Call for the Dead – John le Carré

George Smiley, the character that makes Bond look, quite frankly, like a very lucky idiot.

Call for the Dead was not only John le Carré’s first novel, but also the first of George Smiley’s outings – and it hasn’t aged one bit; it remains a tautly-written thriller which could have been published yesterday.

After an anonymous tip-off George Smiley was asked to investigate Foreign Office minister, Samuel Fennan. Fennan commits suicide, citing the disgrace of being even suspected – but here’s the nub of the matter: Smiley cleared him and told him so. Call for the Dead follows Smiley’s search for the truth, as he unravels a web of subterfuge and violence that might even put his own life in danger.

Where to start? A plot which does not patronise the reader, some extremely vivid characterisation, evocative description – all at a relatively fast pace. Also, anyone who has worked in/with/around amateur theatre companies will more than recognise a scene set in one.

5 out of 5, read it or regret it. Anyone looking to adapt this should so get Dame Eileen Atkins on board to play Elsa Fennan. Over and out.


Step on It, Cupid – Lorelei Mathias

Proof you should never judge a book by its cover…


It’s probably one of the worst chick-lit, preconception-forming covers and titles ever – but never the less it’s a pretty good book. I can imagine it would make a very good film, but with a better title; this is to circumvent the inevitable pigeon-holing of publicity. The reason why I’m making such a fuss about the title is because this book is worthy of so much more than a title which is so fluffy, so cringe-inducing, that it makes people embarassed to tell their friends to read it – or to buy it in the first place.

Amelie Holden has a very cynical relationship with love, and not without just cause. She is a romantic working in advertising and so knows every cliché and trick in the book, as well as having a string of unsucessful relationships and divorced parents. So, as you may imagine, she is not impressed when she is told to get a pitch for a speed-dating company ready in time for Valentine’s Day.

You could argue that the first-person diary entries that disperse the third-person narrative render this merely sub-Bridget Jonesian rubbish – but that would be missing the point. Amelie Holden is a far more grounded character, seemingly, with less of the self-conscious klutziness and Jane Austen rip-offery of Bridget Jones – she is a woman of the noughties. You could argue about the relative merits of chick-lit vs “actual” literature, but it won’t change the fact that this is a crackingly entertaining read that doesn’t descend into schmaltz. After all, one must recall that Dickens (highly overrated in my opinion) was one the most commercial writers of  his day.

I couldn’t stop grinning, 4 out of 5. I can’t help but feel that Mathias was restraining something when she wrote this, that would have given it just that extra edge. Over and out.

The Dracula Innocence Project

To my mind, reading the novel Dracula is a bit like reading the Bible. It’s not necessarily the the best-written of all books, but there’s a helluva lot of fun to be found in the interpretation.

For instance, The Dracula Innocence Project ( takes the question “was Dracula framed?” and does some very interesting things around it. They work upon the premise that the story is fact and not fiction and ask academics etc to respond in light of Drac’s frame-up.

I suppose it’s one way of talking about the unreliable narrator. 😛