Sunday Salon: Petrona at Euro Crime

Sunday_salon_3The new Euro Crime reviews are up (a regular Sunday treat), including two by me. I didn’t get around to highlighting last week’s new reviews either, so here is the quartet from Petrona:

Until its Over by Nicci French: "well up to the usual standard – there are lots of nice touches and observations of London life which those who live there will recognise and enjoy. If you haven’t read French before, this title would be a good introduction to the author….. Astrid is an attractive heroine with whom one can readily identify, and the pace of the plot guarantees that you won’t want to put this book down until you have finished it."

A Small Weeping by Alex Gray: "Although I enjoyed this book, I felt that the police procedural aspects were quite weak on occasion. Lorimer is an interesting character, but he seems to spend most of his time with the profiler, rather than his police colleagues, in trying to solve the case – in the process, missing quite a few promising avenues….. the book is not helped by the expectations placed on it by the jacket blurb comparing Lorimer to Inspector Rebus (because they are both Scottish, one presumes): this series needs time to mature before these kinds of comparison can be made."

An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson: "Nicola Upson cleverly merges fact with fiction throughout AN EXPERT IN MURDER……Yet although clever, I find this juxtaposition of real and imaginary unsatisfactory, as I am constantly aware in the back of my mind that "Josephine Tey" is a fiction, but that some of what happens in the book was "real". Some aspects of the book are very sad and poignant, but I think they would have been even stronger in a wholly fictional construction, rather than in this half-fiction/half-fact way of taking a person’s life and some known events, then adding imaginary melodrama, characters, actions and feelings. The whole is, for me, a curate’s egg. Nevertheless, the evocation of London’s theatreland and the snapshot of life in Britain at that time seems to be very well-researched and conveyed."

Cold in Hand by John Harvey: "a very sad book, written by an author at the peak of his powers. Understated yet powerful, it is superb – this is going to be one of the very best novels I read this year."

There are other new reviews at Euro Crime, listed here (updated each Sunday). Particularly good ones in this batch are Karen Meek on Marek Krajewski’s Death in Breslau, and as previously mentioned but worth mentioning again, Norman Price on A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr. Don’t just take my word for it, though, do check out Euro Crime’s great mix of books, news, reviews and all things Euro crime fiction.

Sunday Salon: thrillers, mostly in paperback

Sunday_salonIn the past couple of weeks I’ve read the latest paperback offerings of some of my favourite US or honorary US authors. A quick round-up:

Philip Margolin’s Proof Positive is well up to scratch: a thriller about a rogue criminalist, this book is as usual set in Oregon, featuring the local court and cop scene. This particular book features occasional regular Amanda Jaffe, but you don’t need to have read the earlier books about her in order to enjoy this one. A full review of the book can be found here at Mostly Fiction. Highly recommended: this author never fails to deliver a racy, pacy, no-frills, well-plotted read, with strong characterisations.

Similarly, Robert Crais delivers the goods in The Watchman, combining an exciting read with the close but sad relationship between LA private detective Elvis Cole and his associate, mysterious hard man Joe Pike. The Watchman mainly features Pike, here taking on the job of protecting a Paris Hilton type who has witnessed a crime. But Elvis features and a little bit more of the partners’ back-story is revealed on top of the urgency of solving the current mystery. All one can do really is hope it won’t be too long before the next installment.

Stephen White, too, is on good form with Dry Ice, in which psychologist Alan Gregory is targeted by a villain from a previous book. As well as the typically convoluted plots, the fun of the Gregory books is the obsessive secrecy: Alan can’t tell his wife Lauren much because of his exaggerated sense of client confidentiality; Lauren can’t tell Alan much because she’s in the DA’s office — and both partners are well aware of what the courts can make each one reveal about what the other has said. Their friend Sam, a local police officer, similarly can’t tell either Alan or Lauren about ongoing investigations. The fun comes when all three of them are involved in a case that overlaps with their three universes (as is very much the situation here), and although it turns out here that the strict ethics of the three main characters hasn’t prevented them from keeping secrets from each other or from doing illegal and unprofessional things on the quiet, who cares — it’s readable, exciting and a welcome addition to the series.

Lee Child, who isn’t American, writes about one, a quintessential modern cowboy, Jack Reacher– a serial drifter upholding the eternal moral law. Mostly I love his books but his current outing (not yet in paperback), Nothing to Lose, is a disappointment after an excellent first hundred pages or so. Sadly, the book then degenerates into unreality and a cycle of repetition, as Jack returns too many times to the town of suspicion to maintain credibility or even reader interest, as he seems invincible against the odds for no good reason. Of course there are highlights, but overall the book’s daft plot lets it down.