Saturday, July 28, 2012

Historical Fiction Challenge

I think I must have seen this challenge earlier, and at the time was too disciplined to jump into another challenge. But now my discipline is disappearing... and I have enjoyed a lot of historical mysteries this year. In fact, I am currently reading one... Bullet for a Star by Stuart Kaminsky.

The challenge is the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2012 and it is sponsored by Historical Tapestry ... a very interesting site.

The rules are...
  • everyone can participate, even those who don't have a blog
  • any kind of historical fiction is accepted (HF fantasy, HF young adult,...)
  • The challenge will run from 1 January 2012 to 31 December 2012.  
  • Choose one of the different reading levels:
Severe Bookaholism: 20 books
Undoubtedly Obsessed: 15 books
Struggling the Addiction: 10 books
Daring & Curious: 5 books
Out of My Comfort Zone: 2 books
Go here to review the rules in more detail.

I think I will go with the easy choice: Daring & Curious -- 5 books. I basically only have 5 months left. I am pretty sure I can meet that goal and getting up to 10 books may be unrealistic, keeping in mind the other challenges I am committed to.

These are some historical novels that I would like to read before the end of the year:

The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller
The Alienist by Caleb Carr 
An Impartial Witness by Charles Todd
Murder on the Yellow Brick Road by Stuart Kaminsky

Books read and reviewed for this challenge:
Bullet for a Star by Stuart Kaminsky
A Lily of the Field by John Lawton
Birds of a Feather by Jacqueline Winspear
Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
The One from the Other by Philip Kerr
A Quiet Flame by Philip Kerr
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
The Affair of the Mutilated Mink by James Anderson

Sunday, July 22, 2012

J is for Sébastien Japrisot

Today I am featuring the French author, Sébastien Japrisot, for the Crime Fiction Alphabet for 2012 hosted by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise.

Here is a brief author description from Wikipedia. The Wikipedia article gives more information on his novels, translations, screenplay credits, and filmography.
Sébastien Japrisot (4 July 1931 – 4 March 2003) was a French author, screenwriter and film director, born in Marseille. His pseudonym was an anagram of Jean-Baptiste Rossi, his real name. Japrisot has been nicknamed "the Graham Greene of France".
Under his real name, he published his first novel, Les mal partis, in his teens. He followed that by translating fiction from English to French, including several Hopalong Cassidy novels and works by J. D. Salinger. In the early 1960's, he wrote and published his first mystery novel: Compartiment Tueurs, later published with the following titles in English: The Sleeping-Car Murders and The 10:30 to Marseilles. He followed this with three other noir mysteries: Trap for Cinderella, The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun, and One Deadly Summer. Per the overview in The Encyclopedia of Murder and Mystery by Bruce F. Murphy, all of these novels are unique and there is no series character.

I recently read The Sleeping-Car Murders, which I had purchased years ago. This paragraph from the back cover of the Plume trade paperback edition introduces the action in the book. I prefer to omit any other description of the plot, because I think it would lessen the enjoyment of the novel.
A beautiful young woman lies sprawled on her berth in the sleeping car of the night train from Marseilles to Paris. She is not in the embrace of sleep, or even in the arms of one of her many lovers. She is dead. And the unpleasant task of finding her killer is handed to an overworked, crime-weary police detective named Pierre Emile Grazziano, nicknamed Grazzi, who would rather play hide-and-seek with his little son than cat and mouse with a diabolically cunning, savage murderer.
At first I did not like the style of the writing. Within the first two or three chapters, I became immersed in the story and adjusted to the writing style. The plot is very complex, and once I got into the story, I was hooked.

The book is relatively short, which was probably good or I might have gotten lost keeping track of the characters. The book is organized in chapters by each occupant of a berth in the sleeping car, as the detectives search for these persons who may have clues to what happened. One subplot follows what happens to one of the sleeping car occupants as she gets settled in Paris, and I found that to be very well done.

