In Agatha Christie’s first published mystery, and the first Hercule Poirot novel, a brisk older woman, Mrs Inglethorp, has been murdered in Essex. Hastings has been invalided out of the army and decides to visit his old friend, John Cavendish, her stepson, at their country estate.
At a cheap hotel in Mexico, defrocked priest Lawrence Shannon clashes with bawdy hotel owner Maxine Faulk, and meets a saintly seeming drifter and artist, Hannah Jelkes, travelling with her elderly grandfather. Fever, stormy weather and lust wrack this Southern Gothic play by Tennessee Williams.
Altered States by Anita Brookner is a excellent novel of the ‘repressed, English, and unreliable’ genre perfected by authors like Kazuo Ishiguro. It follows solicitor Alan Sherwood, his failed marriage, his blended family and the object of his obsession.
This is the first time I’m reviewing a book I’m uncertain whether to recommend. The Passport is a slim novella by Nobel Prize Winner Herta Müller. I bought it at an antiques place, aged paper sandwiched between blue and white ceramic plates and tarnished hand saws. (spoilers)
Mask of the Plague Doctor is an interactive fiction text adventure by Peter Parrish, released under Choice of Games on the 23rd of April. You play as a doctor sent into the quarantined town of Thornback Hollow. Working with an army surgeon and an idealistic new medic, you have to work to eradicate the plague while unrest and religious conflict erupt in the town. And you’re on a time limit – if you can’t cure the disease, Baron Morlond waits outside the walls to purge the contagion by the sword.
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Cadfael books by Ellis Peters (Edith Mary Pargeter OBE BEM). The Rose Rent is a classic. It is a medieval mystery novel set in the summer of 1142, as the battle between King Stephen and Empress Maud rages on. This is the thirteenth novel in The Cadfael Chronicles, first published in 1986. It charts a wealthy young widow who donates a house to the Abbey for a symbolic rent of a single white rose a year.
An Artist of the Floating World, by Kazuo Ishiguro, is a beautiful, hazy portrait of life in post war Japan. It explores generational tension, changing social mores, guilt and atonement. It is also another excellent example of the unreliable narrator, a trope of Ishiguro’s work.
An interweaving tale of two entrapped women; a suicidal noblewoman with no purpose and an imprisoned spiritualist claiming innocence. Reality, voice and oppression – not to mention manipulation – are the key themes in this stunning lesbian Victorian ghost story. A rich, beautiful, haunting novel by an excellent author, set in the late 19th century.
I just finished reading A Pale View of Hills, by Kazuo Ishiguro. As usual with his work, the book has stayed with me for over a day now. Etsuko is a Japanese woman, living in rural England in the 1970s. Her younger daughter Niki visits, and their conversation triggers a series of dreams and memories. She recalls a strange friendship she had with another woman called Sachiko in post-war Japan. Based in the still rebuilding city of Nagasaki, sweltering and devastated by the atomic bomb.
There will be spoilers in this review.