RAVATN’S TRIBUNAL IS A TINDERBOX OF SEXUAL TENSION AND INTRIGUE

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thebirdtribunalcvrThere are numerous collective nouns used to describe a gathering of birds that have rather sinister inferences. Take a parliament of owls, a murder of crows or an unkindness of ravens for example. Then there are the animals associated with the judiciary, I’m referring to a kangaroo court and until recently having lived in Ireland for the past 38 years or so I thought I’d seen every tribunal conceivable, until I read this month’s book. It’s The Bird Tribunal written by Agnes Ravatn and published in 2016 by Orenda Books (www.orendabook.co.uk)

After a scandal involving her and a superior, TV presenter Allis Hagtorn tries to rebuild her life by going into exile as a home help and gardener for the mysterious and brooding Sigurd Bagge, working and living in his house on a remote Norwegian fjord. Everything about this new life seems like a jump from the frying pan into fire as she contends with his almost teenage like moodiness and the caustic remarks and stares of the neighbours, especially the woman in the local village shop. Also, what of his wife, who is mysteriously absent. Is she away working? Travelling? Dead? or has she left him? If she’s dead, did he murder her and if so, will Aliss be next? Add to that the question of what Sigurd is doing inside his off-limits bedroom all day and how long will her exile last?

In these ever time starved lives we lead it gets harder and harder to find space to read a book. Usually it’s on the commute to and from work if you use public transport.  Maybe you snatch a couple of minutes at bed time before your body succumbs to fatigue and drags you under for 6-8 hours? There’s always audio books too. So, normal sized books which have on average about 300 pages really have to be very good to compete with everything else in your life. Smaller books which just about get above the Novella moniker are great finds and if well written pure gold… That where we find The Bird Tribunal. At one hundred and eighty-five pages Ravatn and her translator Rosie Hedger deliver a fantastic page turner inside what is basically a literary matchbox.

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Agnes Ravatn

From the moment you turn the first page till you close the back cover, Ravatn slowly cranks up the momentum in this brilliantly written psychological thriller to where the book is positively exuding mystery and sexual tension, something I haven’t found in a Scandi Noir book in a while. If this is 50 Shades in Scandinavia, then the desperate housewives and yummy mummies of the rest of the world who almost beat each other black and blue to gobble up as much of the virile Mr Grey, in his almost 900 plus pages over three books, have seriously missed out.

As for the characters, both are rather sketchy. They come across as being merely thrown together. Little is said of Aliss’s application process,  whether this was by way of a card in a supermarket noticeboard or some obscure online discovery. Maybe a friend of a friend mentioned Sigurd was looking for help. This adds to the style and pace of the book, the less one knows the more the reader can use their imagination to suggest how these two found out about each other. Again, this adds to the overall mystery of the book along with the fantastic descriptions of the isolated but beautiful location.

While the Bird Tribunal of the title is basically a kangaroo court which is shown in flash back when Sigurd is abducted by a group of people at night who are all wearing bird masks. They want him to atone for something that happened in the past. The book also delves heavily in to Norse folklore with the main characters discovering their liking for Norse history and gods.

This is 33-year-old Ravatn’s fifth book, the Norwegian born author is also a columnist onbbc-book-at-bedtime the weekly Nynorsk newspaper Dag Og Tid. Her other books were Week 53 (Veke 53)2007, Standingstill (Stillstand) 2011, Popular Reading (Folkelesnad) 2011 and Operation Self-Discipline (Operasjon Sjisiplinold) 2014. the Bird Tribunal was made into a successful stage play in 2015 and is also being made into a film. On top of that it was announced at the beginning of December the book will be BBC Radio 4’s Book At Bedtime  between January 23rd – 29th.

It is often a complaint of the book group that the average sized books we read are missing the touch of an excellent editor. Here we are shown by another great Norwegian writer that great stories don’t need to be hidden inside a plethora of padding in large tomes.  So, if you are looking for something to read by the fire over Christmas or during your precious reading time over the dark winter months pull on your best Scandinavian jumper and get into this cracking and little read from Agnes Ratvn.

