Ghouls, conspiracies and deaths: most appropriate Christmas-time reading

David Mitchell’s Slade House is an odd wee novella, featuring the exploits of two rogue soul-suckers. Rogue in the sense that they don’t follow the rituals and life-ways of the soul-suckers that appear in his other Slade Houseentertaining and brain-tickling books. Jonah and Norah are siblings who live in a house that appears only every nine years on a certain alley way in a small English market town. They entice suitable guests/victims/souls into the nasty house – the evocative creepiness factor is high – and then, well, suck their souls so that the pair can live forever, or at least the next nine years when they’ll require another top up. Clever, very creepy, oddly satisfying, a companion to The Bone Clocks (which features non-rogue, soul-sucker-rule-obeying soul-suckers) which we also liked. Mitchell has said “It’s almost a dessert if you’ve read The Bone Clocks, and a starter if you haven’t, and hopefully a standalone amuse-bouche if you’re not going to, which is fine.” Gob-smacking.

Need a touch of high Italian-farce, featuring great gobbets of conspiracy, and conspiracies about conspiracies, real and invented, leavened with some thoughts on the nature and purpose of journalism and newNumero Zerospapers (its set in 1992), all drenched in the clever whimsy of our favourite Milanese semiotician? Numero Zero, Umberto Eco’s latest novel is the one for you, chasing its tail around the suggestion that Mussolini wasn’t killed at the end of WWII but hived off to an Argentian hacienda to end his days in boredom and frustration. Or does it? Does Colonna, the journo working on the story believe all this or is he just pretending to, in order to create an entirely different conspiracy…

Iceland anyone? I do like the thrillers by UndesiredIcelandic writer Yrsa Sigurdardottir, who is a civil engineer when not concocting chilling and fascinating mysteries set in Iceland’s remarkable landscape. The Undesired investigates the strange deaths of two young men at an isolated farm, a sort of reform school, that occurred 30 years ago. What links do they have to the defenestration of a young mother today and what is her surviving daughter seeing, when she wakes in the night? There are several mysteries in this book and a couple of twists that you just do not see coming. Most excellent. When I’d finished I went and googled images of Iceland…


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