Tuesday, 31 March 2009

A Big Boy Did it and Ran Away by Christopher Brookmyre

I'm in the middle of this and it really has a lot to recommend it. (I wasn't quite so keen when I was trying to read Jane Austen at the weekend, and Mr F was in fits of laughter over this book, insisting on reading sections to me ...)

Despite many humorous passages (the sustained rant against the whole city of Aberdeen at the start is a case in point), this book is as much a crime thriller as a comedy. There is a lot of darkness. Excellent characters so far are Ray, the English teacher whose class at the start are running rings round him with foul language and foul illustrations on his blackboard. (Read the book to find out how he stuns the class and gets them on his side). Some of his pupils get caught up in the dramatic action as well, and there is plenty of West Coast of Scotland banter.

How will it finish? With the villain getting his just deserts, I hope.

Day 173; Book 173 (Mr F, your counting was right!)

My Jane Austen Weekend

I decided to catch up with some of the lesser-known Jane Austens over the weekend. First I read Northanger Abbey which I found charming and amusing. It wasn't without its darker side, although that was not the Gothic horror anticipated by the heroine but had a rather more mundane explanation. I really must try to read The Castle of Udolpho (ETA, oops, I meant The Mysteries of Udolpho), one of the works satirised by Miss Austen here. It's not essential though and you can still appreciate her sharp wit without this. Some critics feel this book (an earlier one) suffers from a lack of cohesion but I think it works very well and is as well worth reading as the more-famous Pride and Prejudice.

Next I eagerly attacked The Watsons, the story of a young girl first coming into society in a small country town. The interplay between the sisters and the characters of Tom Musgrave and Lord Osborne were hugely promising, so imagine my horror when I turned the page only part of the way into the story and discovered that I had been reading an unfinished fragment. Noooooooooo! It's still worth reading, but just be warned, unlike me, that the story comes to a sudden end. The same applies to Sanditon, an unfinished novel from Jane Austen's later life. It's set in a speculative seaside resort which must have been a very topical subject at the time. Again there is an interesting cast of characters whom I would love to have read more about.

Lady Susan is an early, short work, written in letter form. This isn't my favourite style but I soon became absorbed in the different characters as they were cleverly introduced. Lady Susan is a deliciously bad anti-heroine. Although the book is completed, the ending comes very suddenly and seems rather disappointing, but at least the ends are all tied up.

The Alibi Man by Tami Hoag

This is another crime thriller by Tami Hoag and again she keeps the romance fairly low key. She does have one of those damaged heroines though (I think this is the second in a series featuring Elena Estes). This can sometimes seem like a plot device rather than a an essential part of the character. Good plot though and interesting developments (although a depressing view of the moneyed horsey set in Florida).