by Charles Stross
Published by Little, Brown Book Group
Paperback 482 pages
ISBN 13: 9781841496948 ISBN 10: 1841496944
It was called in as a robbery at Hayek Associates, an online game company. So you can imagine Sergeant Sue Smith's mood as she watches the video footage of the heist being carried out by a band of orcs and a dragon, and realises that the robbery from an online game company is actually a robbery from an online game. Just wonderful. Like she has nothing better to do. But online entertainment is big business, and when the bodies of real people start to show up, it's clear that this is anything but a game. For Sue, programmer Jack Reed, and forensic accountant Elaine Barnaby, the walls between the actual and the virtual are about to come crashing down. There is something very dangerous and very real going on at Hayek Associates, and those involved are playing for more than experience points. No cheats, no extra lives, no saving throw - make a wrong call on this one and it'll be more than game over.
Ordered from the library, because I keep reading about the writing of Rule 34 on Stross' blog, and wanted to read its predecessor (Rule 34 isn't a sequel, but they share a universe, as I understand it) before that came out.
This was fun! Written in the second-person, which I've normally found jarring, but here it works really well in following the style of a text adventure. Lots of parts of Edinburgh and Glasgow that I recognise are described more accurately than they would be by the average tourist guide, and I'm sure I've met some of the characters before. How long until Rule 34 gets published?
4.50 from Paddington
by Agatha Christie
Audio Book read by Rosemary Leach
Published by Chivers Audio Books
Pack of 6 compact discs.
Blurb (from a different edition):
Agatha Christie's audacious mystery thriller, reissued with a striking new cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers. For an instant the two trains ran together, side by side. In that frozen moment, Elspeth witnessed a murder. Helplessly, she stared out of her carriage window as a man remorselessly tightened his grip around a woman's throat. The body crumpled. Then the other train drew away. But who, apart from Miss Marple, would take her story seriously? After all, there were no suspects, no other witnesses! and no corpse.
This has always been one of my favourite Miss Marples, although this time I only ordered it as a stop-gap because all the new-to-me stories I wanted on audio were out on loan elsewhere. The gentle humour of the story shines through, although the suspense is still there as well. This recording seems to be no longer available new, which is a shame.
by author Stephen Booth
Published by HarperCollins Publishers
Hardback 368 pages
ISBN 13: 9780007243488 ISBN 10: 0007243480
An atmospheric new Fry and Cooper thriller for fans of Peter Robinson and Reginald Hill. A May Bank Holiday in the Peak District is ruined by the tragic drowning of an eight-year-old girl in picturesque Dovedale. For Detective Constable Ben Cooper, a helpless witness to the tragedy, the incident is not only traumatic, but leads him to become involved in the tangled lives of the Neilds, the dead girl's family. As he gets to know them, Cooper begins to suspect that one of them is harbouring a secret - a secret that the whole family might be willing to cover up. Meanwhile, Detective Sergeant Diane Fry has a journey of her own to make - a journey back to her roots. As she finds herself drawn into an investigation of her own among the inner-city streets of Birmingham, Fry realises there is only one person she can rely on to provide the help she needs. But that man is Ben Cooper, and he's back in Derbyshire, where his suspicions are leading him towards a shocking discovery on the banks of another Peak District river.
I borrowed this off Mum, after I bought it for her as a birthday present. Poor Ben Cooper: he can't even take a day off without getting involved in a suspicious (to him at any rate) death. On top of that he's still having family issues, his landlady might need to move away (and so move him out of his place) and his relationship is on the rocks.
Meanwhile his immediate boss, Fry, is back in Birmingham as the force there reopens the case that was the impetus behind her transfer to Derbyshire in the first place.
As mentioned previously I enjoy novels with two linked mysteries, one for each protagonist, and this was a good example of how that can work with two contemporary crimes. We also get to see more of Fry's background, and watch her relationship with (especially) her sister develop from the previous books. Also Cooper gets a temporary promotion while she's away (at last!). The random extra bits of Derbyshire didn't jar as much as usual, because Cooper was working in an area I don't know well, but I did find that Fry's mental log of crime statistics and population dynamics got irritating after a while.
I'll keep reading the series, although I'm not certain I'll keep buying my own copies.
And finally two short stories from the same anthology:
by Charlie Cochrane, Chris Smith, Erastes, Jordan Taylor
Published by Noble Romance Publishing
eBook 223 pages
It's 1936 and a generation of disaffected youth waits in the space between a war that destroyed many of their friends and family, and a war they know is bound to come. Guy Mason wanders through Italy, bored and restless for reasons he can't even name, and stops at the Hotel Vista, high in the mountains of Lombardy. There, he meets scientist James Calloway and his secretary, Louis Chambers, and it's there that the meandering stream of Guy's life changes course forever.
I read the blurb to this one, and thought I had a good idea where this story was going. I was wrong, and the turn it took was far more interesting. Then I thought I knew how it was going to end, and I was wrong. The real ending was far better and more apt for the characters than any I could have expected. One to reread -- more than once.
The White Empire
by Chris Smith
Edgar Vaughan sincerely believes that six-thousand miles is enough to give him a fresh start. Escaping in 1838 from the drawing rooms of Belgravia and the constraints of his landed family, he takes up missionary work in the trading post of Hong Kong. On arrival, he finds the region on the cusp of war; the Chinese Emperor has outlawed the importation of opium -- the key link in the trade of the East India Company. Between Edgar's sense of isolation, the sight of the puling opium addicts, and one memorable encounter with a man in a peacock waistcoat, Edgar finds himself embroiled in the very marrow of the British Empire's machinations. He finds himself torn between espousing the expeditious whilst protecting his new acquaintance, and doing what is right and risking the wrath of the British Empire.
Vaughn is almost as wonderfully despicable as other readers had led me to believe. I'd have liked him to be more despicable, but then he might not have had quite the adventure that he got. I wasn't previously familiar with this section of history, and I read the story over too long a spread of time for something of this length. I suspect I'll catch more twists and turns on a reread.
I'm heading Up North tomorrow, with a 15 CD audio book for my travels. Having listened to the first two on a trip for the Day Job today, I'm expecting a real treat from the other 13.