I love holidays, but hey, who doesn't? This year we headed off to the sunny Canary Island of La Palma. One of the great joys of being away is the fact I get quality reading time. I packed six books to take with me, and I managed to finish them all.
Here they are, and rest assured there are no spoilers in the following text:
Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler
This is the first Bryant & May novel. The first one I read was The Victoria Vanishes which I enjoyed so much I decided to read the series in order. For those who don’t know; Bryant & May are two ageing detectives who head up the Metropolitan Police’s Peculiar Crimes Unit.
Full Dark House starts and ends in the present day but the narrative jumps back to world war two London, and it really tells the story of the young Bryant & May on their first meeting / investigation. Our central characters are colourful and engaging. Bryant is irascible, he doesn't understand women, he’s an English eccentric fond of a practical joke or two and damn the consequences. You can’t help but like him. May is his antithesis. Good looking, affable, popular with the ladies even in his advanced years.
Bryant is constantly looking for the unusual motive, while May is more grounded in his approach. Ultimately, they like and respect each other, while occasionally infuriating one another. Yes, they’re like a married couple.
The book is engaging and witty, while managing to incorporate elements of historical fact without dropping the reader into a history book. The plot is engaging and is set within London’s theatre world.
I didn't quite enjoy it as much as The Victoria Vanishes, but it’s a great introduction to the Peculiar Crimes Unit and the ever great Bryant & May. If you like crime fiction, and if you haven’t given them a go, I can heartily recommend this book.
Last Seen Wearing by Colin Dexter
This is the second Morse adventure, and I have to say that this was pure brilliance. Characterisation, pace, plot, dialog…I could just wax lyrical about this all day. If you haven’t read the Morse books, please, give them a shot.
The main story twists and turns so many times that you’re basically on the last page before you know where the endings going. I don’t want to say anything else in case I say too much. My favourite holiday read, and one of my favourite reads of all time.
We’ll Always Have Paris by Ray Bradbury
I love Bradbury. The Golden Apples of the Sun was the first book that blew me away, the first book that gave me that spark about writing my own stories.
This later collection of short stories doesn't quite live up to his earlier works, but there were quite a few in the collection that I really liked.
Nobody does nostalgia quite like Bradbury. His prose has a poetic edge to it that is unmistakably him. He takes us to Mars and to L.A, he tells us strange little stories along with tales of everyday life, but ultimately for me Bradbury’s stories are always about human nature. Simple tales of you and me beautifully told with colour and life.
The Mysterious Mr. Quinn by Agatha Christie
I love Poirot. I've never read a Miss Marple adventure, but Nemesis in in my reading pile. I've read several of her stand-alone books, and other tales of her lesser known sleuths. Christie’s sales and seemingly undying popularity speak for itself. I am undoubtedly a fan.
Having said that this collection of short stories featuring the titular Mr. Quinn was a mixed bag. These stories were very different from anything else of Christie’s that I've ever read.
Harley Quinn is not a detective, amateur or otherwise, he’s a supernatural figure of mystery. He appears at the most opportunistic times. All of the stories feature the unflappable Mr. Satterthwaite, who is basically the main character in all of the stories.
Mr. Quinn questions what people have seen, or at least what they think they've seen, and the aforementioned Satterthwaite does the rest. Once the conclusion is set the mysterious Quinn disappears in much the same way as he magically appears.
Worth a read if you’re a Christie fan and you fancy reading something slightly different.
The last two books on my reading list? They were guilty pleasures; two books from my childhood that I wanted to revisit. Very much geek material so I’ll spare you the details.
More posts soon including a release date for the 13 Anthology.
M J Wolfson - That's me.