Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Books You Might Not Like

Usually I write about books I loved reading.  This time, I thought I'd mention a few that I haven't much enjoyed.

I loved the book Longitude by Dava Sobel.  So when a friend recommended A More Perfect Heaven by the same author, I quickly checked it out of the library.  The premise  was so intriguing: a biography of Copernicus, with a play about the meeting between Copernicus and the young German mathematician Rheticus embedded in the middle.  Alas, I couldn't bring myself to read far enough to get to the play.  Copernicus held many senior roles in the church hierarchy, and the book painstakingly described the minutiae of collecting rents from farmers and the like.  It was just too much for me.

Potsdam Station, by David Downing, is a totally unconvincing tale of a journalist entering Germany from Russia as World War II winds down.  John Russell, an Anglo-American journalist, had spied for the Russians in his pro-Communist past.  He convinces the Russians to allow him to accompany a Russian scientist trying to steal any nuclear secrets left in German labs.  His intent is to get to Berlin before the Russians arrive, to try to protect his girlfriend from before the war.  Only my aversion to abandoning a book before the end kept me slogging through this one.

The End of the Wasp Season wasn't too bad.  Now there's faint praise for you.

The main character is Detective Sergeant Alex Morrow, a Scottish police officer.  She's working hard to do her job, while fending off unwanted solicitousness about her pregnancy.  It's a complex mystery.  We start with two seemingly unrelated murders which, naturally, intertwine into a single story.  There aren't a lot of happy people in the story.

What really bugged me about this book was the author's overuse of the word smirk.  It seemed that virtually everyone was smirking.  It wasn't clear the author really knew the meaning of the word.  It's a somewhat silly thing to turn you off a book, but, really, she seemed to use the word every second page.  I'm sure it was less than that, but that's what it felt like.  Don't books have editors any more?

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