Sunday, February 11, 2018

Reading in January 2018

So in February it only took me until the 11th to get a reading summary up for January's reading. In January I stuck with crime fiction, although the first book I read in 2018 was a mix of fantasy and mystery.

I am reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo throughout the year as a part of a read along, one chapter a day. I really did not know what to expect, If I ever knew anything about the story I forgot it long ago. So far it has been very interesting, especially reading it in small chunks. Some days I get a bit ahead, sometimes I fall a bit behind. Check out the sign-up post at One Catholic Life for more details.

These are the nine crime fiction books I read in January and all of them were very, very good.

The Big Over Easy (2005) by Jasper Fforde
This is the first book in The Nursery Crime series. DCI Jack Spratt and Sergeant Mary Mary investigate crimes within the world of nursery rhymes. Here, they investigate the apparent suicide of Humpty Dumpty. The book is clearly a fantasy / mystery crossover with lots of humor, puns, and satire. My son read this first and recommended the book, and I enjoyed it very much. A review will follow... sometime soon. 
Grey Mask (1928) by Patricia Wentworth
The first book in the Miss Silver series. I was very pleasantly surprised. Book review here.
Hit List (2000) by Lawrence Block
Hit List is the 2nd novel in the Keller series. I read the first book, Hit Man, in December and liked it so well I started this one while reading another book. Keller is a hitman living in New York City; he gets his jobs or assignments from Dot, who works for a man who brokers (arranges) hits for his clients. As I said in my summary of Hit Man, it was a very enjoyable read but it is an adjustment to get used to a killer being the main focus.
Death of a Red Heroine (2000) by Qiu Xiaolong
The story is set in Shanghai in 1990 just after Tiananmen Square, with Chief Inspector Chen Cao as the lead character. The author was born in Shanghai, China, in 1953, but has lived in the US since 1988. I primarily enjoyed this book for the picture of life in Shanghai in the 1990s. I will be returning to the series.  
The Puzzle of the Pepper Tree (1933) by Stuart Palmer
The fourth book in the Miss Hildegarde Withers series. It was a lot of fun because of the setting, on Santa Catalina island off the California coast. Book review here, with  some comments on the film adaptation.
Cold Cold Heart (2017) by Christine Poulsen
A medical thriller with two story lines: one set at an Antarctic research base, and the other set in the UK. I loved the detail of the daily life on the base during the winter months when no one can leave and no one can fly in. Review here.

The Whip Hand (1965) by Victor Canning
Although I have read only three books by Victor Canning, I have become a big fan of his writing. This book is along the lines of a James Bond thriller, although the protagonist, Rex Carver, is a private eye and not a spy. He does do some side jobs for a British secret service department. Carver is hired to track down a missing au pair in Brighton. 
The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter (2013) by Malcom Mackay
This is the second book I read this month about a hitman, a man who kills for a living. Calum Maclean has been an independent agent, taking jobs as he needs the money. Then he is offered a temporary job working for Peter Jamieson, head of a crime organization in Glasgow, while the regular hitman is having a hip replacement. The first in a trilogy and I will be reading the 2nd and 3rd books also.
Metzger's Dog (1983) by Thomas Perry
Chinese Gordon and his friends Immerman and Kepler break into a lab at the University of Los Angeles to steal some pharmaceutical cocaine, worth a lot of money. But Chinese also takes some papers a professor has compiled for the CIA, which include a blueprint for throwing a large city into chaos. The CIA decides that a band of terrorists has stolen the papers... and go overboard in their attempts to rectify the situation. Very funny at times, entertaining, with a wonderful ending.


Anonymous said...

I have Metzger's Dog and Hit List on my shelf. I am a huge Keller fan (Lawrence Block) but haven't read that one yet. He's such a wordsmith.

I plan to read Victor Hugo later this year. -- Keishon

Bernadette said...

I don't think I've ever read any Lawrence least not since I've been keeping records. But not sure I could start with a book where the killer is the focus. I really don't like that notion.

TracyK said...

I look forward to hearing about your Victor Hugo reading, Keishon.

I like the way both Thomas Perry and Lawrence Block write, they make anything interesting.

TracyK said...

No, the Keller novels are not the best place to start, Bernadette, unless you happen to be a big fan of hitman stories already. Maybe the Bernie Rhodenbarr series, which is humorous. I have not read much of the Matt Scudder series, but they are supposed to be very good. But also darker.

NancyElin said...

Finished 2 books 'about' Victor Hugo (review soon..biography vol 1 was 1159 pages!!) and it ends when the writer is 49 yr! Readin Les Mis 1 chapter a day is a piece of cake compared to that chunkster!
You still amaze me readig so many CF books! I stared the new book by Pierre Lemaitre (his CF trilogy was great Irene-Alex-Camille)...but the new book is a novel. I miss Lemaitre's poison pen he uses writing crime!

Kay said...

