Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dead Before Dying: Deon Meyer

This debut novel by Deon Meyer, published in Afrikaans in 1996, provides a picture of a changing society, a complex police investigation, and the effects that policemen's jobs have on their lives.

Mat Joubert, a Captain in the Cape Town police force, is depressed following the death of his wife, who was also in the police force. The story is set in post-apartheid South Africa and the group that Joubert works in is now reporting to a new boss, Colonel Bart de Wit, who is cracking down on the force and expecting them to get in shape mentally and physically. Joubert's friend and co-worker Benny Griessel is in even worse shape mentally and physically. 

Lieutenant Leon Petersen is Murder and Robbery's only "officer of color." He is having problems with his marriage. He complains to Joubert about his troubles:  
And now Bart de Wit tells me I must spark because blacks must get up the ladder, show it is not just affirmative action. Now, suddenly, I'm black. Not colored anymore, not Cape Malay or brown, but black. Instant reclassification. And I must spark. Now I ask you Captain, what else do I do? pay slip is still waiting for affirmative action. And not just mine. All of ours. White, black, brown.
Thus the story is as much about the policemen working through their problems as solving the crimes. The case that comes to Mat Joubert is a series of apparently random killings. He tries to deal with this in a changing culture, with a new boss, and while he tries to mend his life.

This is a good story with interesting characters, even the minor characters. There is a sub-plot about a bank robber that is entertaining, and it gets intertwined with the main case. The ending was not entirely satisfactory but that sometimes happens with crime fiction novels, and it did not ruin the book for me. This was a very good debut for this writer. I have heard that later books are even better and I look forward to trying them. Based on what I have read, Mat Joubert shows up later in Trackers (2010). Benny Griessel is part of a series of three books starting with Devil's Peak (2007). And there will be a fourth in 2014.

At the FAQs page on the author's site, he says:
It is more fun to read them in the order they were written, but it's not essential.
Since that is the way I like to read books by an author, even if the characters are not linked, I will take his advice.

Stop You're Killing Me! has a good listing of Deon Meyer's books, with indications of original (Afrikaans) publication date vs. English translation date.

Petrona has a review of this title plus links to other reviews.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Man in the Picture: Susan Hill

I read this novella specifically for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII challenge. I thought this would be a good time to challenge myself and try a ghost story.

I found this to be a nice story with atmosphere. But it wasn't scary. It is billed as a ghost story but it didn't really have ghosts, or not in the way I define them. And, not being a fan of ghost stories, I am not sure I can give this novella a fair evaluation. I don't know why I don't care for ghost stories; they don't scare me and I don't have a problem with suspending disbelief for other supernatural phenomena (although books with supernatural elements are not favorites either).

For me, the problems were that I did not get involved with the characters and I did not empathize with them and their problems. I read a fair number of reviews of the story, and the reactions were mixed. Some enjoyed it very much. Others, who are usually fans of Susan Hill's ghost stories, found the story disappointing. Some felt the story was good until the weak ending; others felt like the ending made up for the rest. So, readers appear to be divided on the quality of this story.

The copy I read belongs to my husband, who is a fan of ghost stories. He liked the story. He read it long enough ago that he does not remember exactly what he liked, but he would not have held onto the book if he did not like it.

Reviews for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII event, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings, are here.

Next year when I decide to stretch myself and try an area I don't usually read, it will be one of these: Gothic, Horror, or a tale of the supernatural.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dark Star: Alan Furst

Dark Star (1991) by Alan Furst tells the story of a journalist who is forced into being a spy and turns into a very good one, although he doesn't really enjoy it. The journalist is a Russian Jew, and the year is 1937. The story moves slowly, but in the end several events and plot threads that seem disconnected and haphazard all come together.

That is my very simplistic summary of the book. This book is the second in the group of historical espionage novels that are often referred to as the Night Soldiers series. I read the first book, Night Soldiers, several years ago and liked it well enough to look for and buy all of the remaining books.