HARDISTY BREATHES NEW LIFE INTO AN AGE OLD GENRE

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Abrupt Physics CvrWhat are the physics of dying? Your heart stopping, old age, stroke, cancer. A tragic accident – being burned, murdered….The list is endless. But does the physics relate just to the first person or is it also to do with how death affects those around us and related to us.  I had cause to dwell on this last week when at two thirty in the morning I witnessed two dogs savage a cat in our neighbours front garden. I think I’m still suffering a mild case of PTSD, normally if you yell at a dog rummaging through your bins it will run off… but as much as I screamed and yelled at these two animals from the bedroom window, they were possessed of an age old need to kill and I was powerless to prevent it and one wonders what were the physics behind their need to attack this cat. So to this month’s book. If you were presented with a book titled The Abrupt Physics of Dying, what would your first impressions be? Is it a self help guide to dealing with grief or a medical text book? Would you think it was a thriller? This is the title of Paul E. Hardisty’s debut novel – The Abrupt Physics of Dying.

Published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk), in December 2014 as an eBook and as a paperback in March 2015, its set in Yemen. Claymore Straker is an engineer for Petro-Tex, an oil company who have a number drilling operations in the country. One day he and his driver are kidnapped by Islamic terrorists. They tell Clay their children are being poisoned by something in the water supply which they believe is originating from Petro-tex’s operations. They force Clay to prove to his bosses that the mysterious illness afflicting their families is their fault otherwise his driver and friend Abdulkader will be killed. Clay discovers there is something in the water but when he tries to convince his bosses, samples get lost. He witnesses the company’s head of security murdering an innocent tribal leader and his elders. All the while the political situation in Yemen starts to crumble and the country nears the precipice of civil war. To try and stop the poisoning and prove to the world that Petro-Tex are involved the cover up of an environmental disaster, he must go on the run from his bosses, the government and other shadowy individuals. Along the way he enlists the help of a French Journalist Rania LaTour. Will Clay and Rania get out of Yemen alive , while saving the innocents?

The first thing that occurred to me when I was reading the opening chapters was, Claymore Straker is trying to be Jack Reacher, or at least a half decent copy. The only differences between Paul and Lee is about seventeen books, eighteen if you include Reacher’s latest adventure “Make Me” which is published in September [rubs hands gleefully]. As well as a couple of million in Child’s bank balance, while Claymore has a passport and owns a company. But this isn’t a bad thing, because Lee can only write so fast and in trying to feed the veracious appetite of his fans, it helps to have another author who can sustain the Reacherites and Reacherettes while his films and books are being produced.

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The book is a big read at four hundred and forty pages, and makes it an ideal sun lounger or long haul companion. While I did feel it dragged in parts, the story is gritty, action packed and topical. Paul’s background as a Hydrologist and engineer comes out in the scientific detail and his experiences from working in various parts of the world including Yemen flow off the page and you can feel the desert heat and the sand swirl around you.

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Paul E. Hardisty

This is Paul’s first work of fiction, in the past he’s written a number of educational books including “The Economics of Groundwater Protection and Remediation” (2004) as well as co written numerous other scholarly papers and reports. Canadian by birth, he has worked all over the world in the area of hydrology and environmental science. His life reads like a fictional character. He worked on oil rigs in Texas, searched for gold in the Arctic, befriended PKK rebels in turkey, rehabilitated wells in Africa and survived a bomb blast in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in 1993. He’s a visiting professor at Imperial College London and director of Australia’s national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaptation research programmes. Not to mention a sailor, private pilot and outdoorsman, who lives in Australia. Harrison Ford and Bear Grylls can all now leave the building.

Another thing that makes this book standout as a great read is the use of Arabic throughout the whole story. Other books will have a minor sprinkling of the local dialect throughout just to give you a taste. In Hardisty’s book you are immersed in the language and Yemeni culture on every page, just when you think you might need a translator, he neatly stitches the translation into the sentence so that after a while you never even notice.

So if you’re looking for a great read to fill the gap between the next Reacher installment in September and your two weeks in the sun. Pack this in your travel bag, dig out your desert boots, water canteen and factor 50 and prepare to be wowed by a new kid on the block. Then when you’re finished, prepare for the next Claymore Straker novel in 2016 courtesy of the first chapter of “Evolution of Fear” at the back of the book.

A LAUGH OUT LOUD HIT FOR SIMSION, BUT IT HAS NOTHING DOWN UNDER.

