Fun summer reading

by Henry Farrell on July 14, 2014

Books I’ve read in the last while that I’d recommend:

Linda Nagata, passim. (“Powells”:, Amazon).

In particular, Vast. It’s the final novel in her Nanotech Succession series, which I read in reverse order when Vast first came out, and which is not a bad way imo to read them. Deception Well, the middle book in the series has some lovely ideas, but doesn’t quite hang together, while The Bohr Maker is good but quite different. Vast is a masterpiece of a certain kind of widescale science fiction – a chilly universe, conflict among vast inimical forces, with humans forced to adapt in ways that are sometimes grotesque to survive. A kind of Darwinist Universalism – ‘evolution’ is the connecting thread. Alistair Reynolds cites Vast somewhere or another as a basic influence on his Revelation Space books, which is a good metric – if you like those ones, you’ll probably like this one. The books aren’t available in print, but rights have reverted to the author, so she has made them available in Kindle and other formats. She also has some new novels – two fantasy novels which I didn’t enjoy as much, and a near future military SF book, The Red: First Light, which I did enjoy quite a bit.

Elliott Kay, Poor Man’s Fight (“Powells”:, Amazon).

Again self published, and again excellent. The most fun I’ve had for three dollars since I don’t know when. It’s very clearly located in a line of descent leading from Heinlein’s juveniles and Starship Troopers through John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War. It’s also its own thing. While the politics are neither one-dimensional nor belligerently in your face, they are considered and explicit (e.g. societies based on student-debt slavery). If you like thick juicy steak as well as, or instead of, molecular gastronomy, this is as good as it gets. It came out in 2013, and deserved all kinds of awards that it didn’t get.

Jenny Davidson, Reading Style: A Life in Sentences (Powells Amazon).

At first glance, this may look like a complete departure from the previous two – Davidson is a Columbia literary theorist, and her book has detailed (and fascinating) sentence by sentence readings of extracts from Proust, Sebald, Perec and James. Yet it also has very astute things to say about Neil Gaiman’s work and the narrative problems George RR Martin faces in A Game of Thrones, and does so without any sense of self-consciousness or slumming. Davidson (like Francis Spufford and Randall Jarrell whom she cites, and Jo Walton, whom she doesn’t) is a voracious reader of broad interests and sensibility. Her blog‘s great too.

Greg van Eekhout, California Bones(Powells , Amazon).

I’ve been hoping he’d write a book like this ever since I read ‘The Osteomancer’s Son,’ the short story that it riffs upon. A warped California, with wizards who gain power by consuming the bones not only of magical creatures but of their rivals, and complex family relations. The book itself is enormous fun – a kind of heist novel – and two sequels promised which sound likely to add layers of political intrigue to the slyly Freudian drama of the original.

So that’s what’s been keeping me entertained. What about all you?



MPAVictoria 07.14.14 at 5:56 pm

I love these threads.

A couple recommendations:

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike #2) by Robert Galbraith (Pseudonym), J.K. Rowling
A great mystery with likable characters and an interesting twist at the end. The audiobook is especially good.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Car
I read this for the first time just recently and enjoyed it immensely. Not a great deal of action but fantastic characterization and a really interesting look at 70’s England.

The Ciaphas Cain series by Sandy Mitchell
I am a little embarrassed to put these here as they are total fluff and the cover art is frankly embarrassing. That said they are a fun combination of military scifi with the George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman novels. Check it out if that sounds at all appealing.


Maria 07.14.14 at 6:05 pm

Me too, love these threads.

I’m elbow deep into Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi, and beginning to resent the hours I must spend away from it. I’d actually read excerpts from it over the past few years, in various collections, but they were nothing as rich and fun as the full thing is. It’s about a Nigerian woman who goes to university in Philadelphia, with lots of Franzen-like gossipy social observation.


Anderson 07.14.14 at 6:36 pm

Enjoyed the new Laundry novel by Stross, and also liked Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch much more than I expected to – the hater reviews had put me off it.

(And, exciting to *me* because I was dropped on my head as a child, T.G. Otte’s July Crisis, a back-to-the-sources study of the diplomatic clusterfuck that was July 1914.)


