The Prince of Charm – Hans Christian Andersen!

Book 2 of the ‘Penguin 60s’ collection and six stories from the archetypal fairy-tale-teller. Born in 1805 in Denmark, Andersen is clearly of a different time and yet his stories have been adopted by many countries and revered as classics. That is certainly true of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, which continues to speak to the folly of outsized vanity and weakness in the face of unrequited truth.

The other five tales were more obscure and new to me, but equally charming. Clearly written for children, in the style of parables, what the stories have in common are the important lessons to be drawn from characters who submit to negative human traits such as greed, vanity, or profligacy. Look out for the titles:- “The Bronze Pig”; “Little Claus & Big Claus”; “The Flying Trunk”; “The Bottle”; and “The Girl Who Stepped on Bread”. Improbably effective, such tales should not be underestimated, as they continue to convey morals, which resonate two hundred years on. Quite a legacy.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Wrestling with the Past

9:37 PM 11 DECEMBER 2019

Book 4 in the Harry Bosch detective series and the precision in the moving parts of this 1995 novel remind me of an exquisitely crafted watch. The mainspring is, of course, the irascible Bosch, dynamically driving the plot forward, meshing the various components into a beautifully balanced whole, testament to the skill of a master craftsman. And there is no doubt that Michael Connelly is an exceptionally gifted storyteller.


Just as “The Concrete Blonde” dissected the main character through a retrospective legal examination of his most notorious case, so there was an inevitability in Bosch’s re-visiting of the crime, which had dictated so much of his life – the murder, 35 years earlier, of his mother. Time had always predicated against such a foray into a very private investigation, however, the ‘involuntary stress leave’ conferred on Bosch, following his assault of a superior officer, provides the opportunity. Moreover, the recent terminal, tectonic damage done to his home and probably to his relationship with Sylvia Moore, propels him to the conclusion that this is the right time. Not that Bosch accepts his side-lining graciously, but just as his former courtroom cross-examination told us much about the man’s personality, in this installment, the compulsory sessions with police psychologist, Carmen Hinojos, proves a clever vehicle for the reader to journey back to the childhood trauma that contributed so much to the complex character of Harry Bosch.


Whilst the author has an uncanny knack for evoking curiosity about Los Angeles, the strangely exotic, but oppressive environment in which the main character thrives. Again, in his pursuit of answers, Bosch ventures further afield, this time to Florida, where the change of air and the trading of pollution for an unfamiliar ocean has a detoxifying effect and even allows a recuperative, romantic encounter, which for a time seems to penetrate the detective’s hard outer shell.


Just as the earthquake is literally a ‘leveller’, the story also has the feel of decks being cleared for a new phase. By enabling Bosch to shed some weighty emotional baggage, the need to rebuild a new home, a new intimate relationship and a dramatic reboot of his position in the LAPD, Bosch has been allowed to glimpse a life outside of the suffocating intensity of human depravity, in which he has been immersed for so long. Whether Bosch is able to break free of the gravitational pull of criminal justice and his personal mission, which has hitherto held him fast, may be revealed further into the series. Still, this novel has the feel of a seminal moment and commands a slam-dunk ‘5-stars’ for its compelling plot and thought-provoking denouement.

Seconds out…Book 5 awaits…

Rating: 5 out of 5.