Monday 31 January 2011

Cover Identity | Moon Over Soho, Mofo

With the first book of The Folly, sometime Doctor Who scriptwriter Ben Aaronovitch seems to have made quite the splash. By the author's own admission, Rivers of London has sold more than 12 copies - one might imagine substantially more, given its very respectable sales ranking on Amazon.

In point of fact, Rivers of London (known in the enlightened world, where profits are hewn from guns and explosions, as Midnight Riot) has been such a huge success, if you'll pardon my Glados, that Ben Aaronovitch has been able to enlist the services of one Paul Graham Raven, your friend and mine, to set him up a proper website - where alas, I can't find the button to subscribe via RSS.

Anyway, renowned ganderer that I am, I took a one at earlier, and right there on the Books page, what do you know? Covers for both the UK and the US editions of the follow-up to Rivers of London: the wonderfully titled Moon Over Soho. I presume there will be bums? Here they are:

Once again, you'll note the UK edition borrows from artist Stephen Walter's incredible and incredibly detailed - "impish" I am reliably informed - remapping of London, while the American cover is just more of the same... rubbish.

I'm sorry; it is. We both know it.

Moon Over Soho is currently scheduled to hit bookstore shelves at the tail end of April, from the great Gollancz here in Blighty, and Del Rey in the States.

This is very good news, because Rivers of London was a right treat. You can read The Speculative Scotsman's full review here, or else take a trip through the blogroll, whereupon near-enough every one of my bloggery colleagues have had their say about Ben Aaronovitch's whiplash smart urban fantasy.

Sunday 30 January 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 30/01/11

Met the old BoSS? Well, let me introduce you to the new BoSS - same as the old BoSS, more or less... except less is more. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

All caught up? Good. Let's get on with it, then.

According to this week's selection of books and proofs received for review, zombies have been menacing a poor blogger after Anne Frank's heart, the Nazis have spread to Africa  like a particularly racist plague, and the Prime Minister of Sweden has been assassinated - presumably by neither zombies nor Nazis, but who could truly say?

What an odd lot...


Allison Hewitt is Trapped
by Madeleine Roux

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 20/01/11
by Headline

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: Allison Hewitt is trapped. In the storeroom of Brookes & Peabody's. In a world swarming with the Undead, the Doomed, the Infected.

Locked away with an oddball collection of colleagues and under siege, Allison takes advantage of a surviving internet connection and blogs. She writes, as the food runs out and panic sets in, as relationships develop and friends die, and as zombies claw at the door, all in the hope of connecting with other survivors out there. But as she reads the replies to her posts, Allison begins to comprehend the horrifying scale of the damage. And when no one comes to the group's rescue, they are forced to leave the safety of their room and risk a journey across the city; streets that crawl with zombies, and worse - fellow humans competing for survival.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: A modern-day take on The Diary of Anne Frank, by the sounds of it, substituting Anne for Allison, the Nazis for zombies and the diary in question for a blog - like this one here.

Wait, did someone say blogging zombies? Like in last year's Feed?

Well, I guess that's that. I'm in. I'd give good odds Graeme is too. He and I, we'd be brothers in the undead army, we're so easy pleased when it comes to a good zombie.

Between Summer's Longing
and Winter's End
by Leif G. W. Persson

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 03/02/11
by Doubleday

Review Priority
5 (A Sure Thing)

The Blurb: The death of an unknown American in Stockholm, though tragic, should be an open-and-shut case, a simple suicide. But when Superintendent Lars Martin Johansson begins to delve beneath the layers of corruption, incompetence and violence currently strangling the Stockholm police department, he uncovers a complex web of treachery, politics and espionage.

Johansson quickly realises that there is nothing routine about this little death as it quickly catapults him from mere domestic drama straight to the rotten heart of Sweden’s government.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: An unassuming enough blurb, decidedly lacking in the usual hyperbole accompanying new crime fiction from Sweden in the wake of Steig Larsson's posthumous success, and counter-intuitively, the lack of a big bass drum insisting Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End is the next Millennium trilogy makes me all the more hopeful it is just that. This could be a real big deal.

