Book reviews that caught my eye

Some notable book reviews I’ve read over the past week or two:

Scott Pack on Deanna Raybourn’s Silent in the Grave. I am not usually a big fan of historical crime or of comic crime, but this one (Victorian era) sounds as if it might be an exception. It’s first of a series.

Brothers Judd on I am Legend by Richard Matheson. I re-read this book on holiday 18 months ago, and rather liked it again even though vampire novels aren’t my thing. It’s an economical little chiller, and so far as I recall, a then-startlingly original blend of genres. Brothers Judd liked it less than I did. Now it has been made into (another) film, this time with Will Smith in the Charlton Heston role. I don’t know if I’ll go and see it or not.

Scott Pack again, this time on Atomised by Michel Houllebecq. This is one of those iconic books that seems to indicate you are cool if you’ve read it, but I have never managed to bring myself to actually do that. Having read Scott’s views, I don’t think I’ve missed anything.

Karen of Euro Crime reviews The Christmas Bow Murder by Brian Battison, as part of her Its Christmas Crime series. Looks diverting. While at Euro Crime, this isn’t exactly a review, but Karen features the synopsis of the last and eagerly awaited (by me) Frost book, title Killing Frost, by the late R. D. Wingfield, out early next year. The first four books were excellent, dark police procedurals. I saw only a few of the TV series, in which the character of Frost is considerably softened. The books were much better.

Material Witness reviews Sephulcre by Kate Mosse, and likes it a lot. I am not so sure, I still have an unread copy of Labyrinth at home, so really ought to read that first. I feel put off by the hyperbole and the mixed reviews of the earlier book. It seems from the Material Witness review that Sephulcre might be better, but the "Da Vinci Code" genre of historical conspiracy/religious-supernatural isn’t my thing, I feel – In general I prefer the laws of the universe to be followed in the books I read (boring of me, no doubt).

Here’s another Material Witness review of a book that seems more up my street, Meltdown by Martin Baker. Hot stuff, in more ways than one.

David Montgomery of Crime Fiction Dossier reads his first "alphabet" mystery by Sue Grafton, T is for Trespass, and likes it. (The post is not a review, though.) I have enjoyed this PI series to date, having read all of the books. Although I look forward to T, I’m quite happy to wait for the paperback.

Is there anyone who doesn’t adore Ken Bruen? Crime Scraps here reviews Priest. I am seriously going to have to read this author, I don’t think I’ve come across a reader of crime fiction who doesn’t think he is fabulous, and he wins lots of prizes and awards, too. Crime Scraps on Priest: "a powerful brilliant dark book, full of insight in to the human condition, and with wonderful little vignettes about interesting characters."

And finally, for this post, Karen C of Aust Crime Fiction on I See You by Gregg Hurwitz. This book seems to be another for the "must read one day" list.

Philip Pullman: the podcast

You’ve read the books, you’ve seen the (first) movie, now at Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog – books: Guardian book club podcast: Philip Pullman, listen to the podcast (47 mins).  From the Guardian blog:

"In this month’s Christmas book club, John Mullan turns his attention to Philip Pullman’s expansive, magnificent His Dark Materials trilogy.

Listen to the podcast of last night’s book club event, in which Pullman talked about Milton, morality and heading for the Arctic, and answered some searching textual questions from younger audience members."

Lesson in climate-change science

There are two very good letters in today’s Times, in response to a rather poor one yesterday. Good on Chris Turney and Anthony Seaton, and no comment on Lord Leach (for reasons of length, Prof Seaton’s and Lord Leach’s letters are on the post continuation sheet).

Sir, Lord Leach of Fairford’s letter (“The false certainties of climate change theory”, Dec 20 and in the post continuation below) espouses a bizarre mixture of half-truths and misinformation. I find it entertaining that someone who in previous correspondence claims to be a non-scientist can so confidently list a series of “facts” that are wrong. The evidence for human-driven climate change is overwhelming: the world is warming up because of elevated greenhouse gases, the climate models can explain the cooling of the mid-20th century and if anything, projections for the future are conservative; reconstructions of the past imply the climate system is more sensitive to greenhouse gases than we might like to acknowledge.

No one is denying that scientists should be sceptical (that is our job), but to imply that those who deny climate change are somehow ahead of their time is wholly misleading. The greats who did so in the past put forward evidence that broke the consensus of the time and moved the science forward. Those who continue to deny climate change muddy the waters of action and delay the urgent measures we so desperately need. If Lord Leach still feels challenged by the science I suggest he reads some accessible blogs on climate change, such as www.celsias.com or www.realclimate.org. [Maxine adds: or Climate Feedback, the blog of Nature Reports Climate Change.] Once he has got up to speed on the science, Lord Leach might wake up to the considerable problems we face and make a more valuable contribution to the public debate: how to get ourselves out of the mess we’ve created.

Professor Chris Turney

University of Exeter

(Prof Seaton’s and Lord Leach’s letters are below.)

Continue reading