Monday, January 30, 2023

Top Ten New-to-me Authors in 2022

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's topic is a Freebie (any topic). I missed last week's topic, which was New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2022. So that is what I am doing this week for my Freebie.

I was surprised to find that I read books by 43 new-to-me authors in 2022. I only read 88 books in 2022, and some were by the same authors, thus over half the authors I read were new-to-me. 

Since I had so many to pick from, I decided to focus on authors who I want to read more books by OR I thought their writing was very special.

My list is in order by the date I read them.

Elizabeth Strout

I have only read one book by Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge, a book of linked short stories. Most of the short stories were depressing but I thought that the writing and the characters were excellent, and I want to read more books by her.

Richard Osman

Richard Osman is an English television presenter and novelist. His debut novel, The Thursday Murder Club, was published in 2020. I read all three books in that series in 2022, and loved them all. My favorite was The Man Who Died Twice.

Matt Haig

The Midnight Library was my first book by Matt Haig.  I liked his writing, and I will read Haig's other books on my shelves (and my husband's).

Molly Clavering

Because of Sam by Molly Clavering is a lovely postwar story set in a village in Scotland, written in 1954. See Cath's review at Read-Warbler.  

John Burdett

Bangkok 8 by John Burdett is the first book in a crime fiction series set in Thailand. The main character is a Thai policeman, Sonchai Jitpleecheep. I had had this book on my shelves for 15 years and now I hope to read more of them.

T. E. Kinsey

The Lady Hardcastle Mysteries are historical fiction, set in the early 1900's. Lady Hardcastle (Emily) and her maid Florence Armstrong solve mysteries while living in the English countryside. I was attracted by the idea of a lady and her maid solving mysteries, and I liked the first one so well I read two more. This is another series recommended by Cath at Read-Warbler

Ted Wood

Dead in the Water by Ted Wood, published in 1983, is the first book in a ten book crime fiction series starring Reid Bennett. The book has a great Canadian setting, in a small town on the water, and one of the best characters is Bennett's dog Sam.

Stef Penney

I read The Tenderness of Wolves for my Canadian Reading Challenge. The story is set in 1867, primarily in a small settlement in the Northern Territory. This is a historical mystery, but the crime and the investigation are not the primary aspect of the story.

Elspeth Barker

This is the only author on this list that I will not be able to read further books by. Elspeth Barker's only novel was O Caledonia, published in 1991. This book is short, about 190 pages long, set in Scotland in the 1950s.  It is a sad but beautiful story  of a young girl, part of a large family, who doesn't fit in anywhere.


Mariah Fredericks

A Death of No Importance by Mariah Fredericks is a historical mystery set in 1910 New York. It is the story of a young woman who works as a lady's maid for the two daughters of a rich family and the first in a series of four books. I want to read more of that series and see where it takes the character.

Let me know if you have read any of these authors and have recommendations for further reading.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Classics Club Spin: The Sign of Four

The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was the result of the most recent Classics Club Spin for me. I have read primarily mystery novels since my teenage years.  I especially like vintage mysteries, from the 1920's through the 1960's. But until recently I was not inclined to read the Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle, or even  books by other authors based on those characters. 

As the book opens, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson are together in their flat. I was surprised by the first paragraph.

Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantel-piece and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case. With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle, and rolled back his left shirt-cuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks. Finally he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined arm-chair with a long sigh of satisfaction.

Sherlock is taking cocaine, and Watson admonishes him for doing this. Sherlock says that when he does not have a case, he needs the stimulation of cocaine or morphine. 

Very shortly after this, Mary Morstan comes to Sherlock Holmes with a problem she needs help with. Her father, an officer in an Indian regiment, disappeared when he returned to London on leave. A few years after her father's disappearance, she began receiving a pearl every year on her birthday. Now she has received a letter asking her to meet an unknown man. She is allowed to bring along two friends if she does not want to come alone. Sherlock decides to take the case.

So, what did I think of the book?

The story seems to be a combination of puzzle mystery and an exotic adventure. I enjoyed reading a Sherlock Holmes story and seeing the tropes used in many of his adventures that I have seen in movies or TV series. Sherlock dresses up in a disguise so well done that even Watson does not recognize him. The Baker Street Irregulars are used to help him gather information. And meeting, if only briefly, his landlady, Mrs. Hudson.

I like that Dr. Watson narrates the stories, and I like the relationship between Watson and Sherlock. 

