Dogged & Determined Detective Work

Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö, translated by Lois Roth

Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö are the Swedish couple that more than any other authors really defined the police procedural crime novel in their ten book sequence of Martin Beck novels, of which Roseanna is the first.  Writing in the mid-1960s onwards and influenced by Ed McBain’s 87th precinct novels (which I’ve still yet to read), they were determined to illustrate real Swedish life in their novels.  In real life, crimes are not usually solved in a matter of days or even a couple of weeks; in real life the search for evidence is a painstaking business – things rarely come together as neatly as pictured in most crime novels.

This might make it seem rather boring, but by chronicling the more mundane parts of a police detective’s role they do make it seem real, and what’s more they really breathe life into their characters who are strongly drawn. Martin Beck (he’s rarely referred to as just Martin) is approaching middle age, henpecked at home and a rather absent type of father. He also has a nervous stomach that reacts badly to the endless coffees it is subjected to and smokes too much.  He’s diligent, eager almost, to escape having to go home and brave the awful subway.

When the body of a young woman is pulled out of a lock on the river, the local police call in the National Homicide Bureau and Martin Beck has a new case to occupy his mind.   At first they find it impossible to identify the body – no-one has reported her missing; it’s definitely murder though, she was violently assaulted before she died.

It is some time before it becomes clear that she is a foreigner who was on one of the river-cruises that ply the area, and it must have been someone on board the boat that did it.  Here, over weeks and months, the detectives ply away doggedly at tracking down the passengers and crew to get their recollections of the murdered girl. Eventually they will get their man in a thrilling finish,  but it takes an awful lot of hard work to get there.

Opening with a long and detailed description of a dredger maneuvering  into position to do some work at the locks, this book took a while to get into.  However once we’d met Martin Beck and his team, they were easy to warm to and I began to enjoy the book thoroughly. A pleasant surprise was that all the policemen were human and largely unstereotyped – no shouty super who’d been promoted above his station here.  They got on with their jobs and seemed fulfilled by their work.

Much is always made of Sjöwall & Wahlöö’s communism, and their intention with this decalogue of novels to expose the bourgeois underbelly of Swedish society, which to us was always made out to be very hip and liberal during that period.  This edition of the book is introduced by Henning Mankell who has been very influenced by the series, and also has an interview with Maj Sjöwall at the end too – both of these are interesting extras that are well worth reading.

While each book in the series stands alone as a crime novel, there is character progression which goes right from the start so I’m told, so this is a series which is best to start at the beginning.  In summary, a slightly slow start, but a good introduction to the characters and times.  (7.5/10)

I’m looking forward to the subsequent volumes – The Man Who Went Up in Smoke (1966) is next.  This was one of my Mum’s books.

To buy from Amazon, click below:
The Martin Beck series – Roseanna
The Martin Beck series – The Man Who Went Up in Smoke
Cop Hater (Crime Essentials) by Ed McBain – the 1st 87th Precinct novel (1956)

Happy Birthday to David Lodge

Just doing some updating in Librarything I noticed on a sidebar that it’s David Lodge’s birthday, so I thought I’d highlight this quintessentially British author who is 75 today.

Lodge is a fellow South Londoner, but these days lives and works in Birmingham which he has immortalised in his fictional university city of Rummidge, indeed the halls of academe loom large in much of his work, and that’s where the first book I read by him was set…

Changing Places is a tale of two campuses, Rummidge and Plotinus (modelled on Berkeley, CA), and two lecturers both forty, (as was Lodge when it was published in 1975) do a job-swap.  Brit, Philip Swallow is very conventional – the exact opposite of the loud and snobbish Maurice Zapp, but they gradually find themselves fitting in, especially with each other’s wives!  It’s very much a novel of its time – takes me right back to the 1970s.  It makes a Rummidge trilogy along with Small World which explores the academic gravy train, and 1984’s Nice Work; Swallow and Zapp appear in both.  The latter two were both televised, and Lodge adapted Nice Work himself.

The last Lodge book I read, which was a couple of years ago, was The British Museum is Falling Down – one of his 60s novels, set in swinging London and about Catholics, contraception and procrastination.  It was funny, but it wasn’t until I got to the end and read the afterword, that I realised it contained a whole series of literary pastiches in from Joyce’s Ulysses to Kafka – only having read one of the spoofed texts I could be forgiven this though.