But the heck with all that nonsense, I'm going to be reading Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End because it bears the best title I've seen on a book in ages. A couple of good words can go a long-ass way!

by Tad Williams

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 03/02/11
by Orbit

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: Barrick Eddon, prince of Southmarch, is no longer entirely human. He has vowed to safeguard the legacy of the dark Qar race, and must now decide where his loyalties lie. His twin sister Briony has a difficult choice of her own. Her father, King Olin, is held captive by the Autarch, a mad god-king who plans to use Olin's blood to gain unlimited power. And the castle of Southmarch still remains in the possession of Hendon Tolly, Briony's murderous relative. As time runs out, will Briony decide to save her father's kingdom ...or her father? As the foretold Great Defeat draws near, history is stripped of its costume of lies. Poets and players, mortals and fairies, warriors and gods, all will have their roles to play as the fate of the known world hangs in the balance.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Would that I were in a position to read this. Perhaps I'll talk about this in more depth some other time, but Otherland, suffice it to say, is among the most formative genre works I read as a younger Speculative Scotsman. I must have spent a whole year with my nose buried in those four tomes!

So how this series has gotten by me so long I could hardly explain. Shadowheart is book four of a trilogy, the last part of which was so long it was split into two volumes, of which this is the second. A bit of cash and a bookshop later, I'm thinking... how's about a read-along?

The Carhullan Army
by Sarah Hall

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 16/08/07
by Faber & Faber

Review Priority
4 (Pretty Bloody Likely)

The Blurb: The world has changed. War rages in South America and China, and Britain – now entirely dependent on the US for food and energy – is run by an omnipresent dictatorship known simply as The Authority. Assets and weapons have been seized, and women are compulsorily fitted with contraceptive devices. This is Sister’s story of her attempt to escape the repressive regime. From the confines of her Lancaster prison cell she tells of her search for The Carhullan Army, a quasi-mythical commune of ‘unofficial’ women rumoured to be living in a remote part of Cumbria...

A Scotsman's Thoughts: It feels like I've been hearing great things about The Carhullan Army all year, and always from people and places I've the utmost respect for. From the Other Niall, for one thing - though I can't for the life of me find the right link - whose recommendation led me to this old review on Strange Horizons, which contrasts Sarah Hall's little-known novel with The Pesthouse, my very favourite Jim Crace.

All of which put me in mind no end of In Great Waters, another criminally under-appreciated gem of literary British speculative fiction. A pittance on Amazon Marketplace later and I have a gorgeous shrink-wrapped first edition giving me evils from the bookcase.

Plus I'd kinda like to chip in on the great debate going on here and there, about women writing SF. This meets the criteria, right?

The Africa Reich
by Guy Saville

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 17/02/11
by Hodder & Stoughton

Review Priority
3 (We'll See)

The Blurb: 1952. It is more than a decade since the Dunkirk fiasco marked the end of Britain’s war and an uneasy peace with Hitler.

In Africa, the swastika flies from the Sahara to the Indian Ocean. Gleaming autobahns bisect the jungle and jet fighters patrol the skies. Britain and the Nazis have divided the continent but now the demonic plans of Walter Hochburg – architect of Nazi Africa – threaten Britain’s ailing colonies.

In England, ex-mercenary Burton Cole is offered one last contract. Burton grabs the chance to settle an old score with Hochburg, despite his own misgivings and the protests of the woman he loves. If Burton fails, unimaginable horrors will be unleashed in Africa. No one – black or white – will be spared.

But when his mission turns to disaster, Burton is forced to flee for his life. His flight takes him from the unholy killing ground of Kongo to SS slave camps and on to war-torn Angola, finally reaching its thrilling climax in a conspiracy that leads to the dark heart of the Reich itself.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: So Dunkirk went tits up, and Hitler - odd that he's come up twice this week when I so rarely spare the monster a thought - Hitler, the ass, is still wreaking havoc on the world at large. Now including Africa.

