As readers will remember, I give up reading fiction in Lent and read lots of theology instead. And jolly good it was too. The theology, that is. But I don’t half look forward to Easter Day in the afternoon when I can sit and doze with a good bloodthirsty whodunnit. Unfortunately I woke up this Easter Monday with a horrible virus and have been ill all week which has seriously curtailed my reading ability. Every time I opened the book or the Kindle I seemed to fall asleep! However, I did manage to finish a couple:
Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death by James Runcie. You may know that James Runcie is the son of Robert Runcie, once ABofC and good egg. At least he seemed like a good egg when I met him at our Provincial Conference many, many years ago and he turned out to be really quite amusing. James Runcie has written a few books but this is his first in the clerical detective genre. Sidney Chambers is a 32 year old bachelor and vicar of Grantchester and friend of the local police Inspector. He likes jazz, cricket, cycling and people. Somehow he seems to get involved in many police cases via his Inspector friend. This book was set in the 1950s although somehow it seemed so much older than that! I’m told it is the first in a series involving Sidney Chambers which will end in 1981.
And it was lovely. Quite lovely. Just not terribly exciting or bloodthirsty. It was very much in the genre of Father Brown and was made up of six little individual stories. As always in these kind of books, real clergy are left wondering when the sermons got written and the admin done. It was probably as much as my mushy brain could cope with, mind you. The test will be whether I’d buy the next one and at the moment I’m just not sure. 3 1/2 stars. Och that’s mean. Give it 4 stars.
The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid. Now this is more like it. A really bloodthirsty whodunnit by the Scottish author. I don’t know why I haven’t read any of her books before but I did enjoy the Wire in the Blood which was on TV a few years ago with the clinical psychologist Tony Hill. I think this is the first in the series in which he features and was free with Good Housekeeping a month or so ago. I didn’t realise it was quite old – written in 1995 – and it is amazing how quickly some books can date. For example, the police didn’t seem to have mobile phones in this book and regularly had to go hunting for a phone box.
But the story was really good and really gory. A serial killer is mutilating and murdering men and leaving them in the gay ghetto. Tony has to quickly come up with the profile of the killer, working with Carol, detective inspector, and facing prejudice daily because of her gender. I told you it was dated. So those bits felt a wee bit clichéd but only because we’ve seen it on TV in this and in Jane Tennyson. There is also the added frisson of attraction between Tony and Carol which is not resolved in this book and I can’t remember if it ever does in the series of books. Nice twist at the end and superbly written. 4 stars. I’ll go and read more but the recent ones, I think.
I’m now half way through The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out Of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. This has to be one of the most surreal books I’ve read in a long time. The old man in the title climbs out of the window in his twilight home, in his slippers, and keeps walking. Half of the book is then about his adventures as he meets other misfits on the road which involve murder, kidnapping, an elephant etc. The other half of the book looks back at this old man’s life story and the people he met. These include prime ministers, presidents, and all the great and the good. It is quirky, eccentric and one of those books which probably stay with you long after you’ve read them.