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Thursday, September 29, 2022

Just Finished Reading…Peepshow by Leigh Readhead. Sydney: Allen And Unwin, 2004.


This is not a newly published book. I bought a copy from the bookseller table at a Sisters In Crime event at my local library the other night. I don’t think it’s in print any more, so the author probably supplied some books from her stash to the bookseller. However, it’s easily available as an ebook on your favourite web sites. 

It’s the first in a series, four so far, which is about Simone Kirsch, aka Vivien Leigh(her work name), a stripper who wants to start her own private detective agency, and has taken a course in this area. In this first novel she is trying to find the killer of a truly nasty man running a strip joint, whose body was found floating off St Kilda beach in the opening scene, because his brother has kidnapped Simone’s best friend Chloe and is threatening to kill her if Simone doesn’t find the murderer within two weeks. She gets a job at a lap dancing joint which was owned by the victim, to see what information she can find before time runs out.

 I think this book fits best into the category of “tart noir”.  There is sex, the mean streets, drinking, smoking, casual use of drugs and much more along those lines. But it’s fun. Simone is a likeable character and the setting is Melbourne, where I live. In fact, it’s set in the part of Melbourne where I live, the seaside suburbs of Elwood and St Kilda, as well as the CBD. Most of the venues are real too, so I had fun following Simone’s travels around town. The Greyhound Hotel, where some of it happens, was pulled down some years ago, but it was within walking distance of my home. There is also the Espy(Esplanade Hotel), a pub and live music venue in St Kilda, where my nephew performed with his band several years ago. 

It’s said you should write about what you know, and apparently the author had some background as a stripper. It doesn’t seem an easy job! 

I read this in a couple of days and have bought the second novel in ebook. 

Well worth a read if you enjoy a bit of whodunnit fun. 

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Just Finished Reading… False Value by Ben Aaronovitch. Rivers Of London series. Penguin Putnam: New York, 2021

 I have just read False Value and thoroughly enjoyed it, as I have all the Rivers Of London novels. 

Hero Peter Grant, a member of the very small Special Assessment Unit, London’s magical police, has a new - undercover - job at the Serious Cybernetics Corporation(and yes, it is a deliberate reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy). There is a reason why the police want to know what’s going on. It’s connected with Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron, who was a mathematical genius and the world’s first computer programmer, and her teacher, mathematician Mary Somerville. In this world, where magic is real and Isaac Newton was a famous mage, there is a physical Mary Engine, instead of just a theory paper. And someone is using it for nasty stuff.

Peter is awaiting the birth of twins with his partner, river goddess Beverley Brook. Interestingly, there isn’t much activity by river gods and goddesses in this novel. They are mentioned, but don’t appear for once, and Bev is too focused on her forthcoming children to get involved.

I would have thought the series would be going downhill by now, but no. Each novel has something new to be enjoyed. 

But you really do have to have read the others to be able to follow this one. It assumes you know who the characters are and what their backgrounds are. Peter, for example, is the son of a woman from Sierra Leone and a (white) jazz musician. Bev is the daughter of Mama Thames, an African woman who arrived in Britain in the 1950s and became a goddess. Nightingale is Peter’s “Governor”, who taught him magic.

If you are a fan, you just need to know that this one is absolutely worth reading. If you haven’t read this series, what are you waiting for?

My copy is in ebook, but your local bookshop or web site will have it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Just Finished Reading - Three Miles Down: A Novel Of First Contact In The Tumultuous 1970s By Harry Turtledove. New York: Tom Doherty, 2022

The year is 1974. The U.S President is Richard Nixon, who is soon to lose his job. Jerry Stieglitz, a young PhD candidate in marine biology, who also writes science fiction, is approached by the CIA to go on a mysterious voyage. At first he is told they want to raise a Soviet submarine which was destroyed a few years ago. 

But there is much more to it than that. There is a reason the Soviet submarine was sunk. That, not the submarine itself, is why they want him along. And it’s something very exciting - as long as he can keep his mouth shut. If he can’t, he is warned he will be dead soon after.

They have found a spaceship, which probably sank the Soviet craft, but so far nobody on the alien ship is responding. 

This seems to be a first contact novel, but it isn’t, really. It takes a long time for the spaceship to be raised, then for it to be examined. Jerry gets to do that along with another crew member. I won’t give you any more details before you read it. 

The first few chapters are a bit slow. There is a lot of discussion, both political and speculation on what’s in the spaceship and whether their own ship will be wrecked like the Soviet one. There is much detailed description of what they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We are also told what science fiction books have just come out, and real people, such as SF authors Ben Bova and Jerry Pournelle, are mentioned before actually appearing later in the book. 

But the characters are good and the pace picks up after the spaceship is raised from the bottom of the sea. And there is some thought about whether it’s fair to have the US keeping all this to itself, or whether it should be sharing. 

It’s interesting to read about the era, before mobile phones, before the internet, before the Soviet Union fell(and after first contact, how different will that be?). Harry Turtledove was around at the time, but he is very good with history, even if it’s not the alternative universe for which he is best known. It took me a while to get into it, but I finished the second half in a couple of days. 

The book is available in all your usual good bookshops and websites, including Amazon, Booktopia and Book Depository. I bought mine in ebook on Apple Books.