Amongst Our Weapons (Rivers of London #9), by Ben Aaronovitch
Book Review/ 14. May 2022

Amongst Our Weapons by Ben Aaronovitch My rating: 2 of 5 stars Finally! I’m free of this book! I used to really like this world and its rather unique inhabitants as well as the stories Ben Aaronovitch so expertly told us.This time around, though, I was bored by the lacklustre story at the centre of “Amongst Our Weapons”: An “Angel of Death” is killing the owners of some obscure rings with Lesley being on the hunt for said rings. Peter does his best to prevent further deaths. Through 80% of this instalment in the series, I only read it in bed because it served as a perfect sleeping drug. The abysmal pacing, being told about Beverly’s pregnancy (mostly referred to as “the bulge” which felt derogatory even though it most certainly wasn’t meant like that), quite a few encounters with the culprit but hardly any progress until the very end – it all made for a veritable snoozefest. Nightingale is mostly around and yet feels strangely absent – he doesn’t have much of a role at all. Fortunately, there were a few redeeming moments: Peter refuses to lay a trap to just plain kill the culprit but looks for a…

When We Cease to Understand the World, by Benjamín Labatut
Book Review/ 10. April 2022

When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut My rating: 1 of 5 stars This is one of the very few books I’m not finishing. Let me explain why: The problem with this one is that Benjamín Labatut introduces the history of an invention to us. Let’s take the first story on “Prussian Blue” as an example: Labatut starts by shortly describing the invention itself and what lead to it. He then proceeds to tell us about the inventor(s) and how they relate to each other and the world. Labatut does this, and that’s my first issue, at break-neck speed. He drops name after name after name and forms connections between them in rarely more than a single sentence. It’s exhausting and not very illuminating. Much worse, though, whenever there’s insufficient historical evidence Labatut chooses the most lurid and raciest possible explanation. For example Fritz Haber’s (Haber played a most prominent role in chemical warfare) wife, Clara Immerwahr, did commit suicide – but the reasons are unclear. Immerwahr’s marriage to Haber was unhappy on many levels and she may or may not have been against World War I – there are conflicting accounts. Labatut, though, decides to paint…

Planetside (Planetside #1), by Michael Mammay
Book Review/ 6. April 2022

Planetside by Michael Mammay My rating: 2 of 5 stars This is going to be yet another difficult review. There’s no doubt: “Planetside” is suspenseful and exciting military science fiction. There’s also no doubt there are plot holes, loose ends and an ending that’s extremely problematic. Let’s start at the beginning, though, at which Colonel Carl Butler, semi-retired of Space Command, is sent to the Cappa system by his superior and old acquaintance General Serata. This is where the trouble starts: Michael Mammay keeps hinting at the tour(s?) of duty, Butler completed in Cappa but we never learn what happened, why Butler drinks habitually, how he lost his daughter on planet Cappy and so much more.We get to know that Butler is supposed to find out about the fate of the son of some SPACECOM hotshot but that’s it. Early on in his investigation, Butler realises there’s a lot of weird business going on both “planetside” on Cappa and on the Cappa Base in its orbit. Since Butler’s primary “tactic” is to metaphorically bash in some doors if he can’t think of any real plan (and he usually can’t), he upsets a lot of people from different commands like Medical…

Bruno’s Challenge & Other Dordogne Tales (Bruno, Chief of Police 14.5), by Martin Walker
Book Review/ 1. April 2022

Bruno’s Challenge & Other Dordogne Tales by Martin Walker My rating: 3 of 5 stars “Bruno’s Challenge & Other Dordogne Tales” consists of 14 short stories featuring rural French cop Bruno who has already “starred” in 14 previous books.The full-size novels (that I prefer) went on a downward spiral around book 10 and mostly picked up at book 14. So I was curious to see how this short story collection would hold up.This was especially true because only six of the collected stories are actually new – the other eight have previously been published. The eponymous “Bruno’s Challenge” is one of those new stories and, sadly, a prime example of all that was wrong with the latest Bruno novels: Endless recipe descriptions, hardly any kind of story. 1 star. “Birthday Lunch” is an older story that I had already read: Another short story from the “Bruno universe”. Unfortunately, like the later novels, this one didn’t have any appeal for me. A large part of it is basically simply a narrated recipe: “He beat the yolks and eggs together with a hundred fifty grams of sugar until they were creamy.” That really doesn’t float my boat, sorry. The rest is just…

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
Book Review/ 16. March 2022

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett My rating: 1 of 5 stars We all know them: Those relatives at family reunions who insist on telling “terrific jokes” that make us cringe. If you don’t, let me put you into the right mood: »When asked if they would have sex with Bill Clinton, 86% of women in D.C. said, “Not again.”« Or this one: »3 men are stranded in a boat with 4 cigarettes and no way to light them. So they toss the 4th cigarette overboard, which makes the whole boat a cigarette lighter.« Ok, you’re with me, right? Now imagine a book that’s full of humour like this. A book that tries so hard to be funny that it actually becomes tiresome. I’ve tried “Discworld” before and found it lacking in all departments but “Good Omens” made even that look good. Some actual samples of the humour? Here’s one about sperms: »And there were his fellow trainees—fellow sperms, to switch metaphors, all struggling forward in the knowledge that there could only ever be one Chairman of Industrial Holdings (Holdings) PLC, and that the job would probably go to the biggest prick.«…

