Reading for pleasure
This month's select of leisure reading, chosen by the Journal's book review editor
The Dream Will Never Die
Alex Salmond (William Collins: £12.99; e-book £6.97)
By the time this review is published, the outcome of the UK general election will be known. Readers may recall the review of Alan Cochrane's referendum diaries. So, to balance things up, we best consider those of Mr Salmond. The diaries have the aura of having been "tidied up", but even so they provide an insight into both the man and the challenge. Salmond's passion for his cause comes off every page, but his passion and commitment to the role of First Minister is equally evident, whether supporting the redevelopment of Dumfries House, overriding officials' advice, or encouraging opposing sides in industrial disputes to mediate. In the 100 days which are the focus of the diaries, there is, until the last week of the campaign, more discussion on the ordinary business of government than the details of the referendum campaign. Surprisingly, there is little "on the day" recording of views on the now infamous "vow". One feels there is another book in the making. That said, this is an interesting, insightful book.
The Spring of Kasper Meier
Ben Robertson (Little Brown: £7.99; e-book £3.98)
This is a terrific book, although could have benefited from a little sharper editing. Kasper Meier owned a bar in pre-war Berlin, around which an interesting diverse group revolved. Meier has been transformed to operating on the black market of Berlin in 1946. He lives with his aged and unwell father. He is approached by Eva Hirsch who understands he can trace a British pilot. She declines to elaborate on her reasons and claims she has been sent by Frau Beckmann. The novel darkens as it progresses. Eva works with rubble women, cleaning every brick of every ruin with meticulous care so it may be used in the rebuilding of the city. The fear those women must have felt is almost palpable. A city where abuse is now widely known to have occurred, primarily at the hands of the invading Russian forces. However post-war life is clearly and evocatively described, in particular the landscape of the ruined city, as well as the black market dealing in which everyone required to participate. Eva's plight becomes clear towards the end of the book and Kasper's affection and feelings of protection towards her become transparent. This is a beautifully written book with a solid characterisation telling a moving story.
Murder in Court Three
Ian Simpson (Matador: £7.99; e-book £2.99)
This is the third outing for DI Flick Fortune and her team in yet another riveting read, although one will never look at the physical bench in the appeal court of court 3 in Parliament House without thinking what Mr Simpson would have us imagine took place there! An eminent QC, Knox, is found murdered after the archers and advocates get together with more than drinking, eating, dancing and archery on the menu. Knox is prosecuting a fraud trial and a number of the accused are at the Faculty bash, as are Chef Superintendent Taylor and his wife, who spreads her amour amongst a number of men. There are a myriad suspects and terrific background, setting up nicely the narrative of Knox's unexpected demise and that of two others, seemingly unconnected. The story flits between Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cupar and St Andrews with the police slowly getting greater focus on what they need investigate. High Court judges, advocates, police, criminals, and three murders make for a terrific story of derring do!