I was looking forward very much to reading ‘A Taste For Death’ the novel which P D James herself said she liked best. It’s about number 7 in the extensive Dalgliesh series…….. ‘In the dingy vestry of St. Matthew’s Church, Paddington, two bodies have been found with their throats slashed. One is an alcoholic tramp, whereas the other is Sir Paul Berowne, a baronet and recently resigned Minister of the Crown. Commander Adam Dalgliesh investigates’. The novel has indeed received high praise from many different sources…..”Rings of authenticity … compelling……literary grace of a high order……splendidly suspenseful….etc”. I have to admit I found it none of these things. There was little plot, the pace was absolutely pedestrian. I found it unconvincing and not writtthe height of literary expertise. Of the other Dalgliesh novels I have read, one was terrific, and now two have been very disappointing. The question is shall I try any more ?
The full title of this book is ‘The Secret Barrister : Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken’. A little confusing, but meaning how the legal system we have is broken, not how to break the Law! It all started with a Junior Barrister’s anonymous blog where he discusses how difficult it is to do his job any more, and how much we need to do to remedy our legal system which he demonstrates time and time again is not ‘fit for purpose’. In the book he does this by examining every aspect of the Law, par as he comes across it, illustrating with often real-life cases. To keep things entertaining he sometimes resorts to fictional cases which nevertheless are utterly believable. Basically he demonstrates convincingly (backed up with wonderful research and statistics) that the continual cuts on funding for maintaining our Justice system have not only broken it but got to the stage where ‘Justice’ as we all understand it cannot be guaranteed any more. Believe me this is a frightening thesis. Any of us can come face to face with the Law through no fault of our own and, if we did, we would sure want someone like ‘the secret barrister’ on our side, working his or her guts out for less than the living wage and all because he really and truly believes in ‘Justice’. What is revealed in the book is nothing less than scandalous, and we should all be determined to do something about it.
‘A History of Sandbach and District Etc’ is one of the reprints from its digitised collection of historical books and documents. As such it is not amazing quality, but nevertheless serves a purpose. Tomlinson the author of this 1899 work was obviously a keen amateur historian and lover of Sandbach where he lived. Its slim 50 pages or so gives am impression of Sandbach 100 years before this, and a summary of the history before that of the main buildings. One of the most interesting bits of his research concerns the two Saxon crosses in the Market Square, how they were purloined by a local landowner in Georgian times (as so much was purloined from the Grand Tours….), and subsequently broken into pieces and used as foundation for a house, garden ornament and goodness knows what. It is thanks to the Victorian efforts of someone appointed by the town to research where the crosses were and to the skill of the Architect of Manchester that nearly all the pieces were recovered and reassembled. Quite amazing in many ways.
“The retreat at health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total transformation. Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages. Miles from anywhere, without cars or phones, they have no way to reach the outside world. Just time to think about themselves, and get to know each other. Watching over them is the resort’s director, a woman on a mission. But quite a different one from any the guests might have imagined. For behind the retreat’s glamorous facade lies a dark agenda. These nine perfect strangers have no idea what’s about to hit them…” A fair summary. If you can suspend your disbelief just a little (I don’t usually, but for this I did), then this is a thriller with a twist. Characterisation – good. Setting – you could be there. Plot – exciting. The Australian author Liane Moriarty really gets under her characters skin and writes an entertaining thriller which amuses at the same time. Quite an accomplishment.
‘The Buildings of England : Cheshire’ was a book I had to have if we are to up and move to Cheshire. As I have said the new series of Pevsner guides is superior to the originals and much more up-to-date, as well as being willing to throw in the odd bit of humour and irreverence. I don’t think Pevsner for instance would have written of Thornton-Le-Moors “Seen always against the vast Stanley oil refinery, with it serried rows of tanks, silver pipework and flaming chimneys. Decibel level and stink quotient are high”! If you are at all interested in your built environment and the history of where you live, these books are absolutely indispensable.