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Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’

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I listened to this audiobook, narrated by Tom Kotcher, over the course of several days. it is billed as the first in the Karen Pirie series, but Officer Pirie is very much on the periphery of this story (I suspect it was to ‘test the waters’ before writing a series based around a particular character).

It’s a book of two halves; the first half is set in 1978, when four students – who are known by their nicknames, Ziggy, Gilly, Weird and Mondo – in St Andrews stable across the body of a young woman named Rosie Duff, who is vaguely known to them. She has been attacked and left for dead. The police launch an investigation which fails to find the killer, but suspicion falls upon the four lads, and follows them around for the rest of their time at the university.

25 years later, the police reopen the cold case, but things take a strange turn when two of the former students are murdered and the remaining two decide that someone is taking revenge on them for the murder of Rosie. With the police not seeming to get anywhere, the two men decide to do some sleuthing of their own.

This is the first Val McDermid book I have ever read or listened to, and I have to say that I did enjoy it. Tom Kotcher did a good job narrating, with the exception of his American accent, which was pretty atrocious. Fortunately there are only a couple of American characters and neither of them feature very heavily, so that was not really an issue.

McDermid describes the tension and atmosphere extremely well, and I did feel that the four young men were all very distinctive; their relationships with each other were also well portrayed and formed a large part of the story. As for the mystery itself – I did actually figure out who the killer was when I was about a third of the way through, but nonetheless I still liked listening to the novel.

Based on this book, I would definitely try more by this author.

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This was another audiobook (I’ve REALLY been getting into audiobooks this year), and it was narrated by Vanessa Coffey, who I thought did an excellent job. Admittedly, as this is non-fiction, she didn’t have to tackle different characters etc., but she kept it interesting especially during the parts where she was discussing statistics etc.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. This book is a memoir of sorts, written by Jill Stark, a health reporter originally from Scotland but who has lived in Australia for many years. After one too many hangovers, on New Years Day 2011, Jill decided to give up alcohol for three months – this eventually turned into a whole year – and this is the story of how it was for her.

As well as the physical effects of not drinking, Jill concentrates a lot on the social effects – how for example her friends found it awkward to be around her, and stopped inviting her out on certain nights when they themselves planned on getting drunk. She was told that it wasn’t the Australian way not to drink, and people couldn’t understand why she would want to do it. Occasions when alcohol is not only normal but actually expected – birthdays, weddings, football season and first dates etc. are all navigated in due course.

A large part of the book discusses statistics surrounding binge drinking; how it is encouraged by the alcohol industry, however subtly, and the effects that it is having on families and society in general. Some of the statistics are frankly quite scary, and paint a picture almost of a timebomb waiting to explode.

To clarify – Jill Stark is not an evangelistic teetotaller – she understands the attraction of alcohol and has no desire to stop others drinking; indeed she hopes that after her sober year, she will be able to indulge in alcohol in moderation herself. However, she does have genuine concerns about the rise in binge drinking and the long term effects of this behaviour.

Overall, I found this a fascinating listen – my only niggle is that it is occasionally very statistic heavy. Nonetheless, it gave me a lot to think about, and there is no doubt that Jill Stark is an engaging and entertaining writer.

If you have any interest in the subject, I would definitely recommend this book.

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Yet another audiobook! This is the first book in a series set in St Andrew’s, Scotland and featuring DI Andy Gilchrist.

Someone is killing men in St Andrew’s. All of the victims are men who are known to abuse women and all of them are stabbed through one eye and then murdered. DI Andy Gilchrist is head of the investigation, and there are plenty of potential suspects to choose from, as well as severe pressure from his superiors, the public and the press to get a result. Gilchrist has a patchy past, relationship-wise – divorced from his former wife Gail and not as close as he would like to his two children Jack and Maureen, he has had a couple of relationships since his marriage ended, but nothing permanent. Add to this the fact that his boss wants him out of the police service and times are tough for DI Gilchrist.

When I started this book, I felt that it had lots of potential and I was fairly sure that I was going to enjoy it. While I cannot fault the narrator David Monteath, who did a good job of ratcheting up the tension, I actually became disillusioned the story, the more I listened. I am not against violence or gore in books (American Psycho is, for my money, one of the best books I have ever read), the violence here just seemed gratuitous and there was too much of it. I also thought that the author possibly tried too hard to create a huge pool of suspects, and the way he finally worked out who the stabber was seemed highly unrealistic. Let’s just say it involved a cat and lots of convoluted thinking. I got the impression that everything but the kitchen sink had been included in the book!

I did prefer the parts where Andy interacts with others, such as his children and some of the witnesses in the case, although apart from Andy himself, none of the characters really made much of an impression on me.

All in all, it wasn’t terrible – the descriptions of St Andrew’s were interesting and obviously come from a place of intimacy with the area – however, I don’t think I would read any more books in this series.

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