SirSurly's Books
Ode To The President - of sorts

So MdB told me about book-spine poetry, and I got a little obsessed. Crafted a few, but this was my favourite. Understandably, MbD wasn't keen to attract homeland security notice by posting this. It wouldn't be the first time the poor lass was detained because of me :-)


I've obviously got a particular Turnip in mind here, but feel free to substitute your own dysfunctional and partially insane world leader here (apologies to Merkel and Ardern).


How to Fight Presidents

First Family, Simple Genius

Dead End Gene Pool, Dinosaur

The Road to Little Dribbling

Foul, Venom, Scorn, Meltdown

Kill Your Boss, One Good Deed

Deliver Us From Evil, Worth Dying For

And now for something completely different...

So MbD said she was going to play me an audio book, and I had to listen to the whole thing. Before I cracked it, she explained it was short, included swearing, and was read by Samuel Jackson. OK, I can deal with this...

So we listened to Go The Fuck to Sleep.

It was funny, but for us, it was 'other person' funny. Not having kids of our own, it seemed we were sharing others pain. Then it occured to me - we have our own issue. I present:

Go The Fuck to Bed – by Easter Cat


Dusk is dawning, and my spirits are rising

You are obviously tired and well fed

Rather than lounge on the couch for a while

Please, can we go the fuck to bed?


Patting your chest, you are suggesting laps

Nope, can already see where Carlito has shed

No laundry to be done and you’ve been to the ‘loo

Suggesting we just go the fuck to bed


The bees are all home, the dishes are done

Cats are intelligent, it is often said

Since your work for the day is done

Quit pissing about, let’s go the fuck to bed!


It’s getting dark, the back doors are shut

Now Lito is going off his head

Chasing his tail and other mysteries

I really think we should go the fuck to bed!


The chickens are quiet but the possums are active

I hear them running across the shed

Pappa is drooling on the couch

Why can’t we go the fuck to bed?


Finally success, the humans are moving

Bringing chocolate and books to be read

Don’t care if they bring the kitchen sink

We can finally go the fuck to bed


Now Lito is here and prancing around

Pretty sure I can smack his head

Now there is yelling and I jump off

Why the fuck did I want to go to bed…

The 'Keet

I’m sure most of you have heard about MbD’s interactions with our avian friends last week.

I present to you my abridged, bastardised version of Poe’s classic, The Raven.

It seemed excessive and wrong to title mine The Rainbow Lorikeet...



Once upon an evening cheery, while I rested, weak and weary

Twas reading a novel, thought was new, turns out I’ve read before

While I flirted with some early sleep, Jenn + I heard some squawking

There was no gentle rapping, just a panicked scratching at the chimney door

“What the Hell” I muttered, “Why is there panic at my chimney door?”

Only this, and nothing more…


Presently, Jenn was pleading, insisting on freeing the prisoner

“But Jenn” said I, “what do we do, I know we can’t ignore”

We wished to retire, but faced consequences dire

We could barely hear you, but the cats were staring, staring at the chimney door

Armed with tools and imagination, Jenn found an open door

Darkness there, and something more…


Exhausted in the bedroom, I was useless, always yawning

Suddenly Jenn shrieked, we’d seen a claw, reaching out to explore

“OK”, said I, “this is a disgrace, a creature trapped in the fireplace

You’ve got the torch, let me see, what’s there and let’s explore

Work our best, create a path, and let the beast explore”

Tis not the wind, it’s something more…


The ‘keet, sitting calmly in the chimney flue, burst out

That one act, but in this act, we saw his soul soar

He was screeching and uttering, his feathers truly fluttering

I’d barely muttered  “Now he’s escaped, out! I implore

He’ll surely leave soon, sleep beckons, leave I implore

The ‘keet just laughed, nevermore…


And the ‘keet, finally settled, is ripe for helping, we are helping

On the bookcase, light, picture rails, he refuses the door

His heart knows we’re trying, but his eyes see demons flying

He’s panicking, covering every surface, walls, cupboards and the door

Finally we shift this shadow safely, through the bedroom door

Shall be free forever – Score!