I especially enjoyed meeting Dr. Watson's love interest, Mary Morstan. I  enjoyed how Doyle developed that relationship. The way that they fall in love in just a short time felt very realistic to me and added to my picture of Watson. And Sherlock's reaction to Watson's attraction to Mary was very entertaining.

I had some negative reactions. 

I wasn't bored. Some parts of the  story are interesting and exciting, but other parts drag. More than one reviewer noted that the story was not very substantial and seemed more like short story with extra padding. I felt that way too. Maybe that is why some Sherlock Holmes fans prefer the short stories.

The long story told towards the end told by Jonathan Small, one of the villains, was one of the parts that seemed to go on and on, and could have been reduced in length if it was necessary at all. I have never liked that way of telling a story and in this case it just served as more padding. 

The edition I read had footnotes, which I often find more distracting than helpful. Most of them did not seem useful to me; verifying that street names and locations were or were not genuine, for example. But a few were interesting or useful, since the story was first published in 1890.


Publisher:   Broadview Press, 2001 (orig. pub. 1890)
Length:      160 pages
Format:      Trade Paperback
Series:       Sherlock Holmes #2
Setting:      UK
Genre:       Mystery
Source:     Purchased at the Planned Parenthood Book Sale, 2014.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Japanese Literature Challenge: A Midsummer's Equation


A Midsummer's Equation by Keigo Higashino is the first book I am reviewing for the Japanese Literature Challenge, hosted at Dolce Bellezza. It started this month and continues through March 2023.

Summary from the book dust jacket:

Manabu Yukawa, the physicist known as "Detective Galileo," is at a fading resort town to speak at a town meeting on a planned underwater mining operation. The town is sharply divided over mining for minerals from the seabed. One faction is concerned about the environmental impact on the area, known for its pristine waters. The other faction believes it is the only hope for the rapidly declining town.

The night after the tense meeting, one of the resort's guests is found dead at the base of the cliffs. The local police at first believe it was a simple accident–that he fell over the sea wall while wandering around unfamiliar territory in the middle of the night. But Tsukahara, the deceased, turns out to be a former Tokyo police detective, and he died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Now, instead of misfortune, the police are investigating his death as a probable murder.

My thoughts:

This is a wonderful mystery, but a very complex story, not too long (357 pages), but with lots of various groups involved: the town's people, the local police, the police from Tokyo who carry out their own independent investigation, and the people from outside who are pushing for mining along the sea coast. Manabu Yukawa, the physicist and sometimes consulting detective, is an outsider, doing research for the mining company. He stays at the hotel owned by Shigehiro and Setsuko Kawahata, and he gets to be close friends with Kyohei, their young nephew who is in the fifth grade and visiting while his parents are traveling. He and Narumi, the Kawahata's daughter who helps out at the hotel, discuss the pros and cons of the mining operation. This access gives Yukawa the ability to conduct his own investigation and decide whether he wants to consult with the police or not.

The entire story (which goes back to an earlier case of Tsukahara's) takes a long time to unravel and kept me mystified all the way. There were some confusing factors, especially that the Tokyo police and the local police in Hari Cove were more in competition than working together. It made for a more interesting story but didn't make sense to me. Is this common in the Japanese police system? Because there were so many police working on the case, I did find following that part of the investigation confusing.

My favorite part of this story was the characters. I was pulling for all of them and could not figure out who could be a murderer. The two police officers who work with Manabu Yukawa are Kusanagi, a more experienced detective, and Utsumi, a young female detective. They work well together and with Yukawa. But my favorite character was Kyohei, the young boy who is visiting the hotel owners and develops a relationship with Yukawa. Kyohei is lackadaisical about his studies and Yukawa helps him with a science project. 

I think this is a great series, and I don't think it makes much difference in what order it is read. This book is the sixth book in the series but only the third book translated into English. But I would not start with this book if you have not already tried a book by Keigo Higashino. A number of reviewers liked this book but not nearly as much as the two previous books in the series. 

My husband did not find this book as much to his liking as other books by the author, and he points out some flaws that also bothered other reviewers.

My husband's review on Goodreads:

I’m a fan of Japanese mystery/murder/detective/police novels especially Keigo Higashino and especially his elegantly plotted “The Devotion of Suspect X”. I’m afraid though that this entry in the author’s Detective Galileo series is something of a disappointment. The often used device of past events impacting the present is a favorite but here it is all so subtle (vague? meditative?) that I’m not even sure (until the “hurry up and resolve this” last 30 pages) what is going on. It could very well just be me so by all means give this one a try if you like Japanese mysteries and/or Higashino and don't mind opaque plotting.

