News Where You Are and other Saturday books

Now that The Times has made its online content subscription-only, I thought I might provide readers of this blog with a regular update of books reviewed in the Saturday Review section, which I read in print each weekend (usually Sunday morning). I don't subscribe to the online version of the paper, though I do buy and read the print edition each day except Sunday (because I find The Sunday Times, a sister publication to The Times, dreadful). 

Saturday is the main books and arts review day for The Times, and it's the only part of the paper that is still in broadsheet form (annoyingly, as I like the tabloid format better). As I have written previously, there aren't that many pages to review all of the books, arts and cultural events of the week, so it is a bit galling that this Saturday devotes the first two pages (about a quarter of the entire content) to a huge picture of Jonathan Ross and text on why he loves Toy Story 3. Two pages of what is effectively an ad for the next Disney film, via a "celebrity" (a.k.a. a TV presenter)? Come on!

There are some better pieces later in the supplement, but this week's "crime and thriller" reviews are perfunctory. Peter Millar is given a measly 300 or 400 words to review three thrillers – Adrenaline by Jeff Abbott (Sphere, £6.99); The Messiah Secret by James Becker (Bantam, £6.99); and Death Row by Mark Pearson (Arrow, £6.99). None of them appeals to me, but if you are interested, the first is about a CIA agent whose pregnant wife is kidnapped, his office is blown up, and he's accused of treason – torture, people-trafficking and a Russian female "superspy" (I quote!)  feature subsequently. The second is about an ex-husband-and-wife team of policeman and "British Museum researcher" who team up when a bequest to the museum "reveals a gruesome murder and a missing document leading to the treasure of the world." 
Oflynn"Not one for devout Christians", laconically concludes Millar. (Becker's earlier two novels, The First Apostle and The Moses Stone, were given glowing reviews at Euro Crime by Amanda Gillies.) Third, Death Row is about a cop who is haunted by a child killer he caught 15 years ago and who now, from his jail cell, seems to know too much about some recent disappearances – "needless to say, not light reading for Roman Catholic clergymen" opines the reviewer.

The best news this week is that almost half a page is devoted to a review of The News Where You Are by Catherine O'Flynn (Penguin, £12.99), whose debut What Was Lost (review by Karen Meek of Euro Crime) was superb. The Times review of The News Where You Are is by Helen Rumbelow, who writes: "O'Flynn managed to place funny, death and the Midlands all inside the same ring road in her first book, and she pulls off the same feat of literary engineering here." Later in the review: "human love is what makes its mark, and 'absence is what remains of us.' It's not trite; O'Flynn convinces us of this. If her first book was called What Was Lost, her second could easily have been called What Remains."

Some reviews of The News Where You Are that you don't have to pay to read can be found at: The Guardian (review by Fay Weldon, who "applauds a second novel that fulfils the promise of its predecessor"), The Independent,, Rundpinne, and Mainstream Fiction (a.k.a. Harriet Klausner).


8 thoughts on “News Where You Are and other Saturday books

  1. Maxine – Thanks for sharing this with us : ). I agree completely that “celebrity ads” – especially those that take up so much space – are annoying. But I am excited about The News Where You Are. That’s on my TBR list, and I am very much looking forward to reading it : ).

  2. Maxine–The Times is part of News Corporation–and so
    is the publisher Harper Collins–I wonder if this has any
    influence on The Times’ reviewing policy.

  3. Yes, I am sure it did, Simon, as the first and biggest book review this week is The Times Guide to the House of Commons – not exactly a compelling demonstration of editorial independence of the book review section. Sigh. Thank heavens for the internet, where one can find many reviews of high quality.

  4. Thanks for this information,Maxine especially as I won’t buy a newspaper while a certain story is on the front page. Mind you the thought of a “huge picture of Jonathan Woss” is stomach churning.

  5. I’m so glad Catherine O’Flynn has a new book out. I liked “What Was Lost,” a lot and look forward to reading this one–although getting books over the Atlantic to my region takes about a decade. More and more the Book Depository will clean up from my orders and others who catch on to its decent prices, quick shipping and FREE shipping.

  6. Thanks for this – as a newspaper junkie now living outside the UK, I miss my daily fix of The Times, even if it’s not my political cup of tea. On a recent weekend trip I bought a mountain of papers, and am only just finishing the book reviews etc now!
    Incidentally, O’Flynn’s new book got a rather negative review in The Observer a couple of weeks ago. Cannot comment further as I have read neither of of them.

  7. I was somewhat shocked to see in today’s Times, the entire front page and several inside pages devoted to a syndication of Peter Mandelson’s memoirs – publisher, unsurprisingly, Harper Collins. Apart from anything else, the man is a midget whose opinions and accounts are of little interest. But mainly, it is usurping the newspaper role to do this quite so blatantly. It isn’t “news”, just some minor spin-doctor’s opinion of events. Events that were so recent that they have not got any mature thought or consideration behind them, such as when someone like Winston Churchill (or any number of politicians or other people) wrote his memoirs some years after the events concerned.

  8. Was so caught up in your news of Catherine O’Flynn’s new book that I neglected to say that I enjoyed your cracker-jack remarks about the three books reviewed by Millar. I will also not be putting them on my TBR list. There’s too much good reading to be done.

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