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Rosie prjct CvrRemember how when we were growing up we were always told never to make fun of people who were less well off than ourselves, had a stigma, disability or were over-weight. This never seemed to apply on TV Sitcoms and the like, such as the Carry On movies or more recently Little Britain, which went all out to send up those with disabilities or  weight issues. Then there’s the current US hit comedy the Big Bang Theory which makes fun of highly intelligent people who are on “The Spectrum”.

The term “The Spectrum” refers to the Autism Spectrum or Autistic Spectrum; which is used to diagnose a range of five conditions classed as Nuerodevelopmental Disorders, one of which includes Asperger Syndrome. People with Apergers often display high levels of intelligence, very bad social skills, nonverbal communication and restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests. Hence Savants and academics at the top of their fields are often said to be “On the Spectrum”. The 1988 Film Rainman highlighted this side of autism, although it wasn’t meant to be funny, it was amusing. If the Australians’ had made a similar movie it might have been something like this month’s book, The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.

Published in 2013 by Penguin Books, the book tells the story of Don Tillman a highly intelligent genetics professor in Melbourne. Don’s hit a bit of a mid life crisis, he’s single, has tried all the usual routes, online dating, blind dates, personal ads,  chatting people up in bars – which is difficult for Don, given his limited social skills – all to no avail and with disastrous results(see the Apricot ice cream fiasco). So Don decides to take a more scientific approach to dating. He draws up a questionnaire “The Wife Project”, which again leads to hilarious results.  Gene his promiscuous boss, whose own life project is to shag a female from every nation on the planet and one of only two of Don’s close friends he has (the other being Claudia, Gene’s long suffering wife) then sends a mature student called Rosie  to him, resulting in a misunderstanding when Don believes Gene has put her forward for “The project”. He is roped into helping Rosie find her real dad, despite writing her off as totally unsuitable as a mate, but something begins to evolve through their close scrapes and weird escapades, including Rosie’s modicum of success in de-stigmatizing Don and making him slightly more socially adept, Don starts to realise she is the most beautiful woman he has ever met. But will his rather glaring and outlandish foibles get in the way of true love?

Hold on to your hats and don’t blink. Why? Because this is the funniest book I’ve read this year and if not, then it must share the mantle with The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (See previous review). But where that was a heart tugging, sentimental tale of star crossed lovers with the innocent humour of a small child thrown in for good luck, The Rosie Project is a straight out of the blocks, side splitting laughter fest. From the first page to the three hundred and twenty seventh, Professor Don Tillman will have you eating out of his hand and almost cracking a rib with the laughter. I’ve often said the that you know you’re reading a great funny book when your giggling and failed attempts to control hysterics in public cause other commuters on a train to give you funny looks, this book left me in this situation on a number of occasions.

Whether it’s the descriptions of the previous dating experiences,Big bang theory his idiosyncrasies such as having his meals, alcohol consumption and every hour of his day planned, judging everyone he meets by their BMI,  his and Rosie’s first date when Don gets embroiled in a fight over a jacket and single handedly immobilizes two bouncers, or that he memorises the recipe for almost every cocktail ever made in 48 hours so that he and Rosie can pass themselves off as waiters to collect DNA for “The Father Project”, you will never again meet a person like Don Tillman and the weird and wonderful characters in his life.

Rosie is no wilting wall flower, while the creators of The Big Bang Theory have tried to saddle the male cast with equally straight laced high achievers; Rosie is no regular girl next door. She works in a gay bar and dresses like a biker, while studying psychology. At first you’d think these two are chalk and cheese, but then you realise they are just right, who else is going to be able re-wire the oddly wired Professor Tillman, but a savvy street-wise ‘Sheila’.

As for the other characters, Gene is straight out of the British sitcoms of the seventies, bed hopping his way through the UN, while marking his conquest with a flag on a map in his office. It reminded me of Adrian Mole and how he measured the development of his manhood and kept track of it on a chart in his bedroom supposedly tracing rainfall in the Norwegian forests. There’s the Dean who realises Don is special, but while trying to accommodate him has to keep the University running smoothly round Don – which isn’t easy.

Graeme Simison

This is Australian author Graeme Simsion’s first work of fiction, in another life he was an IT consultant who wrote a book in 1994 on Data Modelling, which is now in its fourth edition. As I started reading this book his second work of fiction The Rosie Effect, was in the bookshops.

The book its self  started life as a screen play and as Graeme says himself at the back of the book, it only  became a novel first because “..It’s cheaper to get a book published then raise money for a film”.

