A year’s worth of reading.

Anyone else had trouble concentrating and finishing books this year? I’ve had a lean year for reading in 2020, so here is a year’s worth from a previous year:
The Sixth Key. Adriana Koulias
In the author’s own words, from an interview on the Booktopia Blog:”The Sixth Key is a thriller set in two primary timelines – 2012 and 1938. In the 2012 timeline, a crime novelist goes to the Cemetery Island of San Michele to meet a mysterious fan offering to solve a riddle. But on his arrival the novelist learns that the fan’s motive is to tell him the story of Otto Rahn, a Grail historian and archaeologist, who in 1936 was also invited to a mysterious meeting with a fan – Himmler, head of the SS and Hitler’s henchman. Himmler wants Rahn to travel to the South of France in search of an ancient Grimoire of Black Magic written by a 14th century pope. Rahn sees this as his chance to escape the Nazi regime, which he abhors, but soon realises he has stepped out of the frying pan and into the fire. He is not the only one looking for the Grimoire and the legendary ‘Sixth Key’ that can turn it into the most powerful tool of black magic ever known.” Otto Rahn was a real person and it is thought that he was the inspiration for the fictional movie character of “Indiana Jones”. Rahn’s frantic search for the grimoire is an action-packed espionage/supernatural thriller that just skirts on the edges of melodrama in places. An interesting touch is a blurring of the line between reader and narrator. Koulias also says wants readers to take away “the disquieting feeling that all is not as it seems, and that history is often an account of half-truths.”
The Vault. Ruth Rendell
23rd novel in the Inspector Wexford series. Wexford is living in retirement in a coachhouse in Hampstead. He misses being the law. Tom Ede, whom Wexford met long ago when Ede was young police constable, is now a Detective Superintendent, and recruits Wexford as an adviser on a difficult case where the bodies of two women and a man have been discovered in the old coal hole of an attractive house in St John’s Wood. Better than your average police procedural. If you like Rendell’s writing, you’ll like this.
The Portrait. Iain Pears
On a remote island off the north coast of France in the 1920s, the narrator, a reclusive artist, is painting a portrait of his long-time colleague and sometime friend, a famous art critic. The narrative is formed by the artist’s monologue as he talks to the sitter over several days . During his monologue, bits and pieces of the two men’s shared history are revealed, not in chronological order, and their characters emerge. It is a clever use of narrative, with shifts of understanding and tensions as the story gradually falls into place.
Death in a Strange Country. Donna Leon
One of the earlier books in the Inspector Brunetti series. A body of a young man is found floating in a Venice canal – an American who worked at the US military base near Vicenza on the mainland. People in authority seem keen to prove that he was the victim of a random mugging. But Brunetti is not convinced and begins to investigate the mystery in spite of bureaucratic and political opposition. It leads him to a more sinister and more complex set of circumstances and more significant and powerful players. Leon explores the themes of corruption and apathetic officialdom against a convincing Venetian backdrop.
The Irrestible Inheritance of Wilberforce. Paul Torday
Another example of creating a narrative through episodes told in reverse chronological order. Here, starting in the present, Wilberforce is in danger of drinking himself to death. Wilberforce is (was) a computer genius who sold his computer company for a small fortune and bought his friend’s vast wine collection. The narrative episodes then go back to progressively earlier periods of time so that the circumstances of and reasons for the present situation gradually become clearer. From a shy, naive, hard-working nerd, Wilberforce is gradually introduced into – and seduced by – an upper-class lifestyle by a coterie of new friends.
People of the Book. Geraldine Brooks
This was a great read, one of the best books I’ve read this year. Synopsis from The First Tuesday Book Club (ABC TV 01/04/2008): “A fictionalised account of the perilous journeys of the Sarajevo Haggadah; an ancient Jewish manuscript renowned for its stunning and intricate illuminations. From Medieval Spain to Venice during the Inquisition, to late 19th century Vienna the story skips from caretaker to caretaker as they carry with them the Passover prayer book of the Hebrew people. In modern days the Haggadah is thought destroyed, so many are astonished when it reappears in Bosnia. Dr. Hanna Heath, a skilled conservator, is entrusted with preparing the book for museum display and has just a short while to discover all she can about its past. Collecting tiny artefacts from among the pages, Heath captures tiny glimpses into the book’s journey of centuries and how, through the efforts of strangers of many faiths, it has survived the ravages of time and human history.”
