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Reading for pleasure

17 September 12

This month's selection of leisure reading chosen by the Journal's Book Review Editor

by Tom Johnston, David J Dickson

Peter Terrin (MacLehose Press (English translation): £16.99)

Two hundred words are simply insufficient to describe such an extraordinary novel. Harry and Michel are the guards of a luxury apartment. Their whole world is the basement and their living quarters. Their needs are served by deliveries from the organisation. Their dreams and ambitions include the ranks of the elite guards. What happens when all the residents leave en masse one weekend? What lies outwith their world? What turmoil lies within? When will relief come? Read this book and find out. Whatever you do, don’t miss it. This is the most intriguing book I have read for some time.

David Hewson (Macmillan: £12.99)

There is of course something very special about Venice. It has touched authors for good or bad over the centuries. For English speakers, John Ruskin probably kicked things off. In the 20th century the place hosted some of the best of Thomas Mann and the worst of Ernest Hemingway (don’t touch Across the River and Into the Trees with a bargepole). In more recent times Salley Vickers sent her Miss Garnet there to meet her angel, and Donna Leon has been writing and setting her reliable detective stories there for 20 years.

David Hewson’s patch is usually Rome, but the spell of Venice has proved too hard to resist. Forensic pathologist Teresa Lupo finds herself in the city at carnival time when her aunt disappears. Needless to say, masked men feature a lot. Less obvious are the clues which obligingly present themselves through the letter box of her apartment, and much less obvious are the links to a semi-mythical European nobleman tracing his first references back to the memoirs of Casanova.

Weird? Yes, a little too much so for my taste. Wonderful? More fantastical, in the literal sense, but definitely readable on a wet autumn day. If you don’t care for this one, don’t be put off. Hewson’s books are usually worth the lifting.

Chris Pavone (Faber and Faber: £12.99; e-book £7.47)

Debut novelists are advised to write about what they know. Chris Pavone has put his skills as a book editor on a sojourn in Luxembourg to perfect use in his debut novel. In a skilfully clever, edge-of-the-seat, intriguing plot, he deftly unfolds the back story of Kate and her husband Dexter, as well as two fellow Americans Julia and Bill who all find themselves working in Luxembourg. The story unfolds between today, when there is a chance meeting between Kate and Julia on a Parisian street, and the events that lie behind that from two years previously. Dexter is a bank security consultant testing systems against cybercrime. He moves to work in Luxembourg for a confidential, unidentified client, causing Kate to resign her job in the CIA. Why is Kate unable to trace Dexter's client, why are Bill and Julia so keen to befriend them, who is hiding the truth from whom, no matter how close the relationship? A must read! 

Adam Thorpe (Jonathan Cape: £16.99; e-book £9.49)

Captain Bob Winrush left commercial aviation to become a "freight dog", flying men and equipment (mostly legal) in and out of the world's hotspots, picking up the occasional brown envelope of cash. Doing "real flying". Returning from one such trip, he finds his wife in bed with the local Swedish masseur. So starts a brilliant, unrelenting read. Bob bailed out of a flight from Istanbul fearing the flight was carrying illicit arms to be supplied to the Taliban. He leaves behind his co-pilot and old, trusted friend Al McAllister, his regular flight engineer. David, Bob's son, has an interest in uncovering the truth of mercenary flights; and Matt Sharansky, an Israeli left wing journalist, believes the flight Bob failed to fly has links to the top of the Israeli Government. Sharansky also believes drugs were brought back on the return leg: drugs and guns never mix in Bob's line of work. Sharansky investigates and wants to publish.

Despite ducking out of the fated flight, Bob is pursued. Who next? Who is behind this and why: to keep the illicit trade quiet or in retribution for the use of the flight for drug trafficking? To put his marriage behind him and "disappear", he moves to a remote Scottish island where he meets Judith. Who can he trust; can he avoid those after him; why is this happening? This is a beautifully crafted book, an affecting story, with vivid descriptions of location, feelings, emotions. Through the character of Bob, Thorpe explores fear, anxiety, mistrust, betrayal, friendship. Brilliant!

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