more of her books.)

The Lammisters

I suspect Declan Burke’s new novel would make a good film. In fact, I have no way of knowing that it’s not already happening. Set in Hollywood, slightly under a hundred years ago, it would be appropriate. And I do enjoy humorous films.

The Lammisters is completely different from Declan’s other crime novels, which – mostly – take place in Ireland, featuring inept and sometimes bad characters, but usually also very funny ones. If they talk too much, it’s because they are Irish.*

Here, though, is a narrator who uses a lot of words. Long words. Fancy words. Complicated sentences. Footnotes. That sort of thing.

Not being as well read – or educated – as the Guardian’s Laura Wilson, I don’t know Laurence Sterne, although I have heard of him. I gather it is his style that Declan has gone for. The review in the Guardian was very positive, which is well deserved. To my mind, all his books ought to have got a mention there.

It’s a period I like a lot, and coincidentally it’s the second of two crime novels set in that period that I had lined up over Christmas; one on each side of the US. (More about that tomorrow.) And the cover is fabulous.

Declan Burke, The Lammisters

* Apologies for the stereotyping…

Chai and crime

Still trying to get my head round being ‘back to work’ properly.

One of the many interesting books the Resident IT Consultant was given for Christmas – not by me – was the one about Dishoom, which some of you will know is a chain of rather tempting ‘Indian’ restaurants in the UK. It’s both a travel book and a recipe collection.

As I was idly looking through it, I noticed the map of Mumbai folded into the inside hard cover. Once unfolded by me, it revealed place names I recognised.

They were from another book, or rather, series of books. Vaseem Khan’s crime novels are set in Mumbai and his retired Inspector Chopra drives around his city, taking in these places. I realised I’ve just never had a visual idea of how these places relate to each other, or indeed, what Mumbai looks like at all, apart from the odd photo.

So that was nice; two different genre books having this in common. Both are about food, in fact, since Mrs Chopra always cooks and always makes me hungry. As does Dishoom.

Then I finished off by reading up on how the divine chai at Dishoom is made. I will have to make it, although I will use less sugar.

Hercule Poirot’s Christmas

Casting around for more Christmassy books, the only one I could find was Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. I’d not read it since prehistoric times, so felt it would do. I believe it was on television not too long ago, but I couldn’t recall who’d dunnit. If television even had the same murderer.

Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot's Christmas

It’s not terribly Christmassy, though, is it? Set during a few days over Christmas, but with the festivities cancelled by the bloody murder of the rich old man whom everyone but his eldest son hated.

I vaguely recalled the how of the crime, and the gist of the who, but that was all. I realised one should concentrate on the kinder/better end of personalities, and to allow for some happiness at the end. Not that most of the characters are nice. On the other hand, the corpse had not been kind when he lived.

But I’m intrigued how much books like Agatha Christie’s change when reading them from ‘the inside’ by which I mean in the country in which they are set. Everything looked so much more exciting when viewed from another country. I’m totally with Pilar who was disappointed in the Christmas she’d been led to expect.

Too late for this year, but I need advice on more Christmas novels. Preferably cosy ones that leave a warm glow.

Bookwitch bites #146

Bookwitch hasn’t ‘bitten’ for a long time. But better late than never.

Danny Weston has a new book out, which he launched in Edinburgh on Friday. He had to do it without me, but I gather it went well enough despite this. It’s called Inchtinn, Island of Shadows. Danny had even baked Inchtinn cakes. I bet he ate most of them himself, or possibly his friend Philip Caveney helped with the eating. (I won’t post that picture here. It is too dreadful.)

Danny Weston, Inchtinn

If it’s dreadful you’re after, you only need to look at this photo from when the witch met Vaseem Khan at Bloody Scotland last month. Vaseem looks just fine, but, well, that creature on the left… Sorry.

Vaseem Khan Twitter

That was the event when we discussed humour and how important it is, while not being taken seriously (!) by enough publishers. This is what Sarah Govett has found as well. After her dystopian trilogy a few years ago, she has tackled teen humour, much in the vein of Louise Rennison. If she’s to be believed – and I see no reason why not – teens are crying out for more funny books. India Smythe Stands Up is the book for you, fresh from Sarah’s keyboard.

Sarah Govett, India Smythe Stands Up

It’s important to keep track of children’s books. Even the Resident IT Consultant seems to feel this. I was a little surprised to find his companion in the holiday reading sofa, but who am I to say anything?

Daniel Hahn, Children's Literature

And, I knew this news was coming, but it’s still good to have it confirmed. There is another book from Meg Rosoff. It’s old YA, or some such thing. And not very long, apparently. We will have to wait until next summer, but the witch who waits for something good… (The Great Godden, since you ask.)

Meg Rosoff book news

Strangers at the Gate

Wow! If you want an intelligently plotted and well-written crime novel, that will only partially keep you awake at night, then Strangers at the Gate by Catriona McPherson is the answer.

Catriona McPherson, Strangers at the Gate

The murder is pretty gruesome and after a while you realise that there are only so many possible suspects, and that makes your life a little difficult. Yes, some of the characters are a bit odd, but you don’t necessarily want them to be the one who did it.

The question is, ‘did what?’ Finnie and Paddy are newly married, and suddenly find themselves moving from Edinburgh to a small – and strange – town, in a deal that could be described as too good to be true. And you know what they say about such things. Although the weather is awful – Scotland in winter – and the dead bodies not exactly fun.

But Paddy is dead keen to be made partner of the law firm, and Finnie gets a post as deacon in the local church.

If dead children and disappearing corpses are your thing, look no further. In fact, even if they are not, and I really don’t like dead children, this book is it.

I’m so clever I noticed one clue before even Finnie did, and then I saw another, which was actually never part of what happened. I’m really glad I read this novel. I suspect I could be a fan for life, now.