Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Books 13 & 14 of 2015: Midnight by Stephen Leather & Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

I was already pretty far behind in my book review posts and my hiatus didn't help that at all, so I've decided that for a while I'll write double posts for my books, at least until I've caught up with the books I read last year. I might even squeeze in some extra posts when I've not had time to get other planned posts up as well.

The first of today's two books is Midnight by Stephen Leather. This was leant to me by a colleague at work after I'd read the first in the series, Nightfall. Midnight is the second in the series of Jack Nightingale books; in the first we were introduced to Jack when he learned of the death of his biological father and inherited his mansion. Unfortunately Jack's father had made a deal with a devil and had given up Jack's soul before he was born. Well, now it turns out that he has a half sister, and his father made a similar deal for her soul as well. Now it's up to Jack to find her and save her too.

I think that I actually enjoyed this one more than the first one. I'm guessing that this was because I was more familiar with the characters and I had a better idea of what to expect from the story than the first one. I also didn't find it quite as creepy as the first one either. I'm guessing that's because I'm now used to the way that things normally go for Jack so the random supernatural stuff didn't come as a massive surprise to me any more.

I liked the way that the next story in the series has been set up. In a way the book could almost finish a couple of chapters earlier than they do and then the book would be a complete story in its own right. Instead they begin sewing the seeds for the next story in the last few chapters of the current book. It's clever because it keeps you reading on (since you've already got an idea of what is coming) but it also helps to make the stories feel linked together; there's nothing worse than a story where the sequel spending a lot of time justifying itself as a sequel, that doesn't happen in these because all the justification is done at the end of the previous book.

At the end of this book was a previous of a book called Outpost by Adam Baker. It seemed right up my street and I'm going to have to track it down at some point (of course, I read this book nearly a year ago and I still haven't looked this one up, definitely one to add to my 'To Read' list). It seems to be a sort of 'end of the world' type story and pretty much right up my street.

The fourteenth book I read in 2015 was Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. I became acquainted with Kate Atkinson many, many years ago during a book club I was involved with. I completely fell in love with her magic realism stories and so when I saw that one of her books was picked for World Book Night 2011, I had to get my hands on a copy of it.

This story follows investigator Jackson Brodie as he looks into a several cases during a heat wave. One involves a long cold case of a missing child whose older sisters have asked for help in investigating what happened to her; another is a man who wishes to find his daughter's murderer; and a third is a batty old woman's missing cat.

I couldn't help but be slightly amused at the fact that these two books both featured investigators, but couldn't have been more different. Of course I enjoyed Midnight but I LOVED Case Histories. It was one of those books that I just wanted to keep reading all.the.time. The sort of book that has you pulling it out in breaks at work, or sneaking out of the room with at public gatherings to get another couple of pages in. It reminded me of the fact that I really need to get more Kate Atkinson books because I just love the way she writes.

There is something really unusual about Atkinson's style of writing. I can't quite put my finger on exactly what it is, but even though this wasn't a magic realism genre book, there was a definitely magic realism style in the writing. I can't say just what that means, but if you like those sorts of books it'll feel familiar. You end up getting right inside the minds of the characters and you can picture the scenes totally effortlessly which makes it a brilliant read.

It was good to have the story build up gradually and not have everything spelled out to you. It means that you can build your own conclusions, like whether or not Lily-Rose might actually be Tanya. The Land sisters' story was the most interesting to me, there was something about them that made me think of The Virgin Suicides. I also really liked the character of Jackson Brodie. I know he features in other stories (and they've made a TV adaptation with him as well), definitely more to add to my list.

Next Tuesday I'll be reviewing books 15 and 16 of 2015, Cursed by Stephen Leather and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. See you there!

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