‘The Salt Path’ is a book about walking the South-West Coast path. There are many books about doing that and I have read quite a few, but this is different. It starts with the background that the author, Raynor Winn, is being chucked off her farm at the same time that her husband learns he is terminally ill with a brain disease. They have nothing left and decide to do The Path walk investing what little they have in a tent and cheap sleeping bags . Everyone seems to find this very uplifting (look on the Net and it’s all ‘The Uplifting true story’…….blah, blah, blah….), but I am afraid that right from the start I felt unease about the whole premise, and where it would lead. The entirety of the book seems, to me at least, to be self-serving, and to offer exaggeration, and deliberate play on our sympathies throughout. When did the publisher get involved? Maybe it’s just my cynicism, but I really do have my doubts about a lot of things in here. And the fairy-tale ending? It’s all a little too good to be true….
Because we live on the borders of Cornwall and Devon it is just as near for us to go to South Devon as many places in Cornwall, so I read the Bradt Slow Travel book ‘South Devon and Dartmoor’ with a great deal of pleasure. This really is one of those travel books that you can pick up and read from start to finish. And it’s a book that keeps on giving. Nearly all of the suggestions in here are things you really do want to do, and it is extremely well-researched and personal. We know the area very well, but I just kept finding things and places I didn’t know throughout. If you’re not acquainted with this series, please do get hold of one of their books…they’re great.
I recently read three Peter Robinson crime novels one after the other. So they must be good? Well, yes and no. What I don’t like about them is that as the series develops Peter seems, like Ian Rankin, to be obsessed with music. Not only do his characters , and in particular the main one DS Banks (as he now is), listen to music but we have to be told in detail what their musical taste is, why they are listening to such and such, how it relates to other music. Frankly it is all a bit of a bore and totally irrelevant as far as I am concerned. It seems to be designed to show off how much the author knows about music. Why do these Crime writers feel they have to do it? Right that’s my gripe out of the way (and unfortunately it does mean I’ll be reluctant to pick up another one). The novels are otherwise very good. The setting – Eastvale, which seemed to me to be quite obviously Richmond in Yorkshire, but is apparently that town mixed with Ripon – is terrific and adds an awful lot to our enjoyment. Who doesn’t love the Yorkshire Dales, and Richmond is fantastic. The main character Banks is particularly well developed but not so much the other ones. And the plots are interesting and topical. Well, the first one I picked up – ‘Gallows View’ – happened by chance to be the first in the series and is about glue-sniffing amongst other things, so it was no doubt topical then (1987), but you don’t hear much about glue-sniffing now! The plot weaves together a number of themes and characters very nicely. And not much music….I also had on my shelves ‘Past Reason Hated’ (1992), probably when I last read it, and it too was satisfyingly complex with any number of suspects for the murder of someone who, we found out, was really the sufferer of abuse from her husband, a famous composer (music again!). Family secrets, lesbianism, a newly promoted Detective, it was full of interesting bits and pieces. Anyhow I also read ‘When The Music’s Over’ (I wish it was) where Banks has been promoted and has to deal with a case of historic sexual abuse, as well as being in charge of another investigation as Senior Officer. Nicely complicated plots. Good in nearly all respects. I thoroughly recommend Peter Robinson. How many years before I read another?
Yet another re-read from my shelves ( I barely remembered ) was ‘Devices and Desires’ by P D James. This is that great rarity these days – a literary Crime novel. It is so well written and certainly evokes tremendously well the area where this one is set – the remote Norfolk coast. And what an interesting plot, based on Larksoken nuclear power station which itself has an important brooding role. Commander Dalgliesh from London (nice to have an up-market detective) is staying at his aunt’s converted windmill in order to put her affairs to rest, but can’t help becoming involved in a local murder case. In fact as we learn he becomes too involved, and there is a very satisfying mix of local characters as well as outsiders working at the power station. I did enjoy it, and must read some more P D James.