Wednesday, 24 December 2008

No Time for Goodbye

Title: No Time for Goodbye

Author: Linwood Barclay

Number of pages: 437

Started: 18 December 2008

Finished: 24 December 2008

Opening words:

When Cynthia woke up, it was so quiet in the house she thought it must be Saturday.
If only.
If there'd ever been a day that she needed to be a Saturday, to be anything but a school day, this was it. Her stomach was still doing the occasional somersault, her head was full of cement and it took some effort to keep it from falling forward or on to her shoulders.
Jesus, what the hell was that in the waste-paper basket next to the bed? She couldn't even remember throwing up in the night, but if she needed evidence, there it was.

Read an extract here

Plot summary:

On the morning she will never forget, suburban teenager Cynthia Archer awakes with a nasty hangover and a feeling she is going to have an even nastier confrontation with her mom and dad. She isn't. Instead, the house is empty, with no sign of her parents or younger brother Todd. At first she just thinks it's weird, then more and more scary, until finally the terrfiying reality hits her: in the blink of an eye, without any explanation, her family has simply disappeared. Twenty-five years later the mystery is no nearer to being solved and Cynthia is still haunted by unanswered questions. Were her family murdered? If so, why was she spared? And if they're alive, why did they abandon her in such a cruel way? Now married with a daughter of her own, Cynthia knows that without answers - however shocking they might prove to be - she will never be emotionally or psychologically whole, living in daily fear that her new family will be taken from her just as her first one was. And so she agrees to take part in a TV documentary revisiting the case, in the hope that somebody somewhere will remember something - or even that her father, mother or brother might finally reach out to her... First nothing. Then just a few crackpots and scam artists coming out of the woodwork. And then the letter, a letter which makes no sense and yet chills Cynthia to the core. And soon she begins to realize that stirring up the past could be the worst mistake she has ever made.

What I thought:

This was a very readable book. Not entirely convincing and not always well written but quite a page turner. It had a fairly decent plot, which did not always ring true and maybe didn’t have the most believable ending, but it was a reasonable read, if you can suspend your belief over certain aspects of it. This was a Richard and Judy Book Club book and you can take that as a recommendation or otherwise as you see fit.

A reasonable distraction if not entirely convincing.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Remember Remember

Title: Remember, Remember

Author: Judy Parkinson

Number of pages: 190

Started: 10 December 2008

Finished: 19 December 2008

Opening words:

Read the first page here

Plot summary:

Judy Parkinson's topically titled Remember Remember (The Fifth of November), offers a potted history of Britain to digest along with the toffee apples.

What I thought:

liked this book and thought it was a straightforward and accessible summary of British history. It was obviously only a really short summary of a series of major events, but I think it was a great feat to have managed to describe major events in history in such a concise way. I learnt a number of things through this book, not least some of the motivation for William the Conqueror invading. It gave me more sympathy for his cause having learnt that he had rather been dine out of something he had been promised i.e. the throne! It’s a really useful reference book and one that hopefully will prompt people to look at some parts of history in greater depth.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The Best of Father Brown

Title: The Best of Father Brown

Author: G.K. Chesterton

Number of pages: 287

Started: 11 December 2008

Finished: 17 December 2008

Opening words:

FLAMBEAU, once the most famous criminal in France and later a very private detective in England, had long retired from both professions. Some say a career of crime had left him with too many scruples for a career of detection. Anyhow, after a life of romantic escapes and tricks of evasion, he had ended at what some might consider an appropriate address: in a castle in Spain. The castle, however, was solid though relatively small; and the black vineyard and green stripes of kitchen garden covered a respectable square on the brown hillside. For Flambeau, after all his violent adventures, still possessed what is possessed by so many Latins, what is absent (for instance) in so many Americans, the energy to retire. It can be seen in many a large hotel-proprietor whose one ambition is to be a small peasant. It can be seen in many a French provincial shopkeeper, who pauses at the moment when he might develop into a detestable millionaire and buy a street of shops, to fall back quietly and comfortably on domesticity and dominoes. Flambeau had casually and almost abruptly fallen in love with a Spanish Lady, married and brought up a large family on a Spanish estate, without displaying any apparent desire to stray again beyond its borders. But on one particular morning he was observed by his family to be unusually restless and excited; and he outran the little boys and descended the greater part of the long mountain slope to meet the visitor who was coming across the valley; even when the visitor was still a black dot in the distance.

Plot summary:

GK Chesterton’s quiet and unassuming little priest has long since joined the pantheon of great literary detectives. Combining the shrewdness of Miss Marple, the insight of Sherlock Holmes and the punctiliousness of Hercule Poirot with the deep and intuitive knowledge of the dark secrets of human nature gained in the confessional, Father Brown is the perhaps better equipped than any of them to uncover the startling truth whenever murder, mayhem and mystery stalk society.

Summary taken from the back of the book

What I thought:

These were quite pleasant tales but they didn’t really grab me. I found them all very similar – similar sorts of crimes and all solved in the same sort of way: Father Brown has some great insight into human nature and notices a few things and then despite everyone believing something different has an insight that gets to the truth merely based on observation. He felt like a less convincing version of Sherlock Holmes, which to some may well be sacrilege to say so, but I just constantly wanted something more, as it all felt a bit pedestrian. Perhaps I missed something, but these were meant to be the best cases with the more mundane or less well written ones omitted and I still felt there was something missing from these to make them about a detective (or expert on human nature) who I really engaged with.

You can read all the Father Brown stories here.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet

Title: Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet

Author: MC Beaton

Number of pages: 238

Started: 8 December 2008

Finished: 10 December 2008

Opening words:

Agatha Raisin arrived at Heathrow Airport with a tan outside and a blush of shame inside. She felt an utter fool as she pushed her loads of luggage towards the exit.

Plot summary:

Agatha is convinced that the handsome new village vet has taken a fancy to her and is determined that romance will flourish. However, Dr Bladen is found dead and Agatha suspects foul play. This provides her with a chance to get chummier with her neighbour (and future husband?) James Lacey and use her amateur detective skills to find the killer. Although numerous ladies are devastated by the vets death, some feel that it is good riddance and that Agatha should stay off the case....before someone else gets killed. This is the second in the Agatha Raisin murder mystery series and exceeds all expectations.

Summary taken from Amazon

What I thought:

This was a readable and untaxing read. It is never going to win any prizes for high literature and is perhaps a bit clich├ęd, but it is a pleasant read and is an easy way to pass a few hours.