The Africa Reich sounds a little crass, sure. Heart of Darkness as written by Tom Clancy or some such - and though I've never been a Clancy fan, this, I'll admit, kind of appeals. Presumably I've just fallen victim to the big pimping The Africa Reich is getting from its marketers at Hodder & Stoughton. But sometimes, hookers are hot.

Huh. Hookers, tits and ass... this particular commentary sure has brought out the best in me!


That's it for this week. But never fear: the nearly-new and probably only moderately improved BoSS will be back at the same bat-time next week, in the same bat-place. See you then.

Now, to get a start on Between Summer's Longing and Winter's End. I'll tell you this: the first page is just as pretty as that title. A sign of things to come, I can only hope.

Friday 28 January 2011

Book Review | The Diviner's Tale by Bradford Morrow

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Cassandra Brooks is a single mother-of-two, schoolteacher and water diviner. Deep in the woods as she dowses the land for a property developer, she is confronted by the body of a young girl, swinging from a tree, hanged. When she returns with the authorities, the body has vanished. Already regarded as an eccentric, her story is disbelieved - until a girl turns up in the woods, alive, mute and identical to the girl in Cassandra's vision. In the days that follow, Cassandra's visions become darker and more frequent as they begin to take on a tangible form. Forced to confront a past she has tried to forget, Cassandra finds herself locked in a game of cat-and-mouse with a real life killer who has haunted her for longer than she can remember.


At the best of times, blurbs can be misleading. I don't envy the responsibility of coming up with a couple hundred words of cover copy which'll be all most folks see of any given story, realistically speaking; no question, the task of reducing a delicate and multifaceted narrative such as The Diviner's Tale into a paragraph or two of quick-fire set-up - the better to sell as many idle window-shoppers as possible on the intrigue within - without fumbling a few key facts or else giving the game away entirely isn't likely an easy one.

The synopsis you'll have read of The Diviner's Tale isn't a particularly gross offender in that regard, though I'll say it does manage to muddy at least one aspect of Conjunctions founder and editor Bradford Morrow's latest novel: the dead girl supply teacher, mother-of-two and sometime diviner Cassandra Brooks sees hung from a tree in the deep of the forest "with her [bare] feet pointed outward... like some ballet dancer frozen in the classic first position" (pp.9-10) isn't, as the sales pitch would have it, identical to the presumed runaway dragged from its inner reaches a day later.

Nor, indeed, are Cassandra's divinations limited to the whereabouts of wily water sources. Sometimes, she divines the future, too; fortune's fickle fingers and the dark hands of fate are for a devastating moment spread out before her in occasional episodes her ailing father Nep calls "forevisionings." As a child she saw how her brother Christopher would die, and found her efforts to save him tragically frustrated. To this day, in fact, Cassandra's powerlessness in those vital moments haunts her... so when she sees the dead girl - the actually not-identical-at-all (now that you mention it) dead girl - well. Perhaps you can imagine how she feels; perhaps you can grasp how the return of the spectre that's haunted her at such times in her life threatens to turn everything upside down.

The Diviner's Tale is a quiet triumph of a novel, more mystery than thriller, that has at its heart a family in dreadful turmoil. For Cassandra is in the process of losing her father to dementia: her father, one-time water wizard, who has been her everything, through the good times and the bad. She is losing him as decades before she lost her brother Christopher, and once again, there's nothing she can do about it. The Diviner's Tale is thus the tale of a woman coming to terms with the heart-wrenching transience of humanity, in miniature - and so many of the awful things Cassandra confronts over its perfectly judged course can be traced back to the well of regret she's filled to overflowing at the prospect of life without her brother, and now her father.

In place of Nep and Christopher, Cassandra's rocks are her precocious young boys. Twins to an overworked mother who just so happens to be the village witch, nevertheless they're a pair of charmers: sensitive, thoughtful, funny and startlingly wise. They positively tear off the page - Cassandra and Christopher and Nep too - such that in no time at all you come to care intensely for this family. Forget the precise nature of the monster that comes a-calling on Cassandra, never mind whether her forevisionings are of a crime or the divine, nor who left the vile hanged mannequin in the lighthouse on the island for her to find... the overriding concern of The Diviner's Tale comes to be: can this family, already unbearably tortured by the horrors of happenstance, come through the trials ahead of them in one piece?

