Reading for pleasure
This month's selection of leisure reading, chosen by the Journal's book review editor
Murder in the Fourth Round
Ian Simpson (Matador: £7.99; e-book £3.99)
This is Ian Simpson’s fourth book involving DI Flick Fortune and her team of detectives solving murders in St Andrews. His narratives have been strong, his characters real and St Andrews described in all its jewelled, atmospheric glory. Ian takes his writing to new heights. Tony Spencer is murdered by an innocuous scratch with a golf tee as he watches Ballesteros in the fourth round of the Open in 1984. Peter Waldron, convicted of his murder, is released into the care of his daughter Amy Smith, with the threat he may do a “Megrahi”. There is a modest protest at his homecoming. One of the protesters is found dead: his mother, a near neighbour of Sheriff and Mrs Arbuthnot, the parents of advocate Melanie who is engaged to marry Detective Sergeant Bagawath “Baggo” Chandavarkar. Inspector “No”, Flick’s former boss from the Met, is slovenly, retired and hired to help Amy to clear her father’s name. Spencer was a local solicitor, a member of the “Jolly Boys” network of solicitors, who are as tight as a drum. With deft wit (the pathologist and PF are familiar), the author leads us through a well drawn, layered story, of a close community as old crimes and ways are uncovered. Holidays loom. Treat yourself and pick up a copy, then step back in time with the Sheriff Hector Drummond books.
David Young (twenty 7: £7.99; e-book £2.63)
David Young follows his first outing with Oberleutnant Karin Muller of the Volkspolizei by moving forward a few months and taking the detective to Ha-Neu (Halle Neustadt) to investigate the disappearance of twin babies from a hospital. More babies disappear and bones are uncovered at the site of a former clinic in Berlin. The narrative neatly moves between 1975 and preceding years, and as the book progresses these latter years come ever closer, a nice touch to slowly, teasingly disclose the truth behind the disappearances. The Stasi frustratingly restrict the investigation, although Muller wends her way through difficult personalities and situations until the truth will out. As with Stasi Child, Young describes the former DDR with clarity and realism, as he does the atmosphere which clearly existed. A nip and tuck here and there would have moved the narrative forward a little faster but the book is no worse for that. An enjoyable read.
The Bureau of Second Chances
Sheena Kalayil (Polygon: £8.99; e-book £4.31)
The book opens: “A few months after the death of his wife, Thomas made the decision to return to India.” Much anticipation from a simple line, and this book never fails. This is a sparkling, thought provoking and evocative novel. Thomas, an ophthalmologist, takes the opportunity, looking after a friend's optician practice while the latter is in the USA, to return to the holiday home he bought with his wife in his home village in Kerala, with its stunning beachside situation, the sea on his doorstep. There he meets Rani, the young assistant, who it is tantalisingly revealed has an intriguing sideline which Thomas at first discourages. His daughter is in Paris living with her boyfriend. Their relationship becomes a focus as both come to terms with the loss of Nimmy: wife and mother. Thomas is reawakened to the long forgotten ways of building a relationship. The book luxuriates in life in India: the heat, people and culture. This is a beautifully written book, that envelopes you from the beginning. A joy!