book log: 75) Reginald Hill — A Pinch of Snuff

75) Reginald Hill — A Pinch of Snuff

Previously reviewed when I read it in 2006, at LiveJournal and at LibraryThing

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book log: 74) Alexander McCall Smith — Corduroy Mansions

Onward to August’s books — though starting with one I began in July.

74) Alexander McCall Smith — Corduroy Mansions

Gently funny episodic novel about the inhabitants of Cordury Mansions, a Pimlico apartment block built in the early twentieth century and currently providing a comfortable home to a variety of tenants. It’s good-natured and enjoyable, but about two-thirds of the way through I found that it simply wasn’t holding my interest any longer, in part because it didn’t feel as if there would be any resolution to any of the storylines. I put it down for a while, and find myself disinclined to pick it up and finish it. At this point I’m declaring it a DNF. I think I would probably enjoy this as an audiobook better than I would as a print book.

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July 2011 book log

Now that I’ve finally finished writing my notes on all of the books I read in July, here’s the summary list:

66) Reginald Hill — An April Shroud
Fourth in the Dalziel and Pascoe series. Logged 7 August.
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67) Margery Allingham — My Friend Mr Campion and other mysteries
Collection containing the novella The Case of the Late Pig, four short stories, and a short essay excerpted from a radio broadcast by Allingham. Logged 7 August.
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68) Alan Hunter — Landed Gently
Fourth in the Inspector George Gently series, and the first that I’ve read. Logged 7 August.
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69) Agatha Christie — “How does your garden grow?” and other stories [audiobook]
Five short stories taken from the collection “Poirot’s Early Cases”, read on 3 CDs by the man who plays him so perfectly on tv, David Suchet. Logged 14 August.
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70) Edward Marston — The Amorous Nightingale
Second in the Christopher Redmayne historical mystery series, set in London just after the Great Fire of 1666. Logged 20 August.
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71) Barry Perowne — Raffles of the M.C.C.
Not the original Raffles stories, but one of the pastiche collections. Logged today.
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72) Steve Lyons — Doctor Who: The Stealers of Dreams
Sixth of the tie-in novels for New Who, and the last to feature the Ninth Doctor (and thus also pre-immortality Jack). Logged today.
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73) James Goss — Torchwood: Department X [audiobook]
One of the audio-only tie-in novels, read by Kai Owen on 2 CDs, and set between series 2 and 3. Logged today.
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book log: 73) James Goss — Torchwood: Department X [audiobook]

73) James Goss — Torchwood: Department X [audiobook]

One of the audio-only tie-in novels, read by Kai Owen on 2 CDs, and set between series 2 and 3.

The last of Cardiff’s traditional department stores, GR Owen, has just gone into administration. A pair of very slick operators from the administrators have arrived to audit the company’s assets, and it’s clear that they’re interested in more than just the usual stock and staff assets. They’re not the only ones, because two of the staff present to be interviewed happen to be Ianto and Gwen, working undercover on a project of Jack’s. Nobody has seen the Department of Curiosities since 1905, and Jack wants to know why. Pity the store tries to kill him every time he sets foot in it…

A well-constructed story with a very Torchwood feel to it, and some logical extrapolations of the Torchwood universe. It’s very funny in places, not least because it openly references the similarities between GR Owen and Grace Brothers in Are you Being Served — I particularly enjoyed the scene where Jack has some fun teasing Ianto about working in menswear.

Very enjoyable, although I think not quite as good as Ghost Train, also written by James Goss and read by Kai Owen. I was mildly irritated in this one by Kai Owen’s habit of leaving a Significant Pause so that you know he’s finished speaking dialogue and moved to the dialogue tag. He didn’t do this in Ghost Train, because it was first person and thus didn’t really have dialogue tags. It’s a distracting irritation from an otherwise good reader.

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book log: 72) Steve Lyons — Doctor Who: The Stealers of Dreams

72) Steve Lyons — Doctor Who: The Stealers of Dreams

Sixth of the tie-in novels for New Who, and the last to feature the Ninth Doctor (and thus also pre-immortality Jack). Nine, Rose and Jack find that their latest stop is a world where fiction is outlawed, and those who indulge in it are regarded as having a dangerous drug addiction that must be treated, by force if necessary. Naturally, the Tardis crew end up interfering. But it gradually becomes clear that on this world dreams really are dangerous, and the Doctor’s usual tactics may be more harmful than helpful.

Good writing, nifty concept, a solid plot, and some excellent secondary characters, with a nice twist at the end. And the monster isn’t overly familiar from tv episodes before or since, which is a problem I’ve occasionally had with coming to the books relatively late.

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book log: 71) Barry Perowne — Raffles of the M.C.C.

71) Barry Perowne — Raffles of the M.C.C.

Not the original Raffles stories, but one of the pastiche collections. Alas, I have not yet read the original as created by EW Hornung (though I’m currently enjoying the 1970s tv series on DVD), so I have no idea how well this compares, either in fidelity to the tone of the original, or in quality of writing. It was simply the Raffles book that happened to be possessed by my local library in the dim and distant past, when the way one tracked down books one had heard of was to consult the library’s copy of “Books in Print”. I liked it well enough as a teenager to grab a copy when I saw it a few years ago, and thought I’d re-read it in conjunction with watching the DVDs.

I don’t find it quite as good now as I remember it being thirty years ago, but that’s a change in my reading tastes rather than a criticism of the book. It’s still good fun, and staying on my bookcase. This collection includes 11 short stories, each a nicely constructed mystery/caper. Some of them also include as secondary characters historical figures that a contemporary reader at the time of publication would be expected to recognise, although in the period of the story they were as yet unknown to the public at large. I suspect that this conceit could prove irritating to some readers, but I enjoyed it.

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book log: 70) Edward Marston — The Amorous Nightingale

70) Edward Marston — The Amorous Nightingale

Second in the Christopher Redmayne historical mystery series, set in London just after the Great Fire of 1666. I’d previously read only the fourth in the series, so I’m going back now, and am pleased to find that this one’s just as enjoyable. Young architect Christopher Redmayne is asked to do a service for the King — to find the King’s favourite mistress, the acclaimed singer/actress Harriet Gow, who has been abducted and held for an impossibly large ransom. Redmayne’s friend, the Puritan constable Jonathan Bale, initially refuses to help on moral grounds, but finds that he too has a personal stake in the crime, because Harriet’s maid is the orphaned daughter of friends of his. The two men have to use their separate network of social connections to hunt down leads as fast as possible, in a situation where secrecy is vital.

As ever with Marston’s historical novels, this is a competent, enjoyable, midlist novel which I probably won’t keep but am glad to have read. I don’t know enough about the period to know how accurate his historical detail is, but the world-building is good, and the plot mechanics work well. I think the characterisations are a little deeper and thus to me better in this series than in the Railway Detective series. And as I’ve found with his other books, while the lead characters are male, he has good secondary female characters. I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series.

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