Category: Review

04/06/07

Permalink 04:41:54 pm, Categories: Review, Books, 341 words   English (UK)

Louise Penny

There's not enough english language crime fiction featuring French detectives.

The French have a different approach to crime, their entire legal system operates in a way quite different to our own, and though you might not expect it, the difference shows through in the way that crimes are investigated. To be completely honest, Maigret by Georges Simenon is most likely the only French crime fiction that most people are aware of.

Louise Penny's work is set in Quebec a perfect excuse to reveal the Sureté in action within a english speaking world. And it's refreshing to see. Of course Quebec is bilingual but the French that creeps into the work is neither intrusive nor difficult and lends a authentic sound to the proceedings.

Her debut novel, 'Still Life' is extremely well executed. It has a confidence about it that belies the fact that it has a so far shallow background. Many debut's - especially those that introduce us to characters who will re-occur - are noticeably tentative when compared to the works that come later, but with this novel, you could be forgiven for going back to the bookshop to look for earlier works featuring the redoubtable Inspector Gamache.

Penny has created an entire microcosmos here, in one fell swoop. Not just the brilliant and caring Armand Gamache, but a beautiful setting - the village of Three Pines - filled with well fleshed out characters and in an audacious stroke, the monstrous Yvette Nichol.

The follow-up to 'Still Life' is 'Dead Cold' and brings Gamache back to the same village of Three Pines, little more than 1 year after the events of the first novel. Here Penny shows that she can keep up the pace, her richly drawn story brings out ever more detail in the characters and location. This book is everything that the first was, yet slightly more-so.

Three Pines is a glorious setting for a fresh approach to the village murder mystery, and I look forward to the third in the series, 'The Cruellest Month' when it hits the shelves this autumn.

21/05/07

Permalink 01:52:26 pm, Categories: Review, Books, 139 words   English (UK)

Artemis Fowl - and the Lost Colony

My my, I managed to finish two books this weekend.

The Lost Colony is not brand new, but it is the latest in the series of children's books that began with Artemis Fowl

This time, child genius Artemis Fowl may have met his match. A young girl who might just be cleverer than he is. She's determined to get her hands on a Demon and if she does, it could cause untold havoc above and below ground. Only Artemis, his bodyguard Butler and fairy private eye Holly Short could possibly stop her. But can they?

Eoin Colfer has created a fantastic fantasy world, richly populated by a hidden world of fairies, trolls, dwarfs and such like. This immensely readable book is a thrill-a-minute ride from beginning to end.

It will be a sad day when Artemis finally grows up.

Permalink 01:41:10 pm, Categories: Review, Books, 266 words   English (UK)

The Death of Dalziel

Amongst my ever-growing collection of crime fiction, I have an extensive catalogue of Reginald Hill. One of the best British contemporary crime writers; his most popular characters are Andy Dalziel and Peter Pascoe. Almost his entire back catalogue featuring these two policemen has been translated to the screen with great success, and since the point where they ran out of novels to dramatise, the on-screen and paper based lives of these two have diverged somewhat.

The Death of Dalziel is the latest novel from Hill and although his output seems to have slowed somewhat these last few years, the work that he's produced has grown increasingly complex and his knack for tight and intricate plotting has twisted ever tighter.

This book draws heavily on our contemporary fears of terrorism and the competence or otherwise of our security forces - or ‘the funny bu***rs’ as Dalziel calls them.

A gripping story has Andy Dalziel's protege Peter Pascoe struggling to stay objective while he investigates the terrorist explosion which has left the big man comatose and dying.

But - as ever - one of the strengths of this series from Hill is that this is never just about cops and robbers. Everyone we have met along the way is important to Hill, colleagues and families are not just bit part players. The fallout from crime is never limited to those firmly on the side of good or evil, it spreads - and the author is careful never to let us forget that.

A terrific read and a welcome addition to the story of this most popular crime fighting duo.

03/05/07

Permalink 12:12:26 pm, Categories: Review, Film, 476 words   English (UK)

Bicentennial Man

I wasn't sure if I wanted to watch this or not.

On the one hand it's based on work by Isaac Asimov
On the other, it's got Robin Williams in it.

Let's be honest, his career so far has been a bit hit and miss. He's very very watchable in some films, and then completely mawkish in others. This film struck me as having the potential to be firmly in the latter category. But it wasn't that bad. In fact I think it was quite good.

It was billed as a comedy; I'm not sure it deserves that at all. It is gently amusing throughout, but it's not played for laughs and it is extremely sentimental. It never dissolves into mawkishness, nor does it tug too hard on the heartstrings. On the whole I think it finds a good place to sit and works well.

Williams plays the lead very well, a sustained performance that conveys the character and his hopes and dreams perfectly. He's ably supported by Sam Neill and Embeth Davidtz. In fact, all the roles, are well played. I can't find anything wrong with it except...

Pages: 1 2 3

02/05/07

Permalink 01:12:16 pm, Categories: Food, Review, 238 words   English (UK)

Cafe No.8

I share a mutual friend with the proprietor of Cafe No.8; so I heard about it when it first opened. I didn't find an excuse to go there for quite a while but I used to recommend it to people when they were looking for somewhere nearby, and they always came back to me with good reports.

Since then I've managed to go a few times - for lunch usually - and it's never disappointed.
It's a small, slightly cramped bistro with around 6 tables. The atmosphere is relaxed and pleasant even on a damp day with the heavens pouring forth and the place is packed with customers and damp shopping. Today was fine and although the place was never overflowing, it did a brisk trade. I've never seen it empty.

The menu is a pretty traditional bistro mix of sandwiches and heartier meals; all delivered with style and a high degree of emphasis on the quality of flavour. The prices are typical for this kind of menu, but the balance and quality of the food easily pushes those prices into good value for money.

It's just on the edge of town, right next to the city walls, so it's not a bad place to stop for a shopping lunch, but be warned that on any day when town is busy, I'd expect to struggle to get a table here. On a quieter day, it's a reliable source of good food.

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