AW74 07.14.14 at 6:38 pm

Very much second Americanah.

Also: “We are all completely beside ourselves”: a memoir of growing up in an academic family (should appeal to the CT crowd…?), with a truly unexpected twist about a third of the way in which I defy you to catch unless you have seen spoilers. Unexpected, very sharply written

“How to get filthy rich in rising Asia”: Mohsin Hamid. Parody self-help memoir that describes the life story of a selfmade tycoon in India. A very nicely worked conceit, allowing the author to overlay a compelling lifestory with a lot of “savage indignation” at the lot of the developing world poor


MPAVictoria 07.14.14 at 6:46 pm

“Enjoyed the new Laundry novel by Stross”

You know I really enjoy Mr. Stross’s blog and the idea of the Laundry novels (basically fighting eldritch horrors while working for a bureaucratic government agency) sounds amazing. However they always leave me a little cold and I am not sure why…

/Not at all criticizing your suggestion or saying you are wrong to like the books.


dr ngo 07.14.14 at 7:04 pm

I haven’t read “Americanah,” or heard of it until yesterday, but it appears to be the book that’s required summer reading for incoming freshfolk at Duke University this year. First time (they say) the required book has been by a “woman of color.” Sounds good.


Anderson 07.14.14 at 7:06 pm

“However they always leave me a little cold and I am not sure why…”

Always interesting to me how & why A likes a book and B doesn’t. I infer from the word “eldritch” that you have some Lovecraft under the belt, which always strikes me as one of the hurdles Stross imposes on his readers. But I’m curious what leaves you cold about them – do you just not like Bob the narrator much? or find the plots or characterization weak?

(The last book has an evil cliffhanger ending, so anything that convinces me to care less about the Laundry series is not undesirable right now!)


MPAVictoria 07.14.14 at 7:14 pm

“do you just not like Bob the narrator much”

I think that was it. He was set up as such an “uber software engineer cliche” that it really bugged me. Like in the book where he has to go to the Caribbean and attend a party in a tux. He went on and on about how he just liked wearing jeans and a shirt and why did he have to dress up? I found it aggravating. Just shut up and dress appropriately for the situation man!

Of course I keep buying and reading them as I find the IDEA super intriguing (I work in a large government bureaucracy) and always find at least a section or two that really tickles me.

So i guess what I am saying is that I am glad they exist but I would like to see what another author could do with the concept.


Chris Bertram 07.14.14 at 7:25 pm

Glad to hear that about Americanah, Maria, since I have two copies … (better give one away).

(My big fiction commitments recently have been Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy and Lampedusa’s The Leopard. The first extraordinarily rich but very long, the second concentrated brilliance.)


rea 07.14.14 at 7:29 pm

Like in the book where he has to go to the Caribbean and attend a party in a tux. He went on and on about how he just liked wearing jeans and a shirt and why did he have to dress up? I found it aggravating. Just shut up and dress appropriately for the situation man!

Not to get all spoilerific, but there was a plot reason for his distaste for James Bond-like party clothes.


Anderson 07.14.14 at 7:32 pm

7: I recall that in the back of The Atrocity Archive, Stross mentions there *is* another author who did something quite similar … don’t have it to hand, though.

8: loved The Leopard as well, esp. since it was clear the author loved him some Stendhal. If you haven’t read any Stendhal, maybe the 19th-c . Frenchman’s obvious debt to the 20th-c. Italian will appeal to you!


otto 07.14.14 at 7:33 pm

Recently, Robert Aickman / Dark Entries as summer fun, and – a bit more serious, but still a pretty easy read – Isabel Hull/ A Scrap of Paper, about international law in the First World War. Both very good.


MPAVictoria 07.14.14 at 7:43 pm

“Not to get all spoilerific, but there was a plot reason for his distaste for James Bond-like party clothes.”

It seemed to me more of a personality trait I think.
(Admit that I read that one over a year ago so the details are murky.)


MPAVictoria 07.14.14 at 7:46 pm

Of course it is totally possible the problem is me and not the book itself!


rea 07.14.14 at 8:00 pm

Stross mentions there *is* another author who did something quite similar

Tim Powers’ Declare, which takes some of the same basic Ideas and goes in a very different direction.