Here in lies one of its only flaws, it’s not Australian, nowhere in the book do you get any feeling that it’s Australian, the speech Not Australian imageand dialect doesn’t come out in any of the characters. Yes the characters mention Australian places and street names, but like any script it’s just words on a page until an actor brings a character to the part. This is the second Australian book I’ve read in the past year and a half after Murray Bail’s “Eucalyptus”, which oozed Aussie charm and character from every pore and you could literally taste the hot dry barren outback. As a result this comes across like a RomCom film script, something ideally suited to Hugh Grant, Ricky Gervais or Steve Carrell, but a damn good one at that.

This was a sentiment echoed by the book group at our last Rosie effct Cvrmeeting when we gathered to discuss it, overall they loved the book, a few of us got through the book so quickly we actually went straight on to the sequel “The Rosie Effect”, but like most sequels, it tires quickly and only just manages to keep you to the very end with its modicum of new material. Whereas The Rosie Project is a great piece of original work, the sequel feels very much like a rehash of most American sitcoms, as the story moves to the States.

So, with the Christmas season fast approaching and if you find yourself looking for away to quietly digest the third day of turkey salad sambo’s or pass the time on a long journey home, pop into the nearest bookshop and snap up a copy or download it  and laugh all the way to the New Year.

THERE’S NOTHING STUPID OR SILLY ABOUT THE GAMAL, JUST A DARK WITTY IRISH NOVEL BY TALENTED NEW WRITER

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The_Gamal_MMP_lower_resOne of the many scourges of society these days, if not the most harrowing, is suicide. It often leaves more questions than answers and despite being seen by some as the cowards way out or a desperate call for help, deep down you know at the heart is a poor soul who just can’t see any solution to their troubles, no matter how much help they get.

Ireland has one of the highest rates of suicide in the European Union, 554 were recorded in 2011 alone, according to the Central Statistics Office.  It is especially prevalent among young men, who are five times more likely to take their own life.  In the past couple of months alone Ireland has been rocked by two tragic incidents of “Murder Suicide”  in Sligo and Cork, where in each case an older brother has taken the life of their siblings before taking their own life.  So it was quite Ironic that the book group met up in the middle of Suicide Awareness week which ran from the 8th-14 September to discuss this month’s book, The Gamal by Ciaran Collins.

The book tells the story of Sinead and James two talented kids living in the County Cork village of Ballyronan who meet in school when James’s family move back into the area. They quickly develop a friendship strengthened through their love of music and singing and eventually become childhood sweethearts. James is an accomplished pianist and sportsman, while Sinead is a gifted singer, who both dream of escaping their boring rural community for the bright lights of Dublin. However, they are also from different sides of the tracks and are derided by their peers for their talents and dreams when their backs are turned. James is protestant and his family live in a castle on edge of town which been passed down through the family. Sinead is catholic and lives with her abusive alcoholic parents. When James gets accepted into college in Dublin they believe their dreams are about to come true, but Sinead’s dad is diagnosed with cancer and she is guilt tripped into staying at home, while James goes onto Dublin. It’s then that the malicious local young adults, who they thought were friends, start to increase their deviousness. In the end their scheming and narrow-mindedness leads to a rape and a modern Shakespearean tragedy.

The Gamal is the first novel by Cork born writer Ciaran Collins www.ciarancollinsauthor.com, who has written a number of plays before this and is a school teacher in his spare time. The book was published by Bloomsbury www.bloomsbury.com in 2013 and won the Rooney Prize for literature in the same year. The award was set up in 1976 by Dan Rooney the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team and the former US Ambassador to Ireland and is awarded to emerging Irish writers under the age of forty.

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The Gamal in the title is the narrator Charlie McCarthy who is a close friend of both Sinead and James’ as well as someone who feels somewhat instrumental in the final act. He’s rather slow, thus the nickname. Gamal is short for Gamalog, which is Irish for idiot or simpleton, although there are quite a few Irish terms for stupid or slow people.  As the book goes on we discover that Charlie also suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and that the book is actually a project set by Charlie’s therapist to help him overcome the events of the past five years. The local youths who are the real instigators of the events that occur are also known by nicknames, which are like badges of honour. There’s “Teesh” short Taoiseach – Irish for chief, Dinky, Snoozie, Racey, and The Rascal.  At times it sounds like a modern version of the seven dwarfs. The story highlights the rural and social divisions which still exist in Ireland and what really happens when the devil makes work for idle hands and closed minds.

