Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara

Reviewed by Laura Tisdall, 13 February 2020 Jai is nine years old and lives with his family in the slums of New Delhi. He loves watching reality cop shows, especially Police Patrol (presumably a fictionalised version of Crime Patrol), waits hungrily for his mother to bring back special food from her job as a maid in one of the…

Abigail by Magda Szabo

Translated by Len Rix Reviewed by Harriet, 6 February 2020 This novel, by the award-winning Hungarian novelist Magda Szabo, was first published in 1970. However, it is set in 1943-4, a crucial period in the history of Hungary during WWII. The country had been allied to Germany and Italy from the start of the war,…

It Would be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo

Translated by Elizabeth Bryer Review by Susan Osborne, 11 February 2020 Venezuelan writer Karina Sainz Borgo’s It Would Be Night in Caracas is one of three novels published to launch HarperVia, a new imprint from HarperCollins dedicated to publishing literature in translation. It sets the bar pleasingly high with its immersive story of a middle-aged…

Learning Languages in Early Modern England by John Gallagher

Review by Liz Dexter, 6 February 2020 Has it ever struck you that before England obtained its empire, no one else in the world bothered to speak the language? Did you realise what a hugely multicultural place England was in in early modern times, chock-full of foreign language teachers, Italian churches, French refugees and the…

Somewhere Becoming Rain by Clive James

Review by Karen Langley, 6 February 2020 My love of the poetry of Philip Larkin is no secret; I’ve written about him numerous times on my blog, and most recently about my encounter with his last collection of poetry, High Windows. Larkin is a poet I first discovered at Grammar School and his verse obviously…

Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas

Review by Annabel, 4 February 2020 Oligarchy is Thomas’s first adult novel for a few years; lately she has written three well-received children’s books, but is now back with one for grown-ups – or is it? Oligarchy is set in a boarding school for girls, its protagonists are a group of teenaged pupils, but while…

Postscript to Poison, & Shadows Before by Dorothy Bowers

Review by Harriet, 4 February 2020 I have a special liking for vintage crime novels and am always pleased when I discover an author previously unknown to me. This has happened a lot in recent years, of course, largely owing to the great British Library Crime Classics series. But other publishers are now making discoveries…

Crime Fiction: A Reader’s Guide, by Barry Forshaw

Review by Basil Ransome-Davies, 30 January 2020 When I started teaching popular fiction courses forty years ago, having always been more drawn to Jesse James than to Henry James, there were sneers aplenty for making crime novels, ‘pulp fiction’, the focus of academic study. It was as if I had introduced pornography to the curriculum…

Of Cats and Elfins by Sylvia Townsend Warner

Review by Harriet, 28 January 2020 Just over a year ago I reviewed the newly published Handheld Press edition of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Kingdoms of Elfin, a collection of strange, glittering, fascinating stories, which had first appeared in the New Yorker in the 1970s. Although Warner is sometimes celebrated as a fantasy author – and…

So Brightly At The Last by Ian Shircore

Review by Rob Spence, 30 January 2020 In one important respect, this book was outdated at the moment it was published: its subject, Clive James, having endured a terminal illness for ten years, finally succumbed just as the volume appeared. For this reader, like the author Ian Shircore a long-term fan of James, reading became…

Impressionism (Art Essentials) by Ralph Skea

Review by Liz Dexter, 28 January 2020 Another volume in the excellently done Art Essentials series, this volume on Impressionism is written by Ralph Skea, an artist and academic who has published several books on individual Impressionists with Thames & Hudson, so a good choice with a great depth and width of knowledge. The book…

Why Women Read Fiction, The Stories of Our Lives by Helen Taylor

Review by Gill Davies, 23 January 2020 Women read a lot more fiction than men; they also buy more books, attend writers’ events, blog, exchange ideas, and form reading groups. Helen Taylor’s research documents these activities, drawing on women readers’ own words and proposing answers to her titular question, “Why do women read fiction?” In…