Detective Kubu Investigates 2, by Michael Stanley
Book Review/ 11. March 2022

Detective Kubu Investigates 2 by Michael Stanley My rating: 2 of 5 stars This was supposed to be another “filler” till I found my “next big read” and it all started well enough. “Shoot to Kill” is an interesting short story featuring Kubu investigating the death of an informant among poachers. It had exactly the right “Kubu vibes” and was a quick and pleasant read. Had all the short stories been this good, the collection would have easily garnered four stars. “The Case of the Missing Tuba” was amusing. It lacked any real crime (and, sadly, it also lacked Kubu!) but it was still nice enough. (Despite featuring a manipulative ass-hat husband.) “The Con” has petty crime but it also has the main ingredient – Kubu! And a believable, likeable Kubu at that. His family also features prominently and I was truly amused and thought this short story collection was headed to four stars. Then came the “Parlor Game”, though. A confusing and utterly failed attempt at imitating Edgar Allan Poe. This short story also lacked Kubu. Even worse, though: It was devoid of any logic. Or original ideas. Or decent human beings.“Parlor Game” could have been the product of…

One Night on the Island, by Josie Silver
Book Review/ 9. March 2022

One Night on the Island by Josie Silver My rating: 2 of 5 stars I just wanted a nice little romance to reset my brain. What I got was a weird mix of hippie crap (self-coupling my arse), commitment issues (Susie, Cleo, the kids, Mack; all suffer, none win). Cleo, a writer for “Women Today”, writes a column about finding what she calls her “flamingo”, meaning her “soul mate”, “forever love”, you name it. In an act of defiance – orchestrated by her editor, though – because she keeps finding (and promptly losing) sparrows instead of flamingos, Cleo goes on a trip to (brace yourselves!) “Salvation Island” to “self-couple” for a while in isolation and to ultimately “marry herself”. By chance, fate or, more realistically, a careless mistake by the owner of the “Otter Lodge” which her magazine rented for her, hectic Londoner Cleo meets “inconvenient American” Mack who intended to recover from a painful separation from his wife in the loneliness of his ancestral island home: Mack’s grandmother used to live on Salvation Island. Thus set up, the two first make a truce (including a chalk demarcation line and a DMZ!) and, this is a romance after all, decide…

The Maid, by Nita Prose
Book Review/ 25. February 2022

The Maid by Nita Prose My rating: 1 of 5 stars From whatever point of view: This is a disgrace of a book. Let’s look at the story itself first: Molly, usually referred to and sometimes self-referring as “Molly the Maid” (as if that’s all she is), works as a maid in the Regency Grand Hotel.One day, when she’s cleaning a suite she finds the body of Mr. Black, a rich “power magnate”, who stays at the hotel with his second wife, Giselle.While it becomes clear to the reader very quickly that something sinister beyond the murder is afoot, Molly doesn’t recognise it and, thus, quickly becomes the prime suspect in the murder case.Trying to prove Molly’s innocence Molly and a bunch of coworkers-cum-friends come up with a plan to entrap the true culprit… So, there’s basically nothing new plot-wise. It is unoriginal and rather boring. What about the character’s, though? We get to “meet” about 20 people – which is quite a lot but, thankfully, it’s manageable. The problem here is, though: Most of them are stereotypes and never get a chance to evolve into something real. There’s Mr. Preston, the fatherly good-natured doorman and his sharp lawyer daughter,…

The Sittaford Mystery, by Agatha Christie
Book Review/ 5. February 2022

The Sittaford Mystery by Agatha Christie I learnt to read with turn of the century German editions of Sherlock Holmes – set in Fraktur. I still remember lying in front of the bookcase and deciphering those weird letters – and I prevailed!Having thus been “initiated” it isn’t surprising I turned to other mystery authors once Conan Doyle’s Sherlock retired to beekeeping. Whom else would I turn to than two masters of the field: Edgar Wallace (who has largely been forgotten in his native UK but whose books are still in-print here in Germany!) and Agatha Christie. I think I’ve read every of Christie’s Miss Marple and Poirot books and greatly enjoyed them. Over the years, I’ve revisited Christie, reading her “The Secret Adversary” for example. (Three stars, no written review.) When I came across a very favourable review of “The Sittaford Mystery” I found myself eager to revisit this childhood icon of mine – which usually is a bad idea. Captain Trevelyan lies slain, a retired soldier of some royal windbag’s Navy, and a simpleton nephew of his, Jim, who fled the scene after unsuccessfully trying to beg some money out of his uncle is charged. Never fear, though, Simple-Jim,…