Recent Reading (Fiction)

Adam Brookes Blue Heron This extremely well-done espionage novel is an exciting debut. The short hand crib is: China + internet warfare + John Le Carré. Brookes spent time in China, so it follows that the descriptions of English nationals living there are exceptionally believable. The internal politics within the British secret service also ring true, and we reach the end of the breathless story without any unnecessary twists. I’ll be watching for the next Brookes.

Matthew Glass Fishbowl Great idea for a thriller: Use the triumph of Facebook as a model. There’s no doubt that social media is potentially an awesome form of thought control, and Glass’s conceit feels plausible. There’s an echo of Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad; also the slightly weak ending feels cribbed from something else, perhaps even from Warren’s All the King’s Men. Very engaging overall, I read it in one go.

Jo Perry Dead is Better  Not all meta crime fiction is to my taste, mainly because the basic crime story supporting the fantastical usually just isn’t good enough. Dead is Better is a welcome exception, with a really good plot underpinning a ghost’s investigations into his own death, a dog’s death, and a reprehensible criminal enterprise. An intentionally downbeat mood is enhanced with dozens of literary quotes about death. (The title comes from a cited influence, King’s Pet Sematary.)

Ray Banks Angels of the North The latest Banks is as realistic and depressing as it gets, like watching a traffic accident in slow motion. It’s also a history lesson, kicking off with an entitled and conservative quote from Margaret Thatcher before telling of how vigilantism came to a down-and-out community in 1986 Gateshead. Packed with fabulous slang and local idiom, Angels of the North is perfect source material for one of those compelling English mini-series TV dramas. (DTM: Interview with Ray Banks about Charles Willeford.)