I’ve just got back from summer hols in Bulgaria and, as well as sun-cream, shorts, and lilos, I (obviously) packed some holiday reads.
First up was George Mann’s latest Doctor Who novel, Engines of War. A stand-alone adventure for John Hurt’s War Doctor, Engines has been lavished with plaudits left, right and centre (as well as becoming a Sunday Times Bestseller) – and quite right too.
Before I gush, George is a good mate, so I might be biased, but Engines really is a rollicking Doctor Who romp, rivalling anything seen on telly.
I had a good idea of what was coming, thanks to many a text and email while George was wrangling out the plot, but it still managed to surprise me time and again. A fantastic start to my holiday reading – explosive, cinematic set-pieces with a real heart (or should that be hearts?) beneath it all. Oh, and a perfect bridge between 20th and 21st Century Who as well.
From Dalek deviants and Gallifreyan super-weapons, I plunged headfirst into Victorian London. There’s something quite perverse in reading a fog-drenched tale on a blistering beach, but before writing The Patchwork Devil I’ve wanted to submerge myself in all things Holmes. I’d heard good things about Lyndsay Faye’s Dust and Shadow and I’m pleased to say they were justified. There have been many Holmes vs The Ripper stories over the years but none have captivated me as much as Lyndsay’s take on the events of 1888. The sheer amount of research shines through without ever slowing the pace and Lyndsay’s command of Watson’s voice is simply wonderful. Her love of these characters is palpable, even as she puts them through the wringer. And boy, does she do that!
Like all best Holmes novels, Dust and Shadow adds something to the mix rather than slavishly replicating Conan Doyle’s style. Lyndsay’s second novel, The Gods of Gotham, has gone right to the top of my to-read-list on my Kindle.
But my Kindle was 1,900 miles away, so I instead turned to Something Nasty in the Woodshed by Kyril Bonfiglioli. The Charles Mortdecai novels had been repeated recommended to me, but I think I’d been lulled into a false sense of security by the description of them as Woodhouse meets Fleming. This, the third book in the series, is definitely dripping with wit and more than a little whimsy, and there are descriptions of food that left me drooling. However I wasn’t prepared for how dark it is. The central crimes – attacks on the women of the island – are deeply unpleasant and yet are dealt at first with such levity that I felt distinctively uncomfortable. In fact, I found the treatment of women in the tale unsettling at best. Perhaps it has something to do with when they were written – Something Nasty in the Woodshed was originally published in 1976 – but while Bonfiglioli has a wicked turn of phrase and there’s a very British delight in the depravity of it all, I’m not sure about reading the rest of the series.
And so, as our holiday drew to an end, I turned to the last book in my suitcase – another Sherlock Holmes, this time Gods of War by James Lovegrove. I finished Gods on the plane home and loved every minute. Set just before the outbreak of WWI, the novel sees Holmes coming out of retirement to investigate an apparent suicide. There are outrageous crimes, thrilling chases, death-defying escapes, clever deduction and even wry smiles along the way. Everything you want from a Holmes book, in fact.
And there you have it, my 2014 holiday reads. Now to dive into my post-holiday reads. Speaking of which, look what has arrived in the post today:
Mmmmmmmm, Sherlockia. Barnaby Edwards has suggested I wear a balaclava while reading so I don’t drool on the pages. Good advice.
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