November reading and reviews

I read only ten books in November; in fact not even that as, unusually for me, I did not finish three of them. I wrote reviews of those I did finish, as well as having a few other reviews coming out at Euro Crime. First, the Euro Crime books I reviewed:

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney, about which I wrote: “I highly recommend this book to anyone, not just those who enjoy crime fiction but to those who like a well-written story containing rounded characters, genuine emotion, and providing insights into a vanishing way of life that is unknown to most of us. It is at least as good a novel as the author’s impressive debut, THE TENDERNESS OF WOLVES, and in many ways, even better.”

Trust No One by Alex Walters, featuring “a welcome addition to the current trend for strong, independent female protagonists.”

The Unlucky Lottery by Hakan Nesser, translated by Laurie Thompson, complete with “trademark bleak humour that permeates the book throughout, as the hard-pressed police team attempts to hold cold reality at bay.”

The Terrorists, the last Martin Beck novel by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. “The last of the ten books in the classic Martin Beck series was first published in 1975. Today, in 2011, it is as fresh and intelligent as it must have been when first written. Even though the plot is about international terrorism, a topic prone to the latest gadgetry, the book does not seem dated because what is important about it is the plot, characters and ideas that the authors wish to convey.”

At Petrona, I reviewed:

The Drop by Michael Connelly

Lethal Investments by K. O. Dahl, translated by Don Bartlett

I’ll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark

The Hand that Trembles by Kjell Eriksson, translated by Ebba Segerberg

White Sky, Black Ice by Stan Jones

Lying Dead by Aline Templeton

Nairobi Heat by Mukoma Wa Ngugi

Scandinavian Crime Fiction, eds Nestingen and Arvas (non-fiction)

The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina

The geographical spread is not as great as I would have liked, with 4 from the USA (one of these was mainly Kenyan in setting, the others were set in LA, New York and Alaska), 3 from Sweden, 2 each from England and Scotland, 1 from Norway, and 1 “Scandinavian mix”.

My book of the month? There are some strong contenders here, but it is fairly easy to choose The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney, which I enjoyed very much indeed. Runners up are The Drop by Michael Connelly, The Terrorists by Sjowall & Wahloo, and The Hand that Trembles by Kjell Eriksson.

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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.

September reading and reviews

The number of books I read during September plummeted compared with August, though some of the reviews I posted in September are of books I read in August. As usual, it is impossible to pick out a ‘book of the month’ because so many of them are so good. There is also a huge variety – I can list some favourites from this month’s reviews (no special order) based on genre: domestic, psychological suspense (Elizabeth Haynes, Diane Janes); police procedural (Jorn Lier Horst); thriller (Deon Meyer); journalism-based (Thomas Enger); noir (Sergios Gakas); psychologist-based (Stephen White); police-political (Arne Dahl); political-historical (Sofi Oksanen); domestic (Camilla Lackberg); outdoorsy (C J Box); social comment (Shuichi Yoshida). All these books share in common the essential elements of crime fiction, of course – a solid plot, direction, pace, characterisation, drama and atmosphere.

Two of my reviews came out at Euro Crime during September:

The Hidden Child by Camilla Lackberg, translated from Swedish by Tiina Nunnally. “Camilla Lackberg knows how to tell a good story, and THE HIDDEN CHILD is to my mind the best book in this series since the first, THE ICE PRINCESS.” The full review is here.****

Proof of Life by Karen Campbell (Scotland). “Each book the author has written is very different from the previous one, so I am intrigued about where Karen Campbell will be going next.” The full review is here.***

At Petrona I posted reviews of a wide international range of books:

Cold Wind by C J Box (Wyoming, USA)****

Misterioso by Arne Dahl (Sweden)****

Burned by Thomas Enger (Norway)*****

Ashes by Sergios Gakas (Greece)****

Rain by Stephen Gallagher (England)*

Dregs by Jorn Lier Horst (Norway)*****

Why Don’t You Come For Me? by Diane Janes (England)****

Trackers by Deon Meyer (South Africa)*****

Purge by Sofi Oksanen (Estonia)*****

Against the Wall by Jarkko Sipila (Finland)**

Death in August by Marco Vichi (Italy)**

Up Jumped the Devil by Blair S. Walker (Maryland, USA)**

The Last Lie by Stephen White (Colorado, USA)****

Villain by Shuichi Yoshida (Japan)*****

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes (England, inadvertently missed from August post)****

My reviews are now caught up with my reading here at Petrona. Over at Euro Crime, I’ve reviews pending of books by Asa Larsson, Maj Sjowall/Per Wahloo, Ruth Dugdall, Mons Kallentoft, Hakan Nesser and Val McDermid.