It seemed to me more of a personality trait I think.

The villain, for nefarious reasons, is trying to transform Bob Howard into James Bond; Howard is resisting (unsuccessfully, until he figures out to do the one thing Bond would never do . . .)


Nickp 07.14.14 at 8:00 pm

7: I recall that in the back of The Atrocity Archive, Stross mentions there *is* another author who did something quite similar … don’t have it to hand, though.

I’m not sure who Stross mentioned, but Tim Powers’ Declare is also a mashup of British Secret Service and Things It Is Not Good to Know. It’s not at all like the Laundry Files in style, but I enjoyed it a lot.


MPAVictoria 07.14.14 at 8:03 pm

“The villain, for nefarious reasons, is trying to transform Bob Howard into James Bond; Howard is resisting”

Yeah but I don’t think he knows that when he is complaining about what he has to wear to the party.


MPAVictoria 07.14.14 at 8:03 pm

I will have to check out Tim Powers. Thank you for the name. :-)


Henry 07.14.14 at 8:20 pm

Declare is just wonderful – gloomy Catholic Cold War fantasy with djinns and Kim Philby. I think it’s Powers’ strongest book – and he has written some good ones.

Absolutely no need to feel embarrassed about total fluff with embarrassing cover art. This is a “Fun summer reads” thread after all.


MPAVictoria 07.14.14 at 8:22 pm

“Absolutely no need to feel embarrassed about total fluff with embarrassing cover art.”

You don’t understand. This is EXTREMELY embarrassing cover art. Like gigantic swords and huge muscles bad…..


rea 07.14.14 at 8:27 pm

Tim Powers. Thank you for the name

Best known for the novel that got bought by Disney, but even On Stranger Tides was pretty good before the movies spoiled it.

And Bob Howard doesn’t know everything yet by that point in Jennifer Morgue but he’s beginning to figure it out.


Cian 07.14.14 at 8:29 pm

A warped California, with wizards who gain power by consuming the bones not only of magical creatures but of their rivals, and complex family relations.

Seeing Tim Powers has already been mentioned, you should check out his fisher king/California trilogy.


MPAVictoria 07.14.14 at 8:33 pm

“And Bob Howard doesn’t know everything yet by that point in Jennifer Morgue but he’s beginning to figure it out.”

I will bow to your knowledge here. Frankly my dislike of Bob is probably purely irrational.


Nancy Jane Moore 07.14.14 at 8:43 pm

Linda Nagata is a member of the author-owned publishing co-op Book View Cafe, so all the books you mentioned are also available there in both Kindle-friendly and epub formats.

And I loved Americanah — recommend it highly to all those now considering it.


Ronan(rf) 07.14.14 at 8:54 pm

I have Americanah lined up for sometime soon (but Im a lazy lazy reader) also Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi had a pretty interesting and funny interview with Zadie Smith here:

Best book(s) I’ve read recently are probably(definitely) George Saunders short stories(bear in mind I generally only read short stories, on account of said laziness)


Henry 07.14.14 at 8:58 pm

Seeing Tim Powers has already been mentioned, you should check out his fisher king/California trilogy.

Loved Last Call but couldn’t be having anything with the last two, which seemed chaotic and not especially compelling to me. There you goes …


Henry 07.14.14 at 8:59 pm

MPA Victoria – Bob’s bowing out – next novel is from his wife’s perspective, and after that, a new POV character briefly introduced in the new one.


Barry Freed 07.14.14 at 9:02 pm

I’ve been enjoying Jeff VanderMeer’s “Annihilation” and I’m looking forward to the second book in the series which just came out.


Anderson 07.14.14 at 9:13 pm

Huh! Maybe Stross has decided he doesn’t like Bob that much, either.


Cian 07.14.14 at 9:18 pm

I like the Laundry novels, but I can’t say I find the depiction of Bob as an uber-nerd hugely convincing.


Matt 07.14.14 at 9:46 pm

Bob as suffering IT guy working for a classified bureaucracy of magic worked best in the first book or two. He’s since leveled up enormously in terms of magical powers and climbing the bureaucratic hierarchy. His attitude toward work seems to be lagging behind his experiences and new responsibilities. But as Stross has repeatedly stated, Bob is not a reliable narrator.

