Britain in 1940 when the government embarked on the panicky internment of enemy aliens in the Isle of Man, described as though from the author’s personal experience. I have read and recommended all Lawton’s novels but this is not the one for a newcomer to the series to begin with, since the plot is not easy even for an enthusiast to follow. Never mind: the journey was enjoyable, even if I got lost on the way to its final destination.
★By Martin O’Brien (Headline 416pp £11.99)
THEnumber refers to members of a French rugby team that beat England at Twickenham twenty years before the story opens. The captain, now a captain of industry, organises a reunion in his palatial villa on the Côôte d’Azur. One team member commits suicide there, and in the next few weeks, another half-dozen die. Each death looks natural and only Detective Inspector Jacquot (who scored the winning try) realises that
his former teammates are being killed off. If you can swallow the unlikely idea that these relatively young men, all formerly famous and some still well-known, could die in so short a time without the authorities smelling a rat, and – even odder – without swarms of reporters buzzing around, and if you can also credit Jacquot’s indestructibility, then this is an enjoyable tale set in mouthwatering places.
★By Karin Slaughter (Century 416pp £17.99)
DRSara Linton is in trouble. She is being sued for millions in a malpractice suit and she has to help her police chief husband get one of his detectives out of jail in a small town in deepest Georgia. Soon both are caught up in a chaos of methamphetamine making, taking and trafficking, muddled up with white supremacy groups and long-buried family secrets. Slaughter specialises in forensics, terror, claustrophobic communities and the more uncivilised aspects of the Deep South.
On the strength of books that are relentlessly frightening, melodramatic and disgusting she has become a mega-seller. But to me, following this story’s sadism felt like masochism.
ANDdon’t miss the next instalments in the adventures of some favourite investigators: The Last Breath by Denise Mina (Bantam 352pp £12.99) Another in this outstanding series about the Glasgow journalist Paddy Meehan. Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson(Hodder & Stoughton 416pp £14.99) Featuring the always interesting DCI Banks and DI Annie Cabot. Not in the Flesh by Ruth Rendell (Hutchinson 272pp £17.99) The ageless Wexford and Burden investigate old crimes with modern methodology. The Skeleton Man by Jim Kelly (Michael Joseph 352pp £16.99) An intensely atmospheric Philip Dryden mystery set in the fens. Death’s Door by Quintin Jardine (Headline 416pp £11.99) More from Edinburgh police HQ and its popular team of clever, spouse-swapping detectives. NIGHT& DAYGRANDPOETRYPRIZE
THERE’Ssomething Larkin-esque about DAPrince’s excellent winning poem this month (on the subject of ‘choice’), with its canny self-deprecation and slick enjambements. She wins £300 for the first prize; Colin Wood gets £150 for second, and all others printed receive £10. Ted Giles, a regular name on these pages, wrote to me recently about his local council library, which is being
partially closed ‘as a moneysaving necessity, so it is said’. One wonders what money is for.
Anyone who had a few books to donate could do worse than give them to the Chalfont St Giles library, now being run by volunteers. The next subject is ‘False Economy’, then; entries should be in by Wednesday 29 August: poems should be no more than 24 lines, and should rhyme, scan and make sense.
FIRST PRIZE CHOICE by D A Prince The whole world takes the road less travelled by, or so it seems. Loud choruses of My Way drown out all other songs - just watch the crowds turning Frost’s track into a busy highway. So, paradoxically, the road reviled is empty of the herd, and left to those who never think to flaunt their choice, but go in peace, not full of angst for how they chose. Coffee is simply coffee; clothes the ones that happened to be clean; and home a mix of varied unassuming comforts - not a showcase for interior fashion’s tricks; and saving all the lifetimes that are spent on the modern cult for being different.
SECOND PRIZE PASCAL by Colin Wood He worried about God. Could there be ever A way of solving the Divine Equation? Could any formula, however clever, Give absolute assurance of salvation?
No mathematics could provide a basis To choose between belief and unbelief, So, Janus-like, with contradictory faces, He wavered weakly like an aspen leaf.
He could not choose. Instead, he gave his conscience A crafty way of choosing not to choose – He gambledon the chance of God’s existence: That way, he might not win, but could not lose.
Did he, when dying, hear God’s thunderous voice: I wanted, not your Wager, but your Choice?
INDECISION by Alanna Blake Alternatives all come in twos Which means I cannot help but choose. At least, whichever choice I make Can only lead to one mistake, Whereas if options multiply A different outcome will apply: There’s room for errors, few or many,
That sometimes cost a pretty penny, Those misplaced votes, misguided bets That leave me haunted by regrets. And quite the hardest task I find Is having to make up my mind; It drives me almost to distraction To try to pick a course of action: Select from menus, buy a dress, Decide on presents – and the mess That follows leaves me stirred and shaken, With life grown full of roads not taken. I wonder, though, would I rejoice If no one gave me any choice?
THE CHOICE by Maureen A Jeffs Read this, I am telling it with a sigh and also – I will whisper this – regret; not that I chose to be another’s bride but that I had to choose. I can’t forget your parting words, the sorrow in your eyes the day I left without a backward glance fearing I, like Boscawen’s Merry Maids, might turn to stone. The moment passed, the chance – and there was one – was past recapturing, except in dreams where frequently we tread; generous with loving, lying face to face, I say to you those words that went unsaid.
And yet I know if I could rewind time, I’d take again the course I took that day; I opted for the safe and sane and sure and, though I love you, chose to walk away.
TALKING CURE by Noel Petty To be or not to be: is that your question? I’m sorry things are looking quite that bad. Perhaps it’s toothache, or a poor night’s sleep, Or maybe just a trick of the digestion. I know you think somebody topped your dad And then your mother shacked up with the creep, But here’s the thing: Right now life may seem difficult But if you bide your time you’ll still be king. That’s not a bad result.
LITERARY REVIEW August 2007