Holiday Books 2018

Anyone who’s followed this blog for a while will know that I like to read at least one Bernard Cornwell book while on holiday and this year was no exception. Sharpe’s Honour by Bernard Cornwell is the sixteenth in the series and covers the Vitoria Campaign of 1813 in which Wellington had a great victory against the French in Spain, paving the way for victory in the Peninsula War.

To keep her fortune, La Marquesa Helene is forced to write a letter claiming Sharpe tried to rape her. Her husband duly challenges Sharpe to a duel. The duel is interrupted and later that day the husband is murdered. Sharpe is framed for the murder, captured and hanged.

However, obviously, the man hanged was not Sharpe and he goes into hiding and on a quest to clear his name and uncover a plot which could put a stop to England’s war against France. The book therefore doesn’t follow the pattern that most of the Sharpe series seem to follow i.e. small skirmish, Sharpe falls for a woman, Sharpe and buddies have to get over a few hurdles and solve a problem, Sharpe leads his forces in a decisive part of a famous historic battle.

Sure, Sharpe is back in time to rejoin his regiment at the Battle of Vitoria and lead them to victory, but it’s a small part of a more interesting story of political machinations and espionage. After a bit of fisticuffs with the main villain, Sharpe manages to clear his name with his honour intact. He of course also gets to sleep with La Marquesa along the way, raid a nunnery and be in the thick of things when a castle accidentally blows up. All in a book’s work for our scar-faced hero.

I read the book in two parts – at the start and end of the holiday – as it is perfect size to carry in hand luggage and put in the webbing in the seat in front of you along with the safety card, in-flight mag and duty-free catalogue.

Worth Dying For is the sixteenth Jack Reacher book by Lee Child – and it’s a testament to his readability that I have so quickly caught up with reading his novels compared to the Sharpe series (which I feel like I’ve been reading for years and years). The fact that Reacher seemed to have been blown up in the huge fireball in the explosive climax of 61 Hours is partially explained within the story which sees Reacher carrying the injuries of his lucky escape and wanting to go see the owner of the sexy voice who helped so much in that adventure.

However, before he gets to Virginia, he gets embroiled in the mystery of a missing child and the domestic abuse of the wife of one of the Duncan brothers who appears to rule the rural Nebraska town he hitchhiked to. The call to action is quick and when the Duncans try to get rid of Tasker it’s the worst decision they could’ve made. Tasker uncovers their criminality and leaves one of the highest body counts that I recall from any of Lee Child’s books. It made for a great holiday read and was so good it only took me a day to complete.

After the violence of another Reacher book I thought I’d calm things down with the very thin and quite quirky Black Butterfly by Mark Gatiss. This is his third book about the Bond-like secret agent Lucifer Box who has an eye for the ladies and the lads in equal measure and of course a license to kill. In this final instalment, set in 1953 after the ascension of Queen Elizabeth II, Box is about to retire before embarking on one last investigation into a series of bizarre deaths of notable people.

Written in 2008 and spanning London, Istanbul and Jamaica, the book is reminiscent of the most out-there novels of Ian Fleming while very much being done with laughs in mind. Having read the two other books in the series The Vesuvius Club (2004) and The Devil in Amber (2006) the bi-sexual antics of the vaguely Austin Powers style Lucifer Box came as no surprise, but I did find some passages hard going (no pun intended honestly).

Having finished reading Black Butterfly in a matter of hours I quickly moved on to the Russel Brand’s autobiographical laughterpiece  entitled Booky Wook 2. The memoir picks up where Booky Wook left off and takes us all the way to him marrying Katie Perry. Thus it covers the BBC Radio controversy involving Jonathan Ross and Andrew Sachs.

Siggy read it before me and asked me if we’d read it before. I said not, but having read it myself some things – the Andrew Sachs debacle, giving his underpants to Helen Mirren and the incident with the dog – did seem familiar. One can only surmise that these shocking revelations were included in some of his stand up shows that we have seen over the last few years. Suffice to say that Russel Brand fans will not be disappointed with the book (I certainly wasn’t) and will be crying out for Booky Wook 3 – which I expect won’t have a dedication to Ms Perry before the title page like this one did.

And finally for this holiday, and the reason why I didn’t get through more books, is David Lagercrantz’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web which continues the brilliant Millennium series by Stieg Larsson. The focus is on Mikael Blomkvist and his ailing magazine for a large chunk of the book and Lisbeth Salander the girl with the dragon tattoo features more and more as the story progresses. Lagercrantz has done a fine job of picking up where Larsson left of due to his untimely death in 2004, and the book doesn’t suffer from the pacing issues inherent in the original trilogy.

That said, I quickly realised that this was not a holiday book. The plot is dense and there are a large number of characters to keep track of (at times it was comparable to reading one of George R R Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) books in that respect) and from a practical perspective the mostly black cover was beginning to heat up the binding glue and warp the book in the Greek sun. It took me quite some time to really get into the story, but once I did it became a real page-turner. I enjoyed it as much as the Jo Nesbo books I found myself reading after Larsson’s death.

Anyway, there we have it. As you might expect it was the usual mixed bunch of stuff and the one book that went to Greece with me and came back unread was Matt Haig’s How to Stop Time. As it happens, after I finished the Sharpe book I didn’t move on to this book, instead I dug out my Kindle (which might one day come to Greece with me – once the backlog of paperbacks is gone from my bookshelf) and started his other book The Radleys which I’ll probably talk about soon in another post.

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