But yet I have a hard time describing why I really like this book. Partly it is just because I like reading about this period. Partly it is because I love espionage fiction. Espionage novels often tend to be slower than other mystery fiction and I don't find that a problem. And Furst tells the story so well, blending in historical background in an unobtrusive way. The story continues into late 1940, after Paris has fallen.

The main character, Andre Szara, is very well developed. He is a real person, capable but no hero. Szara is part of a large network of spies and works from Paris, France most of the time; the network is so complex Furst provides a chart, which was useful to me. The only secondary character I found memorable was Joseph de Montfried, an enormously wealthy and titled French Jew. The story of his involvement with Szara's work was my favorite part of the book.

My edition of Dark Star had a reader's guide with questions. One point the guide made is that Furst's books often feature love affairs, and the effects of war upon them. I liked that aspect in this book, although it does not overwhelm the story at all.

At Alan Furst's author site, the series of books is described:
The novels—really one very long book with, to date, twelve chapters—are Night Soldiers (Houghton Mifflin, 1988); Dark Star (Houghton Mifflin, 1991); The Polish Officer (Random House,1995); The World At Night (Random House, 1996); Red Gold (Random House, 1999); Kingdom of Shadows (Random House, 2000); Blood of Victory (Random House, 2002); Dark Voyage (Random House, 2004); The Foreign Correspondent (Random House, 2006); The Spies of Warsaw (Random House, 2008); Spies of the Balkans (Random House, 2010); and Mission to Paris (Random House, 2012). Kingdom of Shadows was the first of these books to appear on the New York Times bestseller list; the subsequent books appeared there as well.
The books do not follow one character. There are two books that feature film producer Jean Casson, starting with The World at Night, and some characters show up in more than one book, but otherwise the connection between books appears to be the time (the years leading up to and including World War II), the setting (Europe), and espionage. I think each can be read as a stand-alone, but I plan to read them in order. I may read The Spies of Warsaw out of order if I decide I want to see the television adaptation of that series.

Please see this post at, which has excerpts from several reviews that describe the strength of the book without revealing too much of the plot. That site has a lot of information about Polish history.

I am submitting this review for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII event, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. That event celebrates reading of books of mystery, suspense, and horror. The event continues through October 31, 2013. Reviews for that event are here.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Raven Black and White Nights: Ann Cleeves

Recently I read two books in the Shetland mystery series by Ann Cleeves: Raven Black (2006) and White Nights (2008). I enjoyed them immensely. I had only intended to read the first book, but as soon as I finished the first one I had to move onto the second.

Yet I am finding this a hard review to write. I liked the books, I want to read all of the series, but I cannot point to any one thing that make them so compelling.

Uppermost for me in these books is characterization and setting. The main character is DI Jimmy Perez and even before reading this series I wondered why a character with such a name is a policeman on the Shetland Islands. It turns out his ancestors came from Spain but have been living in the Shetland Islands for centuries. So he fits in very much with the culture of the islands, and deals well with the people on the islands. For the major crimes that are investigated in these books, a team from Inverness is brought in and DI Roy Taylor is the policeman in charge of the investigation. Taylor is a direct contrast to Perez, and finds the slow, methodical approach of Perez to be irritating at times.

In addition to the primary characters, we get to know several other people who are closely involved with the crime, and much of the story comes from their viewpoint. It allows a very full picture of the community and the relationships within it.

The pace of these books is very slow. The pace of the books seemed to mirror the pace of life in the islands, where people don't like to be hurried. This is completely different from the previous book I read (Frantic by Katherine Howell). Frantic was more focused on movement and action and less on characterization. But I enjoyed the books by both authors, and reading both close together emphasized for me how different books can be, yet still be compelling and a good mystery.

Raven Black involves the murder of a teenage girl in an area where a much younger girl disappeared a few years earlier. This first book takes place in the cold winter when winter fire festivals take place. The Up Helly Aa festival plays a part in the plot.

