Just had a lovely 9-day holiday on the Algarve with the family. And what do I love about holidays (apart from spending quality time with my wife and chidlers)? Reading lots of great books whilst everyone else is lazing in bed. Here’s what I got through (and in the order I read them):
First published in 2009, I read the 2013 edition that’s been sitting on my Kindle for at least six months.
I’m a big crime fiction and thriller fan, and this is neither of those. What it is, though, is a lovely book, following the protagonist (I’m not sure she is named in the book – her sister calls her ‘darling’ and her brothers call her ‘sis’) as she nurses her terminally ill father through the last week or so of his life. As various dysfunctional siblings come onto the scene, tensions bubble beneath the surface as everyone deals with the impending death of their father in their own way.
Flashbacks give a few brief insights into the type of person their ‘mad Dad’ was – making ashtrays in pottery class for the hospice – and also the lives of each of the siblings. There’s also a small handful of the supernatural thrown into the mix (which may be just the protagonists own delusions). I read the book carrying with me my own experience of seeing my mother die of cancer and I wholeheartedly agree with the Neil Gaiman quote on the cover of the book – A beautiful story, honestly told.
Flare is a self-published book set in September 2014. A coronal mass ejection (flare from the sun) acts a massive electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) and knocks out anything with any kind of sensitive circuitry leaving Britain without electricity – and in chaos. Reporter, Malc, sets off from Hove with his astrophysicist friend, Jerry to find Malc’s daughter, who lives with her mother in Manchester. In a matter of days, the lack of electricity and communications has made the country a dangerous place as people face a battle for survival.
Although the book is self-published, with two or three typos that are almost mandatory (but not just in self-pubbed books –Merry Christmas, Alex Cross had one, too), the story is great. I must confess to being a fan of anything post-apocalyptic, and Flare does not disappoint – it’s a great read!
November Echo by James Houston Turner
Published in 2013
Colonel Aleksandr Talanov is a KGB operative known as the Ice Man. He is unorthodox in his methods, but has a reputation for getting the job done. In this novel, set at the height of the cold war in 1985, Talanov is tasked with stopping the defection of a Soviet scientist who has been working on the USSR’s biological weapons programme, Biopreparat. Used to working alone, Talanov is made to partner Agent Sofia Dubinina, who, unbeknown to him, has her own agenda.
I really enjoyed this one. Houston Turner is a great story-teller with an easy writing style, which makes for a fun and effortless read. I’m guessing this is the first Talanov novel (the cover of the book includes ‘Every spy has a beginning’) but I’m hoping it’s not the last.
Caught by Harlan Coben
Published in 2010
I have never read a Harlan Coben book that hasn’t been fantastic. Caught is no exception. It centers around television journalist, Wendy Tynes, and follows a TV exposé of suspected paedophile, Dan Mercer. The story progresses with Wendy being tricked into leading a gunman to Dan Mercer, where she witnesses his brutal killing. But with a missing 17-year-old, Haley McWaid, thrown in to the mix, things are not quite what they seem. It’s up to Wendy to unravel the mystery, before it unravels her.
Harlan Coben is a fantastic writer who puts believable characters into roller-coaster rides of twists and turns – none of which you see coming. Loved this book.
Merry Christmas, Alex Cross by James Patterson
Published in 2012
Almost two stories in one, by my namesake James Patterson (like the drink, only spelled different… oh no, sorry – different book). It’s Christmas Eve and Alex Cross (who I will always visualise as Morgen Freeman) is called to a hostage situation. The perpetrator had been a successful lawyer, but was now rock-bottom. High on crystal meth and heavily armed, he’s taken his ex-wife and children hostage. Alex learns that unethical decisions that caused harm to others started his downward spiral, and in the second half of the book, when Alex is trying to prevent a serious terrorist strike on American soil, he finds himself at the sharp end of unethical decisions that do not sit well with him.
It’s clear why James Patterson is one of the best-known and biggest-selling writers of all time. This book, as I have found all the Alex Cross novels, is fast paced, tightly plotted, and a great read.
Published in 2010
The idea for this book came from a comment made to Linwood over breakfast: “Suppose you came to pick me up at my job and found out I’d never worked there?” That’s what happens to Tim Blake when he goes looking for his missing daughter, Sydney, and the hotel where she was supposed to be working on the front desk denies all knowledge of her.
The book is a genuine ‘read at one sitting’ book, as the tension is gradually ratcheted upwards and Tim Blake, your average car salesman, finds himself a suspect for his daughter’s disappearance, and then the prime suspect for murder – all whilst some nasty people are trying to do him harm. Barclay is a fantastic author and this book is a great example of the crime thriller genre.