Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Recent reading - crime and fantasy

The Mark of a Murderer by Susannah Gregory: I haven't read any of this series before and this is a recent example. I found it slow to start with - to borrow a description from Patternings, I wondered if it was too sub-Cadfael. However, it got better as it went on, with a plot that turned on the rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge over a possible endowment by the Archbishop of Canterbury. I found the final chapter, in which the monastic detectives reviewed the evidence, rather heavy-going, and fear that such an exegesis may be characteristic of final chapters of the whole series: a satisfying conceit for the author, but perhaps too much for the reader? The research on 14th-century Cambridge, and scholastic and monastic life, seemed pretty convincing, though it suggests that monks were a pretty libidinous lot in those days. I shall look out for more of the Bartholomew books in the library, no doubt.

Bloodhounds by Peter Lovesey: I enjoyed this for its Bath setting and, though less so, for its crusty detective. It was the second I'd read in the series, and I was pleased to come across it in the charity shop at a point when my reading pile wasn't to hand! I wasn't quite convinced by the murderer - perhaps not a prominent enough character in the rest of the book.

The Innkeeper's Song by Peter S. Beagle: as expected, this was a real pleasure. The story of a deadly battle between magicians is told from multiple viewpoints, and the reliability of the narrators appears to vary considerably, adding to the pleasure. The fox, unreliable in both his narration and his ability to stay away from chickens, was my favourite.

Recursion by Tony Ballantyne: I found this rather a struggle. Another book told from multiple viewpoints, with a broken timeline. It's set across three centuries, with the events of previous centuries informing the last. It often failed to inform me, however, and I spent a large part of the book wondering where it was all going and whether I had missed something. Too many people who weren't people but were constructs, and my reading became inattentive. adding to the confusion. Even so, I had successfully followed the plot, and the end made sense. I'm rather out of practice at "hard" science fiction, I may have been wallowing too much in fantasy for my own good!


  1. I haven't read the Mark of the Murderer but it looks interesting. Thanks for visiting me. I'm glad you enjoyed The Once and Future King. Come back anytime and have a great day!

  2. I'm interested in your 'as expected ' comment on Peter S Beagle as I've never heard of him. It suggests that this isn't the first of his books and therefore, perhaps not the best place to start. What would you recommend?

  3. Ann, definitely The Last Unicorn - it's a lovely book, a little in the style of Thurber's fairy tales. I did briefly comment on another here:
    though I don't know that it's very helpful!

    At the moment I'm reading CJ Samson on your recommendation, and enjoying it - thanks!