Lexie Conyngham's Blog: writing, history and gardening.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

September's reading

September, as you'll know if you've listening to me whinging about it, is a ridiculously busy month, and in my distraction I've managed to read two non-fiction books rather than one non-fiction and one non-crime fiction. So here are the two non-fictions (and I'll do it the other way round in October!)

Mary Welfare, Growing up at Haddo: I’m not usually a big reader of autobiography, but this is one I’ve been intending to read for a while. Mary Welfare is the eldest adopted daughter of the 4th Marquess of Aberdeen and his wife, June, and grew up at Haddo House in Aberdeenshire in the years after the Second World War, a time when the estate was not particularly well off and her parents were setting up an extraordinary opera and choral institution. This meant that her childhood, though somewhat impecunious, was spent in a grand, if shabby, country house populated for chunks of the year by the most prominent musicians, singers and composers of the time, from Benjamin Britten to Annie Lennox, members of the Royal Family and random chorus singers from nearby Aberdeen. This is not a name-dropping autobiography, though: it’s gently anecdotal and tells of a time when the country house lifestyle was gradually fading into National Trust land. I found it an amusing read and rather wistful, in the end.
The second is also autobiographical, and written in the present tense, one of my bugbears.

The Outrun: A Memoir
The Outrun, Amy Liptrott: Lovely writing but not the most cheerful of subjects, a woman returning, reluctantly, to her childhood home after her life has fallen apart and seeing it with new eyes. I felt that some of the metaphors were posted up like the illuminated signs over a motorway - having to break down more of a collapsed drystone dyke before you can rebuild it, for example, as she slowly pulls herself together after rehab – and the story, someone hitting the big lights in their early twenties, then hitting the bottle, then hitting rock bottom, is not exactly unique. But as I said, lovely writing: scene-setting, whether in London or in Orkney; situations; the weather; all described with a lighter touch than her metaphors, and really evocative. It’s a reluctant love letter to Orkney, a recognition of the power, good and bad, of social media, and a telling account of addiction and the road to recovery (however tentative that might always be).
And the crime fiction:

No Time to Cry (DC Constance Fairchild, #1)
No Time to Cry, James Oswald: I can’t put my finger on it, but when I started this book I really did not like it. And I speak as a dyed in the wool Tony McLean fan – love them so much I actually spoke to James Oswald at Granite Noir 2018, which for me is quite something. It wasn’t a conversation that went well, but then that’s my problem, not his. I left it for a bit, and went back, and somehow it started to work better for me. I really don’t know why. It’s written in the present tense, which I usually hate, but at least it’s present tense first person which works better. I grew to like the spiky main character with her peculiar background – and of course her cat and her boss’s ghost – if that’s what it is. And the plot is terrific. Roll on the rest of the series.

Where Seagulls Dare
WhereSeagulls Dare, Mark Farrer: Not as laugh-a-minute as I expected, but quite a clever story woven around the well-researched background of the salmon-farming industry. I liked Kim and Cullen, two strong characters bent on justice. Not for the faint-hearted, though. It all fell apart a bit towards the end – Kirkwall geography and a serious overestimate of the speed of Sea King helicopters, even if they were still in service, knocked me out of the plot rather, and there are plenty of typos, but on the whole a good yarn well told.

One is One

  Andrew James Greig, One is One: My first thought was that Orkney Tourist Board weren’t likely to be snapping this one up! It starts with industrial estates and rain and grey and kitsch ornaments and weird people, and terrible driving. It also needs to sort out how to use speech marks, and work out whose perspective the narrative is portraying. Tania, the first main character, is not very appealing at all, prickly and prejudiced. However, the plot warms up nicely: the police investigation in London and on Rum is intriguing and the appearance of Thomas the Rhymer equally mysterious, and the adventures in Iceland (there is no geographical limitation on this plot!) are amusing, too. The whole thing is wrapped in myth and folklore and pretty intriguing – I might well follow up the sequel.
Susan Spann, Claws of the Cat: A charming book, set in 16th century Japan (Kyoto). The investigating pair are a Shogun warrior and the man he has to protect, a Portuguese Jesuit priest – thus many obscure Japanese matters can be explained to the priest by his bodyguard. I think this is the first in a longish series. It was an easy read, well-paced and very enjoyable, and I felt I learned something from it, which is always a plus for me. I probably wouldn't have spotted it but it was the monthly historical crime fiction book club on GoodReads.

