Hastings District Libraries

Thursday, 11 February 2016

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

Mumbai comes alive in Vaseem Khan’s character driven new detective series featuring recently retired policeman, Inspector Ashwin Chopra. The novel opens on Chopra’s final day at work, a day he has been dreading, because he isn’t quite ready for retirement. A distraught mother from the poor part of town buttonholes the inspector, demanding justice for her murdered son, a case that has been written off as an accidental drowning.

Chopra cannot leave the case alone, calling on favours from his friend the pathologist, and visiting the grieving family. The young man’s diary throws up a few leads and soon Chopra is filling his spare hours running a surveillance operation with his team of one man plus an elephant.

The elephant has been a problem, a gift from a much loved but slightly unusual uncle. But where in a Mumbai apartment block do you keep a baby elephant? And then there is the problem of Poppy, Chopra’s wife, who believes her husband’s absences from home indicate he is having an affair.

This is a charming novel, the first in a new detective series that has plenty of promise with its vivid recreation of Mumbai, a soft-hearted but determined detective, and a glimpse of a criminal underbelly which gives the book a bit of grit. And you just can’t help feeling sorry for that baby elephant which, it turns out, will be a key player in bringing the criminals to justice. I can’t wait to see what the elephant will do in the fight against crime in Khan’s next book.

Posted by JAM

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Even dogs in the Wild by Ian Rankin

Retired Detective Inspector John Rebus of Edinburgh feels like an old-fashioned, grumpy, hard-living old friend that you can't help but feel affection for. So much so that writer Ian Rankin has given in to reader demand and keeps bringing him out of retirement. This time teaming up again with his alter ego DI Malcolm Fox, and Rebus' old partner and friend DI Siobahn Clarke, as well as his old nemesis, career criminal Gerry Cafferty.

Even Dogs in the Wild sees a senior lawyer murdered in his own home with an ominous note in his wallet. When Gerry Cafferty is shot at and receives the same note, Clarke and Fox consult with Rebus; the only person connected with the police that Cafferty will speak to.

As the story unfolds, more deaths and notes come to light as the three investigators slowly unravel the past, and how the targeted men are connected through the worst types of wrong-doing.

The city of Edinburgh itself feels like another character in Rankin's books, an alternate seedy side to the tourist city described in detail and with affection.

If you are an Ian Rankin fan, you will not be disappointed. If you have not read Rankin's books before, Even Dogs in the Wild is a great place to start and then you will have the pleasure of another nineteen  Rebus books to savour! Recommended.

Posted by Katrina

Catalogue Link: Even Dogs in the Wild

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Bookchat + road trip = a good day!

The Hastings Library Book Chat members went on a short road trip to the Flaxmere Library for our last meeting. Some of our members had not been out to this facility since it was renovated a couple of years ago and some had never been at all. Well were they in for a treat. Great books, great reviews and of course great service!

Anyway, we had a great time and it was hard to choose just a few favourites from the plethora of books we've read over the last month.

Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

The award-winning author of The Handmaid's Tale presents a collection of short stories that features such protagonists as a widowed writer who is guided by her late husband's voice and a woman whose genetic abnormality causes her to be mistaken for a vampire.

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood

Beware this is not nice reading! Compared to a modern day Handmaids Tale, this very unexpected read has characters finding interesting strengths and bringing their survival instincts to the fore.

Two women awaken from a drugged sleep to find themselves imprisoned in an abandoned property in the middle of a desert in a story of two friends, sisterly love and courage - a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted. 

Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham

For rookie detective constable Fiona Griffiths, her first major investigation promises to be a tough initiation into Cardiff's dark underbelly. A young woman and her six-year-old daughter have been found brutally murdered in a squalid flat, the single clue a platinum credit card belonging to a millionaire businessman who died in a plane crash six months before. For her fellow cops, it's just another case of a low-rent prostitute meeting the wrong kind of client and coming to a nasty end, but Fiona is convinced that the tragic lives and cruel deaths of this mother and daughter are part of a deeper, darker mystery.

The Rich are with you Always by Malcolm MacDonald
"This really good read has historically correct timelines and facts right down to the cost of a whore in Bristol in 1851."
"The wife is a great character - strong and stroppy."

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
The sequel to The Cuckoo's Calling and written by JK Rowling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, the main character in this book (Strike) has been described by readers as "Physically repulsive but mentally interesting."