I’ve got around four other Lodge novels in the TBR plus his book about how literature works The Art of Fiction; in particular I have been meaning to read Deaf Sentence (2008) for ages, so I shall go and  ‘rummidge ‘ around for it …

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAVID LODGE

To check out books on Amazon UK, click below:
Deaf Sentence, The British Museum is Falling Down, Changing Places, Small World, Nice Work, The Art of Fiction

Will this hustle live up to the mark …

Fall Girl by Toni Jordan

After my previous post, another second novel.  But first a few words about its predecessor.

Australian author Toni Jordan’s first novel Addition (which I reviewed here) was a quirky and witty romance, in which the main character Grace had a form of OCD which led to her counting everything and hero-worshiping Nikola Tesla.  It was a super debut of intelligent chick-lit that made me laugh; it got a lot of attention too, being picked for the Richard & Judy bookclub back in 2008 in the UK. Now on to Fall Girl

As always with second novels, the follow-up to a successful debut always has a lot to live up to.  Fall Girl didn’t have the spark of genius in the counting that set Addition apart, but it does have strong lead characters that make it sizzle, and a lively plot full of little twists that made it a great pageturner.

Della is part of an amazing family of grifters – con-artists all.  Now in her mid-twenties, she’s ready to start leading some cons, and she’s found a mark.  Daniel Metcalf is a millionaire playboy with a charitable trust that funds scientific projects.  They plan to play him for a good sum, with Della posing as an evolutionary biologist, searching for evidence of a species that is meant to have become extinct. It should have been easy, but the stakes get raised and the short-con becomes a long one – someone could be heading for a fall!

Anyone who’s seen any episodes of the BBC TV show Hustle will broadly know what to expect.  Family members all have parts to play in the con to ensure everything appears totally hunky-dory. Everything is honed to give the expected result, but Della has never met anyone like Daniel before.

You couldn’t help but like Della and her family. They have you rooting for them right from the start – like the guys in Hustle, they only take from the rich and greedy – modern day Robin Hoods without the giving to the poor bit.  In a book of this sort you’re also looking for some romance, and this has girl meets boy action with twists.  Della and Daniel are a sparky pair of leads (ooh – do excuse that unintended pun), akin to Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant – their dialogue was great, and it was fun all the way.  This book also managed to make me feel summery (if but briefly) in the depths of winter which is an added benefit.  A light-hearted and definitely entertaining romance – I enjoyed it and believe Fall Girl should do well.  (8/10)

To buy items from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
Fall Girl & Addition – both by Toni Jordan.
Hustle – Series 1-6 [DVD]
Book chosen from a list sent to review by Amazon Vine.

‘Guantanamo UK’ & the Hotel California

The Facility by Simon Lelic

Simon Lelic’s first novel, Rupture, was such a breath of fresh air last year that when I was able to get my hands on an advance copy of his second, I could hardly wait to read it and for the publication date to get near.  Would it be as innovative as his stunning debut, Rupture, (which I reviewed here), or would it be a ‘difficult second novel’ ?

I’m please to report that it’s rather good. While lacking its predecessor’s way of interleaving a good police procedural with striking first person statements from those involved, The Facility is instead a thriller, and it does have a style all of its own…

As the book opens a prisoner called Arthur is being interrogated in violent fashion immersing us in strong language, torture and crudity on the part of the questioners. Immediately you are aware that reading the book will require a degree of stamina to cope with it. Chapter two switches to a secret government establishment; the Governor, Graves, is showing the a minister from the home office around the as yet unoccupied building…

Jenkins jabs his chin towards the centrepiece of the quad: a fountain, depicting Neptune in a chariot  behind three horses. ‘A touch extravagant, would you not say?”
‘It is hideous, I know.  The whole building, really, is an architectural chimera. His Majesty, for one, would not approve. There’s Gothic here, Romanesque there, Palladian  and Tudor in the outbuildings. None of it original, of course. Except for the staff quarters, which were  built in the fifties.’
‘You got it working, though. You left the damp but fixed the fountain.’
‘It was no great expense, minister. We felt it would be beneficial. The sound of running water, a place for the men and women to gather. You understand, I’m sure.’
‘They are prisoners, Graves.’
‘They will be imprisoned, minister. It is perhaps not quite the same thing.
‘Guff,’ says Jenkins. ‘Of course it’s the same thing.’

