I’ve read one or two books since the last one I reviewed here (Trophy Hunt by C J Box) but nothing that made me want to write a review. A Short Cut to Paradise by Teresa Solana (purchased in print format) is short, sweet and enjoyable, but in my view a pale imitation of the author’s first novel, a dazzling satire, A Not So Perfect Crime. The main issue for me with the new book is not the satirical aspects (segments about literary prizes and rivalries, translations and prison culture are all diverting) but the lack of a core. Twins Borja and Eduard and their bizarrely challenged, convoluted domestic and professional arrangements take too much of a back seat and I never enjoy supposedly hilarious set-pieces about people dropping inhibitions under the influence of some sort. Still, A Short Cut To Paradise will probably be one of the better crime novels published this year, it’s superior fare of its kind. For much more positive views, and proper reviews of this book, see International Noir Fiction, Simon Clarke and The Game’s Afoot.
Then I read Darkside by Belinda Bauer (borrowed from the library). I was absorbed in the novel’s setting of village life in Exmoor and the character of the wife who has MS. I was less convinced by the police rivalries and, like most reviews I’ve read, the denouement. The motivation of the killer in the final event is believable enough, it is the previous murders that seem to me unrealistic and out of kilter with what has been portrayed throughout the book. Still, the plot is one that has been done before, and rarely works (if I give examples it will give away the plot!), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth attempting. Darkside is written by an author who writes screenplays and as I read it I kept thinking that it had been written with a TV or film version in mind – I don’t know if this is so, but I think it would make a good screen thriller.
Next I read a book which I loved, Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope – another doorstop like the last one of his I read (He Knew He Was Right), so it took me a while. Can You Forgive Her? is the first of the author’s six Palliser novels so I expect I shall be occupied for some time in reading the next five – though I shall be prudent and order only one at a time in case I fail to sustain interest. (Phineas Finn should be en route as I write.) Sadly, I could not find these books in the library or in my two remaining local bookshops, Waterstones and W H Smith. Although all Trollope’s books can be downloaded free as e-books (eg via Kindle), I am choosing to pay and read them in print format.
I won’t attempt a review of CYFH as I would not be qualified, but it’s a great story about three women – an unmarried one, a wife and a widow, each of whom is faced with a choice of two men, one suitable and one unsuitable. The novel tells what they each do about it, but of course there’s lots more to it than that. I love the way that Trollope writes strong female characters and displays the discrimination that they experienced in many ways, but he does not preach about it, rather he lets the characters and the story speak for themselves (in fact although extremely sympathetic to his female protagonists and their unfair life-situations, he seems quite against declared feminists and independent “intellectual” women on the basis of those he puts in his books). The events of CYFH occur in conjunction with byelections, Westminster politics and, specifically, electoral reform, which is fascinating both in its own right and in the context of similar situations today.
While I wait for Phineas Finn to arrive I have started the next Joe Pickett book, Out of Range by C J Box. I’ve still got a couple of Anita Shreves and One Day by David Nicholls to read, and a new acquisition kindly sent to me by Hersilia Press, Blood Sisters by Alessandro Perissinotto. (You can download the first chapter free at the publisher’s website.)