Saturday, 2 January 2016

Reading round-up: December

December 2015 books

The Killing of Polly Carter by Robert Thorogood - 7/10. Full review / Buy the ebook
The second Death in Paradise tie-in novel, and much better than the first. There are few surprises in the story itself: it's the typical cosy mystery mix of a mysterious death, a plethora of suspects, red herrings all over the place, and a comic subplot. But the pleasure of reading this isn't in figuring out who murdered the eponymous character, it's in spending more time with the original cast and being taken back to the comforting world of the series' early episodes. Fantastic fun, and I'm already looking forward to the next.

The Woman Who Lived in a Restaurant by Leone Ross - 8/10. Full review / Buy the book
Last Christmas by John D. Rutter - 6/10. Full review / Buy the book
Two new short story chapbooks from Nightjar Press, reviewed together here. Ross's story is a slow, sensual, almost erotic tale of a woman who literally takes up permanent residence at a restaurant table, while Rutter's relates a traditional Christmas with a twist: the members of this family are born colossal and grow smaller as they age. Both are surprising and manage to reinterpret the idea of an 'uncanny tale' in original, unexpected ways.

The Reflection by Hugo Wilcken - 9/10. Full review / Buy the ebook
In a pretty strong month, this was my favourite read. Set in 1940s New York City, it's a multi-layered story that can be read either as a conspiracy thriller or a self-referential experiment (and probably in about a hundred other ways, too). Narrator David Manne is a psychiatrist who gets drawn into a web of intrigue involving a patient who insists he's not who others say he is. As Manne loses his grip on reality, the narrative reflects his mental state; repetition and motifs are used to great effect, and the reader must choose whether to believe his version of events. It's immensely entertaining, but intricate and very intelligent too. Wilcken's other books are now on my to-read list.

The Going and the Rise by F.G. Cottam - 9/10. Buy the book
An Absence of Natural Light by F.G. Cottam - 9/10. Buy the book
These two extremely enjoyable novellas focus on new characters connected to the Jericho Society, a diabolic cabal introduced in Dark Echo. The Going and the Rise also introduces Ruthie Gillespie, who will be instrumental in the world of the author's Colony trilogy. (If all this sounds too self-referential, don't be put off - you can definitely read both as standalone stories.) The reason I haven't reviewed either of these books properly yet is simply because I'm planning a joint review of three Cottam books once I've read Dark Resurrection, the second book in the Colony series. Watch this space!

I definitely planned to read more books in December, but the last two weeks of the month were a bit crazy and I didn't get the chance to read much of anything. It's actually been quite nice to have a break and wind down before starting afresh for 2016. I'm already well into my first book of the year, and it's a good one - hopefully a good omen for the year to come.


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