I like this technique of starting the story in the present and then building the narrative in reverse chronological order through “flashbacks”. As Hanna discovers various details and artefacts in the Haggadah, the narrative goes further and further back in extended episodes to the relevant period, characters and their stories when those details or artefacts were added.
The Botticelli Secret. Marina Fiorata
Racy chick lit meets The Da Vinci Code. Here is part of the blurb from the publisher’s web site (Allen & Unwin) that says it all: “A young woman in 15th-century Italy must flee for her life after stumbling upon a deadly secret when she serves as a model for Botticelli in a rip-roaring novel that blends enticing mystery, historical intrigue and romantic adventure…. Gloriously fresh and vivid, with a deliciously irreverent heroine, The Botticelli Secret is a masterful concoction of enticing mystery, historical intrigue and romantic adventure. Resplendent fifteenth-century Italy is seen through the eyes of the gorgeous Luciana Vetra, part-time model and full-time prostitute. After a request from one of her most exalted clients to pose for a painter friend, Luciana agrees to model for the central figure of Flora in Botticelli’s masterpiece ‘Primavera’ But when the artist dismisses her without payment, Luciana impulsively steals an unfinished version of the painting – only to find that friends and clients are slaughtered around her in an attempt to get it back. So Luciana turns to the one man who has never desired her beauty, novice monk Brother Guido Della Torre, to discover what could be so valuable about the painting. Fleeing Florence together, Luciana and Guido race through the seven cities of Renaissance Italy pursued by ruthless enemies who are determined to keep them from decoding the painting’s secrets.”
Rip Tide. Stella Rimington
Former real-life Head of MI5, now a Dame, the author returns to her earlier form as a leading espionage thiller writer. Bang up-to-date with a page-turning tale of home-grown terror cells and international piracy and believable insights into the workings (and thinking) of the various security agencies, their bureaucratic processes and political rivalries. Thanks to Lake Macquarie City Council library web site for this synopsis from 6 June 2011: “When pirates attack a cargo ship off the Somalian coast and one of them is found to be a British-born Pakistani, alarm bells start ringing at London’s Thames House. MI5 Intelligence Officer Liz Carlyle is brought in to establish how and why a young British Muslim could go missing from his well-to-do family in Birmingham and end up onboard a pirate skiff in the Indian Ocean, armed with a Kalashnikov. After an undercover operative connected to the case turns up dead in the shipping office of an NGO in Athens it looks like piracy may be the least of the Service’s problems. Liz and her team must unravel the connections between Pakistan, Greece and Somalia, relying on their wits – and the judicious use of force – to get to the truth.”
Whispering Death. Garry Disher
The sixth Challis and Destry mystery set in the Mornington Peninsula of Victoria. Disher is back on form with a well-plotted yarn with multiple narrative threads. From the Herald Sun online shop: “Hal Challis is in trouble at home and abroad: carpeted by the boss for speaking out about police budget cuts; missing his lover, Ellen Destry, who is overseas on a study tour. But there’s plenty to keep his mind off his problems. A rapist in a police uniform stalks Challis’s Peninsula beat, there is a serial armed robber headed in his direction and a home invasion that’s a little too close to home. Not to mention a very clever, very mysterious female cat burglar who may or may not be planning something on Challis’s patch. Meanwhile, at the Waterloo Police Station, Challis finds his offsiders have their own issues. Scobie Sutton, still struggling with his wife’s depression, seems to be headed for a career crisis; and something very interesting is going on between Constable Pam Murphy and Jeanne Schiff, the feisty young sergeant on secondment from the Sex Crimes Unit.”
Némésis. Agatha Christie.
Traduction Française de Jean-André Rey. It was interesting reading about a quintessentially old-fashioned English lifestyle in French while on holiday in the Loire Valley. Thanks to M. Pean for lending me the novel while staying in his cottage near Langeais. A classic Miss Marple mystery and Christie’s final Miss Marple novel, written when the author was in her eighties. From Wikipedia: “Miss Marple receives a post card from the recently deceased Mr Jason Rafiel, a millionaire whom she had met during a holiday on which she had encountered a murder, which asks her to look into an unspecified crime; if she succeeds in solving the crime, she will inherit £20,000. Rafiel, however, has left her few clues, not even when or where the crime was committed and who was involved. Miss Marple’s first clue is a tour of famous houses and gardens of Great Britain, arranged for her by Mr. Rafiel prior to his death. She is accompanied on the trip by fourteen other people, at least one of whom she suspects to be related to her enquiries.”
