Holiday reading roundup

Posted: July 24, 2013 in Book Awards, China, France, Italy, Norway, USA

P1040347I was rather pleased to have made the following comment on my previous post, and then to discover the books had become joint winners of the International Dagger

“The International Dagger should be between three time winner Fred Vargas, with her eccentric novel The Ghost Riders of Ordebec, and Pierre Lemaitre with another quirky French offering Alex.”

Obviously my critical faculties are still functioning. Although after nearly seven years of constant blogging about crime fiction I intend to take a short break. Therefore I am going to do a brief summary of the six books I have read while on holiday, although I will probably come back with  reviews of one or two of the better books. 

An American Spy: Olen Steinhauer-

This was a big disappointment considering I have enjoyed  other books  by this author.  Not enough of over weight German secret service boss Erika Schwartz and far too much American and Chinese complexity that I had trouble following.  

*

P1040383Live By Night: Dennis Lehane-

An easy read and this novel won the Edgar, but I kept on getting the feeling I had read this book before and that Lehane was parodying himself.

**

At the End of a Dull Day: Massimo Carlotto translated by Anthony Shugaar- 

Anti-hero is too mild a classification of the main protagonist of this very noir novel, Giorgio Pellegrini. He could be described as a violent misogynist bastard, who discovers he is being screwed by a politician “friend”, and plots revenge.

I quote:

‘Nicoletta described the Chinese girls as “the dolls that Italian males grew up wishing they could play with.” That was true only in part. Actually, they were just sex slaves with long practice at satisfying their masters’ wishes.’

At the End of a Dull Day is a short novel packed with violence, whores, politicians, and the ‘Ndrangheta. Not everyone’s cup of tea but an interesting example of Mediterranean noir.

P1040436

Death of Demon: Anne Holt translated by Anne Bruce-

Another top class novel in the Hanne Wilhelmsen series, and one which packs a lot of back story, and tension into a short book. A lesson for those authors who think they have to write 500 pages to attract the reader. I will come back to this book later.

The Caller: Karin Fossum translated by K.E.Semmel-

An original twist on the crime fiction novel. A story about actions and the unthought of effects they can produce. A beautifully constructed and thought provoking novel.

P1040444The Glass Rainbow: James Lee Burke

The Glass Rainbow proves that you can produce the same plot over and over again and the fans will enjoy it. But your characters have to be larger than life, your social commentary like a sharp dissection, and your writing so lyrical and evocative of  the location that the reader expects a hurricane to tear through their back garden at any moment. Another great book [number 18] in the Dave Robicheaux series 

There are only a limited number of plots so readers and judges are always on the lookout for originality. Fred Vargas and Pierre Lemaitre both wrote books that were that bit different from the usual ‘hunt for a serial killer’, ‘solve a current murder connected to an old unsolved crime’ stuff that is constantly churned out by crime fiction authors and TV producers. I once read a very unkind crime fiction review that said that this particular book was written for people who can’t read by someone who can’t write.

I worry that many crime fiction books today are written for people who don’t read crime fiction. They have plot twists that are obvious and are just variations on a theme. Agatha Christie is the mistress of plot twists, for a great example read the superb Peril at End House [1932], but even she managed to use a similar plot device in Endless Night [1967]  to that in Death on the Nile  [1937]. But perhaps we can forgive her after a gap of 30 years.

The search for the crime fiction series that is original and has something different within its pages is what makes reading so much fun. 

” You must promise you’ll never leave me. Never never never.”

“Never in this world and universe and all eternity,” Cecilie whispered into her hair. [Death of a Demon: Anne Holt]   

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Comments
  1. Norman – Thanks for this excellent summing-up. We will miss you during your break, but it is richly deserved.

  2. kathy d. says:

    Thank you for taking time from your vacation to write up quick reviews. I also have very glad Ordebec co-won a CWA Dagger. Alex — I don’t know as I’ll read it due to the violence.
    Fred Vargas is always original, creative and brilliant. This book is a gem.

    Am glad you recommend Death of a Demon as I like this Hanne Wilhelmsen series by Anne Holt — and this book is sitting on the top of my TBR pile.

    I’ll consider the Caller by Karen Fossum.

    Hope that your holiday continues to include some more good books.

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