So I’ve decided not to drop the book reviews altogether. I have decided to make them as short as possible though, and taking inspiration from Harry Hill’s TV Burp I have decided to do each month’s books “in a nutshell” but single out one of them for the accolade of Book of the Month and write a bit more about that one.
January's Books in a nutshell
Under the Dome – Stephen King
Good vs Evil. Massive cast list. Huge catastrophe. Standard King stuff (as he writes nowadays – honestly, things haven’t been like the old days of Christine and The Stand for quite some time). He has got to start writing less – this book was ridiculously large and I couldn’t carry it anywhere which meant that I didn’t get into it as much as I could have if it was actually portable.
The Dog Who Loved – Jon Katz
“Hello? Is that the Marley and Me bandwagon? Yes I’d like to jump onboard please.” Disjointed and just generally poor. And bizarrely not really about the dog mentioned on the front cover.
Before I die – Jenny Downham
16 year old girl with leukaemia. Has a list of things she wants to do before she dies. I dare you to read the last 20 pages without crying.
The Tenth Circle – Jodi Picoult
14 year old girl gets raped. Or did she? Boy who commits the rape is killed by her. Or is he? Parents in rubbish marriage. Girl runs away to Alaska. Is found. Everything all solved in the end rather predictably. Not her best.
Book of the Month
The One from The Other - Philip Kerr
Surprise one this one. Out of all the books that I read, crime is a genre I don’t usually dabble in. I have no idea why, it just never appeals. This book came free with the Waterstones Quarterly magazine a while back though and I’m not one to turn my nose up at a free book.
This is one from a series of books about a man called Bernie Gunther, a man living during Second World War Germany. Normally I absolutely hate trying to read a book halfway through a series, I’m the kind of person that can’t watch a film if I’ve missed the first 10 minutes, but I found it didn’t matter in this case. I’m sure you would have a certain depth of feeling about Bernie as a character if you’d read the others but everything ‘made sense’ and I didn’t feel I was missing some key piece of information.
It’s 1949 and Bernie has set up his own Private Investigation firm and gets a request from a lady who wants to find out if her husband is dead – this sets off a trail of events that involves secret gangs and the murky depths of post-war Germany and Austria. It was absolutely riveting, I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed it.
The level of detail is astounding, but I don’t mean unnecessary oh-my-god-I-don’t-need-to-know-what-he-had-for-breakfast detail, I mean street names and the like. He must know Munich like the back of his hand, and even though I obviously don’t know Munich, knowing that he got off the tram at such-and-such a stop and walked up a certain street just made me feel that bit more absorbed in the world.
And somewhat coincidentally I was listening to the Open Book podcast from Radio 4 (I’m woefully behind, this was from September or something ridiculous like that) and Philip Kerr was on it, talking about the latest Bernie Gunther novel he has written, Field Grey. The One from the Other is book number 4 in a total of 7 (number 8 has a planned publication date in October of this year) and was written a rather stonking 15 years after the third novel was written.
I have no idea why I’m telling you this.
So yes. There you go. Well done Philip Kerr. Your Bernie Gunther novels are now officially on my list of Books I Want (which stretches for some thousand miles).
Ta-da! And that is the new look Monthly Book Review. Any thoughts?
(Such as that it doesn’t really seem different due to my inability to talk concisely?)