I have read four other books by Keigo Higashino: The Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint, both in the Detective Galileo series; Malice (Kyoichiro Kaga series) and Under the Midnight Sun (standalone).


Publisher:   Minotaur Books, 2016 (orig. pub. 2011)
Translator:  Alexander O. Smith 
Length:       358 pages
Format:       Hardcover
Series:        Detective Galileo
Setting:       Japan
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:       Borrowed from my husband.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Books Read in December 2022

The first three books I read in December were Christmas mysteries, and I enjoyed that very much. I wish I could have reviewed them all. In addition I finished up an anthology of Christmas stories that I have been reading off and on for several years. Three other books I read had connections to Christmas but that was unintentional—a pleasant surprise.


O Caledonia (1991) by Elspeth Barker

This book is short, about 190 pages long, and the only novel that Barker published. It is set in Scotland in the 1950s.  The story is about a young girl, part of a large family, who is willful and stubborn, and won't be molded into what others want her to be, even from a very early age. It is a sad story but a wonderful read, written so beautifully that it makes me sad that the author did not write any other novels. 

Crime Fiction

Not a Creature Was Stirring (1990) by Jane Haddam

This is the first book in the Gregor Demarkian series by Jane Haddam. The story in this book is set at Christmas, and has a Christmas theme throughout. My review here.

Smoke Without Fire (1990) by E.X. Ferrars

This book is #6 in the Andrew Basnett series and I read it out of order, usually a no-no for me. Andrew Basnett is a retired botanist, widowed, in his mid-seventies. He is visiting friends for the Christmas holidays, but I would not really call it a Christmas mystery. I have enjoyed every book I read by this author, whose books are published under Elizabeth Ferrars in the UK. My review here.

Murder After Christmas (1944) by Rupert Latimer

This is a book from the British Library Crime Classics series, and only became available in the US in October 2022. It is most definitely a Christmas mystery and it is about the strangest family I have ever met in fiction (or otherwise).  It was a bit too long, too humorous in a screwball comedy way for me. But overall I enjoyed it a lot. I liked the policemen involved especially. And it was written and set during World War II, an extra bonus.

A Death of No Importance (2018) by Mariah Fredericks

There were a lot of things I liked about this historical mystery set in 1910 New York. This is the story of a young woman who works as a lady's maid for the two daughters of a rich family. There is an unfortunate romance, a death, and the maid is the one who finds the body. The police want to pin the murder on anarchists who have been sending threatening notes. The maid narrates the story and I liked that part of it especially. It is a good picture of New York at that time and I liked the way it ended. 

Mistletoe Mysteries (1989) edited by Charlotte MacLeod

This is an anthology of Christmas stories published in 1989. All of the stories have a copyright date of 1989 and were first published in this anthology. I liked all the stories in this book. In 2020, I posted a review of three stories from the book.

The Mysterious Mr. Quin (1930) by Agatha Christie

The short stories in this book feature Mr. Quin and Mr. Satterthwaite. Mr. Satterthwaite is an elderly man, quite well off financially, a bit of a snob, and loves good food and comfort. Mr. Quin is more mysterious, often showing up unannounced to help with a puzzle. How and where this happens is what provides the variety in the stories. I read the first eight stories in the book in January and reviewed them HERE. I read the remainder of the stories in December.

Death in the Off-Season (1994) by Francine Mathews

This is the first novel in the Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery series, and the first novel she wrote. Merry is a new detective in the Nantucket police, working under her father. The death of Rusty Mason, whose family was prominent in Nantucket years before, is her first murder case. This book was on my list of top ten novels in 2022. See my review here.

Snow (2020) by John Banville

I liked this much more than I expected, especially the setting, Ireland in 1957. See my review here.

Currently reading?

I am happy to say that I finished reading Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy in early January. It only took me four months. I ended up enjoying most of the second half much more than I liked the first half. Now I am reading The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters by Laura Thompson. I have only read bits and pieces about the Mitford sisters and I want to know more.