A new day dawned, bright and sweet, and then, a telling “cheep”

When just the night before, we thought “Nevermore” …

The 10 That Shaped Me

OK, so I doubt this really fulfils the desired criteria, but MbD encouraged me to have a crack. The best I could manage is the 10 That Shaped Me!


In chronological order, that is when I read them, not when they were written, they are as follows:


Choose Your Own AdventureVarious Authors (I use the term loosely…)

As an impatient child (and I can’t say I’ve improved over the years), this was a great introduction to reading at a higher level. Guess I was about 10yo when I devoured every one of these I could find. Don’t like the result, then go back and try again. Start doing this on multiple levels, and the brain was working overtime to keep track of the 8 threads you were weighing up.


Hardy Boys - Frederick W. Dixon (Turns ourt this was just a bunch of freelancers all writing under 1 name. Maybe I knew this 30 years ago, but was a little surprised to find that out now).

Hello mysteries! I was hooked, seriously. So much so I may have even strayed to Nancy Drew on more than the odd occasion. They may have been formulaic, but just like Scooby Doo, you learned the villain wasn’t always the old guy in the decrepit house. And since there was a bunch of them, that took care of my pre-teen years.


The Secret Diary of Adrian MoleSue Townsend

My grandparents were English – in Australia, that means you grew up with British Comedy. The US invasion was 10 years away, so I was weaned on The 2 Ronnies, Rumpole of the Bailey, Porridge etc.

This ‘diary’ of a young adolescent became my window to the UK from an adolescent’s view. It was often painful, but did teach me roughly about the English schooling system, the class wars, and confirmed the weather is shit.

On ‘researching’ this one, turns out there is another 4 in the series I haven’t read. A little intrigued, but also concerned this might be one of those ‘you are not 13 any more’ disappointments. I’ll give one a crack and see if I survive…


Oliver TwistCharles Dickens

This nomination is not based on my actual reading of the book. This was a school enforced read, with little teacher direction. Then I saw the movie. Then I played the Artful Dodger in the school play. THEN the book came to life!

It’s probably the script, rather than the book that I remember. Australia is a simple country with a short ‘white-man’ history. At school, we followed the English through Medieval times, the Victorian era, the World Wars in the 1900’s.

This tale encompasses all that is good and bad about the English class system, and for a middle class Aussie lad, made me dead glad I was born where I was, when I was.


Icarus AgendaRobert Ludlum

Spies, war, and treachery. Welcome to my early teens. I credit this book for kicking it off. Must have read it 6 times as a teen, and a few more since. Classic 80’s tale of America saving the world in the face of foreign forces.
Just pulled it of my shelf when writing this, and it’s literally fallen apart on me. Damn, I have a hankering to read it again…


Ten Little IndiansAgatha Christie

I much prefer the original title, but MbD has banned me. This IS one of the greatest mystery stories of all time, and I’m willing to punch up with anyone who says otherwise!*
10 people trapped on an island, and they die off one by one. Who is next, and who is the murderer?
If you haven’t read this, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

*I may be 6ft, but not much on my bones. I’m sure a 5ft Italian Grandmother could change my mind if she swung her rolling pin with a little vigour.


The Rise and Rise of Kerry PackerPaul Barry

For non-Australians (yes, I know, that’s 98% of you), the Packer family are an Australian dynasty. Think the US Rockefellers or the European Rothschilds.

But remember we are a relatively young country (apologies to the Aboriginal ancestors of our land). The Packer story starts with a growing media empire in the 1930’s, and grew to Australia’s largest media company. (Opinion is divided between the Packers and Murdochs during the 1990’s, but much of Murdoch News Corp’s wealth spread to the US.) A fascinating look at the man who was a driving force in commercial TV, and revitalised cricket with his broadcasting.


