Review Catch-Up ~ July 11th 2020

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This is the second of a series of catch-up posts with short reviews of books that I’ve read over the past couple of months but haven’t been able to get round to writing about in any great detail. It’s not meant to imply that the books are any less worthy than those that get a post to themselves, just that I tend to read faster than I can blog about and it seems better to provide a brief comment than nothing at all.

The Finisher ~ Peter Lovesey

Murder is only the beginning. The real question is how do you get rid of the corpse? That’s the job of the finisher: tidying things up when they start to get nasty. As the most recent of Peter Lovesey’s DS Diamond series begins the finisher’s immediate task is overseeing a group of illegal Albanian immigrants, a job which includes disposing of the bodies of any who try to make a break for freedom. When Spiro and Murat take their chance to get away they know that their only hope is to run as fast and as far as they can. They are not the only people with running on their minds, however. The Bath alternative half marathon, known as the Other Half, is on the horizon and Maeve Kelly is out training for it. This is not Maeve’s preferred way of spending her time but a series of unexpected events mean that she is using it as a way of raising money for the British Heart Foundation. Her self-appointed trainer is a fellow teacher from the primary school where she works, Trevor, a man who appears to have an interest in more than Maeve’s running style. Also in training for the race is Belinda Pye and when she fails to record a finishing time and is subsequently not to be found in her lodgings, Diamond’s interest is piqued, especially when CCTV footage shows her to have been pestered by Tony Pinto. Diamond put Pinto away several years previously after he took a Stanley knife to a woman who had complained about his behaviour. The DS is horrified to know that Pinto has been released and given his presence in the proximity of the missing woman he automatically becomes the chief subject. But Pinto has gone missing as well and the search leads Diamond into the underground caverns left by decades of stone quarrying in the area where the race took place.

I’ve only recently discovered Peter Lovesey’s work. I was given the first of his novels this time last year. I wasn’t completely convinced by that and now I’ve decided to try a second, I’m not sure that I’m convinced by this either. Lovesey starts too many hares for me and I’m not sure that all the strands come together as well as they might. I’m also not sure about the tone. At times there is a sense of irony which doesn’t sit well with the subject matter. However, if you have read his work in the past and enjoyed it then this one does seem to me to be fairly typical and I’m sure you will relish it as well.

With thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK Sphere and NetGalley for the review copy.


The Gift: The First Book of Pellinor ~ Alison Croggon 

Alison Croggon’s Pellinor series deserves to be as well known as any of the works of high fantasy written with a young teenage audience in mind and yet I still find that this Australian author is far too rarely spoken of despite the fact that her books are every bit as good as those of authors such as Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper and even Ursula Le Guin.  As part of my re-exploration of the works of children’s literature that I remember most fondly I have just re-read the opening volume, The Gift (also published as The Naming) and enjoyed it every bit as much as I did when I first discovered the series.

When Maerad discovers a stranger hiding in the steading, Gilman’s Cot, where she is a slave, she can have no awareness of the fact that his presence there will change her life forever. Cadvan is a Bard, a term used to describe those who hold the power of the Light against the evil of the Dark, who maintain the world in Balance, terms which will be more than familiar to those who have read the Earthsea and The Dark is Rising sequences.  And the Dark is rising, which is why Cadvan is so far north of his usual haunts, seeking the source of the evil which seems to be penetrating even the Schools of learning where Bards are trained.  His progress is being hindered by an evil force which inhabits the mountainous area where Gilman’s Cot is situated and when he discovers that Maered possesses an inner strength which, when combined with his own, enables him to escape the area, he realises that she too is a Bard, but one in whom the power has yet to fully manifest itself.

As he learns more of as he learns more of Maered’s background and experiences further evidence of the inner strength she possesses, Cadvan begins to suspect that his young charge may be more than simply a ‘baby Bard’. Prophecies speak of someone who will appear during a time of intense crisis, someone able to defeat the ultimate evil, the Nameless. Is Maered that person, the one that those Bards who still serve the Light have been waiting for? The only way to be certain is for them to make the perilous journey to Norlac, where the highest council in the land can admit her into the circle of Bards at which point Maered’s true name and destiny will be revealed. Of course, their journey is long and dangerous and some of the tribulations they meet along the path force both of them to question who can and who cannot be trusted. Neither are their travels made any easier when Cadvan is forced to add another ‘baby Bard’ to his entourage.  Who is Hem? And why does Maered feel such a strong connection to him?

