By Andrew Donaldson for The Times:
Short, sharp guidance and observations from a journalist with attitude.
IF YOU READ ONE BOOK THIS WEEK
The Summer of Dead Toys, by Antonio Hill, translated by Laura McGlouglin (Doubleday) R215
A Barcelona cop, Hector Salgado, emotionally battered after his wife leaves him for another woman, is pulled off an investigation into a paedophile ring for beating a suspect senseless.
He’s farmed off to tie up loose ends in what looks like a tragic, fatal accident in which a pampered rich kid fell from a balcony. This is a strong debut and the start of a promising series; excellent characterisation and plot twists galore. The Mediterranean heat is a welcome change from all that icy Scandinavian crime.
In September 2001, the torso of an African boy, maybe five or six years old, was discovered floating in the Thames. His head and arms had been neatly and expertly cut off. Police investigating his murder looked to South Africa for clues. They suspected it was a muti killing, and approached an expert for help – Richard Hoskins, a lecturer in African religions at Bath Spa University.
Hoskins disproved the local connection – the precise cutting was inconsistent with a muti murder, which has little regard for the appearance of the corpse – and pointed police to the Yoruban group in Nigeria, and their pantheistic tradition, which required that hundreds of earthbound gods, or orishas, be offered sacrifices, although not necessarily human. Now Hoskins has written a gripping account of the case, The Boy in the River: A Shocking True Story of Ritual Murder and Sacrifice in the Heart of London (Pan). It’s an incomplete story, though – the boy’s killers have yet to be caught. Some of the British reviews I’ve read believe that’s a crime in itself.
Here’s a lesson in bravery.
When she was 11, in 1981, Carmen Bugan came home from school to find her father burying a typewriter in the garden. This was in Nicolai Ceausescu’s Romania, where every typewriter had to be registered with the police.
She didn’t know it, but her father was the author of anti-communist pamphlets denouncing Ceausescu and his brutal regime.
A year later, when her father was arrested, she was interrogated for more than three weeks by police as to the whereabouts of the typewriter. Though she was given barely anything to eat during that time, she told them nothing.
Bugan has written a moving memoir of growing up in that era, Burying the Typewriter: Childhood Under the Eye of the Secret Police (Picador). “It is a stunningly powerful piece of writing,” the London Sunday Times said, “a modern classic.”
THE BOTTOM LINE
“Everyone turns into a parody of themselves in the end; it’s just that with Dylan there are so many selves out there.” – Who Is That Man? In Search of the Real Bob Dylan, by David Dalton (Omnibus Press)
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