Sunday Salon: summer holiday reading

TSSbadge3 Realistically, I am not going to get around to reviewing very many of the books I read on my recent holiday, so I'll provide a brief list here (more details about most of these authors and their books can be found at Euro Crime). Just before I left, I read:

The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg. Although this book has not been as well received by some reviewers as other recent Scandinavian offerings, and I can understand why, I enjoyed it a lot. I liked the small-town elements, as well as the digging back into the past. I found the romantic elements less interesting, but although I could guess the broad outline of the solution to the crime without too much trouble, I thought the book had a real emotional punch as well as being very readable. I'll definitely be reading more of this author. (Thanks to Norman Price for passing on to me his copy of this book.)

While away, I did not read my usual holiday ration of a book a day because we had a busy schedule, but I did manage an average of a book every two days.

In a Dry Season by Peter Robinson

Well-crafted Inspector Banks story whose strength is in the historical section set in the Second World War.

The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

Superb fourth installment in this classic Swedish police-procedural series, which provides a gripping mystery plot yet at the same time casts an acerbic eye on this so-called ideal society.

Aftermath by Peter Robinson

Another Banks story in which he has to investigate an awful case of teenage abduction and torture. Good, strong plot but I am increasingly irritated by the sexist Banks.

The Fire Engine that Disappeared by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo

Number five in this series of ten is just superb. These authors don't put a foot wrong: all the usual elements are there, including the telling domestic details of the policemen's lives. This time, it is a child's toy going missing that provides the key to the mystery. Don't expect any sentimentality, though.

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

This beautiful prose poem to California's ecology and environment is every bit as wonderful as I remember it. Also it is very funny indeed.

Gone to Ground by John Harvey

Stand-alone by the author of the Charlie Resnick and Frank Elder novels (Lynn Kellog makes a brief appearance). As expected, a readable police procedural. There is a strong, "silver screen" movie legend plot which is enjoyable, but I did not like the main character Will much and found the interactions between him, his wife Lorraine and his colleague Helen unconvincing.

Crow Stone by Jenni Mills

Disappointing story about archaeological myths and mining engineers under the hills of Bath. Annoying heroine who undertakes too many trips into abandoned mines without help or equipment, and who is too passive and feeble about work politics (they can be tough, but this woman barely seems to be able to say hello to a grumpy guy without internal panic). The best parts by far are the flashbacks to her childhood.

What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn

A brilliant novel. A haunting and telling parable of the emptiness of our new religion of materialism, with the almost unbearably sad framework of the story of the young "girl detective" Katie and the lasting effect on people's lives of her nascent investigations. This is one of those truly special books. Although there is a mystery element, this is not the reason why this superb novel is so powerful. I just have to write the classic phrase "If you only read one book this year, make it this one" about this book. (Thanks to Karen Meek both for recommending the book and for passing on to me her copy.)

and, since returning,

T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton.

A superior Kinsey Millhone story, of main interest for the details of how she goes about her various investigative tasks. The plot centres on the vulnerability of the elderly, with a somewhat cardboard villainess. But I loved reading about all the micro-aspects of how you undertake reference checks, file a process, serve a deposition and so on. An added bonus for me is my recent visit to Santa Barbara, where this series is based (though the town is called Santa Teresa in the novels), so I could better envision where the events are taking place.