Fiction Round-Up for June
Another busy and varied month of reading… reflecting, no doubt, the busy-ness in my so-called professional (i.e. non-writing) life. I am very far behind on my reviewing, but the holidays are starting soon and I hope to catch up with myself. However, you will soon get a feel for my reading predilection, simply by looking at the colour of the book covers… Black dominates! (Even more, possibly, if you also add the books I read in Kindle or pdf format).
So here is a list and quick reviews (with possibly more to follow) or links to reviews elsewhere:
1) Nick Taussig: The Distinguised Assassin – brutal tale of betrayal and life under dictatorship in Soviet Russia
2) Martin Walker: The Resistance Man – the latest in the utterly enchanting Bruno Courreges series set in present-day rural France
3) And because one Bruno is never enough, I’ve also read the previous book in the series ‘The Devil’s Cave’.
4) Antonin Varenne: Bed of Nails – a disturbing tale of suicides that are more than they first appear to be, set in an almost dystopian Paris, like something in a parallel universe; to be reviewed imminently on the Crime Fiction Lover website
5) Bashir Sakhawarz: Maargir the Snake Charmer – poignant vignettes of life in Afghanistan before and after the Russian invasion, as well as the story of two brothers on opposing sides of the ideological struggle
6) Marius Czubaj: 21:37 - the first Polish crime novel that I have ever read, and a promising one it is too, featuring a police profiler called Heinz (‘like the ketchup’), homophobia and corrupt businessmen and church officials.
7) Louise Penny: The Cruellest Month – I enjoyed my first taste of Inspector Gamache so much, I had to try another book in the series, and this was deeper, darker and overall even better than the previous one.
8) Mark Edwards: The Magpies – a new, subtler take on the neighbours from hell scenario, with psychological torture taken to new extremes (but no blood-soaked daggers of American stalker movies)
9) Rachael Lucas: Sealed with a Kiss. I’ve been following Rachael’s blog about gardening, writing and living with children for nearly 3 years now, so of course I had to get her first book and read it. I am loyal like that. The author claims to be a little embarrassed to admit that it is chick lit, but it is delightful, funny, fluffy and sweet. And set on a remote island off the West Coast of Scotland. Yes, a little predictable, but what’s not to love?
10) Stav Sherez: The Black Monastery. Another novel by this author ‘A Dark Redemption’ was one of my crime favourites of the year in 2012, so I wanted to read an earlier one of his, especially since the setting is a Greek island. Not as good as the other novel I read, though. The crimes are rather horrendous and the atmosphere is too dark to be truly Greek, but Stav cannot write a bad sentence. Exciting, touching and more than a shade creepy.
11) Kristina Carlson: Mr. Darwin’s Gardener. All of the hypocrisy, narrow-mindedness and diversity of the quintessential English village is displayed here, in a work that is both philosophical, liberating and oddly funny.
12) Jack Kerouac: On the Road. A bit like a rich meal: it’s fine in principle, but too much in one go. A little of it goes a long way. After a while, it gets repetitive and unbearably misogynistic.
So a good month of reads, with no major disappointments among them. Eight of the 12 books were crime fiction, three of the 12 were translations. I would probably say that my crime pick of the month is Louise Penny, while my non-crime pick is ‘Mr. Darwin’s Gardener’.