This week, with my Halloween Bingo reading complete, I’m going to catch up with two books that I was part way through when Halloween Bingo started and I’m diving into the first book of a seventeen-book series that I’ve been meaning to try out for a while.
This gives me a very mixed set of books: one a is a sort of RomCom book with a hard-to-dispose-of dead body at its centre. One is a mystery set (but not written in) 1928 and one is a Weird West, cowboys and dinosaurs book. I’ve started the RomCom and the Weird West books and I’m keen to finish them. I’m hoping the mystery will give me a new source of comfort reads.
‘Dial A For Aunties’ by Jess Q. Sutanto (2021)
I’ve read the first forty per cent of this book. So far, it’s been a riot of chaotic energy that never lets up. The constant push and pull between the aunties is credible but almost overwhelming. The constantly escalating scale of disaster is groan-worthy (in a good way) and, at the heart of it all is a young woman in search of a happy ending.
If the pace and quality are sustained for the rest of the book, this will be a fun but exhausting ride.
‘Maisie Dobbs’ by Jacqueline Winspear (2003)
I’m starting this book more in hope than expectation. I hope it’s wonderful but I know it could be disappointing.
I’ve read a lot of mysteries set in England in the 1920s that were written by English authors in the 1920s. They set my baseline for understanding what the world was like back then, at least as far as crime fiction goes.
I know that a books set mostly in 1928 but written in 2003 by an author who wasn’t born until 1955 is going to differ from the golden age crime fiction stories and I’m OK with that. This is an author looking back at a time that her grandfather lived through and trying to bring it to life. I expect the storytelling style to be different, including the dialogue and I cannot imagine that this is going to be a book filled with the casual racism, sexism and classism routinely on display amongst the English Middle-Class characters of an England still in the grip of its imperial ambitions. I hope it doesn’t go so far in the other direction that it becomes too anachronistic to be credible.
I’ll be happy if there is a good mystery, a strong engaging main character and not too much interpolation of Twenty-First Century ideas into the heads of people born a century earlier.
‘West Of Prehistoric’ by Erik Testerman (2020)
I was just over halfway through this when I had to set it aside for Halloween Bingo and I’m keen to get back to it. This is an action-packed book that does a good job of making everything feel real, even when we have dinosaurs and Neanderthalswandering around Wyoming in 1888.
The first half of the book sets up the conflict that’s to come and establishes the personality and motivations of the main character. So far, I’ve been impressed. Every time I come up with a, ‘Nah, that couldn’t happen because…’ there’s a plausible explanation that lets me move on happily. The big thing here is that this is a Portal Fantasy, not a ‘Lost World’ scenario. The dinosaurs and Neanderthals aren’t our dinosaurs and Neanderthals, they’re from the other side a portal to a different world. This gives the story a different scope. One of the things that I’ve enjoyed about it is that, unlike our Neandertals who are often characterised as going extinct because homo sapiens were more aggressive and made better tools, these Neanderthals are very aggressive and scarily efficient.