The second book in the series, White Nights, centers around the death of an outsider, a visitor to the islands who no one appears to know. That book is set at the time of year (mid-summer) when it never really gets dark, a phenomena it is hard for me to imagine.

The Shetland Islands is a very different setting from any I have read about before. Per Wikipedia, the Shetland Islands "is a subarctic archipelago of Scotland that lies north-east of mainland Britain." The largest island is known as "Mainland." The action in both these books takes place on that island, although in different parts of it. There are 15 other inhabited islands; one of them is Fair Isle, which is where Jimmy Perez was raised. I learned a great deal about the islands from reading the book (and doing research online afterwards).

From the author's website, a description of the Shetland mystery series:
Raven Black was initially intended as a standalone novel - after all, how many murders could there be in Shetland? But the book was so successful, winning the first Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award for the best crime novel of the year, as well as numerous fans, that Ann wrote another Shetland mystery, and then another - until she had completed a quartet covering all four seasons and a tour of the archipelago.

The turning of the year's circle and the dramatic changes it has brought for Jimmy Perez don't mean the end of the story - Ann's latest book, Dead Water, brings new beginnings - and the start of a new quartet based on the four elements: earth, water, fire and air.
On that same page, there is information about the TV series based on the books and links to maps of Shetland.

Friday, October 18, 2013

USA Fiction Challenge - State by State

About a year ago, my husband and I joined a Goodreads challenge to read one mystery for every state in the USA. It seemed challenging (in a fun way) and our goal was long range. Just get there when we get there.

Now, Kerrie from Mysteries in Paradise has started a similar challenge, but really 51 "states," since she is including the District of Columbia, which I think is a great idea. Kerrie's challenge is not limited to any one genre, but I am still sticking with crime fiction. Although her challenge is described as State by State in 2014, the challenge can be done in your own time frame, and you don't have to wait until 2014 to start.

Another interesting twist to Kerrie's challenge is that you can complete mini challenges of various sections of the country (see here). That may make it more accessible to some people. 

If you are interested you can read about the challenge and sign up at the USA Fiction Challenge site

Below is the list of states. I have already read 9 or 10 mysteries for different states in the USA for the Goodreads challenge, but I am starting fresh with this one. Most of the states that I have already completed for that challenge are ones I have more books for anyway.
  12. HAWAII
  13. IDAHO
  16. IOWA
  17. KANSAS
  20. MAINE
  25. MISSISSIPPI: The Last Clinic by Gary Cusick (11/24/2013)
  29. NEVADA
  33. NEW YORK
  36. OHIO
  38. OREGON
  44. TEXAS
  45. UTAH

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Frantic: Katherine Howell

Frantic (2007) by Katherine Howell is the first in a series of six books, set in Sydney, Australia. There are two main characters per book (roughly, as I understand it from reviews). The detective, Ella Marconi, is a constant throughout the series. The second character in each book is a paramedic, and that character changes from book to book. I think this is a very clever strategy, because it allows for variety and spices up the mix of characters. I will see as I continue reading this series.

I was lucky when I started reading this book. It was a day that I could read all day (very unusual in my life). I was immediately hooked in by the story and the characters, and I did finish the book in one day. And enjoyed it very much.

The title of the book describes the pace of the book.  This could be a criticism, but I found that the pace and the excitement level in the story kept me reading and I did not want to put the book down.

The book centers around the story of one paramedic and some events that happen to her family (her husband and child). The paramedic is Sophie Phillips and she and her husband Chris are experiencing marital problems. I am not going to go into much more detail than that regarding the plot. In the course of the paramedic's work, the emergency events are very fast paced and I felt the urgency of each rescue attempt.

Ella Marconi, the detective, is an interesting character but does seem to be in the background in this book. She is frustrated in her job (sounds familiar for detectives) and feels she has been passed over for plum assignments in the past. I will be interested in seeing how she develops in future books in the series.