I like the occasional fantasy that takes the viewpoint of someone fairly ordinary who isn’t personally trying to save the world or overcome the forces of darkness. Over time it seems like most of those ordinary characters gain power until they’re fighting toe-to-toe with lesser gods and the Big Bad of the series, if there is a Big Bad around. Most World War II stories are not about people who plan to personally assassinate Hitler. I’m not sure why conflicts in fantasy settings gravitate toward that POV.


Alan White 07.14.14 at 9:58 pm

A recent couple of reads that I thought were (mostly) fun:

Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter: now who’da thunk Richard Burton might have stepped out on Liz during the filming of Cleopatra?

The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by E. K. Moore: about love, loss, and very good appetites mostly told by a tough-minded Indiana woman born in a sycamore tree.


JakeB 07.14.14 at 10:26 pm

Henry, I’m glad you dug ‘Poor Man’s Fight’ as I really enjoyed the book myself; in fact I borrowed a kindle just to read it. Marko Kloos’s _Terms of Enlistment_ is an e-book that is pretty good albeit a tier below — Alexis Sanchez vs Luis Suarez, if you’ll allow me.

I recently read _Lawrence in Arabia_ with a lot of enjoyment, enough to get me to read _A Prince of Our Disorder_ next.

I also, owing indirectly to Doctor Science’s satisfying evisceration of Vox Day’s Hugo nomination over at Obsidian Wings, just started reading the Brother Cadfael novels. So far I am pleased there are so many of them.


Tom Slee 07.14.14 at 11:07 pm

I second the mention for Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch”, which I thought was brilliant, atmospheric and gripping: I would have finished it in a weekend if I could. My better half thought it long-winded, tedious, and lacking in sympathetic characters but I am objective evidence that her taste is questionable.

Also enjoyed the other literary doorstop, Eleanor Catton’s “The Luminaries”. Not so gripping, but memorable because of the New Zealand goldrush setting and the complex structure. Steven Laniel has a review here.

I really want to read Sandra Newman’s “The Country of Ice Cream Star” because her ealier “The Only Good Thing Anyone Has Ever Done” was fascinating, and early reviews have been good and compared it to Riddley Walker, which is obviously the best book ever.


Dave 07.14.14 at 11:16 pm

Two thirds of the way through the Ben H Winters series: The Last Policeman, Countdown City and World of Trouble. An end of days police procedural where the mystery thread sometimes gets lost, but still a fun fast read.


MPAVictoria 07.14.14 at 11:39 pm

I know I have already gone but I want to do one more.

The Girl with a Clock for a Heart: A Novel by Peter Swanson.
This book was the most fun I had reading in quite awhile. It is a quick moving, noir style mystery that makes for a great short read. The main character is appealing yet flawed and the supporting cast is almost as interesting. Please take a look and give it a shot if it sounds appealing.


MPAVictoria 07.14.14 at 11:40 pm

Dave I have been meaning to read those. Glad to hear they are enjoyable.


Sumana Harihareswara 07.14.14 at 11:56 pm

I just reread Rita Mae Brown’s semi-autobiographical Rubyfruit Jungle, a fast-paced American lesbian coming-of-age story published in 1973. This time round, I particularly noticed the narrator’s interest in making films that reflected her own life and experience — in terms of gender, sexuality, and class — because she couldn’t find stories about people like her.

I also reread Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, which — like Rubyfruit Jungle — portrays a Southern woman breaking society’s rules while pursuing her own desires. Hurston does with dialect and description what I think a lot of authors try and fail to do. So great.


Anderson 07.15.14 at 1:06 am

A good noir I read was Manchette’s Fatale, tho it’s overpriced by NYRB. Another reason to regret not knowing French. Short enough that it would make a good film. (I think noir novels are all meant to be films, if they’re good; the genre seems inseparable from film.)


