Friday, 27 January 2012
This fortnight, I've spent my time with Ewart Hutton's debut novel, Good People (out on the 2nd February, next month). It aims to be the first in a series of mystery/crime novels based on the adventures of the disgraced half-Welsh, half-Italian copper, Glyn Capaldi. Its premise put me in mind of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's comedy film, Hot Fuzz: City cop makes big mistake and ends up in the back-end-of-no-where, in a community of people who are too close for comfort. However, the big differences are that Good People isn't comedy, and is a heck of a lot darker. Also, the cavalry turn up a lot sooner as well.
As you'd expect from a good crime-novel, there are plenty of twists, plenty to keep your mind ticking over, trying to get ahead of Capaldi himself. It is an enjoyable and easy read, though at first for me Capaldi's character really grated. He sounds like something out of an American crime drama - he wouldn't have been out of place in New York. However, he is out of place in Cardiff and South Wales... fortunately that voice wears down into something a lot more readable and believable. Hutton, a little way in, finds Capaldi's real voice and that's when the fun really begins.
Saying this, the story doesn't leave you waiting around, ready for something to happen for the sake of long-haul character development - it doesn't immediately indulge in describing Capaldi's past. We pick up hints of what happened to him in Cardiff, but only enough to keep whetting our appetites - the story in the background of the current mystery. It's very well put together, and it knows it's part of a series - there's plenty of time to get to know the characters over the next stretch of books so it gives us information on a need-to-know basis.
In the strain of recent crime dramas, such as CSI, Hutton bravely takes on a disturbing crime for his first novel. Sexual deviancy with a side order of murder, in plenty of detail. For some more delicately-minded readers, it might not be the best read. Personally, it doesn't faze me - but I've read another review where one person was affected by it (A great detective story, just a bit graphic - a fellow Waterstones reviewer). However, as I pointed out before, if you've watched enough CSI Vegas in the last couple of years, sexual deviancy is probably not a problem.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel, I pretty much just sat and read the whole thing over a couple of nights, quite happily. I even allowed a number of cups of tea to go cold in the process! I'm looking forward to seeing what the next novel might bring.
Friday, 13 January 2012
Well, Christmas and the start of term have been very busy for me! Essays, organising conferences, researching for curating an exhibition, job applications - and an interview! - and obviously course-related reading and essays... but now things have settled down, I'm finally able to give you my review of Katherine McMahon's Season of Light! (Please forgive me for being so late with it...)
I love historical fiction, it's something about the settings and the fashion... this one particularly caught my eye as it is set around the time of the French Revolution and deals heavily in the idea of cosmopolitanism which was rife with women of eighteenth-century Britain. As you can tell, it intrigued me because the eighteenth-century is my specialism. Usually, when I pick up historical fiction, it's based in the era of the Tudors, in the strain of Philippa Gregory or Hilary Mantel. I know enough of the period to enjoy the books, and not enough to make me skeptical of what is written. All I can say is, I was very pleasantly surprised that my specialism did not blind me to the brilliance of Season of Light (and, indeed, it gave me no particular pause for thought in that way). I even smiled as a familiar name popped up here and there, such as Madame Genlis or the better known Robespierre.
It begins with a quote from Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities (a World Book Night book for 2012!) which is where the novel gets it's title, Season of Light. The quote really sets the scene, Dickens' view of the division of opinions during the the French Revolution really hits the spot for me. It was a time of fear, intrigue, and terror, and also hope, whether you were French or British. The story encapsulates this in the whirlwind romance and desperation of Asa's situation, which is so easy to get drawn into. If you enjoy Jane Austen, you will enjoy this more - the feisty heroines and their bold independence are even more engaging.