I Shall Wear Midnight. Terry Pratchett
The fourth book in the Tiffany Aching series. More of a novel for young adults, but ‘grown-ups’ will get a lot out of this novel. Many humourous moments, some scary bits, and much thought-provoking material about society’s attitudes to “outsiders”, especially independent, talented women, delivered in an interesting, quick-paced narrative. From the Harper Collins web site: “Tiffany Aching has spent years studying with senior witches, and now she is on her own. As the witch of the Chalk, she performs the bits of witchcraft that aren’t sparkly, aren’t fun, don’t involve any kind of wand, and that people seldom ever hear about: She does the unglamorous work of caring for the needy. But someone—or something—is igniting fear, inculcating dark thoughts and angry murmurs against witches. Aided by her tiny blue allies, the Wee Free Men, Tiffany must find the source of this unrest and defeat the evil at its root—before it takes her life. Because if Tiffany falls, the whole Chalk falls with her. Chilling drama combines with laughout-loud humor and searing insight as beloved and bestselling author Terry Pratchett tells the high-stakes story of a young witch who stands in the gap between good and evil.”
The Liar. Stephen Fry.
Stephen Fry’s first novel. The book tells the life story of Adrian Healey, a public school and Cambridge educated man who excels at lying. As a writer, Fry is witty and erudite and uses the English language masterfully. From Wikipedia: “The early chapters are not in strict chronological order, but are interlaced stories from three periods of the protagonist’s life, namely, as a public school pupil, as a Cambridge student and as a spy…. In the narrative of the school years, Adrian is at a public boys school and is an intelligent and irreverent young man, he has carefully groomed for himself the image of a witty, highly extroverted gay boy…. In the narrative of the university years, Adrian is at the fictional St. Matthew’s College, Cambridge and is given a challenge to produce something original by his tutor Professor Donald Trefusis. As a result, with the aid of his girlfriend — and later wife and acclaimed producer — Jenny de Woolf and his housemate Garry he writes and claims to have discovered a lost manuscript of Charles Dickens which dealt with child sex trade…. The espionage period differs from the other two in that … there appears at first to be no link to the life of Adrian…. The book also has an unreliable narrator; Adrian is ‘the liar’ and lies habitually to other characters; accordingly, in the book, whole chapters are later revealed to be fictitious, though the reader has no prior warning.”
The Plains of Passage. Jean M. Auel.
The fourth novel in the Earth’s Children series and sequel to The Mammoth Hunters. Auel once again captures the pre-historic landscape and ambience. Wikipedia says the novel “describes the journey of Ayla and Jondalar west along the Great Mother River (the Danube), from the home of The Mammoth Hunters (roughly modern Ukraine) to Jondalar’s homeland (close to Les Eyzies, Dordogne, France). During this journey, Ayla meets the various peoples who live along their line of march. These meetings, the attitudes and beliefs of these groups, and Ayla’s response form an essential part of the story.” From Google Books: “Their odyssey spans a beautiful but sparsely populated and treacherous continent, the windswept grasslands of Ice Age Europe, casting the pair among strangers. Some will be intrigued by Ayla and Jondalar, with their many innovative skills, including the taming of wild horses and a wolf; others will avoid them, threatened by what they cannot understand; and some will threaten them. But Ayla, with no memory of her own people, and Jondalar, with a hunger to return to his, are impelled by their own deep drives to continue their trek across the spectacular heart of an unmapped world to find that place they can both call home.”
The Good Thief. Hannah Tinti.
A bit gothic, a bit Dickensian, quite a bit of drama and some great story-telling set in 19th-century New England. From hannahtinti.com: “Twelve year-old Ren is missing his left hand. How it was lost is a mystery that Ren has been trying to solve for his entire life, as well as who his parents are, and why he was abandoned as an infant at Saint Anthony’s Orphanage for boys. He longs for a family to call his own and is terrified of the day he will be sent alone into the world. But then a young man named Benjamin Nab appears, claiming to be Ren’s long-lost brother, and his convincing tale of how Ren lost his hand and his parents persuades the monks at the orphanage to release the boy and to give Ren some hope. But is Benjamin really who he says he is? Journeying through a New England of whaling towns and meadowed farmlands, Ren is introduced to a vibrant world of hardscrabble adventure filled with outrageous scam artists, grave robbers, and petty thieves.” From readingroupguides.com: “(as their) adventures unfold, Ren begins to suspect that this fast-talking charlatan holds the key to one important truth: who Ren really is, and whether he can be reunited with the loving mother he has always dreamed of.”