The book is a police procedural, and we get indications of the personal lives of the detectives and the pressures they experience as they work through the investigation, and this is accomplished without distractions from the main plot.

Several of Japrisot's novels have been made into films. The film for this book was directed by Costas-Gravas. As noted in this review at Mystery*File:
Before he made his mark as a political director with leftist leanings, Costa-Gravas made his debut with this slick little police thriller about the hunt for a mad killer.
I looked into the availability of that film but to my knowledge it is not currently on DVD.

Japrisot is best known in the US for his 1991 novel, A Very Long Engagement (original title, Un long dimanche de fiançailles), which was made into a very successful French-language film in 2004, by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

I had the same problem with writing style when I read A Very Long Engagement. And in that case I never really adjusted to the writing and I did not enjoy the book fully because of it. Maybe because it was longer and an even longer cast of characters. However, I found it a beautiful story about a very determined young woman's search for the truth. I also learned more about World War I and France during that time period.  I saw and enjoyed the movie, and perhaps would enjoy reading the book more the second time around. In The Encyclopedia of Murder and Mystery, it is described as a historical mystery.

I would love to hear from anyone who has read books by Japrisot and get recommendations for further reading.

Please visit the post at Mysteries in Paradise to check out other entries for the letter J.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I is for The Information Officer

My submission for the Crime Fiction Alphabet for 2012 is The Information Officer by Mark Mills. Visit the post at Mysteries in Paradise to check out other entries for the letter I.

I finished this novel in late June and I enjoyed both the setting and the story. This book successfully weaves a story about the war as it affected Malta with a hunt for a serial killer.

Description from the book flap:
Summer 1942: Malta, a small windswept island in the Mediterranean, has become the most bombed patch of earth on the planet, worse even than London during the Blitz. The Maltese, a fiercely independent people, withstand the relentless Axis air raids.
Max Chadwick is the British officer charged with manipulating the news on Malta to bolster the population's fragile esprit de corps.
Mark Mills writes mysteries set in the past. His first novel, Amagansett, was set in 1947 in that small town on the South Shore of Long Island, New York. It focuses on the changes in the culture of that area following the war. The second novel, The Savage Garden, is also set in the post-war years, in the late 1950's. It features an architecture student who is in Tuscany working on his thesis. I have not read either of these books, but I am guessing I would like them a lot based on reviews and how much I liked The Information Officer.

What did I like about this book?

I liked reading about Malta during World War II. I had not been aware that Malta had been under siege during the war because of its strategic location, and the descriptions of the situation that both the islanders and the military staff had to endure were eye-opening for me. I enjoy many kinds of mysteries, but in the last few years, reading novels set in World War II has become a passion. In addition to historical novels, I enjoy vintage mysteries written during and around the years of that war, for the picture of how the war affected day-to-day life.

I liked the characters. Mainly the protagonist. His characteristics and motivations were more fully fleshed out than other characters. I appreciated the picture of women during that time and the opportunities they had to step out of established roles.

On the other hand, the actual crime being investigated is not my favorite choice. This story focuses on the search for a serial killer attacking young women on the island. Figuring out who did it and how is sometimes less interesting because it is usually a compulsion, a need the killer has to fill. I prefer the motivation to be more subtle: money, love, power. However, I liked the story surrounding the mystery.

There is a love story of sorts, and the relationships of men and women are examined. Especially within this time period. The picture of military life seemed realistic to me. There is sex, but it is handled well.

Mark Mills has a fourth mystery novel, House of the Hanged, published this year in the US.  This most recent novel is set in the pre-war years, on the France Riviera, 1935, and the protagonist has left a career in the Secret Intelligence Service. Another one that is right up my alley. Spies and pre-World War II years.