The scene is set, we’re in the near future – King Charles would appear to be on the throne.  The government du jour have put in place ‘The Unified Security Act’ which was designed for terrorists, but in practice let’s them do whatever they want to whomever they want.  ‘Guantanamo UK’ as a newspaper headline says in the book.

We’ve still one more thread to pick up – Arthur’s wife visits an investigative journalist, Tom, convinced her husband has been ‘disappeared’ wrongly by the police. They’re not telling, so Julia implores Tom to take up the case, and against his editor’s better judgement of it all being a conspiracy theory, he does.

The thriller then works out through these three voices – Arthur, the wrongly imprisoned man; Graves, the former prison Governor who is not happy being involved in this top-secret work; and Tom, searching for answers.   It soon becomes clear that most of the inmates are sick, but that Arthur is not. Government doctors arrive talking of trials for a cure, Graves finds himself overruled, largely impotent to help and essentially trapped – ‘you can check out any time you want, but you can never leave’ as the Eagles sang in Hotel California. I found Graves the most interesting character by far as he comes to realise his own guilt at being part of this plan.

‘What if’ novels always have big questions at their heart.  For all we know, we could already have a dormant ‘plague-hospital’ in a sparsely populated area of the country. The author shows some anger at the way people who have not been charged with anything can be treated; at homophobia and racism; political double-speak; and so on. For the most part, he doesn’t attempt to answer any of the questions, leaving them hanging, keeping you thinking about them. In this way he subverts the thriller genre with this pessimistic view of the near future.

This is a bleak and unsettling book which I really enjoyed reading.  Rupture was a ‘Whydunnit'; The Facility is a ‘What if’ – I wonder which question his third book will pose? (8/10)

I picked up this book as my Quizmaster’s perks last autumn. For some other reviews, visit Farm Lane Books and Follow the Thread.

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To purchase from Amazon UK, click below:
The Facility
Rupture
Hotel California by The Eagles

Incoming …

A box arrived yesterday, and it turned out to be full of books – yes I actually won a prize (I think!) – a set of bestsellers from Hodder. Thank you very much!

Now there’s some good stuff in this pile, and I know I’m currently engaged in the TBR Dare, but one of these books in particular is just itching to be picked up by me – Can you guess which one it is?

To buy any of these from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
Before I Fall One Day Al Murray the Pub Landlord Says Think Yourself British House Rules The Elephant to Hollywood Full Dark, No Stars The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet Kirstie’s Homemade Home

Becoming human

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

This book has won the top awards for children’s fiction going – the US Newbery, the UK Carnegie, plus a Hugo for SF/Fantasy amongst many other awards and nominations. The Graveyard Book is Gaiman’s first full length novel for children since Coraline, (which I loved and reviewed here). Would it live up to my expectations and the hype, as it had been sitting on my bedside pile for long enough…?

The story of Nobody Owens, a boy whose family were all murdered one night in the first few pages of the book.   He was just a toddler then, but somehow evaded the killer by toddling into the adjacent graveyard, where a pair of kindly ghosts adopt him and give him his name. They bring him up with the help of the mysterious Silas who becomes his mentor – a rather vampirical character; all the other spectral inhabitants of the graveyard help out of course.  Young ‘Bod’, as they call him, gets a rather fantastical education from all of these phantoms, many of whom died centuries ago.  As he grows up he has many adventures in the graveyard with the ghosts, also venturing into some of the other portals within. As he nears adolescence though, he yearns to find out what lies outside – but the murderer is still looking for him.  Bod has to find the perfect balance and manage not to draw attention to himself, but he is a caring boy and when he stands up for a bullied child he puts himself in danger …

I’d defy older children and frankly anyone else not to enjoy this book.  The various adventures of Bod as he grows up read like short stories, with the linked background and threat of murder all the way through. Gaiman wrote with Kipling’s Jungle Book as inspiration for the tale of an orphan brought up by non-humans, and then puts his own macabre and spooky twists on the orphan’s tale.   The Graveyard itself has a ‘Highgate Cemetery’ feel to it with its old stones and its very own Egyptian Avenue – Highgate enthusiast Audrey Niffenegger took Gaiman on the tour.

What I liked about the graveyard was that during the daytime it is a haven, a tranquil place for reflection, yet one where you wouldn’t be surprised to find children happily playing among the headstones.  Step outside the consecrated ground into the big, bad world beyond though, and its powers and inhabitants can no longer help you. This is where one of the other great characters in the book was helpful – Liza Hempstock, a young witch who died in the ducking stool was buried outside, and has a wonderful devil may care attitude, but Bod befriends her and she comes to his aid.