A small (very small) quibble. I did get irritated with the married couple, because both assumed they knew what the other was thinking (wrongly) and made bad decisions based on this. I know this is a common plot device to keep a story interesting, but it is a pet peeve of mine. I also did not find this book to give me much sense of Sydney, the city in which they are based. That, however, is not a criticism from my point of view, just a comment in case that is specifically what the reader is looking for.

The author "worked as a paramedic for fifteen years and uses that experience in her books," per her website. The page on that site about this book has a sample chapter and some interesting comments on how the series started.

Please see these reviews...
at Ms. Wordopolis Reads and All the Books I Can Read (lots more detail at this one).

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Planned Parenthood Book Sale 2013 (Part 2)

A final post to highlight some of our purchases at the book sale.My husband and son are much more restrained than I. Here are lists of some of their purchases.

My son is into fantasy novels, and his choices reflect that.
Dread Brass Shadows by Glen Cook
In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
The Callahan Chronicles by Spider Robinson
The Road to Mars: A Post-Modem Novel by Eric Idle
Deathstalker by Simon R. Green
The first two of those are of particular interest to me. The Glen Cook novel is part of a series about a human P.I. in a world of fantasy. In the Garden of Iden is a time travel novel and the first in the Company series.

My husband's tastes fall in many genres:

truecrime by Jake Arnott
Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow
Devil Said Bang by Richard Kadrey
A Weekend at Blenheim by J.P. Morrissey
The Informer by Akimitsu Takagi
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Eddy Deco's Last Caper: An Illustrated Mystery by Gahan Wilson
Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben McIntyre
Operation Mincemeat by Ben McIntyre
L.A. Noir: The City as Character by Alain Silver & James Ursini
Of these books, most hold some interest, with the possible exception of The Little Stranger, which may be too creepy and tense for me. L.A. Noir, about film noir set in Los Angeles, is on my list to read soon.
And the following books, with cover images, are some of my favorites that I found at the sale:

Sugar Skull (2003) by Denise Hamilton

Los Angeles Times reporter Eve Diamond usually works out of the paper's San Gabriel Valley bureau, but she's taking a weekend shift downtown when a distraught Vincent Chevalier breaks through security and demands her help. His fifteen-year-old daughter, Isabel, is missing, and the cops won't go looking for her until forty-eight hours have passed.

This book fits into my collection of books with skulls or skeletons on the cover. I have the first book in the series (unread) so I didn't buy it only for the cover.
Sugar skulls are decorations used for Day of the Dead celebrations. Usually they are edible, but the skulls are generally used for decorative purposes.

Dia de los Muertos or the “Day of the Dead” is a Mexican religious holiday. The celebrations start on November 1st, the day after Halloween. See more information on Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertas at this site.

Photo by Nathaniel C. Sheetz at Wikipedia Commons.

Capital Crimes (2011) by Laura Wilson

From the author's web site:
It is winter in London in the early 1950s: John Davies confesses to strangling his wife and baby daughter. It promises to be a depressingly straightforward case for DI Ted Stratton of West End Central. When Davies recants, blaming respectable neighbour Norman Backhouse for the crimes, nobody, including Stratton, sees any reason to believe him. Davies is convicted and hanged. But after a series of gruesome discoveries, Stratton begins to suspect that there has been a terrible miscarriage of justice. 

A Capital Crime is based on two of the most notorious cases of the 1950s.

Reaper Man (1991) by Terry Pratchett

I know very little about the Discworld series, but I collect books with skeletons or skulls on the cover. And I will give this one a try, just to see what it is all about. What I am not sure about is whether I should read any other book in the series first. This was the eleventh published, but I understand that they are grouped into sub-series.

An Uncertain Place (2008) by Fred Vargas

Another book in the Commissaire Adamsberg mystery series. The link points to a list of the books in order at EuroCrime, which also has links to reviews.

This is the 6th in the series. I have read the first two and have the 5th one. So still looking for the 3rd and 4th ones (Have Mercy on Us All and Wash this Blood Clean from My Hand).

