Archive for the ‘memes’ Category


I read four books in March:pickofthemonth2012

The Age of Doubt by Andrea Camilleri

Ratlines by Stuart Neville

Murder One by Robert Dugoni

and my pick of the month, The Ghost Riders of Ordebec by Fred Vargas.

I was impressed by Robert Dugoni’s Murder One as I find the American legal system endlessly fascinating. I spent too much time in my youth watching Perry Mason.

But the inventiveness of her plots and the brilliant quirkiness of her characters make every novel written by Fred Vargas a  joy to read. 

51WrzjbXCpL._SL500_AA300_pickofthemonth2012I read more books last month than I ever thought possible. The weather kept us in a lot of the time, and many of the books were easy to read, and only one was near 500 pages. There were two non-fiction books as well as six crime fiction:

The Fall of France-The Nazi Invasion of 1940: Julian Jackson

I have read several accounts of this debacle including the classic 1969 book by Alistair Horne, To Lose a Battle: France 1940. I hope the current Franco-British alliance is more successful in their latest adventures in Francophone Africa, but I doubt it.

Interestingly in 1931 Time magazine chose the “calm, masterful” Pierre Laval as Man of the Year. He was Prime Minister of France four times. The collapse of France in 1940, and subsequent armistice, lead to the establishment in unoccupied France of the Vichy regime. After the Allied victory Pierre Laval was found guilty of high treason and executed by firing squad in 1945.

The Real Jane Austen-A life in small things: Paula Byrne

We have just passed the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice so I thought this book was an appropriate read to mark this important date in English literature. The book is full of interesting anecdotes and details about life in the Georgian and Regency period, and many of the sites associated with Jane Austen and mentioned in the book have a special significance for us.

We would frequently stop at the Jane Austen Museum at Chawton, in Hampshire, to break our journey down from London to Gosport visiting my in laws. This was in the early 1980s well before the Colin Firth TV production created a new following for Mr Darcy and Jane Austen’s books. Many years ago my wife lived in Winchester, where Jane lived her last few weeks and is buried in the cathedral. My son went to university in Bath, where Jane lived from 1801-1806 and where she set two of her novels, and I worked in Teignmouth for 15 years, where Jane holidayed in 1802. Our first holiday was at Lyme Regis, where Jane and her family visited in 1803, and 1804, and where Louisa Musgrave falls from some steps on the Cobb in Persuasion. 

Well that’s enough literary stuff for one post. The crime fiction books I read were:

Standing in Another Man’s Grave: Ian Rankin 

Spies of Warsaw: Alan Furst

Blessed Are Those Who Thirst: Anne Holt 

Perfect Hatred: Leighton Gage

Linda, As In The Linda Murder: Leif G.W. Persson  [a review will appear at Euro Crime in due course]

Gone Girl: Gillian Flynn [I will be posting about this phenomenon in the next few days]

Some very good reads but the best by a whisker was Linda, As In The Linda Murder by Leif G.W. Persson. 

best crime fiction 2012You can see my favourite Euro Crime books of 2012 here at Karen’s encyclopaedic resource. 41M+3apQq1L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_

My discovery of the year was the Norwegian crime writer Anne Holt, and I recently finished the second book  in her Hanne Wilhelmsen series Blessed Are Those Who Thirst and that must be a strong contender for the 2013 International Dagger [review soon]. All the five writers I enjoyed most in 2012 concentrated on their characters, and I think that is the key to any good writing. Brilliant plots and clever twists are all very well, but it is the ability to create interesting characters that are the  basis of a long running crime fiction series and a successful career as a writer.

And of course being able to empathise with your readers, especially if they are retired dentists.

He had been newly qualified as a dentist, at a time when the previously lucrative profession had become less profitable after twenty years of social democratic public dental services. Anne Holt-Blessed Are Those Who Thirst 

Looking back: August 2012

Posted: September 2, 2012 in memes, Norway

I seem to be settling down on a reading speed of four books a month. In August I read The Minotaur’s Head: Marek Krajewski reviewed for Euro Crime, Disgrace: Jussi Adler-Olsen, and The Three Evangelists: Fred Vargas; but for the second month running my pick of the month is from Norway.

My pick of the month was Burned by Thomas Enger a fine debut novel with an interesting protagonist, with the author tackling difficult psychological and social problems with skill and insight.

Looking Back: July 2012

Posted: August 1, 2012 in memes, Norway, Scandinavia

July was another successful month in which I read four excellent books. It was a difficult choice to pick a best book, but discovering a new author, who has created characters you want to meet again, is always such a great pleasure that my vote goes this month to The Blind Goddess by Anne Holt. This story of corruption among the wealthy dates from 1993 but still seems fresh and relevant today.


June was another successful reading month, and although I could not call it an enjoyable read Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr was my pick of the month. A clever blend of the classic locked room and country house mystery was used as a contrast to the brutality and barbarity of the Nazi regime. An eighth outing for Bernie Gunther, a flawed hero chasing a murderer among mass murderers.


