October reading and reviews

At Euro Crime during October, I reviewed four books:

The Sacrificial Man by Ruth Dugdall***. From my review: “There is a great deal to like about this book. It is a readable, very well-plotted tale, with believable and sympathetic characters. I particularly liked the understated jousting between Alice and Cate, as Alice homes in on Cate’s perceived weaknesses but fails for some time to truly recognise the position she herself is in. Cate is a less vivid character than Alice, but I like the resolute way she deals with her weak ex-husband and the various male authority figures she encounters in her work. Above all, this novel is a great tale of psychological suspense, and I recommend it very highly.”

The Retribution by Val McDermid**, seventh in the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series and very much of a muchness with the previous novels. To my mind, the plot machinations are slightly too obvious, and I don’t like the device of trying to make the reader thirst for revenge by making the baddie appallingly awful. But, if you like the McDermid formula you won’t be disappointed in this example of it.

Midwinter Sacrifice by Mons Kallentoft***, translated by Neil Smith, is a book that seems better in retrospect than it did when I reviewed it just after reading it. It is a bit long and digressive, but it introduces an interesting detective to the Swedish crime fiction scene – quite a crowded stage but Malin Fors will hold her own on it, I’m sure. One nice aspect of this novel is the excellent translation by Neil Smith, who is doing such a great job on Liza Marklund’s books too.

Until Thy Wrath Be Past by Asa Larsson*****, translated by Laurie Thompson, is another Swedish crime novel (fourth in a series) set in the far north of the country, as is Midwinter Sacrifice (first in a series). Interestingly, both books use the narrative device of having a dead person “speak” to the reader – not something that I like as I am not keen on the supernatural, but it is subtly done by Larsson. Asa Larsson’s books are wonderful, contrasting urban and rural values as well as the perspectives of the old with those of the young, as Rebecka Martinsson seeks to find her niche in life. A highly recommended series which is among the very best that crime fiction can offer.

I’ve had quite a busy month at Petrona, too, reviewing novels from Italy, the USA (2), Norway, Argentina, England, Peru, Sweden and Scotland.

Temporary Perfections by Gianrico Carofiglio***
Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin*****
What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman***
Headhunters by Jo Nesbo****
All Yours by Claudia Pineiro****
The Vault by Ruth Rendell***
Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo**
Anger Mode by Stefan Tegenfalk***
The Darkness and the Deep by Aline Templeton***

I’ve given star ratings out of five, so it has been a pretty good month on the whole. I’ve awarded the full five stars to Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter – my book of the month for sure – and Until Thy Wrath Be Past. However, Headhunters and All Yours are both very funny (if black), breezy books that I highly recommend (4 stars each). Most of the rest earn a respectable 3 stars.

What’s next? Well, despite good intentions I have acquired far too many books recently, so I won’t list them all here. I’m currently reading Lethal Investments by K O Dahl, but after that I’ve about 10 print books, 3 print library books and 3 Kindle books to read – so I hope I can avoid falling into yet more temptation until I have made some serious inroads into them.

15 thoughts on “October reading and reviews

  1. Nice recap Maxine. You just remind me that I have Asa Larsson’s Sangre derramada (in Spanish) to read. The second Rebecka Martinsson’s instalment, Blood Split (in English), I presume.

    • That’s right, Jose Ignacio. I hope you enjoy it. It’s got quite a nice mystical aspect, about a lone wolf, as well as the human story.

  2. Good reviews. I’m relieved that this time my credit card won’t have to be hidden at a neighbor’s!
    The library has Asa Larsson’s and Jo Nesbo’s books on order. I read Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter and loved it. Friends love it, too. The one book I have to find is Piniero’s, and I will. And this reminds me to read some of Dahl’s books, and the library has a few. So, my budget is safe, for now.

    • yes indeed, this was years ago, Kathy, when the only kinds of sandwich anyone had heard of in England involved white bread and ham or cheese with the odd limp lettuce leaf. Now, one can get absolutely anything (edible or inedible) on absolutely anything (ditto). You can even get sandwiches on nothing, eg in Pret a Manger, or a “lettuce leaf sandwich” (ie some “stuff” wrapped up in a lettuce leaf for about £2) in Waitrose which has caused mirth at least to me and Norman, if nobody else! (It seems to have been discontinued now).

