Vacationing with young children is hard work, people, even if you’re on a campsite that has not one, but two trampolines (“mum, see what I can do!”). Nevertheless I managed to sneak in a couple of books as I hung about in the (beautiful and very hot) Alsatian countryside, so here goes.
Mortal Causes (Ian Rankin) ***
Mortal Causes is Inspector Rebus book no. 6 and though I’ve read the previous five, I had to look that up. I also forgot what it was about until I looked it up: a man is tortured to death in a vaulted cellar underneath Edinburgh’s old town. As Rebus investigates, he finds out that the dead man was connected to a UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force – the protestant answer to the IRA) splinter group, and he dives deep into a world of Orangemen and Edinburgh council estates.
I liked the subject; the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland is a fascinating (and depressing) bit of history that’s not really over yet. The villains are truly terrifying and their delusions are all too realistic. Nevertheless the book kind of dragged its heels for me, and though Rebus is taking on more depth and a better shape with each book he can still be an annoying know it all. He has more depth than most characters within the genre (for one, he doesn’t have an overly tragic back story), but there are still things that he does that are baffling, and not in a good way. There’s also a strange subplot that I kind of enjoyed but that didn’t really go anywhere. Rankin is better at this writing thing than most, but it always seems like he regrets some of the choices he makes and can’t or won’t fix them properly.
Catch and Kill (Ronan Farrow) ****1/2
I know, I’m late to the game. I actually doubted whether or not to pick this one up because it didn’t seem like a good holiday read, but I ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would. It’s a fascinating, depressing and, as a woman, all too familiar tale, but also the catalyst for many of the actions and exposure that followed. It’s a quick read too; if not for the fact that my family wanted to drag me off to a theme park (Europapark, 10/10 would recommend) I would probably have read it in one sitting. It begins to drag towards the end when Farrow delves into a side-quest involving the Orangina Oaf, but the rest of the book was fast-paced and though it’s a frustrating read, it’s also a rewarding one (we all know how the story ends – for now).
A lot has been said about this book already, but to add my two cents: it’s an important book that broke open a culture of structural abuse, and aside from that it’s also immensely readable. Read it, if you haven’t already.
Perfect Silence (Helen Fields) *½
Perfect Silence is book 4 in the DI Callanach series, though this one focuses mostly on his friend/colleague/boss/will-they-or-won’t-they-they-definitely-will-love interest Ava. It’s also batshit insane and not in a good way.
I’ve mostly enjoyed this series, though the first book is still by far the best one. It is kind of dumb, though there has always been enough depth to keep my interest piqued. This time, not so much.
For one, Ava is not nearly as interesting a character as Luc. She’s vapid; her personality is that of Mary Poppins (perfect in every way) but without the charm of Julie Andrews. She launches into long spiels about justice, which, great, we all love justice, but people don’t give long protracted lectures about it in confident, run-on sentences. Ava never screws up, is endlessly devoted, and therefore both boring and annoying.
The crime itself is par for the course: extremely violent and gory. I don’t mind this sort of torture porn, but if you’re going to write torture porn then at least bother to support it with more than flat characters and cliches.
The worst part, though, is where Ava arranges for a subordinate who has just lost a baby to adopt another one. The subordinate is, of course, endlessly grateful because that is exactly how it works: if your kid dies, you just get another one and everything is fine and also, it’s totally okay and perfectly possible to arrange for a surprise adoption for someone else.
I liked the rest of the series well enough so I’ll probably read the next two books, but if someone wants to throw Ava off a bridge or something then for heaven’s sake, what’s stopping you?