Tim Chambers 07.15.14 at 2:30 am

Really, there is no accounting for taste in books and one would expect better here. The only one that appealled to me was Jenny Davidson’s book, and that a work of criticism, with a far more engaging style than any of the other choices. From a sampling on Amazon’s First Look, it would appear, to my eyes, that Nagata indulges in techno-drivel and Kay wields his politics like a Bludgeon. My one recommendation for summer reading is Orfeo, from the ever interesting Richard Powers.


Henry 07.15.14 at 2:34 am

I can’t say whether the idiosyncratic capitalization of Bludgeon or the bit about “the only one that appealled to me” is the more charming solecism …


md 20/400 07.15.14 at 2:59 am

A Sailor of Austria: In Which, Without Really Intending to, Otto Prohaska Becomes Official War Hero No. 27 of the Habsburg Empire is quite enjoyable. Timely too.

A Czech-Pole centenarian living in Wales looks back at his life–especially his life as an officer in the A-H Navy. Like Flashman he is often in the right place for History to happen around him. There are three books after this; they’re all good.


Tim Chambers 07.15.14 at 4:46 am

Thank you, Henry, for pointing out the typos in my hastily written comment. There isn’t a book or an article published that doesn’t contain a few, despite all the eyes that review them.


Tim Chambers 07.15.14 at 4:56 am


You might want to chide John Quiggen for “not to undertaking.”


John Quiggin 07.15.14 at 5:55 am

At least that would be better than chiding John Quiggin. I never liked that Quiggen guy.


Lisa Schweitzer 07.15.14 at 5:59 am

I just finished The Ox-Bow Incident yesterday, late at night, of course, and I was too devastated to sleep. I just rattled around the house annoyed that nobody was awake so I could talk about it, and then sat in the garden. At least there was a pretty moon.


aidian holder 07.15.14 at 6:16 am

I actually had to Google the definition for “solecism.” I can’t remember the last time that happened. That’s why I come here…even when you’re flaming each other I learn something :)


Neil Levy 07.15.14 at 6:44 am

Interesting to hear that Bob’s bowing out. I like the Laundry books, but less so over time. I think the problem is structural: it is entertaining to see how a software engineer deals with eldritch horrors whose existence he never suspected, but the more experienced he got, the less it worked. It’s the same reason that books like Harry Potter 1 work well: the story of an ordinary person encountering the extraordinary has a primordial force, which wears off once the person knows themselves not to be ordinary.


shah8 07.15.14 at 6:53 am

First book I could think of to recommend for summer reading would be Joon Ha Lee’s Conservation of Shadows.

For something a little more fun and shallow, Michael J Martinez’ Daedalus Crisis.

Karl Schroeder’s Lockstep was alright, and I guess Gaie Sebold’s two Babylon novels are alright, too. I read a lot of junk.

I have found that Government of the Shadows: Parapolitics and Criminal Sovereignty by Eric Wilson and Tim Lindsey to be very useful in doing a little backfilling history when I read today’s current events. The Indonesian election was made substantially more clear because I read the essay about the Philippine struggle between Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her rivals, and the general nature of Philippine politics.


Neil Levy 07.15.14 at 7:04 am

Tim Chambers @ 40: if there’s no accounting for taste in books, why would one expect better here? Seems that if there’s no accounting for taste in books there are no grounds for expectations at all.


dr ngo 07.15.14 at 8:45 am

Summer reading (simultaneous, desultory, overlapping): Michael Chabon, Telegraph Avenue, like all Chabon wonderfully rich, this one centering on a record store in Berkeley a generation ago; David Christian, Maps of Time: An Introduction to Big History, BH being defined as everything from the Big Bang (or before?) to the present; Jane Leavy, Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, by a former sportswriter who also wrote an excellent biography of Mickey Mantle and a pretty funny baseball novel, Squeeze Play. All recommended on an “as is” basis, since I haven’t finished any of them. Am also planning to read at least some of a book that I do not anticipate recommending, Inferno by Dan Brown (of Da Vinci Code infamy), because I understand much of it is set in Manila, a city I know somewhat.


Henry 07.15.14 at 11:34 am

Tim Chambers – if, as I am coming to suspect, this is a parody, it’s pitch perfect. The combination of indignation, peevish self-importance and self-undermining incompetence (reproving ‘Quiggen’ for his typos) is veritably Pooteresque. That’s not a term of praise I employ frequently or lightly.


