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Are you kidding me?

December 19, 2020

Twice in the past week I’ve finished a novel and that’s what I’ve said (quite possibly out loud): Are you fucking kidding me?

The first was Reconstruction by Mick Herron. Herron was my big discovery of 2020 and I’ve been devouring everything he’s written since (including three novellas, which I normally consider cheats). As I wrote back in the summer, Herron was the only thing that kept me sane when an abscessed tooth was driving me insane.

Reconstruction was the last he’d written that was left to me until the new Slow Horses book comes out in the spring. Although there is one character in Reconstruction who has made appearances in the Slow Horses series and the plot does involve spooks, it is a standalone story. It was, in fact, written before the first of the Slow Horses novels and probably set him on that course.

Basic plot: A young man with a gun enters a pre-school in Oxford where he holds hostage the teacher, a father and his twin sons and the cleaning lady. His demand? He will only negotiate with a man from MI6’s accounting department, who until recently shared an office with a man who’s recently stolen £250 million.

Needless to say, all the characters have secrets which are unpeeled. Also needless to say, there were many laugh out loud moments. Everything was going swimmingly until the What The Fuck last page. Seriously, what the actual fuck?

Back in the summer I managed to find an email address for Herron and wrote to thank him for keeping me sane during my dental nightmare. He wrote back to say he was happy to be of service. In a subsequent email exchange he pointed me towards Nobody Walks, a novel not officially part of the Slow Horses series which provides the back story of JK Coe. The morning after I finished Reconstruction I sent him another email: “Just finished it. You swine.” I’ve had no reply, let alone a mea culpa. Bastard. (Don’t worry, Mick. I still love you, you swine.)

I suspect I am not the only person who goes onto the Amazon site to have a little sniff around to see if favourite authors have anything new coming out. Again back in the summer I had one of those sniffs, checking up on Ian Rankin, Jo Nesbo, Michael Connelly, Carol O’Connell and others. Whilst doing so I suddenly realised I hadn’t checked on Minette Walters for a while. I’ve been a fan ever since her first novel The Ice House. (Thinking about the ending of that novel still makes me smile.) Somehow she’d fallen off my radar. Yes! There was a novel I hadn’t read called The Last Hours. I added it to my wish list without even reading the plot summary, so confident was I that I’d enjoy whatever she’d written.

When it turned up, thanks to a friend, as a birthday book last month I read the cover. Oh, not a modern day mystery at all. A sizeable (547 pages) novel set in Dorset in the summer of 1348, the year the Black Death arrived in England.

Interesting, isn’t it, how books somehow turn up in a timely fashion?

Back in the spring, the last book discussed in person by the Bad Girls Book Club (just before the world went into lockdown and discovered Zoom) was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. Apparently irony knows no bounds, because this novel (for which we’d been on a very long waiting list) is about how quickly a global pandemic shuts down the electric and communications grid around the world and the largely feral lives lived by the few survivors and their descendants. An excellent and extraordinarily timely read which we all sincerely hoped would not also be prophetic.

So, another plague novel. Well, why not? Absolutely hoovered it up in three evenings. As I got closer and closer to the end I kept wondering how the hell Walters was going to wrap it all up in the remaining pages?

Turns out she wasn’t. After once again wondering if an author was fucking kidding me I went online and discovered there is a sequel (of course there bloody is). So, The Turn of Midnight has now been ordered from Abe Books. (Even though Amazon bought Abe Books a while ago, I am hopeful that workers in the latter aren’t treated as appallingly.)

And here’s a bit of synchronicity (I think that’s the word I want). The last time this happened to me (finishing a novel only to discover it was book one of two) was Connie Willis’s Blackout, in which her time travelling historians survive the Blitz in London. After 491 pages I was confronted by this:

For the riveting conclusion to Blackout, be sure not to miss Connie Willis’s All Clear.

Doh.

Why is this synchronicity (assuming that’s the word I want)? Because the only other novel I’d ever read by Willis was Doomsday Book, set in England in 1348 during (yes, that’s right) the Black Death.

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2 Comments
  1. krysross permalink

    Have you read John Sandford’s ‘Prey’ series with Lucas Davenport? Just read the first and it has a bit of an ‘are you fucking kidding me’ ending. Waiting for the second. I’m hoping I like the next as much as the first because there are a lot of them. And, yes, had the same reaction to The Last Hours.

    • I’ve only read one Lucas Davenport novel, an early one. The amount of time he spent ogling women’s breasts and assessing the fuckability put me right off. I’ve been told by other fans that he marries, putting an end to his horniness, but the annoyance ran deep.

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