Yet another plundering from my pre-blog capsule reviews on the trusty spreadsheet. I’m not quite running out of meaningful reviews yet, so here is another selection from 2007 or earlier, all crime or thrillers this time …
Pompeii by Robert Harris
Reading this novel, one is reminded of the classic Monty Python scene in ‘Life of Brian‘ where, when asked “What have the Romans done for us?”, one of the rebels answers “Aquaducts.” Well, Harris’s impressive research teaches us all about them! Pompeii itself is but a minor character in this rather thinly plotted story. Enjoyable enough but ultimately forgettable. (6/10)
[Now: I included this rather short one purely for my pithy comment above! This 2003 novel was a curtain-raiser for his ‘Cicero’ trilogy, but I haven’t read them.]
The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell
Published in 2003, this is rather different to the first Wallander novel, and took me by surprise by venturing into Le Carré territory involving our dogged detective in an international conspiracy in Latvia – so less of a police procedural and more of a spy thriller. It starts off with two bodies in a life-raft, who turn out to be Latvian. When the Latvian major who comes to Sweden to help investigate is murdered on his return to Riga, Wallander is asked to help the Latvian police, but becomes embroiled in the nationalist struggle to free Latvia from Soviet shackles – it is 1991 and the Baltic states are not yet free.
Although this is only the second Wallander novel I have read, (and I like to stay with the order), I prefer the police procedural – I think it suits the dour Scandinavian inspector’s character better. My one quibble with Wallander though is that he is meant to be in his mid-late 40s, but feels ten years older to me with his world-weariness – heavens I’m about the same age as him, but being an optimist mostly feel very much younger! (6/10)
[Now: You know me and reading series – its rare that I get beyond the first few, and that’s the case here too – I watched the TV adaptations instead, preferring the Branagh ones.]
Day of Confession by Allan Folsom
I couldn’t put this book down. This thriller has a ludicrous plot straight out of Hollywood and action all the way, breathlessly taking you from conspiracy to daring escape and rescue several times in the space of its length. Two brothers – one an ex-Marine turned priest in the Vatican, the other a Hollywood lawyer are the lynchpins in uncovering a Vatican Cardinal-gone-bad’s plan to take over the Chinese economy. They are aided and abetted by an assortment of society’s misfits, and American journo and CIA agent, and other members of the brother and sisterhood. But they are up against a cunning hitman and the Vatican police who are more than a match for them at first. Gripping throwaway stuff.
[Now: I’m not embarrassed about loving the occasional schlocky thriller – indeed Folsom’s The Day After Tomorrow, which I’d read earlier, was even more preposterous yet enjoyable! These books are my palate-cleansers.]
Making History by Stephen Fry
In his third highly entertaining novel, published in 1996, Stephen Fry takes us on an intellectual roller-coaster ride, posing the eternal question ‘What if …Adolf Hitler had never lived?’. You’d think the world would turn out to be better, wouldn’t you? Well the answer is not necessarily, as our hero Michael Young finds out after meeting Professor Leo Zuckerman. The Prof is a man consumed with hatred for Hitler, who just happens to have a time machine that can do the business. Michael wakes up in a different world, where Hitler never existed, but Rudolf Gloder did, and Michael soon gets into deep doodoo. His best novel yet.
[Now: I honestly can’t remember anything about this novel!]
Silent Partner by Jonathan Kellerman
Child psychologist Alex Delaware is stunned when an old flame returns to town, says she has problems, makes a date with him, and is murdered before they get a chance to speak. Convinced it’s not suicide, Alex is drawn to investigate the convoluted life of his old lover, a promising young psychologist too when they met, and her Svengali-like professor. He ends up having to peel away layers of deceit surrounding her and in doing so he is forced to look at his own situation and relationships. Kellerman was a psychologist before becoming a novelist, so all the theory in the novel is based on his experience. His hero, Delaware, is passionate but laid-back (I picture Clint Eastwood circa “Play Misty for me”) and has the detachment of an outsider, yet he’s never dull. The pages zip by as the realisation of what people do to hide the truth is gradually revealed. The best yet of the Alex Delaware novels for me, although a bit of a chunkster at over 600 pages.
[Now: This was the 4th Alex Delaware novel originally published in 1989. Kellerman is still writing them – we’re up to #35 in 2020! I only read a couple more back then.]
Have you read any of these?