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piscator (London)

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The Troubled Man: A Kurt Wallander Mystery
The Troubled Man: A Kurt Wallander Mystery
by Henning Mankell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 14.39

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a sad display of failing powers, 30 Jan 2012
First of all, either Henning Mankell is writing in a much more wooden way than he used to, or his translator is not very imaginative. One of the enjoyable things about the previous Wallander stories was that one could almost forget that they hadn't been written in English. There's no chance of forgetting with "The Troubled Man". Presumably the translator is American- there are some very odd idioms in this book and a depressing lack of variety in the vocabulary. Over and over again Wallander feels "tipsy", which is a word one associates with aunts at weddings. And at one point someone throws a "wrench" into the works. It all gives the impression that one is watching the events through a slight fog.But the main problem is with the plot itself. It's good to have Wallander back, although the business with Linda and her baby all happens rather fast and rather perfunctorily. The story of the disappearances, and the background to them, is a good and interesting one, especially for those of us who remember the real "Whisky on the Rocks" episode and the investigation could have been really exciting- the procedural parts of this were as well done as in the rest of the Wallander novels. But the answer to the puzzle is unfortunately fairly obvious from the beginning and quite blindingly so by the middle of the book, so much so that I was expecting an extra twist that would make the ending interesting. There wasn't one.Was the extreme obviousness a hint to the reader of Wallander's failing powers? I wondered, but no- it's Mankell's powers that are waning, which is much sadder than the book's sudden and strangely dull ending. I had hoped that Mankell was just having a bad day with "The Man from Beijing", which was chaotic, unrealistic and hysterical, but it seems not.


Making Shore
Making Shore
by Sara Allerton
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.92

4.0 out of 5 stars a very impressive piece of description, 22 Jan 2012
This review is from: Making Shore (Paperback)
This is not a perfect book, as many of the reviews seem to suggest. It is however very powerful. The account of the ordeal suffered by the survivors from the torpedoed ship could hardly be bettered and this is the most important part of the novel. It should also be borne in mind that this is the part contributed to a large extent by the real-life Brian Clarke. Sara Allerton's writing is at its best here and she conveys the everyday torment of thirst and the gradual deterioration of civilised relations very compellingly. Outside of that central experience, however, the descriptions are often seriously over-written. A good editor should have gone through the opening chapters and taken out most of the adjectives. But my main problem is with the characterisation of Joe, who, for all his whistling and his chirpy humour, never seems real, and the over-arching plot line, of the friend made to promise to lie to the sweetheart in order to help her "move on" after Joe's death is not only unrealistic and unconvincing, it is morally repugnant. It simply isn't true to assert that someone would eventually be happier to think that her sweetheart had never really loved her, and it would not be the action of a friend to place an obligation on another person to tell such a monstrous lie. This is a very sentimental idea that greatly diminishes the dignity of the rest of the novel.


The Fear Index
The Fear Index
by Robert Harris
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 18.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not so much fear as irritation, 20 Jan 2012
This review is from: The Fear Index (Hardcover)
From Robert Harris, this is a very disappointing novel, the sort of plot one might find in a film that never makes it to the cinema but stays on video. It isn't giving much away to say that the book draws on the Hal nightmare- the computer in "2001 A Space Odyssey" that eventually takes over, and that could have been a decent starting point. But Hal's reason for aggression was a logical need to survive, faced with the possibility of being turned off, whereas there is no such motivation in "The Fear Index". One would be willing to overlook the ludicrously unlikely events for the sake of a more convincing characterisation and a more coherent message.If the moral is that chasing after money makes you less human, well, no surprises there.It's not clear what we are supposed to make of Hoffman, beyond the fact that for such a clever man he is remarkably slow on the uptake.Why did Gabrielle marry him? What really has she to do with the story at all? The contrivances are too obvious- Hoffman has to have a past in order to be vulnerable, and the psychological details of it are foolishly sensational. I suppose the story is to be taken as a kind of metaphor, but metaphors need to work on the literal level before they become metaphors, and this one doesn't work literally, as the gestures towards Darwin don't in the end agree with the plot: the Fear Index depends on fear, and for that you actually need human beings.


Death Comes to Pemberley
Death Comes to Pemberley
by P. D. James
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 7.60

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It was never going to work, 19 Jan 2012
I read this just after reading "The House of Silk" and the difference between the two helps to clarify what is wrong with "Death Comes to Pemberley".One thing is the characterisation- we don't need Holmes and Watson to express themselves very much except in the odd ridiculous bit of deduction on Holmes' part. With Jane Austen, however, the characters are revealed almost entirely in their conversation, and in this book we are given characters that we already know very well. How can they reveal themselves again, except to appear as duller versions of what they were? P.D.James is far too sensible to suppose that she can reproduce Jane Austen's art- instead she can only remind us of things, which is usualy a mistake. Other reviewers have commented on this.A very important part of Austen's art is that her heroines should learn to understand themselves, usually through the effect of love. This has nothing to do with a murder story and of course the book isn't serious, but still one feels that there are areas which could have been explored better. The "back history" of Mrs Yonge was promising and if we had been shown Lydia Wickham in her new life, something could have been made of her, but Lydia is kept firmly out of the way. We never even find out how much she understands what is going on, which is surely important? Certain details don't seem to fit well, such as Colonel Fitzwilliam's ambiguous attitudes and behaviour, and the final explanation is really too long and not sufficiently central to be satisfying.That is really the problem- a violent action is at the heart of the story, yet almost every dramatic scene happens offstage. It is almost as if the book had been written as an epistolary novel.P.D.James is a very literate lady and perhaps she should have tried that. As one would expect, this is a wellwritten novel, even elegant in parts, and naughtily affectionate towards the great Jane- good to see old friends turning up here and there- but it is structurally diffuse and has little momentum.