Tales of Pirx the Pilot by Stanislaw Lem

Translated by Louis Iribarne Review by Karen Langley, 23 January 2020 Polish writer Stanislaw Lem was a prolific author of science fiction works, the most well known of which is Solaris (which has been filmed as a Hollywood blockbuster and a cult movie by Tarkovsky). However, his many other books have not always been so…

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Review by Anna Hollingsworth, 21 January 2020 Let’s face it: anything involving human tragedies, poverty, despair, abuse and crime offers a wealth of material for a novelist of any genre. At the risk of sounding cold-bloodedly utilitarian, the stories of the thousands of migrants attempting to cross the US-Mexico border every year fit the bill…

Happy Ever After by C. C. MacDonald

Review by Basil Ransome-Davies, 21 January 2020 Adultery. It crops up everywhere. Few grown-up pastimes are as popular as disobeying the sixth Commandment. Where would novels, plays and movies be without it? It’s transgressive, it’s exciting, it motors the story. Historically, it has been far more tolerable for men than for women. A man needs…

Merry Christmas from the Shiny Eds!

Just over two weeks to go till the big day, and the Shiny editors are starting our Christmas break. We’ll return in the New Year; our next reviews will appear here on 21 January. We will still appear on social media though, highlighting some of our favourite posts of the year. Meanwhile we’d like to…

Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson (pbk)

Review by Annabel, 12 December 2019 This short novel told in letters took me pleasantly by surprise. Within pages I was hooked, and I read it in one extended sitting, shedding a tear along the way as I followed the story of the developing friendship between two lonely middle-aged people.  Tina and Anders are separated by…

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

Translated by Louise Heal Kawai Reviewed by Harriet, 10 December 2019 This delightful reprint from Pushkin Press is widely viewed as one of Japan’s greatest murder mysteries. Amazingly this is its first English translation, expertly done by Louise Heal Kawai. First published in 1946, it recounts events said to have taken place in Okamura, a…

The final two Maigret novels by George Simenon

Maigret and the Informer, translated by William Hobson Maigret and Monsieur Charles, translated by Ros Schwarz Reviews by Basil Ransome-Davies, 3 December 2019 Simenon was a supercharged writing machine, a prodigious figure whose élan vital drew him to adventure, travel and – in Wikipedia’s genteel idiom – ‘romantic involvement’ with any number of women (often…

Sorry for the Dead by Nicola Upson

Reviewed by Harriet, 27 November 2019 Here at Shiny we are great admirers of Nicola Upson’s books – her most recent novel, Stanley and Elsie, was reviewed here, and we’ve also covered two of her Josephine Tey crime novels here and here.  These were numbers six and seven in this on-going series, and now we…

The Pursuit of William Abbey by Claire North

Review by David Harris, 26 November 2019 A new book by Claire North is always a very special event in my reading calendar, and William Abbey didn’t disappoint. In something of the same vein as the Flying Dutchman, this is a tale of a man cursed after an act of selfishness. William Abbey is a mediocre doctor in…

Blackberry & Wild Rose by Sonia Velton (pbk)

Review by Helen Skinner, 26 November 2019 It’s 1768 and Sara Kemp has just arrived in Spitalfields, the London parish which has become home to a thriving community of Huguenot silk weavers. Sara is full of hope and optimism, ready to start a new life, but before she’s had time to get her bearings she…

Lake Like a Mirror by Ho Sok Fong

Translated by Natascha Bruce Review by David Hebblethwaite, 21 November 2019 Ho Sok Fong is a Malaysian writer whose short stories have won a number of awards. Lake Like a Mirror is her second collection, originally published in Chinese in 2014. The women at the heart of these nine stories are not in full control…

The Measure of a Man by Marco Malvaldi

Translated by Howard Curtis and Katherine Gregor Review by Terence Jagger, 21 Nov 2019 I was intrigued to see this novel on my doormat: Malvaldi is better known (to me at least) as a writer of crime stories, and I read his Three-Card Monte with pleasure (my Shiny review is here). But that is light,…