Raven Reviews – Library Lottery Edition

I’m a Catholic atheist, as in I may not believe anymore, but the smell of the incense has never really let me go. And to paraphrase Dara O’Brien, you could join ISIS and you’d still be Catholic, just a bad Catholic. So for a bit of nostalgia I love things like Cadfael, the Father Brown mysteries, and that episode of Murder, She Wrote where she solves a murder in a convent.


So on recent library trip two of the three books I took a chance on are on a religious tip, and the following are reviews small enough for ravens to carry on their wee leggies.

Sidney Chalmers and the Dangers of temptation (The Grantchester Mysteries) – James Runcie.

Apparently this is on the telly? With Andrei from War and Peace? I had no idea. What I do know within about ten minutes of starting I hated Sidney for his snooty looking down on hippies, and the lazy characterisation of them as ‘yoga and lentils’ (two things I happen to like, thank you very much!) and generally clumsy exposition. His wife is called Hildegard. Hmm, might be German, I think. The little daughter then says grace in German. So yep, German. Then the bedtime story is in German and quite frankly, I shut the book then as if this was how Runcie liked to drive a point home, I didn’t know how much bettering over the head I could take.

Conclave – Robert Harris

This wasn’t really a chance, as I’ve read Harris before. I have particularly enjoyed his books when ill, or in a power cut, as they are always gripping and often finished in one sitting, and the time flies. This tale of treachery and dodgyness with regards to the picking of a new pope is expertly researched and put together. Everyone’s nationalities and distinguishing features are subtly and concisely introduced, the pace is swift, and even with Harris even the ending is predicted or not always completely satisfactory, it’s always a fun ride.

The Pigeon – Patrick Süskind

I’ve read Süskind before, Perfume was nuts and brilliant, so this was also less of a chance. And at under a 100 pages, even less of a potential time waste. Plus, I like the idea of a raven carrying a review about a pigeon. I also saw myself on the first page, ‘For he was not fond of events, and hated outright those that rattled his inner equilibrium and made a muddle of the external arrangements of life.’ I’m pretty sure my retirement will be spent on a Hebridean island talking to puffins, living the most routine and quiet existence as possible. Jonathan Noel wants predictability, but a pigeon-instigated breakdown ruins that. While I did identify with Jonathan, I also like pigeons, and kept thinking ‘Dude, open a window and flap your tea towel about a bit, job done’, but of course this book is more complicated than that, and has it’s roots in the Holocaust, and wins first prize in this particular library lottery.