  3. Maxine – Thanks for this summary; I like to archive your excellent reviews and then come back to them when I’m looking for the next book to read. I’d like to echo your praise for the Åsa Larsson series. Folks, I highly recommend this series. It’s truly top of the line, in my opinion. And thank you for reminding me of All Yours. That’s coming up very soon in my own reading and I’m looking forward to it. And I suspect the Dahl will be added to the TBR, too; I look forward to your review of it.

  4. Maxine your five star recommendations are a must read, but this time I have them waiting on the TBR shelf to be read after I complete my historical reads. so the credit card can breathe easier.
    A new Waitrose has opened near us and I may attempt a PhD in the sociology of supermarkets because the mix of customers there is so very different from Sainsbury and Tesco. At times our little Micra feels lost amongst the big Land Rovers, and BMWs. I haven’t spotted those lettuce leaf sandwiches though yet.

    • I think they’ve been discontinued, Norman – too much even for Waitrose customers! (It’s ages since I have been in a supermarket to actually do a shop, as I do it all online – I only pop into one if I’ve forgotten something. It always makes me pleased that I use online ordering instead of queuing up.)

  5. Thanks for the reminder about ordering groceries online! I keep meaning to do that.
    Am reading Denise Mina’s The End of the Wasp Season, and though I have read mixed reviews on this book by esteemed bloggers, I can’t wait to pick it up again. This proves to me once again, that although I don’t like some of the characters, Mina’s plotting, dialogue, and overall writing are so good that it’s worth it.

    • I’ve read mixed reviews of this book too, Kathy, & there is your point about the editing errors. I’ve very much enjoyed the first few of DM’s books (Garnethill x3 and Sanctum) but been less keen on the rest.

  6. I certainly think that TEOFWS is much better than the first book in this series, and better than the Paddy Meehan books, although I enjoyed them. But I still have more go to and I’ll then assess it. The plot is unfolding bit by bit as one unpeels an union.

  7. Thought I had commented already, but apparently not.

    Good to hear Dugdall lives up to my expectations, and I have learnt to live very well without Hill & Jordan 😉

    I am also eager to read Lippman´s book, but I think I will read some of those my uncle gave me first.

  8. Overall, I liked The End of the Wasp Season, great characterizations and plot development. Mina is superb at getting the reader to unpeel the onion here. Although it’s known who the main suspect was in the murder mystery, it’s not known why until the end. There are some characters to like in this book. I warmed up to Alex Morrow, whom I did not like in Still Midnight. There is a lot more to say about her here.
    I couldn’t put the book down. However, it’s not the kind of book I’ll think about for days like books by Malla Nunn, Adrian Hyland or Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter. Even Donna Leon’s books are a bit more satisfying. However, I consider this a very good book, an excellent writing effort, not one I’ll rave about and pass around, but one that was satisfying.
    And I think the possible editing problem is really a case of Glaswegian vernacular. I found two sentences with the same construction and think that may be so. Overall, it seemed well-edited.

  9. Thanks for the kind words about Midwinter Sacrifice and the Liza Marklund books, Maxine – the next Kallentoft, Summertime Death, has been delivered (out next May, I think), and there are now three Annika Bengtzon books on the starting blocks: The Bomber (new translation out later this month), then Vanished (new translation of what was previously Paradise, due Feb. 2012), and finally Nobel’s Last Will a couple of months after that, which moves Annika’s story on from Red Wolf. Currently working on the next in the series, Lifetime. Just two more after that, then the series is up to date!

    • Thanks for the comment and information, Neil. I’ve read the first two of those Liza Marklund books in their previous printings, but am very much looking forward to Nobel’s Last Will and Lifetime. I’ll also try Summertime Death, perhaps I was too down on Midwinter Sacrifice, which was better than very many crime novels!

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