End of Year notes

I read 88 books in 2022. The shortest book was a mystery, Dead in the Water by Ted Wood, at 136 pages. My longest book was 752 pages, although I suspect at least 50 of those pages were end notes, etc. The book was Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, a nonfiction book about civil rights struggles in Birmingham in 1963. I lived in B'ham at the time, but I was a teenager and don't remember much. I am about the same age as the author, Diane McWhorter, who lived in a much more affluent part of the Birmingham metropolitan area at the time. Later she realized the extent to which her family and family friends had been involved, and wanted to learn more about it. A very good book, well researched, but depressing to read.

Of the 88 books I read, 48 books were from my TBR pile, which was my goal. I am only aiming at 60 books this year in my Goodreads Challenge, and still aiming at 48 books from my TBR pile, so we will see how that goes. 

The images at the top and bottom of the post were taken on a recent visit to Rocky Nook Park, in the Mission Canyon area. Mission Creek runs through the park and has been dry for a long time; I wanted to see how much water was in the creek. Water was rushing through the creek and it sounded wonderful. We had a lovely walk.

My husband took the photos. Click on the images for the best viewing quality.

Friday, January 20, 2023

Snow: John Banville


This was the last book I read in 2022. My husband had been recommending it to me ever since he read it in 2020. Then I read a post at Reader in the Wilderness, which discussed The Secret Guests by Benjamin Black (a pseudonym used by John Banville) and we discussed Snow in the comments. I am very glad I finally read it. 

The setting is Ireland in 1957. The Catholic Church is powerful in Ireland at that time. Detective Inspector St. John Strafford has been sent to County Wexford to investigate the death of a priest, found dead in the home of a well-known Protestant family. DI Strafford is also Protestant, an unusual occurrence in the Garda. He finds himself in an uncomfortable position, isolated in the small community by the accumulating snow and getting little cooperation from the family or the townspeople. 

My Thoughts:

I liked this much more than I expected. There is the setting and the atmosphere. The snow. A manor house, Ballyglass, belonging to the aristocratic Colonel Geoffrey Osborne. DI Strafford grew up in a similar manor house in another part of Ireland, which stirs up memories.

This is a mystery, but certainly not a standard mystery, which made it all the more appealing to me. The detective is not very experienced at investigating a homicide, but he does his best. The characters are colorful and interesting. Strafford feels like they are performing for him, playing the roles assigned to them, and that he is a part of the play. The ending is not fully resolved, but the reader is not left hanging.

The story was  beautifully written and I learned much that I did not know about Ireland at that time. I would have picked Snow as a favorite for the year, except that there was a longish section towards the end that could have been much less graphic and still gotten the point across. Unfortunately, it would be a spoiler to go into more detail on that. 

Does anyone have recommendations for John Banville books that you have enjoyed? 


Publisher:   Hanover Square Press, 2020
Length:       298 pages
Format:       Hardcover
Setting:       Ireland
Genre:        Mystery, Police Procedural
Source:       My husband gave me his copy in 2020.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Goals 2023


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's topic is Bookish Goals for 2023

I have been thinking a lot about my reading and blogging goals for 2023, and jotting down notes here and there, so when I saw this topic on the Top Ten Tuesday list, I decided to take this opportunity to formalize them.

My goals for the year:

  1. Read more graphic novels. I don't think I read any graphic novels (or nonfiction) last year, so any number would be an improvement, but I would like to average one a month.
  2. Read more science fiction, novels or short stories. In 2022, I read one science fiction novel and a few short stories in that genre. My aim in 2023 is to read ten novels or short story anthologies.
  3. Read more espionage novels. I did better reading espionage novels this year, a total of six. In 2023, I would like to read 10 or 12. Specific authors I would like to catch up on are Anthony Price, Victor Canning, Len Deighton, Mick Herron, and Charles Cumming.
  4. Aim at reading books on my shelves rather than buying new books. With the three goals above that will be easy because I have plenty on my shelves. I have signed up for two TBR challenges to help with that goal, Bev Hankin's Mount TBR Challenge 2023 on Goodreads, and Roof Beam Reader's TBR Pile Challenge, where I list 12 specific books to read during the year.
  5. Read more books that are on the Kindle. I buy tons of ebooks but have a hard time reading them. This ties into my next goal...
  6. Read some every morning. Anything would be fine, but I can't read ebooks at night because it interferes with my sleep, so ebooks would be a priority. 
  7. Work on my classics list. Read at least one classic a month, preferably from my Classics Club List. I am not doing well on my Classics List, and I am supposed to finish it in November 2023 and that is not going to happen.
  8. Train myself to write short reviews. Believe me, this would be a project. I don't necessarily want to write only brief reviews, but I would like to master that art.
  9. Complete more short story anthologies or collections. I would like to read more short stories, but really my goal in that area is to finish the short story books that I start. I currently have many half-finished short story books all over the house. So, a concrete goal would be to complete reading one short story book a month.
  10. Track my reading and how it fits in with my goals. I left this for last because I think it will be the hardest one to do. I want to consistently and regularly track my goals and any challenges I participate in.


