The year in books: February…


Coming in under the wire – my bedtime read for February was Ian Rankin’s latest John Rebus novel, Saints of the Shadow Bible.

I read somewhere, that middle-aged women are the biggest readership for crime fiction (probably rubbish, don’t ask me to provide my sources), but I have to admit, that this eternally 39-year-old very much enjoys going to bed with a good detective story.

Over the years, I’ve read my way through quite a lot of them, Inspector Morse, Miss Marple, Brother Cadfael, Ma Ramotswe et al.

At some point when the girls were small, I started reading the Rebus books. Now, before I go any further I should point out that one of my little foibles about detective fiction, is that I much prefer to buy them second-hand, preferably in charity shops. Anything that sells in huge numbers is likely to find its way into this sector pretty soon after publication, so it’s reasonably easy to pick up titles from any particular series if you keep your eyes peeled.

The slight downside, is that you don’t necessarily get to read them in publication order – well I suppose you could, but I’m not that organised. This was the case with Rebus. I think I came on the scene after about 10 years, so there was plenty to go at. I did find the chronology factor a bit annoying, but it never really got in the way of enjoying the stories.

If your only exposure to Rebus has been via the TV or radio, I urge you to put that out of your mind and go back to the source. I’ve seen and heard the various incarnations and in every instance, been desperately disappointed. (Although I loved Ken Stott playing him, the hacking out of the plot lines and omission of whole threads of characterisation just doesn’t do justice to the books).

Rebus, as with so many of the great detectives, is a flawed character, but Rankin gives so much flesh to his bones that you can’t help but believe in him. Actually I have a theory that we fans are in reality wanting to be a bit like him ourselves – but that’s just me being fanciful. So immerse Rebus into a well-tangled plot and for me, it’s the perfect bedtime reading.


(I won’t divulge the plot – if you already know the Rebus novels you wouldn’t want me to, and if you don’t, well, don’t start with this one).


March: I’m dithering about whether to go historic, romantic or detective – watch this space!

The year in books : January…

Story of my life really, being rather late to join in, but there you are, never likely to be labelled an early-adopter me.

When I saw what Laura at The Circle of Pine Trees┬áhad in mind – to read and comment about a book read each month – and when I saw the fabulous bloggers signing up to take part, a little voice in my head just kept nagging me to go along for the ride. So eleventh hour it may be, but as they say, better late than never…

January’s favourite read?

A History of Scotland, by Neil Oliver.

Okay, before I go any further, I’m going to have to warn you that history books are likely to be quite a feature here. History sort of flows through my veins. Don’t panic, I won’t attempt to summarise the plot, I’ll just try to illustrate what it is about this book that makes me slope off to bed early, and read into the wee small hours (or at least until the eye-lids clamp shut).

In fact, rather than say too much, perhaps I should show you some of the things that are Scotland for me and which fuel my love of the country…

Ancient monastic sites, ruined castles, ruined cathedrals, wild landscapes, perfect beaches, mountain tops, churning rivers, and whisky…

The truth is, for me there is nowhere more majestic or enthralling than the Scottish Highlands and Islands. The landscape is so overwhelmingly powerful, it puts us mere humans firmly in our place. My parents started taking me to Sutherland every summer when I was five, I’ve rarely missed a year since. In that time, I’ve come to feel the tragedy, the violence and the pathos of the country through so many aspects of the landscape and ruins.

But although I have a good working knowledge of the chronology of English history, Scottish history felt more like a jigsaw puzzle with a blurred picture on the lid and half the pieces missing. Hence deciding to read Neil Oliver’s book.

We sometimes laugh at Neil’s very earnest TV presentations, but it’s not meant unkindly, in fact we’re all big fans, hard not to be when someone is so passionate about their subject. But I thoroughly enjoy his writing style. It’s a very capable historian who can deliver facts and context in an exciting manner, without falling into dramatics. It’s not like reading a Rebus novel, but it had me totally engaged.

Scotland has spent a large part of its history tearing itself apart in one way or another. Seems as if the same story is still being played out. For this interested bystander, it feels like watching history in the making.


And so for February?

History might feature, but I suspect keeping to the Scottish theme, it’ll be Secrets of the Shadow Bible, by Ian Rankin.

Happy reading.










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