To Explain the World

Steven Weinberg

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Weinberg introduces us to the quest to explain the world by describing the observations and speculations of the ancient Greeks, showing how they arrived at their ideas and where (and why) they got them right or wrong. From them he moves on to the Hellenstic thinkers of Alexandria two centuries before Christ, then the Arab scientists of the Caliphate of the Abbasids, through the Dark Ages when so much learning was forgotten, and eventually to the great flowering of scientific thought and experiment in the seventeenth century, and so to the modern world [Read more...] in Reviews

The Sellout

Paul Beatty

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Is there a town like Dickens? A contemporary, rundown black suburb of Los Angeles, it still supports an improbable slice of agricultural land worked by the novel’s central character and narrator (last name Me) who keeps livestock there, grows ambrosial fruit and vegetables, and stables a horse that he rides around the neighbourhood [Read more...] in Reviews

February Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

In the care home, Cat comes to know Rose, whose mind swithers between her current life and the trauma she suffered seventy years ago, at the age of ten. Their interaction displays the difficulties of paying proper attention to anyone suffering from dementia. Rose is often confused, sometimes aggressive and even dangerous, yet quite capable of accurate perception of shocking behaviour. Slowly Cat comes to understand what Rose has seen, just as her relationship with her mother is put under new and dreadful strain. What Cat learns so disturbed me that I had to stop reading for a while. Charmingly and wittily written, this novel has a more shocking effect than any number of psychotic serial-killer gore-fests [Read more...] in Reviews

Dogwood

Lindsay Parnell

Published by Linen Press

Caro is the smartest person I’ve ever known and Collier was the second most beautiful person I’ve ever known. There was always something that’s been real tempting about Collier and the way she was. ‘Can’t blame her wild nature,’ Donna used to say to everyone, but mostly Bart and the other cops. But Collier didn’t have a wild nature, she just liked tempting other people and being tempted herself. Temptation is a funny thing. It crawls at your skin, making you itch for something you know is real bad for you [Read more...] in Authors and Extracts

Deadlier Than the Male

Jessica Mann

By Jessica Mann

Golden age detective fiction described and grew out of a society with rigid rules of behaviour. Sex before marriage, adultery, children born out of wedlock, homosexuality – all were shocking transgressions, quite unacceptable to respectable people. There was a ‘colour bar’ in Britain until late in the twentieth century, anti-Semitism was endemic in a regulated society, and such things were freely and openly discussed. In this context, the point about all these and other time-expired embarrassments is that they made plausible motives for murder [Read more...] in Reviews

Nobody is Ever Missing

Catherine Lacey

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Catherine Lacey’s first novel takes television scriptwriter Elyria on an actual and philosophical journey away from her unhappy marriage in the States to increasingly alarming adventures in New Zealand. Her choice of refuge was made in response to a casual invitation from a writer encountered at a bookshop event. He has no idea she’s planning to descend on him and she has no particular intentions beyond that descent. When he has had enough of her, and her husband has cancelled all her credit cards, she is left at the mercy of strangers and of food scraps found in dustbins [Read more...] in Reviews

A Spool of Blue Thread

Anne Tyler

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Quintessential middle-class Americans, the Whitshank family derives originally from more working-class roots. But for decades now it has inhabited the beautiful house on Bouton Road originally and jealously built by Junior Whitshank for one of his customers. The novel’s initial focus is on Junior’s son Red, his wife Abby and the growth of their family of four children. Heartbreak and mystification, arguments and joys, inevitable changes and death twist and combine in their affecting multi-part history [Read more...] in Reviews