2013 Book Report 15: The Secret Adversary – Agatha Christie.

Agatha Christie is best known for her murder mysteries starring characters such as Miss Marple and Poirot. The Secret Adversary feels therefore like a change of direction and of form. The story revolves around a young man and woman who, suddenly unemployed after the war set up a venture offering themselves up for any job required of them.

They are contacted and soon find themselves involved in international espionage including Bolsheviks and spies.

The story twists and turns, with frequent ‘aha’ moments, liberal red herrings and intrigue, all handled with supreme skill by the author.

I won’t try and distil the story here. My memory of the events of the narrative would not do it justice, and I would be unable to avoid spoilers which would be a shame. I recommend this book heartily. It is a real page turner, with twists which avoid feeling contrived or engineered.

In an ideal world Dan Brown would be kept away from a word processor until he had read this book several times and could indicate the lessons that he had learned from doing so.

Clue: ‘With a single bound Jack was free’ is not a plot device worthy of the reading public!

If you are in the market for reading this on your Kindle then head over to Project Gutenberg where they have it available free. My favourite price for a classic.

2013 Book Report 10: The Man With Two Left Feet and Other Stories – PG Wodehouse.

A confession: I had never read any PG Wodehouse before this book. In fact, I didn’t even watch the much praised TV series starring Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. I was, essentially a noob, a novice, a PG Wodehouse virgin.

It is possible that this wasn’t a good book to start my journey with, there may be far better in the canon, but I did enjoy this one enormously.

It is a series of short stories, one of which features PG Wodehouse’s most famous comic creations, Bertie Wooster and Jeeves. But the other stories are all stand alone pieces.

I enjoyed these stories. They are fluffy confections, whimsical and funny enough to raise a smile, though not, for me at least, to make me laugh out loud. Obviously the stories are dated, as is some of the language, but they have stood the test of time. And one advantage of reading books like this on a Kindle is that you can look up the obscure and archaic words simply by placing your cursor over them.

I won’t be rushing out to stock up on PG Wodehouse, but I won’t be averse to reading more in the future.

 

2013 Book Report 6 – First Among Sequels – Jasper Fforde.

I read the hardback edition of this book which I bought at a book signing it Cambridge. It is available through Amazon here, and it is now available on Kindle, and presumably on other ebook readers.

This is the fifth book in the ‘Thursday Next’ series. The story revolves around Thursday Next and her ability to jump into the narrative of books. Using other books as the backdrop to the adventures taking place is a great trick. It allows people to weave their own literary knowledge with the story at hand.

As another dimension in this story TN is teamed up in her literary detective work with the written versions of herself. Unfortunately the written versions include one pseudo Lara Croft alike and one hippy dippy type, both of which are similar to the real TN, but also dissimilar enough to make the three versions all dislike each other intensely.

I love the Thursday Next series, for their surreal writing, soaring imagination and literary insider jokes. I know at least one person who finds them irritating in their whimsy, and I can see what they mean, but each to their own. If you liked the previous Thursday Next books then this is going to be an enjoyable romp. I think it holds its own amongst its compatriots. It won’t win over anyone who didn’t like the others either, but then I don’t think you would expect it to.

I still plan to read the rest of the series (there are another two), but I think this level of surreal fun is best sampled in small aliquots.