Sunday, January 12, 2020

My Reading: December 2019

I read ten books in December 2019; most were crime fiction, but I started off the month with a book outside of that genre: Crazy Rich Asians. I read a few crime novels set in December, around Christmas, some of them with a Christmassy feel and some not. I ended the month with several mysteries that had been on my TBR for years. All in all, a very good month.

Of my crime fiction reads, four were published between 1930 and 1940 and the other five were published between 1979 and 2007.


Crazy Rich Asians (2013) by Kevin Kwan
I am not sure how to categorize Crazy Rich Asians; some call it a romance, or a romantic comedy, or even chick lit. It is about extremely rich Chinese families in Singapore, and a young American-born Chinese woman who is dating the son of one of the families. I hadn't been interested in this book until I read a review at Mysteries and More from Saskatchewan. I knew if Bill could read this book and enjoy it, I could too. 
There were many things about the story I found impossible to believe (even though I am sure many of them are very true) but even so, I just settled in and enjoyed the ride. I was thinking of describing this book as a fairy tale, but it is also a soap opera, and both of those can be very entertaining.

Crime Fiction

Crime at Christmas (1934) by C.H.B. Kitchin
A mystery set at a large home in London where a group of people have gathered for Christmas celebrations. The protagonist is a young stockbroker, Malcolm Warren, who featured in three other mystery novels by Kitchin. See my review here.

This Gun for Hire (1936) by Graham Greene
I haven't read that much by Graham Greene and it has been a while, so I have nothing to compare this too, but other reviews say it is not his best work. It was written before World War II started in Europe and it shows that people are fearing another war. Raven is hired to kill a foreign government official, and then is paid off in stolen bills, so that he will be caught by the police. He finds he has been double crossed and seeks revenge on the people who hired him. Along the way he takes a young woman hostage, and she feels compassion for his plight. I liked the story very much. I thought it was told in a brilliant way and the characters were well done.
The  original title in the UK was A Gun for Sale. The novel was adapted as a film with Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, titled This Gun for Hire. My paperback edition has one of the weirdest covers I have seen.

Cold Light (1994) by John Harvey
I read the first three books in the Charlie Resnick series years ago and I remember liking them a lot. Resnick is a detective inspector based in Nottingham, England. In November I read Off Minor (4th book) and now I have read Cold Light (6th book), set during the Christmas season. These two books seemed a bit darker than I remembered. I really like Charlie's character, with his love for jazz and his four cats. He is a middle-aged man trying to do his best in his job.

The Twelve Deaths Of Christmas (1979) by Marian Babson
Another Christmas mystery. I usually read too many of them and cannot review them all but I did pretty well this year. The Twelve Deaths of Christmas is set in a boarding house, and based on the title it sounds grim. But it is more of suspenseful, cozy mystery, with many deaths throughout. My review is here.

The Shop Window Murder (1930) by Vernon Loder
Mander’s Department Store in London is well known for its elaborate window displays. A new one is  revealed every Monday morning. Several weeks before Christmas, the crowd gathered to see the unveiling realizes that the elaborate new window design includes a dead body. And shortly afterward, a second body is discovered. One of the bodies is the store’s owner Tobias Mander and the other is Miss Effie Tumour, a chief buyer for the store. It is a good puzzle mystery and a very interesting picture of a department store of that period, but I could not get too excited about the characters. 

A FĂȘte Worse Than Death (2007) by Dolores Gordon-Smith
This is the first book in the Jack Haldean mystery series, set in the early 1920s. Jack was a fighter pilot in World War I and is now an author of detective stories. He is currently staying with his cousins at their country house in Sussex, when a man he knew during the war is murdered at the local fĂȘte. This was a fun book with a clever mystery, and I am sorry it took me so long to get to it.

Death in Blue Folders (1985) by Margaret Maron
Before her well-known Judge Deborah Knott series, Margaret Maron wrote a series about Sigrid Harold, New York City homicide detective. This is the third book in that series; I loved it and I will continue reading the series. See my review here.

Murder At Madingley Grange (1990) by Caroline Graham
This was not at all what I thought it would be, but it turned out to be even better than expected in the end. Madingley Grange is the perfect setting for a 1930s murder-mystery weekend; thus Simon Hannaford plots to convince his half-sister to let him use their aunt's home for a money-making scheme while she is away on vacation. This reminded me a bit of a Peter Dickinson style plot, with many layers and hidden agendas and more than one twist. 