At the author's website, he has a nice description of what led him to write each book (at the end of the page about each book).
Crimeficreader at It's a Crime (or a Mystery...) has mixed reactions to The Information Officer, but really liked The Savage Garden.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Six Month Summary, July 2012

Jo at The Book Jotter had a lovely idea for looking back at the books read in the first six months of the year.  My personal emphasis in reading this year has been crime fiction... as it is most years. One of the things I find most enjoyable about blogging is looking back at what I have read, and having the ability to do that more easily now.

Jo's categories were different. I used a few of hers and added a couple of my own. I allowed some overlap between categories. I don't read that many books in six months...

Six books I have enjoyed the most

The most surprising was The Guards by Ken Bruen. Never thought I would like that. Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout is an old friend.
  1. Berlin Game by Len Deighton
  2. The Guards by Ken Bruen
  3. Believing the Lie by Elizabeth George
  4. Bluffing Mr. Churchill by John Lawton
  5. An Empty Death by Laura Wilson
  6. Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout
Six new authors (to me):

Len Deighton was my favorite discovery this year. I love spy fiction, but he went beyond my expectations.
  1. Len Deighton
  2. Tony Cape (overview here)
  3. Ed McBain
  4. Tana French
  5. Mark Mills
  6. Ken Bruen 
Six authors I have read before
(and am looking forward to reading more of)
  1. Elizabeth George
  2. John Lawton
  3. Jo Nesbo
  4. Lawrence Block
  5. Robert Barnard
  6. Rex Stout
Six Historical Novels I enjoyed

My favorite time period to read about is World War II, but these cover the early 1900's up through World War II. 
  1. Winter by Len Deighton
  2. Second Violin by John Lawton
  3. A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd
  4. An Empty Death by Laura Wilson
  5. The Information Officer by Mark Mills
  6. The Company of Strangers by Robert Wilson
Six Espionage Novels I enjoyed

Mostly Cold War stuff here.
  1. The Cambridge Theorem by Tony Cape
  2. Berlin Game by Len Deighton
  3. Mexico Set by Len Deighton
  4. London Match by Len Deighton
  5. Spy Hook by Len Deighton
  6. The Company of Strangers by Robert Wilson
Six series of books read or started
  1. Len Deighton – Bernard Samson (reading #5 in the series)
  2. John Lawton – Inspector Troy (have read all but one)
  3. Robert Barnard – Charlie Peace (read #8 in the series)
  4. Laura Wilson – D.I. Ted Stratton (read #2 in the series)
  5. Jo Nesbo – Harry Hole (started)
  6. Ken Bruen – Jack Taylor (started)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

H is for Cyril Hare

I am featuring two mysteries by Cyril Hare in this post for the Crime Fiction Alphabet for 2012.  Please visit the post at Mysteries in Paradise to check out other entries for the letter H.

There are several vintage mystery authors that I read years ago, and I am coming back to read them again now. Rex Stout, Margery Allingham, Dorothy Sayers, Elizabeth Daly, Josephine Tey, Patricia Wentworth, George Bagby, Agatha Christie, Earl Stanley Gardner, Georgette Heyer, Michael Innes, Nicholas Blake.

Cyril Hare was also one of my favorites and I still have copies of all his books. In the last two weeks, I have re-read two of Cyril Hare's mysteries: An English Murder and With a Bare Bodkin.

Brief biography of Cyril Hare at Fantastic Fiction:
Cyril Hare was the pseudonym of Judge Gordon Clark. Born at Mickleham near Dorking in 1900, he was educated at Rugby and New College, Oxford. At the bar his practice was largely in the criminal courts. During the Second World War he was on the staff of the Director of Public Prosecutions; but later, as a County Court judge, his work concerned civil disputes only - and his sole connection with crime was through his fiction. He turned to writing detective stories at the age of thirty-six and some of his first short stories were published in Punch. Hare went on to write a series of detective novels. He died in 1958.
Several of Hare's books (there were only nine mystery novels and some collections of short stories), center around interests or areas where Hare had experience: the law, his work for the government during World War II, music, history. For example, When the Wind Blows (or as The Wind Blows Death in the UK) is about the murder of a member of the Markhampton Orchestral Society.

