Gallagher, Stephen. The Bedlam Detective.

NY: Crown, 2012.

I kind of hate to admit that I’ve never heard of this author, since this is his fifteenth novel, and I confess I picked it up mostly because of the title, but I definitely lucked out. It’s a very original sort of murder mystery, with adroitly painted characters and a thoroughly believable setting. It’s the fall of 1912 in the southwest of England and Sebastian Becker is on a case. He used to be a homicide detective in London, and then went to America, where he became a Pinkerton undercover agent (and learned how to use a pistol because “they’re all gunslingers over there”) and also met and married Elisabeth, a Philadelphia girl. Nowadays, he’s an investigator for Sir James, the Lord Chancellor’s Visitor in Lunacy, who takes an official interest in any man of property whose sanity begins to appear questionable.



Penny, Louise. The Long Way Home.

NY: St. Martin, 2014.

For the past couple of books in this stellar series, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, head of the Quebec Surete’s homicide division, has been struggling to save both his job and the Surete itself. And it all ended with the arrest of the premier of the province and with Gamache being forced to personally kill his boss. It was all just too much and though Gamache won, finally, he also retired to a cottage in the almost Brigadoon-like village of Three Pines, where most of the series has been set.


Spufford, Francis. Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York.

NY: Scribner, 2017.

It’s the fall of 1746 and Richard Smith has just arrived in the colony of New York from London, bearing with him a note of exchange for £1,000 which he intends to convert into cash at the London mercantile firm’s New York associate, Lovell & Co. That’s a lot of money — there isn’t that much in specie in the whole of the town of New York — and Lovell insists on waiting until the confirming letters arrive, so he can be sure he isn’t being scammed.


Le Carré, John. A Legacy of Spies.

NY: Viking, 2017.

Le Carré is still the best of the great Cold War spy novelists, though he had to change his game rather a lot after the Iron Curtain collapsed. Here, he returns to his roots with a story set mostly in the late 1950s and early ’60s. Many years ago, when he was young, Peter Guillam was the personal assistant, factotum, and gatekeeper to George Smiley, the dumpy, rather gray, middle-aged master spy of the Circus, and he was thereby privy to all the great (and usually secret) events of the long, strong struggle against the Soviet Union. Now Peter is becoming elderly himself, living in retirement on the farm in Brittany where he grew up.


Strahan, Jonathan (ed). Edge of Infinity.

Oxford, UK: Solaris, 2012.

Only to experienced science fiction readers who are used to thinking in terms of galaxy-spanning distances would our own planetary system seem “local,” but that’s the theme of this anthology of original short pieces by an array of authors both well-known and not so much. In his introduction, Strahan makes the point that SF has long been obsessed with its own death as a genre, but this is because science fiction is constantly being “killed by science.”


Rothfuss, Patrick. The Wise Man’s Fear.

NY: DAW, 2011.

The first volume of this engrossing fantasy trilogy-to-be ran close to 700 pages and it took me longer than usual to read because I took my time and thought about what I was reading. Rothfuss’s multilayered style has that effect. This second volume is 1,000 pages even and, again, I took my time. The Chronicler has come to Kvothe’s small-town inn in search of his story, which the legend-covered man known as “King-Killer” decides it’s time to tell, in all its many facets.


Published in: on 24 December 2017 at 8:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Sansom, Ian. The Norfolk Mystery.

NY: HarperCollins, 2013.

This is a period mystery yarn that probably won’t appeal to everyone because of the main character’s rather pushy all-knowingness, but it’s kind of an interesting read. In 1932, Stephen Sefton graduates from Oxford with a poor third-class English degree (he’d spent too much time carousing as a student), so he spends a few years teaching at the poorer sort of public (i.e., private) boys’ schools. Then, fighting off boredom, he joins the Communist Party and in 1936 he goes off to fight the Falangists in Spain.


Blish, James. A Case of Conscience.

NY: Walker, 1958.

James Blish was one of the more intellectual science fiction authors of the mid-20th century and this is probably his most important work, for which he won a Hugo in 1959. “Religion in science fiction” leads most fans to think of A Canticle for Leibowitz, published at about the same time, but there the Catholic Church was simply the background for a post-holocaust plot line. Blish — who was a thoroughgoing agnostic at the least — is more interested in actual questions of theology. And that makes for a fascinating and involving story. Moreover, it’s only the first of his four books on similar themes.


Stephenson, Neal & Nicole Galland. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

[My apologies for the long gap between posts. I was out of the country for most of a week and for some reason was unable to access my blog.]

NY: HarperCollins, 2017.

I have a very short list of “automatic” authors — novelists that, whatever they write, I want to read it. I don’t even bother to read the reviews. Neal Stephenson was one of my earliest additions to that list, back when I read Snow Crash and then Cryptonomicon, and he’s never disappointed me. Still, I have my favorites among his works, and there are also those books that I really had to work at. This one falls somewhere in the middle, I think, but I still don’t quite know how I feel about it.


Taylor, Jodi. A Second Chance.

Abercynon, Wales: Accent Press, 2014.

The “Chronicles of St. Mary’s” series, about time-traveling British historians in the not-too-distant future, has more than a few strange elements, including a bit of mythological fantasy thrown in (Kleio, the Muse of History, is also the Director’s steely-eyed PA). This third episode takes the mix to a whole new and rather complicated level.