Smoke Heads – Doug Johnstone

Smoke Heads by Doug Johnstone is a book for all you whiskey lovers out there – “cheers” indeed. Unfortunately, for those of you not susceptible to the charms of the good stuff, caveat emptor. It is a rollercoaster drunken ride through the famed Scottish Isle of Islay, with more drams and cocaine than you can shake a drunken stick at. If that sounds like fun to you, you’re right – it should be. However, this book has a fatal flaw: severe lack of credibility verging on the absurd.

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The Leopard – Jo Nesbo

The Leopard by Jo Nesbo, the sixth and latest in the English-language series of Harry Hole novels, sees the return of the much vaunted and loved Harry Hole, from his druggy and escapist bolt-hole in Hong Kong. Harry is brought back to assist in solving the latest series of connected murders in Norway, which are seemingly the work of a serial killer, possibly in the mould of the infamous Snowman.

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Death in Breslau – Marek Krajewski

Marek Krajewski’s Death in Breslau, like its fellow novels, is a curious piece of work, set in 1930’s Breslau, which is present day Wroclaw. German detective Eberhard Mock is the chief protagonist, and Breslau is his literal stomping ground, where he happily lords it over his beloved ladies, and not-so-loved assorted criminal elements. This particular tale involves Mock sharing the limelight with his assistant Herbert Anwald, as they investigate a horrific double rape and murder, involving scorpions and ancient graffiti.

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The Redeemer – Jo Nesbo

The Redeemer is Harry Hole’s fourth English-language adventure, coming as it does after the dramatic finale of The Devil’s Star. This was an excellent and exciting read, and is the usual and typical Jo Nesbo in Harry Hole mode, fare. The eponymous Redeemer is a relentless Balkans assassin, who kills the wrong man one Christmas in Oslo, the repercussions of which drag Harry Hole into a race against time and death.

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The Musicians of Auschwitz – Fania Fenelon

The Musicians of Auschwitz is Fania Fenelon’s autobiographical account of her life and experience in the Birkenau concentration camp, which was the female “camp” in Auschwitz, and later of her time in the Bergen Belsen camp. This book was written thirty years after she gained her freedom, on the 15th April, 1945. The account is quite extraordinary, as it is really a dual autobiography – that of “die kleine Sängerin” Fania, and also the “autobiography”, if you will, of the life and existence of the orchestra of camp inmates she played and sang in.

This book also gives a terrifying insider’s view of the humanity and inhumanity, and of life and death, inside these concentration camps. The book is extremely well written in its own right, and Fania was assisted in the writing of it by Marcelle Routier. Hers is a nightmare tale of deprivation, starvation, cruelty and insanity but also of hope.

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Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About – Mil Millington

Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, by internet sensation Mil Millington, is “a comic novel that was ‘inspired'” by the theme of the website of the same name. As this is a book review site, I won’t go into the whole internet aspect of this, but it is worth keeping in mind that the website which served as the genesis for this novel, has received over 5 million visits. So similarly to the Sh*t My Dad Says website, internet blog popularity seems to have spawned this book.

The main character is the curiously named Pel, who narrates this chaotic and absurd story. The plot is loose and fluid, and perhaps uniquely for a novel, the plot isn’t really important here, serving as it does essentially as a vehicle for the author to serve us up lashings of argumentative dialogue between the English Pel, and his German girlfriend Ursula. This is the sort of dialogue over 5 million internet visitors love, and presumably so as not to disappoint or disenfranchise them, we get a long list of things the two main protagonists argue about.
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The Snowman – Jo Nesbo

The Snowman is Jo Nesbo’s 5th in his series of English-language Harry Hole novels, and therefore the 7th in his native Norwegian-language series of same. Before reading this, I happened to read a review posted on Amazon of The Leopard, which is the 6th in the English-language series of Harry Hole novels, and in which the reviewer gave away the end of this novel! Infuriating is one word I can think of to describe my feelings regarding this. Anyhow, I won’t be making the same mistake here, and ruining your enjoyment of this or any other Harry Hole novels, within this book summary – so feel free to safely read on!

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The Rum Diary – Hunter S Thompson

The Rum Diary is the late, great and awesome Hunter S. Thompson’s tale of the rum-soaked existence and adventures of a young American journalist, Paul Kemp, in late 1950’s Puerto Rico. There are really two main characters in this story, alcohol and Paul Kemp. Booze is utterly pervasive, with the novel opening and closing on a drink-related note, and being omnipresent throughout.
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Blood Meridian Cormac McCarthy

Some books grab you by the seat of your pants for wild adventures, some whisk you off on wonderful fanciful trips of the imagination, others still reminisce on lovely lovers. This book forcefully pitches you head-long into an almost alien-like world of insane violence and ultra-hard living, never lets you up for air, and leaves you almost dumb-founded at the end. No need to read the rest of the review really, just read the book!

Blood Meridian ostensibly tells the tale of “the kid”, who remains nameless throughout, and his blood-soaked trudge through life, in mid-19th century America and Mexico. However, its is much more than that – I have read it described as a parable, and I would have to agree I think. In fact I believe the author has dropped clues to this fact throughout the work, as mentioned further below.
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Enigma Thomas Harris

Enigma is a re-imagining of the real-life events that took place at Bletchley Park, which was the nerve-center of the Allies code-breaking efforts on Nazi ciphers and codes during WWII, in the form of a mystery-come-thriller.

There are two central characters to the piece: Tom Jericho, who is essentially the third-person narrator of the tale, and is therefore almost omnipresent throughout, and his one-time love Claire, who we only ever meet through recollections and reminiscences. Tom is a genius code-breaker, capable of Einstein-esque leaps of thought and insight, while Claire Romilly is an increasingly suspicious looking character.
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