Death in a Cold Climate (2012) by Barry Forshaw

From the back cover of my edition:
'Death in a Cold Climate is a comprehensive and authoritative guide to the fictional underbelly of the Nordic psyche, whose popularity has become the publishing sensation of the century. Perceptive, witty and awesomely well-researched.' - Andrew Taylor, author of The American Boy

I have this book in e-book format and have read about two-thirds of it but I wanted a paper copy for easier access when I want to look up an author.
See Sarah's Review at Crimepieces
And an interview at the Rap Sheet blog

Slip of the Knife (2007) by Denise Mina
Also published as The Last Breath in the UK

Paddy Meehan has it all: flash car, flat, job as Scotland's leading columnist, and giant packet of biscuits all to herself, but the groggy bliss of a Saturday night in front of the TV is shattered when the police knock politely on her door, smiling sadly when she answers it. Someone close to her has died, but she's staggered when they tell her who it is.

This is the third novel in the Paddy Meehan series. Denise Mina has three series: the Garnethill series, the Paddy Meehan series, and the Alex Morrow series. I have read none of her books yet but I have read a lot of praise regarding her writing.

Poor Tom is Cold by Maureen Jennings

The third book in the Detective Murdoch series. My husband found this lovely hardback edition for me.  I have read the 1st one and have a copy of the second one on order.

Per a review at Publisher's Weekly:
The plethora of historical mysteries makes it difficult for a writer to carve out a time and place uniquely her own. However, Jennings has laid strong claim to the Toronto of the late 19th-century with the Anthony award-winning Except the Dying and Under the Dragon's Tail, and she cements her hold with this deft combination of mystery and social issues.

The Midnight Choir by Gene Kerrigan

I have one other book by this author (unread). The book is The Rage, and it had been highly recommended at several blogs. So when I saw this Europa edition in good condition at the book sale, I could not pass it up.

Description at Europa Editions:
A sophisticated crime story of contemporary Ireland, The Midnight Choir teems with moral dilemmas and Dublin emerges as a city of ambiguity: a newly-scrubbed face hiding a criminal culture of terrible variety.

First Wife, Twice Removed by Clare Curzon

I actually had another copy of this book, a mass market paperback. But this one with the skeleton hand I just had to have. I have been searching for years for earlier books in this series to start with, but now have decided I will read this one -- the eighth book in a series of twenty four books -- and see what I think.

Description from Fantastic Fiction:
Two disturbing deaths have Superintendent Mike Yeading's team spread out from the Thames Valley to Amsterdam looking for answers. As the investigations of the separate incidents develop in sinister parallel, the people of the Thames Police Force will confront more untimely death before tangled skeins come together to create a diabolical tapestry of murder.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Mystery of the Blue Train: Agatha Christie

The daughter of an American millionaire is unhappy in her marriage. She wants a divorce and embarks on a trip to the south of France. Traveling on the same train are her estranged husband, his former mistress, and a young woman who has recently inherited a large amount of money. Someone will die before the journey's end. And Hercule Poirot will be engaged to solve the murder.

I have read that this was not one of Christie's favorites of her novels. Robert Barnard, in A Talent to Deceive, thinks it is not so bad, but cites "some deleterious influences from the thrillers." He does not care for her thrillers, which are mostly among her early novels. I have liked all the thrillers by Christie that I have read so far, and I like this novel quite a bit.

First of all, it features a train and many scenes on a train. That right there would push it to the top for me. I also like the variety of characters; the rich, the not so rich. Thieves and those who prey on the wealth of others. I will admit many of them are stereotypes, but I still enjoyed them.

I especially liked Katherine Grey, a woman in her thirties who has the opportunity to see more of the world after inheriting a substantial sum of money. She is traveling to visit distant relatives who live on the Riviera. They hope to share in some of her wealth, and she is willing to take them up on their offer to launch her into society.

