Books read in July 2013

Don’t look at me like that!  Yes, we’re halfway to September now, but I’ve been busy visiting my family and having a cold.

Books what I have read:

Methland: The death and life of an American small town Nick Reding Sociology
A Trifle Dead Livia Day Crime Australian, AWW
The Silence of the Lambs Thomas Harris Thriller
The Reece Malcolm List Amy Spaulding YA
Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Search (Vol 2) Gene Luen Yang Graphic novel
The Cuckoo’s Calling Robert Galbraith Crime
Blood in the Water Gillian Galbraith Crime
Where the Shadow Falls Gillian Galbraith Crime
Broken Homes Ben Aaronovitch Fantasy
Dying of the Light Gillian Galbraith Crime
No Sorrow To Die Gillian Galbraith Crime

Is it really only a month and a half ago that I read Methland?  Talk about your depressing yet compelling reads.  If you enjoy social history coupled with true crime, it’s brilliant.  But depressing.  Turns out, if you cut workers’ wages by two-thirds and take away their benefits, morale really falls.  Who knew?

A Trifle Dead is a debut crime novel by Livia Day, a pseudonym adopted by Tansy Rayner Roberts.  Whom I LOVE, so I really wanted to love A Trifle Dead, but I … couldn’t.

It’s basically a cosy mystery (small, domestic setting, lower stakes) set in Hobart, in which … I don’t want to say “hipsters fight crime”, but “middle class twenty-somethings who work in creative industries and are really pop culture savvy fight crime”.

Like I said, I wanted to like it, but it was strangely like reading a book about my own circle of friends, except that everyone is white, cis and middle class, everyone has a really cool, satisfying job (as my Tasmanian flatmate commented on Twitter, you don’t get this many people supporting themselves through blogging in Melbourne, let alone Hobart), and all the important people are straight.  The mystery itself was mildly interesting, though predictable, but I found the characters way too irritating to care.

The Reece Malcolm List is an inconsequential yet charming YA novel about a girl who goes to live with her mother, who she is meeting for the first time.

The heroine is likeable, which is a pretty impressive feat in a character who is basically showered with everything she ever wanted from the minute she sets foot in LA.  And she’s an incredibly talented singer.  And she’s pretty.  All this works because, well, not having any experience in motherhood, Reece Malcolm is buying her daughter’s love, and the heroine (you can tell I’ve forgotten her name, right?) works very, very hard at music and everything else.  And when she stuffs up, she’s called out on it.

Mostly, though, I loved the character of Reece Malcolm, who is only sixteen years older than her daughter, and who is a successful, antisocial novelist.  She’s an interesting character, and it was really enjoyable, seeing her through her daughter’s eyes.

I would have eventually read The Cuckoo’s Calling, J K Rowling’s pseudonymous crime novel, even if she hadn’t been outed as the author.  I started out looking for, you know, tell-tale signs of Rowling’s authorship, but quickly got sucked into the plot:  a model has killed herself, but her brother thinks she was murdered, and hires private detective Cormorant Strike to find out.

Some reviewers have tried to shoehorn the novel into a cosy or hardboiled genres, but really, this owes a lot to Dorothy L Sayers and the classic crime novellists of the 1930s.  Strike might seem like an odd analogue to Lord Peter Wimsey, but both are damaged war veterans (Wimsey had shell shock; Strike lost a leg in Afghanistan) and both come from powerful and well-known families (Wimsey was the younger son of a duke; Strike is the illegitimate son of a rock legend).  It’s not remotely a straight updating of an old genre, but the roots are strong.

I liked The Cuckoo’s Calling in its own right, though.  JKR obviously did a lot of research, not only into investigative procedures, but the psychology and experiences of black people in England and children of colour adopted by white families.  The plot was a tiny bit predictable, but I was only a page or so ahead of the detectives — just predictable enough to be satisfying, in other words.

Searching for Robert Galbraith in the library catalogue, I found Gillian Galbraith, an author of Scottish police procedurals.  I didn’t much care for the characters, but the first few were well-plotted.  By the fifth book, not even the plots were satisfying, so I don’t think I’ll be reading more.

Now, I don’t want to be that fan, but Ben Aaronovitch’s Broken Homes ended on something of a cliffhanger, and I want more NOW.  Yesterday, in fact.

But I guess I can wait, because this book was full of interesting stuff about architecture and council flat design that I wouldn’t mind learning more about.  Well-played, Aaronovitch.  Well-played.


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