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Urbangril21 "urbangril" (Scotland)

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Daisy in Chains
Daisy in Chains
by Sharon Bolton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £8.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping but flawed, 5 Jun. 2016
This review is from: Daisy in Chains (Hardcover)
First the good news, and there's a lot: it's in a different league to the last one, set in the Falklands, which was an awful lapse of form. This one is gripping, absorbing, beautifully written, complex, clever and it almost works. Ms Bolton has attempted one of the hardest tricks in crime novels - can't say which one because of spoilers! - and I didn't work out which one it was till quite a long way in. But I did work it out before the big reveal and can't therefore give it the full five stars. Linked to this is the characterisation : some characters are very well done, primarily, of course, the Hannibal Lecter figure, Hamish Wolfe (SB is much into significant names in this book). Unfortunately, the figure of the dashing, handsome, fit, charming, clever doctor doesn't work for me because, leaving aside the dead women he's been given life sentences for, he's far too close to the archetypal Bullingdon Boy to arouse any sympathy from me, right down to the Oxford background. And to be honest, I could never like or forgive anyone who's done what he admits he did as a student, which is the arrogant, misogynist act of a total upper-class bastard.

The other feature of this book that makes me uneasy is the to-me flawed perception of women's size and weight, which is a major theme of the book. Honestly, wearing a size 16 or 18 and weighing 175 lb (both explicitly mentioned), does not make an average-height woman either grotesquely fat or the stuff of fat fetishism. Plump yes, deformed no. And naturally the female protagonist has to be a tiny size 8. Can't have a fat woman of equal status to the god that is Dr H Wolfe.

So to summarise - yes read it, you'll be gripped. But don't, unless you are a Tory lady with some odd ideas about weight and female worth, expect to go along with all its basic premises.


Private Life Of Doctor Crippen
Private Life Of Doctor Crippen
by Richard Gordon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Pompous and ponderous, 5 Mar. 2015
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Nobody could accuse Richard Gordon of wearing his considerable medical learning lightly. Huge, undigested lumps of History of Medicine 101 decorate this novel. The author's fawning weakness for the life and times of the rich English upper class is distasteful. The style is pompous, the characterisation minimal and Gordon manages the considerable feat of making the story of Crippen tedious. Not recommended.


Medical Witness
Medical Witness
by Richard Gordon
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A flawed man who pays the price, 11 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Medical Witness (Paperback)
John Rumbelow is England's top pathologist, a fixture in the courts and respected to the point of awe by the public as the book opens. His word can hang a defendant and he will be there to see it done and to perform the post mortum on the corpse of the hanged man. Or indeed woman, this being 1936. The book deals with a year in his life during which he, all by himself, destroys through his own failings and blindness the life he has built up for himself. He starts off the master of all things to do with the physical human body, but we find out in a short time that his grasp of human psychology is almost nil. And that includes his own.

Rumbelow is not an attractive character. But then again neither are most of the people round him. Richard Gordon was born in 1921 and has the attitudes of a man of that era, and nearly 100 years later it is hard to share his respect for the great gods doctors, judges and lawyers and contempt for working class men and, above all, women. He seems to feel that 'professional men' sit above others in the world and that they have every right to manipulate others for their convenience. Not that he spares the vacuous upper classes: they are either immoral, shallow or stupid.

The sad thing is that his doctors and lawyers now come across as pompous, self-important and generally pretty inhuman. It is taken for granted that the reader will share their own estimation of themselves, plus their automatic assumptions that conventional morality, the English Establishment, Toryism and the CofE are all that 'a man' needs take notice of. The one Scot who appears is a comic stereotype; 'Socialists' are spoken of with contempt; the working classes clutch their caps and call their betters Sir while being addressed by their surnames; women are pretty pathetic creatures, bless their little hearts.

And yet. The ghastly fascination of seeing Rumbelow destroy himself kept me reading. Gordon can construct a plot all right. He also does a very good job on atomosphere. I am ruthless with books that don't grab me and I have to say this one did.