Catch 22Joseph Heller

I know, late to the party on this one, and might even buck the ‘I don’t want the classics’ criteria.

Visiting Florida, I picked up a friend’s copy the night before MbD and I got married (it was a spur-of-the-moment thing, with 3 days planning). To be fair, the events are not related, but it was a pretty life changing week. John Yossarian takes a Monty Python approach to life as an aircraft bombardier through WW2, with added insights that make you question what YOU stand for.


MacBeth Jo Nesbo
Have reviewed this one, mainly as an outlet for the feelings the book left me with, both during the read, and then the dreams that followed. Most know the Shakespeare tale, this modernises the battle of morals one can face.


ReplayKen Grimwood
Recently reviewed this one too. Read it 9 months ago, and barely a day goes when I don’t think about the questions it raises. Living one’s life over and over, knowing you can take nothing with you.  Try reading this and tell me if doesn’t affect your look on life.


I’m sure I am forgetting a few, and the 10 may change to X in future, but these are the books that shaped my reading habits, and my views of the world.

3 Stars
Identity Crisis
Identity Crisis - Ben Elton

Ben Elton, one of the planet's greatest comedy writers, is normally a safe bet for an amusing read whilst pushing the boundaries. These boundaries change with each novel, but something didn't work for me this time.


Ben, what changed? Is it you, is it me, or is this just part of your evolution?


With previous titles like Stark, Gridlock + Dead Famous, I enjoyed your stories. I suffered through this one, but I'm not sure if that's because I am a conservative, white, hetrosexual male (by the end of the book, I felt like a minority) And I don't do Twitter. Safe to say this novel only makes more more determined NOT to join the Twittersphere!


Set in the lead-up to the Brexit vote, our stoic Scotland Yard detective Michael Matlock is rapidly discovering the blowback for making comments considered Politically Uncorrect. What IS actually PC is a moving feast, and Matlock is not the only one scrambling to avoid becoming victim of a Twitter war.


I normally find Elton to be on the cutting edge of the present, or taking a fantastic view of a possible future. This one seems somewhere inbetween, and for that reason, I wasn't sure what to 'feel' as I read it. One night I would chuckle away, the next night I'd put the book down in utter confusion.


It's a coherent mystery, there is resolution, but it was not a satisfying tale for me...

3.5 Stars
The Scarecrow Trilogy
Area 7 - Matthew Reilly Scarecrow - Matthew Reilly Ice Station - Matthew Reilly

This is an attempt to review three novels in one go. As they are all similar/inter-connected, it seems pointless to tackle each individually.


Matthew Reilly is an oddity – An Australian writer who has cracked into the action/espionage market. The stories move at breakneck speed, from his ‘Wonders’ series to this batch of ‘Scarecrow’ tales.


We follow the fantastic journey of a US Marine, call sign Scarecrow. He is no ordinary Marine. Not once, but thrice, the fate of the world rests on his shoulders. It’s tough enough to be sparring with other nations intent on stopping him, but when he realises he has traitors within his team, it comes down to Scarecrow to do it solo.


I’m sure most of you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books? For those too young (way to make me feel old!), you got to the end of each page, then had a choice of 2/3 options, and turned to the relevant page for your pick.


We are going to do the same here, feel free to mix and match!



A – If Trump’s heart stops beating, then airports in the US north will explode. Sorry, I know that’s teasing, what’s a few airports to get rid of the turnip?

B – A cartel of Earth’s richest men are intent on launching nuclear strikes against most of the world’s major cities. Just to make more money.

C – Nations are slaughtering each other to access a UFO stuck under the ice. Scarecrow is fighting SEALS, and is saved by seals.


The Bad Guys:

A – The Chinese, the Russians, and parts of the US government. Britain. And the French.

B – Most of his command structure, some of his Marines, and the President’s Men. Britain. And the French.

C – 12 of the world’s richest men employ a bunch of psychotic bounty hunters. And the French. (The Brits helped him this time.)