Lynne 07.15.14 at 1:12 pm

Ah, a fun thread, recommending many writers unknown to me. Thanks!

I’m currently reading Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, long-listed for the Man Booker Prize last year. There are two narrators, a teen-ager in Japan, whose diary is found by a writer on an island off the west coast of Canada, who is the second narrator and is Ruth Ozeki herself. Oddly, Ruth the narrator does not come across as likeable, at least to me. I often find with alternating narrators that one is much more compelling than the other, and here the Japanese teen-ager, Nao, reigns. How did her diary come to be in the ocean? Did it arrive with the drift from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami? What happened to Nao?

I’m enjoying it quite a bit despite so-so writing, because of the setting and because of the richness of the title, which I won’t spoil here. I’ll never hear that phrase, “for the time being”, the same again.

Before Ozeki I zipped through two of Gail Bowen’s Joanne Kilbourn mysteries. They are set in Saskatchewan and are not very mysterious—I guessed the culprit early on in both novels—but I love visiting Joanne Kilbourn in her world, with her kids and her job and her routine, and these crimes that keep cropping up but even when they do dinner must be made and homework overseen.

Last recommendation. One of the best novels I’ve ever read was Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kittredge. Just a wonderful novel, the more of a triumph because it was woven from short stories written over a span of many years. She takes terrific risks with her main character, who is seriously flawed, but somehow brings the novel home in a really satisfying way.

Oh! And one more, Three Junes by Julia Glass. This was her first novel and was much better than her second, which was so bad I haven’t yet tried the third and fourth. But in Three Junes she takes tremendous risks, changing narrators twice so the three parts of the book are only loosely connected, but again the ending is very satisfying. Ahhhhh. Wish I could read it for the first time again.


MPAVictoria 07.15.14 at 1:28 pm

md 20/400 that sounds really interesting! Consider it added to the list.


Agog 07.15.14 at 3:40 pm

In a previous thread I digressed by mentioning Xavier Herbert’s Capricornia, which is largely about the treatment of Aboriginal and mixed-race Australians early last century. (I’m not Australian, so learned from it).

Currently part way through Little, Big by John Crowley. It’s still too early to commit to an opinion.


Doug K 07.15.14 at 4:21 pm

indeed md 20/400, thank you – the Otto Prohaska books look wonderful, what fun.

I’ve been rereading whatever Diana Wynne Jones I can find, may go to Powell’s and buy some used books as the library has only a sparse collection.

Recently, The Gray Ghost Murders, by Keith McCafferty – Montana murder mystery with fly-fishing background, a lot better than expected.

Just finished Kate Elliott’s Crown of Stars series, thoroughly enjoyed it. The author has degrees in history, which experience shows up in the novels as a particularly solid and plausible medieval/fantasy setting. I also liked the religion with a God of dual natures, male and female: where Christianity appears as a vile heresy.

Started on the Imager Portfolio series by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Only a few chapters in, but am quite entertained so far..


Tyrone Slothrop 07.15.14 at 4:50 pm

Reading two-thirds of Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy—Annihilation and Authority—has left me highly anticipatory for the closer due in September. Lovecraftian atmospherics abound within both, though their framework, expeditionary spelunking of the infected zone and clique-riven bureaucratic containment of the eldritch abscess respectively, present two differing, but complimentary, means of portraying such. Both are eerie and unsettling in the best of ways, in that the author consistently opts for subtlety and less-is-more in the knowledge that such a methodology helps to fire the imagination and ratchet up the tension. Very, very good…


TheSophist 07.15.14 at 7:54 pm

Can I chime in with a heartfelt plug for Jenni Fagan’s Panopticon? Set in a juvenile detention centre in Scotland, it reads like the love child of Denise Mina and Irvine Welsh (on one of his better days).