Bradford Morrow's fiction has always been a masterclass in imagery and restraint, in beauty and suspense, and with his first novel in nearly a decade he demonstrates that the time off has not at all diluted his powers. Wistful and wonderful, poignant and chilling and driven by characters so true as to touch, The Diviner's Tale has been variously described as "sublime," "stunning," "superb," "mesmerising," "astonishing" and "beautiful" - not least of all. I'd add "haunting" to that honest assortment - culled from the likes of Peter Straub, Joyce Carol Oates and Jonathan Carroll, and cunningly arrayed across the back of The Diviner's Tale's  gorgeous (there's another!) dust-jacket. Because who needs a blurb when you have such perfect verbs?

I'm telling you, there's truth in every word, too.


The Diviner's Tale
by Bradford Morrow

UK Publication: January 2011, Corvus / Atlantic
US Publication: January 2011, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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Recommended and Related Reading

Wednesday 26 January 2011

News Flashing | Clive Barker and the Absent Rainbow

I do believe I've mentioned Revelations here on The Speculative Scotsman before - see, no, I don't mean the book in the bible, why would you think that? I mean Revelations, the website, which superfans Phil and Sarah Stokes have been keeping on behalf of the great Clive Barker since the cenobites were but a pinhole of a twinkle in his eye. They have unprecedented access to the man himself, and with great power, as we all know, comes great responsibility. Thus, every couple of months, Phil and Sarah sit down with Clive to talk about what the man's been up to in the intervening period.

The last interview was conducted in August, published in November, and read - by me - just there. And it appears, after years of yammering about art and the like, there's finally been some book news: Clive has delivered the final manuscript of Abarat 3, the third volume of a quartet a decade in the making and now set to run for five books rather than the requisite four. Still no publication date, but the publishers - the Joanna Cotler imprint of HarperCollins in the States - have been champing at the bit for this book, so I'd wager we see it sooner rather than later: this Winter or next Spring seem likely plausible release windows.

But wait, there's more.

The thing Clive had been working on instead of Abarat 3, "a home for all the previously uncollected short stories together with a whole bunch of new pieces of short fiction" called Black is the Devil's Rainbow, has suffered something of a setback. Evidently sick of waiting on delivery of the final new story in the collection, HarperCollins' adult division - Clive's publisher since 1986 - have called it quits with the Weaveworld author. Not. Good. News.

Sounds like the man's been through the ringer, rather. He has my sympathies.

At least there's something positive to report as regards The Scarlet Gospels, a new Pinhead project that grew from a novella into something far larger: writer Mark Miller - no, not that one - came onboard last Summer to edit the 2,000 page-long manuscript which Clive had completed, saying "the book is well on its way. The Scarlet Gospels are almost here."

Which would be ever so nice, in truth. I love Clive Barker's work, and I'm a patient guy - if you're going to take five years to finish your next novel, that fine... just don't go promising we'll all be reading whatever it is in a few short months when the chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, they say, and still offer better odds than the release date of Clive Barker's next book would fetch.

Anyway. Grumpy hat off, hopeful hat... on. Abarat 3 is where?

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Book Review | Rivers of London / Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

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My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit - we do paperwork so real coppers don't have to - and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluable, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England. Now I'm a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden... and there's something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair. The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying.


There's this baffling presumption people tend to make when they hear you're British: that you'll know London like the back of your bloody hand. As if, wherever on the Isles you reside, surely you must make a habit of popping down to the cultural capital of the UK for a spot of tea from from time to time; tea at the very least, and perhaps a scone.

I suppose it's a scale thing. Britain's such a bitty wee place to most Americans, say, whose country, economy and appetite all effect a grander, more expansive mindset, that the day-long journey from one end to another must seem a pittance. It isn't, in truth. In my life, I've been to London all of... twice, I think? On the second occasion I saw John Major strolling through Hyde Park with a pair of bodyguards, one of whom kindly snapped a picture of the former Prime Minister and I together. This was when John Major was still Prime Minister, and I was just getting to know double-digits. It's been that long. Since then, Edinburgh has served my modest need for tea, scones and culture perfectly adequately. It's closer, cheaper, and in my experience friendlier, by all accounts.

