A couple of years ago I was directed to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series by David Rogers @DavidERogers who used to commute by train and post about each book. I am now up-to-date with these 21 page-turners having read some as e-books, found some in charity shops and bought recent ones as they came out. On the one hand they are formulaic and instantly forgettable. On the other, each has a well-researched context, offering another insight to America’s malaise, and they deliver what they promise in tantalising plots.
I tried to find another pot-boiler series and came across Scott Mariani’s Ben Hope character in The Alchemists Secret (2007). It didn’t quite grab me in the same way, perhaps not as authentic, but these now total ten in the series so some charity shop searching might be in order. Almost inevitably, a few e-series, self-published. I tried The Cleaner and Saint Death by Mark Dawson (John Milton series) on the kindle and they are quite good. A poor self-promoted set is Lars Emmerlich’s Devolution series. They are free using an ebook app (not Kindle) and not very well written – and short. They are free as tasters for more recent series on sale but I have not been tempted. There is plenty of tripe in print too. I picked up James Patterson’s (with Maxine Paetro) 9th Judgement on a hotel exchange-shelf. Maybe the franchise has stretched too far but it was absolute overwrought rubbish.
I have rarely gravitated to “global best-sellers” but in the Oxfam shop I spotted the second two books of the Steig Larsson Millennium series and though I would see what the fuss is about. I enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo bought cheaply and The Girl Who Played with Fire. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest is somewhat over-long and really needed an edit to sort out the endings (no spoilers). However, the fourth book, “continuing the series”, by David Lagercrantz, The Girl is the Spider’s Web, is taut and well-plotted. A sequel like this often falls flat but this one is a sizzler and makes effective use of the characters and the back-story. Like the Lee Child thrillers, these books expose the bad-money, corruption and criminality as the underbelly of society. Both series have strong reader appeal in not being based in Britain and wearing their respective geographies as part of the story.
I read the blockbuster Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn which does grip you with anticipation and we saw the film on DVD with rather gory bits. There were some interesting American cultural details along the way. A similar attempt to play with the reader’s mind is Paula Hawkins’ The Girl On The Train which has a London setting. I didn’t really like it as much, partly ruined by the familiarity with the genre, although both are interesting as thrillers seen through women’s perspective.
Jonathan Coe’s Number 11 is more erudite, as satire, than all the others put together. I enjoyed What a Carve Up! and The Rotters Club a long while ago it seems.
Robert Gailbraith, The Silkworm
Harper Lee, Go Set A Watchman
David Nicholls, Us
David Eggers, The Circle
Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch. Very literary and descriptive.
And, possibly, a few forgotten as they go straight to the charity shop these days. It’s easier to pass on new books than the ones on the shelves already and we don’t need more clutter.
I have just bought Dictator the third in the Cicero series by Robert Harris having enjoyed the first two some time ago. These show how important the time-and-place setting can be in fiction. And they serve to demonstrate how little we have learned from politics.
Recommendations welcome. Reply below.