Trudi’s #CBR5 review #2: The Last Dragonslayer

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, 2011
Page count: 190 pages

Jennifer Strange is wise beyond her years. A foundling left in an old Wolksvagen Beetle as a baby, Jennifer was raised by the sisterhood of The Blessed Ladies of the Lobster before being sent to Kazam, a magical agency, at age 10. Now she is six years into her indentured service, which entails being the receptionist, driver, accountant, mailman, and administrative do-it-all for all the sorcerers, carpeteers, soothsayers and weathermongers affiliated with Kazam. Unfortunately, running an old-fashioned magical agency is an uphill battle in the face of modern inventions and a population sceptical of magic. So Jennifer and the wizards have to take what little work they can find, whether it involves retrieving lost objects, teleporting double-parked cars, or rebuilding collapsed bridges.

One day, one of Kazam’s precogs (sorcerers who have visions of the future) foresees the death of the last dragon. The Ununited Kingdoms immediately go into a frenzy because huge tracts of land currently tied up in the Dragonlands will be up for grabs the moment the dragon is killed by the last dragonslayer. Jennifer, however, worries about the dragon dying, as this might kill off the last remnants of magic power in the world, effectively putting Kazam out of business. Spoiler alert! She therefore tracks down the single remaining dragonslayer in the world to convince him to spare the dragon, only to find herself being tricked into becoming the last dragonslayer herself! All of a sudden, the world’s eyes turn to her, with all the prophesies, political intrigues, merchandising offers, and sleazy game shows that entails. But how can Jennifer kill the dragon when his death is the last thing she wants… Spoiler ends.

True to form, Jasper Fforde has once again created a unique mix of fantasy and magic commingled with a topsy-turvy version of modern Britain. While different from the Thursday Next seris (of which I’m a huge fan), The last dragonslayer is nonetheless a very light read that works impeccably, and I found both the story per se as well as the skewed take on modern-day life hugely entertaining. A great way to pass an evening!

Trudi’s #CBR5 review #1: The Broken Shore by Peter Temple

The broken shore is a standalone crime novel by Peter Temple. It is set in Port Monroe, a small village somewhere in Australia. Joe Cashin is a homicide cop who has transferred from Melbourne to Port Monroe to recover both physically and mentally after a case in which his partner was murdered and Cashin himself was brutally attacked and nearly killed, too. After the many ugly cases Cashin investigated in the city, Port Monroe is a walk in the park where the worst that can happen is a few traffic incidents and having to chase the odd vagrant when the neighbours start complaining.
This peace is interrupted, however, when the town’s great benefactor, Mr Bourgoyne, is found tortured in his own home and later dies of the injuries in the hospital. Despite Bourgoyne’s wealth, nothing has been taken from the crime scene except an exclusive Breitling watch. The watch is later traced to a pawnshop in Sydney where it was submitted by three Aboriginal teenagers from Port Monroe. The police’s attempt to apprehend the three youths goes badly wrong, ending in a car chase that leaves two of them dead and the third in hospital. Racial tensions in Port Monroe surge as a result, and a political fight in the media ensues. When the third teenager later commits suicide, the Bourgoyne murder is assumed solved and Cashin is told to close the case. Cashin thinks the youths may have been framed, however, and decides to dig deeper on his own…
The broken shore was a Christmas present, and is the first novel I have read by Peter Temple. I therefore had no expectations whatsoever, but I can honestly say that it has been years since I read a crime novel this good. Despite taking a few chapters to get used to the Aussie slang, I was instantly hooked and tore through the book in less than two days. I therefore agree wholeheartedly with the reviewer from The Independent on Sunday quoted in the blurb at the back of the book: read one page of this book and I challenge you not to finish it! Congratulations Peter Temple, you just made it to the top of my most wanted crime novel list!