But then, I hadn't read Rivers of London before now. Published in the US (in decidedly more confrontational form) as Midnight Riot, Rivers of London is a very English urban fantasy which has a policemen stumble upon testimony that the supernatural is a thing, as it happens; the likes of vampires, trolls and river spirits are as real, according to the ghost of William Skirmish, as he and we.

DC Peter Grant takes the unlikely revelation the way any decent, self-respecting British copper should: with a pinch of salt and a pint of beer. But when a head explodes before his very eyes, people begin to act out the parts of a particularly hellish rendition of Punch and Judy - leaving a trail of bodies behind them - and evidence that things aren't quite as they seem mounts up beyond a shadow of a doubt, he dutifully accepts the state of play and gets on with it. Luckily, the last wizard in all the Kingdom (United in name alone) is on hand, and would you credit it? He just so happens to be police too. Says Inspector Nightingale of the stone-cold fact of the fantastic, "I never worry about the theological problems... They exist, they have power, and they can breach the Queen's peace - that makes them a police matter.'" (p.101)


And I haven't even mentioned the mooted "manifestation of a social trend, crime and disorder... The spirit of riot and rebellion in the London mob." (p.250) Ladies, gentlemen, ogres et al: it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to... the super-chav!

Now I don't suppose Rivers of London does anything new of note. We've all of us seen or heard or read the rough premise before, no doubt about it, but what sets the first book of The Folly apart isn't the plot - though when it gets going Rivers of London is neat enough where it counts - it's the sense of humour Doctor Who scriptwriter Ben Aaronivitch brings to the table, epitomised in the offhand assertion that Staines (origin-point of the notorious Massive) is like the "land of the munchkins, an estate made of little streets lined with pink stucco bungalows." (p.226)

At least to begin with it's that, which is to say, the abundance of funny. Wildly irreverent and brilliantly barbed, a couple of chapters in it'll come to you that you're reading a caper here... albeit a caper in a crime thriller's clothing, with an urban fantasy backdrop, set in and around London, and featuring a cast of characters you'd totally heart on Facepage. Or something. For when the comedy (black as your morning coffee) recedes for long enough, or a couple of consecutive punchlines miss their mark - truly, it can happen to the best of us - you realise you've come to care for these people. Peter and his partner Lesley, Nightingale and his sweetly creepy housemaid Molly, even Mama Thames and her myriad tributaries... they're a bunch you'd love to take to the pub. Sure, in all likelihood they'd make a scene, but it's a scene you'd give an arm and a leg - if not a head - to see.

They're a clever lot; warm, hilarious, eminently quotable and disarmingly frank. And so utterly rooted in the non-stop melting pot that is London that perhaps, even if you've never really given a hoot about the place before, you might find yourself with an otherwise unaccountable hankering to pay a visit.

Rivers of London has already been called a lot of things. Comparisons have been made between Aaronovitch's novel and a list of books and authors including but hardly limited The Dresden Files, Mike Carey and Neverwhere. For myself, a more apt parallel to draw would be with the BBC's astonishingly poignant three-freaks-share-a-flat sitcom Being Human. In any event, book the first of The Folly - soon to be joined by Moon Over Soho and latterly Whispers Under Ground - comes heartily recommended, and moreover, to paraphrase a certain policeman, it makes for a very fine accompaniment to a cup of tea indeed.


Rivers of London / Midnight Riot
by Ben Aaronovitch

UK Publication: January 2011, Gollancz
US Publication: February 2011, Del Rey

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Monday 24 January 2011

Excerpt Emporium | Deathless by Cat Valente

I'm probably not going to be putting together a list of 2011 books and such I'm looking forward to. Truth be told, I didn't realise it was such a thing with a capital T, or else I might have. But alas. It's nearly February now, and I've been busy enough trying to keep up with what's already hit bookstore shelves that I've hardly had time to consider all the good stuff that's surely coming.