Seriously, he was asked after the last novel what he had against the French. He saw them as perfectly placed to play the modern villain in the absence of Germany/Russia/Japan etc.



A – Pretty much everything, including an iceberg, a submarine and a UFO.

B –  Nearly everything, including fighter planes, half his team, Russian bases and a French Castle.

C – Everything, and then more. Seriously, I tried keeping a rough ‘insurance’ count in one of these, and my eyes starting rolling when we hit multiple trillions…


No Way!:

A – Climbs up from the launch vehicle to a space shuttle, just before separation. Overpowers crew, flies back to land. All in the space of 15min.

B – Spends up to 7 hours (out of 24) in freezing Antarctic waters. No wonder he is knackered for the final fight.

C – By my count, he loses his trusted sidekick Mother (a brute of a lady) 8 times over the 3 novels. Yet she is there hosting another BBQ at the end of the 3rd novel, making Houdini look like a novice.


I think you get the idea…


To be honest, you can grab 2 from each category and still fall short of just one novel. When the climax of each draws near, the trials and tribulations Scarecrow has faced flash though his exhausted mind. Then you are reminded he has essentially fought off up to 3 national forces and saved the world in 24 hours – again.


I generally don’t read Fantasy. This ebbs awfully close to that shore, but then, what espionage novel doesn’t flirt with that line. If you can suspend reality, then Reilly does a good job of telling a fast paced tale, loaded with action. Judging from the progression, I might need a seatbelt for the next world crisis.


** Reilly has also written Hover Car Racer. Originally written as an internet serial, and aimed at YA, this was great! OK, I’m an F1 fan (can’t stand most other motor sport), but this one held me cover to cover. Shows the versatility of Reilly – he has appeal with different audiences, and knows how to pace a story. One could say he chooses the ‘speed’ of his writing…

4.5 Stars
Replay - Imagine another crack at life, time and time again...
Replay - Ken Grimwood

Have you ever read a book that changed your reading habits?


I have never before read the same book twice in the space of 4 months. Normally a decade or two will pass before I revisit some old favourites. I was on a rare holiday last September when I read this first time round. No other book has stayed with me like this.


Replay tells the story of Jeff Winston, a 43yo stuck in a rut professionally, and living out a loveless marriage at home. He dies of a heart attack at work – only to wake 25 years earlier as an 18yo student, back in 1963. His body is 18, but his mind is 43, and his journalist mind knows much of the ‘future’ he is about to face.


After struggling to cope with this time shift, and the existing relationships he is expected to return to, Jeff starts to see a future that he can shape. Until he is faced with a sobering reality. He can do nothing to prevent the heart attack that strikes him on that fateful day in 1988.


Author Ken Grimwood starts with the obvious fun – generating a bankroll. If you know the winner of the Kentucky Derby and the World Series, you can make some serious coin. And Jeff does! After cleaning out Vegas, he creates a global corporate empire, marries and has a darling daughter, then dies at 43…


As Jeff realises that he is destined to return despite his best efforts, he tries different paths. Starting with his reliable sports bets, he chooses different paths over various replays. From hedonistic sex binges through Europe, to an isolated farm in California, Jeff struggles to find happiness. Then he meets Pamela.


He suspects she is a ‘replayer’ too. When he can finally arrange a meeting with the in-demand Pamela, he knows he is right. She is confused and alarmed, believing she was the only one going through their common experience.


It’s not seamless, but over many replays, Jeff and Pamela live beautiful lives together. They finally have to acknowledge a disturbing fact – each time they ‘replay’, they come back later. Initially, it is only hours, then weeks, then years but with no discernible pattern. Pamela dies 3 weeks earlier each time, but had a family with 2 kids in her first life.


It was crushing to read the temporary end to each replay. Then, to destroy your soul, imagine coming back to the love of your life, but she doesn’t recognise you – she hasn’t ‘replayed’ yet. And that gap only grows.


