Saturday, 29 September 2012
A potpourri of murders
I'm so behind on blogging at the moment that I thought I'd better do one of those round-up posts, before I try to make my brain function properly long enough to do last month's Alan Garner reading justice. This month's reading has mainly involved murder - it's the time of year, both in that R.I.P.VII is running until Hallowe'en, and the darkening nights seem to predispose one to drawn curtains and delicious frights. So here goes:
Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm: the librarian recommended this when I returned Moon Over Soho (which is very nearly as good as Rivers of London, I'm glad to say). Our protagonist is a Collector, sent to harvest the souls of evildoers. Despite the fact that he does this because he made his own pact with the dark side, he's not entirely irredeemable. For a start he doesn't much like taking over living people when he needs a body in which to carry out his orders, preferring to find someone as recently dead as possible, and when his next victim is someone he's pretty sure is innocent of the crimes she's been accused of, he starts to wonder whether there is something going on. Conflict with both demons and angels ensues and of course we learn how Sam got to be a Collector in the first place. This is gripping stuff: there are plenty of bodies, lots of haring around the streets of New York, some excitement with a helicopter and the start of a series.
Skulduggery by William Marshall: I love Marshall and his Hong Kong detectives, and this one gets into my Century of Books, being published in 1981). As usual in the Yellowthread books there is more than one crime under investigation: Auden is in an apartment block trying to catch a mugger who attacks people who arrive on the third floor, despite the fact that the elevator doors won't open on that floor. Spencer is staking out Mr Fan's shop, mostly to the irritation of Mr Fan the money changer, who doesn't think he's much use. Inspector Christopher O'Yee is holding the fort in the Detectives' Room of the Yellowthread Street Police Station, and battling the cold with his Exploding Radiator, when a call comes in to say that a body has been found floating on a raft in Hong Bay, a 20-year-old skeleton with a hole in its skull and a set of false teeth. DCI Harry Feiffer, aided and abetted by the pathologist who examines the skeleton, is determined that this is not going to be shelved as an unsolvable crime. Will the dead fish which accompanied the skeleton on the raft prove to be a red herring? Auden and the elevator provide one of the most delectable subplots I know (this was a re-read).
Jerusalem Inn by Martha Grimes (1984): the Richard Jury series is slightly odd in that they are set in England but written by an American. They are quite enjoyable, though, and all named for pubs (some of them very exotically so, viz. I Am the Only Running Footman). This one was set in the north-east, suitably snow-bound, though some of the local detail made me raise an eyebrow. I don't think buttered beer has seen the light of day in Britain for some years (fifty or so?), and I've never heard of "bunty sandwiches". Did she mean "butty"? They are certainly popular up here being essentially something nice and unhealthy (chips - french fries, nice thick ones - or bacon), between two slices of white bread, and they are indeed very good for keeping the cold out. Perhaps some northerner could enlighten me, if there's a local delicacy that I've somehow managed to miss. Anyhow, nice Mr Jury meets nice woman at Washington Old Hall while he's visiting his cousin in Newcastle, but then there's a death and he's itching to get involved. Fortunately the local constabulary is amenable. His friend Melrose Plant turns up too, for a chilly country weekend, with ghastly hanger-on Aunt Agatha inevitably in tow. She can't bear that Melrose has renounced his title and is provided with lots of opportunity to loudly bewail his decision when they meet a young man who'd really rather not be a marquess. Good clean fun, as they say.
I think that's enough for now. More shortly. These count towards R.I.P.VII as well.