Book Review: Kill the Father

Kill the Father by Sandrone Dazieri

Dates Read: 20/01/2021-28/01/2021

My Rating: 2 of 5 stars

It has to be said at the outset that this is a weighty tome. Not the longest I’ve ever read but at times you certainly feel it could have benefitted from some trimming. The premise is interesting – bringing together 2 characters suffering from severe PTSD, one as a result of sustained abuse and the other stemming from a single catastrophic event, to investigate a murder/kidnapping which will resonate with them both. They each struggle to engage with others but both recognise the damage in the other and manage somehow to work together to manage their symptoms and solve the case.

Ah, the case. Well, there’s my problem. The actual crimes are believable but the motives and complexities just simply aren’t. I got the feeling that the author was trying to be too clever, but conspiracy theories just aren’t my thing and the supposed scale of wrongdoing and the agencies implicated just made it contrived which was a massive turn off for me! It would have worked better with a more personal, less institutional enemy but then I guess that wouldn’t have left the opportunity for a series available, so what do I know?

Some of the passages are pretty graphic which weirdly, I emjoyed. I like the method of slowly revealing the rolling impacts of a momentary, catastrophic event. For two thirds of the novel it’s an entertaining read but ending it at that two thirds point would proably have worked better.

I find that it’s always better reading in the source language but since my Italian only extends to ordering pizza and wine, I read this in translation as a necessity. I know it’s a difficult task, but at times the translation feels clunky which probably spoiled my enjoyment somewhat. Maybe read it in Italian, if you can?

As reads go, for me it was ok, but I won’t be delving any further into the series.


Book Review: Fingers in the Sparkle Jar

Fingers in the Sparkle Jar by Chris Packham

Dates Read: 08/01/2021-20/01/2021

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book on my ereader and loved it, but I may well revisit in the future in audio format because I suspect that hearing this unusual memoir in the author’s own voice may well lead me to revise my review and add that elusive fifth star. To be clear, 4 stars from me is brilliant, it means I’ve enjoyed, empathised with and been entertained by the read, but the fifth is reserved for works I find truly exceptional. In audio format, this book may well be deserving.

Having been a huge Chris Packham fan since his Really Wild days, and an avid viewer of any of his engaging TV outputs, I already knew that I find him an intriguing personality. I kind of envy anyone who has such overwhelming passions and encyclopedic knowledge of their subject, and Packham is well known for his obsessions with the natural world (and his music choices, I believe). However, I know very little about him personally – I’m not particularly interested in the whole ‘celebrity’ thing but I am interested in what shapes people, so I was intrigued to read Fingers in the Sparkle Jar.

What’s really interesting and a change from the usual formulaic memoir is that much of it is written in the third person – observing the ‘strange’ child/man, always an outsider, misunderstood, obsessive and who doesn’t conform to social norms but who knows he needs to try to fit in, even if he doesn’t know how. It’s no secret, of course, that Packham was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome as an adult and anyone familiar with the autism spectrum would recognise this now in the 21st century. Packham is a little older than me but as a child of the 60’s myself, I know what a different world it was back in the 1970’s.

His story initially focuses on his time as a young child, developing awareness and beginning to research and understand the natural world. We follow his first true love, a kestrel he takes from the nest and which becomes the most important thing in his life. We ache with grief for him when the kestrel dies, and celebrate when he discovers punk and finally finds somewhere he can belong. And we sob in sympathy as he undertakes therapy as part of his recovery following a suicide attempt in his forties.

Where this book really comes alive is when we hear his voice in the first person sections. He actually seems to see things in a different way, remembering every minute detail and describing it in dazzling, mesmerising prose. Packham clearly is a man who gives everything or nothing. This is glorious technicolour, no grey. He may not always interpret the situation correctly but he is brutally honest in his memories.

It’s not always an easy read, I found myself tutting at him taking eggs from nests, but then I remember that when I was a kid, people did still do that. And we should applaud Packham for making no apologies in this regard, in the same way he doesn’t try to hide behind his later Asperger’s diagnosis.

I do hope we have a better understanding of children with Asperger’s now and that out there there are some young people inspired by him, and thoroughly recommend this difficult but mesmerising read.

Book Review: Agent Running in the Field

Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré

Dates Read: 02/01/2021-08/01/2021

My Rating: 5 of 5 Stars (Yes, really!)

This is the first time I’ve read le Carré and I really don’t think it will be the last. The genre isn’t my usual fodder – but that’s what’s great about book clubs; they push you into reading something you wouldn’t normally pick up.

I know nothing about espionage so I have to trust the author knows his stuff, well, he ought to I guess, but it was interesting to read from the viewpoint of the spook and get a glimpse into how nothing for them is straightforward.

While I’d figured out most of the plot, it was pleasing the denouement didn’t play out as anticipated. It was also a treat having to actually look up a few words in the dictionary – a rare occurrence these days, meaning the whole experience just felt more satisfying. Who doesn’t love expanding their vocabulary?

I liked having to give the narrative my full attention and this week this book has given me a few tough mornings, having read well into the night and for far longer than was good for me! Believable characters with whom you can empathise, written in a smart, engaging manner is always key.

I’ve got a very long ‘to read’ list already but it just got longer with more le Carré on it!