Monday, January 15, 2018

Reading in December 2017

Here I am, nearly into the middle of January, and only now working on a list of books I read in December. December was a big reading month for me; I read a total of 12 books. Three of them were not mystery novels, although two of those did have mystery elements.

In the non-crime related group, we have:

Persuasion (1817) by Jane Austen
Persuasion is the story of Anne Elliot, the middle child in a family of three girls; at the time of the book she is 27 years old and unmarried.  It was the last novel Austen wrote and was published after her death. It is a more mature novel, and certainly Anne is a more mature protagonist than the other books I have read so far. My thoughts on the book are HERE.
Not All Tarts Are Apples (2002) by Pip Granger
This book was nominated for the 2002 Agatha award for Best First Mystery Novel. There is a mystery to the story but I would not categorize it that way. The central character is Rosie, seven years old, who has been taken in by friends of her mother. The couple live over a Soho café that they run during the day. It is 1953, the year of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and that was fun to read about. I enjoyed all of it, the story, the characters, the narration by Rosie.

To Say Nothing of the Dog (1997) by Connie Willis
The second novel in the Oxford Time Travel series. Ned Henry has made too many trips to 1940 in search of the Bishop's bird stump, and has been prescribed a week or two in Victorian England to get some rest and relaxation. He thinks he is there to recuperate, but really he has a new mission to pursue, and he has no time to relax.
Where Doomsday Book was sad, To Say Nothing of the Dog is funny with some elements of a mystery and more than one romance. I loved it just as much as Doomsday Book

And now for the nine crime fiction reads.

A Fatal Winter (2012) by G. M. Malliet
The 2nd book in the Max Tudor series, set in the weeks before Christmas. Max is the vicar of the very small village of Nether Monkslip. However, because he was previously an agent for MI5, he also helps the local police out on occasion. My review here.
Evil at the Root (1990) by Bill Crider
This is the 5th book in Bill Crider's long running series about Sheriff Dan Rhodes, set in rural Texas. A wonderful series, and I will be reading them all. My review here.
The Renewable Virgin (1984)  by Barbara Paul
This was one of my favorite reads of 2017. Rudy Benedict is a screenwriter who dies after taking poison in a headache remedy. The story is about three women affected by his death: his mother, Fiona Benedict, a college professor from Ohio; Kelly Ingram, a TV actress; and Marian Larch, a NYPD homicide detective. My review here.
Where There's a Will (1940) by Rex Stout
This is the 8th book in the Nero Wolfe series, published in 1940. I have read every book in the series more than once, and I always I enjoy them. This is not the best of them, but still very entertaining to read. My thoughts are here.
The Becket Factor (1990) by Michael David Anthony
There are three books in the Canterbury Cathedral mystery series, and this is the first. They feature a retired intelligence officer, Colonel Richard Harrison, who has given up his job in intelligence to have more time to care for his wife who is disabled. There is a death at the Cathedral, and Harrison's former boss asks him to investigate surreptitiously. With the ecclesiastical background, and a hint of spy fiction, I enjoyed this book. Coincidentally, this was set around Christmas so it was a good choice for December. 

The Cuckoo's Calling (2013) by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)
Cormoran Strike, formerly a military policeman, is now working as a private investigator because he lost his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan. As this book begins, his PI business is not doing so well. Things start looking up when Robin Ellacott takes a job as his temporary secretary and he gets a high-profile job to investigate a suicide that occurred three months earlier. Based on reviews, I thought I would like this and I did. The main characters are convincing, the story held my interest, but the book could have been shorter.
Hit Man (1998) by Lawrence Block
Hit Man is not a novel but a series of connected stories about an assassin named Keller. He lives in an apartment in New York City and leads a normal life, except that the way he supports himself is by killing people. It was a very enjoyable read but it is an adjustment to get used to a killer being the main focus, without any retribution in the end. 
The Last Voice You Hear (2004) by Mick Herron
The second book in Mick Herron's series starring Private Investigator Zoë Boehm, set in Oxford, England. I loved the first book, and this one was just as good. Zoë is a strong female character, intelligent and resourceful. 
Skull Mantra (1999) by Eliot Pattison
Shan Tao Yun  is a Chinese investigator from Beijing who was denounced and sentenced to hard labor because he criticized the regime. Assigned to a prison work gang in the mountains of Tibet, he is called upon to investigate when a headless corpse is found on a mountainside. I enjoyed this book as much for the view of Tibet under Chinese occupation as for the mystery. 


