The Devil's Beat by Robert Edric, March 1
This is supposed to be what the book is about:
'We must prise opinion from fact, belief from supposition and guesswork from whatever evidence must exist...' It is surely a simple case of hysteria. Four young women allegedly witness a terrifying apparition while walking in the woods. Has the devil really revealed himself to them? Are they genuine victims of demonic possession? Or, as most suspect, is their purpose in claiming all of this considerably more prosaic? The eyes of the country turn to a small Nottinghamshire town, where an inquiry is to be held. Everyone there is living through hard, uncertain times. The king is recently dead. It is a new century - a new world looking to the future. But here, in the ancient heart of England, an old beast stirs...Four men must examine the substance of the girls' tales and decide their fate: a minister, a doctor, a magistrate, and Merritt, an investigator - a seemingly perfect blend of the rational, the sacred and the judicial. And yet, as the feverish excitement all around them grows ever more widespread and infectious, there is both doubt and conflict among the members of this panel. The "Devil's Beat" explores the unforeseeable and unstoppable outcome of this inquiry - an alarming and unsettling time during which the whole of that small world seems in turmoil as one after another hitherto dependable natural checks and balances, beliefs and superstitions are challenged and then lost.
That sound's pretty good, right? But if you were looking at the synopsis of the Australian edition of the book, published by Random House Books Australia, the story sounds very different:
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large ego must be in want of a woman to cut him down to size...Sharp, witty Jasmin Field has her own column in a national magazine and has just landed the coveted role of Elizabeth Bennet in a one-off fundraising adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Better yet, the play's director, Hollywood heart-throb and Oscar-winner, Harry Noble, is every bit as obnoxious as she could have hoped. Which means a lot of material for her column. And a lot of fun in rehearsals.And then disaster strikes. Jazz's best friend abandons her for a man not worthy to buy her chocolate, her family starts to crumble before her eyes and her award-winning column hits the skids. Worse still, Harry Noble keeps staring at her.As the lights dim, the audience hush and Jazz awaits her cue, she realises two very important things, one: she can't remember her lines, and two: Harry Noble looks amazing in breeches...
To me, this version doesn't sound as good.
Skios by Michael Frayn, May 3
I will automatically buy and read almost anything Frayn writes. Okay, I skipped his recent book on philsophy. And I still have to get his memoir about his father.
Capital by John Lanchester, March 1
In many ways, Lanchester reminds me of Frayn. Lanchester's book on the financial crisis (Whoops or I.O.U. depending on where it was published) was terrific and this new novel is what he was planning to write when he got caught up researching and following the crisis. There is an excerpt of it in this week's issue of the New Yorker magazine (for subscribers only) and it is great. Can't wait for this book.
Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd, February 16
Boyd is another automatic selection.
The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey, April 5
Sometimes I like Carey, sometimes I don't. This one feels like a like.
Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace by Kate Summerscale, May 10
This I can already tell I will buy but not read for a few years. But that's more about me than the book.
The Passage of Power by Robert Caro, May 1
This is the fourth volume in Caro's biography of Lyndon Johnson. The first three books are extraordinary. LBJ was one of our most complicated presidents. He waged a terrible war in Vietnam but lead a great fight for equality and civil rights and against poverty in the US. He was vulgar and crude. And his rise to power was incredibly unlikely. An unbelievably captivating figure. Caro's books are political biography at its best. And they are great to read, too. Most of the reviews that will be published about this book will gush about how great Robert Caro is and they will all be right.
Watergate by Thomas Mallon, February 21
This is getting good advance notice. Like this:
“Mallon, astute and nimble, continues his scintillating, morally inquisitive journey through crises great and absurd in American politics by taking on Watergate…Mallon himself is deliciously witty. But it is his political fluency and unstinting empathy that transform the Watergate debacle into a universal tragicomedy of ludicrous errors and malignant crimes, epic hubris and sorrow.” –Booklist, starred reviewAnd I kind of know the writer (in a neighborly way) and chatted with him about the book as he was writing it so I guess that makes me biased. But I think this book will be a hit (certainly in this town it will).
Good Bait by John Harvey, January 5
John Harvey is another automatic selection for me. An English Pelecanos? (Or maybe Pelecanos is an American Harvey.) Crime writing with a social conscience. And a great stylist as well.
The Comedy is Finished by Donald Westlake, February 21
We are so lucky that there have been a few new (or old or lost) Westlakes since his death. And they have been good books, too. Not unfinished crap. I hope there are still a few more books somewhere.
*Leftover from 2011
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin
The Affair by Lee Child
The Drop by Michael Connelly
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick Dewitt
Hanging Hill by Mo Hayder
The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina
Some of these I am saving for vacation in February. And it has been hard to not read them but to be on vacation without good books to read would be a ruin the whole trip. Even preparing for the trip would be difficult.