When I bought the book and thumbed the first few pages I thought it was a self-help book, because at regular intervals the paragraphs have headings. But once you get into this book, the quirky style of the narrative draws you in and holds you, to deliver an enthralling story.

From the very start you realize that the ending isn’t going to be nice, when Charlie describes finding a body under a local bridge and shows you photo’s of the supposed bridge. But Charlie meanders all over the place, really going around the houses in an attempt to tell the whole story. Yes, part of you urges him to just get on with it, but he’s such a loveable rogue, that he really does have you eating out of his hand. But also this comes down to Collins superb plotting.

This book came across as an Irish Adrian Mole, because in all senses it is a diary and its style is all the same even down to the pictures clumsily printed and drawn through out, to help Charlie with his story and please his therapist Dr. Quinn. But also it had remnants of The Butcher Boy by Pat McCabe, owing to the malice that simmers under surface and with the local colloquialisms it drew me back to City of Bohane by Kevin Barry, which you’ll find previously reviewed in this blog.

In Rural Ireland for years there were always really two religions, The Church and GAA, but now that the church is in serious decline, The GAA is the real main stay for the community and life revolves around the local club. Relationships are formed and broken; kids follow their parents and grandparents into the football, hurling, camogie or handball teams. This is depicted beautifully in The Gamal.  The pecking order is decided by strongest player on the pitch, socially he is the alpha male too and god help anyone who upstages him, like James.

But to give it its due this book is a fantastic read, that should be on the reading list of everyone who likes a dark tragicadventures-of-huckleberry-finn__oPt tale told with a large infusion of modern Irish humour and wit. This book had me laughing and smiling all the way through, despite knowing at the back of my mind that it wasn’t going to end well and even when it did, you were still left with a bit of mystery to keep you guessing. Collins has managed to marry the innocence of Huckleberry Finn and dark tragedy of The Field, with the characters and humour of The Quiet Man and the riveting plot of a court room drama.

If this book proves anything, it’s the old adage never trust the quiet ones so if you fancy a dark and well written quirky Irish novel from a talented newcomer then get yourself down to your local bookshop or download a copy ASAP.

LIEBSTER AWARD : ACCEPTANCE – YIPPEE

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liebster1Recognition, we all like to receive it. But do we really go out of our way to get it? No of course not, because the best part of receiving an award or more importantly recognition for something you’ve done, is the utter surprise. If we all expected to receive an award for our work then the fake reaction would be noticeable from space and as cheesy as the acting you see on U.S. shows such as Pimp My Ride. Where the supposed utter shock and surprise shown by the lucky car owner at seeing the presenter, Xzibit at their door, is so over the top, as to make one cringe. So you can imagine my utter shock when I realized on Saturday 4th January that I had been nominated for a Liebster Award by Hana Telige  http://hanatelige.wordpress.com for my review of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl on this blog. Thanks Hana and please everyone visit Hana’s blog above and tell her what you think of it because to all of us plying our trade as bloggers/writers on the web, the best thing we can ever get is feed back and recognition.

So, what is a “Liebster Award”, according  to the research I’ve done on the web, it’s an online award given to new blogs which have a following of less than 200 or 2000 followers, depending on what you read. There is no prize or fancy black tie ceremony with a red carpet, just the online accolade and benefits of increased awareness of your blog. I’ve already seen that, especially after I posted the news on Facebook, thanks to all my friends’ and LiebsterAwardRulesacquaintances, who’ve sent messages of congratulations and wished me well in person. There’s is also a little bit of work to do as a result of a nomination.

1)      I have to thank my nominator by linking them in this acceptance blog (done above), but again thanks Hana.

2)      I have to answer 10 questions set by Hana (some award nominators request 11 and 11 random facts, but I think Hana is going easy on her nominees)   .

3)      I have to nominate 10 other blogs for a Liebster (This is harder then it sounds, most of my ten have somewhere between less the 200 and 2000 followers. If you have more, sorry, I hope you appreciate the award and graciously accept it).

4)      And finally set 11 questions for these bloggers to answer.

So here are the 10 questions set by Hana:

1)      Why did you start a Blog? It was originally as a way to express my musings on life and events in the news, that blog was on BlogSpot but about two years ago I started putting book reviews on it, then last November I set up this Word Press blog to cater solely for my book reviews.