The House of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel (Sherlock Holmes Novel 1)
The House of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel (Sherlock Holmes Novel 1)
by Anthony Horowitz
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A modern but convincing rendering of Sherlock Holmes, 19 Jan 2012
The House of Silk begins entirely convincingly in the style of Conan Doyle and continues in that vein. It's true that Holmes does evince a more modern sensibility than he is given by Conan Doyle, with regard to child poverty and so on, but it is not described sentimentally and it seems to me that even when we read the original stories we believe automatically in Holmes' absolute integrity and assume that his moral responses will be fundamentally decent, even if his manner now strikes us as verging on the autistic. In Conan Doyle's time it wasn't necessary to make this plain, but with a modern novel it is, and therefore the spelling out of Holmes' moral outrage doesn't strike the reader as out of character. The nature of the crimes uncovered wouldn't have appeared in a novel of Doyle's time, but of course they were prevalent at that time and I think this slight "time-travelling" of response deals very successfully with the problems necessarily involved in composing a book of this kind. I wouldn't call it a pastiche but rather a tribute.


First Cut is the Deepest (A Harry Devlin novel)
First Cut is the Deepest (A Harry Devlin novel)
by Martin Edwards
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Full of promise but too much going on, 30 Dec 2011
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I am new to Martin Edwards's writing and have read a couple of the Lake District stories, which on the whole I prefer. Harry Devlin has the potential to be quite an interesting character and it's refreshingly different to have a crime story set in Liverpool, although it is a very grim Liverpool and the constant darkness and urban decay becomes very oppressive and even boring after a while.There is surely more to Liverpool than that.This is a very bloody set of murders and the motivation for them strikes me as farfetched, as does the characterisation of the murderer. I can't elaborate for fear of spoiling the plot.A problem with Devlin, as with so many of these freelance investigator/lawyer/journalist heroes is that we are supposed to believe he is powerfully attractive to women, but the writing gives us no reason in his character, conversation or appearance to explain why he should be. Another drawback to one's enjoyment of this book is that there are too many downright weird people in it, any one of whom could be a vicious murderer, so that we don't much care which one it is. My other criticism applies to Edwards' other novels as well as this one- his characters are unrealistically ready to commit suicide. This is a lazy way of clearing the stage- on the whole even very vain people don't throw themselves off buildings just to make a dramatic exit. One suspects that Edwards is not confident enough of his plot's ability to conceal the murderer and this is why he overloads it with unnecessary complications.


Death by the Mistletoe (Black Dagger Crime)
Death by the Mistletoe (Black Dagger Crime)
by Angus MacVicar
Edition: Hardcover

2.0 out of 5 stars Oldfashioned and amiable but very silly, 30 Dec 2011
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This is rather a ridiculous book. I read it because someone remembered it as a good story from his childhood. It's enjoyable because so extremely oldfashioned. With an unlikely plot, blindingly obvious villains and bumbling detection, it is still readable as a sort of period piece, and it would do well as a lovingly upholstered Christmas drama for BBC but I couldn't seriouly recommend it as a crime novel.


Bresser Junior Children Binoculars 6x21 - Green/Blue
Bresser Junior Children Binoculars 6x21 - Green/Blue
Price: 20.40

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars hardwearing and very sensible for children, 30 Dec 2011
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I bought these binoculars for my grandson who is interested in stargazing. The advice of teachers was not to buy a telescope for a young child but binoculars instead as these are easier to use. I have been quite impressed by the quality of the magnification and he is delighted with them.They look attractive for a child and seem pretty sturdy.


Kitchen Craft Poachette Rings / Egg Rings, Non-Stick Set of 2
Kitchen Craft Poachette Rings / Egg Rings, Non-Stick Set of 2
Price: 3.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars do the job efficiently, 30 Dec 2011
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I bought these as substitutes for cooking rings, but they work just as well and no doubt will poach eggs, although I haven't tried them for that. perfectly satisfactory.


The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England,1400-1580
The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England,1400-1580
by Eamon Duffy
Edition: Paperback
Price: 12.96

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant and necessary book, 28 Nov 2011
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I read this when it first came out and bought it again recently for a present. It should be required reading for anyone interested in the history of the Reformation, challenging the old Whiggish assumptions about popular attitudes to the religious changes and to the means employed by the authorities to enforce them. Duffy backs up his thesis with rigorously researched documentation. Engagingly written and an enthralling, often tragic, story.


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