September reading report and book of the month

Although I didn’t post any reviews here on Petrona during September, three of my pieces came out at Euro Crime: Vanishing Point by Val McDermid, “an excellent mixture of media-inspired, over-the-top drama and intense suspense as the hunt for Jimmy seems to be doomed to fail. A great holiday read.” [full review here]; The Murder of Halland by Pia Juul, tr Martin Aitken, “in many ways a perfect “literary” crime novella” [full review here]; and Deon Meyer’s 7 Days, translated by K L Seegers, “tense and exciting……a marvellous crime novel which must be a strong contender for best crime novel of 2012.” [full review here].

I read several other books during September, notably eight books in the Joanne Kilbourn series by Gail Bowen. I very much enjoyed these books, which are quick to read but which address serious themes. I didn’t think the most recent two, The Brutal Heart and The Nesting Dolls, were as good as the previous books in the series because they focus on Jo’s excessively lovey-dovey marriage at the expense of her roles as a lecturer of political science and TV panellist, as well as jettisoning the minor, semi-recurring characters and there not being much of a mystery to them. I am hoping that Jo will be back on form in Kaleidoscope, which is not yet possible to buy in the UK.

I also re-read Michael Connelly’s first Harry Bosch novel, The Black Echo, which was still a good read after 20 years. In a generous act of serendipity, a good fairy then sent me a proof of The Black Box, not published until November. It is a compelling read, though the last section, when Bosch leaves LA on the trail of his case, is a disappointment. Interestingly, the book opens 20 years ago at the scene of the riots in LA over the killing beating [post corrected] of Rodney King, harking back to the first book.

Finally, I read two non-crime novels in September: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, as ever a beautifully written book with many memories for me of what it was like to be a (very!) young woman in 1970s Britain. I was hoping the book was going to take a particular turn that it never did, but even though the male characters were a pretty grim lot, I enjoyed the book very much. The other novel I read was Parade’s End by Ford Maddox Ford (actually 4 novels, totalling more than 900 pages). I didn’t enjoy it that much, finding its existential fragmentation rather jerky and erratic. The TV series, adapted by Tom Stoppard, captured the essence of the books very well, though the main character was somewhat sanitised and idealised, and there was a strange debate between teachers about Marie Stopes’s ideas on sex (in marriage), which was not in the books.

In sum, on the crime front I read 13 books, 10 by women and 3 by men. The geographical distribution is: Canada, 8; USA, 2; Denmark, 1; South Africa, 1; and UK, 1. Two of these are translated. My book of the month? Almost a tie between The Black Box by Michael Connelly and 7 Days by Deon Meyer. No crime author writing today can top Bosch’s mesmeric intensity when he has the bit between his teeth, and I treasure Connelly’s occasional lurches into beautiful, yearning poetic prose – but for me, 7 Days pips The Black Box at the post for an equally compelling “cold case” plot, as well as having a more rounded, satisfying ending.

As usual, for other bloggers’ choices of books of the month for September, please visit the round-up post at Mysteries in Paradise.

Previous reading reports at Petrona.