Books 7-12 / 2016

7) Disclaimer by Renee Knight – decent page-turner thriller type with enough character depth & twists to keep me gripped. The central premise (you open a book to find you are in it etc) is a bit hokey but well used and it all just about stands up. Good holiday fodder. 6.5/10

8) The Saint-Facre Affair by Georges Simenon. A quick short read from one of the masters of the detective novel. Love a bit of Maigret, me, and it’s escapist not only because of the plot but because of the setting in Maigret’s home village. If you’ve never read Maigret, then highly recommend you do – and lose yourself a bit. 7/10

9) On the Move by Oliver Sacks (thanks to Liam Black for recommendation & loan). I only knew Oliver Sacks from the film Awakenings & a few of his neurological stories. A weightlifting, motorcycling, drug-taking lover of poetry I did not expect: and a friend of Stephen Jay Gould, W H Auden and Francis Crick amongst many – a great, enlightening, honest read which will send me back to his books. 7.5/10

10) Mortality by Christopher Hitchens. A much shorter read, for obvious reasons (Hitchens died before completing the work). He is a fabulous writer with a great turn of phrase, even when being shocking or disagreeable or talking about his own terminal cancer: “I’d been knowingly burning the candle at both ends…and finding it gives a lovely light”. Like Sacks’ memoir, it has prompted me to buy his other works (essays, autobiography) to revel in his erudition & hopefully expand my brain in the process.7/10

11) The Private Patient by PD James. In the best tradition of Agatha Christie but with more depth & nuance: PD James novels are the most English of any, I think, and this is no exception. A nod to some modern themes (the tabloid press, plastic surgery changes to probation) but ultimately this could have been set anytime since 1850, pretty much – complete with country manor, servants, vicar etc. No less entertaining for that: she’s a great (character) writer, and it takes off in the second half. 7/10

12) The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino. Dubbed the ‘Japanese Stieg Larsson’, which is always a bit worrying…but this was pretty good. The Japanese landscape and culture seems particularly suited to thriller / murder mysteries, and this one is very nicely done: evocative and creative in the way characters are brought to life and the way the plot is structured. Eminently readable and enjoyable, if not as interesting or dark as something like Shuichi Yoshida’s Villain (which is great as well – I’m reading Parade by him soon…). 7/10

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