I went in for a crime-fest on holiday:
Hurting Distance and The Point of Rescue, both by Sophie Hannah, are dense, cleverly plotted thrillers with breathtaking denouements, but that’s not what I liked about them. At least, I did like it, but there are lots of other books you could say that about. What I especially like about Sophie Hannah is how human and likeable her characters are. They’re never there just to serve a clever story: they’re living breathing people whom you could imagine meeting and having a conversation with. This is very rare, I think. My favourite book by her is out of print, but if you can hunt down a copy, I recommend Cordial and Corrosive, which is just one of the funniest, cleverest and most unexpected stories I’ve ever read.
I also read two new (to me) Agatha Christies. Ordeal by Innocence was a fairly standard whodunnit: if you like Agatha Christie, you’ll like it well enough. Endless Night is creepier and more original, and well worth reading, especially if you don’t know the ending, which I did.
To balance out the thrillers, I also read some location-specific fiction: Super-Cannes, which I enjoyed in a sort of plodding way – I couldn’t ever quite reconcile the intensity of the action with the languid tone in which it’s conveyed, though I suspect that’s partly the point – and Tender is the Night, which I took a little while to get into but which I ended up loving. I also noticed some unexpected similarities between the two, which I don’t think are coincidental: a character in Super-Cannes is reading Tender is the Night very early on in the book. But I shan’t go into specifics here because I don’t want to spoil anyone.
I am a sucker for a book on language, and I like swearing very much indeed whilst not being very good at it, so I also enjoyed Your Mother’s Tongue: A Book of European Invective, which more or less does what it says on the tin. When it comes to saying the unsayable the similarities between European languages are interesting, and the differences even more so.
Having successfully read some proper books (by which I mean the kind other people write about), I went back and read another Sophie Hannah book. The Fantastic Book of Everybody’s Secrets is a collection of short stories, and it’s a bit more literary than its terrible title makes it sound. I didn’t find every story a hit, but the ones which were good (which crucially included the first one and the last one) were very good.