Private Life Of Jack The Ripper
Private Life Of Jack The Ripper
by Richard Gordon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good in parts, 1 Nov. 2013
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Well. First thing, I read it to the end, and the denouement, though not all unexpected, is worth it. So for that he gets 3 stars. But it has its drawbacks. To call the style ponderous is a vast understatement. Huge chunks of undigested information, dialogue that no human being has ever uttered, laborious explanations for every single word of Victorian or rhyming slang, sometimes more than once, ditto for every instance of something even the slightest bit archaic. The characterisation is crude and one-dimensional, and strangely, the protagonist is hardly characterised at all. Maybe because he's quite unbelievable. No motivation, little emotion, no real background; he's a puppet. The victims are indistinguishable from one another and Dr Gordon achieves the remarkable feat of making the Ripper's crimes seem boring. The plot meanders all over the place and until the last chapter hardly concentrates on the Ripper. Not that that makes it boring, far from it. But tightly plotted it is not.

I am generally a ruthless reader who reckons life is too short for books that bore me, and this wasn't one of those. But the ponderousness of the style is a major minus factor.


Penguin Book of Greek Verse (Poets)
Penguin Book of Greek Verse (Poets)
by Constantine A. Trypanis
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant book, 16 Sept. 2012
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Wonderful book, with a full, chronologically-arranged overview of Greek poetry from Homer to the 20C. With Greek text in a very pretty and unusual font! I've had my copy since 1971 and dip into it continually. Highly recommended.


Now You See Her
Now You See Her
by Joy Fielding
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.21

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Passable but no more, 25 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Now You See Her (Hardcover)
Plot is...well, OK. It's all wrapped up a bit too quickly after a very long build-up, and I wouldn't call the twist exactly mindblowing - I spotted it coming pretty early on. The main character, Marcy, is frankly a pain in the neck and it's hard to sympathise with her as much as we're clearly meant to. But the really, really jarring thing is the fact that very obviously nobody who had to do with this book knew much about Ireland or Irish speech patterns or even customs, beyond the most obvious stuff (and BTW, Ms Fielding, just because you obviously went to Ireland and bought a guidebook does not mean you have to reproduce huge undigested chunks of Irish history and topography for the reader's edification - leave that to Dan Brown). Over and over again the characters say and do things that an Irish person just wouldn't - 'gotten', 'turn around' (rather than 'turn round'), 'in back'...and the prices of things are just crazy! - 680 euros for a few clothes in M+S? 150 euros for a night in a very ordinary B+B? I don't think so! And btw M+S salespeople do NOT chew gum while working nor do they treat customers in the offhand manner suggested. Other shops, perhaps. M+S, no. And M+S don't stock Calvin Klein underwear! All it needed was an editor who knew what they were doing and that Ireland is different from Canada. Shame the publisher didn't employ one.


Charm School - How to Make the Best of Yourself: "Girl" 1951-1960
Charm School - How to Make the Best of Yourself: "Girl" 1951-1960
by Lorna Russell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Priceless comedy, 14 Nov. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is absolutely hilarious stuff. All the careers are for naice middle-class girls called Daphne and Muriel, who all wear either spotless white overalls (yes, even the one working 'in dairy management' while hanging around a byre) or Dioresque coats with a pillbox hat, gloves and high heels. They get addressed as 'Miss' by their inferiors (eg the hotel receptionist when dealing with the plump, white-haired housekeeper) and by the lower orders whose lives they direct, and in the last frame a highly-respectable and fairly good-looking male colleague usually pops up. Their relationship, it is delicately implied, is professional FOR NOW, but who knows? My absolute favourite is 'Probation Officer'. The recalcitrant Jimmy is put back on the right road by our heroine 'taking an interest in him, Miss', to the extent that he acquires a suit with bow tie while his grateful mother wrings her hands in the background. And all in two frames. Brilliant.