I read With a Bare Bodkin first. I remember it as one of my favorite mysteries by Hare. Another drawing factor was the setting. During World War II, Francis Pettigrew, a barrister, is sent to the seaside resort of Marsett Bay, where the Pin Control Ministry has been relocated. This book has some elements of romantic involvements, which I found appealing but is not unanimously liked by other readers. With a Bare Bodkin was not the first book to feature Pettigrew. That was Tragedy at Law, described by Cyril Hare as his personal favorite. Both books also feature another series character, Inspector Mallet.

An English Murder is the only mystery novel by Hare which did not feature either Inspector Mallet or Francis Pettigrew. The setting is a country house, Warbeck Hall, and the mystery features the elements of country house mysteries that I enjoy. Class differences are explored. The servants are important characters (in this case there is only one servant and the Hall is in ill-repair due to lack of funds).

I liked this summary at Olman's Fifty:
An excellent, tight little mystery. I enjoyed it on many levels. The pacing and writing are excellent. The dialogue of the butler is particularly enjoyable. The mystery itself is actually solvable by the reader, not easily but in the sense that the author doesn't try to trick or misdirect you. I like to be part of the process when I read a classic murder mystery and I certainly felt that way. I didn't entirely figure it out, though, so the mystery was interesting right up until the end. Finally, it is all wrapped around history and the fading of the British aristocracy in a way that gives it depth. Highly recommended.

The Cozy Mystery List blog has a nice review here, which actually pointed me to this book as one I would like to re-read.

I don't know that my sampling represents the best of Cyril Hare's mysteries. Some fans prefer others.  The first three novels star only Inspector Mallet. Suicide Excepted gets high praise, but many critics felt the mysteries improved with the addition of Pettigrew. As William L. DeAndrea puts it in Encyclopedia Mysteriosa:
With the start of the Pettigrew series, Hare's work reflected more of his legal background and contained greater depth of characterization.
Here is a list by date published, indicating the series characters involved:
    Tenant for Death (1937)  [Inspector Mallet]
    Death Is No Sportsman (1938)  [Inspector Mallet]
    Suicide Excepted  (1939)  [Inspector Mallet]
    Tragedy at Law  (1942)  [Inspector Mallet and Francis Pettigrew]
    With a Bare Bodkin (1946)  [Inspector Mallet and Francis Pettigrew]
    The Wind Blows Death
           (aka When the Wind Blows, 1949)  [Inspector Mallet and Francis Pettigrew]
    An English Murder  (aka The Christmas Murder, 1951)
    Death Walks the Woods  (aka That Yew Tree’s Shade, 1954)  [Francis Pettigrew]
    Untimely Death
           (aka He Should Have Died Hereafter, 1958)  [Inspector Mallet and Francis Pettigrew]

Saturday, July 7, 2012

New-to-me Authors

Today I am joining in on the meme on best new-to-me crime fiction authors 2012 at Mysteries in Paradise. The goal is to share authors that are new-to-us this year, especially the ones we liked. This meme runs at the end of each quarter. Check out other posts for this quarter.

This quarter I have read books by five authors that I have never read before. None of them are new authors. Several of them have established continuing series.
  1. The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo
  2. Cop Hater by Ed McBain
  3. In the Woods by Tana French
  4. The Guards by Ken Bruen
  5. The Information Officer by Mark Mills
I enjoyed all of these books. The first four books are in series and I plan to seek out the next book or two in the series to read.

The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo is a complex police procedural, following the story of a Norwegian detective investigating neo-Nazi activities in Oslo, with flashbacks to events during World War II on the Eastern Front. There is a large cast of characters and they are convincingly portrayed. I cared about what was happening to them. I liked the short chapters and the headings for each chapter noting time and place. Nesbo has written nine Harry Hole novels, and this is the third in the series. As yet, the first two in the series have not been published in English. I did not find it difficult to start the series with this book, although there were references to earlier exploits.

