Book review: “Shemlan” (by Alexander McNabb)

I may already have stated how much electronic books have accelerated my book consumption; this comes as an even bigger surprise because I had to recently calculate how many kilometers I drive every year (both of our cars are sadly due for replacement) and I have come to the startling conclusion that both me and my wife drive a whopping 40,000 km per year each. And I thought I went everywhere by train or airplane.

So while I drive more, I also spend more time in public transit, all of this probably at the expense of daily commuting (God , did I hate THAT) and this means more time reading.

All of this to explain why you will see two very different book reviews on this blog today, pertaining to two very different books.

Not sure Alex would appreciate me using precisely those words, but “Shemlan: a deadly Tragedy” is the third book on his trilogy around the character of Gerald Lynch: as always, I admire both the quality of writing and the way he brings those places alive, making painfully evident to me why I could never write a narrative book. I do not possess this attention to detail nor the patience to research places and times, as he undoubtedly has done.

The spy story is well-plotted, and still manages to surprise the reader (although no McNabb plot will ever match the surprise of Olives) – I know calling any of his novels a “page-turner” would earn me a punch, but he is far away, so there you go: start to finish in three hours of train.

So my vote is absolutely positive, but…

Ah-ha, here comes the fun part of a review. The nit-picking.

But #1. The Lynch character is tired – he’s resorting to Bond-esque feats very much unlike him. And I stop here to prevent spoiling.

But #2. If there is one thing I unabashedly admire about Alex is his language; vocabulary, wit, care of detail that make reading refreshing, effortless, relaxing. In a couple of places in Shemlan I stopped asking myself if I had read this sentence already. A bit like speed bumps, but there were no speed bumps on “Olives” or “Beirut”.

Looking forward to the next.

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