I left home with a packed Kindle last month for my first ever cruise. My eclectic reading tally was as follows:
Peter Ralph’s The CEO: White Collar Crime took me up the Eastern seaboard from Sydney to Cairns. Mr Ralph specialises in corporate thrillers that are apparently based on extensive experience of the business world. I’d read his Dirty Fracking Business previously and been struck by his profound knowledge of the fracking industry in Australia. The CEO: White Collar Crime is a madcap morality tale of how not to do business: Protagonist Douglas Aspine is a monster, intent on gobbling up profits, women, cars, and anything else that falls onto his plate in his quest to be a top CEO. Alas, the trail of damage lengthens until there is only one way out. In Australia, we have an old-fashioned expression ‘Ya wouldn’t read about it!’ as a reaction to something implausible. Alas, I have a horrible feeling that Australia has more than a few Douglas Aspines, and here’s where you’ll read about it.
After Cairns, we were solidly in the tropics and on course for Darwin. Our ship’s ultimate destination was Singapore, after which we were to fly to Penang, and then return to Sydney via Singapore. So what better book to read next, but Tan Twan Eng’s award-winning The Gift of Rain, set in George Town, Penang, a city I hadn’t visited in more than twenty years. This sinuous novel is the tale of a half-English and half-Chinese son of the powerful Hutton trading family during the Japanese occupation of Penang. It’s a big, ambitious novel that often veers towards the mystical. The star of the book was the Eastern and Oriental Hotel, where we were booked to stay, and I finished the book the day we checked into the
dear old thing, with its white shutters and lovely banquet rooms, and photographs of the Sarkies brothers. These gentlemen, bearing record-breaking moustaches, were the very same Armenian brothers who founded Raffles in Singapore.
I wandered George Town, summoning up Tan Twan Eng’s images of the Japanese occupation, but in the meantime I’d started on his The Garden of Evening Mists, an exquisite novel set in the years after WWII, and dealing with the pain of guilt and betrayal as a former prisoner of the Japanese in Malaya rebuilds a Japanese garden in memory of her dead sister. I finished it on the last night of a stopover in Singapore, and after a pre-departure dinner at the venerable Zam Zam Restaurant, I was ready for Kerry J. Donovan’s Cryer’s View, the latest in his The DCI Jones Casebook series.
I’m a big fan of Kerry Donovan, who matures as a writer with every book, and now works in a range of genres: Note his experimental The Transition of Johnny Swift, and his American small town debut On Lucky Shores. In Cryer’s View, we see a strengthening of Donovan’s skill in building complex characters, so that what is at face value a police procedural is a more profound piece of work. I knocked off Cryer’s View just before BA15 touched down at 6am in Sydney, well chuffed, as I think Detective Sergeant Phil Cryer might have put it.
Overall, a great reading experience, and the cruise wasn’t bad either. I’ll award 20 out of stars for the lot.
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