The Dog Who Bit a Policeman (1998) by Stuart M. Kaminsky
Stuart Kaminsky's Inspector Rostnikov series is one of my favorite series, and now I only have four books left to read. The stories are set in Russia in the years between 1981 and 2009. When the series started Russia was still part of the USSR. With each new book in the series, the characters have aged and developed. Kaminsky showed the changes in Russia as the USSR dissolved and new people and groups are in power. This is the 12th book in the series. In most of the books, there are several cases that Rostnikov and his team are working on. A warning, one case in this book centers on an unpleasant subject, dog-fighting, with some graphic scenes included. 


Cath said...

My goodness that Graham Greene cover is weird! I've only read Travels with my Aunt by him and should really put that right and try something else. You had an excellent reading month in December.

TracyK said...

I also want to read more by Graham Greene, Cath. Travels with my Aunt sounds good, and I have copies of Our Man In Havana and The Human Factor. I was really curious what the cover of this book indicated, but if it was in the book, I missed it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

My favorite Graham Greene is THE END OF THE AFFAIR. I have read several others but that's the one that stays with me. Decent movie too.

Kay said...

I laughed at your Crazy Rich Asians review. I do think it's good to step outside our 'usual' at times. I'm planning on reading that one at some point. Bet I'll like it.

John Grant said...

A good range of reading, Tracy. Thanks for the reminder, here and on Noirish, that I really ought to read/reread some more Greene before too long. FWIW, my favorites to date are probably Brighton Rock and The Quiet American.

Margot Kinberg said...

I'm glad you had such a very good reading month, Tracy. You've reminded me of Kaminsky's series (which I ought to read more of - I'm more familiar with his Toby Peters series). And I do like Margaret Maron's writing, so it was good to hear you enjoyed that one, too. I hope January is turning out to be a good month for you.

TracyK said...

Thanks for the suggestion, Patti. I am compiling a list to look for, so I will add that one. And I do like to follow up by watching adaptations of books, where possible.

TracyK said...

Crazy Rich Asians was an interesting read in many ways, and hugely entertaining. I will probably read the 2nd one someday. I am usually glad when I read something outside of my comfort zone, but I will admit that very tense psychological suspense reads defeat me. I can admire their good qualities, but I am usually uncomfortable and unhappy while reading them ... which seems to defeat the purpose.

TracyK said...

I have added those to my list also, John. The Quiet American is high on my list so I can watch the film again.

TracyK said...

I really want to read more of the Inspector Rostnikov series soon because the next two seem like really good subjects: FALL OF A COSMONAUT and MURDER ON THE TRANS-SIBERIAN EXPRESS. But I do have many of his other books and I want to read more of the Toby Peters series and finally try one of the Lew Fonesca books set in Florida.

And January has been a very good reading month so far.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Sadly, I have neglected reading Graham Greene and for no reason. He is one of many authors of his generation I'd never read in ebook format. Their writing and stories are to be relished on paper.

TracyK said...

Prashant, I prefer not to read ebooks, but I am going to try more books in that format. I really don't know why I haven't read more by Graham Greene, myself.

Judith said...

HOW AWESOME!!! I'm so happy I can comment on this post tonight, Tracy! I'm doing a dance...because I loved this post. I have already ordered the Stuart Kaminsky mystery from the library, and am fascinated by his oeuvre because I have never read him. Looking forward to that. And on my reading calendar for next December, I've added The Twelve Deaths of Christmas, which looks to be right up my alley. I enjoyed reading about the others you mentioned as well.

TracyK said...

Judith, I am glad commenting works for you now. I wish I had understood the commenting changes before. I hope you like books by Kaminsky, he has several series but I have not tried them all.

Bill Selnes said...

Thanks for the mention on Crazy Rich Asians. It is a book I will remember fondly. I have had enough recommendations that I really need to see the movie.

Rick Robinson said...

Well, it LOOKS like it worked! We'll see. Thanks for your hard work.

Rick Robinson said...


TracyK said...

Thanks, Rick, and I am glad commenting works for you now, too. Amazing that changing one simple thing did it.

TracyK said...

Bill, I am glad I saw your posts on the three Crazy Rich Asians books, which convinced me to give the first one a try. (Although I haven't read all of the details on books 2 and 3 since I will probably read them.) I want to see the movie too. I think it would be worthwhile viewing.

Clothes in Books said...

Great list as always Tracy.I really enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians, and also the film. Look forward to some reviews of some of these books?

TracyK said...

Moira, I hope to review a few more of the books I read in December, especially Murder At Madingley Grange and This Gun for Hire. In 2020, I have a goal to review a higher percentage of books that I read, I hope that works for me.