I foolishly tried to resist getting caught up in the fervor, but it’s no use: once again my attention has been totally dominated by the Olympic Games. Such is the case for many of our patrons if the small talk at our service desk is any indication. There’s also been a run on all of our books about the Games, but there are some great mysteries and thrillers out there that feature the Olympics in various ways. Here’s a taste:
- See Delphi and Die, by Lindsay Davis. One of the best entries in this excellent series featuring sardonic ancient Roman detective Didius Falco, who in his 17th case investigates the mysterious deaths of two tourists at the ancient games.
- A Game of Lies, by Rebecca Cantrell. In her third outing, journalist Hannah Vogel returns to Berlin under the guise of reporting on the 1936 Olympic Games, but in truth to smuggle a mysterious package out from under the Nazi’s noses. For other fine thrillers involving the Berlin games, see Jeffery Deaver’s Garden of Beasts, Jonathan Rabb’s The Second Son, and David John’s Flight from Berlin.
- Goldengirl, by Peter Lovesey. This curious early title of Lovesey’s about a physiologist who chemically engineers his adopted daughter into an Olympic champion anticipates the doping scandals and tiger mothers of today.
- Nice Try, by Shane Maloney. Called in to help manage Melbourne’s ill-fated bid for the 1990 Olympic Games, cynical arts minister Murray Whelan finds himself in the middle of a racially-charged murder investigation when a black triathlete turns up dead.
- Private Games, by James Patterson. A crazed madman who will stop at nothing has a bizarre scheme to devastate the glitzy London Olympic ceremonies and restore the ancient glory of the Games. Private detective Peter Knight races the clock to foil his nefarious plans. This is Patterson’s second bid for Olympic gold, after his 1979 title See How They Run, aka The Jericho Commandment, in which Dr. David Strauss follows a trail of blood to the Moscow Olympics.
“London itself perpetually attracts, stimulates, gives me a play & a story & a poem, without any trouble, save that of moving my legs through the streets… To walk alone in London is the greatest rest.” ~ Virginia Woolf, Diary, March 28, 1930.
So you say your tickets to the London Olympics got lost the mail? Yeh, mine too, and I couldn’t be more disappointed. London is one of my cities – one of those distant places we return to and develop a kinship with. Having visited London countless times in my mind, it has also been my pleasure to stroll her streets, seeking and finding all manner of treasure. I’ve searched in vain for 84, Charing Cross Road or traces of The Old Curiosity Shop amidst the beguiling bookstalls, lost rapt hours in the British Museum and walked up and down the Thames under the changing weather, gazing at a mackeral sky or sighing over a Waterloo Sunset. G.K Chesterton – who created his own surreal versions of London once wrote that “London is a riddle. Paris is an explanation.” I’ve never felt Down and Out in either, but of the two London’s just the riddle for me.
- Capital, by John Lanchester. The various residents of posh Pepys Road each receive a postcard reading, simply, “We Want What You Have.” A smart, stylish contemplation of getting and spending.
- London, by Edward Rutherfurd. If you like your history fictional, this epic novel covers an entire millennia. British Michener, if you will.
- The Sexual History of London, by Catharine Arnold. A different take on 2,000 years of carnality and illicit intimacies from the Roman brothels to Soho smut shops.
- The London Scene, by Virginia Woolf. Six essays bring to vivid life London in the 1930s. Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway also brims with London life.
- The Lodger Shakespeare, by Charles Nicholl. Explores a curious historical artifact – a recovered deposition of Shakespeare from a 1612 court case – to offer a rare window into the real life and art of the great playwright.
- The Buddha of Suburbia, by Hanif Kureishi. Karim Amir samples the various kinds of Nirvana on offer in South London, circa 1970.
- A Week in December, by Sebastian Faulks. Fast forward to 2007: this thick slice of London life follows a diverse cast of characters who worry about terrorists while being fleeced by bankers.
- Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman. In this richly imagined urban fantasy, there is not one London, but two, each wonderful in its way.
- Portobello, by Ruth Rendell. A random act of kindness becomes a target for evil in this keen work of psychological suspense, filled w/ London broodiness.
You’ll find many more titles in Eternal London: in fact and fiction, a reading list in our library catalog. We’ve only just scratched the surface of this many storied city. What are your favorite London books?