March reading report

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.

Euro Crime:
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.”

Petrona:
*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!

7 thoughts on “March reading report

  1. I have Desert Wives on my TBR list and would quite like to read the Anya Lipska book too. Good idea about identifying authors new to you. I might do this too.

  2. I haven’t read a single one of these – which means more to add to my wishlist. Though I think all your most recommended ones are on there already – I picked up the Ingolfsson book in the US kindle store as it was quite cheap and am looking forward to it – and I definitely want to read the Anya Lipska book – I too have to up my count of translated books (or just my count of books in general as I only managed to read 7 in the month of March – woeful).

    I share your difficulties with ratings – I was laughing to myself because just as you are introducing a more obvious rating scale I am thinking of doing away with mine – it feels so wrong so many times – almost everything seems to be around the 3 – 4 range and it’s not helping me let alone anyone else🙂

  3. This is good. I like the ratings. While I enjoyed all of your March book reviews, the ratings let me know — as do Bernadette’s — whether I really want to read the book, maybe want to read it or don’t want to do so. The reviews interest me and I do like some authors anyway so I’ll eventually read their books, such as Grisham. I definitely am putting Where the Devil Can’t Go on the TBR mountain and will see what the library has by Mari Jungstedt. The Flatey Enigma with the description of seal and puffin meat sends me towards vegetarianism so I’ll pass. But I will put the Grisham, Deverall, and Webb on the list. I read Lisa Scottoline’s book and it was a breezy weekend read when I needed one. No more to say on that. (I hope RTR keeps the ratings; although I really enjoy the analysis of each book, the ratings may clear up ambiguity on whether to seriously consider finding it.)

  4. Maxine I have read none on your list but have *Where the Devil Can’t Go by Anya Lipska in my Kindle and have added *The Flatey Enigma by Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson to one of my multiple lists. I’m also keen to read the William Deverell’s Arthur Beauchamp series. Now you can wonder why I rate so high the books I read. By the way I have already about five Joe Pickett’s in my Kindle. All I need is time to read.

  5. I certainly share your problem, Jose Ignacio! And thanks to you, Margot, Bernadette, Sarah and Kathy for your comments.

  6. Maxine – I’m glad that you found several books that were at least good. And I’m glad, too, that you got the chance to read several new-to-you authors. Your last sentence describes a challenge that I have, too. How does one rate/review a book that was an exciting read and that one really enjoys, but that has somewhat (or perhaps a lot) less literary merit. And does that fact matter? It’s an interesting question! Thanks for the food for thought.

  7. Oh dear, such a lot of here that I haven’t read. – in fact I haven’t read any of them although I have my sights set on the Templeton.

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