Gad's Hall
Gad's Hall
by Norah Lofts
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book of two parts, in more ways than one, 3 July 2010
This review is from: Gad's Hall (Paperback)
I've been a Lofts fan for many years, but not an uncritical one, and this book, belonging as it does to the latter part of her writing career, is good but not beyond reproach. The two parts referred to above comprise not only the modern part of the book and the 1840s section, but also their relative merits. Basically, to me the Victorian part works extremely well; the family is so well-drawn and characterised, and NL's knack of creating a believable character is well-displayed. The girls evoke real feelings in the reader; Deb is particularly well-drawn and likeable, Diana and Caroline are slightly less so but are still very real people, and Mamma and George convince too. Lavinia is more shadowy, rather surprisingly as she's such a pivotal figure; perhaps it was by design that she has to be the girl we know least well. I am not surprised that her activities at the Foxtons' house are not described; it adds considerably to the mystery for us, the readers, to be in the same state of ignorance as the rest of her family, and no description could make the reader as uneasy as not knowing exactly what's been happening. The climax of her story is horrifying, and, seen as it is from Mamma's and Deb's point of view, very effective. NL has always been good at Suffolk family sagas, and this, with added black magic, is what Gad's Hall effectively is; so I don't object at all to the material about the girls' suitors and marriages, which may not seem to move the black magic plot much but is certainly gripping and readable.

It's when I turn to the modern part of the book that I struggle. NL by 1977 was old, and her writing style, always idiosyncratic, had become positively mannered to the point where her tics of style can become annoying in a modern context while fitting much better in a period one. Her tendency to come out with finicky, right-wing pronouncements again grates in a modern context, and surely even in 1977 the situation in which she puts the Spenders is hard to believe in. When a breadwinner becomes as disabled as Bob is, there is help to be had, and the obvious solution would have been for Jill to get a job; you get the feeling that it's only NL's right-wing sympathies that makes her make Jill and Bob so dead set on the very difficult course they take, while ignoring the obvious sources of help. Ella, with her inability to make a simple meal and her eighty-year-old retainer Elsie, are just ridiculous even in the context of 1977. They might just have made sense in 1947, but I'm afraid NL needed to take a good look around her in 1977, something she clearly didn't want to do.

That said, Gad's Hall is a cracking good story. One has to forgive the datedness of the modern parts; had NL decided to set those parts in 1937 or 1947 rather than 1977, the book would have worked better. But a gripping read.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 24, 2014 3:41 PM BST


Dead Like You
Dead Like You
by Peter James
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What has happened to Peter James?, 3 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Dead Like You (Hardcover)
First the good news - it's well-plotted, it moves at a fair lick and the atmosphere is well done. But it certainly doesn't deserve five stars. Why not? Firstly, the characters are solid cardboard, every one of them; each has one or two characteristics and never develops or deviates from the groove set out for them. And that includes Roy Grace. He isn't a real person and you don't feel you've got inside his skin. Secondly, the writing is far more wooden than it used to be; the style is plodding and even approaches the amateurish in places, which for a writer of Peter James' experience is remarkable - the more so because it's deteriorating with each book. For starters it would be a great help if 95% of the exclamation marks in the descriptive, ie non-dialogue, narrative were removed. A decent writer just does not use exclamation marks as PJ has taken to doing, and it jars horribly. (This, of course, is what editors are for...) And thirdly, the Sandy thing is just getting annoying. Please, PJ, wrap it up. It's unnecessary and tedious.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 9, 2014 9:17 PM GMT


Informed Consent (Hennessey and Yellich Mysteries (Hardcover))
Informed Consent (Hennessey and Yellich Mysteries (Hardcover))
by Peter Turnbull
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I have finally reached my limit with Turnbull..., 1 Mar. 2010
Finally, the appallingness of Turnbull's style has reached the point where I cannot read his books any more. Ponderous, unconvincing dialogue; no characterisation whatsoever apart from what is overtly given in the way of details of appearance, no character development from book to book and no way of differentiating one character from another, given that they all speak exactly the same leaden dialogue; the awful, awful set-pieces (Hennessey at home - he even reads the same book every time!!!; Yellich and his son; the post-mortem with Dr D'Acre; the ex-Hong Kong policeman - perlease!!!)I couldn't force myself through this one, it was so bad. Don't waste your time.


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