Monthly Archives: November 2014

The Murdstone Trilogy

Mal Peet

David Fickling Books

9781910200155

October 2014

hardback

Finished

I was looking forward to The Murdstone Trilogy, A Novel by Mal Peet as soon as I got wind of it. I read it last week, in a couple of sittings.
What a superbly entertaining satire it is.
Not only is it not a trilogy but, at just a little over 300 generously line-spaced pages, it is also economical in its one-volume-ness.
The main character, a single man and writer called Philip Murdstone, is completely believable. His career is going down the proverbial pan. Sales are derisory.
Cue for his agent, the magnificently conceived Minerva Cinch, to persuade Murdstone to try his hand at writing a fantasy, since that is all the rage.
I was laughing out loud (chuckling out loud to be more accurate, since most of my reading was done on a train, and I’m someone who rarely laughs aloud while reading anyway) from the word go.
And it wasn’t always the satirical digs at the ways and wiles of the publishing world that struck me as amusing (though it has to be said those who are most intimately familiar with that world are the most likely to get most pleasure from reading the book) – no, it is often just the pure observational genius of Peet’s writing that raises a smile, as in “Like most solitary men, he has a wide repertoire of groans.”
Peet has mischievous fun with the two librarians in the book, Francine and Merilee, known as the Weird Sisters. It’s always a pleasure when they enter the stage.
Murdstone agrees, under great pressure from Minerva, to attempt a fantasy – initially to no avail. Eventually, with a bit of help from a guest ale called Dark Entropy, some time alone amid a stone circle on Dartmoor, and a certain dwarfish creature called Pocket Wellfair, the fantasy gets written.
Lovers of the genre will need to possess their own sense of humour to appreciate Peet’s clever passages of pastiche as he shows us examples of the quest Murdstone is working on.
It’s probably fair to say that the book’s most appreciative audience will be those who share Peet’s own obvious bemusement at the popularity of High Fantasy of a certain ilk.

Black Ice

Becca Ftzpatrick

Black Ice

9781471118142

September 2014

hardback

Finished

I read, and was pretty impressed by, this author’s debut novel back in 2009 – [Read my review of hush, hush] – the first in a sequence of four love fantasies. Although I hadn’t been inclined to read the other novels in that sequence this realistic, edge-of-your-seat thriller felt much more like the kind of reading I enjoy when it arrived from Simon & Schuster – especially so after I’d read the first few pages and the opening chapter. I was hooked, as they say.I said of her first book: “Fitzpatrick is already a sufficiently skilful storyteller to be able to carry the reader along and create the necessary suspension of disbelief. This is all done in the atmosphere of a Sunday afternoon feature film.” That comment about the Sunday matinee feature film wasn’t meant as a criticism, but rather as a signal to readers of the review about what kind of read to expect. I then added, “I can’t say I was ever seriously moved or unsettled by the predicaments the main character, Nora, finds herself in, but I was always fully engaged.”

In this book it is imperative that we do become moved and unsettled by Britt’s predicament. I was.

Britt and her best friend drive up into the mountains to go hiking. The weather closes in and they have to abandon their Wrangler. Britt’s companion, Korbie, is the sister of her first love, Calvin, a young man Britt is now estranged from. Whilst they are trapped on the mountains they become the captives of two strange and sinister men. Except that one is not entirely a stranger to Britt. For much of the book the reader is kept wondering which of these two captors is the most evil. And things become yet more complicated when Calvin arrives as rescuer.

Fitzgerald’s writing is rarely flashy, and all the more effective for that. There are a handful of moments when she becomes unnecessarily wordy, but these are mercifully few. The book is melodramatic, to be sure, and its fortunately/unfortunately twists and turns are paced a little predictably, but then in this kind of read its the momentum that keeps those pages a-turning.