I have chosen three very different books for this month's review, two of which I can highly recommend and one which sadly left me disappointed.
Alex by Pierre Lemaitre
Pierre Lemaitre has recently won France's most coveted literary award the Prix Concourt for Au Revoir La Haut, and received the international CWA International dagger award for Alex. Alex is his first thriller to be translated and I hope not his last. Alex is one of the best crime thrillers I have read in a long time. Alex knows she is being watched, but that is not unusual she is an attractive woman. When she is attacked, savagely beaten and abducted by her stalker, Alex's nightmare begins. She is taken to an abandoned warehouse and subjected to an horrific ordeal culminating in being caged in a tiny wooden crate suspended from the ceiling and left to die. Her abduction had been witnessed and Commandant Camille Verhoevan and his team are in a race against time to find her. Camille is no more than 4 ft 11ins tall, stunted before birth by his mother's smoking habit. He is haunted by the abduction and murder of his pregnant wife but he is a great detective. This is only the beginning of this intricately plotted and gripping thriller. It has more twists and turns than a rollercoaster and totally unpredictable. Great characters, great plot, satisfying and unexpected ending. A must read.
The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling
This is J K Rowling's first adult novel and chosen by the Boston book group to read last month. I love Harry Potter and had high expectations but felt sadly let down, this is most definitely not Harry Potter. Set in the fictional village of Pagford, the casual vacancy for a place on the parish council occurs after the sudden death of Barry Fairbrother. It is a study of provincial life with many characters most of who seem to be unpleasant, unhappy, miserable or dead. There are so many characters and so many issues in this book, drug abuse and drug addiction, self harming, bullying, racism, domestic violence, child neglect, rape, accidental death and suicide to name just some. It felt like the author had been repressed when writing Harry Potter and was now unleashing all the sex, swearing and violence previously off limits in her children's books. J K Rowling is a good story teller and creates well observed characters and weaves them into the plot. However this book is full of despair and frankly bleak. A final note, the book group gave the Casual Vacancy the lowest score of any book we have read!
Eat - the little book of fast food by Nigel Slater
It is that time of year when we are all buying books for presents and as we are not all readers of fiction I am reviewing Eat. If you want a great cookery book then look no further. In my kitchen I still have a copy of Nigel Slater's first book Real Fast Food and twenty years later Nigel has revisited the ideas in that book. This is a book for our modern lifestyles but it is more about simplicity and using great ingredients than speed of getting food onto the table. Eat is not just a series of recipes and tempting pictures of food, although it has those, but Nigel Slater is one of our best food writers. He writes about food with ease and a great sense of passion. Eat contains more than 500 beautifully simple recipes. Nigel just seems to make cooking into a hassle free and enjoyable experience. The style of writing may be a little unfamiliar to those expecting a precise list of ingredients and method but this is so full of innovative recipes you will be using this book for years to come. I could tempt you with some of the recipes I have already tried which have all been delicious but just put Eat on your Christmas wish list and try them yourself.