The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows (Dial Press, 2008) audiobook read by Paul Boehmer, Susan Duerden, Rosalyn Landor, John Lee, and Juliet Mills (Random House Audio, 2008) An epistolary novel, rich in characterisation and engaging both for its historical content (recollections of the German occupation of Guernsey) and as a study…
The Mystery of the Vanished Prince by Enid Blyton (Methuen, 1951) An odd instalment in which the Find-Outers do very little investigating. (Pip finds one lucky clue and they stumble upon people who explain the mystery!) The modern reader cannot help feeling uncomfortable at the children’s casual assumptions of social and racial superiority.
Witchmark by C. L. Polk (Tor, 2018) An immersive fantasy located at the Edwardian edges of familiarity. The narrative may feel rushed in places—the ending is that of a self-contained novel derailed to become the first book of a trilogy—but Polk’s world-building has much going for it.
Howl’s Moving Castle dir. Hayao Miyazaki (2004) The anime adaptation of Diana Wynne Jones’s novel is fantasy in the truest sense, delivering a story predicated more on imagery and impression than narrative structure. The delivery is both visually striking and vocally effective, promoting strong anti-war, pro-age and pro-compassion sentiments.
Vera, Series 3 (ITV, 2013) The Northumberland setting continues to charm, and Brenda Blethyn to shine as Vera Stanhope. While engaging the viewer, several of the four feature-length investigations yield to theatrical, intuitive deductions where bog-standard police work would have done the job (more quickly and effectively).
Dead Voices by Katherine Arden (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2019); audiobook read by Renee Dorian (Listening Library, 2019) Arden pitches the fright level just about right for MG dark fiction. This sequel to Small Spaces is told mainly from Coco’s perspective, though with enough from Ollie’s that it seems a bit too omniscient. Brian’s side-lining also feels a tad unnatural. …
Doctor Who—Flux, Chapter 4: Village of the Angels by Chris Chibnall & Maxine Alderton (BBC, 2021) Chibnall has shown himself a past master of raising the stakes. Flux is on such a trajectory, ‘Village of the Angels’ proving creepy and superb. Hopefully it won’t suffer the sort of anticlimactic let-down as befell ‘Spyfall’ and ‘Can You Hear Me?’
House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2021); audiobook read by Eleanor Bennett (Bolinda, 2021) YA with slow-festering horror elements and excellent characterisation (memorably voiced by Eleanor Bennett). The story unfolds in well-pitched reveals, blending action and reflection. The ending lacks punch but Sutherland deserves credit for trusting the concept, not fiddling retroactively or adding extraneous twists. …
The Sarah Jane Adventures, Series 5 (CBBC, 2011) An emotional half-season, cut short by the loss of Elisabeth Sladen. While the first story carries on the usual SF adventuring, all three instalments—and in particular the second (‘The Curse of Clyde Langer’)—show the programme willing to explore darker territory.
The Professionals #9: No Stone by Ken Blake (Sphere, 1981) Another two episodes novelised by Kenneth Bulmer under the publisher’s house pseudonym. The book has the feel of having been dashed off, and relies heavily on readers being familiar with the characters and format. Nonetheless, it serves its purpose. Simple, action-packed nostalgia.