Gaiman’s imagination is fantastic, and aided by Chris Riddell’s wonderfully quirky illustrations (I’m a huge fan of Riddell), this book leapt off the page.  Also published in a YA/adult crossover edition with illustrations by Dave McKean too.

The Graveyard Book is much less of a horror story than Coraline, this book is more of a coming of age tale, and has positively wistful moments too – I loved it. (9/10)

I bought this book (with the Riddell illustrations). For another recent review read what Simon S thought about it.

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To buy from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
The Graveyard Book
Coraline

Gaskella’s Midweek Miscellany

So a few weeks in and one chunky book under my belt, how am I getting on with my Kindle

Pretty well I think.  I’m used to the smaller amount of text on the screen versus the page, I’ve used the bookmarking and highlighting functions,  searched for a half-remembered quote and found it.  I’ve downloaded several free classics, plus a book for my daughter if she wants a go; I used the dictionary too.  I’m definitely on top of most of the functions, and I’ve only dropped it once when I fell asleep reading – luckily onto a soft surface.    Last night was the first time I had to recharge it having used it most days, but turning the wi-fi off when you don’t need it does preserve the juice.  The e-ink is great to read too, not tiring on the eye at all.

These are all positives. Are there any negatives – well yes in that it’s frustrating having to backbutton through masses of pages to find a bit you suddenly need to refer back to.    It would be nicer if Kindle books came with bookmarks built in for the chapters and popular passages.  Meanwhile I need to remember to insert my own more often.  On balance though, it’s a hit.

I’m going to start reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo next. Limiting myself to the free classics for now could be a great way of expanding my education in this area!

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Changing tack now – how am I getting on with the TBR Dare?  Well, seventeen days into the ninety I signed up for, I’ve not bought a single book, I’ve even turned down one offer of freebies.  I have been into my local bookshop, where I bought not books, but a Puffin Mug(!) and a ticket to see Jasper Fforde on February 22nd in Abingdon, (click here for details.)  I may have to give in for this event and buy one book so that I can get it signed, but if I survive until then and promise  not to read it or buy any other new books until the end of March, you’ll let me off won’t you?

Resistance isn’t futile

Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada, trans Michael Hofmann

I was put off reading this book for months, anticipating that it would be too difficult, too philosophical, too heavy; also that being 608 pages including appendices it would take too long to read.  I was wrong on all accounts.

Alone in Berlin was written in just a few weeks in 1946 by its author, who died shortly afterwards.  It chronicles the life of various folk living in Berlin during the horrors of WWII, but concentrating on the Quangel family.  The Quangels are a quiet couple. Their son is away at war, Otto is a foreman in a factory, while Anna keeps house. They live in an old apartment block alongside  Nazi supporters, an old Jewish widow, a retired judge, and in the basement a drunken spiv called Borkhausen and his prostitute wife.

One day the post brings bad news, their son is dead and the shock is enough to cure Otto of any pro-regime feelings, he wants to do something, although you’d never know from the outside, as he is so taciturn and unemotional. Although he is uneducated, he decides to write anti-Hitler postcards and leave them in buildings around Berlin.  At first, he doesn’t want Anna to get involved, but grudgingly he lets her in on his act of rebellion.

What he doesn’t know is that most of the postcards never get to pass on their treasonable messages, they get handed straight in to the Gestapo, where Inspector Escherich is on the case.  Thus begins a game of cat and mouse – Escherich has the right ideas, but can’t manage to catch the Hobgoblin, as he calls the postcard writer.  They manage to catch the wrong man – Borkhausen’s friend, Enno Kluge – a workshy drunk and gambler, but Escherich knows he’s not the one and despairs of his superiors and predilections for beating up prisoners while drunk.  He begins to respect his adversary.

Eventually though Otto makes a mistake, the Quangels are arrested, separated and imprisoned. They are not to meet again until their trial.  Their prison experiences make for gruesome reading, as they, and their family and friends are all treated appallingly. The Quangel’s trial is a joke; their sentence is sad and inevitable.

