What I’m Reading / What I’ve read?

During the summer and autumn months I’ve worked my way through a number of great books. One of the best was V2, a thriller written by Robert Harris during the lockdown period of the Covid pandemic. This writer needs no introduction from me, his body of work is extensive and includes Conclave, Archangel and Fatherland, all are fabulous reads and V2 was no disappointment.

V2 is his latest book, it looks at the rocket powered bombs which, in 1944, delivered one tonne warheads straight to the heart of London. 
To stop the indiscriminate damage to Englands capital, and cease the loss of civilian lives, it was vital to locate the launch sites. In V2 a team of Women’s Auxiliary Air Force officers, including one Kay Cayton-Walsh, are dispatched to a small village in liberated Belgium. Their job; to reverse calculate the flight plans of the rockets using nothing more than a few old slide rules and some known equations. They have six minutes between launches to compute the flight path and pass their information to bomber command. Any longer and another parcel of high explosives will be screeching through the night sky towards St Pauls.

V2 is highly informative and in most places historically accurate. Of course, Robert Harris has to take a few liberties so as the narrative flows and the characters make sense, this is the essence of creative licence and all fiction writers do it – otherwise it would not be fiction. 
If you’re looking for holiday reading I recommend you consider this Sunday Times best seller.
V2 is Available in Kindle, Audiobook or good old fashioned print.

For the last few nights I’ve been enjoying A long night in Paris by Don Alfon. The book was published in 2016 and I don’t know how I have missed it over the intervening years. An ex-spy himself Don was a member of the Israeli secret service before he became a writer. For this book he received the highly acclaimed Crime Writers Association International Dagger award.

If you find you have to self-isolate then I can think of few books that would help you through the time better than Don Alfon’s A Long Night in Paris.

The subtle art of not giving a f*ck and Everything is F*cked.

These are not two books I would have normally chosen, but the covers were bright and they were in a great spot for passing traffic at Waterstones in Piccadilly. I’ve heard them mentioned a few times so I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. 

The subtle art.

Once you get past the title and the colourful language in the first few pages Mark Manson, who’s an extraordinary blogger by the way, gives his take on how to live a better life.

Shit happens and being positive won’t stop it, nor will it make it hurt any less. The truth is that there are winners and there are losers. Medals for taking part are not worth the crappy plastic they are usually made out of. Although not everything that happens to you is your fault, you can choose how you respond. Not everyone can be extraordinary, we can’t all be highflying masters of industry or celebrated singers. 

Mark suggests that the best thing to do is to pull up your big boy pants and get on with the job in front of you. There’s no benefit in looking for someone to blame. Sometimes you just have to make the best you can from a shitty situation.

Everything is f*cked….

One day, you and everyone you love will die. And beyond a small group of people, and for an extremely brief period of time, little of what you say or do will ever matter.” This is the uncomfortable truth. Mark tells us that if we can’t change the world then we might as well change someone’s world. Treat everyone a special, people are the ends not a means to the end. Mark uses well-constructed arguments with pages of reference and footnotes to back up his hypothesis. 

Throughout the two books Mark uses examples from his own life and doesn’t sugar coat anything. They’re humorous and honest, he tells of how, as a younger man he was hedonistic and self centred. His priorities had been based around sex and self gratification, and how with each new experience he became less satisfied.

They are not an easy read and if you are offended by bad language they may not be books for you. That said, I am glad I have read them and I’m sure I’ll dip back into them from time to time.

I was really excited to download the new Logan McRae book by Stuart McBride. All that’s Dead is book number twelve for this collection of characters who, book by book, get more rounded and entertaining.

Logan has returned to professional standards after a long period of absence – you’ll remember he was shot at the end of an earlier book. All that’s Dead joins him on his first day back. He’s assigned a few simple tasks which should re-establish him in the team.

Nothing’s straightforward in the life of DI Logan McRae and he’s soon wrapped up in a web of torture, Scotts nationalism, and police politics. D.S Roberta Steel is her usual terrible self while D.C “Tufty” Quirrel flits between genius simpleton and astrophysics geek.

It’s a hard book to put down. I read it in three sittings and then downloaded the audible file. Listening to Steve Worsley bring Stuart’s characters to life has eaten up several hundred miles this summer and I’ve sat in lay-bys for long periods to avoid turning it off at a good bit. It’s all good bits.

I highly recommend this as it’s a great read and hope you get as much pleasure from All that’s Dead as I have.

Over the last few weeks I’ve enjoyed a number of books but few more than the latest offering from Christoper Brookmyre. Fallen Angel documents how the members of a family each come to terms, or fail to come to terms, with a tragic event.

Christopher Brookmyre book cover, Fallen Angel

The book spans three generations and several decades but the story is told over a few days only and is set in a small holiday compound on the coast of Portugal. It has the usual Brookmyre slow burn start but somewhere in the middle I just couldn’t put it down and had to stay up till the wee small hours to finish the story. When I got to the end I never saw it coming but on reflection it was obvious and he’d done his usual trick of hiding his secrets in plain sight.

If you’ve not read any of his books I’d suggest you begin with Quite Ugly One Morning which will introduce you to Jack Parlabane, a character who, although only featuring in six of the books, finds his way into several more as a background character.

An afternoon well spent in Scotland’s capital city.

After an interesting afternoon being guided around Edinburgh with Colin of Rebustours.com I have been revisiting his latest book which I read when it was first published. In the House of Lies sees our hero several years retired and to be frank, not in the best of health. He still manages to interfere with DI Siobhan Clarke as she investigates a dead body found in suspicious circumstances (is there any other kind) and lock horns with his nemesis Big Ger Cafferty who has come out of retirement to rule over the city once more. Anyway back to Colin and Rebustours.com He gave us several readings during our two hour tour and pointed out landmarks of note from the twenty five books. We saw Salisbury Crag, St Leonard’s police station and the City mortuary as well as The Royal Oak pub where the tour started from and where Gerald Cafferty went after his release from jail.