The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle - Stuart Turton


There's a thin line between intricate and confusing, and this novel crosses it several times. But, despite its many flaws, it's an original, engaging, surreal and highly readable take on the tired format of the country-house murder mystery. Too clever for its own good, and impossible to guess the ending, but for once those are plus points.

Birdcage Walk - Helen Dunmore

Didn't finish

I'd been wanting to read this for a while but, after a few chapters, I had to accept that I'd changed my mind. All rather unpleasant, and with nothing and nobody worth rooting for. Interestingly, I didn't get on with the only other Dunmore novel I've read, either.

Snapper - Brian Kimberling


The most whimsical novel with an undercurrent of violence that I've ever read.

Memory of Water - Emmi Itäranta

Didn't finish

I read about half of this and didn't actively dislike it, but I lost the desire to pick it up again. An intriguing concept, and it's impressive that the author wrote it in both English and Finnish, but ultimately it's rather dull and preachy.

Bath Tangle - Georgette Heyer


A spirited heroine, an arrogant but secretly noble hero, stock supporting characters and a problem that didn't need to happen in the first place predictably resolved. Fun and flighty, as usual.

Holes - Louis Sachar


My daughter was initially reluctant to read this but, once she started, she finished it in two sittings. As we were on holiday with no other books, I then had to lend her my Kindle and re-read my old copy. It's neatly written, of course, but I'm not sure it's quite as clever a fable as it would like to be, and I was left wondering what exactly it was trying to tell me.

Here's my review from 16 years ago. It seems my tastes have changed.

Less - Andrew Sean Greer


It would have been so easy to find this book and its hapless, Sterne-inspired hero annoying, for it to have fallen on the side of pretension rather than invention. It could have been trite and predictable - and it very nearly is. But it's not. It's really rather wonderful - funny, sharp, warm, wise and (secretly, subtly) clever and complex.

The City & the City - China Miéville


This came highly recommended from another editor, and the concept and standard of writing were indeed pretty fantastic, cleverly layered and thought provoking. It was a pity the characterisation was non-existent and the murder-mystery plot really just a means of conveying the complex world of the cities. (Apparently, it's been recently televised and I would be interested to see exactly how they handled it.)

Come to the Edge - Joanna Kavenna


Not as funny or memorable as the cover reviews make out.

Different Class - Joanne Harris

Didn't finish

I wanted to find out exactly when the misdirection promised on the cover was going to materialise but it was so slow that it almost went backwards and I ran out of patience.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase - Joan Aiken


I read this kids' classic to screen it for my daughter, who was nervous of the eponymous wolves. Turns out they're zombie prototypes, though sadly their significance becomes merely metaphorical as the story progresses into Jane Eyre/Lemony Snicket territory. Readable enough, if rather odd.

Fools and Mortals - Bernard Cornwell


It seems I've never read any Bernard Cornwell before and apparently this isn't typical of his portfolio, but I enjoyed the historical detail, confident prose and mischievous re-imagining of Shakespeare (and his less intelligent but more engaging fictional brother).

Standard Deviation - Katherine Heiny


This was fabulous! It immediately appealed in Waterstones, for some reason, and my instincts were good (for once) as it turned out to be unusually funny and quietly rather wise. One for recommending but with the warning that (spoiler about lack of spoilers) it doesn't really end properly; it just serves up a defined slice of life.

The Original Ginny Moon - Benjamin Ludwig


Stories narrated by autistic teenagers but written by non-autistic adults make me uncomfortable. Yes, writers need to put themselves into other minds but it always comes across as both arrogant and patronising. Although this was quite interesting, it was no exception, though it wasn't just the narrator who was frustratingly annoying.

Clock Dance - Anne Tyler


I love Anne Tyler's writing so much that I got this as soon as it was published (the UK cover isn't as appropriate as this one, presumably the US version). Her books are wise and quirky and well-observed... and this was... yet it seemed unremarkable, even inconsequential. It's really a series of short stories about the central character but doesn't quite hang together as a novel. If it wasn't Anne Tyler, I probably wouldn't be so indulgent.