Saturday, May 13, 2017

Reading Summary for April 2017

April was an incredible reading month for me. I read ten crime fiction novels. I also read a non-fiction book, but the author of that book was a crime fiction author.

The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany is a collection by Donald E. Westlake. Foreword by Lawrence Block. Cover illustration and design by Darwyn Cooke, who adapted some of the “Parker” crime novels as a series of graphic novels.

The pieces were written at various times in his career. They include appreciations of other crime fiction authors, interviews (of Westlake, by others), and letters. There is a wonderful essay by his wife, Abby Adams Westlake, about "Living with a Mystery Writer." I enjoyed reading about his experiences with having his books translated into film, and his experiences as a screenwriter. No matter what he is writing about, Westlake is entertaining. I loved reading this book.

Following are the crime fiction books I read in April:

The Blackhouse (2009) by Peter May
A murder investigation set on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland's Outer Hebrides. In Part 1 of a trilogy, Fin Macleod, a detective from Edinburgh is sent to the Isle of Lewis because of previous connections to a similar crime. The story is powerful and well told. My review here.
Death on the Move (1989) by Bill Crider
Dan Rhodes is the Sheriff of Blacklin County, Texas. In this fourth book in the series, jewelry is disappearing off bodies prepared for burial at the funeral home in Clearview. There is also the problem of a rash of thefts at some homes built around a nearby lake. This is one of my favorite contemporary series. Full review here.
Cold Comfort (2012) by Quentin Bates
This is the second book in a police procedural series set in Iceland. Sergeant Gunnhildur has been promoted from her rural post to the Serious Crime Unit in Reykjavík. She is working on two cases, locating an escaped convict, Long Ommi, and investigating the murder of a fitness guru. I have found this to be a very enjoyable series, with a great main character, who has a realistic life, a single parent raising a teenage daughter.
Burglars Can't Be Choosers (1977) by Lawrence Block
Bernie Rhodenbarr is a burglar; when he attempts to steal a blue leather box from an apartment, the police walk in on him and a dead man is discovered in the bedroom. Bernie successfully eludes the policemen but they think he killed the man in the bedroom; he then has to prove his innocence. This is the first in a series about Bernie Rhodenbarr. A humorous mystery that was a lot of fun. My review is here.
Badge of Evil (1956) by Whit Masterson
Rudy Linneker, a very rich man in a large border town in California (San Diego?), is blown up by sticks of dynamite thrown into his house. The immediate suspects are Linneker's daughter and her fiance, since Linneker was dead set against their relationship. But Assistant DA Mitch Holt insists that the case does not feel right, and starts investigating in a different direction. This is the book that Orson Welles' 1958 film Touch of Evil was based on. 
Wall of Glass (1987) by Walter Satterthwait
Joshua Croft is a Santa Fe private investigator working for the Mondragón Agency, owned by Rita Mondragón. The case in Wall of Glass centers on a valuable piece of jewelry which was stolen from the house of a wealthy Santa Fe family. The setting was lovely and the story was entertaining. See review here
A Fountain Filled with Blood (2003) by Julia Spencer-Fleming
This is the second mystery in the Reverend Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne series. As the small town of Millers Kill, New York heads into the July 4th weekend, two gay men are severely beaten in separate incidents. Clare urges the police to notify the public; Russ feels like this could lead to copycat incidents. When another man, also homosexual, is killed, Russ must figure out if the crimes are connected. Mixed in with this are conflicts within the town over development of a luxury spa and environmental issues. Although I have some reservations about this series, I finished this book in a 24 hour period and could hardly put it down, which puts it high in my ratings.
Something from the Nightside (2003) by Simon R. Green
This is a cross-genre novel, blending fantasy and mystery. John Taylor is a private eye in London and his specialty is finding things. He originally came from the Nightside, a hidden part of London where monsters and demons reign. A woman comes to him as a last resort to find her daughter. The only clue she has is that she could be found "in the Nightside." John agrees to help her. This book was light and entertaining, a good read.
The Butcher's Boy (1982) by Thomas Perry
This was Thomas Perry's debut novel; it won the Edgar for Best First Novel of 1982. The two main characters are a professional killer with no name and Elizabeth Waring, an analyst for the Department of Justice. They are both very good at what they do. Full review here.
The Likeness (2008) by Tana French
This book is the sequel to Tana French’s debut, In the Woods. That book featured two detectives in the Murder Squad in Dublin, Ireland, Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox. The Likeness continues Cassie's story. Cassie is now working in Domestic Violence at police headquarters, but a unique opportunity arises for her to go undercover, taking up an identity she used previously when she worked in the Undercover division. This is not a perfect book but very close. Also a Chunkster (466 pages).
In April, I read more contemporary novels than usual. I only read one novel written before 1960. There was one written in the 1970s and three from the 1980s. The remaining five books were published after 2001. Regarding authors, only two of the authors were female. In May I am endeavoring to remedy that and focus on female authors.


Mac n' Janet said...

I raced through the whole Reverend Claire Fergusson/Russ VanAlsyne series, can't wait for the next one. Love Tana French and I've read all of hers too.

TracyK said...