2)      What is your favourite video game? Currently it’s GTA5 as that’s what I’m playing at the moment, but the best ever game was a little known title called Flight Unlimited 3 by Looking Glass studios and EA. As a flight Sim it was very realistic and gave me hours of fun flying various planes all over Washington State.

3)      What’s the first thing on your bucket list? Why? God, There’s still so much I want to do, that I don’t really know what is top of my list , or why.

4)      Would you want to live for ever (at the age you are now)? Why or why not? Yes, because like most people I’m scared of dying. Although in all seriousness I know I’ll die some day, despite all the major advances in medical science.

5)      Favourite quote or one that makes you think? Some days you’re the pigeon, some days you’re the statue.

6)      Why do you like your favourite food? Wine, because no two bottles are ever the same and it’s 5pm somewhere.

7)      What’s the first book you remember loving? Shall We Tell The President by Jeffery Archer

8)      What instrument would you most like to play? The Piano

9)      Favourite thing that happened in 2013? Spending a week hill walking in Derbyshire, while also sampling some great local ales.

10)   What are you most excited about in 2014? Seeing my best mate Ivan, whose been travelling around the globe, he returns in February.

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Now for my ten lucky nominees, well done. http://maresespieces.com/

http://mylittlebookblog.wordpress.com/

http://pols80.wordpress.com/

http://theirishbeersnob.blogspot.ie/

http://anygivenbeer.com/

http://livingawritinglife.blogspot.ie/

http://brickmoviereviews.wordpress.com/

http://adventuresincupcakes.com/

http://tarjoiluehdotus.blogspot.ie/

http://littleredreviewer.wordpress.com

I need 11 random facts  and 11 Nominations and 11 questions, might as well stick to the rules.

My 11 questions to my nominees:

  1. What was the last book you read? How did you come to read it?
  2. Do you have a guilty pleasure?
  3. If you could ask someone dead or living (they don’t have to be famous) a question what would it be?
  4. If you could be the witness to some event in history what would it be? And why?
  5. What’s the worst present you ever got and regretted giving?
  6. Where’s the best place you’ve visited on a holiday? Why?
  7. Have you ever Book Crossed and if so where’s the strangest place you left a book or found a book?
  8. Do you remember your first kiss? Go on, who was it and have you seen that person since?
  9. What books are on you TBR list for this year 2014?
  10. Where were you on 9/11, how did you hear about the news?
  11. When was the last time you cried, why?

O’DONOVAN DELIVERS PACE BUT NEEDS A PRAYER TO REPEAT THE ORIGINALITY OF PRIEST

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Dublin DeadI’ve always steered clear of Irish crime fiction. I don’t know why really. Maybe it’s because I have the plots of a number of books inside me, that I don’t want to see already written about when I open up some Sunday paper hack’s latest attempt to fill the remaining hours of their days and weekends, when they’re not sleeping, eating, drinking or just catching up with the family.

I think it’s because when put up against the likes of Morse, Reacher, Bosch etc; they don’t have the same romanticism. I live in and visit the settings on a regular if not daily basis and find it hard to picture them in the same way as a Midwest American two horse town or the cobbled bicycle congested lanes of Oxford.

Back in February my partner gave me a copy of Gerard O’Donovan’s latest book “Dublin Dead” as a Valentines Day present. I think I gave her a voucher for M&S… Hmm, true romantics both of us… Anyway I let the book sit on my bedside locker as a reminder that it was on my TBR (To Be Read) list. Then as I ran out the door last week to my sisters wedding in Italy without anything to read, the love of my life suggested rather subtlety that I hadn’t read “… That book I gave you for Valentines”.  So into the bag it went, displacing Anita Notaro’s latest from a round trip to Lake Garda.

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This is O’Donovan’s second book after “Priest”, both feature the Dublin DI Mike Mulcahy and Sunday paper journalist Siobhan Fallon. In “Dublin Dead” both are a year on from their encounter with a deranged priest who via back story we discover impaled Fallon on the papal cross in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. Now that’s what I call original and made me sit up and take note. Anyway in this outing Fallon is working through her Post Traumatic Stress on a dead end suicide story which then leads to a missing persons, while Mulcahy is following up the murder of a Dublin gangster in Spain and the link to the largest haul of drugs off the cork coast and the involvement of an internationally feared Colombian hit-man, while trying to prevent the closure of his Drug Liaison Unit by the end of the week. Soon both hero and heroine find themselves pursued and pursuers with a climactic finale in west cork.

