Book Reviews for March 2012

Pure
By Andrew Miller
Published by Septre
£8.99 reduced to £7.99
A year of bones, of grave-dirt, relentless work. Of mummified corpses and chanting priests. A year of rape, suicide, sudden death. Of friendship too. Of desire. Of love…A year unlike any other he has lived. Deep in the heart of Paris, its oldest cemetery is, by 1785, overflowing, tainting the very breath of those who live nearby. Into their midst comes Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young, provincial engineer charged by the king with demolishing it. At first Baratte sees this as a chance to clear the burden of history, a fitting task for a modern man of reason. But before long, he begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery might be a prelude to his own.

Before I Go To Sleep
By S J Watson
Published by Black Swan
£7.99 reduced to £6.99
After surviving what she believes was a car crash, Chrissie developed a form of amnesia which has left her able to store memories for only 24 hours. Every morning when she wakes she has forgotten the circumstances of her life and must relearn them from scratch: who her husband Ben is, where they live, whether or not they have children.

The novel takes the form of a journal she is encouraged to keep by a Dr Nash, who has, without Ben’s knowledge, taken an interest in her case. It becomes a lifeline to her past; though of course she has to be reminded every day that she is writing it, or she would never know it existed.

The journal helps Chrissie discover things she has forgotten – for example that she once published a novel. Ben has concealed this and other key facts from her. Why? Is he a saintly carer, feeding her a sanitised version of her life that will not upset her? Or is he manipulating her perception of a world which, without memory to help her decode it, seems to hide innumerable vast conspiracies?

Agent 6
By Tom Rob Smith
Published by Simon Schuster
£7.99 reduced to £6.99
Moscow, 1965. Former Secret Service agent Leo Demidov is forbidden to travel with his wife and daughters to New York as part of a ‘Peace Tour’, meant to foster better relations between the two Cold War enemies. Leo’s natural paranoia reaches its peak: Why have his family been selected? What is being planned? When Leo’s worst fears are realised and a tragic murder destroys everything he loves, he demands only one thing: that he is allowed to investigate and find the killer who has struck at the heart of his family. Crippled by grief, his request denied, Leo sees no other option than to take matters into his own hands, thousands of miles from the crime scene. In a surprising, thrilling story that spans decades and continents – from the back streets of 1960s New York to the mountains of Afghanistan in the 1980s – Leo will stop at nothing as he hunts the one person who knows the truth: Agent 6.