On first reading, I was largely intrigued. This time round, I was invested from the start. Knowing the ending doesn’t ease the pain, and trust me, it’s best not to imagine yourself in this situation. I am sure that many partners would not be together had they met earlier in life.


This is not a gloom and doom tale, don’t let me give you that idea. There are many concepts for the brain to explore, ethical issues abound, and plenty of joy in the love stories.


Jeff learns that Replay gives you the freedom to do anything you want, and the appalling constraints to do anything you want. You just can’t take it with you…



Side Note - Stephen King’s 11/22/1963 is a similar tale – just takes him an extra 700 pages! After steering clear of King for many years, I was offered a copy just after the first reading of Replay. It felt like an ordeal to get to the end in comparison. I find King can tell a good tale, but his editor is obviously petrified of him. King does credit Grimwood in his book, providing the inspiration for 1963.

5 Stars
Robin - The definite biography of Robin Williams
Robin - Dave Itzkoff

I’m not sure I would have ever bought this book. I don’t mind the odd biography, but Robin Williams wasn’t one of my favourite comedians. (Reminder to me to check on the latest Eddie Murphy and Chevy Chase offerings…) This was a Xmas gift from a friend who knows I am besotted with Dead Poets Society*.


We learn that Robin essentially remained unchanged through his life – his crippling self doubt would haunt him all career. Even as he flew high with early successes like Mork + Mindy, Robin always felt he could be delivering more, making people laugh harder, often discarding the script to find that magic connection with his audience.


On reading the movie and TV credits, I realise I missed viewing most of his performances. He was always there – first on TV (21 credits), then moved to the big screen (70 credits). I have only seen 3 of the movies, but when those 3 are Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poet’s Society and Aladdin, the genius of the man is clear.



Good Morning Vietnam was released when I was 14yo. Wow, what a movie! War, comedy, romance, music, comedy, guns, rebellion and pure bedlam. More importantly, it showed that Robin could be a box office success, something that had eluded him before then, and would continue to plague him for most of his career.


Many argue that Robin was too willing to take any part offered, rather than being more selective in picking roles that showcased his talents. When he did pick well, the rest of the film often let him down.


Dead Poet’s Society – I suspect this was one of the most shaping movies of my life. As a 16yo at a private school (nothing as intense as the 1950’s setting), and interested in reading, literature and acting, this one really hit home. I felt like I could relate to most of the male characters, and I still can’t watch this film without crying like a baby. It’s worse now – I know what’s coming, so I start earlier…


The back story on this film is painful. Shopped around the studios, the 1st buyer wanted the director of Revenge of the Nerds. Thankfully, that fell apart.  Later, with director Peter Weir on board, Dustin Hoffman was almost signed, but he wanted to direct too. Lucky Rainman came along... Robin picked up a surprisingly large number of roles after Hoffman rejected them.


Aladdin – This movie actually blew my mind! (As naughty teenagers we may have been in a slightly altered state. :P ) Finally, a movie that couldn’t restrict Robin – literally. As a cartoon genie, he was free to roam far and wide. The tale had been told 1000 times, but this version had you on the end of your seat, singling along, and laughing your arse off…


I don’t like labelling Robin as a ‘comedian’. He was so much more than that, but his constant need for positive feedback means the world, and many friends, really only saw that side of him. Many of his greatest performances came when humour was brief, and we saw the true genius behind his ability to absorb and live the role (Dead Poet’s, Fisher King, Good Will Hunting).



The performances, both live and TV/Movie only capture a portion of the man. Itzkoff does well to draw from friends like Billy Crystal and Bobcat Goldthwaite. We hear from all 3 wives, his children from 2 of those marriages, and learn more about what lead to his tragic death.


There are always unanswered questions with a life (and death) like Robin’s. Many of his friends felt the same way, and Author Dave Itzkoff admits there is a part of Robin that no-one ever got to truly explore.  Despite this dark hole, Itzkoff does a splendid job – he tells you the full story with intimate access to friends and family. Covering Robin’s career, marriages, battles and wins, this is truly a great biography.