Read, reading, to read: mid-May update

My reading rate during May has slowed down a bit compared with April. So far I’ve only read five books this month, though am well over half-way through The Winter of the Lions by Jan Costin Wagner, a strange book. I’m not quite sure why my reading rate fluctuates from one book a day to one a week (roughly): time, length of book and interest level of book don’t seem to be factors. (Availability of books to read certainly is not!).

Of my May reads so far, I’ve posted a review here of Back of Beyond by C J Box (USA), and had a review of another, Mercy by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Denmark), published at Euro Crime. Another couple are submitted (or almost submitted) to Euro Crime: Blue Monday by Nicci French (UK), and The Dead of Summer by Mari Jungstedt (Sweden). I’ve also read Hanging Hill by Mo Hayder (UK) but am not going to review that because it was both utterly daft and featured two very irritating female protagonists, and I did not want to write a review full of gripes. It is (pardoxically?) a readable book, though, despite the fact that you could drive the Flying Scotsman through the plot. (A Euro Crime review of the book is here.)

What’s next? Books keep appearing, even though I’m not getting out to the library or physical bookshops at the moment. Two online purchases of print books are Nowhere to Run by C J Box, the tenth novel in the Joe Pickett series and the one that brings me almost up to date, as the eleventh has just been published in the USA; and The Fourth Man by K O Dahl, the last of the already-translated novels in this Norwegian series so far, which I want to read before the next one comes out. From publishers, under the kind auspices of Karen from Euro Crime, I have proofs of An Uncertain Place by Fred Vargas (France); Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante (a debut novel, USA); and Dinosaur Feather by Sissel-Jo Gazan (Denmark). On the e-front, I have downloaded two novels that start off series (recommended by Keishon of Yet Another Crime Fiction blog), A Cold Day for Murder and Fire and Ice, both by Dana Stabenow (USA), and 69 pence each (admittedly the deciding factor in my purchase of these books).

I am not sure which of these to read next, so suggestions are welcome.

Reading report, third quarter 2010

Books (2) From the beginning of July to the end of September, I've read 46 books. If I hadn't been away on holiday for a couple of weeks in July, my total would have been lower than in the second quarter (42 books) – probably nearer to the 26 books I read in the first quarter of this year. My total from the start of January to the end of September is 114.

Returning to my July to September batch, of the 46 I read,  24 are by men, 18 by women, 2 by man/woman pairs, 1  by a man/man pair, and 1 is a collection of short stories by men and women (but edited by a man). Seventeen are translations: 1 Polish, 1 Japanese, 3 Spanish (1 Argentinian, 1 Cuban, 1 Bolivian), 2 Norwegian, 1 French,  3 Italian, 1 Portuguese (Brazilian), 1 Afrikaans, 3 Swedish, and 1 Icelandic. So far as I can tell, 15 of the 46 are debuts. I shan't be reviewing a few of these books, but I have written up most of them (see end of this post). 

Which gets my award for best of the quarter? As usual, this is a very hard, if not impossible, task. My personal favourite was Red Wolf (Liza Marklund), closely followed by Three Seconds (Roslund/Hellstrom), Needle in a Haystack (Ernesto Mallo), The Man in the Window (Dahl) and The Terrorists (Sjowall/Wahloo). But there are some really good debuts among this collection, particularly Witness the Night (Desai) A Beautiful Place to Die (Nunn), Midnight Cab (Nichol), The Silence of the Rain (Garcia Roza)  and The Woman Before Me (Dugdale), and some great, classic novels such as An Empty Death (Wilson), The Dragon Man (Disher), Shadowplay (Campbell)  and Dead at Daybreak (Meyer). I've starred the ones I recommend going out of your way to read.

The list in full, with links to reviews.

