Reviews of Jo Nesbo’s latest Harry Hole novel, Kevin S Decker’s The Philosophy of Doctor Who and Emma Thompson’s beautiful The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit
Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo (£18.99, ebook £7.99).
Cockroaches is the latest outing for Jo Nesbo’s fractured Norwegian policeman, Harry Hole.
His other outings have clearly showed he is a very flawed character, but for his most ardent fans, this – and his battle against the bottle – is what gives him his charm and fascination.
After making his reputation made in Australia (in Nesbo’s first Hole case, The Bat), Hole is now called upon to investigate the murder of the Norwegian ambassador in Bangkok.
But as he turns over a series of stones to see what crawls out from underneath, Hole finds more questions than answers.
The harder he looks, the more creatures scuttle into the light – most are harmless but the occasional one is deadly, not only to Hole but also those drawn to him.
Cockroaches will thrill Harry Hole addicts.
It’s classic fast-paced, edge-of-the-seat style, as the detective battles against time to solve the crime, deflecting the attentions of his political masters at home as well as the murderous intent of Thailand’s business community.
Silent Night by Jack Sheffield (£11.99, ebook £7.99).
Silent Night is the eighth book in Jack Sheffield’s Teacher series, following the lives of the villagers of Ragley-on-the Forest, focusing around the local primary school.
This year the school and children are preparing for a televised Christmas choir performance, while the teachers hold their first ever belly-dancing class, and headteacher Jack fears the prospect of having to leave his beloved Ragley.
Though the story is knowingly innocent, Sheffield’s characters are almost painfully unexciting.
Too much detail is given to rudimentary events – like discourse over what flavour of soup a receptionist will have for lunch – and you are left wondering whether anyone would be as blissfully unconscious as this group of characters.
Overall, Silent Night was disappointing and uninspired, and filled me with none of the Christmas joys I was hoping for.
How To Change Your Life: Who Am I And What Should I Do With My Life by Benjamin Bonetti (£10.99, ebook £6.27).
There are times in our lives when we might question our goals or our belief in ourselves may waver.
As an experienced life coach to the stars, Benjamin Bonetti aims to guide us through these moments with his new book How To Change Your Life.
He likens creating a more fulfilled version of us to the parable of the two builders (one who built his house on sand and the other on solid rocks), setting the scene to help us visualise exactly how we can accomplish what we are capable of.
Each chapter contains tasks in which we are asked to examine how we would behave in a certain scenario or to take action by completing a plan for our ambitions.
This hands-on approach combined with the general positivity seeping through the book makes it an enjoyable and motivational read.
Not only does Bonetti show a deep understanding of the topic, he also delivers it in an accessible way has you champing at the bit to start on that journey to self-discovery.
Who is Who? The Philosophy of Doctor Who by Kevin S Decker (£15.99).
To mark 50 years since everyone’s favourite time traveller first stepped into his Tardis, this is an in-depth investigation into what makes Doctor Who tick.
Psychology professor Kevin Decker approaches the task from an academic point of view but the tone is light-hearted with a good dollop of humour.
Although it is half a century since the first Doctor Who episode, The Unearthly Child, was broadcast on TV in 1963, the time arc of the story spans 1,000 years.
Regeneration means there have been 11 actors, each bringing their own interpretation to the role and Decker examines how and why they have connected with viewers.
At the core of the book, he discusses what it is about the Doctor, who always uses his brains instead of weapons, that makes him such an enduring and, at times, unlikely hero?
Hardcore Doctor Who fans will love it but casual droppers-in may struggle with the level of detail and intensity.
Round About Earth: Circumnavigation From Magellan To Orbit by Joyce E Chaplin (£12.99, ebook £6.99).
Harvard historian Joyce Chaplin adds this beautifully written history of circumnavigation to her collection of early modern American history publications.
She has an ambitious task: to tell the story of 500 years’ worth of mankind’s attempts to travel round the globe.
It would be impossible to honour every one, so Chaplin discerns from the historic, the tragic, the majestic, and the significant journeys – Magellan to Cook, and Phileas Fogg to USS Triton and Laika the space dog.
She tells their tales with an infectious relish that gets under the skin of her subjects: from Spanish-Portuguese squabbles over lines of longitude to the regrets of the Soviet team behind the launch of Laika into orbit, personalities emerge from her pages to make the magnitude of their missions all the more poignant.
A gentle humour keeps the meticulously researched pages turning, while her historical lens makes the reader stop and think.
A good Christmas present for historians, travellers and environmentalists alike.
The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit by Emma Thompson (£12.99, ebook £7.99).
The most famous rabbit on the planet is up to his tricks again and this time it’s a Christmas tale.
Peter Rabbit was given a new lease of life last year, 110 years after Beatrix Potter’s original book was published, when actress Emma Thompson wrote The Further Tale of Peter Rabbit which proved to be a big hit.
This time, mischievous Peter and his arguably brighter cousin Benjamin are trying once again to outwit the hapless Mr McGregor who has been diligently fattening up his turkey William in preparation for seasonal feast.
Mr McGregor, of course, has previous form for eating characters – lovers of the original will know he put Peter’s father in a pie and ate him.
So it doesn’t take the bunnies long to work out that a similar fate awaits William unless they can rescue him.
Thompson, a gifted screenwriter, has skilfully captured the deceptively simple language of the original as well as the dry humour.
William is vain and dim, Mr and Mrs McGregor are the grumpy losers, while inside the burrow there’s a true feast, each ingredient detailed Potter-style.
Eleanor Taylor’s illustrations are a joy with their soft colours and detail, and this book will satisfy all generations of Peter fans.