*Really not a spoiler alert, more an example that having Disney as your movie studio isn’t always a great thing. Disney had a problem with the original title – The Dead Poet’s Society. This was the feedback from Disney executive David Hoberman:


Dead was a bummer, Poets was too effete, and nobody knew what Society meant”.


Worst was to follow with some Disney friendly ‘solutions’:

The Amazing Mr Keating

Keating’s Way

The Unforgettable Mr Keating


Thank God Weir + and Robin held firm, but Disney, in their infinite wisdom, decided to meddle anyway. They dropped the ‘The’… guess that’s why these guys are paid the big bucks. XD

3 Stars
Dark, Sacred Night
Dark Sacred Night - Michael Connelly

I was given the privilege (courtesy of MBD) of an advanced, signed copy of this one. If Little Brown + Company were hoping I’d promote the book on the back of that, they were sorely mistaken.


Over time, I’ve read the entire Harry Bosch series, but in a rather haphazard order. Before reading Connelly’s latest offering, I thought it would be a good idea to go back to the start - the first Bosch story, The Black Echo.


The Black Echo is a great novel, a superb introduction to the Bosch character. While telling a tale, we learn of Harry’s problems with Internal Affairs, he works his moves with female officers, and we know the police brass don’t like his approach.


In Dark Sacred Night, Bosch has been paired with Ballard, the new star from the Connelly stable. Bosch, confined to cold cases, uses Renee’s spare time on the night shift to aid his investigations.


Renee made an impressive debut, but if she is to be partners with Bosch in future, as Connelly suggests, she will soon leave Harry in the dust.


At his advanced age, Harry is stretching reality with his lack of sleep. And he always seems to have money, not sure how he manages that on a semi-retired cop’s salary. Harry’s traditional ‘conquest’ is probably the best indication that he is not the detective we have enjoyed over 30 odd novels. Physical contests result in an inordinate amount of time in hospital.


We have nothing left to learn about Harry. Instead, you spend your time cringing as he maintains his one man war against city hall. Then imagine if your parents divorced, and you had to watch your father at 65 chatting up his new squeeze.


Even if I’d read my own review, I’d still want to read the new Bosch. I’d suggest this should be second last novel for Harry. One last hurrah, then let the poor bloke hobble off into retirement.

Task 1- this one was easy...

When you go by the moniker Harry

LA is a mess, but he's happy as Larry

He's got a view, a story, a true tale of woe,

But he'll work 24/7, screw his partner in tow

Solve the case, slip the tail and piss off the brass

Stress his daughter, ignore his boss and finish with class

When you are always under the cosh

It's your old friend Hieronymus Bosch!

3.5 Stars
After reading this, I won't mention 'His' name either...
Macbeth - Jo Nesbo

Where to start…

For those familiar with Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Nesbo has stayed (largely) true.


For those familiar with Nesbo, while this might be a re-telling of a classic, there is no missing his style.


For those new to either – buckle in!


This book fucked with my mind – more than a little.


I am generally a quick reader. This book, at 503 pages, took me 2 weeks.

With an easy reading book, you pump through chapter after chapter each night. The story flows, the emotions are those you are familiar with, even if only in literary terms. You can forget that with Nesbo’s Macbeth.


Set in a dystopian town with little industry, and rampant crime underpinned by drug boss Hecate. A former drug addict, now SWAT commander, Macbeth is deemed the best option to lead the town out of its nefarious and corrupted past. The ballooning death-toll points to the folly of this choice...


I don’t like that the town doesn’t have a name. The clues intimate a town like Aberdeen in Scotland, and I can understand Nesbo not wanting to tag a town with this story. But give it a name! What do those in the Capitol (for eg.) call the town?


As a good private-school boy in Australia, we were required to read Macbeth early in secondary school. I suspect that’s because private schools liked to encourage many of the themes – strength, leadership and loyalty. Conveniently forgetting the other themes of treachery, addiction and megalomania.