Do you have bookish goals this year?

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Death in the Off Season: Francine Mathews

In Death in the Off-Season, Merry Folger is a new detective in the Nantucket police, working under her father. The death of Rusty Mason, whose family was prominent in Nantucket years before, is her first murder case. 

Rusty Mason's body is found in a cranberry bog on land that belongs to his younger brother Peter. The two brothers have been estranged for years, and Rusty has not even been living in the US during that time. Peter is the only family member who still has a presence on Nantucket. 

Merry is very much aware that everyone is watching her as she works the case because she is the chief's daughter and it is her first murder case. Some want her to fail; some don't think women can handle the job. Merry cannot decide if Peter Mason is a suspect for the murder of his brother, or if he was the intended victim, which complicates things. 

My thoughts:

This was the first novel that Mathews wrote, part of the Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery series. Four of the novels were published between 1994 and 1998. Later Soho Press asked her to write a fifth book in the series; Mathews returned to the first four books and edited them so that the fifth book could pick up where the last one ended (without a twenty year gap). The fifth book, Death on Nantucket, was published in 2016 and there are now seven books in the series. That an author would want to edit earlier books like that seemed strange to me but I certainly enjoyed this book; it was one of my favorite books of 2022. 

Police procedural novels are a favorite mystery sub-genre of mine. This one had additional elements that I enjoyed:

  • A determined young female detective working for her father in a small town where everyone knows you.
  • A family with a lot of secrets. 
  • Many interesting characters and relationships. 

The writing kept me interested and involved throughout, and the ending was very satisfying. I loved the Nantucket setting.

I have had this book on my shelf since 2016, part of a stack of books published by Soho Press. It wasn't until Judith at Reader in the Wilderness brought it to my attention HERE and HERE that I finally read it.


Publisher:   Soho Crime, 2016
Length:       356 pages
Format:      Trade paperback
Series:        Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery #1
Setting:       Nantucket, Massachusetts, USA
Genre:        Police procedural
Source:      On my TBR since 2016.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Short Story Wednesday: "Rising Waters" by Brendan Dubois


Paul goes to visit his elderly Aunt Rose and Uncle Conrad in New Hampshire. He spent many happy holidays during his youth with his brothers and sisters at their farm in Purmort. His parents ask him to spend a few days at the farm after his uncle had an accident, resulting in a very serious head injury. A rotten beam in the barn had fallen on him. 

When Paul arrives it is raining, and the downpour continues throughout his visit. Paul notices that the constant rain is gradually eroding away dirt around the old oak tree on the river bank. The longer he stays, the more he notices small things that make him wonder if the couple are hiding things from him.

The ending is somewhat unexpected and chilling. An excellent story.

This story is part of a collection of short stories by DuBois, The Dark Snow and Other Mysteries, published by Crippen & Landru.  

I also read a few other stories in the book. Some of those focused on revenge and most of them had very dark endings. This was true of the title story, "The Dark Snow", which is very well done, a great read, but the ending so very dark that it turned me off. I think maybe it is just that I am not in the mood for that right now. I will wait a few months before I read the rest of the stories in the book.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Joining the Bookish Books Reading Challenge


Susan at Bloggin' About Books is hosting a new challenge that appeals to me. The focus is on books about books, and I have plenty of those around. Plus I enjoy reading them. The nonfiction ones can usually be read in bits and pieces throughout the year.


  • This is a laidback challenge and you can read only one book if you want, so there is little chance of failure. (I was already reading one when I heard about this challenge). The lowest level is Toe in the Door (1-10 books read), which is perfect for me.
  • Reviews aren't required, but they're always welcome. There will be a monthly linky so participants can share books that they have read for the challenge. 
  • The challenge will run from January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023. You can sign up any time during the year. See the sign-up post for full details and suggestions for books.

Susan has created a Goodreads list of Bookish Books if you need inspiration. 

