Saturday, March 10, 2018

Reading in February 2018

So far I have read nine books in January and nine books in February; a lot of reading for me. Two of the nine books read in February were not crime fiction, although there is a bit of mystery in one of them.

In the non-crime related group, we have:

Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman (2014)
This is a story about World War II, its aftermath, the Holocaust, displaced persons in camps, and the looting of the belongings of Jewish families.The story begins with a Prologue set in 2013 when Jack Wiseman is dying. He passes a pendant that he took from the Gold Train collection on to his granddaughter, with a request to return it to its rightful owner. What follows is essentially three linked novellas, each a self-contained story, depicting some events related to the pendant. See my review here.
The Blitz:  The British Under Attack by Juliet Gardiner (2010)
It took me over a year to read this. It is a very good book, and a topic I am extremely interested in, but it was harrowing to read about the Blitz, and non-fiction isn't my favorite reading. So I took lots of breaks. A lot of it was first hand accounts of life in Britain during the Blitz, what people had to endure, the difficulty of providing support for those who had lost homes or families, and the devastation to the cities.
This is a very readable book and I would not discourage anyone from reading it, but I see it more as a historical reference in which the author has pulled together a tremendous amount of information about this event in history.

Moving on to my crime fiction reads, this month I read three books in the espionage fiction sub-genre, three vintage mysteries, and a historical mystery. And all of these were from my TBR piles, books that I have owned for at least a year, and in most cases it has been several years.

Death in the Stocks by Georgette Heyer (1935)
Georgette Heyer (1902-1972) is primarily known for her regency romances, but she also wrote 12 mystery novels. Four of them featured Inspector Hemingway, and this is the 2nd novel in that series. I have just recently started reading Heyer's mysteries again, and I am enjoying them quite a bit. See my review here.
The Polish Officer by Alan Furst (1995)
The Polish officer of the title is recruited into the Polish underground after Poland is invaded by Germany in 1939. I was surprised by this book. It was drier than the first two books in the Night Soldiers series, and it felt more like a history than fiction. Many fans of Alan Furst's book consider this their favorite, so I think I am in a minority in my opinion. It doesn't deter me from moving on to the next one in the series, though.
Lumen by Ben Pastor (1999)
Immediately after reading The Polish Officer I started reading Lumen, which is set at the same time in Poland (1939 - 41). The protagonist is a Wehrmacht captain in Intelligence, Martin Bora, stationed in Cracow during the Nazi occupation of Poland. He is tasked with investigating the death of a nun, well known for her prophetic powers. The books were a perfect pair. I learned a lot about Poland during the time period from Alan Furst's book, and it made this one an easier and more interesting read.
The Quiller Memorandum by Adam Hall (1965)
Quiller is a British secret agent for a covert organization of spies, unacknowledged by the government. This book, originally titled The Berlin Memorandum, was the first in a series of 19 books about Quiller. There is a film adaptation starring George Segal, Alec Guinness, and Max Von Sydow. See my review here.
Murder Begins at Home by Delano Ames (1949)
Another pleasant and intriguing mystery featuring Jane and Dagobert Brown, a crime solving couple. Most of the books in the series are set in the UK, but this one, the second, is set in New Mexico, USA. One of the things I like about this series is that Jane and Dagobert are intellectual equals; Jane's part is not secondary to Dagobert's. See my review here.
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews (2013)
A Russian mole, spies working to turn enemy agents into double agents, a school for using sex in espionage, and lots and lots of violence. Some of my favorite spy fiction is low key and more about the tradecraft and gathering secrets from documents. This one is definitely on the gritty side but also puts the emphasis on tradecraft . Another one that has been adapted to film, now in theaters. A very good book, some very interesting characters, all very well developed. 
Gold Comes in Bricks by A.A. Fair (1940)
A.A. Fair is a pseudonym used by Erle Stanley Gardner for the Bertha Cool and Donald Lam stories. Flamboyant, fast-talking Bertha Cool is the boss; Donald Lam works for her. She spends most of her time telling Donald to change his ways, until he ends up making lots of money for her. This plot involves a very rich man who wants to find out why his daughter is spending too much money. It could be gambling or blackmail.


col2910 said...

Tracy, sounds like you had a good month. I read the Quiller book years ago and have the Furst book on the pile. Red Sparrow is the other one that catches my eye, but maybe no time to read, assuming I haven't already bought it and forgotten!

Anonymous said...

It looks as though you had a good reading month, Tracy, and I'm glad. I need to read some of Gardner's work under the name of Fair; I always think it's interesting to see how authors create different sorts of series.

June Lorraine Roberts said...

Some great WWII recommendations Tracy

TracyK said...

I enjoyed reading Red Sparrow, Col, but I was surprised at the amount of violence and sex. It kept my attention though, and that is my measure of a good book.

TracyK said...

The Gardner series that I have not read is the Doug Selby D.A. series. I have never run into one of those, so I am going to have to look harder.

TracyK said...

I did read a lot about WWII in February, June. I like learning more about that time, and there is more to learn about than I will ever have time for.

pattinase (abbott) said...

What a nice selection. My husband likes Furst but I don't think he's read this one.

TracyK said...

My goal is to read all of Furst's Night Soldiers series in order, Patti, and I have most of them already.

Rick Robinson said...

I posted this over on Patti's blog earlier today, but will share it here:

Bought and read SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE LOST RADIO SCRIPTS by Leslie Charteris and Denis Green. The scripts are entertaining, but typical of the type and nothing special. Then read THE COMPLETE PSYCHOTECNIC LEAGUE Volume 1 by Poul Anderson. Several short works, all of which I'd read at some time or other, but Anderson is always worth reading. I especially enjoyed "The Big Rain", which I remember reading in Astounding Science Fiction in the Fifties, when it was a cover story.

Have also been reading some ebooks: TROUBLE IN NUALA by Harriet Steel, a semi-cozy set in Ceylon in 1938, OLD MAN'S WAR and THE GHOST BRIGADES by John Scalzi, the first two books in the series, both re-reads. I didn't enjoy re-reading the Scalzi as much as I expected, but that didn't keep me from racing right through them both. Now I'm reading THE LONG ARM OF THE LAW, a British Library Crime Classics anthology edited by Martin Edwards, which I just got last week.

TracyK said...

Those all sound like good reads, Rick. I have read the two John Scalzi books, I really enjoy his writing. I have the third book in that series and then the latest book, waiting to be read.

It was good to hear from you, Rick. I trust you are doing well.

Peggy said...

Great two months of reading, Tracy! They all sound good and I did not know Gardner had written anything under a pen name!

Clothes In Books said...

Nice selection as always Tracy. I had never heard of Red Sparrow till the recent film came out, and it sounded too violent for me...

TracyK said...

I did enjoy reading all the books, Peggy. I have enjoyed all the books by Erle Stanley Gardner that I have read although they often have complex and convoluted plots. Always nice and short too.

TracyK said...

The novel Red Sparrow is a bit too violent also, Moira, but the story telling is good. I read it because it was coming out on film and I did not want the story spoiled for me. Initially I assumed we would see the film (at home, we never go out to movies) but now not so sure.