I know, Janet, I wanted to continue on the Fergusson/ VanAlstyne series right away too, and I will soon. For both that series and the Tana French series, I think I only have the 3rd book and will have to start looking for more. I am hoping that they will show up at the book sale this year. I am finding too many series I want to continue and not enough time to read them all.

nancy said...

Which do you prefer the classic CF or contemporary?
I see these books have taken you all over the place! (Ireland, Iceland, UK, NY...) What is on your Summer Reading List? Are you going to post your #20BooksOfSummer?

Peggy Ann said...

Great month, Tracy! I hope to start on the Tana French books this year.

Anonymous said...

You had a good month of reading, Tracy. I like Tana French and Julia Spencer-Fleming's work very much, so I'm glad you got the chance to read some of their work.

TracyK said...

All good questions, Nancy. There are very good crime fiction authors in both areas, classic and contemporary. But I generally read a small subsection of really new crime fiction, and go mostly for tried and true authors in previous decades.

I had thought about having a set list of books for the summer like last year. That worked well for me last year and I read almost all the books I was planning to. Right now I am in a "read by whim" mood and I am not so sure that I could stick to a list this summer. I am still undecided.

TracyK said...

I hope you like the Tana French books, Peggy. Readers are divided on her books but I find them compelling.

TracyK said...

It was a good month, Margot. With both Tana French and Spencer-Fleming, I had read the first book in the series years before and took a long time to return to the series. I was very glad I did.

Yvette said...

I'm a big fan of Julia Spencer-Fleming's books, Tracy. I've read all the Millers Kill books though I have a suspicion I might have missed one. Anyway, it's a good series to begin at the beginning with. I too had some reservations initially, but I overcame them. Still I'm not happy with one major event in the series that I foretold and I wish Julia had figured something else to do with that character.

BADGE OF EVIL sounds like something I might want to look for, Tracy. Thanks for the prompt. :)

TracyK said...

Yvette - It was your recent review of a later book in Julia Spencer-Fleming's series that prompted me to pull out my copy of the 2nd in the series. Even with the reservations I had, I am glad I did.

I enjoyed BADGE OF EVIL a lot, much more than I expected to. I think you would like it. I haven't seen the movie yet.

col2910 said...

I'm glad you had such a great reading month. I have that Westlake book to get to at some point.

TracyK said...

I did enjoy the Westlake book, Col. I am somewhere in the middle of the same type of book by Lawrence Block, but not moving too fast on it.

col2910 said...

I think I know the one you mean, I read it a year or two ago - The Crime of Our Lives? I liked that book, especially the bit about meeting Charles Willeford

TracyK said...

That is it, Col. I just checked, and I am not that far in, about 40 pages. I am looking forward to reading what he has to say about all the authors he covered.

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

That's an amazing amount of reading Tracy - wow! I remember liking BADGE OF EVIL quite a lot (but much preferring the movie).

TracyK said...

I was really surprised I read so many books in April, Sergio, very unusual for me and they were not all short books either. I have never seen Touch of Evil, but just the many excerpts I had seen gave me the wrong impression of the book it was based on. I now realize the book and the movie are very different. I am sure I will like the movie too.

Clothes In Books said...

That is a hefty month's reading Tracy! I love Tana French - am rationing them so as not to finish her too soon. And I liked the Julia Spencer-Flemings, I read the first few, I don't know how many there are, I should catch up.

TracyK said...

I am not speeding through books so fast this month, Moira, but enjoying my reading anyway. For both Tana French and Julia Spencer-Fleming, I have the third book in the series but will be looking for more at the book sale as my first option.

Anonymous said...

As I have written on your blog earlier, I loved Peter May's Lewis Trilogy. I read one after the other and then got post-good-book slump when all three were finished.

I googled the Isle of Lewis and read about it and looked at photos. I keep waiting for more books about Finley MacLeod, but know it is a futile undertaking.

I read Coffin Road and Entry Island by May. I don't think they were as good, but the history of involuntary immigrants from Scotland to Canada's Entry Island was fascinating and sad.

I liked Tana French's The Likeness. I've read all of her books and this one was a thumbs up. But my favorite is her latest book, The Trespasser. The dialogue sings off the page.

And Bernie Rhodenbarr is a great character. I've read all of the books and laughed out loud. A favorite line: "Whenever I get the urge to jog, I lie down and let it pass." I substitute many things, including "housework" for "jog."

TracyK said...

I will be reading all of the books by Peter May that you mentioned, Kathy. I am at the point in the year when I am waiting to see if I can find copies at the book sale, then I will search out copies elsewhere if I can't find them.

I hope I don't wait as long to read #3 in the Tana French series. I want to catch up with all her books as soon as I can.

Also looking forward to more Bernie Rhodenbarr books. I do have those already so hope to fit them in soon.

Anonymous said...

I left a long comment but it looks like it got eaten. Long story short, great reading month. --Keishon

TracyK said...

Sorry about the long comment getting eaten, Keishon. I checked spam and it wasn't there.

Yes, it was a very good reading month. A lot of variety.

Anonymous said...

In future, I'll just make sure to copy/paste just in case...but I wanted to say that I love JSF and am two behind in her series. --Keishon

TracyK said...

Keishon, when I was looking up more about Spencer-Fleming's books... after I finished this one... I saw that you had commented at other blogs about really liking her books. That is encouraging. She seems to be an author that can keep me glued to a book.