Thursday, March 31, 2011


This is a run of the mill locked room murder mystery, but for locked room, read island - with a finite list of suspects.

Dalgliesh and crew arrive and solve a plot that is very basic and as the reader is not given any information its what I call a cheater plot, no information to the reader and then a whole lot of facts are revealed in the last 20 pages and there it is.

To be fair Ms James was 85 when she wrote this - it no where near the best she has done and she would probably admit it.

There is a 33 page prologue and if I live to be 100 I don't know what its got to do with the story. Give it a miss if you have a choice.

LEILA - J P Donleavy

Volume two in the Darcy Dancer trilogy.

This finds Darcy home at his ancestral seat, broke, with a house full of drunken thieving servants and a maid who he falls in love with. Masterfully described fox hunting debacle's and some great sex scenes.

This is very very funny with an amazing cast of characters. It rude , crude and disgusting, not as much as volume three which I have already read but close.

My only complaint is that its about 100 pages too long, but great fun.


This is the very first Dalziel and Pascoe novel, all the way from 1970.

The characters are very one dimensional and obviously have yet to develop into the great two that they have later become.

Fat Andy is already scratching himself inappropriately and being rude but not to the extent that he is now, Pascoe is a very serious young man more interested in sleeping with the witnesses than working for Dalziel.

The plot is ordinary, but I have been spoilt reading his latter works first.

I can see why Hill's publishers stuck with him though and let him develop into the great crime writer he has become

A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME : Vol 12 Hearing Secret Harmonies

Twelve volumes, 2979 pages, approximately one million words and over three hundred different characters. And I can say I enjoyed every bit of this experience.

The story starts post WWI at a English public school and ends when the main characters are in late middle age ( mid 70's).

The reader has followed marriages, divorces, suicides and numerous affairs. Our characters have built business's ,lost careers, enjoyed great financial success and been wiped out due to various circumstances.

All just like in real life. There was nothing that occurred in this sequence that would not have happened to numerous persons who lived through this time.

Powell has made them come alive, just ordinary people really, with his sharp dialogue and acute observation of us humans.

This has been one of the highlights of anything I have ever read, and I know at some stage I will read it again. The 12 volumes are to be seen as one book and must be read in order. Fantastic.

A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME : Vol 11 Temporary Kings

The majority of Volume 11 is set out of England and the characters are at there professional peaks.

Widmerpool is still climbing the ladder reaching new heights but is sure to fall soon while in a horrible marriage, which I feel a dis-likeable character like him deserves.

Again large amounts of this volume are looking back at the past, loves still present and those lost.

Still fantastic.

A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME : Vol 10 Books Do Furnish a Room

The Second World War is over and our main characters settle into civilian life.

Widmerpool is in Parliament and Jenkin's is working for a small literary magazine.

The sequence is nearly complete , more new characters, old ones pass away and drift away.

There is an accent on the past with Nick returning to University for a short whilst researching a book.

Still wonderful reading.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

ASHENDEN - W.Somerset Maugham

The original spy and original spy stories.

This book is a collection of different tales featuring Ashenden, a spy working working for the British Government during the first world war. He travels from Switzerland to Russia, France and other European hot spots.

Maugham himself worked for British Intelligence in this manner, but as he states in the preface, real life does not make for great reading so he has introduced the fiction element.

There is very little violence overtly written about but much implied.

Some missions are successful and some are dismal failures but everyone of these stories is brilliantly written with Maugham's effortless style.

These stories are the predecessor of Le Carre at his peak.

Truly great writing and should still be available everywhere, but alas this had to be imported due to the fact that there was no room on shelves already stacked with cook books here in New Zealand.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME : Vol 9 The Military Philosophers

This volume from what I have read about Powell is obviously the most autobiographical. It appears to copy directly from his war time experiences with Jenkins working with military from European countries displaced by the war.

We are introduced to Pamela Flitton, a female who causes havoc.

Its interesting to note how Powells writing become more explicit as these latter volumes are written in the late 1960's.

The story just glides along, just like life, its wonderful.

A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME : Vol 8 The Soldiers Art

Volume 8 is the second set during WWII. Nick Jenkins is stationed in Northern Ireland.

In this volume characters start being killed regularly. London is constantly bombed and Jenkins' circle suffer during this time.

Widmerpool again enters the story, ending up as a senior officer, a totally horrible man.

Another great read.

A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME Vol 7 : The Valley of Bones

The saga continues with Nick in the army. We have him meeting fellow officers both equals and those of superior rank.

Again we have interesting dialogue and again like Waugh's war there are incredibly long periods of boredom, waiting with nothing to do.

There are very few of the regulars here from the previous volumes and this freshens the series.

Another gem, only five further volumes to go.

Friday, March 4, 2011

DISPATCHES - Michael Herr

Rated as one of the great books of war reportage, we have a volume of articles that were written during the late sixties and published in Esquire magazine.

The author was in the field on patrol with the service men and was in several different parts of the country, in the south with the army, in Hue and Khe Sanh with the Marines.

What is most striking to me is that even though this was written at the height of the war there is nothing judgemental in the articles. We have straight reportage, with all the sadness, tragedy and humour that occurred.

This is a great read and thoroughly deserves its place alongside other great war literature.

The author co-wrote screen plays for Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket, reading this you will see that scenes have been lifted directly to the screen.