The Guards by Ken Bruen is another police procedural. However, the style of writing in that book is very different. It is a dark and bleak book. But it was one of my favorite reads of this year. Jack Taylor was in the Garda Síochána (the police force of the Republic of Ireland), and thrown out because of serious problems with alcohol. He becomes, almost accidentally, a finder, a sort of private detective. One element of the writing is frequent mentions of books, especially mystery novels, and quotes interspersed here and there, often with no apparent connection to the story.  The mystery portion of the plot is slight. The emphasis in more on Jack, his relationships, his life, his battle with alcohol. It isn't a happy book, but it isn't depressing either.

Yes, I read my first book from 87th Precinct series by Ed McBain in May of this year. I anticipated liking the series, and I was not disappointed. The first chapter pulled me into the book immediately.  Although parts of the book were heavy on descriptive sequences, I did find the story compelling and I liked the portrayal of the policemen. They were not perfect, but generally they seemed believable.

It seems that most of the books by new authors I have read recently are police procedurals. That is a sub-genre that appeals to me. As McBain says in his introduction to the book: "In fiction, there is always a quantum jump to be made when anyone but a police detective is investigating a murder."
The only book that was not a police procedural was a historical mystery set on the island of Malta during World War II: The Information Officer by Mark Mills. I just finished that book and enjoyed both the setting and the story.

The main character in this book is in charge of reporting on the events of the war on Malta and controlling and influencing the morale of the islanders. This book successfully weaves a story about the war as it affected Malta with a hunt for a serial killer.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Book Beginnings

Every Friday Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.

The guidelines of the meme are: Share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I invite you to stop by the post at Rose City Reader. The Book Beginnings meme provides an opportunity to hear about books we might not otherwise be aware of.

The  first lines of my book are...
A grim prospect greeted Troy and Bonham. Eight small boys ranged across the pavement, all looking expectantly toward Bonham. No one spoke, the expectant looks seemed fixed somewhere between joy and tears.

I had mixed reactions to these first few sentences. They do pull you in and make you curious. What is going on, what will happen next? But this is just the prologue and we are left hanging, wondering. I don't really like prologues.

The book is Flesh Wounds by John Lawton. First published as Blue Rondo in the UK.

At this point I am about a third of the way into the book and I am enjoying it immensely. It is the 5th of seven books in a mystery series featuring Inspector Troy of the Scotland Yard, set in the years before, during and following World War II. This one is set in the late 1950's. I am hooked on this series.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Canadian Book Challenge

First I saw the post at Mysteries in Paradise that summarized Kerrie's completion of the Canadian Book Challenge 5. I visited the blog hosting that challenge: The Book Mine Set. And decided this would be a good challenge.

Besides the fact that exploring books by Canadian authors will be interesting, I like this challenge because it begins in July 2012 and ends in June 2013. Since many challenges go through the normal calendar year, this will be a little different. I will probably stick to the mystery genre for my reading for this challenge. I know of several authors that I already read or have books by: Peter Robinson, Howard Engel, L. R. Wright, Allen Bradley, Louise Penny, Inger Ash Wolfe, Giles Blunt.

Then I saw a post at Peggy Ann's Post and she has decided to join the challenge too. This motivated me to actually write up a post committing to the challenge.

The challenge requires that you aim at reading 13 or more Canadian books in the year that the challenge runs. There are lots of rules but this is an overview:

What is a Canadian book?
Canadian books can include any genre or form (picture books, poetry, novels, non-fiction, plays, anthologies, graphic novels, cookbooks, etc), can be written by Canadian authors (by birth or immigration) or about Canadians.

Reviews are required to count toward the challenge. But there are lots of ways to post them. A blog is not necessary.

