As is often the case these days I'm behind with reviews so this is yet another catch-up post with three short reviews. It's the perfect weather for getting on with this sort of thing as outside the garden is covered in six inches of snow. For us in the south west of England this is quite unusual though this is the third winter in a row now where we've had some but this is serious snow! Here're a couple of photos I took first thing *before* we had yet another heavy snowfall, adding an inch or two more...
Looking down onto the garden from the bedroom window.
The town in the distance.
Anyway, enough about the weather (well I am English!) on to books. Starting with The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
When he is ten years old Daniel Sampere's father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books; Daniel's father owns a bookshop and Daniel has been brought up with books. The Cemetery turns out to be a huge labyrinthine library, a wonderful place, and Daniel is told to choose a book for which he will be responsible for the rest of his life. He chooses The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax, takes it home and reads it. From that moment on Daniel is obsessed. It seems all books by this author have steadily been destroyed. But by whom? People show an inordinate interest in Daniel's book, not least a strange man whose face Daniel cannot see. It becomes Daniel's mission to find out more about the author's life and in this time and place - Barcelona just after the Spanish civil war - this turns out to be a lot more dangerous than he had ever bargained for.
I've had this one on my tbr pile for a couple of years and it probably would have remained there if Pat at Here, There and Everywhere hadn't read it for her R.I.P. challenge and piqued my interest. It's an amazing piece of work, quite frankly. Not an easy read, quite a complicated plot with a very gothicky feel to it. (Reminded me of a ghost story that I can't now remember the title of or the author but which was also set in a huge gothicky city of towers and churches.) Thus there is a huge amount of atmosphere here, the city is a character in itself and the dark times add to the feeling of oppressive fear and secrecy. This is not a cheery read but if you're looking for something dark and atmospheric and beautifully plotted you could do a lot worse.
Next up, In the Shadow of the Glacier by Vicki Delany.
Molly Smith is a rookie police woman in the small town of Trafalgar, British Columbia. She finds a body in an alley one night and to her surprise finds herself assisting DS John Winters in the investigation. Winters is a veteran cop and has little patience with Molly's rookie enthusiam or her mistakes. The dead man is Reg Montgomery, a property magnate type who was planning to build a holiday resort outside the town - something which many of the townspeople do not want. The situation is further complicated by plans to build a memorial in the town to American draft dodgers from the Vietnam war, something which Molly's hippy mother is supporting. Suspects for the murder are many and Molly and Winters have their work cut out to solve the mystery and keep the peace.
I liked this a lot! The BC 'mountain' setting is delightful and made me wish I had the chance to go to the Kootenay region of the Rockies. I liked the two main characters, Molly and John Winters - an unlikely police pairing if ever there was one. Winters was wonderfully grumpy and middle-aged with no patience whatsoever. And Molly so terribly excited about her first proper case that she blundered about all over the place driving her boss mad. The plot was pacey, I didn't guess who done the deed, and all in all I found this an excellent new (to me) crime series. Annoyingly, my county library catalogue has no books whatsoever by Vicki Delany so if I want to read more I will have to buy the series... which I doubtless will at some stage.
Lastly: The Comfort of Saturdays by Alexander McCall Smith.
Isabel Dalhousie is asked to help in the case of an emminent doctor whose reputation has been ruined over a new drug he supported but which turned out to be dangerous. Ever concerned about miscarriages of justice Isabel 'interferes' as her family and friends call it. At the same time Cat, her niece, asks her to run the deli for her while she goes to Sri Lanka and there is what Isabel sees as rival for Jamie's affections in the shape of an orchestrial conductor. With a small son to look after, Isabel's insecurities about the ten year age gap between her and Jamie come to the fore and Isabel does much mental agonising before her problems are solved.
Wonderful. Loved it. This is book five in the Sunday Philosophy Club series and I hope it goes on and on. Isabel is so real with her agonising and worrying and changing her mind constantly about decisions. I always think that Alexander McCall Smith writes women better than any male author I know apart from possibly Terry Pratchett. Most don't get us at all but he clearly does and his books are a joy to read providing you're not looking for hard hitting or gritty plots with blood and gore. 'Gentle' is McCall Smith's forté and long may it continue to be so.