I read some books recently, and for once I took notes. The gist of it is here.
Fredrik Backman: A Man Called Ove is a wonderful book. Ove just wants to die as there is no-one left that need him, but he finds that there are legion. Told as a light comedy, but some darker tones underneath -- Sonja's infirmity, the childlessness, and so on. Ove is closed and silent, but he has principles. In some other story he might have been a Sweden Democrat-member, but in this one he is a fine and just man, who has a big heart.
Christopher Brookmyre is a reasonably lauded writer, and perhaps seen as the heir to the throne of Tartan Noir. I, however, fail to see this. I read the first book in his series, and the first 30 pages of the second -- and left. The first one plods along, but you give it a chance, what with the stereotypes and such. The second one starts with 30 pages of political soliloquy (what happened to showing, not telling?) Ian Rankin it ain't.
Bill Bryson: The Road to Little Dribbling is a funny and well-written sequel to Notes from a Small Island. Older and grumpier, but really not that different. Fewer personal anecdotes, perhaps, and more general tourist information -- which is not a good swap.
Robert Harris: Fatherland is brilliant -- both as alternative, tongue-in-cheek alternative history, as detective story, and as sort of a romance. Solid research and solid story telling Phillip Kerr's Gunther-series continues in this vein, except perhaps for the alternative part.
Andrew Michael Hurley: The Loney is a contemporary Gothic novel. And he pulls it off. It is very well written, with some resemblance to Patrick McGrath and his often unreliable narrators. Hurley creates a great of uncanniness without ever being explicit. We never learn what happened in the basement under Thessaly, not really.
I thought that Sarah Perry: The Essex Serpent was something like The Loney - Gothic etc. - but it is not. Not really. There is a real or imagined danger lurking. And is it no coincidence that we are by-and-large in the era of Sigmund Freud and a lurking serpent could well mean something else? We do meet, however, Eleanor Marx, and the book has interesting, if not outright strong, female characters. It is a pleasant, but somewhat meandering story, beautifully told. The ending is unfulfilled and unfulfilling, though.
And as a pleasant ending, another Rebus-installment: Rather Be the Devil. Vintage stuff. Rebus is old, frail, and he may have cancer -- but he soldiers on. Less booze and no cigs, but Cafferty makes a come-back. Perhaps this means that we have more to come? Not the best in the series, and perhaps mostly for those who are already hooked and need a fix.