A winter wrap-up of reviews

A few good book reviews I've read in the past few days:

At The washingtonpost.com is a retrospective of Patricia Highsmith's first two Ripley books. When I read these books as a teenager, I responded to them as something really rather different. Which indeed they are. Patrick Anderson sums it up well: "Highsmith delights in rubbing our noses in the horrors that lie beneath the veneer of civilization, beneath the fragile mask of sanity. There's no one else like her, and that's just as well, but she was an artist, one whose literary gifts were as exceptional as the rage that drove her fiction."

Not crime fiction, but this looks good, from the American Scientist at Powells Books: The future of the internet and how to stop it, by Jonathan Zittrain. Lovely review about the unforeseen benefits of making the net "stupid" (although unforeseen, not unpredicted that the approach would be beneficial). "Will the Internet a decade from now retain its generative soul and continue on its breathtaking path of participatory innovation? Or will we find ourselves in a world of tethered appliances and locked-down phones? At the end of the day Zittrain's message is one of hope rather than reassurance, but it's the best hope we have. This book is a must-read for any student of technology and policy, and its prescriptions are a must-do for the future of innovation in the digital age."

A new Anita Shreve! This one is called Testimony, and here is a review by the esteemed Kim of Reading Matters. I'm ashamed to say I still haven't read Bodysurfing, which for some strange reason came into the Nature office as a review copy – I gave it to Kim, who read and reviewed it and then very generously sent it back to me. I have been somewhat distracted by crime fiction since then but I really must read it. Enough ancient history, Kim says of Testimony that it is the "story of a sex scandal at a private school in Vermont from the viewpoint of some 24 different characters. It sounds crazy to have so many voices in the mix, but somehow, in Shreve's capable hands, the structure works without losing any narrative drive. But given the story is such a cracking one it would be almost impossible not to convey a sense of urgency and excitement in the telling of it."

Lots of chat and news about the lovely and talented Icelandic author and civil engineer Yrsa Sigurdardottir over at FriendFeed and various blogs, but a straight review of her very good debut Last Rituals has been dug out for me, very kindly, by Frank Wilson. Frank shows us all how the review business is done, of course, but it is interesting that he and I both picked up on the Dashiel Hammett vibes. Frank's take: "The most winning characteristic of Last Rituals, however, has less to do with suspense than with charm. Thora and Matthew are quite different in many ways. He is punctilious and methodical, if a tad impractical at times, while her method is more, shall we say, improvisational. But the two have in common a sense of drollery that enables their relationship to develop in a bantering manner that seems more natural than fictional. In fact, by the time they have solved the crime, they are well on their way to becoming a Nordic-Germanic Nick and Nora Charles."  (My effort is here.)

Finally, for tonight, here is Ms Bookish on Not in the Flesh by Ruth Rendell. Ms Bookish thought: "Wexford fans are always thrilled with a new Wexford novel, but this one isn’t quite up to par with previous ones. Still, very readable." I agree but would be more positive than this – Wexford novels have become a little thinner and more relaxed with time, but, as Ms Bookish says, always such familiar friends – and the author is never shy to address uncomfortable contemporary issues head-on.