But let's role play awhile, say I had had a moment. As sure as night follows day, one of the topmost honours would have gone to Deathless, the latest from Catherynne M. Valente, author of The Habitation of the Blessed... which yes, I know, I still haven't reviewed, despite declaring it the best book of last year.

I am a bad blogger.

Punish me later. For now, there's a fat, three-chapter long excerpt of Deathless up over at

But I don't want to give you that!

I want to give you this: the fan-made comic book Cat put together with Amy Hauser and talked up on her blog, which retells a segment of said novel in exquisite sequential art. You can also find that on Tor's rather prolific website, via this link, though for those of us whose browser plug-ins aren't up to the mighty standards required by, there's an easily downloadable PDF over at the artist's website.

Isn't it gorgeous? Aren't those just the prettiest words?

I'd squee if I didn't have just enough self-respect to spare you such behaviour. :)

Sunday 23 January 2011

Books Received | The BoSS for 23/01/11

Met the old BoSS? Well, let me introduce you to the new BoSS - same as the old BoSS, more or less... except less is more. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

All caught up? Good. Let's get on with it, then.

This week - only a month into 2011 - we finally wrap up our catch-up with the books and proofs which arrived over the holidays. Then there's a shifty of a few of this year's new releases in earnest, beginning with Ben Aaronovitch's terribly intriguing sub-London crime-cum-genre thriller. Exciting!


Faithful Place
by Tana French

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 19/08/10
by Hodder & Stoughton

Review Priority
4 (Very High)

The Blurb: The course of Frank Mackey's life was set by one defining moment when he was nineteen. The moment his girlfriend, Rosie Daly, failed to turn up for their rendezvous in Faithful Place, failed to run away with him to London as they had planned. Frank never heard from her again. Twenty years on, Frank is still in Dublin, working as an undercover cop. He's cut all ties with his dysfunctional family. Until his sister calls to say that Rosie's suitcase has been found. Frank embarks on a journey into his past that demands he re-evaluate everything he believes to be true.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: An oldie, by the standards of the usual books received, but a goodie, you can be sure. One of my first ever published reviews - a canny Google will find you it, if you're interested - was of Tana French's creepy crime debut In the Woods, and though I was a mite disappointed in the sequel, The Likeness, it's been long enough, and Faithful Place sounds different enough, that I'm good and ready to get stuck back in.

Rivers of London
by Ben Aaronovitch

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 10/11/10
by Gollancz

Review Priority
5 (Immediate)

The Blurb: My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit - we do paperwork so real coppers don't have to - and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluble, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England.

Now I'm a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden... and there's something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair. The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Speaking of British crime thrillers, here's another! Though Rivers of London - also known as Midnight Riot in the States - presumably takes things in rather different direction than Faithful Place. In the world of The Folly, you see, the supernatural is very real indeed... and very funny. I've read a bit of this beauty already, and I'll admit it, I'm taken. Taken enough to have my pre-orders in for the next two novels in this wildly irreverent series: Moon Over Soho and Whispers Under Ground, both on the books for release this year, believe it or not.

Look out for a full review this week.

Monsieur Linh
and His Child
by Philippe Claudel

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 31/03/11
by MacLehose Press

Review Priority
4 (Very High)

The Blurb: Traumatized by memories of his war-ravaged country, and with his son and daughter-in-law dead, Monsieur Linh travels to a foreign land to bring the child in his arms to safety. The other refugees in the detention centre are unsure how to help the old man; his caseworkers are compassionate, but overworked. Monsieur Linh struggles beneath the weight of his sorrow, and becomes increasingly bewildered and isolated in this strange, fast-moving town. And then he encounters Monsieur Bark. Neither speaks the other's language, but Monsieur Bark is sympathetic to the foreigner's need to care for the child. Recently widowed and equally alone, he is eager to talk, and Monsieur Linh knows how to listen. The two men share their solitude, and find friendship in an unlikely dialogue between two very different cultures. 