Death by Water. Kerry Greenwood.
The 15th Phryne Fisher is a classic locked-room detective mystery. From The Age book reviews: “The owners of the passenger ship Hinemoa hire Phryne to find out who has been stealing jewellery from the ship’s passengers. Supplied with a magnificent replica sapphire, the Maharani, as bait, she joins the ship in mid-cruise, the only new passenger among the established guests. The ship’s officers have determined that the thief must still be on board…. More than ever Phryne Fisher is taking on attributes of a superhero. Along with all the power that her wealth and status give in 1928, she is beautiful, poised, charming and intelligent. She knows what to do and say in every situation. Men instantly love her; women might resent her but they must respect her.” Not a bad read, but a little bit of a pot-boiler, perhaps the character and plots are wearing a bit thin.
Devil’s Food. Kerry Greenwood.
The third novel in the Corinna Chapman series, featuring another of Greenwood’s female amateur detectives. A quirky mystery/drama set in present-day, eccentric, metropolitan Australia. From aussiereviews.com: “Corinna Chapman loves food. In fact her life revolves around it. She’s the proprietor of the Earthly Delights bakery and is at her happiest when she is watching customers enjoy her wares. So when a strange cult is established in her neighbourhood she is not happy. The cult advocates starvation as a way to God and eats only famine bread which tastes, to Corinna, like sawdust. As if the cult isn’t upsetting enough, Corinna has a more personal drama to deal with. Her mother, Starshine, is in town, in search of Corinna’s father, Sunlight, who is missing on the streets of Melbourne. Corinna and Daniel, her handsome private eye boyfriend, must find Sunlight, and unravel the sinister happenings which seem to have links with the cult. Devil’s Food is the third mystery featuring Corinna Chapman. It uses the winning formula of mystery, adventure, food and friendship. Corinna lives in a whimsical apartment block populated by an eclectic mix of residents and numerous cats, all of whom play roles in each mystery and its resolution, so that the reader has a growing sense of knowing these characters. Whilst the mysteries touch on dark and frightening events, they do so through the eyes of a warm and wryly humorous protagonist in Corinna, making them enjoyable and entertaining, and easy to devour.” True, very true.
Restoration. Rose Tremain.
From the Blog What Kate’s Reading: “Restoration tells the story of Robert Merivel, physician, son of a glove maker, social climber, and King’s Fool, in the time of the restoration of Charles Stuart to the English throne. From the start it’s clear that Merivel is a man wholly of the restoration period, forsaking study and seriousness for a life that encompasses the gluttony in all things of that age; he is a man who enjoys amusement and diversion, and fits in at the Court of Charles II as a favoured man. Life changes, though, as Charles weds Merivel to his own mistress and sends him off to the country whilst keeping his mistress in London. When the King tires of her, he sends her to Merivel, where he has the misfortune of falling in love with his wife, the King’s mistress. The journey from this point is interesting and unpredictable, except in one main way: it is clear from the beginning that Merivel is a man who will fall from grace, suffer bad times, and be restored: restored to his state of self as a man and not a child, restored to love, restored to the King’s good graces. This is not a spoiler. Tremain makes it clear from her title that this is to be so. The details of the period are few, but the ones provided (mostly in details of dress and physician’s treatments) are rich. The most detail is spent on Merivel; written in a first-person narrative, the reader is able to view his thoughts and emotions, which should make the story more intimate. Whilst it’s difficult to call the story “intimate,” it is both thought provoking and forceful.”
We Had It So Good. Linda Grant.
Follows the lives of a group of baby boomers in London from the 1960s to the present. From readings.com.au: “Stephen, the main character of Linda Grant’s compelling fifth novel, certainly did have it good. Born in LA in 1946 to immigrant parents, Stephen wins a Rhodes scholarship to study postgraduate science. He makes it to Oxford in time to experience Britain at the end of the swinging sixties and makes good – sort of. Expelled from university for cooking up acid in his lab, he marries Andrea, one of two hippyish girls who live next door, to avoid being sent back to the US where the Vietnam draft looms. Secure between World War II and the war on terrorism, the couple reaps the rewards of accidental good fortune enabled by the times. Dabbling in anarchism and drugs, living in squats and wearing unwashed velvet are no barrier to achieving middle-class comforts not available to either their parents or their children. But there is a dark side, too, which emerges in the story of Grace, the other girl next door, and in the shadows of wasted potential and death that inevitably accompany ageing. Grant presents some familiar images of the 1960s and 70s, but her novel has far more to offer than nostalgia or another exposé of baby boomer hedonism. From Stephen at the centre, the focus moves back to his parents and forward to his children. It shows how individuals and ‘generations’ intersect, and the stories people tell and those they keep hidden – particularly within families.” 