Go over to the Canadian Book Challenge 6 rules post to check it out.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Whiskey Sour: J. A. Konrath

From the description at Goodreads:
Lieutenant Jacqueline 'Jack' Daniels is having a bad week. Her live-in boyfriend has left her for his personal trainer, chronic insomnia has caused her to max out her credit cards with late-night home shopping purchases, and a frightening killer who calls himself 'The Gingerbread Man' is dumping mutilated bodies in her district...Whiskey Sour is full of laugh-out-loud humor and edge-of-your-seat suspense, and it introduces a fun, fully drawn heroine in the grand tradition of Kinsey Millhone, Stephanie Plum, and Kay Scarpetta.
Whiskey Sour is the first novel of a mystery series written by J. A. Konrath. Jack is a detective in the Chicago Police Department. Her partner is Herb, a family man. He is supportive and a calming influence on Jack. I haven't read a Kinsey Milhone mystery in a long time, but I don't see much similarity there. Stephanie Plum, yes. 

What did I think about the book?

It was a quick read and enjoyable. The story is told in first person, with Jack as the narrator. There are chapters giving the killer's point of view. Those chapters were creepy and graphic, but I do find I enjoy novels that give us more than one point of view.

On the down side, I did not like the portrayal of a couple of FBI agents, who are brought in to help with the investigation. It was over-the-top and unrealistic. I have no knowledge one way or the other about the actual value of the FBI in investigations, but I don't believe that they can be that clueless. I am sure it was intended as part of the humor, but I found it distracting and very off-putting. That should have been skipped entirely in my opinion.

I liked the dynamic between the two partners, they reminded me of Jane Rizzoli and her partner in the Rizzoli & Isles TV show (not in the books).

If I read more books in a year, I would probably continue this series. As a slow reader, I have to pick and choose and I don't think I will find time to continue it.

Would I recommend this book? 

I hope my pros and cons have illustrated what I liked and disliked about the book. Whether someone else would enjoy this book and the rest of the series would be determined by what kind (and variety) of mysteries they like. My impression from reading reviews of the next few books in the series are that they continue along the same vein.

This reviewer at The Mystery Reader also points out a similarity to the Janet Evanovich series starring Stephanie Plum. Readers who enjoy that series may also like this one. 

I read this book as part of the Group Read Discussion for June/July in the Mystery, Crime, and Thriller Group at Goodreads. (It continues through July 14, 2012.) My husband and I both read it and he rated the experience higher than I did. My copy of Whiskey Sour had been on my To Be Read shelf for a long, long time (since December 2005), and it seemed like the time to read it or pass it on. At Goodreads, the book currently is rated 3.8 stars, and has nearly 600 5-star ratings. 

So my recommendation would be neutral. This book was not a waste of time by any means, but it was not my cup of tea.

This counts as one of my books for the following challenges:
Mt. TBR Challenge
Read Your Own Books Challenge
New Authors Challenge
1st in a Series Challenge
Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge 

Monday, July 2, 2012

G is for Elizabeth George

The Crime Fiction Alphabet for 2012 has reached the letter G. I am featuring Elizabeth George for that letter. Visit the post at Mysteries in Paradise to check out other entries for the letter G.

Elizabeth George is a perfect example of what I look for in a mystery author. The books pull me into the narrative and I am not thinking about the style of writing, just enjoying it. The characters are well drawn and complicated. The stories are serious and sometimes dark. I am not usually looking for humor in a mystery. I like mysteries with a serious premise. I like to see growth and change in a character from book to book. (Obviously this applies more to a series). Setting matters to me, although, if you have all the other ingredients, setting is definitely down on the list. In this case, a mystery series set in the U.K.

Her main characters are Detective Inspector Lynley and Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers. Lynley is an aristocrat. Havers is from a working-class background. As the series begins, Havers resents working with the posh Inspector Lynley. Over time, they settle into a friendship, and have respect for each other. There are numerous secondary characters that are well portrayed and also evolve throughout the series. In some cases, for example Simon Allcourt-St James, forensic scientist, and
Deborah St James, his wife, the secondary characters often play nearly as large a part in the story as the detectives.

