Monday, 24 August 2009

Keeping It In The Family - Number 1 - AN EYE FOR AN EYE - Frank Muir

Well, here is the first in an occasional series where Mum, Dad and I will all comment on the same book. Since we all like different things, here's a quick reference guide to the reading habits of the Moore Family (like the Addams Family but not as rich and twice as scary).

LIKES: cosies, historicals, puzzles, police procedurals where there is not a lot of gore, no sex and definitely no swearing.
DISLIKES: gore, sex, swearing, romance, science fiction. She once tried a Martina Cole (The Ladykiller) and rang me up whispering (god alone knows why she felt the need to whisper, she was sitting in her own living room at the time) to tell me she'd just read part of a pornographic book, and she was shocked. "It had 'lady' in the title, but they weren't, dear." And, apparently, after she read mine, she had to have a small glass of sherry, and then spent the next hour wandering around the house shaking her head and muttering "Weird. My daughter is weird, weird weird." Guess that'll be the blurb for the next one then.
PREFERS: Miss Marple to Philip Marlowe, Inspector Morse to Homicide (and don't even ask about The Wire).

LIKES: thrillers, spy novels, war stories and books with elves in (the elves can swear their heads off as far as he's concerned). Oh, and maps. He bloody loves maps. If you ever meet him, for goodness' sake don't ask him for directions. Not even to the bathroom.
DISLIKES: romance, books that have too much swearing in (I guess that's my Dad not going to read my next book either, then - I thought it was just my Mum I had to keep away from it). Also doesn't like horror, and books with vampires, pterodactyls and the living dead in them. Also, something called an ungoliant. No, I have no idea either - I think my Dad has been at the sherry too.
PREFERS: Philip Marlowe to Miss Marple, Inspector Morse to Homicide.

LIKES: noir, hard-boiled, capers, PI novels, police procedurals, warped, quirky and funny books.
DISLIKES: cosies - especially those where the protagonist has a heavily featured hobby (I once got a gluten allergy from reading a book where the heroine made bread every three pages), or books where an animal solves the crime. Unless it's a dinosaur (as in Eric Garcia's wonderful series about basil addicted Vincent Rubio).

I'm not a big fan of serial killer books (and I'm not talking books that just happen to have a serial killer IN (I love books by Steve Mosby, Mark Billingham etc)), I mean books where it's all about the quirks. The more patterns or quirks the killer has, the more blood is spilled and body parts mutilated, the more good writing, character development and a decent plot seem to go out of the window. The ones I don't like are where the author seems to think that making their killer a murderer of blue eyed women with one arm (the women, not the murderer), who drowns his victims in an increasingly violent way in a vat of hot chocolate, while narrating The Rhyme of The Ancient Mariner, drawing a picture of a squirrel on the wall and scattering rose petals around the bathroom is all the character development and justification the avid reader needs. A-ha - the serial killer was burned by a scalding mug of hot chocolate as a baby, force-fed him by his mother Rose, a blue-eyed ex-Womens Royal Navy sailor who lost an arm in a bizarre accident involving a rabid squirrel.

I'm also not big on spy thrillers and medical thrillers. If I see a jacket blurb which mentions the White House, and the words 'explosive' and 'conspiracy' and which has a shadowy picture of someone rappelling down a big building, carrying a large knife dripping blood, or an enormous syringe, then I'm more likely to put it down in a hurry than slap in into my shopping basket with glee. I have the same reaction to 'Knights Templar' and 'Illuminati'.

I don't like gratuitous anything - but then, one person's gratuitous is another person's prerequisite. My Mum would definitely find most of the books I read have gratuitous sex, violence and swearing. I find the books she likes have gratuitous cats. And butlers. And people being poisoned with rare poison from the Three Kneed Scarlet Guatemalan Tree Frog. And gentility. As for the sex, well, if it fits (oo-er missus) then it's fine. But again, one person's unnecessary may not be another person's. I have read crime fiction where it seems to be put in for titillation purposes (as though someone has said to the author "There's not enough heaving bosoms. Spice it up a bit. Page 58's a bit dull, stick a sex scene in there." And, since I do a lot of my reading on public transport, I don't particularly want to be titillated at 8am on a wet Monday morning while sitting on the bus next to a drooling bloke who's oozing curry and beer from every pore. Call me straight-laced, but... And sometimes, sex scenes can be funny without meaning to be. I read a mystery a few years ago where the woman was asleep and the man slid one hand between her thighs and the other into her mouth. And this was supposed to be erotic. I'm sorry, but if anyone slides anything in my mouth while I'm sleeping, then I'm probably going to dream it's a chocolate eclair and chomp down hard. On the other hand, there are plenty of books that do it well, but I'm not going to mention any of them just in case you tell my Mum.

PREFERS: Raymond Chandler to Miss Marple, Homicide to Inspector Morse.

Whoops, sorry about that. Got carried away there. I'm not even sure that any of the above is useful. The only area where we all agree is the romance category (none of that icky luuuuurve stuff for the cold-hearted Moores thank you very much). As far as all of our dislikes are concerned, there are, of course, exceptions to every rule - I was going to say I didn't like vampires until I remembered that I love Charlie Huston's books.

I shall shut up now and leave you with the reviewlets - in order of how popular the book was with us.