I also just finished Welsh’s latest. It started dreadfully, then got interesting (or at least enjoyable) for a while then ended dreadfully. Welsh really shouldn’t write anything not set in Edinburgh.


deliasmith 07.16.14 at 2:29 am

“The Laughing Policeman”, the best, or at least the best-known, of the Martin Beck stories. A perfect book, as genre novels can sometimes be. Perfect in the sense that any change would make it less good. If there was even one more character it would become too difficult to follow without turning back every ten pages to remind yourself who Per MÃ¥nsson is; if there were one less it would be possible to work out who the murderer is by a process of elimination. If there were one twist more it would be a Swedish Agatha Christie, one less merely a good procedural.
Also perfect – “The Friends of Eddie Coyle”.


Alan White 07.16.14 at 4:47 am

“One of the best novels I’ve ever read was Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kittredge. Just a wonderful novel, the more of a triumph because it was woven from short stories written over a span of many years.”



DaveL 07.16.14 at 12:45 pm

I’ll second The Laughing Policeman. Some of the others in the series were fairly weak, but it was excellent.

I re-read The Friends of Eddie Coyle every year or so and it is still perfect. (The movie version with Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle is worth watching, too.) I also highly recommend The Digger’s Game and Cogan’s Trade (the latter was recently filmed not-horribly in disguise as “Killing Them Softly,” with Brad Pitt).

Another Tim Powers novel this audience might like is The Stress of Her Regard. Shelley, Keats, and Byron versus something not exactly a vampire. Also the true answer to the Sphinx’s riddle.

Just finished Paul Park’s All Those Vanished Engines. It’s a mashup of literary meta-fiction, steampunk, and sf, but that’s not what the plot is about. Took a while to figure out what he was doing but in the end I liked it a lot. He’s sort of in the same territory as Gene Wolfe, which is how I found him years ago.


mrearl 07.16.14 at 2:38 pm

I do so miss Reginald Hill and Michael Dibdin and their utterly original, sometimes hilarious, policemen, Dalziel & Pascoe and Aurelio Zen. Fortunately Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson are still with us and working, as are DI (now DS) John Rebus and DCI Alan Banks. This year brought Rankin’s Saints of the Shadow Bible and Robinson’s Children of the Revolution which, while not up to either’s best work, are still good examples of how to transcend the police procedural.


yabonn 07.16.14 at 2:43 pm

What, no comics?

I liked “Locke and Key”.


MPAVictoria 07.16.14 at 4:44 pm

mrearl I am always looking for more audiobooks to make my morning walk to work pass more quickly. With those particular series is it important to start at the beginning? Or can you just jump in anywhere?


TheSophist 07.16.14 at 6:57 pm

Unfortunately, Rankin has said (no link – he said it when I saw him on his last tour) that he’ll be taking some time off. He wants to stop and smell the roses while he can – especially because he was deeply saddened by I(M)B’s death.

Anybody know whether there was any truth to the rumor that there was a last D & P book in the pipeline when Reginald Hill died?


Dogenfrost 07.17.14 at 6:06 am

I am reading Daniel O’Malley’s “The Rook”, which plays on similar ground as Stross’s Laundry Files. So far, I recommend it highly.

I enjoy Stross’s humour, which strikes me as somewhere between Monty Python and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I laugh out loud at least once in each story. But his Laundry characters, especially women, seem paper thin. O’Malley is a little less slapstick, maybe closer to Harry Potter.

I have also enjoyed the first two Southern Reach novels, and will gobble up the third when it appears. But I have an awful premonition that it will disappoint me in the same way HP Lovecraft always disappointed me when I forced myself to read him a very long time ago–that it will have been all build-up and no bang, just a dull fizzle at the end.


Trader Joe 07.17.14 at 11:33 am

If you like Pascoe & Dalziel, try Jim Kelly…he has a couple of different lead characters Dryden a newsman and Shaw a DCI, but his character interactions and the clever mix of irony and subtle humour on top of clever plotlines make a very strong read. I’ll definitely try Michael Dibdin, I’ve seen them but never picked them up. Rankin and Robinson are good too, but I’ve only tried a sampling of them – I’ve read everything Hill and Kelly.



mrearl 07.17.14 at 3:55 pm

MPAV: With Rankin you can jump in anywhere. With the early Hills you can do the same, but there’s some carry-through in the later ones that rewards chronological reading. A good start might be toward the middle, with The Wood Beyond, from the Nineties.

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