Saturday, February 23, 2013

In the Family

Life is a bit fraught at the moment. This is a very busy time of year in the world of freelance teaching. I've learnt through twelve years of experience that you have to cram in as much as possible between September and April, because the rest of the year tends to be a bit too quiet. Right now, we're at the peak of the period and I scarcely have time to breathe, let alone eat or have a cup of coffee between classes. I often come home after 7 straight teaching hours realising I haven't had anything to drink since I left the house in the morning. No good, not healthy, but no time for anything else. The result is I currently feel like all the expressions for being tired rolled up into one big mixed metaphor. To sum it up, I'm hanging on to my sanity by a thread, reaching the end of my tether, stretching to breaking point and threatening to be off with the fairies. Ha!

In between all this, though, I have managed to read a really great book. The one and (for me) only advantage of the cold weather is that I have stopped cycling. It's way too bitter to even contemplate. So I take the bus and read on the thirty minute ride to work. I don't have a Kindle, and a proper book is the only alternative.

Now a few weeks ago, I happened to buy In the Family by Christina James. Its a long time since I read a detective/crime book with any real pleasure. The last one was Deborah Crombie's latest, but apart from hers and Donna Leon's, I have largely been 'off' crime fiction. It has become too 'shock and gore' for my tastes. It was consequently with a smidgin of trepidation that I started reading Christina's book.

Perhaps I should mention here that Christina is a recent blog contact. I love her posts and when I have time, I'm a regular visitor to her page, so I thought I'd give her book a try too. And, I'm glad I did because I thoroughly enjoyed it. Christina has restored my taste for detective fiction by proving that a good police drama need not be about horrific, ghastly descriptions of the most brutal types of crime. In The Family is a book of puzzles, and I was continually trying to unravel the mystery surrounding the sad and very dysfunctional family around which the novel revolves. At each stage you think you know 'who dunnit', but in the end, nothing is quite as it seems; the only confirmation is what you, and everyone else, feel about the main character, but I won't tell you here who or what that is. I can rather recommend that you read it for yourselves.

It is a thoughtful and challenging novel in the tradition of PD James, Elizabeth George and Deborah Crombie, but for me it was closer to Ms Crombie than the other two because it had all the humanity without the darkness that seems to have become part of Elizabeth George's later books.

As I said, a great read and one of those unputdownable novels. I couldn't wait for my next bus ride home or the chance to go to bed and read till far too late.

Thank you Christina, and thank you for giving me a book to get excited about. I am now, of course, thoroughly looking forward to the next one.


15 comments:

  1. I love crime thrillers so am heading over to Amazon now xxx

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  2. Ah buses - they are one of the very best places for reading. (As can be bus stops, when the wretched bus is late - though you need heavy duty thermals and turning pages in thick gloves needs a sense of humour!)

    For me one of the greatest advantages of having no car (and no bike) is the time spent reading on public transport.

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  3. My favourite place for reading is the leather armchair next to the stove, feet in the hearth and accompanied by my pipe and a full glass ;-)

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  4. A book you can't put down.....great review.

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  5. Fran, you won't regret it, I'm sure.

    Jo, turning pages with thick gloves on has to rate high in the top twenty biggest frustrations, I agree. Since my sense of humour is largely absent when it's freezing and the bus is late, my book normally stays in my bag till I am in the bus and on the way :-)

    Heron, that sounds like heaven :)

    Grace, it is. I was sorry to finish it.

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  6. Like a really good movie, looking for more. I like that.

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  7. You really really shouldn't go through a whole day like that without having even a drink! I know how easy it can be as I used to teach but I also know how bad it is for your system... Lecture over!

    I too have become disillusioned by crime fiction because it has become so dark and full of explicit torture and murder so thanks for the recommendation.

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  8. Sounds good. I have been reading a few kindle novels in the evening and in general find most rather run of the mill. Every now and again one really stands out. I can imagine how busy you must be!

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  9. Val.nothing to drink all day? You really have to make time for yourself, the students can wait while you replenish yourself. I don't usually read crime I find I dream about bad things all night but that book does sound like a page turner.

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  10. Ros and Anne, I'll do my best to give myself some refreshments. Believe me, I know it's bad and I feel myself getting tired and irritable because I'm thirsty. That's much worse than hunger. As for the book, I liked it because it was not intended to shock, so the gruesome parts are at a minimum and even then, just referred to rather than described in great detail.

    String, it's been a while since I've read a real page turner. It was good to really want to get back to my book!

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  11. I like Christina too - though as yet haven't read her books - like you, busy with students. Ann is right though, you need to pace yourself and make time to eat and drink properly (says the writer who's just grabbed a handful of nuts on thee go and called it lunch!!) Lovely stylish post, as usual!

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  12. Thank you, Carol, dear. Love to see you here as well :-)

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  13. Oh, I will go and take a look at this. I am very, very put off by blood and gore too and have stopped reading detective novels because of it.

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  14. Reminds me, val, I have been meaning to buy a copy of your book, Watery Ways!

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  15. Jenny, many, many thanks for your order. I have just put it in the post!

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