As a 44 year old, I can now recognise all these themes have, and always will, drive humans.


I’ll admit it’s been a good 29 years since I read the original. In saying that, I think Nesbo has done a good job honouring the essence of Macbeth. Like the best of Shakespeare’s works, it often asks for the reader to delve into areas we prefer to avoid.


Why did it fuck with my mind (and sleep) for 2 weeks (while reading, and another week on)?


I can read about some brutal violence, I can deal with treason. I understand murder of families for the ‘greater good’ in espionage novels, and don’t give a second thought to those who fall in the classic spy stories.


In Macbeth, Nesbo/Shakespeare makes every death count. Each twist takes you to a place you don't want to go. As the tale unfolds, you find yourself cheering for those who will betray you, and you want a merciless death for those who are upholding your values.


I’m not sure who this book is pitched to; if it’s the traditional Nesbo fan, I’d suggest that while you are used to casual violence, there are questions raised in this story that could (and should) keep you awake at night.


If Nesbo was hoping to tap-in to Shakespeare disciples, I suspect they would have been alarmed at what he found necessary to do a ‘modern’ version.



*Partial Spoiler and trigger warning:


This does not affect the plot at all, but gives you an idea of what your mind must confront.


One of the main players is a middle aged woman trying to breast feed a baby, who has been dead over a week. If the idea of this messes with your head, do NOT read this book. Sorry Jo…

(show spoiler)


1.5 Stars
The Dying Game (The Trying - Lame)
The Dying Game - Asa Avdic

Who: Asa Avdic - A Swedish journalist (tv and radio) – this is her debut novel.


What: A merge of dystopian Stockholm politics, and a ‘reworking’ of Christie’s And Then There Were None (The correct, modern PC title)


When: Sweden in 2037. For some loosely explained reason, the country resembles the broke communist countries of the 1950s.


Why: I have no bloody idea! She basically pinched half the idea, topped and tailed it with some internal politics, and convinced some publisher she had an original worth printing.


I am tipping no one will be rushing out to buy the book on the strength of this review, so I’m not going to bother with spoiler alerts. Also, it’s only fair to declare this book was originally written in Swedish (under the title of Isola). I don’t think it struggles with the translation, it’s the material that’s the problem.


20 years in to the future, Sweden has left the European Union. The Protectorate of Sweden is now under the Union of Friendship. There is seriously a whole page (fake encyclopedia entry) explaining this at the start – full of contradictions and confusion.

This convoluted set-up is necessary to explain the bleak state of Sweden. Under totalitarian control, we are introduced to Anna. She is forced by the Chairman to accept an assignment on a Swedish island.


Now here’s my problem – the next 60% of the book happens on the island of Isola. It does have some minor variations, but she’s so damn close to plagiarising And Then There Were None* , it’s almost actionable. I feel like Advic must have read the book at some stage, as the blueprint is almost identical, but long enough ago to feel like she was writing an original mystery.


Strangers stuck on an island, dying one by one, as the guessing game goes on. OK, in this story, there are fewer people, with a slight twist involved, but it’s essentially the same premise, setting, and result.


Then we’re back to dreary Stockholm for the wash-up. A series of interrogations to explain what happened, ending in the usual political buck-passing. The end…


It really is a bizarre mix of 2 stories – one that has Christie’s fingerprints all over it, and then the dystopian future of Sweden, a worrying futuristic view from the author, one of the country’s most popular TV current affairs presenters.


*I thought it was only fair to go back and read And Then There Were None before writing this. It had been 24 years since I first read it, but I could feel the tale coming back to me as I read The Dying Game.


Agatha Christie is a damn genius! First published in 1939, there are obviously some dated phrases and social conventions, but it still stacks up as one of the finest mysteries written. Fast paced and engrossing, nothing extraneous, and will have you guessing right to the end. To those who haven’t read it, I can’t recommend it highly enough.