TSS week 1 post 5: a let-down

Sunday_salon_7It wasn’t good for much longer. The hero gets to London and confronts the various employers, eventually sorting out who ordered what and why. But then he decides to return to Switzerland to rescue his partner, who has been kidnapped by the rival assassins. Or is this the case? Unfortunately, the last few chapters of the book are taken up with sub-James Bond scenes of torture, Blofield-like villains, explosions and more torture.
Verdict: in the end, disappointing but it was a mildly diverting experience. If you are keen to read a conspiracy/adventure/political thriller, in my opinion you’d be better off reading Peter Temple’s In the Evil Day , which is excellent — or for something less contemporary, John Le Carre’s The Little Drummer Girl, which today seems remarkably prescient (it was considered too far-fetched to be realistic at the time. Ha!).

The books are on the shelves, the school bag is packed: but next week’s groceries are yet to be ordered and the evening meal is yet to be cooked. I may be back later.

TSS week 1 post 4: bookshelves

Sunday_salon_6 The Russians have kidnapped the "girl" and the hero is trapped on a boat with two companions, one of whom he thinks betrayed him. He’s on the boat because even though it is going in the wrong direction, he thinks it will lead him to information that will enable him to find out where the "girl" is and hence how he can rescue her. I have now got to fill out some bookshelves. I say "got" because part of our furniture moving today involves moving some bookshelves from upstairs to downstairs. Hence, I can put "downstairs" books into these shelves, selected from many of the tottering piles to be found everywhere in the house. If I don’t do it, someone else will. So the "girl" and the guy will have to wait for now, on their respective cliffhangers.

In the meantime, I enjoyed reading a review of Osman’s Dream: The History of the Ottoman Empire by Caroline Finkel, by fellow-Salonist Bill Parsons of BillBlogX. What’s more, from his blog, he looks like the kind of person who might know some things about Titus, Berenice, Vespasian et al., people in whom Jenny has considerable interest right now owing to her having read all 14 (15? 16?) of Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries stories in the space of about a week. Jenny, by the way, is writing her own Roman Mystery for her school reading journal. It is a great story, though I say it myself and she’s only written the first couple of chapters. It is lovely how she’s got the culture and social mores of the day interwoven with the mystery element.

TSS week 1 post 3: complications

Sunday_salon_5 One reason, then, for the absorbing quality of this book is that an iconic event is being looked at from a new angle (new to book publishing, that is).

But that’s not enough on its own. In addition to the set-up, complications abound. Half-way in, some of the elements include:

  • Two rival sets of assassins, each out to remove the other
  • One assassin defects from one group to the other — maybe.
  • The organisation who set up assassin 1 want to remove him now, to avoid loose ends.
  • The organisation who set up assassin 2 are currently focusing on eliminating assassin 1, but no doubt it will have its own agenda later in the book whether or not it succeeds in this immediate goal.
  • Assassin 1 (the hero) has to operate on his wits, one step ahead of certain disaster. This adds plenty of tension and excitement to events, in addition to the dilemma of who is responsible for commissioning him (and decommissioning him).
  • There are several government departments, security departments and even the Bildberberg group (subject of the hilarious "expose" Them, by Jon Ronson, a few years ago) involved, either in the set up, the cover up, or in taking advantage of the chaos that has ensued since the crash. So far, this isn’t too confusing as the reader is thankfully allowed to focus on one or two at a time to let them gel, before being whisked off to the next.
  • Relationships. There is love interest, jealousy, loyalty, betrayal and passion between individuals. Vignettes about other situations tangential to the plot tell mini-stories within the main story, a nice touch.
  • The crime. The investigation of the death of the princess and others in the car is not featuring much so far, thankfully, but it is there in the background — cleverly, often in the form of conversations between senior characters, rather than being described directly.
  • Pacing. We are aware of other potentially significant characters who are going to appear, but haven’t yet. How are they going to affect events?

So for me, the excitement works on various levels — "will they get away?", "who set them up and why?", "if they get away, how are they going to ensure their safety?", and more. So far, the author is keeping plenty of balls in the air, breezily cross-cutting between countries and characters with aplomb, and not letting the pace slacken for an instant: as soon as one situation calms down, there are plenty of other strands that can be tautened. Yes, the hero does have convenient friends who can hack into password-protected computers and set up a perfect sting with cameras in cigarette packets, but never mind– I can forgive a few flaws;-).

So this is where I was up to this morning before the day really got started. Since then, as well as these posts, I’ve been doing domestic chores, made the lunch, shifted furniture around, bagged up "stuff" for charity shops and the attic — and am currently typing to "Die Walkure" being listened to by the MP while he paints some shelves. So I’m off upstairs to read some more pages of Accident Man for as long as this window remains open.

TSS week 1 post 2: so why?

Sunday_salon_4 So why am I enjoying Accident Man? Although the opening is pretty cliched, the writing is good and the story soon kicks in.

The first big event is that car crash – my aversion to reading about this topic is dealt with effectively in two ways: first, events are described sparely, quickly and are soon over; and second, they are told from a unique perspective — that of the [would-be?] assassin[s?]. So where the real world has been and is focused on whether or not the crash was an accident, the book’s premise is to treat the reader as an insider, assume it was not, and then depict events immediately after the event from the perspective of the [?] killer[s?] — who do not know who was in the car, so the author provides some nice touches: the attempted escape by the perpetrators in parallel with their realisation of what they [may have] done.

TSS week 1 post 1: derailed

Sunday_salon_3 I thought I had the perfect solution to how I could contribute to my first Sunday Salon. Unlike many other bloggers, I’ve noticed, I seem to have little ability to ringfence my blogging time from work (in the week) and domestic duties (at the weekends). Most of my Sundays are spent catching up on keeping the household minutiae that crop up and build up in the week from becoming an unstoppable tide. How, therefore (even with the help of the extra hour due to the ending of British Summer Time), could I hope to contribute to a whole day of reading and blogging about it?

Karen of Euro Crime, the generous source of about 60 per cent of my total reading material these days, came to my rescue in mid-week. Her latest parcel of goodies contained not only a book that I’m keen to read but three small novellas. Perfect, I thought, I can whizz through those on Sunday in between doing the ironing, clearing out Jenny’s room in preparation for a long-awaited makeover, and assisting with the parts of the half-term homework that are so dire they have been left till the last day, and write the odd paragraph or two about them while I am at it — and my duty will be done.

But I’ve been derailed by Accident Man, a book by the pseudonymous Tom Cain. I didn’t know/had forgotten what this book was going to be about when I picked it up the other day, after finishing my previous assignment for Euro Crime, but I could see from the cover that I was going to hate it, for two reasons: one, it was clearly going to be one of those "granite-faced assassin" thrillers, with toffee-nosed foreign-office bosses, evil Russians on motorbikes, lovingly described machine-gun makes, triple crosses, etc; and second, it is that book  — yes, the one about Princess Diana and how she really died in that car crash, a topic about which I am totally allergic. So, I thought, fine, I’ll read the first 50 or 100 to do it justice, but by then I’ll be hating it so much I can drop it by Saturday, just in time to start the three novellas on Sunday morning.

But, darn it, I’m hooked! More later!

Join us at the Sunday Salon

Sunday_salon_2 A reminder that the first Sunday Salon is today. Set up by Debra Hamel of the Deblog and Clare Dudman of Keeper of the Snails, the Salon is a way to spend a relaxing Sunday reading and chatting online about reading. See this page for how to join, the chat so far, and some suggestions for discussion topics. (I have added this link to the far right of my blog bar, also.)