John Maytham's Book Reviews

John Maytham's book review: Missing girls, drugs, madness and mythomania

Read and listen to John's weekly book choices:

The Tunnel by Carl-Johan Vallgren

Private investigator Danny Katz is trying to track down his former drug dealer.

Ramón and his girlfriend Jenny have both vanished leaving behind a lot of unanswered questions. How come Ramón suddenly found himself in possession of the mother-load of drugs? And is Jenny really who she claims to be?

Katz's investigation leads him to the darkest corners of Stockholm's porn industry and once again his old addiction threatens to control him. Ultimately only one thing seems certain - someone is willing to do whatever it takes to keep Katz from discovering the brutal truth.

The Eye of the Reindeer by Eva Weaver

Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Ritva is sent away to Seili, an island to the south of Finland. A former leper colony, Seili is now home to 'hopeless cases' - to women the doctors call mad.

But Ritva knows she doesn't belong there. As biting winter follows biting winter, she longs to be near to her sister, and wonders why her father ever allowed her to be taken to this desolate place. Hope arrives in the form of Martta, a headstrong girl who becomes Ritva's only friend. Martta is a Sami, from the north.

All through her childhood, Ritva's mother told her wonderful Sami legends and tales - of Vaja the reindeer, the stolen sealskin, of a sacred drum hidden long ago. When Ritva and Martta decide to make their escape, this is where they will head.

So begins an odyssey over frozen sea and land towards a place where healing and forgiveness can grow. This is a story about friendship, about seeing the world through a different perspective, and the stories and tales that can make up a life.

Mythomania: Tales of Our Times, from Apple to Isis by Peter Conrad

Despite our culture’s proclaimed respect for scientific reason, we live in a society that is no less bedazzled-and bedevilled-by myth than those of our remote ancestors.

Roland Barthes first examined the mythical resonances of consumer products in the 1950s. Far from being demystified, consumerism has since morphed into a universal religion, its compulsory ritual of shopping essential to our economic survival. Myth has also invaded the political realm, as terrorists brandish black flags and recite theological mantras as they martyr themselves.

Peter Conrad’s exhilarating book exposes the absurdity and occasional insanity of our godforsaken, demon-haunted contemporary culture. Conrad casts his brilliant beam upon subjects from The Queen to the Kardashians, via Banksy, Nando’s, vaping, the vogue of the cronut, the mushroom-like rise of Dubai, the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, the growth of the Pacific garbage patch... In Judge Judy, he shows us a matronly Roman goddess dispensing justice with a fly swatter.

In the metamorphosis of Caitlyn Jenner from Olympic athlete and paterfamilias into idealised female form, he sees parallels to the deeds of the residents of Mount Olympus themselves. Finally, after surveying advances in biomedical engineering and artificial intelligence, he asks whether we might be on the brink of a post-human world.


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