Thursday, March 23, 2017

march 2017 books…

Cheltenham Square Murder (John Bude): Another John Bude/Inspector Meredith book from the British Library Crime Classics. Originally published in 1937, it follows the pattern of the other Bude books I’ve read – somewhat implausible, far-fetched crime scenario with a group of unlikely characters worthy of a game of ‘Cluedo’… and the rather late-in-the-day introduction of key facts that magically allow the mystery to be solved! Nevertheless, an enjoyable, easy-read, escapist novel.
How To Disappear Completely (Si Smith): This 64-page comic is one of my Lent books this year. Its author/artist, Si Smith, is a great mate of mine. It’s profound, harrowing, challenging, sad, uplifting, funny and hauntingly beautiful. It reflects on the realities of life and faith in modern-day Leeds: “there is beauty here, if you look for it…but it’s a thin line – love and hate and this city is an ugly place too, with its gaudy excesses… and this compulsion to consume and be consumed”. But you don’t need to have a faith to appreciate this gem… it contains messages for us all in today’s materialistic, greedy world. A really excellent book.
Cross Country Murder Song (Philip Wilding): I bought this book on a whim from the £3 Bookshop. I didn’t read the blurb on the book’s cover – as far as I was concerned it was something of an escapist crime novel. Well, this proved to be a bit of an understatement. It’s a complex, disturbing, hauntingly sinister book. A man “with a headful of secrets” and a difficult past takes a journey from New Jersey to California. On his trip he meets a host of weird (and frequently frightening and often pathetic) characters. Let’s just say that it reminded me of watching one of Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns – when you lose count of the bodies in the first 5 minutes! It’s a strangely-compelling and very dark (with funny moments!).
The 12.30 From Croydon (Freeman Wills Crofts): Yet another crime novel (again from the British Library Crime Classics, first published in 1934)… my period of escapist, easy-reading continues! However, this is a somewhat unconventional crime story. It starts with a body but, almost immediately, we know who carried out the murder. The remainder of the book is seen from the criminal’s perspective – his ‘justification’ for the deed and his intricate plans to carry out the killing without leaving any traces. Will he get away with it? It’s a clever, unorthodox and very intriguing story.
Venice (Jan Morris): I bought the 1993 edition of this book (first published in 1960) in 1998. I’d never read it straight through until now (I’d previously read chunks of it, but only in a somewhat piecemeal fashion). Having re-read Morris’s “Oxford” book recently (and hugely enjoyed it again), I decided that the time had come for me to give ‘Venice’ proper consideration. Venice is probably my favourite city in the world. I think I’ve visited it four times – the first in 1968 (just two years after the great sea flood which made us fear for the city’s long-term survival) and the last time in 1997 (in celebration of our silver wedding anniversary). Morris is a simply brilliant writer and this is a truly stunning book – made all the better in the knowledge that, having lived in the city (and been a boat-owner), she’s able to get under its skin and reveal a very different picture of Venice. With her detailed descriptions and vivid prose (each page crammed full of history, engineering, art, culture, people and gossip!), she provides a COMPLETELY absorbing, factual and emotional evocation of this historic and captivating city. I think we need to return!

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