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A few years ago, I read a fun book by Jack Finney about a man discovering time travel via a hotel room in the Dakota Building. Recently, I finally got around to reading the accompanying book of short stories, which also all feature time travel in some way. Some of the stories are excellent, particularly one about a future where vacation time travel depletes the population, and one about a man failing to take an opportunity to travel to a promised utopia. Some, however, are pretty appalling in terms of their presentation of and attitudes towards women. And some are just a bit boring. But it was a short anthology, and worth reading for the several really good stories.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes is about a time travelling serial killer and the one of his victims who survives and decides to hunt him in return. It was intriguing enough to keep me reading, despite being pretty unpleasant in places. I liked the heroine, and the passages from the killer's point of view were very effective, if somewhat disturbing. The best and worst thing about the novel was that all the victims got a point of view chapter before their demise, so they became real characters, which gave the novel a lot of depth but made it a lot more distressing. The fractured plot came together very cleverly in the end, and I liked the heroine's agency and determination in the face of opposition, discouragement and the seeming impossibility of the crimes. I also liked the slightly nebulous ending, which gave a creepy suggestion of more trouble to come.

One of my recent acquisitions from One Random Book was a choose-your-own-adventure called The Golem of Brick Lane. I gave it a try last week and it was quite fun.

Earlier this week, Dave and I went to see Witness for the Prosecution in the council chamber at County Hall on the south bank. It was an atmospheric setting for a well-executed courtroom drama, with excellent use of space and the available layout of the venue. I enjoyed the play, though the attitudes and dialogue were rather dated, and the last few minutes felt unnecessary and weakened what would otherwise have been a very effective conclusion.

Mr Mercedes is the first in a trilogy by Stephen King, about retired police detective Bill Hodges. I've never read any Stephen King before, but this audiobook was narrated by a particular favourite narrator of mine, so I decided to give it a go. There's nothing supernatural about this story, though it has its rather grim elements. I liked all the characters on the good guys' side, and the insight into the bad guy's motivations was chillingly portrayed. It went too far for me towards the end, but by then I couldn't leave it unfinished as I needed the bad guy to be stopped, so I carried on, and I was glad I did, because my two favourite characters got to save the day.

Shattermoon by Dominic Dulley is another book published by someone I met at Winchester Festival, and I'm afraid I didn't like it any more than Gemsigns. It started off quite well, with a family pulling off a heist at a fancy ball. But the light and breezy tone of the initial scenes was jarringly offset by intermittent very gory violence, and the liking of some of the characters didn't engage me enough to get through the lengthy and uninteresting action scenes. It was too uneven for me to really enjoy it, and the violence got too much in the second half.

February 2019

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