All posts tagged: London

The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club – Dorothy L. Sayers

Refined, quirky, and intelligent are the first words that come to mind when describing this Peter Wimsey mystery, followed by undeniably English with that dry humor that can be delivered with a stiff upper lip, but left me giggling aloud. For example from page 15: ‘Acid man you are,’ said Wimsey. ‘No reverence, no simple faith or anything of that kind. Do lawyers ever go to heaven?’ ‘I have no information on that point,’ said Mr. Murbles dryly. What’s not to love? The center of the story is the death of two elderly siblings and the question of which one of them died first. This has importance regarding the wills. However, the story is anything but simple and spirals outward from there in an all together organic way. The story takes place in the 1920s and the exquisite storyline is coupled with an intricate portrait of the era. The result is a murder mystery of the highest order. This is one of those few books that I enjoy so much that I want to read …

Kraken – China Mièville

Imagine London riddles with underground societies, religious sects, and political factions. Not that difficult, you say. Now imagine some of these worshipping giant squids, a figure talking through a tattoo on a man’s back, and the sea’s ambassador living in an ordinary house, communicating with messages in bottles. Yeah, it’s beginning to get weird. China Mièville’s feat in “Kraken” is introducing an absurd world in a believable way, so that the reader accepts knuckleheads, who really have a closed fist instead of a head and a character that inhabits statues and jumps between them. Add an apocalypse – or more, and a couple of mismatched heroes on a quest to stop them, and you have “Kraken”. The starting point of “Kraken” lulled me into the fast-paced story unaware and the plot kaleidoscopes out from there. Several times, I closed the novel thinking “absurd, tsk!”, but ended up just having to read the next chapter. What impressed me about “Kraken” is the thought behind all the different aspects in the novel. Everything is thought through, for …

The Yard – Alex Grecian

In the aftermath of Scotland Yard’s failure to check Jack the Ripper, new murders and heinous crimes are piling up on the desks of the twelve detectives in the Murder Squad. New-comer Day is given the case regarding the murder of one of their own, stabbed to death and stuffed in a suitcase, and from that point a kaleidoscope of fascinating stories spring. “The Yard” is an action-packed Victorian crime novel that at the same time excels with its magnificent characters. Every character in “The Yard” is complete with a believable backstory. Alex Grecian shows his forte in the many changes in point of view and back flashes. Normally, alarm signals flare at the continuous back and forth, but Alex Grecian does not just make it work, he has created a fast-paced story around it. I especially like the scenes at the workhouse, where the same sequence of events is related from two different points of view in subsequent chapters. In many novels that take place in the Victorian era, the characters and story seems …

The Third Angel – Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman is a magical author, who understands serendipity and the art of magical living and storytelling. I always find myself immersed in her stories and find to extract a little of her fairy dust to my ordinary everyday life. Reading “The Third Angel” is no different. “The Third Angel” consists of three interconnected stories with commonalities in characters, themes, and a run down Knightsbridge hotel called the Lion Park Hotel. I will not spoil the plot for you, but instead only relate that the stories are set in 1999, 1966, and 1952 respectively, and are beautiful, atmospheric time pieces as well. Stories and storytelling is an integral part of “The Third Angel” and Alice Hoffman’s novels in general. In “The Third Angel” there is the story of a heron with a heron wife and a human wife. (And this is just one of the many, many love triangles in the novel.) One character thinks of the story; her daughter publishes the story. There is the story of the third angel, which a village doctor …

A Week in December – Sebastian Faulks

There is something about Sebastian Faulks; I so would like to say that his novels are sheer genius, but my gut says no. I have read “Birdsong” and now “A week in December” and let me just remind you that my gut is subjective and does not belong to an English professor. Sebastian Faulks’ aim with “A week in December” is evident – to portray the zeitgeist of today (2007) through a series of storylines that interconnect and characters that are somewhat typical: the hedge fund manager, the teenager addicted to skunk and reality TV, the tube driver who escapes in novels and a virtual reality, an Islamic religious young man, a barrister without cases, and a book reviewer who trashes contemporary literature. None of these characters are sympathetic or worthy of a novel themselves and in some ways it seems to me that Sebastian Faulk simply uses the novel to flaunt his research in the Koran and trade in derivatives. I generally love when stories come full circle, but Sebastian Faulks takes the full …

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary – Susan Elia MacNeal

British born, American raised Maggie Hope works at No. 10 Downing Street as a typist, despite her qualifications as a mathematician. She is caught by circumstances in London during World War II, trying to sell her late grandmother’s house. The Blitz, war devastation, murder, espionage and secrets color the picture in this off-to-the-side-yet-right-in-the-middle-of-the-action historical novel (se below). “Mr. Churchill’s Secretary” is an excellent period piece in which plot and historical precision and description complement each other. I especially enjoyed the breadth of historical treats in “Mr. Churchill’s Secretary”. There are Downing Street politics, WWII, IRA, gender issues, everyday details and much more. Despite this I would still call the novel an easy read. Off-to-the-side-yet-right-in-the-middle-of-the-action historical novel: maybe I should elaborate. Susan Elia MacNeal has chosen a typist as her protagonist based on memoires from real life typists. A brilliant choice in my opinion. Maggie Hope is not based on a historical superstar, but off to the side support personnel. Still the storyline action packed and believable (with a discretionary leap of faith). “Mr. Churchill’s Secretary” …