A Poisoning In Piccadilly (The Lady Eleanor Mysteries Book 1)
Lynda Wilcox, A Poisoning in Piccadilly: An elegant book, set in a familiar period but rather nicely done. I liked the heroine and her sidekick maid who has a mind of her own, too, and the background in the First World War is, if not unusual, intriguing.

Well, there we are, a shortish list! Meanwhile I'm working on the next Hippolyta, An Incident at Lochgorm, and the stand alone, The Slaughter of Leith Hall, is planned for the new year (oh, dear, these plans!). Now, off to netball ...

Friday, 13 September 2019

Book tour - N. Lombardi Jnr: Justice Gone

About the Book:

When a homeless war veteran is beaten to death by the police, stormy protests ensue, engulfing a small New Jersey town. Soon after, three cops are gunned down.
 A multi-state manhunt is underway for a cop killer on the loose. And Dr. Tessa Thorpe, a veteran's counselor, is caught up in the chase.
Donald Darfield, an African-American Iraqi war vet, war-time buddy of the beaten man, and one of Tessa's patients, is holed up in a mountain cabin. Tessa, acting on instinct, sets off to find him, but the swarm of law enforcement officers gets there first, leading to Darfield's dramatic capture.
Now, the only people separating him from the lethal needle of state justice are Tessa and ageing blind lawyer, Nathaniel Bodine. Can they untangle the web tightening around Darfield in time, when the press and the justice system are baying for revenge?

Book Links:


National Indie Excellency Award - Best Legal Thriller of 2019
Silver Medal Winner 2019 - Readers' Favorites Awards
Chosen by Wiki.ezvid.com among their list of 10 Gripping and Intelligent Legal Thrillers

The courtroom scenes are wonderfully written...the characters are well described and the author paints a picture of each in the mind of the reader...Strong plot, strong characters and a strong writing style that I really enjoyed. This one is a definite "thumbs-up." Strongly recommend! I look forward to reading additional works by N. Lombardi, Jr.
Kim M Aalaie, Author's Den

One of my favorite suspense novels of the year. It will make you question the legal system.
The Eclectic Review

The courtroom action is excellent, trimmed to the most gripping parts of the trial, with plenty of emotional impact...a fairly realistic portrayal of the way small-town US society works...a fast-moving story with plenty of dramatic moments, and a big twist in the final pages.
Crime Review  

About the Author:

N. Lombardi Jr, the N for Nicholas, has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a groundwater geologist. Nick can speak five languages: Swahili, Thai, Lao, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian).
In 1997, while visiting Lao People's Democratic Republic, he witnessed the remnants of a secret war that had been waged for nine years, among which were children wounded from leftover cluster bombs. Driven by what he saw, he worked on The Plain of Jars for the next eight years.
Nick maintains a website with content that spans most aspects of the novel: The Secret War, Laotian culture, Buddhism etc.
His second novel, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, is set in the wild frontier of northern Kenya.
His latest novel, Justice Gone was inspired by the fatal beating of a homeless man by police.
Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Follow the Author:


My review:
A distressing subject, damaged military veterans being mistreated by the police in America, against the context of police shootings of black people there. It’s treated well (I could have done with a bit less wordiness, and a little more lightness in the descriptions of every character), heartfelt, but the emotion is restrained for better effect. I found the main character, Tessa, a bit of a jumble, calm one minute and screaming the next, but it seems she has a back story which might explain this. I have to say that the portrayal of the relationship between the public and the police, and the effect it has on both sides, made me heartily glad I don’t live in the U.S.A., and pray that my country never gets that bad. There is detailed work on how the press react, how the police (at their various levels) do their duty, but the sympathy is always with the ‘public’ versus the police in a vivid historical (albeit recent) setting. The account of the trial, intelligent and informed, is gripping, and the ending realistic.