The Girl with the Crystal Eyes by Barbara Baraldi (Review submitted to Euro Crime)

Never Look Away by Linwood Barclay (review to come)*

Blue Heaven by C. J. Box (Petrona, July)*

Shadowplay by Karen Campbell (Review submitted to Euro Crime)*

Chinatown Beat by Henry Chang (Petrona, August)

A Jew Must Die by Jacques Chessex (review submitted to Euro Crime)

Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves (Petrona, August)*

Play Dead by Harlan Coben (Petrona, August)

Willing Flesh by Adam Creed (Petrona, August)

American Visa by Juan de Recacoechea (Petrona, August)

The Man in the Window by K. O. Dahl (Review submitted to Euro Crime)*

Witness the Night by Kishwar Desai (Euro Crime, August)*

The Dragon Man by Garry Disher (Petrona, August)*

The Woman Before Me by Ruth Dugdall (Petrona, September)*

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (Petrona, July)

Bad Intentions by Karin Fossum (Petrona, August)*

The Silence of the Rain by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza (Petrona, August)*

Vodka Doesn't Freeze by Leah Giarratano (Petrona, July)*

U is for Undertow by Sue Grafton (Petrona, September)*

Tell Tale by Sam Hayes (Petrona, September)

Any Man's Death by Hazel Holt (Petrona, September)

Silent Counsel by Ken Isaacson (Petrona, September)*

Acts of Violence by Ryan David Jahn (Petrona, August)

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke (Petrona, July)*

Day After Day by Carlo Lucarelli (Petrona, August)*

Needle in a Haystack by Ernesto Mallo (Petrona, August)*

Red Wolf by Liza Marklund (Review submitted to Euro Crime)*

All The Colours of the Town by Liam McIlvanney (Petrona, September)

Dead at Daybreak by Deon Meyer (Petrona, August)*

Entanglement by Zygmunt Miloszewski (Petrona, July)*

Shadow Family by Miyuki Miyabe (Petrona, July)*

Hit by Tara Moss (Euro Crime, August)

The Twelve by Stuart Neville (Petrona, July)

Midnight Cab by James W. Nichol (Petrona, September)*

A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn (Petrona, August)*

Havana Red by Leonardo Padura (Petrona, August)

Three Seconds by Roslund-Hellstrom (Euro Crime, September)*

Afterlight by Alex Scarrow (Petrona, July)*

Ashes to Dust by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (Petrona, September)*

The Terrorists by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (Review submitted to Euro Crime)*

River of Shadows by Valerio Varesi (Euro Crime, September)*

An Empty Death by Laura Wilson (Petrona, September)*


Click here for previous reading reports

Reading report, second quarter 2010

Books From the beginning of April to the end of June, I've read 42 books (excluding one I started before the end of June and finished in July). Seventeen were by women, one by a woman/man duo and the rest were by men (one duo). Fifteen were translated from other languages: 2 French, 1 German, 1 Greek, 4 Italian, 1 Spanish, 1 Argentinian Spanish, 1 Norwegian, 2 Swedish, 1 Japanese, 1 Icelandic. Here is the full list, with a link to my review in each case. I have attempted a star system, but it isn't at all easy to be consistent about such matters. Any book with 3, 4 or 5 stars is one I'd highly recommend. This quarter I have given 5 stars to three books, Winterland by Alan Glynn (review t/c), Water-Blue Eyes by Domingo Villar, and Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland.

Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay (Petrona, May) ***

 Badfellas by Tonino Benacquista
 (Petrona, April)** (French)

Cambridge Blue by Alison Bruce (review submitted to Euro Crime)**

Poisonville by Massimo Carlotto and Marco Videtta (Petrona, April)**** (Italian)

The Past is a Foreign Country by Gianrico Carofiglio (Petrona, June)**** (Italian)

The Shadow of Your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark (Petrona, May)***

Caught by Harlan Coben (Petrona, May)***

The First Rule by Robert Crais (Petrona, May)***

The Last Fix by K. O. Dahl (Petrona, April)**** (Norwegian)

In the Wind by Barbara Fister (Petrona, June)***

Complicit by Nicci French (Euro Crime, May)**

The Neighbour by Lisa Gardner (Petrona, June)*

This Body of Death by Elizabeth George (Petrona, June)*

Winterland by Alan Glynn (review submitted to Euro Crime)*****

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths (Petrona, May)****

Money to Burn by James Grippando (Petrona, May)

Inspector Cataldo's Criminal Summer by Luigi Guicciaradi (Petrona, April)*** (Italian)

The Last Child by John Hart (Petrona, June)***

Far Cry by John Harvey (Petrona, June)***

Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland (Petrona, June)*****

Dead Like You by Peter James (Euro Crime, June)

