RaveThe Spectator (UK)\"... a remarkably vivid picture of the tabloid newsprint culture of 40 years ago ... McDermid can do edge-of-seat suspense better than most novelists. But what really lingers in the mind is the world she has created in 1979, long before the internet and the end of the Cold War. Among other things, she reminds us how much newspapers mattered in those days ... enjoy this excellent opener to what promises to be an outstanding series.
RaveThe Spectator (UK)This is a novel you have to take on its own terms—and the rewards for doing so are considerable. Much of it is beautifully written. O’Connor creates a vivid and vigorous world of his own. He makes us believe in his own versions of Henry Irving, Ellen Terry and Bram Stoker, and he makes us care what happens to them. Who needs facts when fiction like this is on offer?
John Le Carre
RaveThe Spectator (UK)Agent Running in the Field — an intentionally ambiguous title, no doubt — is le Carré’s 25th novel. The first and most important thing to say is that it’s a cracker. There was a whiff of weariness about his previous book, A Legacy of Spies, but here he writes as a man refreshed. Perhaps it’s an unexpected Brexit dividend ... Many of Le Carré’s novels explore the nature of loyalty, but here he gives it a different twist. The result is a rich, beautifully written book studded with surprises. Narrative is a black art, and Le Carré is its grandmaster.
It’s true that the plot depends on a coincidence of epic proportions, and that some episodes verge on the implausible. But this is an emotionally complex story, not an exercise in probability: what really matters is that we invest in the characters and we care what happens in their lives. I doubt I’ll read a better thriller this year.
RaveThe SpectatorThis existential crime novel has an arresting premise and Mishima plays it for all it’s worth. Quotidian reality has no place here. You know this is going to be fun when, after his suicide attempt almost on the first page, Hanio sees the days that now lie ahead as ‘a row of dead frogs with their white bellies exposed’. His perspective on life is a constant pleasure...So too is his jaundiced view of Westerners with their ‘hairy knuckles’ and their ‘gaseous smell, redolent of chives’ ... There is a place in life for the exhilarating, surreal and sometimes downright silly. This novel ticks all the boxes.
PositiveThe Spectator\"A book to read and relish — not so much for its plot, which holds few surprises, as for its setting and for Bernie’s wry take on its inhabitants ... The depth of Kerr’s research is impressive. So is his prose, which sometimes has an almost Wodehousian flavour, albeit a Wodehouse in the grip of a severe bilious attack. Berlin itself is the real protagonist. a fitting swan song for this intelligent and always thought-provoking series. At its heart is a melancholy irony. Chaotic and dangerous though the Weimar capital is, we readers know, as Bernie doesn’t, that far worse is in store for Berlin.\
PositiveThe SpecatorHere is a novel set in the no man’s land between past and present, a fertile and constantly shifting territory whose precise boundaries are unique for each reader ... Readable and constantly surprising, the novel takes the form of the police procedural and pushes it in a variety of unexpected directions. It would be a pleasure to meet Hobbes and his colleagues again — though, judging by Noon’s past form, he may have something completely different up his sleeve.
C. J. Sansom
PositiveThe SpectatorNot to be treated lightly. Its length hints at its ambitions. Here is a Tudor epic disguised as a historical crime novel ... Sansom has the trick of writing an enthralling narrative. Like Hilary Mantel, he produces densely textured historical novels that absorb their readers in another time. He has a PhD in history and it shows — in a good way. He is scrupulous about distinguishing between fact and fiction. (Typically, the last 60 pages of Tombland consist of a substantial historical note and a bibliography.) He also relishes the language of the time. It’s difficult not to warm to a book in which typical insults are ‘you dozzled spunk-stain’ or ‘you bezzled puttock’ ... Is Tombland unnecessarily long? Probably, but I’m not complaining.