The Inspector Lynley series is technically in the police procedural sub-genre.  But there is usually so much going on with peripheral characters and subplots that I don't see them this way.  However, the fact that Lynley and Havers can use the resources of New Scotland Yard make the investigations more believable. I don't limit my mystery reading to police procedurals or private detective novels, but I do see them as more grounded in reality, requiring less suspension of belief (in most cases).

The first mystery in the Inspector Lynley series is A Great Deliverance. I don't remember if I read it when it was first published (1988), but I do remember being very impressed with it when I did read it. In addition to the very interesting characters, the plot was intriguing and the ending surprised me. This novel won the Agatha Award and the Anthony Award for "Best First Novel" and was also nominated for the Edgar in the same category. 

In this story, Lynley and Havers are paired for the first time and find themselves sent to Keldale Valley in Yorkshire. From the author's web site:
Fat, unlovely Roberta Teys has been found, clad in her best silk dress, seated in the great stone barn beside her father's decapitated corpse. Her first and only words were: "I did it. I'm not sorry." She has refused to speak since. The priest who found young Roberta insists the girl is innocent. The villagers, who have known the girl all of her life, concur. The local police, however, maintain that she's guilty of the brutal slaying of one of the region's most respected citizens.
It surprised me to learn that this was awarded an Agatha. I associate that award with cozies. This book is definitely not a cozy, although the important elements are there: no explicit sex, no gratuitous violence.

I read the latest book in the Inspector Lynley series, Believing the Lie, this January, shortly after it was published. Elizabeth George is one of the few mystery authors who inspire me to buy the hardback edition as soon as it is published. (Two others are Susan Hill and Kate Atkinson. Those I have to wait until the US edition comes out.)

In this story, Lynley is ordered by the Chief of New Scotland Yard to go undercover to investigate a death in Cumbria in the Lake District. He is instructed to keep his mission secret from his immediate superior (who is also his lover), creating a difficult situation.  Havers is also not included, but she ends up helping out in London, and dealing with her own personal issues.

This one was too long. There was an important story line that focused on Deborah St James, and I felt like that could have been pared down. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book. The writing always keeps me interested. And each book is different, with some characters featured more, other characters in the sidelines.

Between the first book and the most recent one, there were 15 novels in the series. The characters have gone through some major life changes and upheavals. I have not enjoyed all of the books equally, but all kept me engaged.  There was a point mid-series... I believe it was at Deception on His Mind (1996), where I gave up on the series for a while, decided it was too dark for me. I came back after a few years.

Two of the books, With No One as Witness (2005) and What Came Before He Shot Her (2006), which dealt with the death of Lynley's wife, were difficult to read. In 2010, I reread the first two books in the series and enjoyed them as much as the first time.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Best Crime Fiction 2012 (midyear review)

Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise has called for lists of best crime fiction reads in 2012, to this point in the year.  As I have been doing end-of-quarter summary posts for crime fiction reading, this was fairly easy. As luck would have it, I have been very impressed with many of the books I have read, as I don't read as many books per week or month as a lot of other bloggers.

This is my list...
  1. The Cambridge Theorem (1989) by Tony Cape 
  2. Believing the Lie (2012) by Elizabeth George
  3. Berlin Game (1983) by Len Deighton
  4. The Company of Strangers (2001) by Robert Wilson
  5. Bluffing Mr. Churchill (2001) by John Lawton
  6. The Redbreast (2006) by Jo Nesbo
  7. In the Woods (2007) by Tana French
  8. The Guards (2001) by Ken Bruen 
  9. An Empty Death (2009) by Laura Wilson
  10. The Information Officer (2009) by Mark Mills
For this list, I stuck with books that were not re-reads. I also read Fer-de-Lance by Rex Stout in June, and that is my favorite mystery of all time, by my top mystery author.  So that could be included.