BY JOANNE HARRIS
THE colour of murder is blue, he thinks. Ice-blue, smokescreen blue, frostbite, post-mortem, body-bag blue. It is also his colour in so many ways, running through his circuitry like an electrical charge, screaming blue murder all the way.”
So begins this chilling, elegant thriller about a blue-eyed boy that becomes a murderer. Joanne Harris is best known for the slightly twee Chocolat trilogy, but from the moment you begin this book, you’re in a different kind of world – a distinctly unsweet one – entirely.
BB, whose blogger name is blueeyedboy, is a 42-year old hospital porter that lives with his mother in a Yorkshire village. Two brothers died years before, leaving him alone in a stunted, overly intense relationship with his mercurial, difficult mother.
BB spends his time on the internet, at a website called badguysrock where users post fantasies (or confessions) about murder. There he stalks Albertine, another blogger with a similarly dark past, with whom he begins to spin dark murder fantasies, mainly about his mother. As the story of their tortured relationship emerges through his posts, so does the dark history of his relationship with his dead brothers, the story of a blind child prodigy, and the rotting inner core of one extremely disturbed family.
This is a stunningly clever play on the themes of multiple personalities, mind games and what happens when internet-based fantasy breaks into reality – with devastating results.
BY PHILIP JOHNSTON
THE result of over a decade of frustration and dismay at New Labour is journalist Philip Johnston’s devastatingly punchy, furious Bad Laws. Broadly, he rails against a shift in the role of government, from protector to meddler, and the people’s shift from free citizens to harried, micromanaged “clients” of the Government.
Johnston claims that Britain has become farcically – and dangerously – over-legislated. With refreshingly blunt indignation, he sets out to show “how irritating laws have ruined our everyday lives” – indeed, in 1998, Labour’s first full year in power, 160 new offences passed into legislation. Examples include a “ban on smoking so inflexible that it threatens the future of a great British institution – the pub”; the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 that “criminalises teenage canoodling”, the unhelpful Dangerous Dogs Act of 2001 and the criminalisation of the Asbo such that a woman in Sunderland, having been served with one for noisy copulation, was sent to prison for continuing in this vein. Johnston is not against dealing with anti-social behaviour, but says that – in a typically wrong-headed appropriation of legal power – Labour has hijacked that and much more away from the civic and personal sphere.
Behind his fiery but utterly compelling language (where else would a law be described as “a snooper’s charter that lets an army of council jobsworths look at your phone and email detail”) is a very real patriotism. This is electric stuff, whatever your political views.
Anatomy of Murder
by Imogen Robertson
FOLLOWING the success of her swashbuckling debut, Instruments of Darkness, rising period dramatist Robertson has produced another cocktail of crime, sexual highjinks and mystery.
The setting is London, 1781. The streets seethe with rumour and conspiracy as the King’s navy battles the French at sea; the city swarms with people, cattle and carts. Meanwhile, a body is dragged up from the Thames.
Enter Mrs Harriet Westerman, bored and frustrated with her gentlewoman’s life and a passionate believer in justice. She, for one, is willing to look more deeply into the whys and wherefores of this dead body. And so is Gabriel Clowther, a reclusive anatomist, whom she teams up with in an unlikely pairing, so controversial it causes a stir at the opera as great as that of the new celebrity castrati singer.
Invited to seek the true nature of the dead man, they risk censure for an unnatural interest in murder. But when the safety of a nation is at stake, personal reputation must give way to the pursuit of reason and truth. What’s not to love? Certainly Robertson’s crisp, romantic style is endearing, and the story is dramatic and well-constructed enough to keep you delighted from beginning to end.