What came over strongly to me was that this was a tale of ordinary people; all have their faults, some many more than others. For all of them, getting through these terrible times by whatever means is their priority. Borkhausen and Kluge try to rob the old widow, but get caught by the Nazi Persickes who then try and do a deal when they see her riches.  The old judge offers the widow sanctuary, but she can’t cope with his strict rules for hiding her. Enno’s wife throws him out, again, and he then works his charms on the widowed owner of a pet shop before the police catch up with him.  Forgive me for sounding glib, but it is a regular soap opera, complete with end of episode cliff-hangers.  In comparison with the Quangels who mostly maintain a calm manner with dignity throughout their ordeals, and the Inspector with (some) principles, the supporting cast are a motley crew.

Fascinating as the view of life under Hitler in wartime Berlin was, these digressions and side-stories, strung out the main tale for me.  It could have lost maybe two hundred pages for me and been a much tauter, more thrilling story.  So much time was spent with Enno Kluge in particular, that we were in danger or forgetting the real rebels – the Quangels.

The Quangels’ story was in fact based upon real people – Otto and Elise Hampel, and this edition includes examples of the actual postcards they produced along with some of the Gestapo papers from their case.  Those and the extensive afterword were as  interesting as the novel itself for me.  Stylistically, I found it slightly strange that the novel drops in and out so much between present and past tenses; this didn’t make it in any way unreadable, just something that struck me.

In summary, another book that I’m glad to have read – the first book for me written by a German about life in Germany during the war.  There’s no doubting the courage of the rebels, both real and fictional, but the novel didn’t quite live up to my expectations.  (6.5/10)
Book chosen from a list to review supplied by Amazon Vine.

Other reviews: Asylum, Reading Matters, A Common Reader

To buy from Amazon.co.uk, click  Alone in Berlin (Penguin Modern Classics) by Hans Fallada

A Whale of a Read!

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

This was our Book Group’s choice for our Christmas  read – we always tackle a classic over the festive season. This time we couldn’t decide between ourselves, so everyone threw a suggestion in the hat and this came out.

Moby Dick is one of those books I always planned to read eventually as it is such an influential classic.  Amazingly I didn’t have a copy so I ordered the Oxford World’s Classics edition, which has helpful notes, an introductory essay by Tony Tanner which explores many of the facets of the book, and extracts from Melville’s correspondence with Nathaniel Hawthorne about the book.  Christmas came and it hadn’t arrived – stuck in the backlog, so I downloaded it as my first Kindle book – paying for the same edition I’d ordered.

Published in 1851, Moby Dick is the tale of one man’s obsession with catching a wily old white whale.  Captain Ahab lost his leg to Moby, and won’t stop at anything to get his revenge on the creature.   The story is narrated by Ishmael, who wants to get experience on a whaling ship.

In New Bedford, Massachusetts, he agrees to share a room, little knowing the other occupant is a tattooed Polynesian harpooner; however once they both get over the shock, Ishmael and Queequeg become bosum pals and Queequeg is, despite his savage ways, a delight and fast became my favourite character.

Before leaving for Nantucket to find a ship, they visit the Seaman’s Bethel – the Whaler’s chapel in New Bedford.  This is real (see right).  On my last US holiday back in 2004 we passed through New Bedford (on our way to Battleship Cover at Fall River with its collection of old naval vessels).  Anyway, we visited the whaling museum and passed by the chapel, which sadly wasn’t open but did provide the photo-op.

Back to the whale, off they go to Nantucket where they sign on for the crew of the Pequod which is due to sail on a three year voyage.  We’re up to chapter 16 and still no sign of Captain Ahab; Ishmael is getting curious, worried even about his to-be boss …

Turning back I accosted Captain Peleg, inquiring where Captain Ahab was to be found.
‘And what dost thou want of Captain Ahab? It’s all right enough; thou art shipped.’
‘Yes, but I should like to see him.’
‘But I don’t think thou wilt be able to at present. I don’t know exactly what’s the matter with him; but he keeps close inside the house; a sort of sick, and yet he don’t look so. In fact, he ain’t sick; but no, he isn’t well either. Any how, young man, he won’t always see me, so I don’t suppose he will thee. He’s a queer man, Captain Ahab – so some think – but a good one. Oh, thou’lt like him well enough; no fear, no fear. He’s a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab; doesn’t speak much; but, when he does speak, then you may well listen….’

We don’t fully meet Ahab for another twelve chapters, and several days after setting sail.

It was one of those less lowering, but sill grey and gloomy enough mornings of the transition, when with a fair wind the ship was rushing through the water with a vindictive sort of leaping and melancholy rapidity, that as I mounted to the deck at the call of the forenoon watch, so soon as I leveled my glance towards the taffrail, foreboding shivers ran over me. Reality outran apprehension; Captain Ahab stood upon his quarterdeck.

