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! :)

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