Poirot and Katherine meet on the train and have a conversation about the mystery novel she is reading, or as he calls it, a "Roman Policier."
    "Some day, who knows, you might be in the thick of things," he went on. "It is all chance."
    "I don't think it is likely," said Katherine, "Nothing of that kind ever happens to me."
    He leaned forward.
    "Would you like it to?"
    The question startled her, and she drew in her breath sharply.
    "It is my fancy, perhaps," said the little man, as he dexterously polished one of the forks, "but I think that you have a yearning in you for interesting happenings. Eh bien, Mademoiselle, all through my life I have observed one thing - 'All one wants one gets!' Who knows?" His face screwed itself up comically. "You may get more than you bargain for."
    "Is that a prophecy?" asked Katherine, smiling as she rose from the table.
    The little man shook his head.
    "I never prophesy," he declared pompously. "It is true that I have the habit of being always right - but I do not boast of it. Good-night, Mademoiselle, and may you sleep well."
    Katherine went back along the train amused and entertained by her little neighbour.
And, of course, there is some romance, without being too intrusive. One element of Christie's books that I had forgotten was the romance. And I have been surprised to enjoy it so much.

Poirot is much less annoying in this book than I found him to be in the last Poirot novel I read (Murder on the Links). Egotistical as always, but much more likeable.

So, all in all, a very enjoyable read for me.

I  read this book for the Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, hosted by  Mysteries In Paradise. If you are interested in joining in, here are instructions on how to do that. Links to other reviews for this month will be found here.

Also submitted for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VIII event, hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. That event celebrates reading of books of mystery, suspense, and horror. The event continues through October 31, 2013. Reviews for that event are here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

New To Me Authors, 3rd Quarter 2013

Today I am joining in on the meme for the best new-to-me crime fiction authors at Mysteries in Paradise. This meme runs at the end of each quarter. Check out other posts for this quarter.

In the third quarter of 2013, I read ten books by authors I had never read  before. This is my list of books by new (to me) authors:
  1. Mind's Eye by Håkan Nesser 
  2. Green-Eyed Lady by Chuck Greaves
  3. Open Season by Archer Mayor
  4. Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage 
  5. The Square of Revenge by Peter Aspe
  6. Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten
  7. The Broken Shore by Peter Temple
  8. The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
  9. The Infernal Detective by Kirsten Weiss
  10. The Yard by Alex Grecian
I will be reading at least one more book by all of these authors. They all piqued my interest enough to follow through and try more. But...

For two of these authors, I rushed out (well, hopped onto the internet) and bought copies of the next two books in the series. So I guess that would put them at the top of the list.

Håkan Nesser (b. 1950) is a Swedish author who writes the Inspector Van Veeteren series.

An overview of the series, from a fansite:
The series, most often referred to as the Van Veeteren series, takes place in Maardam, a fictitious city in a made-up country that could be anywhere in northern Europe. It follows the murder cases investigated by Chief Inspector Van Veeteren – eventually the retired Chief Inspector – and his two crime squad protégés, Münster and Moreno.

Leighton Gage (1942-2013) wrote a police procedural series set in Brazil. The main character is Chief Inspector Mario Silva of the Brazilian Federal Police.

In addition to the police procedural aspects, I liked the picture of Brazil and the political and sociological issues in that country. The story is told in a straightforward way; there are not a lot of descriptive passages. Time is spent on fleshing out characters, even the peripheral ones. The back story of how Silva has become a policeman is covered in depth and provides insight into his character.

But the reader should be forewarned that there is a lot of violence and brutality in this book. I felt that the level of violence was warranted, in that the book is describing a very corrupt situation in Brazil. It all seemed realistic, although it was not a comfortable read. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Mount TBR Reading Challenge: 3rd Quarter Summary

This quarter I have read 10 books that count toward the Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2013. Combined with the 28 books I read in the first and second quarter, I have read a total of
38 books, which surpasses my goal of 36 books.