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Huh. It's hardly speculative, is Monsieur Linh and His Child - at least not on the face of it - but to hell with ghosts and goblins for a moment: this novella-length French gem, translated by Euan Cameron, sounds a real treat. It comes from the author of Brodeck's Report, which The Telegraph said "transforms modern history into a fable that merges Kafka and the Grimms," and that... well. That's enough of a blurb to sell me on any old thing.

The latest Philippe Claudel is this week's wildcard, then. Am I off base, do you think, to be getting such a Life of Pi vibe from it?

Leviathan Wept
and Other Stories
by Daniel Abraham

Vital Statistics
Published in the US
on 30/05/10
by Subterranean Press

Review Priority
3 (Moderate)

The Blurb: What if you had a holocaust and nobody came? 

Imagine a father who has sent his child's soul voyaging and seen it go astray. Or a backyard tale from the 1001 American Nights. Macbeth re-imagined as a screwball comedy. Three extraordinary economic tasks performed by a small expert in currency exchange that risk first career and then life and then soul.

From the disturbing beauty of "Flat Diane" (Nebula-nominee, International Horror Guild award-winner) to the idiosyncratic vision of "The Cambist and Lord Iron" (Hugo- and World Fantasy-nominee), Daniel Abraham has been writing some of the most enjoyable and widely admired short fiction in the genre for over a decade.

Ranging from high fantasy to hard science fiction, screwball comedy to gut-punching tragedy, Daniel Abraham's stories never fail to be intelligent, compassionate, thoughtful, and humane. Leviathan Wept and Other Stories is the first collection of his short works, including selections from both the well-known and the rare.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: Now this baby, I bought myself. Over Christmas I began The Long Price Quartet by Daniel Abraham, and I was so blown by the first two volumes - collected in the Shadow and Betrayal omnibus - that I've since invested in everything Amazon had with the gentleman's name on.

Leviathan Wept and Other Stories has to be the highlight of all the presents I gifted myself. As per usual it's a beautiful edition from the geniuses at Subterranean Press, and I've already read a story; a bedtime treat a couple of nights ago, and oh, it was. I'll get a review of Leviathan Wept and Other Stories together at some point, I'm sure, but don't look for it in the imminent, for this isn't a book I'm keen to devour in a day. I'd much sooner savour it.

If you haven't yet read Daniel Abraham, folks, do yourselves a favour: read Daniel Abraham.

by John Ajvide Lindquist

Vital Statistics
Published in the UK
on 30/09/10
by Quercus Publishing

Review Priority
4 (Very High)

The Blurb: It was a beautiful winter's day. Anders, his wife and their feisty six-year-old, Maja, set out across the ice of the Swedish archipelago to visit the lighthouse on Gavasten. There was no one around, so they let her go on ahead. And she disappeared, seemingly into thin air, and was never found. Two years later, Anders is a broken alcoholic, his life ruined. He returns to the archipelago, the home of his childhood and his family. But all he finds are Maja's toys and through the haze of memory, loss and alcohol, he realizes that someone - or something - is trying to communicate with him. Soon enough, his return sets in motion a series of horrifying events which exposes a mysterious and troubling relationship between the inhabitants of the remote island and the sea.

A Scotsman's Thoughts: My feelings as regards John Avjide Lindqvist are mixed. On the one hand, I coveted Let the Right One In - didn't we all? - but its successor, Handling the Undead, which purported to do for zombies what Lindqvist's debut did for vampires, rather came apart for me due to questionable pacing and a sense of scale that felt all out of whack with the intimateness "Sweden's Stephen King" seemed to be shooting for.

But it's a new year, and I'm good and ready to give the guy another go. If Lindqvist can even come close to matching the mastery of his first novel with Harbour, I'm sure it'll make for the perfect wintry treat. And wouldn't you know it, it just so happens to be perfectly wintry at the moment...


That's it for this week. But never fear: the nearly-new and probably only moderately improved BoSS will be back at the same bat-time next week, in the same bat-place. See you then!

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, I have a decision to make. Which to read first, when I'm finished with Rivers of London: Harbour... or Faithful Place? Remember, everyone who votes qualifies for a free picture of a cookie on Twitter! :)