I’ve found my new favourite detective. This time they are from India in the guise of portly, persistent and unmistakably Punjabi, private detective Vish Puri.
The Case of the Missing Servant is our first introduction to this ‘Indian Poriot.’ An established detective, with an web of contracts and employees, Puri is very much a conductor and ring master, though even he has problems with an interfering mother. As an introduction it works well. Hall gives us several threads to follow. Not only do we have the ‘missing servant’ we also have assassination attempts, unsuitable suitors and other case name dropping.
The thing that Hall captures most is the colour. The characters are lively and background is vibrant. Good crime authors present the solving of the crime in an engaging way but great ones also make their manor a character in its own right. I enjoyed seeing how Puri works. His employees make a great supporting cast. Their characters are all as different as the jobs they do, which makes their interactions with Puri delightful to read.
What’s different for me is that Puri has a loving and happy family life and after seeing his mother you can tell where Puri gets his nose from. It’s unusual to have such a happy detective and that makes The Case of the Missing Servant such a joy to read. Yes, the crime is serious and seriously handled but the nature of a cosy crime novel is that it isn’t disturbing. His idiosyncratic ways make it fun.
As with Sherlock Holmes he names previous cases to wet our appetite for further adventures though there are no worries on that score with The Case of the Man who Died Laughing and The Case of the Deadly Butter Chicken already out and on my shelf waiting.
If you listen to my podcast with Simon Savidge, The Readers, you may hear the name Terry Pratchett once or twice. I think of him as my patron Saint of Reading. And that’s for one simple reason. He’s why I’m hooked on reading but I’ll admit that I stopped for a long while. I stopped reading between Night Watch and Monstrous Regiment.
Though I have dabbled with Tiffany Aching I have Wintersmith and I Shall Wear Midnight waiting. But I think this is the right time of year to get the best out of Wintersmith. Now that it’s cold and dark in the evenings. I got back into Terry with Unseen University last year and I followed that with carrying on with Monstrous Regiment. Then I read Going Postal. And I’m currently reading Thud! (in between other things).
This is a funny way of starting a review I know. The reason that I mention it is that everyone can become over saturated even with their favourite writers. Yes, even ones that they’ve read the last 30 odd books of. So after taking a bit of a break and easing myself back into Terry gently with familiar characters and then a story set away from Ankh-Morpork
But with Going Postal we are back in that great city and we get to meet a new character. We also get chapters. Now Moist von Lipwig isn’t what you’d call a traditional hero being a liar, cheat and thief but after being given a life or death choice – run the post office or die – he definitely goes through a life changing experience.
Pratchett’s strength and attraction is using a fantasy mirror to explore humanity – its darkness, its brightness, its oddities and its commonalities. Take the Post Office. The letters live to be delivered. And they need someone to make sure that happens.
In many ways it is absurd that a one man can resurrect a system thats been chocked to near death and been overtaken by a faster, superior system. And writing this it strikes me that it’s like the tortoise and the hare. And the tortoise should never win. Well the tortoise in this case wears a gold suit.
The other thing that having a break from something familiar is that you are able to indulge in nostalgia as well as taking in a big bit of fresh air. I’ll admit I was worried that I wouldn’t like Moist von Lipwig but he’s endearing. His understanding of pins is a perfect example. And through him an illustration of Terry’s wonderful insight into humanity.
Moist appears next in Making Money and I’m quite looking forward to that one know as I know that Moist makes things happen.
I’m not sure why I downloaded this to my Kindle though I think it was as simple as I wanted to read more crime set in France as I’d only read (and loved) Fred Vargas centred around Paris.
Now Benoît Courrèges aka Bruno is the chief of police in the small town of St. Denis in southern France, which has a fabulous approach to interference of Brussels in their local market. Mostly involving potatoes. Being the only policeman and being friendly and sociable means that Bruno knows everyone and their business, which is a bit of a shock when one of the locals is murdered.
This leads to an interesting dynamic as France’s other law agencies get involved due to the nature of the murder including some of the countries high flying politicians and judges. Not only is a killing a rare event but the apparent motivations has more wide ranging implications for the community of St. Dennis and the country, hence the spotlight.
This is very much a story of a community and as most of the murder investigation is out of Bruno’s hands it is up to him to visit his neighbours and deal with the aftermath. Though like any good detective fiction Bruno is the only person to put the pieces of the jigsaw people together and shows up the outsiders with his local knowledge.
