In March I reviewed 15 books, four at Euro Crime and the rest at Petrona – the list is below with a ranking out of 5 for each. I continue not to do well with translated books, as there are only three in this batch (Iceland, 1; Italy, 1; Sweden, 1). Gender balance is a little more even, with seven male authors and eight female – of the 15, nine authors are new to me*.
It’s a tie for book of the month for March. Against expectations, I found Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson’s The Flatey Enigma, tr Brian Fitzgibbon, an absorbing and memorable read; and I loved Anya Lipska’s debut novel set in London and Poland, Where The Devil Can’t Go. These authors are both new to me. In third place is Dark Angel by Mari Jungstedt, tr Tiina Nunnally, probably best enjoyed if you have read the previous five books in this series set on the Swedish island of Gotland. The ending lets the book down a bit, but the rest of it is full of fascinating character sketches and glimpses into family and social dynamics.
Blood Falls by Tom Bale 2
“…those who like Lee Child’s novels will find much to like here, as Joe is a similar sort of character to the nomadic Jack Reacher, being forced to operate under society’s radar as well as representing the fight of good against apparently impregnable evil.”
*I Will Have Vengeance by Maurizio de Giovanni 2.5
“… a welcome addition to the pantheon of Italian crime fiction. The book is written with great assurance, beautifully translated by Anne Milano Appel.”
Dark Angel by Mari Jungstedt 3.5
“This Gotland-set series has really hit its stride; the sixth outing for Inspector Anders Knutas and his colleagues is a riveting read.”
*Random Violence by Jassy Mackenzie 2.5
“The book continues with these dual themes of Jade’s investigation and quest for revenge, but its main strength is its depiction of the violent, heaving, overcrowded, booming Johannesburg.”
*Bone and Cane by David Belbin 3
Labour MP and ex-con separately investigate Nottingham-based possible double miscarriage of justice, as an old love affair re-ignites.
*Trial of Passion by William Deverell 3
First in series about lawyer Arthur Beauchamp, who retires to Garibaldi Island (Canada) and takes on what he thinks to be his last case, in which a female law student has accused her mentor of rape.
The Litigators by John Grisham 3
From small-scale to large-scale, lawyers behave with varying degrees of integrity in two very different cases.
The Flight by M. R. Hall 2.5
Coroner Jenny Cooper gets to the bottom of why a commercial airliner crashed into the River Severn.
*The Flatey Enigma by Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson 4
An unidentified body found on a beach starts a tale of academic intrigue and past crimes, set mainly on the Icelandic island of Flatey in the 1960s, where a mediaeval book of myths contains a yet-to-be-solved conundrum.
*Where the Devil Can’t Go by Anya Lipska 4
Excellent debut novel set in London’s Polish community and in Poland itself, as a detective tries to solve a crime, and a fixer searches for a missing girl. Assured and well-written.
*The Fall by Claire McGowan 2.5
Two women witness a crime and become friends while the boyfriend of one of them stands accused. More romantic-domestic drama than crime novel.
Look Again by Lisa Scottoline 3
Journalist tries to discover why the photo of a missing boy looks identical to her adopted son.
*An Honourable Man by Gillian Slovo 2.5
Dissection of a marriage set against the fall of Khartoum in the 1860s.
Cradle to Grave by Aline Templeton 2.5
DI Marjory Fleming investigates multi-crimes in Galloway, Scotland, as tempests rage and past events come back to haunt several characters.
*Desert Wives by Betty Webb 3
Searing indictment of Mormon marriage practices in Arizona/Utah, as young girls are indoctrinated and worse. Excellent campaigning novel whose serious themes somewhat overwhelm the crime plot.
For more March reading choices from book bloggers, see the round-up “book of the month” post at Mysteries in Paradise.
Scoring system: 5: excellent; 4: very good; 3.5: better than good; 3: good; 2.5: not quite as good as good; 2: average or not distinctive; 1: not recommended (usually not reviewed). This scoring system isn’t perfect as I seem to find it very difficult to award books a 5 or a 1. I am also never sure what rank to give books that are ripping reads but which would not win anything in the “literary merit” stakes!