Frank Muir - EYE FOR AN EYE
Publisher: Luath Press 2007
Published: 2009

Dad's Comments:

The story tells of the investigation into eight deaths by DI Andy Gilchrist, who due to a jealous or incompetent DCI is suspended from the force and decides to go it alone. The murders of men who habitually abused their wives were carried out in a gruesome and unique way, and part of the investigation concentrates on locating the source of the murder weapon.

This was an easy book to read, though I was not sure about the Anglo Saxon words used. The ones that referred to bodily functions were, in the main, used in context. it was rather like hitting your thumb with a hammer, strong language sounds better than "Oh bother". I thought that the references to reproduction were a little overdone.

There are quite a number of false leads or suspects which are relevant to the story, and the twist at the end is bizarre to say the least. It was a story that I enjoyed reading, I look forward to HAND FOR A HAND, the next in the series about Andy Gilchrist.

My Comments:

The premise of AN EYE FOR AN EYE is that there is a serial killer called The Stabber terrorising Saint Andrews. The victims are all men who abuse women, they are all attacked during storms, and they are all stabbed in the left eye. Anyone who has a copy of the Moore Family checklist in hand is by now licking the tip of their pencil and saying "Hmmmmmm, this one won't go down very well with the annoyingly verbose one." Well, in one way, you would be correct. I sighed when I read the prologue - why must serial killers always write in italics? I mused to myself, twisting the legs off a wasp. However, there was a lot about this book that I liked - particularly the main character - DI Andy Gilchrist, and a couple of the supporting cast. There were things he did that I didn't agree with, but I found him an easy and interesting character to read about.

The dialogue is excellent and it's very well paced. I also enjoyed the St Andrews setting - traditionally the home of golf and where princes go to university. I will be interested to read the next one, but hope that there's no serial killer next time.

Mum's Comments:
Eeee, our Donna, why did you give me that book? I only read a page or two - not even a whole chapter. It's not my sort of book - you know that. I like a nice story with a nice beginning, a middle and an end and with no language in. I didn't read enough to see whether I liked it. Not my cup of tea. You can have a nice story that's down to earth without all that in it.

So there you have it. Was that remotely useful? Interesting? To be repeated, or never again?


  1. forgot to tell you. I do not like horor Horrer( bloody hell, it wo'nt cum owt rite)stories with vampires, pterodactyls and the living dead in them. Elves and dwarves are OK, but I did not like Ungoliant, Hah I hear you say, "Who the hell is Ungoliant" ?

  2. Very good, Donna! I would never have got to this point with my parents. The only book(s) my daughters and Prof Petrona and I have all read is (are) Harry Potter and we all love those, though Prof P wobbles occasionally and has to be put right.
    Most of us have read Mark Haddon's "The curious incident" though only two of us are prepared to discuss what we think of it.

    I am a crime fiction addict; Prof P likes military (army and navy) history and thrillers eg Bernard Cornwell and Le Carre; Cathy is currently reading through that vampire series that they've made a TV series of - Charlaine Harris - I am allergic to vampires but she (Cathy) tells me there is mystery in them; and Jenny reads loads of different things but won't usually say what or talk about it. Weird family or what?

    (We all like Lord of the Rings, though not all of us have read the books.)

  3. An entertaining read, Miss Donna. To be repeated, I hope. How about trying Caro Ramsay's latest? There's not too much swearing in that.

  4. Dad - the post is updated with your latest dislikes. What have you got against pterodactyls?

    Maxine - I'm glad you can keep Prof P under control. As you can see, there is no possibility of that with my family.

    Michael - glad you enjoyed it, and good call on Caro Ramsay. I think my mum might cope with that :o) I have a copy of SINGING TO THE DEAD so will nip to Borders as soon as and get another one for the MaterPaters.

  5. Donna, what a very normal Mum and Dad you have. We definitely need more of your Mum's comments. ;O)

  6. Norm - yes, funnily enough, she always says the same...

  7. Definitely continue. I love your blog anyway but now see where you got your sense of humor. Love your mum and dad.

    Judy Bobalik

  8. I am glad that someone else appreciates LOR, you took me to see the films Donna and bought me theDVD's. To find out who Ungoliant is you will need to read "The Silmarilion" Gives a lot of the background to the other books, and there are juicy murders as well.

  9. Judy - thank you my dear, but don't encourage him :o)

    Dad - yes, I hope you appreciate the sacrifices a wonderful daughter makes for her Dad.

  10. Bravo! Bravo!

    Wonderful group effort. I think your Mum is spot on with her review - is very similar to mine :)

    Now to be totally fair, and to give a balanced look, the next 'Donna's Family' group review should be one your mum picks.

    Don't worry Donna - your reputation as a 'Bad-Ass' won't be compromised - although I do remember when I first 'met' you that you were an occassional member of the fluffy bunny brigade until you were seduced to the dark side full time.

  11. Sally - hooroo and thank you! I am going to be good to my Mum next time and try and give her something she would like. I love the dark side bwahahahahahahaha. However, I still enjoy lighter stuff from time to time - I love Colin Cotterill's series for instance. I just don't like the cloying sweet stuff

  12. I like a nice story ... with no language in

    Does she only look at the pictures?

    I did not like Ungoliant

    What's not to like in an evil giant spider?
    I see the prejudice against our slimy and creepy-crawly friends runs in the family

  13. Marco - only if they are NICE pictures. And yes, you are correct - the whole anti-slimycreepycrawly thing must be genetic :o)