I’m not going to outline any more of the plot, but you can see that it’s shaping up to be an epic saga – and I would have been very happy to read it as such. However, the book is much more than an adventure yarn.

Melville had experience as a sailor on a whaling-ship, and he was inspired by actual events earlier in the 1800s when a Nantucket ship was sunk after being rammed by a whale, and the alleged killing of a great albino whale off the coast of Chile. Melville has Ishmael, the character is himself an auto-didact, tell us all he learns about whales, whaling and the philosophy of it all – and I do mean all! We have many chapters on the natural history of this giant creature – all the different sub-species, whale anatomy – with individual chapters on the spout, tail, and so on. Then there were chapters about the business of whaling in great detail.  Melville wants to educate us as well as entertain and make us think.

For me, this broke up the story too much, so that I ended up skimming through the whaling manual to cut to the chase, (rather as I did with War and Peace on my first reading as a teenager – I only read the Peace chapters fully).   This destroyed the momentum of the plot and diluted the impact of the sad tale for me.  Whatever you may think of it though, whales and whaling during this time-period are a fascinating business. Overall, I’m really glad I persevered to the end – it was a very worthwhile read, and those who did likewise in our group also got a lot out of this revered tome. (7/10 overall)

One of our group watched the John Huston film starring Gregory Peck to back it up, (the film also has a magnificent cameo by Orson Welles as the preacher in the chapel so I’m told).

On perusing my shelves, I may not have had a copy of Moby Dick, but I did find two more well thought of books on whales and whaling – Leviathan by Philip Hoare, and In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philibrick – both of which I am now minded to read sooner rather than later!

P.S. Did you know – the First Mate of the Pequod is called ‘Starbuck’ – and they did name Starbucks after him, although apparently only after Pequod was rejected!

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To buy from Amazon.co.uk, click below:
Moby Dick (Oxford World’s Classics) by Herman Melville
Moby Dick [DVD] starring Gregory Peck, Richard Basehart, directed by John Huston (1956)
Moby Dick [DVD] Mini-series starring Patrick Stewart (2004)
… and some further reading:
In the Heart of the Sea: The Epic True Story that Inspired ‘Moby Dick’ by Nathaniel Philibrick
Leviathan by Philip Hoare

Time Travel & Romance – A Steampunky Love Story

My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time by Liz Jensen

No Liz Jensen book is ever like any other by her, or anyone else for that matter. The three I’ve now read were all quirky in different ways, and great fun to read.  Dirty Little Book, as I shall call it for short, combines a historical setting in 19thC fin de siècle Copenhagen with Wellsian time travel to London’s new millennium and would be considered steampunk if it wasn’t for the central romance at the heart of the story.

Charlotte is a part-time prostitute, but is always on the lookout for better opportunities for herself and her lump of a sidekick Fru Schleswig, (whom everyone seems to think is her mother).  She gets them a job cleaning the house of the widow Krak, whose husband has disappeared under mysterious circumstances.  The widow is desperate to marry the Pastor, but Professor Krak’s body has not been found, and there are strange goings-on in the basement where Charlotte is not allowed to go.  Charlotte ‘gets to know’ the Pastor for leverage, but eventually she decides she has to brave the basement – where she discovers the Professor and his time/wormhole machine and she and her limpet Fru Schleswig are whizzed into twenty-first century London docklands, where she discovers not only a whole host of ex-pat 19thC Danes all happily living new lives, full of wondrous labour-saving gadgets (Fru Schleswig adores vacuum cleaners), but she meets a twenty-first century bloke – Fergus and falls properly in love for the first time.   But that’s not the end of her adventure as Fergus and Charlotte end up getting separated in time again and must find their way back together.

I really enjoyed this witty and slightly saucy adventure; like the best farces, it moves apace and is full of energy.  Charlotte is a very likeable and spunky (!) heroine, Fergus is a dear, and Fru Schleswig is a hilarious lardy creation.  Although it has the time-travel and steampunky edge to it, it isn’t science-fiction – it’s a Cinderella story with a difference!  (9/10)

Liz Jensen’s novel War Crime for the Home was one of the first posts on my blog back in 2008 – I loved that book too and you can read my thoughts here.

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To buy books from Amazon.co.uk click below:
My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time
War Crimes for the Home