The Castelmaine Murders. Kerry Greenwood.
The thirteenth Phryne Fisher mystery, Phryne investigates an old mystery which takes her from a funfair ghost train to an abandoned mine in the old gold fields. The first time I’ve come across this series and its unusual protagonist. Phryne is a classy, independent, fashionable and up-to-the-minute young woman in Melbourne in the 1920’s – a sort of upper-class flapper – who is also a talented private detective. From the Allen & Unwin web site: “Phryne Fisher is back – as smart and sassy as ever. Phryne Fisher, her sister Beth and her faithful maid, Dot, decide that Luna Park is the place for an afternoon of fun and excitement with Phryne’s two daughters, Ruth and Jane. But in the dusty dark Ghost Train, amidst the squeals of horror and delight, a mummified bullet-studded corpse falls to the ground in front of them. Phryne Fisher’s pleasure trip has definitely become business. Digging to the bottom of this longstanding mystery takes her to the country town of Castlemaine where it soon becomes obvious that someone is trying to muzzle her investigations. With unknown threatening assailants on her path, Phryne seems headed for more trouble than usual. Meanwhile, Phryne’s lover Lin Chung has his own mystery to solve. Feuding families and lost gold fill his mind until he learns that Phryne herself has become missing treasure.”
The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Muriel Barbery.
(L’élégance du hérisson). Elegantly written social observation – not quite a satire, but a gentle, thought-provoking narrative. Synopsis from Wikipedia: “The book follows events in the life of a concierge, Renée Michel, whose deliberately concealed intelligence is uncovered by an unstable but intellectually precocious girl named Paloma Josse. The widow Renée is a concierge who has supervised the building for 27 years. She is an autodidact in literature and philosophy, but conceals it to keep her job and, she believes, to avoid the condemnation of the building’s tenants if they were to discover how cultured she is. Paloma is the daughter of an upper-class family living in the upscale Parisian apartment building where Renée works. Featuring a number of erudite characters, The Elegance of the Hedgehog is full of allusions to literary works, music, films, and paintings. It incorporates themes relating to philosophy, class consciousness, and personal conflict. The events and ideas of the novel are presented through the thoughts and reactions, interleaved throughout the novel, of two narrators, Renée and Paloma.”
Double Jeopardy. Martin Stratford.
The notes for this novel were written 9 months in arrears and I can hardly remember a thing about it, which is indicative. This is Stratford’s first novel and it shows here and there, being a bit clunky and a touch melodramatic in parts. Nevertheless, it manages to be a decent, light read – great for the plane or train, maybe. I look forward to his next novel and to seeing how he develops as a mystery/thriller writer. From Chrissie’s Corner – a Blog for Book Lovers:“Detective Sergeant Julie Cooper has been working undercover to crack a major drugs ring. With the drugs baron jailed, Julie thinks she can relax until she becomes the victim of a drive-by shooting that leaves her seriously injured and her aunt dead. Fuelled by grief, anger and guilt, Julie hires private detective Alec Tanner to help her track down the killers. Set in the fictitious English city of Havenchester, “Double Jeopardy” follows Julie and Tanner as they investigate a number of potential suspects, including a vicious gangland boss who is plotting to avenge himself on his cheating girlfriend. As their personal lives become increasingly entangled, Julie and Tanner find themselves in a race against time to uncover the truth and prevent more murders, including their own.”
Memory of Flames. Armand Cabasson.
