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No, I haven’t forgotten about writing up stocks..! Have an (interesting) few I was just about to buy and write about…but haven’t pulled the trigger yet…hey, what are you buying in this bloody market, either?!

Time for some lighter entertainment instead:

Fiction:

‘Dark Fire’ – C.J. Sansom:   I don’t know why I haven’t got any further with this series yet..! I actually have ‘Sovereign’ (the third in the series) already, so have had to put it aside until I can read ‘Dark Fire’. These books are ultimately crime dramas, but set in an accurate and wonderfully atmospheric depiction of life in Tudor England. For a little variety, Sansom’s also written a wonderful Spanish Civil War thriller, Winter in Madrid, which I highly recommend. I am reminded of Robert Wilson’s excellent novels set in Lisbon, The Company of Strangers and A Small Death in Lisbon.

‘The Man from Beijing’ – Henning Mankell:   Who would have ever guessed that Scandinavian crime novels were going to become so popular?! I like Jo Nesbo, but the ‘Next Stieg Larsson’ tag (?) is a little off putting. Nothing wrong with sticking with one of the originals, Mankell has a number of non-Kurt Wallander novels – this is one of them, and it’s not a police procedural either, more an international thriller set in Sweden, China, America and Africa.

‘The Blindness of the Heart’ – Julia Franck:   This is Julia Franck’s 4th novel and the first that’s been translated from German. This novel spans two world wars and several generations of a German family. The opening scene is devastating, and this theme of abandonment is echoed throughout the novel – the scars of war run deep.

‘A Lily of the Field’ – John Lawton:   I probably shouldn’t be planning to read this one – just noticed that it’s the 7th in the Inspector Troy series. Oh well, let’s give it a go – if you’ve ever experienced it, sometimes it’s marvelous to burst in unannounced half-way through a series, and then be inspired enough to go back to the beginning of the series for a proper introduction. Lawton covers the years 1934-1948 and continues to drift away from writing crime novels to writing multi-layered historical fiction thrillers.

‘The Passage’ – Justin Cronin:   Waited a little impatiently for this to come out in paperback – Justin Cronin launches a planned trilogy with this dystopian vision of a post apocalypse world divided between small bands of human survivors and the hordes of vampires, or ‘virals’, that surround them. A welcome antidote to the Twilight craziness: a) it’s actually literary (Cronin is a Professor of English), b) Cronin clearly grasps that vampires are not sexy and brooding…presenting them as pretty much mindless/instinctual animals instead, and c) there’s no creepy virginity sub-text (although the Vatican seems to have missed that). Ugh, sorry, even making fun of Twilight leaves a bad taste in my mouth – God, it’s not even worthy of scorn?! – let’s never speak of this again…

‘Faithful Place’ – Tana French:   I haven’t really figured out if Tana French is Irish or American..? Perhaps that is a good thing, she has a marvelous eye and ear for modern Ireland, never once veering into ‘Oirishness’. It seems like there are far too few Irish writers who can actually manage to write about Irish characters in a universal fashion. All hail John Banville and Colm Toibin! French writes a mean whodunit, but in every book she expands her universe of characters and paints a more detailed portrait of their internal lives. I look forward to reading this book, but it will be tough for French to top The Likeness.

‘Started Early, Took My Dog’ – Kate Atkinson:   Jackson Brodie is the hero of this novel again, but as usual I’m sure much of the book introduces and follows a host of new characters. A little hard to describe Atkinson’s books – as Brodie is an ex-cop and a PI, they can be vaguely classified as crime novels, not a very adequate description… She can be a little uneven, but when she hits the mark her novels are a delightful, and demented, meander through the lives of her characters. Plenty of deadpan humour helps also.

‘The Bayou Trilogy’ – Daniel Woodrell:   A rather amusing source for this one – I noticed it on Obama’s ‘summer reading list’. A little surprised by his choice, or rather that he let it become public – after all, this book appears to be about drinking, porn, crime and rednecks. Perhaps he thought there was something to learn about Republicans in there?! Certainly looks worth a read (and it’s a trilogy, great value!), and the prose promises to be pretty dark and muscular.

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