You've got some good ones here I suspect. I've read a couple of the Fforde books, but it has been a while. I haven't read the Humpty Dumpty one. Sounds fun! I was very intrigued by your review of Cold, Cold Heart and so picked that one up for summer reading perhaps. And I have read Death of a Red Heroine and discussed with our mystery group several years ago. I remember liking it mostly for the look at how Chinese society functioned. The mystery itself was fine enough, but I don't recall much about it. I had intended to continue reading the series, but so far, fail on that point. LOL

TracyK said...

I was thinking I should read something either about Hugo or about Les Miserables, but I want to be very careful not to read any spoilers about the story.

I love reading crime fiction best. I am branching out more, but I love the different ways that authors use crime fiction to tell a story or get a message across.

TracyK said...

Although I read the Thursday Next books (the first 4, I think), Kay, I did not think I would like this one, until my son tried it and liked it. Different and fun.

I am very glad that you got Cold, Cold Heart; I think you will enjoy it. I have 5 or 6 more of the books by Qiu Xiaolong, passed on to me from my husband, so I hope I read more of them.

Anonymous said...

Bernadette and Tracy, I've only read one Scudder book, When the Sacred Ginmill Closes which is kind of a standalone novel. His hitman series features a hitman who does kill people for a living but the author does try to humanize him in some way and he also has him as an avid stamp collector. Kind of similar to Dexter (written by Jeff Lindsay), another humanized killer who only "goes after the bad guys." This might not be your thing but I don't know. Morally ambiguous characters are a thing for me. --Keishon

TracyK said...

I have enjoyed all three of the "hit man" type books I have read in the last few months, but it still seems strange to read about someone talking about killing someone like it is just a job. Good writing and depiction of characters helps, I guess.

Anonymous said...

It's fiction and I try not to think beyond that, LOL. The same people who can't read Patricia Highsmith, Richard Stark's Parker series and Jeff Lindsay's Dexter series might be the same folks who can't read Keller either. They are anti-heroes and that sub-category has its fans (me). --Keishon

TracyK said...

I like the Richard Stark series, but it definitely is a different experience too. I have only read one Patricia Highsmith so far (Strangers on a Train) and I thought it was a great book, but very difficult to read.

Anonymous said...

Definitely, try the Bernie Rhodenbarr books, very light and hilarious. My favorite line which I practice is "Whenever I get the urge to jog, I lie down and let it pass." (I also practice this about housework.)

I wrote on my TBR list the Christine Poulson book, but find my library doesn't have it. So I'll get it from Book Depository.

Also, I saw the review at RTR for Breakheart Hill. Library has culled that one, so I see Abe Books has it and I'll try that. It sounds too good to pass up.

TracyK said...

I need to get to Breakheart Hill soon too, Kathy. I have several books by Thomas H. Cook and haven't read any of them yet. And more Bernie Rhodenbarr too. I read several years ago but have more on my TBR pile.

Also glad that you are interested in Cold, Cold Heart by Poulson. That book has so much going for it.

Clothes In Books said...

Great list as ever Tracy - I always admire your month's reading, it always seems rounded and well-balanced. A couple there for me to hunt out... I have downloaded the Pepper Tree one after reading your review...

TracyK said...

Now if I could just review them all, Moira. Right now I am reading Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman and you were the one who inspired me to get the book, although it has taken me a while to get to it.

NancyElin said...

Just finished 14 chapters...I was lagging behind schedule Les Mis.
Now reading CF...yes! I found this on in French by Pierre Pouchairet ' 'The Prophesies of Langley'. It won Prix Polar (CF) Michel Lebrun award 2017. Perhaps it will be translated in the future. Setting: Paris CF, murder and conspiracies on the trading floor of banks that are 'too big to fail' !

TracyK said...

I am lagging behind a bit on Les Miserables now, Nancy, I missed 4 days at work due to illness, then the stress of getting back to work and having too much to do, I just could not keep up with other things as much. But it will all even out soon.

Glad you found some good crime fiction to read.

NancyElin said...

...sometimes you just have to 'free the reins' and indulge freely in the things that come first. Stay healthy and reading will come when you have the time. I lagged behind...2 weeks! But good news...the chapters are short and I skipped the ch 1817. Just a lot of trivia inserted into the book!

Jason Half said...

Hello, Tracy! As always, your lists inform me about new authors whose acquaintances I should make. I'm very happy to read that you have enjoyed Victor Canning in the three books you've looked at, and that you're adding a fourth. He is an author I have long meant to try, but have never gotten around to. I love the storyline of FAMILY PLOT, Hitchcock's final film, which was based on Canning's THE RAINBIRD PATTERN. Thank you for reminding me of his work. All best wishes -- Jason

TracyK said...

THE RAINBIRD PATTERN is my favorite book by Canning so far, Jason. There is loose series based on the secret government department in that book, and I want to read more of those and more of the Rex Carver series.

col2910 said...

Lots of good books there - some I've read and enjoyed, some I've still to get to and only a couple I'd pass on. I'm looking forward to getting moved and recovering my books - Block and Mackay are singing out to me!

TracyK said...

I enjoyed the Mackay book a lot, Col, maybe not as much as you did. Since I have the next two in the series, I was glad that the present tense writing did not bother me. I hope you get moved soon too.