Reading for pleasure
This month's selection of leisure reading, chosen by the Journal's book review editor
The Andrean Project
Ian C Simpson (DB Publishing: £14.99)
This is former sheriff Ian Simpson's fifth outing, and the second for his fictional country sheriff Hector Drummond. The story is again based around the triumph of amateur golfer and lawyer Bobby Jones in the year he sought to achieve the then Grand Slam of the golfing world. Intertwined are two narratives of murder and greed, the latter by an American with too much cash and overinflated views on seeking to improve and develop the golfing landscape and facilities of Scotland. Any takers?
The author develops the characters from the last book and we learn more of the relationship between Hector and his wife's son from her marriage to Hector's best friend, whom Hector adopted as his own. His wife Lavender is more prominent. However the relationship between Hector and his caddie, Tommy, is central and well drawn as Hector increasingly relies on Tommy's wit and guile to investigate the murders and fraudulent activities of the American, while becoming paterfamilias to the young boy and his family.
Ian Simpson has a sharp eye and gift for period detail, and thereby provides the reader with a clear picture of the cityscape and life of St Andrews of the early 1930: crowds flocking to the golf; drinks taken at the Grand Hotel or the club; the authority and status of public officials, whether of sheriff or constabulary; local policing with its local connections and knowledge. A gentler, civilised, slower pace of life. Makes one almost misty eyed! A book to be savoured and, with a nod to the misty eye, with a dram, much in the manner of Sheriff Drummond.
David Young (Twenty 7: £7.99; e-book £1.99)
This is a terrific debut outing. Oberleutnant Karin Müller works within the police force of the former East Germany. The mutilated body of a teenager is found close to the Wall. A senior member of the feared Stasi secret police becomes involved with the investigation, but much against the norm, the Stasi does not take lead in the investigation. Müller and her deputy have slept with each other in a drunken fling. Müller's husband, a teacher, has recently returned from rehabilitation of his view on the state at the Prora, the former Nazi holiday camp on the Baltic island of Rügen, part of which is a reform school. These threads are drawn together to provide an immensely satisfying read.
The author demonstrates commendable knowledge of the period, even the little known Hohenschönhausen Stasi prison in eastern Berlin. The author transfers that knowledge effortlessly to the page and evokes life in the former communist state with commendable clarity, the anti-fascist barrier (as the Berlin Wall was named in the east) being omnipresent, along with corruption, intra-agency tension and rivalry, the daily fear of being snooped on by neighbours, and the methods deployed by the state, and the Stasi in particular, to secure compliance of the Volk. While the ending is a little Bondesque, the author provides a thoroughly enjoyable read, and the next outing is much anticipated.
Crossing the Sea: with Syrians on the Exodus to Europe
Wolfgang Bauer (& Other Stories: £15)
Bauer is a prizewinning journalist who writes for the German heavyweight Die Zeit. Germany has accepted the largest number of those on the often perilous journey, described with clarity and insight by Bauer in this short but powerful reportage. Bauer goes undercover, joining a family which has left Syria and seeks to enter Europe on the traffickers' route from Egypt. The ultimate aim is to reach Germany. This is a searing insight into human trafficking, the exploitation of people who seek better lives, the utter ruthlessness and fear wrought on these individuals. It also demonstrates how those who have settled in the EU, in this case Germany and Sweden, encourage others to follow suit. Inevitably the EU legal order and politics of this exodus are engaged, but the book brings insight to the most significant issue facing European member states.