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The A to Z of Mainstream Fiction
A is for... Acts of Mutiny
C is for... Clive Cussler
Sometimes you just want a book to take your mind off your problems with no need to think deeply about the ideas or situations presented. Shock Wave by Clive Cussler is one such novel, an old-fashioned adventure yarn in the James Bond tradition. One of the Dirk Pitt books, here our hero is involved in the nefarious exploits of diamond and precious gem king, Arthur Dorsett, whose mining operations are threatening to kill millions. Pitt has also to deal with Dorsett's three daughters, Maeve who has escaped her father's dominion to become a guide on Antarctic wildlife cruises; and the treacherous Deirdre and amazonian Boudicca, evil generals in Dorsett's empire. An enjoyable romp...
D is for... The Pirate's Daughter
Funny that I seem to reading so many books about travel these days since I am such a terrible traveller... Or is that why? Whatever. The Pirate's Daughter by Robert Girardi begins with Wilson Lander finding two tarot cards, the Page of Wands and the Emperor, on the sidewalk in his home city, a discovery which adds to the sense of dread that is consuming him. Seeking a reading he enters a new-age store and there meets Cricket. Soon he is following her to sea, having given up his office job and the stressed-out professional girlfriend to become a cook's assistant on the Compound Interest. And that's when his problems really start. An adventure of pirates, slavery and bloody african civil war, the novel is diverting although the fictional places and african tribes are sometimes too allegorical and the conclusion frankly too easy to be completely satisfying. Nevertheless the characters are well-observed and the situations full of interesting ideas and descriptions.
F is for... High Fidelity
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby is a book that will appeal to any man who has ever catalogued his record collection or written lists of favourite things, and to any woman who has had the pleasure and the pain of loving such obsessive types. Rob has the dream job of owning a second-hand record-shop, with its equally vinyl-obsessed staff, but he's not really that happy. His girlfriend Laura has just left him, and despite the attentions of US singer-songwriter Marie LaSalle, Rob finds himself increasingly thinking he has missed out on life and that his all-time Top 5 most memorable break-ups are partly to blame... Light-weight and perhaps with an ending much too neat for even the most romantic pop-song addict, High Fidelity is fun, witty and just oh so true...
G is for... Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem
Not the standard thriller by any means, Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem, by Peter Ackroyd, nevertheless conjures images of Victorian London mutilation at its fog-bound best. As in Hawksmoor Ackroyd involves the real places and characters of its setting in his fiction, making the reader unsure of what is reality and what is fantasy. The eponymous Dan Leno was a music-hall artist of note and his protegé Elizabeth Cree, who has reinvented herself from the humblest of origins, is the book's central character. Hanged on page one, Ackroyd builds the story of her downfall through a mesmerizing variety of viewpoints including Karl Marx. Intriguing and multi-layered the book only slightly gets bogged down in historic narrative (for me where Babbage's first computer is discussed). Excellent.
H is for... Peter Hoeg
Miss Smilla's Feeling For Snow by Peter Hoeg and translated by F. David, is an extraordinary story with small beginnings. Smilla, half-Greenlander, half-Dane, lives alone in Copenhagen, and like the ice and snow she is obsessed with, her life is frozen until the tragic fall of her neighbour's son from the roof. The police see accident but she is not convinced because she can read panic in the boy's footprints... Grimly determined Smilla slowly pieces the jigsaw of the boy's past together... Mysterious to the very end Hoeg feeds the reader very little clues as to what is really going on which intrigues only slightly more than it irritates at times. Nevertheless an interesting and intelligent book...
I is for... In The Memory of the Forest
Set in Poland after the collapse of the Communist regime In The Memory of the Forest by Charles T Powers is a haunting and poetic novel. Lonely farmer Leszek maintains his farm on the forested edges of the village of Jadowia with his grandfather and mother. When his neighbour and childhood friend Tomek is found brutally murdered in the woods he begins to investigate the sequence of events that lead to his friend's death. Meanwhile other memories are stirring in the village awakened by the theft of foundation stones from village houses and barns, and the removal of markers from the neglected Jewish cemetary. The gradual disclosure of the village's dark secrets makes this a particularly memorable book, and while the ordinary reader may find polish names a little hard to get used to, it is well worth the effort.
K is for... Andrew Klavan
Agnes Mallory by Andrew Klavan is a difficult book to define. Gloomy yet rivetting, the central characters, Harry Bernard a bright young New York lawyer who is drawn inevitably towards scandal and Agnes Mallory a struggling sculptress whose work is startlingly beautiful and yet riddled with corruption, meet as children when their parents, only partly realised by the youngsters, embark on a brief affair. Years later their lives are drawn together once more as both tumble towards self-inflicted disaster. What is the secret of Agnes' latest work and can Harry save her and himself from despair? A dark yet haunting story...
L is for... The Last King of Scotland
The Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden tells the strange story of young Scottish doctor who is chosen almost by accident to become Idi Amin's personal physician. An historical novel based closely on the facts, this book has some insight into the mind of a colourful but deadly tyrant, and into the political groups which first nurture and then attempt to destroy their monstrous protegé. The weakness of moral fibre which leads the unwary doctor into a position of danger is revealed slowly and with at times great wit. The descriptions of Uganda and the more common tropical diseases add much to the story, but it is the central relationship between Amin and the doctor and the international events such as the Israeli hostage crisis at Entebbe airport which will fascinate the reader.
|© 2000, Compiled by Alan J Stuart|