Category Archives: Review

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…

A Sudden Death in Cyprus

I was already a fan of Death in Cyprus, so it’s just as well Michael Grant added two more words to make his thriller A Sudden Death in Cyprus. Just so I can tell him apart from M M Kaye..! That one was rather more clean-living, not to mention romantic, than Michael’s offering sixty years on.

Adult it may be, but it’s still pretty clean, and I’ve learned at least one new use for a toilet. His author [former] crook David Mitre shares a lot of traits with Michael himself, including ‘the girl in the window.’ So Mr ‘Mitre’ may be a mere 42 years old, boasting symmetrical looks (I understand this is good), but he’s an attractive enough reformed villain, with enough brains, and Mr ‘Grant’ has given him a worthy crime to deal with.

Yes, there is death. After all the title suggests it. But mostly it’s a thrilling mystery-solving exercise, and I particularly like it when heroes can cobble together a team on the hop, so to speak; one that works well and gets us all where we want to be. Except possibly for David himself, who’d like to get a bit further with some of the ladies. (I believe it’s good for him to have to wait.)

And he is funny, this David/Michael. Just the right amount of funny. What more can you want apart from the gorgeous actresses, sullen French neighbours, FBI Special Agents, priests, sex workers and refugees? And hamsters.

When he’d solved the problems in Cyprus, I waited all of one day before turning to the next David Mitre story.

Tiger Heart

The young chimney sweep Fly in Tiger Heart by Penny Chrimes is almost a Dido Twite. She can cope in the kind of a situation where you find yourself sharing a cage with a tiger. He is, of course, not just any tiger.

Nor is Fly just any girl. They are both magic, and because they can talk to each other, it becomes clear that the tiger believes Fly to be a princess. Well, she knows she isn’t, but she can still make the best of a bad situation. And suggesting making money out of displaying the tiger to the public isn’t that way.

There is much evil surrounding her, but also much love and respect, both from the tiger – once he stops wanting to eat her – and the other creatures kept in cages. Fly also has some truly good friends, the way girls like her often do.

But as I said, there is evil, and it’s hard to go up against it and win.

But you know, any sort of second cousin of Dido’s will try doing just that, and princess or no princess, there is no telling quite how things will turn out.

But you can guess. And having guessed, this tale still makes for a great read; with rubies, elephants, pirates and long lost families.

I loved it.

Highfire

This was lots of fun! It was also rather gory, with not only missing body parts but a fair bit of death and destruction. It’s only what you’d expect when you have a real live dragon in a Louisiana swamp, a cheeky teenage boy plus a pretty crooked cop.

Highfire by Eoin Colfer shows, as did his earlier adult crime novels, that he can be just as funny when writing for grown-ups, but also that he knows plenty of bad language. If it weren’t for the air turning rather blue around Vern, as the dragon calls himself, this would almost suit Eoin’s child fans. Almost.

15-year-old Squib Moreau is working hard, if not legally, to see if he can get himself and his mother out of the swamp, and preferably away from Constable Hooke who wouldn’t mind knowing Mrs Moreau a little better.

And then Vern happens, and when he does, he happens a lot, in an unavoidable fashion. He wants to kill Squib. Squib doesn’t want to be killed, and there we have a problem. But it’s not as big or bad a problem as the one of staying alive when Constable Hooke gets going.

Think Carl Hiaasen and his Florida criminals, except this is a state further west and there is a dragon. Highfire has been labelled fantasy, but it all feels quite normal. There is just a fire-breathing, flying dragon. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. Squib is small and human, and Vern is bigger and more dragon-shaped.

As I said, not everyone survives. And it’s hard to work out how Vern can avoid being discovered, but those swamp-dwellers are canny people. Unless they are dead.

Personally I wouldn’t mind more of this. It could be a sequel..? It could, couldn’t it? Or a standalone. As long as there is more.