The Pull of the Moon by Diane Janes (Euro Crime, May)**

The Killer's Art by Mari Jungstedt (Euro Crime, June)*** (Swedish)

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly  (Euro Crime, June)**

B-Very Flat by Margot Kinberg (Petrona, April)***

Almost Blue by Carlo Lucarelli (Petrona, June)**** (Italian)

The Marx Sisters by Barry Maitland (Petrona, June)**

Affairs of State by Dominique Manotti (Petrona, April)**** (French)

Supreme Justice by Phillip Margolin (Petrona, June)***

Che Committed Suicide by Petros Markaris (Euro Crime, May)***

Still Midnight by Denise Mina (Petrona, April)*

All She Was Worth by Miyuki Miyabe (Petrona, June)*** (Japanese)

The Inspector and Silence by Hakan Nesser (review in draft)*** (Swedish)

Twisted Wing by Ruth Newman (Petrona, May)**

No-one Loves a Policeman by Guillermo Orsi (Petrona, June)**** (Argentinan Spanish)

The Complaints by Ian Rankin (Petrona, June)***

The Monster in the Box by Ruth Rendell (Petrona, June)***

Where the Shadows Lie by Michael Ridpath (review submitted to Euro Crime)***

My Soul to Take by Yrsa Sigurdardottir (Euro Crime, May)*** (Icelandic)

Amercian Devil by Oliver Stark (not reviewed)

Water-blue Eyes by Domingo Villar (Petrona, May)***** (Spanish)

A Certain Malice by Felicity Young (Petrona, April)**

Dark Matter by Juli Zeh (Euro Crime, April)* (German)

My first quarter reading report is here. I had read 26 books in the first quarter of the year, so that makes 68 for the first half-year, not bad!

Reading report, first quarter 2010

So far this year, I've read 26 books, which (excitingly) are listed below. I've reviewed all of these except one (The Winter House by Nicci Gerrard, a non-crime fiction book which I did not enjoy very much). Some of the reviews are posted here on Petrona, others at Euro Crime, and others are in the queue at Euro Crime. So far this year, 35 of my reviews have been posted in one of those two places (the discrepancy is due to a backlog of submitted reviews at Euro Crime).

Siren of the Waters – Michael Genelin ***
The Winter House – Nicci Gerrard **
The Last Surgeon – Michael Palmer ***
Books Whispers of the Dead – Simon Beckett ****
Like Clockwork – Maggie Orford **
The Snowman – Jo Nesbo *****
The Woman from Bratislava – Lief Davidsen ****
Thursday Night Widows – Claudia Pineiro ****
Where The Dead Lay – David Levien ***
The Stonecutter – Camilla Lackberg ***
Last Light – Alex Scarrow ***
The Serpent Pool – Martin Edwards *****
The Last Ten Seconds – Simon Kernick **
The Crossing Places – Elly Griffiths ****
Snow Angels – James Thompson ****
The Missing – Jane Casey ***
BooksThe Rising – Brian McGilloway *****
Thirteen Hours – Deon Meyer *****
At Close Quarters – Eugenio Fuentes ****
61 Hours – Lee Child ***
A Room Left White – Sophie Hannah ***
The Man From Beijing- Henning Mankell *****
Rupture – Simon Lelic ****
The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri *****
Death of a Red Heroine – Qiu Xiaolong ***
What to do When Someone Dies – Nicci French ***

Some thrilling statistics: of these 26, eight are translated (1 Italian, 2 Swedish, 1 Afrikaans, 1 Danish, 1 Spanish, 1 Norwegian, 1 Argentinian). Seven of the 26 are by women (plus one by a male-female duo). Seven of the 26 are debut novels, and 10 are by authors new to me. I have attempted to rank them with 1-5 stars but I find this type of exercise very difficult, partuclarly as the books are so different from each other.

I'm not going to provide a separate link to my review for each book above, but for those interested, a link to all the reviews I've published in 2010 is provided on a handy list at this Petrona page.
I archive all my book reviews at my Vox blog. I have organised the tags on this blog so you can see collections of reviews by country or by subgenre, such as police procedural, PI, psychology thriller, journalism, legal, political, etc. So far, for example, I have 36 reviews of books by Swedish authors, 10 reviews of Australian crime fiction,  25 reviews of psychological thrillers, and 7 reviews under 'journalism crime'.