Hey, it’s May! Can I please put my freakin’ jacket away now? Please?
Anywhoo, it’s time once again for another glorious roundup of books I’ve read in the last month. I decided to take it easy in April and not zip through so many books one after the next. Also, the last roundup post was quite lengthy and a bit of a monster to put together. Lesson learned: pace yourself!
The Ghost Hunters by Neil Spring
In 1926, a young woman named Sarah Grey reluctantly accompanies her mother to the gala opening of the National Laboratory for Psychic Research, the brainchild of noted psychical researcher and self-made scientist Harry Price. Charmed by the older man and impressed by the passion he has for his work, Sarah comes to work for Price as his trusted assistant, aiding him in his investigations into the paranormal. Three years later, a newspaper reporter comes to Price with a request from a village rector concerning a ‘series of troubling occurrences’ witnessed in and around his home. The place – Borley Rectory, rumored to be ‘the most haunted house in England’.
I do love me some good historical fiction, especially when the premise involves the unexplained and the supernatural, but this book was a huge mixed bag for me. I think author Neil Spring’s fictionalized portray of Harry Price is one of the most interesting things in the book, alongside the infamous Borley Rectory and its various inhabitants, both living and non-living. Many of the book’s truly spine-tingling moments take place in the house and I think Spring did a decent job of bringing to life a lot of the actual historical accounts surrounding it. What didn’t work for me was Sarah Grey herself; while I was convinced of her reasons for feeling drawn to Price and his work, she isn’t as compelling and interesting as the other characters. I was also terribly annoyed by how often Sarah’s relationship with Price is brought up, largely by other people, forcing her to respond in a manner which had me groaning out loud on several occasions. If I hadn’t been so invested in the mystery and the spook factor, I don’t think I would’ve been able to get through the book.
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Yep, it’s an audiobook! I couldn’t secure a physical edition of the book after its release, so I waited a couple of months until the audiobook became available and scored it for free from Audible.com – no, this isn’t a plug but you can get your first audiobook for free when you sign up. It languished on my Kindle untouched until recently, when I started getting back into the weekly habit of taking long hot soaks in the bathtub and wanted something else to listen to besides old episodes of A Podcast to the Curious and Lore, and Interpol on repeat.
Meddling Kids comes from the mind of Spanish author Edgar Cantero, who is best known for his first English-language debut, The Supernatural Enhancements. With his second book, Cantero tries for a more horror vibe in a HP Lovecraft-meets-The Scooby Gang setup. The story revolves around a group of budding teen sleuths once known as The Blyton Summer Detectives Club. After solving their last case, the teens go their separate ways, developing into dysfunctional adults who’ve each been scarred by their last adventure together. Thirteen years have passed, and the former friends reform to re-investigate the events of that fateful night and to confront the shadows that have followed them into their adult lives.
As an audiobook, Meddling Kids isn’t the greatest; I found Kyla Garcia’s reading a little on the bland side, and it effected how I perceived certain characters based on the voices she gave them. I held on though, because the story turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected and I had become oddly invested in the mystery behind one character’s non-corporeal existence. Also, things get really exciting in the Third Act, just when you think everything is going to be fine and all your friends are alive and accounted for. Ha-ha, hold on to your butts.
I’m still on the lookout for a printed edition to read. When I tried to order it through my local library, I was informed that the book was ‘out of print’. Uh, noooo? Mind you, this was a couple of days after its initial release. I’ll try again, but if it’s still unavailable here in the UK, I think I’m going to have to beg my older brother in Hawaii for his copy.
The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters
The end is nigh. Asteroid 2011GV is set to collide with Earth in just six months. In a world gone slightly off-kilter in the face of impending annihilation, newly-promoted Detective Henry ‘Hank’ Palace is called to what appears to be a scene of a suicide, ‘death by hanging’ in a former McDonalds restroom stall. While his colleagues are quick to write it off as just another suicide, one of a dozen seen on a weekly basis since the televised announcement of the asteroid’s coming, Palace suspects otherwise and sets out to investigate.
I don’t read a lot of hard-boiled crime fiction, but I certainly warmed up fast to this one. Author Ben H. Winters does a terrific job with his depiction of the slow collapse of society as the planet inches closer towards its inevitable end, all within the confines of a small American city. Amidst the chaos, Det. Palace is one of the rare few in the story who stills cares about doing his job and seeing his investigation through. All around, a very thoughtful and gripping book, AND the first in a trilogy! You bet I’m going to see the entire story through to the end!
Lastly, I thought I’d briefly mention a book that I didn’t finish.
It’s all starting to blur for me; Hygge, Ikigai, er…Swedish Death Cleaning? Whatever. Everything I needed to know about Ikigai I got from the first 10-15 pages. Thanks, Mogi-san!