Martin Walker is a well travelled reporter and spent most of his career working for the guardian including placed in Moscow and the United States, and being European editor and assistant editor. So centring his story in much a small canvas maybe surprising. But Walker really made me pine for rural life. Though I might need to move to France to enjoy it fully.
I was so hooked after reading it bought the next one and had it there waiting within seconds. Ebooks are great for that. If you like your crime a little cosier you probably will too. Though you might need to wait a little longer if you like physical books.
Kobna Holdbrook-Smith again reads the words of Ben Aaronovitch as we return to apprentice magician and wizard Peter Grant, who again takes us to the London that we all know is there under the surface. You know the one with jazz vampires, which is fortuitous considering Peter’s dad is a jazz loving trumpet player with a title in jazz scene.
Book two in the series (Rivers of London was the first) finds Aaronovitch more relaxed and leisurely, which is a blessing and a curse in some ways. It’s a blessing as the we get to see a different side of Grant as he isn’t as action hero as Rivers of London but we also get to see less of the colourful characters that littered the first one. Though we do get a few nice cameos.
We also get less knocking on doors, so less of the police investigation, and more relationship building, but you know I like it for that. It shows that Aaronovitch isn’t repeating a formula. Instead he’s investigating his characters and their history more. We get to see more about the history of ‘The Folly’ and where all the wizards may, or may not, have gone.
I did realise one of the major twists earlier than I would have liked and I think that twisting in one more smaller thread into the story might have delayed that. But that’s only a minor distraction as I really enjoyed the voice of Grant. Both Holdbrook-Smith and Aaronovitch versions. Especially Peter having a practical edge to everything and not getting too airy faery about the mystical world he finds himself in. And I’m definitely not going to look at one of those carnival fortune telling heads the same way again.
What was really touching was following the effect on Lesley of the events of River of London and how she and Peter deal with it. And what really hit it home was Kobna doing Lesley’s voice and remembering it from Rivers of London before her life changed. Thankfully she’s strong on the inside.
One of the best urban fantasy series in years. One that is a must read if you love London (ror the idea of London) and want to see what could be happening just below the mystical surface
Hype can at a certain level be destructive, which is a shame. It’s the effect of a feedback loop. You need a certain level of buzz to get a novel noticed but too much and it becomes too much and it starts drowning itself out so you end up turning off.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a heavily hyped novel. But hype also has the effect of raising expectations. To be honest I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone to find out what all the fuss was about but I went in with pretty low expectations. It’s also not what I normally read so I’m not comparing it too much to the Urban Fantasy YA Romance category it fits into.
In her art book, Karou, an art student in Pargue, has drawings of a Issa, a serpent from the waist down and a women from the waist up, Yasri, parrot-beaked and human-eyed, Brimstone with his curled ram’s horns amongst other extraordinary sights. Karou may have a good imagination but her subjects aren’t always imaginary, those above definitely aren’t from her imagination.
In fact she travels the world doing errands for Brimstone and his shop using certain doorways around the world. That is until someone starts leaving handprints on them. And that’s where Karou’s life starts to change.
I was really surprised by the connection I forged with young Karou. And I was really feeling for Karou. I really wasn’t expecting to. In fact I was really upset by the time I got to the end.
But for those who are more aware of this niche or less emotionally weak it might find the events that lead to Karou being with Brimstone’s shop have less of an impact. And in hindsight I might have liked it to head off in another direction but now the veil has been lifted the next book has to bring something different. I’m hoping that it will.
Jack Miller has written a journal. The first entry being 7th January 1937 when tells of going to the Strand to meet Algie Carlisle, Hugo Charteris-Black, Teddy Wintringham and Gus Balfour for an interview about a position on an expedition to the Arctic. It ends on the 22nd November. Over those few months we see Jack prepare for then experience an attempt to overwinter on Gruhhuken.
To say too much would spoil the revelations as this ghost story is based on the slow unraveling of Jack as the expedition starts to unravel. The diary format brings some intimacy to events though takes away their immediacy.
Now I’ve talked to people that were completely absorbed until the end and then there are a few people like me that found it turned at one point and even though it was still compelling the background tension fell away.
Saying that though I did great it in fits and starts and it really is one of those novels that needs to read over as few sittings as possible. And despite the shift in tone I still find the idea and some of the moments truly haunting.
I need to mention that I read the hardback edition and missed out on the black and white photos which are also said to enhance the experience.
Well worth reading if you are in a spooky mood.