Monday, 29 October 2012

The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams

I came across this book via a review from For Books Sake on scary sisters in literature. This is a book I might previously have overlooked whilst browsing the library bookshelves, but I’m so glad I have read this now.

The story starts with elderly reclusive Ginny in a decrepit mansion waiting for the return of her younger sister Vivien to their childhood home after nearly fifty years of absence. With Vivien’s return, untold secrets begin to emerge as the sisters rediscover each other. Ginny is the narrator and often recalls the dark past events that shape the sisters as they are today.

The family profession was lepidoptery and the mansion house is a museum of moth collections, scientific equipment and academic papers dedicated to generations of lifetime works all centred around moths. The expansive grounds of the Dorset mansion was also where Ginny and Vivien were taught to observe, hunt and capture moths, which Ginny continues even after Vivien had left. As a prolific moth expert, Ginny goes into great detail about moth classifications, the breeding, care and killing of moths and her studies of them. I thought the scientific details were amazingly researched and surprisingly interesting.

All the characters are well formed and the sisters’ relationship is strangely fascinating. I found this story to be elegantly morose and yet full of heart at the same time. Overall it is a striking read.

Friday, 26 October 2012

666 Charing Cross Road by Paul Magrs

I love books related to London. I love all things supernatural. And I love ancient old books. This novel already had me hooked and I hadn’t even opened it yet.

It tells of museum artist Shelley who unveils a strangely life-like exhibit in the form of Scottish bride effigy Bessie. Meanwhile her book fanati aunt Liza becomes obsessed with an antique bookstore at 666 Charing Cross Road and is sent an old grimoire. Shelley’s selfish boyfriend and boss Daniel gets his hands on said grimoire and releases vampiric evil into New York. Shelley, Liza and Bessie have to work together to save their friends, their cities and quite possibly the world.

 I found the character of Shelley quite pathetic and weak but for all her misgivings I adored her aunt Liza. I love her elderly I-don’t-give-a-sh*t attitude and the fact she had a bit of a supernatural back story. The action plays between New York and London, both individual and unique cities. After reading this I was tempted to go scouting for 666 on Charing Cross Road even though I know it doesn't exist. Anything for an adventure! The story is fast paced with a good balance of Tim Burton-esque occultism, camp characters and engaging story. The end will leave you wanting more.

Snow Hill by Mark Sanderson

“I went to my funeral this morning.”

That is the opening line of the main character’s diary and of the book itself. If that doesn’t prompt you to keep writing I don’t know what will.

 John Steadman, writer of the diary, is a young journalist in 1930s London who receives a tip off about the murder of a police officer. Despite being told that the information is false by his copper best mate Matt, other members of the forces and his colleagues at work, he is determined to solve the mystery. His investigations rattle some dangerous cages but his ambitions to scoop the story of his career and help the people around him force him to go undercover as his life is threatened.

This tale is a great mix of cops and criminals, and the role of the press in between. It’s goodies versus the bad guys, although at times you’re not sure who plays for which side. I liked the setting of 1930s London which for me conjured pictures of smart suited gentlemen and classic feminine women against a smoky, dark London backdrop. There is a great cast of characters and an ever-thickening plot that will leave you satisfied by the last page.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Weirdo by Cathi Unsworth

Just from the title this book grabbed me. Weirdo. Who is this weirdo? Why are they a weirdo? I seem to just like the word weirdo, but I’ll stop now. Once I got past the front cover however, I couldn’t put the book down.

Set in the fictional town of Ernemouth, the story flits between the years of 1983-84 where a teenager is murdered and 2003 when private investigator Sean Ward arrives to re-examine the case. The chapters of the past introduce the convicted girl Corrine Woodrow and her misfit bunch of friends. The mix of teen punks and rockers against their opposing adults in the form of parents and police was interesting to read. I love how the author describes all the 80s styles the characters go through and captures the teen angst of the era beautifully.

Meanwhile in 2003 I also took a shine to Sean Ward. I usually find leading police characters to be a bit samey – slightly depressive and angry with the world, and a bit too clever for their own good. But I find Sean Ward to be realistically sound minded and logical, which I liked.
This novel builds up layers of mystery and reveals them gradually which makes the pages almost turn by themselves. This was a captivating read, and is surely a TV adaptation waiting to happen.