These are books I may read:

  • The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • Ex Libris by Michiko Kakutani 
  • Books for Living by Will Schwalbe
  • Revenge of the Librarians by Tom Gauld (literary cartoons)
  • 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff and Frank Doel
  • Jane Austen Cover to Cover by Margaret Sullivan

Books I recommend:

  • Ex Libris by Anne Fadiman (essays)
  • The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
  • What Makes This Book So Great by Jo Walton 
  • When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning
  • I'd Rather by Reading by Anne Bogel
  • The Dusty Bookcase by Brian Busby
  • Book Lust by Nancy Pearl (plus the sequels)

Books my husband has read:

  • The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee
  • Slightly Chipped: Footnotes in Booklore by Lawrence Goldstone
  • Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World by Lawrence Goldstone and Nancy Goldstone
  • Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The 2023 TBR Pile Challenge (Year 10)

Roof Beam Reader’s official TBR Pile Challenge is back for its TENTH YEAR! This will be my seventh time participating. I like this challenge because it only includes books added to the TBR pile before 2022, thus forcing me to go back to books that have been on the shelves longer. However, I don't think I have successfully completed it more than once or twice. But I will try again.

  • List 12 books to read for this challenge. The books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2022 or later (any book published in the year 2021 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile or list). 
  • Two alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books ends up in the “did not finish (DNF)” pile.
  • The complete and final list of the  books for this challenge must be posted and linked at Roof Beam Reader by January 15th, 2023. When books are read and reviewed, the link to the review is added on your signup post.
  • See the sign-up post for more details.
  • The challenge runs from January 1, 2023 through December 31, 2023. 

I especially like that Adam does a monthly check-in post for participants to talk about their progress. 

My list is below:

  1. Our Man in Camelot by Anthony Price
  2. A Man's Head by Georges Simenon
  3. A Fire Story by Brian Flies
  4. The Last Colony by John Scalzi
  5. Fender Benders by Bill Fitzhugh
  6. Murder Most Fowl by Bill Crider
  7. Murder in a Nunnery by Eric Shepherd
  8. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullars
  9. The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  10. The Wood Beyond by Reginald Hill
  11. SS-GB by Len Deighton
  12. The Mulberry Bush by Charles McCarry


A Season for the Dead by David Hewson

The Oaken Heart by Margery Allingham

Monday, January 2, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Books of 2022

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is Favorite Books of 2022. Note that the key word here is favorite, and these are the books I enjoyed reading the most in 2022. The list is in no particular order, and I included 12 books because I couldn't cut any of them from the list.

And here's my list:

Convenience Store Woman (2016) by Sayaka Murata

My husband recommended this book to me. Keiko is a 36-year-old woman who has been a part-time convenience store worker in Tokyo for 18 years. She finds fulfillment and meaning in this job. Yet her family, friends, even coworkers expect her to do more with her life and be more normal. The novel is short, about 160 pages, and very strange, but I loved it. 

The Assault (1982) by Harry Mulisch

This novel is set in the Netherlands; it starts with a horrendous event during World War II. Near the end of the war, when many countries in Europe had been liberated, the Netherlands was still occupied. A policeman in the city of Haarlem, who was collaborating with the Germans, is shot down in a small neighborhood. Reprisals are taken and many people are killed, including children. This novel takes that one event and shows how it affected the people who were involved.  It continues up to 1980. The Assault was a great read, brief and straightforward, and very effective. Suggested to me by Patti Abbott at Pattinase.

Rebecca (1938) by Daphne du Maurier

I read Rebecca in April for my Classics Club list; it is a novel that most readers are familiar with. The heroine is very young, inexperienced, and naïve. As the novel begins she is in Monte Carlo working as a paid companion to Mrs. Van Hopper, an overbearing American woman. She soon meets Maxim de Winter, a rich widower, who invites her to go with him driving around the countryside, and she gradually falls in love with him. After their honeymoon in Italy, they go to Maxim's home, Manderley. It is a beautiful but sad coming of age story. We never know the narrator's name except as the second Mrs. de Winter. I wasn't sure how to classify this book as to genre. It could be called a mystery, or romance, or romantic suspense, or gothic mystery. I enjoyed reading it and plan to read more by du Maurier.

Because of Sam (1954) by Molly Clavering 

This book is part of the Furrowed Middlebrow collection from Dean Street Press, books by women writers of the early to mid-twentieth century. I was motivated to read this book after I read Cath's review at Read-Warbler. I loved it, although it took me half the book to figure out where it was going, and even then I was only partly right. It is a lovely postwar story set in a village in Scotland.