Looking back: March 2012

Posted: April 2, 2012 in memes, Scandinavia, Sweden

One advantage of  reading at my present slow pace [I am only  just about to start book number 15 this year!] is that it makes it easy to pick my Crime Fiction Pick of the Month as part of Kerrie’s meme at Mysteries in Paradise

My Pick of the Month was Exposed by Liza Marklund in one of the new translations by Neil Smith. This book written in 1999 is a clever mixture of a murder mystery, political scandal, and a primer in journalism. 

Kerrie’s meme at Mysteries in Paradise that requires you to pick your best read of the month rather than leave it to a year’s end memory test is a good discipline. Although I will probably only read fifty to sixty books during the year my memory is such that it will make it much easier to pick a selection of five best reads of the year.

I really got bogged down in February, and did not read as much as I had hoped, but there was one outstanding read:

The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis. Lene Kaaberbol translated the book into English. The story studied the stark contrast between rich and poor , the plight of the undocumented and the vulnerability of women and children. 

February’s other highlights were reading Outrage by Arnaldur Indridason [not quite as good as The Boy in the Suitcase in my opinion] and watching a fine performance by Gary Oldman play George Smiley in John le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. If The Artist had not been the flavour of the month I think the Oscar might have gone to Oldman.

Retrospective-January 2012

Posted: February 3, 2012 in Italy, memes, notes, spy story

I enjoyed all the books I read in January and really don’t want to  make a distinction between them based on their quality in order to choose a pick of the month. But as I want to join the meme at Kerrie’s excellent Mysteries in Paradise  blog I will choose not necessarily the best, but certainly my most intriguing read as my pick of the month.

That was I Will Have Vengeance by Maurizio de Giovanni featuring a detective with an unusual ability to see the dead, and an interesting historical setting in Italy during the 1930s. 

During January I managed to review six books without [apart from Ingrid in Andrea Camilleri’s The Potter’s Field] a Scandinavian in sight, which must be some achievement in the current climate. I can thank Bitter Lemon Press and Hersilia Press for looking further afield than Scandinavia for some crime fiction gems. Hersilia Press, named after the wife of Romulus, have recently brought us books by the previously mentioned Maurizio de Giovanni, Alessandro Perissinotto, and Luigi Guicciardi; while Bitter Lemon Press have in their stable Gianrico Carofiglio, Cuban Leonardo Padura, and Argentinean Ernesto Mallo. What these authors don’t yet have is the marketing  machine behind the Scandinavians.

I have nothing against good Scandinavian crime fiction, after all I read six of the brilliant Martin Beck series over thirty years ago and until they were reissued in Harper Perennials spent hours looking for the missing four books in second hand bookshops, but it is the stupid reaction by the main stream media I find annoying. Do the hysterical stickers and blurbs on books such as “for fans of The Killing”, “Move over Wallander”, “Step aside Stieg Larsson”, “Iceland’s answer to Stieg Larsson”, “If you like Stieg Larsson, you’ll love Asa Larsson”, “The Next Stieg Larsson”, really help the reader to decide if this is a book they will enjoy?

Is it now easier for a weak book with exploitative violence, but set in the Nordic countries to be published than a fine example of Italian, French, South African, Australian or Greek crime fiction? Probably. And obviously the quality of the plot and the ability of the characters to inspire interest should be the major factors deciding whether a story gets published, not whether it is set in Copenhagen or Malmo.

My reading plan, despite the fact I have about about twelve Nordic books on my TBR shelf, is to try and alternate my reading between Nordic and the others, although when the CWA International Dagger shortlist is announced I could well be forced back into full Scandinavian reading mode.   

[continued from part one]

8] Favourite new authors discovered

A bit repetitive but those I have mentioned previously Jussi Adler-Olsen, Arne Dahl, and Tom Franklin. 

9] Most hilarious

Those who have been reading the blog will know that I found The Dinosaur’s Feather by Sisssel-Jo Gazan rather funny, and posted about it at Back story blues…..

I am still not convinced that the author was being entirely serious with this book, but if she was my apologies for making fun of her style.

10] Most thrilling unputdownable book

I think this was The Vault [Box 21 in the USA] by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom. I felt this was a far better book than Three Seconds which won the CWA International Dagger. The Vault left me shaking at the end as I realised over the last few pages that it was going to end with that dreadful twist. 

11] Book most anticipated

I had been looking forward to the new John Lawton Troy book A Lily of the Field, and it did not disappoint.

12] Favourite cover

I like the covers of books to be evocative of the story and not just a stock photo taken out of the archive.

Therefore my favourite cover was that of Death on a Galician Shore by Domingo Villar

And the book was very good as well.

13] Most meaningful character

I think Larry Ott in Tom Franklin’s Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is someone I will remember for a long while. He is absolutely desperate for a friend, and loneliness is a dreadful problem in western countries where today close family ties are the exception rather than the rule.

14] Most beautifully written book

This is too difficult for me as I am not a judge of literary excellence, I just like a good story simply told. 

15] Book that had the most impact

At the time I read it The Vault [Roslund-Hellstrom] but I suspect that the book I just finished, and have not reviewed yet, The Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry about the assassination of President Kennedy will have a great impact.

16] Book you can’t believe you waited till 2011 to read

This was Missing by Karin Alvtegen. I have enjoyed all her books and Missing won the Nordic Glass Key back in 2001. Way before there was Lisbeth Salander there was Sibylla Forsenstrom. 

That’s it.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year.