Historical thriller set in 1814, a blend of murder mystery, spy thriller and military history. This is the third novel in the series by French psychiatrist Armand Cabasson set during the Napoleonic wars, and told from the French point of view. The hero, Quentin Margont is a lieutenant in Napoleon’s Great Army with a talent for handling politically sensitive investigations, discreetly. Synopsis from Euro Crime (www.eurocrime.co.uk): “At the opening of this book Margont is stationed with the National Guard at its Paris barracks, as Paris prepares for an attack by the Allied forces ranged against Napoleon. Margont is summoned to a meeting with Joseph, Napoleon’s brother and Talleyrand, memorably described as “shit in silk stockings”, where he is instructed to infiltrate the Swords of the King, a highly secretive royalist group implicated in the murder of General Berle, a key figure in the defence of Paris. Charles de Varencourt, a gambler and member of the Swords of the King is betraying the group for financial reasons, passing information about the group’s members and exploits to Joseph’s police. Joseph and Talleyrand put pressure on de Varencourt to propose Margont, under an assumed identity, as a new member of the group. Margont assumes a new identity as a Royalist army officer, leading a psychologically demanding double life, in constant fear of discovery by the justifiably paranoid members of the Swords of the King. As the Allied forces come nearer and nearer to Paris, Margont strives to uncover further plots made by the royalists against Napoleon, but he struggles to gain the trust of the group. When a further murder is committed, with similar burns inflicted on the victim’s body to those inflicted on General Berle, Margont realises that flames must have a particular meaning to the killer. Regardless of the outcome of the Allied attack, Margont is determined that justice be done, and the killer apprehended.”
The Assassin’s Prayer. Ariana Franklin
In 1176, King Henry II sends his daughter Joanna to Palermoto marry his cousin, the king of Sicily. Henry chooses Adelia Aguilar, his Mistress of the Art of Death (i.e. a poetic name for a sort of medieval forensic pathologist and detective medico), to travel with the princess and safeguard her health. But when people in the wedding procession are murdered, Adelia and Rowley must discover the killer’s identity and whether he is stalking the princess or Adelia herself. Another medieval murder mystery with good historic detail. The characters speak in contemporary English, which is a bit odd a first until you realise that “Gadzooks” language would sound corny. The author says she decided to use contemporary language because whatever style of language the characters spoke in that era would have sounded contemporary to them. It works for me.
Life. Keith Richards
Autobiography of the famous Rolling Stone. It is said that the only things that will survive a nuclear war are cockroaches and Keith Richards. It is not hard to see why as the perambulating pharmaceutical laboratory rockets crazily through the late 60s and 70s. As told to James Fox, it is an honest, no-holds-barred account of the growth of the phenomenon that was the Rolling Stones and Keith’s part in it, from his very young days until now. The early days of the Stones are possibly the most interesting, providing insights into the evolution of the band, its fight for recognition and success, and of the music industry itself. Also fascinating are Keith’s thoughts and observations about guitar playing, song-writing and performing.
Seven French Summers. Bill Ramson
Observations of an Australasian in the south of France. Not a travelogue, but a series of vignettes of people, places and events observed over seven lenghty sojourns in a small village in the Midi. If you’ve been there, you will recognise much of this with affection.
Death of a Mafia Don. Michele Guitarri
The first in the series of detective novels by the former real-life head of the Venetian Squadra Mobile, and possibly better than the subsequent stories. With its undoubted authenticity and realism, the author pulls no punches in his portrayal of organised crime in modern Italy and its characters, as well as convincing accounts of police and judicial procedures operating within and in spite of the constraints of bureaucracy and politics. From Amazon:“A bomb explodes in the centre of Florence, hitting the car of Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara of the elite Squadra Mobile. The attack rocks the ancient city to its foundations. Ferrara was clearly the target – and he did, after all, just controversially imprison notorious Mafia boss Salvatore Laprua. A week later, another bomb explodes – bringing tragedy for Ferrara and a determination to find the culprit.” The author is now a special adviser to the interior minister in Rome, with a special remit to monitor Mafia activity.
Solar. Ian McEwen
The hapless Michael Bland is a former Nobel Prize winner in physics. He fears his best work is behind him and his marriage – his fifth – is falling apart. A freak accident connected with his sinecure job as titular head of a research outfit creates an opportunity to extricate himself from his messy life and revitalise his flagging career. So he jumps onto the new bandwagon – that is, he embarks on new mission to save the world and the environment from climate change. The novel has elements of David Lodge, Tom Sharpe and Ben Elton in its interweaving narrative threads, coincidences and the interaction of various characters’ conflicting motives, providing a darkly comic and satirical story.
Matterhorn. Karl Marlantes A gritty and realistic portrayal of the chaos of the American war in Vietnam, in a US operational unit in the remote jungle. Complicated even further by personality conflicts and racial tensions.
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