Saturday, February 9, 2013

Biblio Allsorts

I've been going through a reading jag lately - the benefits of train travel. Here's a three quick reviews.

The Daylight Gate - Jeanette Winterson

I'm a huge fan of Jeanette Winterson so when I saw The Daylight Gate at the local library, I leaped on it. The book is about the witch hunts under James II and particularly focuses the Pendle witches of Lancashire.

While I enjoyed the book, it didn't fire my imagination the way The Passion and Lighthousekeeping did. Don't get me wrong, Winterson is an astonishing writer but this one didn't quite grab me. I've been thinking about why and I think it's because she has taken an each-way bet in the way she handles the witches. Ultimately the witch hunts were about revenge against the Gun Powder Plotters, distrust of Catholics and power over women. You can clearly see through Winterson's writing that many men used the witch hunts to exercise violence over women and that there were poor and disempowered women who used superstition and fear of witches to give themselves a modicum of influence and power.

Despite demonstrating the reality of the witch hunts, Winterson then muddies the water by suggesting that these women were indeed witches and had sold their souls to the devil. The idea of witchcraft and alchemy results in some exquisite writing but lessens the impact of what was done to innocent women in the name of revenge, misogyny and anti-Catholicism.

Not my favourite Winterson but still worth reading for the beauty of her writing.

The Black Box - Michael Connolly

I've been a fan of Michael Connolly since the first time Harry Bosch made his appearance. I've also enjoyed his side projects and still reckon The Poet is a cracker of a crime book. My admiration of Connolly comes from his tight plotting. Read enough of him and you realise nothing is wasted, nothing extraneous. A seemingly innocent snippet you read in Chapter 2 connects events later on in the book.

As with The Daylight Gate, this book isn't one of Connolly's best. There is a workman like air about it. Still, Connolly being Connolly it's an enjoyable read.

In this book, Bosch is with the Cold Case Unit and is given an opportunity to solve a crime he was involved in during the LA Rodney King riots. In the midst of the mayhem, a young photo jounalist from Denmark was found dead from a shotgun wound to the head. Why was she in LA and what could have led to her murder? Twenty years later Bosch will find out.

The Dead Hour - Denise Mina

The Dead Hour is the second in the fabulous Paddy Meehan series which is set in Glasgow in the 1980s during economically tough times. Paddy, by the this book, is twenty years old and is a junior journalist. She is on the night shift with the ever reliable Billy.

One night she covers a 'domestic disturbance' at a house in a well-to-do neighbourhood. A well-dressed man stands at the door of the house with a young bloodied woman behind him. He assures the police that everything is alright and they seem happy to believe him and leave things be. When Paddy talks to the man, he thrusts a 50 pound note in her hand as a bribe to keep the story out of the paper. This money means a lot to Paddy who is the only person in her household of five who is working. She takes the money and leaves the woman. The day the woman is found tortured and murdered.

The following night the ex-fiance of the murdered woman throws himself off a bridge. The police who attended the domestic identify the ex-fiance as the man who'd been at the house. Paddy knows this isn't true. Why are the police lying? What is the story behind the murdered woman? Paddy is on the case, despite knowing that revealing that she took a bribe could end her burgeoning career.

Paddy Meehan is a fantastic character. A typical twenty year old, she is reckless and fallible. She's mouthy, smart and brave. I love her.

Great book!

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