I have just spent two very happy days back in the company of Maered and Cadvan and I’m only sorry that I didn’t buy the other three books in the sequence at the same time as The Gift, as it means I will have to wait a while for the second volume to turn up. I could quite comfortably have read straight through all four from beginning to end. If you enjoy the works of Wynne Jones, Le Guin and Cooper and haven’t yet read Alison Croggon’s novels then I very strongly recommend that you get hold of copies and set aside a long weekend when you can immerse yourself in some first class storytelling.


13 thoughts on “Review Catch-Up ~ July 11th 2020

  1. Cherilyn July 11, 2020 / 8:37 am

    Hello Ann
    I have just read your Allison Croggan review and was thinking of trying The Gift and found a book called The Bone Queen which purports to be about Cavan. I wondered if you had read that one?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Café Society July 11, 2020 / 8:41 am

      Hi Cherilyn, yes it’s a short story which was written after the main sequence and expands on something about Cadvan’s history which is sketched in during the earlier volumes but not elaborated on. You can read it first or you can read it after you’ve read the other four; not having read it won’t detract from your enjoyment of the longer novels. I’m halfway through re-reading the second volume, The Riddle, which turned up much more quickly than I was expecting and enjoying it every bit as much the second time around.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cherilyn Ward July 12, 2020 / 9:09 am

        I’m definitely going to try this series. It looks like fun.


  2. Calmgrove July 11, 2020 / 2:09 pm

    I’m so glad to see you’re a fan of Croggon’s Pellnor series, I so loved what seems to be an underrated, or at least relatively unknown, fantasy series. It it wasn’t for the entirely discardable frame I’d place this in the same rank as Earthsea.

    As usual I’ve written about this series at length, if you’ve a mind to explore:


    • Café Society July 12, 2020 / 8:27 am

      Yes, it’s always amazed me how a few people seem to have read this. I’ve been very glad to find that going back to it for a second time it reads every bit as well as it did when I first discovered it.


      • Calmgrove July 12, 2020 / 8:30 am

        Me too, I’ve read it twice too and it was if anything more of a delight the second time, especially the poetry.


  3. Jeanne July 11, 2020 / 8:03 pm

    Oooh, I haven’t read the Pellinor books! Thank you for bringing them to my attention. The first one seems to be more commonly called The Naming in the (formerly) United States.
    Once I’ve read them I’ll have to follow the link to Calmgrove’s analysis.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Café Society July 12, 2020 / 8:30 am

      These are absolutely your sort of books, Jeanne. Unexpectedly, I found myself loving the third one best of all (you’ll see why that’s unexpected when you get there) I remember walking round the house telling everybody that “I am a clever crow”! Don’t worry all will become clear.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Kat July 13, 2020 / 9:03 pm

    I haven enjoyed the few Peter Lovesey books I’ve read, and they must be popular, because they’re in all the bookstores. I know I read The Last Detective; as for the others, who knows? I need to keep notes next to the titles in my book journal, because I sometimes forget which mysteries in a series I know. I do know I haven’t read The Finisher!


    • Café Society July 14, 2020 / 4:58 pm

      The Finisher has only just been published in the UK, Kat, so it probably hasn’t made its way over to the States as yet. It’s the time that I find disquieting. I’m never quite certain whether or not Lovesey is taking himself and/or his readers seriously.


  5. BookerTalk July 20, 2020 / 9:24 pm

    There do seem to be many strands in that Lovesey novel. I know that’s par for the course in many thrillers/crime novels but sometimes you get the feeling the author has over-egged the pudding so much even they can’t make them all come together neatly


    • Café Society July 22, 2020 / 2:14 pm

      Exactly, Karen. I also find the tone of Exactly, Karen. I also find the tone of Lovesey’s work quite unusual for a crime novel. However, I should say I’ve read some rave reviews of this from people who love his books.

      Liked by 1 person

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