October reading report and book of the month

At Euro Crime during October, three of my reviews appeared. One of them is of a non-fiction book, Andrea Camilleri: the Companion to the Mystery Fiction, by Lucia Rinaldi, which will fulfil anyone’s curiosity about the Montalbano oeuvre in book and screen form. The other two reviews are of novels: Too Close for Comfort by Niamh O’Connor and Babylon by Camilla Ceder, translated (from the Swedish) by Marlaine Delargy.

Other than that, I read a few other crime novels:

Gods and Beasts by Denise Mina
My First Murder by Leena Lehtolainen – review submitted to Euro Crime
The Cutting Season by Attica Locke
Autumn Killing by Mons Kallentoft – review submitted to Euro Crime, book courtesy of Sarah Ward
The Bat by Jo Nesbo

I read one non-crime novel, The Casual Vacancy by J K Rowling, a depressing and bleak account of modern social hypocrisy and the misery of families (some of them with the veneer of social respectability, some not).

Of the crime novels I read, two are Swedish, one Finnish, one Norwegian, one Irish, one Scottish and one from the USA.

My favourite of the crime novels in this collection is an easy one, Babylon by Camilla Ceder.

For other bloggers’ choices of books of the month for October, see Mysteries in Paradise.

14 thoughts on “October reading report and book of the month

  1. Interesting Maxine. I’ve just finished Babylon and I didn’t like it as much as ‘Frozen Moment.’ I don’t fancy ‘The Casual Vacancy’ at all but am interested to hear what you thought of it. The Camilleri companion sounds interesting.

    • I think Babylon did well in comparison with the other crime novels I read this month, Sarah. The Casual Vacancy is readable, but the author has not quite made the transition from child to adult author (too much exposition, etc). It is so depressing, though.

  2. Maxine – You’ve really read an interesting mix of books. And I’ve heard a lot of good things about Babylon, so I would like to read that one. Like Sarah I’ve not yet read The Casual Vacancy, but I hope you’ll post a review of it.

  3. So, what did you think of the Denise Mina book, Gods and Beasts and Attica Locke’s The Cutting Season?

    • Mina’s is readable but a hotch-potchy mess! Locke is rather like her first- a bit heavy-handed but very sincere and on an important topic. The story itself is much better than the crime plot which is silly. I recommend reading it, even so.

  4. I thought Babylon was quite good, but not really spectacular. However, I made the mistake of reading it in English after reading the first book in the series in German, and that’s never a good idea – I had a particular tone in my head, and the English didn’t quite match it. (Not a translation problem, it’s simply that I don’t read the languages in the same way.) But I’d still pick up the next book in the series.

    I’ll be interested to hear what you think of the Leena Lehtolainen. She’s one of my favourite authors (again, read in German), but I’m not sure how well the books hold up when one isn’t a twenty/thirty-something feminist with a very similar set of issues and beliefs. It’s the reason I probably prefer Lehtolainen to Helene Tursten, on balance – Kallio’s way of dealing with sexism etc (a friend of mine calls it ‘whiny radicalism’, and I can’t really disagree!) is a lot easier for me to relate to than Irene Huss. And Maria Kallio’s relationship with her partner is probably the most accurate literary representation I’ve seen of the sort of relationship most of my academic colleagues and friends have, but we’re not a representative sample! (I know this is sacrilege, but I find Krister Huss – particularly in some of the later books that aren’t yet in English – to be a bit oddly portrayed.)

    Plus I also wonder if the book is too dated – 1994 is actually a long time ago.

    • Yes, I think the Letholanien is rather dated, in some ways it reminded me of the books being published by English feminists at that time eg Val McDermid’s early series and Lisa Cody. I quite enjoyed it but it is very much an Agatha Christie plot, with the “twist” of a female detective. The main downside for a modern book is that it seemed very slow and rather obvious – today I think the book should have been tightened up a bit. There is a subplot that I thought worked better than the main plot, as it was much more realistic than the “country house murder” Finnish equivalent of the main plot. (I don’t think the partner is really in this particular book, or at least if he is did not make much of an impression! Maybe he is more to the fore later on in the series.)

      • Yes, Antti’s much more prominent later on. (Or perhaps I’m just incredibly sympathetic to the plight of underemployed academics – who knows.)

        I hadn’t thought of the Lisa Cody or McDermid comparisons, but you’re right. And actually, Anna Lee and Kate Brannigan I remember reading in the mid-90s thanks to a very good local library. (More recent McDermids are a bit too gory for me.) That does raise a wider issue, though, and one for which I really don’t know the answer – how should translations of older books be received? (Particularly ones like this that are old enough to be dated but not old enough to be really historical.) I mean, it’s not necessarily an author’s fault – speaking generally, not just about this book – if tastes, experiences/genre exposure and editing fashions have changed.
        (I’ve had this on my mind with TV as well of late, since I’ve been rewatching early episodes of Inspector Morse with someone who didn’t watch them the first time around. Lewis aired here, but apparently Morse was never shown in Germany, hence the revisiting.)

  5. I just ordered Babylon a few days ago so look forward to reading it now. I didn’t adore the first book but thought there was a lot to like and now that I feel like reading again it seemed like a good time to order a few new treats (also arriving soon will be the new Indridasson).

    I am glad to hear you say what you said about the Rowling – i read the first couple of chapters of someone else’s copy in advance of me possibly getting my own copy but it really didn’t grab me and I suspect you’ve hit the nail on the head. I struggled to think it would have been picked up if it were by Ann Smith.

    Am currently listening to a book you recommended several times – Allegra Goodman’s Intuition – really enjoying the insight into the science/research world – I used see all the grant applications from various groups applying to us for research money and never knew it got so intense on the other side of the fence. Fascinating stuff.

    • So glad you are enjoying Intuition, Bernadette. There are some mixed reviews of Babylon but it’s the best Swedish crime novel I’ve read for a while as it is not trying to be trendy or “slasher-y” in any way. 😉

  6. I will read the Locke and read the Mina if the library has it. I won’t buy it, given your opinion.
    But I confess I do miss your frequent blogs; checking in was one of my first tasks of the day, with tea in hand. I enjoy those solid positive reviews, often moving me to reserve a book at the library right away or contact the Book Depository, Amazon or Abe Books if so inspired. (And the negatives I’d cross off the list.)

  7. That would be lovely, Maxine. Meanwhile, it’s to FF and Eurocrime. I read the review of The Summer of Dead Toys and it went on my TBR list.

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