Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The House of Silk

Title: The House of Silk

Author: Anthony Horowitz

Number of pages: 416

Started: 13 February 2013

Finished: 19 February 2013

Opening words:

I have often reflected on the strange series of circumstances that led me to my long association with one of the most singular and remarkable figures of my age.  If I were of a philosophical frame of mind I might wonder to what extent any one of is in control of our own destiny, or if indeed we can ever predict the far-reaching consequences of actions which, at the time, may seem entirely trivial.

Plot summary:

It is November 1890 and London is gripped by a merciless winter. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are enjoying tea by the fire when an agitated gentleman arrives unannounced at 221b Baker Street. He begs Holmes for help, telling the unnerving story of a scar-faced man with piercing eyes who has stalked him in recent weeks.
Intrigued, Holmes and Watson find themselves swiftly drawn into a series of puzzling and sinister events, stretching from the gas-lit streets of London to the teeming criminal underworld of Boston and the mysterious 'House of Silk' . . .

What I thought:

I have read a number of Sherlock Holmes stories and so was interested to read a new novel carrying on the tale.  It was a good story and there was something quite comforting about sinking into Dr Watson’s narrative of his friend’s detective skills.  It has been some time since I have read any of the stories by Conan Doyle, so I can’t remember enough to directly compare whether this story was a credible continuation.  However, it seemed to fit within the style of the previous books.  Readable and a decent continuation of the series.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Forgive Me

Title: Forgive Me

Author: Lesley Pearse

Number of pages: 487

Started: 7 February 2013

Finished: 12 February 2013

Opening words:

Cheltenham, 29 March 1991
Flora kicked off her shoes, pulled her dress over her head and tossed it on to the bed. She was about to remove her underwear too, when a glance in the gilt-framed cheval mirror stopped her.
Dressed, she still looked quite trim for a woman of forty-eight, but naked she was flabby and her skin pale. She couldn't bear the thought of anyone seeing her like that. Not even in death.
She opened a drawer, took out the ivory silk slip which matched her bra and knickers and put it on. 'That's better,' she murmured.
Removing the band holding her hair back, she ran her fingers through it till it tumbled down over her bare shoulders. Her Titian-red wavy hair had always been her best feature, and even now, as desperate as she felt, she was proud of it.

Plot summary:

When Eva Patterson returns home from work one day, a devastating scene awaits. Her mother, Flora, lies dead in the bath. Beside her is a note saying: 'Forgive Me'.
Eva had always believed her family life to be secure, but the suicide changes everything. And when Eva discovers that Flora has left her an artist's studio in London, she realizes just how little she knows about her mother.
Eva moves to London and meets Phil, her knight in shining armour, who agrees to help restore the now derelict studio, as well as offering the friendship she so badly needs. It seems that in the 1960s her mother was a successful artist, and in the studio's attic Eva finds a collection of Flora's paintings and diaries, purposely left for her. A hunt for answers leads Eva to a psychic, who warns her to beware of a 'sleeping serpent' . . . referring to a shocking crime committed by Flora.
Will discovering the truth about her mother destroy Eva's belief in everything she holds dear? And who will stand by her when the journey leads her – and those she loves – into certain danger?

What I thought:

I had mixed feelings about this book.  As plots go it was very readable and I did genuinely want to know what happened.  However, I was not so enamoured with the writing style of the book.  I found the author sometimes used far too many words, and that the extra words did not really add to the beauty of the prose but just spelt out a point in too much detail.  I also thought some of the way people spoke was just not natural - the phrasing was too complicated.  I probably didn't really need to know that amount of information about the installation of a kitchen either.

It was a very readable book, but no great work of literature.  I was surprised to see that the author has written a large number of books because this did not feel like the work of an experienced author.  I would be interested to read another of her books to see if it is another strange mix of decent plot and lots of superfluous words.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

The Island

Title: The Island

Author: Victoria Hislop

Number of pages: 473

Started: 22 January 2013

Finished: 6 February 2013

Opening words:

Plaka 1953
A cold wind whipped through the narrow streets of Plaka and the chill of the autumnal air encircled the woman, paralyzing her body and mind with a numbness that almost blocked her senses but could do nothing to alleviate her grief.

As she stumbled the last few meters to the jetty she leaned heavily on her father, her gait that of an old crone for whom every step brought a stab of pain. But her pain was not physical. Her body was as strong as any young woman who had spent her life breathing the pure Cretan air, and her skin was so youthful and her eyes as intensely brown and bright as those of any girl on this island.

The little boat, unstable with its cargo of oddly shaped bundles lashed together with string, bobbed and lurched on the sea. The elderly man lowered himself in slowly, and with one hand trying to hold the craft steady reached out with the other to help his daughter. Once she was safely on board he wrapped her protectively in a blanket to shield her from the elements. The only visible indication then that she was not simply another piece of cargo, were the long strands of dark hair that flew and danced freely in the wind. He carefully released his vessel from its mooring -there was nothing more to be said or done - and their journey began. This was not the start of a short trip to deliver supplies. It was the beginning of a one-way journey to start a new life. Life on a leper colony. Life on Spinaloga

Plot summary:

On the brink of a life-changing decision, Alexis Fielding longs to find out about her mother's past. But Sofia has never spoken of it. All she admits to is growing up in a small Cretan village before moving to London. When Alexis decides to visit Crete, however, Sofia gives her daughter a letter to take to an old friend, and promises that through her she will learn more.

Arriving in Plaka, Alexis is astonished to see that it lies a stone's throw from the tiny, deserted island of Spinalonga - Greece's former leper colony. Then she finds Fotini, and at last hears the story that Sofia has buried all her life: the tale of her great-grandmother Eleni and her daughters and a family rent by tragedy, war and passion. She discovers how intimately she is connected with the island, and how secrecy holds them all in its powerful grip...

What I thought:

This was a well written book, which transported the reader into the story.  This might be seen as a touch unfortunate given that part of it was set in a leper colony.  It was a family tale that unfolded as a woman finally found out her mother’s true story.

It was also a book that helped to break down some of the mythology around leprosy, the stigma around the disease being a significant part of the story.

It was a sad and moving tale, but also one about loyalty and family relationships.  A good read, well told and with some poignant moments.