Smoke Without Fire (1990) by E.X. Ferrars 

This book is set at Christmas and I read it in December (because I loved the festive cover), but the Christmas setting serves mostly as a basis for the setting, at gathering of friends at a place in the country. Andrew Basnett is a retired botanist, widowed, in his mid-seventies. He is visiting friends for the Christmas holidays and a death occurs while he is there. The family and Andrew have been invited to Sir Lucas Deardon's home for Christmas dinner. Unfortunately Sir Lucas returns to Berkshire from London a day early, and is blown up by a bomb in the lane by his home. I enjoy Ferrars' writing and this mystery was no exception. The author was very prolific, but based on the books I have read so far,  her books are more about the people than the crimes, and focus more on psychology and relationships among the characters. 

The Long Goodbye (1953) by Raymond Chandler

This is another book I read for my Classics Club list, and I still have not written a review for it. It is a challenging story to describe. This is the fourth book in Chandler's Philip Marlowe series that I have read, and one of the best in my opinion. I liked it nearly as well as The Big Sleep. It is the sixth book in the series and it seemed more aimless than the other three I have read. Marlowe is more cynical and there is more social commentary. All of which I enjoyed. And the writing is beautiful.

The Man Who Died Twice (2021) by Richard Osman

This book is the second in the Thursday Murder Club series by Richard Osman. In that series, the sleuths are four men and women in their late seventies who live at an upscale retirement complex. I have now read all three books in the series and I loved them all. I think this was my favorite because Elizabeth, the leader, is an ex-MI5 operative and the story connects to Elizabeth's former job and borders on being an espionage story.  There are also brushes with drug dealers, mob bosses, etc. A very fun series.

A Most Contagious Game (1967) by Catherine Aird

This was Aird's only standalone novel. Thomas Harding and his wife Dora have moved from London to a manor house in Easterbrook. Harding retired early because his health was bad, and he doesn't like the quiet life he is leading... until he finds a skeleton in a hidden room in his house (which turns out to be a priest hole that had been plastered over). This mystery was not a police procedural like Aird's Inspector Sloane series, but there is a death in the village about the same time. The story of Harding's research into the skeleton's origins and his settling into the small town with his wife was excellent. 

Safe Houses (2018) by Dan Fesperman

I love espionage fiction and this was my favorite that I read this year. The story is told in two time lines, one set in Berlin, 1979, and other in 2014, in Maryland, USA. I especially enjoyed the parts set in 1979; in that year I was about the same age as the female protagonist in this book. It is the first of a trilogy about Claire Saylor, who doesn't even show up until later in the book. I loved it and I have purchased the 2nd book in the trilogy, The Cover Wife.

The Tenderness of Wolves (2006) by Stef Penney 

This book is set in 1867, primarily in a small settlement in the Northern Territory of Canada. There are treks into even more remote areas to search for a murderer. This is a historical mystery, but the crime and the investigation are not primary to the story.  The focus is even more on the setting, the prominence of the Hudson Bay Company, and the treatment of Native American trappers. It is a very dense book; there are a lot of characters to keep up with. I loved it and the ending worked well for me.

O Caledonia (1991) by Elspeth Barker

This book is short, about 190 pages long, and the only novel that Barker published. It is set in Scotland in the 1950s.  The story is about a young girl, part of a large family, who is willful and stubborn, and won't be molded into what others want her to be, even from a very early age. It is a sad story but a wonderful read, written so beautifully that it makes me sad that the author did not write any other novels. The author died this year at the age of 81.

Death in the Off Season (1994) by Francine Mathews

This was the first novel that Mathews wrote, part of the Merry Folger Nantucket Mystery series. Four novels were published between 1994 and 1998. Later Soho Press asked her to write a fifth book in the series; Mathews returned to the first four books and edited them so that the fifth book could pick up where the last one ended (without a twenty year gap). In Death in the Off-Season, Merry is a new detective in the Nantucket police, working under her father. The death of Rusty Mason, whose family was prominent in Nantucket years before, is her first murder case. This was a very complex story with a lot of interesting characters and the writing kept me interested and involved until the very end. Judith at Reader in the Wilderness motivated me to read this book. I am sorry I waited so long.

There are my twelve favorites. It was a good year. Have you read any of these?