Mac n' Janet said...

To Say Nothing of the Dog is one of my favorite books. Got my husband to read it because he's a fan of Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat. He liked it too.

Anonymous said...

You had a good reading month, Tracy. And you reminded me of that Mick Herron series, for which thanks. At some point I'd like to spotlight one of his books.

Mathew Paust said...

Just finished Renewable Virgin, Tracy, thanks to your review. Loved it (the review and the book.)

Clothes In Books said...

Great reading list, as ever, Tracy. And I'm glad you reminded me of the other Mick Herron series, which I do want to start reading.

Bill Selnes said...

TracyK: Are you sure you did not like Skull Mantra just because of the cover?

TracyK said...

The book I read is my husband's copy, Janet, but he hasn't read it yet. I can easily see how it would be one of your favorite books. And at least this one has readable print. My copy of Doomsday book has tiny print.

TracyK said...

It was a great reading month, Margot, even if there was little else good about the month. I like both of Mick Herron's series. He would definitely be a good author to spotlight.

TracyK said...

I am so glad you enjoyed it, Mathew. It has so many good points, I hope her other books are as good.

TracyK said...

I cannot even decide which of Mick Herron's series I like best, Moira. The Zoe Boehm series is very different but I think that is what I like about his writing.

TracyK said...

You are right, that was a big factor, Bill. Any book with a skull on it attracts me. But it does have other good points. The writing style and I liked what I learned about Buddhism and Tibet. Right now I am reading DEATH OF A RED HEROINE by Qiu Xiaolong.

col2910 said...

Glad you finished the year on a high. Block, Herron and Crider the standouts for me, but I doubt I'll ever read any of the Crider series TBH. Galbraith/Rowling is on the pile. My wife enjoyed it, I ought to give it a go some time.

TracyK said...

I have already read the 2nd Keller book, Col. I liked it but it was a bit different from the first one. I was pleasantly surprised with THE CUCKOO'S CALLING and purchased the 2nd one in the series. Lots of good reading in December.

col2910 said...

Block has issued about 10 short-ish Keller pieces, a few of which I have and the balance which I'm going to get while I still have my KU trial. I'm working my way through them this month and next. When we move (no date yet) I can hopefully recover the stash of books and dig out the rest of the novels. One of my poorly adhered to reading wishes is to keep pace with what my wife reads - she's not a massive reader, but I'm still failing woefully. I can't remember when she read THE CUCKOO'S CALLING!

TracyK said...

I bet you are frustrated with waiting to move, Col. I have seen the Keller pieces ... not that many though... but will wait until I read all the books. It is admirable that you want to read books that your wife has read.

Rick Robinson said...

Sounds like a very good month, Tracy. My eye surgeries kept me from doing as much reading as I would have liked, I got through one Holmes pastiche anthology and Crider's GATOR KILL.

TracyK said...

I hope the surgeries are all healed up now, Rick. I want to read the Truman Smith series but haven't read any yet. I haven't read any actual Holmes books yet, believe it or not. Don't know why. But I will definitely be reading one this year.

Rick Robinson said...

Start with the canon, of course.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I like the variety of books you read, Tracy. And 12 is a very impressive number. Jane Austen is still very much on my wish-list. I think one needs to be in a certain frame of mind to read the Classics.

TracyK said...

I plan to read A Study in Scarlet sometime soon, Rick. And then maybe some of the stories.

TracyK said...

Thanks, Prashant. I must have been in the right frame of mind for the classics in the last few months. I have even started Les Miserables this month. Never thought I would do that.