January reading

January 28, 2010

I’ve been on a bit of a Tana French binge this month.  She doesn’t seem to have the profile – yet – of other, less talented crime authors, but I’m very confident that she will…especially with most of the booksellers in our shop behind her!

I reread her first novel, In the Woods, for our bookclub early this month, and was dazzled anew by her beautiful writing and strong sense of place, her vivid characters and avoidance of a standard formulaic ending.  It deals with the long shadows the past can throw across your life, the instability of memory and how you can blunder into destroying something before you realise how crucial it is.  The other bookclub members loved it too.

Having enjoyed her debut novel so much, I went back to The Likeness, the next one in the series.  Featuring Cassie, one of the main protagonists in the first book, it is still very much a stand-alone novel.  Featuring more of that contrast of shimmering, dreamy atmospherics with hardbitten characters and rapid-fire dialogue, this is just as good as In the Woods – once you can get by the unlikely (pun intended) premise.  Cassie Maddox has a doppelganger – a dead woman, Lexie Madison…except there is no such person as Lexie Madison.  She was a identity Cassie and her handler, Frank Mackey, invented as part of working undercover.  Somehow, Tana French convinces you this is plausible, partly through Cassie’s reluctance to accept the situation.  So the obvious way to use this uncanny resemblance is for Cassie to step into Lexie’s life, pretend she was just badly injured, not killed, and see what follows…

I’ve just finished reading a proof copy of her third novel, Faithful Place, due to be published in August – supplied by a friendly rep (Thanks S!).  This one features Frank Mackey, Cassie’s handler in the last book, as his past he thought he’d escaped reaches out for him.  It has such a vividly written sense of place that I feel I know exactly where Frank grew up – Faithful Place, an invented street in the very real Liberties in Dublin.  I live not far from the Liberties, and went to school and worked there, so I know it well – this is an accurate, vivid depiction of the place; the hoodies and addicts on the streets, the doughty, tough women shouting from the doorways, the hard-drinking men in the pubs, and the way people close ranks on outsiders, especially the police.

This book feels like somewhat of a departure  – gone are the ambiguities and the sometimes dream-like tone that were so marked in the first two books; instead the focus is more on the interplay of the characters and family dynamics.  All families have secrets – secrets from outsiders, secret cliques within the family, open secrets that no-one acknowledges, but that are just as potent for all that…Frank uses his skills and ruthlessness as an undercover cop to pit his old neighbours and family against each other, giving up vital pieces of information to solve a dark mystery from his past.

I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a great story and I look forward to hand-selling to customers when it’s published in August!

I’ve also been on a bit of a Georgette Heyer binge – I’ve reread both The Grand Sophy and Sylvester, and hugely enjoyed both.  If you’re not familiar with her, she’s sort of like Jane Austen, if Jane Austen had written inthe 1960’s!  She’s great fun – witty repartee, vivid characters and a fantastic ear for authentic Regency slang.  I think of her as the feminine equivalent of P. G. Wodehouse – warm, humorous tales to cheer, written with a deceptive simplicity that disguises the skill and craft that went into their creations.

I’ve also finished Ash by Malinda Lo – a young adult twist on the Cinderella fable – fans of Holly Black’s Modern Tale of Faerie series will, I think, enjoy this.

And last of all, I read one of the last books I bought, Already Dead by Charlie Huston – it was fine, but it won’t take much willpower to resist buying any more in the series!


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