O’Donovan’s own back story reads a little fantastically, he’s had a job in the Irish civil service, worked abroad as a barman, gherkin bottler and philosophy teacher…. Umm, if you can figure how you go from pushing paper in Dublin to pushing knobbly green veg into bottles, answers in the comments box below. I suppose teaching philosophy is similar to that of the gherkin bottler, you’re pushing knobbly shaped theories into empty vessels.

The book slams you straight into the action from the first page andThe Priest the pace is relentless to the end. The story line is topical, inspired by a recent botched drug run on a yacht off the south coast and with references to NAMA and the perilous state of the economy. Where it is disappointing is in the final confrontation, here it feels a bit limp and goes down a well worn path. For someone who had one of his lead characters crucified on a 116ft high monument over looking Dublin previously I expected a better ending and some more dramatic set pieces through out the book, but take my word for it this is well worth the read and probably even better if you start with “Priest” .

(First published  www.murphysview.blogspot.com  2012)

FIFTY YEARS ON LEE STILL HAS PEOPLE FLOCKING TO READ HER LITERARY CLASSIC

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to-kill-a-mockingbirdFor years people have been saying to me, if you have to read one book before you die, you’ve go to read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Not that I’m ready to die now that I’ve read it, but having done so I can certainly tick it off my “Bucket List”.

Published in 1960, it’s the only book Lee wrote and with it she created one of the greatest literary works of our time and in it gave us one of the great literary characters, in the shape of Atticus Finch. A father figure coveted by every kid in Christendom or at least the child inside everyone whose ever read the book or seen the Oscar winning film, starring Gregory Peck (Atticus) and a very young Robert Duvall (Boo Radley). In my view, if they ever wanted to replace Father Christmas; they wouldn’t be far wrong replacing him with Atticus Finch. I have to admit to looking back while reading this book and seeing aspects of Atticus in my late father or maybe it’s more to do with aspects of Atticus in all our fathers.

The book follows the young lives of Jem Finch and his sister “Scout” or Jean Louise, to give her full name. As they grow up in the small town of Maycomb in America’s Deep South during the 1930’s when the issue of race is at its height. Their father Atticus is a widower and local lawyer who is tasked with defending a young black man accused of raping a local white girl. The town takes sides and the ugly spectacle of mob justice and small town back-biting comes knocking on the quiet suburban door of the Finch family, The court case and the ripples it causes in the small town are seen through the eyes of young Scout, a girl wise beyond her years.

Maycomb has its usual gathering of weird and wonderful characters from the mysterious Boo Radley, who lives a secluded to-kill-a-mockingbird-movie-posterlife in his parent’s house across the street from the Finches. To the various women in the neighbourhood who help open the children’s eyes to the harsh realities of life.  But time and again the most outstanding character in the book is the kid’s father Atticus, a man who gives his kids just enough leeway to enjoy themselves but also someone worldly–wise, principled and unafraid  to stand up  for what is right.

The book was selected by my book group and I must say it was a fantastic read, although it does take a while to get to the courtroom drama. The run up to it is a good scene setter and the descriptions of the town are excellently done but once the court room drama is over, the book takes on a sedentary pace till the very end, when Lee hits us with a curve ball out of left field. At ten to one the other morning I was just about throw the book down and not finish it, when I reached the last two chapters and’ bam!’ I was hit square on by the turn of events and my determination to finish the book was rejuvenated.

There was a bit of confusion caused by the book during the past month among the book groupers; one of them thought we were supposed to be reading ‘Catcher in the Rye ‘(Don’t ask me how). On another occasion, a friend my partner and I had met for a drink asked me what the book was about, I quipped it’s like an episode of ‘Matlock,’ in three hundred pages. To which my partner said, ‘no! You’re confusing it with the guy in the wheelchair.’ We both looked at her and said, ‘Err that’s Ironside’.

harper-lee

So, take my advice if you haven’t read To Kill A Mockingbird yet, and your looking for a good read, you’ll not be disappointed by this book and like me and many others around the globe including one Victoria Beckham (she supposedly named her daughter Harper, after reading the book)  you too can take it off your great “To Do” list.

(First published http://www.murphysview.blogspot.com  2012)