Thursday, 30 July 2015

Book review: The Bones Beneath

First order of business after clearing the pile of Song of Ice and Fire books was to catch up with Mark Billingham, and a look on Amazon shows that the 12th Thorne novel hasn't been popular with everybody. I guess people's complaints that there's not much action are technically accurate, but that's not how it felt to me reading it. The Bones Beneath goes back to Stuart Nicklin, the killer from one of the earliest Tom Thorne novels, a psychopath with a particular talent for getting others to do his dirty work for him. He reveals that one of his first-ever murders took place on a remote Welsh island when he was a teenager, and he's willing to take the police to the body. He obviously has an ulterior motive but Thorne knows Nicklin will be able to attract bad publicity to the police if they refuse to find the bones for the sake of the victim's family, so they're stuck with taking the prisoner on an extended trip.

Cutaway chapters reveal early on that Nicklin's accomplices have a captive somewhere, and it's true that I did figure out early on who that would turn out to be, but I still thought this was an effective thriller: The fact that so little happens until near the very end means there's a horrible tension as we wait to find out what the real plan is. Definitely something of a format-breaker which obviously hasn't been a hit with everyone, but for me The Bones Beneath worked.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Book review: A Dance with Dragons II: After the Feast

It's taken me nine months - admittedly including taking breaks to read things that aren't A Song of Ice and Fire - but I've finally got to the end of the 5 volumes published so far. I did kind of expect George R.R. Martin to announce that The Winds of Winter would suddenly be available today and I'd be behind again, but I'm all caught up now with the second half of A Dance with Dragons. I can certainly see why people complain about the action stalling quite a lot, and by this stage there's too many characters to keep track of some of the time, but there are some significant developments going on. Although there's still two novels to go, finally the Epilogue of After the Feast has a bit of a twist with the return of a major character who's been gone for a long time, and which suggests that the story is getting ready to start wrapping itself up - although in a typically messy way, I'm sure.

I've still been enjoying the ride, or I wouldn't have read all the books more or less continuously, but I'm looking forward to getting back to reading something different as well.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Alumni day

I kept waking up in the night so remembering bits of dreams; I dreamt that I'd gone back to Exeter to visit my old university drama department. The current students included a middle-aged Italian woman who was accompanied everywhere by several elderly nuns; she also spoke no English so took a male interpreter with her everywhere, including to the toilet. There were also two Quidditch teams, one of which all had dyed purple hair and carried broomsticks, the other were all blind. I turned to whoever I was there with* and said "the current students aren't as good as our year, our eccentricities were nowhere near as contrived."

*I always seem to have someone to talk to in dreams but no idea who it is, so it might just be me doing a Miranda turn to camera.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Potter Spotter

It's been far too hot lately to try and do anything sensible, so I'm doing this instead: I last made a list of all the Harry Potter actors I'd seen on stage two years ago, and now seems a good time to update it, what with the news of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child coming to London next year. That'll properly bring the worlds of Potter and theatre together, but in the meantime this is my version. Weez, revstan and trpw all have their own lists.

We're using the Wikipedia cast list, which also includes actors whose entire performance ended up on the cutting room floor, which means Jamie Campbell Bower's young Grindewald has now joined Toby Regbo's young Dumbledore; sadly the similarly-deleted Peeves will not be joining them as Rik Mayall has died.

I've added 12 more names to the list since 2013, and I've highlighted them in blue. There's bound to be performances I've missed but from the ones I've found or remembered, Harry Melling seems to be the Potter actor I've seen in the most different shows. Given that some of the actors on this list I first saw more than twenty years ago, it shows you just how much stage work Melling, whom I only first "collected" in 2009, has done. Kathryn Hunter is close behind him, and although her stage career has been a lot longer I've only been following it for a similar period of time, and have Potter to thank for introducing me to one of my all-time favourite actors.

I've linked to my reviews of the shows where possible; any title that isn't a link means it's from before I started reviewing online.