23 December 2008

Progress reports - various books

I have been "reading" 3 books recently and am not likely to finish any of them this side of Christmas so my post today is a progress report.

I've been faithfully reading Alexander McCall Smith's online novel CORDUROY MANSIONS for 14 weeks now. There are 6 weeks to go.
Today the Telegraph has changed the way you access the book, particularly the audio part. The result is that, rather inconveniently, the widget that I have running on Crime Fiction Journeys now takes you to the home page of the Telegraph, not to the exact page of the chapter you've chosen. So then you have to locate the link to CORDUROY MANSIONS. Once you get there, they have changed the chapter layout, and it is not easy to locate the audio file you've gone there to listen to. Grrr..
The book (or rather Alexander himself we are told) is taking a 2 week break and will resume on January 5. I hope they've reinstated the old system by then.
Am I enjoying the book? As I've commented before I'm enjoying listeningto Andrew Sachs reading each chapter, but I'm not quite sure where the book is heading. You'd think that, 2/3 of the way through, I'd have more idea wouldn't you?

For the last week I've been listening to Matthew Reilly's SEVEN ANCIENT WONDERS in the car to and from work. There are 11 CDs with over 13 hours and I'm in the middle of CD 3, so I'll be a while yet. If you want to read a blurb, here's the one on Fantastic Fiction.
Basically it is a thriller where opposing forces are looking for pieces of gold that basically make up the golden capstone of the Great Pyramid. It a race against time to save the world from a cataclysm that will be caused by a sunspot on the Sun's surface.
It is not my usual style of "reading", rather a thriller that makes me feel like I'm inside an action game, a bit like World of Warcraft or a Dungeons and Dragons one. There's a lot of description, and for the first hour at least falling stones, great dangers, boiling lakes of tar and so on.
Reilly has rather disconcertingly begun the book with the search for the first piece, and then regressed 10 years to tell us why this is all happening.
I hope I don't forget too much in the 10 days I'm having off from work.

The third book is THE PRIVATE PATIENT by P.D. James. We know right from the start of this novel that 47 year old Rhoda Gradwyn is only 23 days away from being murdered. She has decided to have a leading plastic surgeon remove a disfiguring facial scar that she has had for over 30 years. She goes to the surgeon's private clinic at Cheverell Manor in Dorset to have the operation. Indeed the operation is a success, but only hours later Rhoda Gradwyn is dead, throttled.

This is an Adam Dalgleish book and James' fans have been waiting since the publication of THE LIGHTHOUSE in 2005 for the next. We are reminded of that book several times by the investigative team. THE LIGHTHOUSE was a variant on the closed room mystery: an island cut off from the mainland by bad weather with seemingly no-one coming and going, so the murderer had to be on the island. (see my mini-review below: my rating was 5.0)

What we have in THE PRIVATE PATIENT it seems is a variant of the same sort of scenario, only this time using an English country house as the backdrop. Cheverell Manor isn't quite as isolated as Combe Island was, but the list of possible perpetrators is limited. Many in the cast of characters have secrets to hide, the Manor itself was locked at the pertinent times, but there is a local legend about the nearby standing stones, just to complicate things.

Combe Island off the Cornish coast has a bloodstained history of piracy and cruelty but now, privately owned, it offers respite to over-stressed men and women in positions of high authority who require privacy and guaranteed security. But the peace of Combe is violated when one of the distinguished visitors is bizarrely murdered.
Commander Adam Dalgliesh is called in to solve the mystery quickly and discreetly, but at a difficult time for him and his depleted team. Dalgliesh is uncertain about his future with Emma Lavenham, the woman he loves; Detective Inspector Kate Miskin has her own emotional problems; and the ambitious Sergeant Francis Benton-Smith is worried about working under Kate. Hardly has the team begun to unravel the complicated motives of the suspects than there is a second brutal killing, and the whole investigation is jeopardized when Dalgliesh is faced with a danger more insidious and as potentially fatal as murder.

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