The books I read in July, August, September from my TBR piles were:
  1. Mind's Eye by Håkan Nesser
  2. Open Season by Archer Mayor
  3. The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie
  4. Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
  5. Blood of the Wicked by Leighton Gage
  6. Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten
  7. Murder at Hazelmoor by Agatha Christie
  8. Seeking Whom He May Devour by Fred Vargas
  9. The Broken Shore by Peter Temple
  10. Vendetta by Michael Dibdin
One of the questions that Bev asked us to answer in our summary posts was:
Who has been your favorite character so far? And tell us why, if you like.
This quarter I did not have a favorite character. Except for the Agatha Christie novels, all of the books on this list feature a policeman as the main character. I will highlight two that I found especially interesting.

In Mind's Eye by Håkan Nesser the detective is Inspector Van Veeteren. He is very talented at his job and he knows it. This keeps him motivated to stay with the job even when he is not enjoying it. He isn't really likeable, but he is human and very interesting.

Quotes from the chapter where we meet the inspector:
Detective Chief Inspector Van Veeteren did not have a cold.

On the other hand, he did have a tendency to be depressed when the weather was poor, and as it had now been raining more or less nonstop for ten days, melancholy had made the most of the opportunity to sink deep roots into his mind.
Why be a depressed master gardener or bus driver when you can be a depressed detective chief inspector...
Irene Huss is clearly the focus in Detective Inspector Huss by Helene Tursten. She is the only female detective in this set of books. In addition to highlighting sociological issues in Sweden, the book addresses women's roles in male dominated jobs like law enforcement.  

Irene reflects on her job.
Far too many cases had not left behind the sweetness of victory, but rather a bitter aftertaste. You become jaded and cynical in this profession, she thought in her darker moments. But she didn't want to become either jaded or cynical! You had to go on, keep moving forward. You couldn't stop and dig yourself a hole. The job she had chosen was not without its dangers, but she had never wanted to do anything else and had always enjoyed her work. The past few years she had begun to notice an insidious feeling that hadn't existed before. Only recently had she been able to identify it. Terror. Terror of people's indifference to the human values of others and terror of the ever-increasing violence.
Check out other summary posts HERE.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mysteries in September and Pick of the Month

I read eight mysteries in September, and I finished reading two mystery reference books that I had been reading off and on for a couple of months.

Below is my list of mysteries read in September. Three of the books were part of a trilogy so for the purposes of this list, I count them as one book.
  1. The White Trilogy by Ken Bruen
  2. The Broken Shore by Peter Temple
  3. The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
  4. The Infernal Detective by Kirsten Weiss
  5. The Yard by Alex Grecian
  6. Vendetta by Michael Dibdin
The two mystery reference books I read are Mystery Muses: 100 Classics That Inspire Today's Mystery Writers (2006), edited by Jim Huang, and The Mystery Lover's Companion (1986) by Art Bourgeau. Both were fun reads, and I have read Mystery Muses more than once.

I have no problem this month picking a favorite mystery (or three): The White Trilogy. This trilogy consists of the first three books in Ken Bruen's Inspector Brant series. The books are: The White Arrest, Taming the Alien, and The McDead. I loved each book, but together the three books form a perfect whole.

A White Arrest introduces Chief Inspector Roberts and Detective Sergeant Brant. Brant is an immoral cop who does what he thinks he has to do to deal with criminals and stay alive. And what he does may not be strictly legal. Roberts is sixty-two and feeling his age. He has a wife and a teenage daughter, but police work (among other things) has strained their relationships. He has dreams of a real family life. WPC Falls is a young black woman trying to fit into a male-dominated profession. The story of Falls in this trilogy is heart breaking but also very affirming. She is a strong female character with a lot of facets to her character.

The Crime Fiction Pick of the Month meme is hosted at Mysteries in Paradise. Bloggers link to summary posts for the month, and identify a crime fiction best read of the month. Check out the link here to see the other bloggers picks.