The Missing

We both had reasonably normal and uninteresting and safe childhoods, ten years and many miles apart. We also had [maternal] grandfathers with a liking for holes. But where my Morfar asked me to save him the holes in the Emmental cheese, Michael Rosen’s Zeyde wanted the holes from their bagels.

The other difference is that Michael’s father had two great-uncles who ‘were there before the war, but weren’t after.’ The war was WWII, and when Michael had grown old enough to realise this was not a normal thing to say about your family, he began decades of research to discover what happened to Oscar and Martin Rosen.

It’s rather amazing that in the end it was possible to discover enough of what probably happened. It was slow, but then Michael was looking into things in a different country, in the past, during a war. I feel he could easily have found absolutely nothing.

His search is both inspiring and frightening. It’s wonderful that he could find, but what he found is horrific and tragic.

I’m just grateful that he went to the trouble and that he then wrote this little book, The Missing, about his great-uncles, and filled it with so much feeling and so many of his beautiful poems.

And then we learn how he has gone into schools to talk about this and some children ‘know for a fact’ that none of this actually happened.

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. It’s time to remember the Oscars and Martins of the past. While we hope there will be no more in the future, we know there will be.

Skulduggery Pleasant – Bedlam

I’m late. Sorry. But I had to buy Derek Landy’s latest Skulduggery Pleasant book Bedlam myself. And then I had to find the strength to carry it home. No, I didn’t. The postman did. After which it suffered because of its sheer size when I couldn’t take it out with me.

It’s the end. Or is it? Well, actually, not only are a few of the characters still alive on the last page, and I daresay others could be revived a little, but I cheated and looked online and there seems to be another book coming. Soon. Just as well I read this one now.

Bedlam. Where shall I start? As usual, I wasn’t sure who was still alive and who was friends with whom, because this keeps changing so much. But basically, Valkyrie needs to make her younger sister unhappy again. Can’t have a child so content, despite the dead hamster and all that.

And then there’s all the rest, fighting between the magic world and the ‘normal’ one, and fighting within these worlds, and being stabbed in the back by your best friend, both literally and figuratively. It’s exciting and it’s funny.

What also makes the Skulduggery books stand out is that Derek has so many female characters who fight and are strong, as well as being sexy and good looking, and it feels so much more equal. None of this one token female and then lots of guys. Valkyrie rules, or maybe it’s China who does. Or Abyssinia. Serafina is powerful, as is Solace, and there is no getting away from Tanith. We like Tanith.

In fact, among the males we have a dead [obviously] skeleton and various scarred men, vampires and ghosts. Plus we have Omen Darkly, who continues being seemingly mostly useless and kind. But sometimes that’s the best person to be.

Anyway, as I might have been saying, much gets sorted towards the end. Some not. And with a few characters a little bit alive, we need more of the same. Which, according to Wikipedia, we will get.

I will alert the postman.

All the Dear Little Animals

How could I not love Ulf Nilsson’s All the Dear Little Animals? To begin with, anything illustrated by Eva Eriksson is automatically extremely loveable. And the story of three children who hunt out dead animals so they can bury them is also rather sweet, don’t you think?

It starts with a bumblebee, which died of natural causes, and its death causes the poetic narrator and his friend Esther to arrange a funeral for it. Our narrator is good at coming up with poems for the ceremony.

And then Esther’s little brother Puttie discovers what they are up to, and he cries. He cries so well that he becomes their official crier. Puttie – unlike his older sister – finds death rather upsetting. He can see that when he dies, their parents will be very distraught.

Esther, on the other hand, avoids telling him that the most likely scenario might be the other way round. This, presumably, is for the adult who reads with their young child to decide to discuss. Mortality, and how it makes you feel.

Once they have hunted out a good many corpses, dug graves, read poems and cried, they are satisfied.

Tomorrow they will do something else.

(Translated by Julia Marshall, this is not a new book. Not even in translation. I would have liked the original title to be mentioned, so I didn’t have to Google it; Alla döda små djur.)