Small reviews of books by Martin Walker and Seishi Yokomizo, and one on the Herculean efforts undertaken to deliver a Covid vaccine
Thriller: To Kill a Troubadour by Martin Walker Quercus, 352 pages, hardcover €24.99; e-book £11.99
What’s not to like about Bruno Courrèges, the chief of police of the small French town of St Denis in the Dordogne. Raised in a Catholic orphanage when abandoned by his unmarried mother, he joined the army at 15, rose through the ranks and was decorated for bravery before joining the police.
He would love to settle down and have a family, but the love of his life, Isabelle, chose her high-flying career in the Department of National Security and lives and works in Paris. In this 15th and latest chapter in his busy life, Bruno is busy organising the town’s annual summer music festival. The stars of the show are going to be a local Périgord folk group, Les Troubadours, whose latest hit, A Song for Catalonia, has suddenly and unexpectedly gone viral, much to the annoyance of the Spanish government, who have cracked down on the Catalonian bid for independence.
The show becomes a political hot potato when Spain forbids Les Troubadours from performing the song. But then Bruno’s difficulties escalate into what could become a major international incident when a specialist sniper’s bullet is found in a crashed car and Madrid warns that Catalan extremists may be planning an assassination at the concert. Isabelle comes down from Paris and she and Bruno must work desperately to avert disaster.
Former journalist Martin Walker once again delivers a delightful potpourri of southern French la vie en rose and tense action.
Memoir: The Storyteller by Dave Grohl
Simon & Schuster, 384 pages, paperback €14; e-book £5.99
As the drummer of Nirvana and the frontman of Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl has been at the top for a long time, although the most compelling parts of this memoir concern life and music before fame came calling. There are accounts of his unusual upbringing, his early fascination with percussion and a quirky story about being drafted in to play drums for Iggy Pop, as well as plenty of detail about his musical apprenticeship in the punk band Scream. Then it’s thrills and turmoil with Nirvana — the adventure was becoming messy long before Kurt Cobain’s suicide — and how Foo Fighters didn’t just help to reinvent his music, but gave rock’s most genial figure a whole new purpose.
Thriller: Death on Gokumon Island by Seishi Yokomizo
Pushkin, 320 pages, paperback €12.50; e-book £3.99
Almost a contemporary of Agatha Christie, Seishi Yokomizo was one of Japan’s most popular mystery writers, best known for his series featuring low-key sleuth Kosuke Kindaichi, which ran to a prodigious 77 books. Here, in the aftermath of WWII, the scruffy detective arrives on Gokumon Island as the bearer of tragic news. The son and heir to one of the island’s most prominent families has died on a repatriation ship. In his dying words, he confided in Kosuke that he feared his three step-sisters’ lives were in danger and he should try to protect them. A fascinating insight into Japanese culture and behaviour more than 70 years ago.
Science: Vaxxers by Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green
Hodder & Stoughton, 384 pages, paperback €21; e-book £5.49
The success of Richard Chambers’ A State of Emergency and Jack Horgan-Jones and Hugh O’Connell’s Pandemonium shows there’s a market for books about the pandemic. This one isn’t centred on the politics of Covid-19, but rather the Herculean efforts undertaken to deliver a vaccine to combat it.
British scientists Sarah Gilbert and Catherine Green were at the forefront of discovering the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and here they detail the blood, sweat and tears shed along the way. They describe the science behind the jab in a way that’s understandable to most of us. In an era of disinformation, much of it centred on vaccines, Gilbert and Green are keen to get to the truth of the matter.