American Spy: Lauren Wilkinson

Another debut novel.

There is a good book buried in here. Somewhere.

I couldn’t find it. However, you might.

I couldn’t get through and past the bizarre 1st person narrative voice, variously addressed to one of her twin sons — it’s not often clear which, and she repeatedly, confusingly, keeps referring to people through their relationship to her sons when we aren’t clear what those are — who aren’t even present for most of the novel.

The time jumps are confusing.

I guessed the plot just halfway through.

As I said, I couldn’t find enough good to outweigh all that.

You might.

Dead Time: Matt Brolly

Workmanlike until the last 20% of the novel, when the quilt unravels and dumps loose threads all over the floor.

Paint-by-number, formulaic, like a modular home slapped together from a blueprint, rather than something organic that grew together and formed a lifelike whole. Unlike other UK series (like Ian Rankin’s Rebus) there is no real human connection in the story, not in family, friends, or work colleagues. It’s as if someone read about how real human feel and tried to copy it onto the page without understanding what that really meant.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine: Gail Honeyman

Heartwarming, charming, lonely, awkward, traumatic, emotional, inspiring, heartening, smart, warm, uplifting, somber, blunt, charming, witty, erudite, quirky, unique, Goldilocks-just-right.

Yet another excellent debut novel. Not only is Eleanor Oliphant completely fine, so is the state of modern literature going forward.

Intelligence in War: The value–and limitations–of what the military can learn about the enemy/John Keegan

Many, many trees. Many of them. A whole lot. Trees, trees and more trees. More than enough. Too many.

Very little forest. Not enough (more’s the pity, as he arrives at the correct conclusions ).

Killing Commendatore: Haruki Murakami


Were this Murakami’s first novel, it’s doubtful he’d find a publisher.

Whilst the translation is pretty good, the translator is perhaps too true to the original Japanese; words at times seem clunky, but (having a knowledge of the Japanese language) I believe that that is because the translator is faithfully translating directly from the Japanese. Unfortunately, words and phrases often used in everyday Japanese do not have the same frequency or acceptance their English versions do.

A Wanted Man: Lee Child

Short, declarative sentences. Sharp, snappy dialogue. A flexible moral compass. Just get the job done. It must be Jack Reacher. From the bestseller lists, a very “wanted man.”

One caveat: Child’s novels are all so very clearly delineated in terms of story arc, character and style that it wasn’t until Chapter Six that I wasn’t entirely sure I hadn’t read this one before.