fiction

Book review: The Cook

The Cook.The Cook by Harry Kressing.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

I imagine this novel to take place in some kind of weird Mad Men universe. It’s that drinks-before-dinner, hired-help-run-the-show kind of world where there’s precise demarcation between what’s meant to happen and those it’s meant to happen to. Think of it like Upstairs, Downstairs only with Betty Draper and you’re probably about right.

Naturally, this clockwork world goes to shit the moment the titular character shows up.
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Book review: Water Shall Refuse Them

Water Shall Refuse Them.Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Heading to a drought-stricken Wales in 1976 seems like a shitty holiday idea. It’s even shittier when you’re a 16-year-old girl accompanied by your family – a needy toddler, a sculptor father and a grieving, wasting mother – and eaten up by a dedication to something called The Creed.

You can tell things aren’t going to go well, and that’s before the village turns out to be, uh, none too friendly to outsiders.
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Book review: Burnt Island

Burnt Island.Burnt Island by Alice Thompson.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

I’d read the blurb for this book – writer applies for a fellowship on a Scottish island and mysteries ensue – and noted the price (three bucks on Kindle!) and took the plunge. I mean, I’ve spent more on bad coffee, let alone good spookiness.

Imagination is a terrible thing, Max. It perverts reality. You can lose yourself in it. Not realise what’s really happening to you.

This is good spookiness. (more…)

Book review: The Roo

The Roo.The Roo by Alan Baxter.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Photoshop is responsible for a lot of things. Most of them are bad, but in the case of this novella – written in response to the image which ended up as its cover – Adobe should be profusely thanked.

The world has a serious lack of stories about rampaging kangaroos. Even fewer of those involve exploding heads, multiple appearances of the phrase “shit cunt”, and can be read in about an hour. Alan Baxter has filled the void pretty well, here.

Also, there’s this in the introduction:

If you’re not too familiar with the anatomy of kangaroos, may I also suggest you Google ‘kangaroo feet’ before you start reading. Seriously, you might think you know, but have another look. They’re insane.

That they are. (more…)

Book review: The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn

The Dead Mountaineer's Inn.The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I’d been meaning to read a bit more Soviet-era fiction, particularly science fiction. And any exploration of that area is likely to involve the brothers Strugatsky: writers known for some excellently grim work with a coating of political commentary. (Roadside Picnic, filmed as Stalker is a supreme bummer, for starters.)

So it’s a bit of a surprise that my first Strugatsky novel turned out to be a detective story, free – mostly – of politicking, which features a collection of oddballs and a super-sentient dog.
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Book review: A Terrace in Rome

A Terrace in Rome.A Terrace in Rome by Pascal Quignard.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

This is a strangely compelling little book. It’s about disfigurement, love, lust, pornography and the finer points of mezzotint and etching. It’s a slim collection of fragments describing a leathery life, which eventually chokes to death far from its origin.

There’s also a lot of dicks described within.
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Book review: The Return

The Return.The Return by Walter de la Mare.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

Until this point, I’d only been familiar with de la Mare’s name, and not with his works. The Return has rectified that, but I’m left with some confusion about whether I actually liked the novel… and about whether I actually knew what was going on throughout.

So that’s a reasonable start, I guess: if both of those thorns haven’t put me off other authors, they shouldn’t put me off ol’ Walter, right? Right. (more…)

Book review: The Rich Man’s House

The Rich Man's House.The Rich Man’s House by Andrew McGahan.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Andrew McGahan is dead. And this is his last work. I’ve enjoyed a lot of his work from Praise onwards – thanks to the excellent movie adaptation first, text later – and have appreciated the descriptive examination of the personal throughout his texts. The way he looked at lives that might be considered a failure by any measure, and shone tiny lights of relief on their struggles.

So naturally, his final book is a thriller, set on the edge of the world, in which degenerate wealth and animist revenge combine to paint a portrait of how fucked capitalism is, and how we’ve basically rooted the earth, to the point that it might smack us down for it.

Wait, what? (more…)

Book review: The Allingham Minibus

The Allingham Minibus.The Allingham Minibus by Margery Allingham.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Before I picked up this iteration of The Allingham Minibus – a work that’s been around in varying versions since the 1970s – I’d never read any of Margery Allingham’s work. I knew little of her, save that she was considered one of the Queens of Crime, alongside Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Ngaio Marsh. I expected, given her contemporaries, that I’d have a quaint read ahead, of clockwork mysteries and tea and crumpets before bedtime.

Pictured: the 428. If you know, you know. 

Thankfully, that presumption was false. The 18 tales gathered together in this collection (the name of which admittedly made me think of a Tarago packed with story denizens) are of a distinctly stranger bent. (more…)

Book review: Infinite Ground

Infinite Ground.Infinite Ground by Martin MacInnes.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

So what’d happen if you were in a restaurant, right? And then you got up from the table, went to the bathroom and then never came back.

Would you be missed? Would people know where to look? More importantly, would people know how to look?

This is, in a fashion, the thrust of Martin MacInnes’ first novel, Infinite Ground. It’s a detective story – more or less – but that’s a bit like saying that Gravity’s Rainbow is a war story. There’s a bit more to it.
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