Posted by Cookie Fan

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Balancing Act by Joanna Trollope

Trollope has been a documenter of family life, its highs and lows, swings and roundabouts, for nigh on thirty years. I’ve read nearly all of her novels - they never disappoint – each one with a new twist on what it is like maintain the ties that bind and keep talking to each other whatever else is going on in the world. I admire Trollope’s ability to keep updating her fiction and the ring of truth of her dialogue. Balancing Act is no exception.

The novel concerns the Moran family who are mostly all involved in a traditional family pottery business. Mum, Susie, is the driving force but things get tense when her three daughters, each with different talents of her own, begin to rebel against the status quo and question Mum's decision making. Cara and husband Dan want to grow the company’s business; Ashleigh’s husband has taken on childcare so his wife can be more involved and she wants a bigger slice of the pie.

Grace is the artistic one who lacks confidence, and is struggling to break up with gorgeous but useless Jeff, when suddenly the grandfather that has been missing from the girls’ lives turns up, broke and in need of somewhere to stay. Grace fills the gap, while her mother's usual decisiveness begins to waver.

Trollope does intergenerational relationships really well, and her characters are all sympathetic after a fashion, even the ones who upset the apple cart. The way the Moran family members all push and pull at each other gives the book momentum, while around the corner is a resolution of sorts that offers hope. This is a wise novel from a sensitive and intelligent author, who still has plenty to say.

Posted by JAM

Catalogue link: Balancing Act

Friday, 5 February 2016

Inside the Black Horse by Ray Berard

An insight into a world more people see and know than most New Zealander’s would like to admit. This novel is set in the world of gangs and drugs, with the Police and a private investigator and a failing corporate businessman thrown into the mix.

There are strong women characters, good descriptions of life in Rotorua, Auckland and rural Bay of Plenty. A liberal sprinkling of surprising human relationships is added. There is more than one “dark night of the soul” happening to more than one character. All this is seasoned with plenty of action in a robbery that gets in the way of a drug delivery and the unconnected threads that need to be drawn together to work it all out. It is well written, making it a good read, showing many of us slices of lives we can only imagine, and how easy it is to get there for those who do.

Catalogue link: Inside the Black Horse

Posted by Catherine

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Another great crime caper in the Cormoran Strike series by story-teller extraordinaire, JK Rowling.

When a severed limb is sent to the now-famous detective’s office, care of his long suffering colleague Robin, the duo set to tracking down the sender – not to mention the owner of the leg. Strike has narrowed down the list of suspects to three likely culprits but he and Robin must work through the clues quickly to catch the offender before any further crimes are committed.

Whereas The Cuckoo’s Calling was a classic whodunit which skirted around the gore and violence of the actual murder, and The Silkworm gave us the feeling that Rowling was flexing her thriller-writing muscles, and having a lot of fun with her grisly narrative, Career of Evil takes the depictions of crimes to another level.

Focusing on three sinister characters from Strike’s past, the book covers seriously unpleasant themes such as domestic violence, drug addiction, torture and child abuse, making it faintly reminiscent of Rowling’s first adult title, The Casual Vacancy. The identity of the killer is a surprise (although not necessarily in the way you might expect) with plenty of obligatory red herrings thrown into the mix.

Whilst I very much enjoyed the journey, what has stayed with me from this book is the development of the relationship between the two protagonists, Strike and Robin. I was left feeling a bit like a child watching her parents kiss – a bit uncomfortable and not sure I liked it! It’s not that I worry Strike and Robin’s eventual embrace might affect the dynamic of the story (which it undoubtedly would), it’s more that the two just aren’t believable as a couple. Forcing two such incompatible characters together would smack of predictability and a lack of imagination, and would bother me enough to prevent me reading another installment.

However, if Rowling resists the urge, this series has the potential to become a modern-day classic and, like Harry Potter before it, one that I will enjoy reading again and again.

Posted by RJB

Catalogue Link: Career of Evil

Monday, 1 February 2016

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

A warm, endearing story about love, emigrating, loss and homesickness. Told between Ireland and Brooklyn, New York, set in the 1950’s it is so full of details: dress, music, the Church you can picture yourself there. And, is carefully cast with not-too-stereotypical people, though we do have the curtain twitchers and the relatives poking their noses in on both sides of the Atlantic.

It is the story of a young woman who is unable to get good employment in her hometown in Ireland being noticed by a Brooklyn based Roman Catholic Father and having passage, accommodation and employment arranged for her in New York and what happens in her life thereafter.

I note that the film of this book is out and is currently (Jan 2015) showing; it will make a good movie, but reading the book will bring a deeper pleasure.

The New Yorker had this to say “Toibin’s genius is that he makes it impossible for us to walk away.”

Catalogue link: Brooklyn

Posted by Catherine