July Reads and Pick of the Month

I haven’t read only crime fiction this month (although, as usual, it does form the bulk of my reading).  The reason for that is only partly because there were so many interesting books in other genres on my To Read list.  The other reason, of course, is that I am trying to distance myself a little bit from the genre while I am editing my own crime fiction novel.  Otherwise I risk including every clever plot device or brilliant scene from each novel I read into my own piecemeal effort – making it even more of a dog’s dinner than it already is!  (Can you tell I am going through my ‘down’ phase, where I think every sentence is horrible?)

So here are the books I have read this month.  I have included links if I have already reviewed them, here or elsewhere, and I am also linking to Mysteries in Paradise and their Pick of the Month.

1) So far, so French (or Franco-Swiss), at least in terms of setting.

Sylvie Granotier: The Paris Lawyer

Simenon: Maigret and the Hundred Gibbets

Simenon: Maigret et l’inspecteur Malgracieux (I am planning a special on Maigret for September)

Cathy Ace: The Corpse with the Silver Tongue

Estelle Monbrun: Meurtre chez Colette (I really wanted to like this one, because I am a Colette fan, but it was disappointing)

Anita Brookner: Hotel du Lac. Precise, elegant, poignant.  Midlife crisis handled with English poise – heartbreaking.

2) The holiday locations continue with:

Jeffrey Siger: Murder on Mykonos.  Excellent description of the island, of Greek politics and lifestyle in general, good use of suspense, although the ending did feel a bit random.  I especially loved the idea of the local policemen Googling information about serial killers.

Natsuo Kirino: Out (Japan). A shocker – not for the faint-hearted.  I will write a post in late August or early September about contemporary Japanese fiction, as this is one of my favourite topics.

Carlos Zanón: The Barcelona Brothers  (review of this will appear shortly on the Crime Fiction Lover website)

Carlos Ruiz Zafon: Marina (also set in Barcelona). Mix of genres and stories – this is mystery, ghost story, love story, sci-fi, historical romance. Beautiful imagery and recaptures a vanished world of ruined Barcelona mansions. Reminded me of the nostalgia and luscious detail of ‘Le Grand Meaulnes’.

3) Then we have the familiar stomping ground of London or Cambridge:

Stav Sherez: A Dark Redemption

Robin Webster: The Blues Man. Fast pace, intricate plot, some nice references to blues music and an uncompromising look at the seedy underbelly of London’s drug-dealing and prostitution world.  Promised much but under-delivered, I fear.

Alison Bruce: Cambridge Blue.  Loved the setting, loved the young and atypical detective, loved his grandmother (I hope she continues to appear in the next books of the series).

Barbara Pym: Excellent Women.  Not my favourite Pym novel, but her usual wry humour is evident here.

4) And finally, a few American ladies with no criminal tendencies whatsoever:

Alice Sebold: The Lovely Bones

Barbara Ehrenreich: Smile or Die (I believe it’s called ‘Bright-Sided’ in the US) – non-fiction, about the relentless promotion of positive thinking in the United States

Alice Baudat: The Wooden Bowl – a review and interview with the author will appear on this blog in September

And the winner is: Stav Sherez.  You can find a detailed review here and an author interview with him here (neither written by me – because the question I would have asked is: what on earth is Stav short for?).  As far as my own thoughts go, I found this book very atmospheric: the author captures the heat and dust of Africa just as well as the grime and rain of London (particularly its lesser known and sleazier parts). Well written, evocative yet parsimonious use of language. And I like the way the two main detectives have complicated backgrounds, yet manage to steer clear of clichéed representation.  If the first of the series is so good, I can hardly wait to see what the rest of them will be like!

And what, you may well ask, has that picture got to do with my July reading?  Nothing, except that I felt as snug as a cat because I got the chance to read so many books this month (not likely to happen again any time soon).

11 thoughts on “July Reads and Pick of the Month”

  1. I love Alison Bruce and need to get her latest and Stav is also on my to be read pile!

    1. Oh, you must read Stav – have the feeling he is really hitting his stride in this third book (haven’t read the first two though). Have just downloaded the second one in the Cambridge series. Although I don’t really like reading on a Kindle, it is so convenient to get things instantly, isn’t it?

  2. Marina Sofia – Oh, you’ve had some great, great reads this month. I’m very glad you liked A Dark Redemption as much as you did, too. And there are a few here I’ve not read yet that you’ve reminded me I need to read. Thanks

  3. Sounds interesting. And I know what you mean about getting more reading done during the summer. When the school year starts, I will be busier since I homeschool my kids. Listen, I have a question. Are any of these available in English? I’m thinking particularly of the Carlos Zafon and Natsuo Kirino books both of which looked intriguing. Of course, if they’re not, I can get my son, once he’s learned enough Japanese, to translate the Japanese author for me. 🙂 (He’s starting to learn Japanese this year. His request–and it’s through an online program so I’m just administering.)

    1. Oh, yes, I read them both in English translation! I don’t speak Spanish (or would that be Catalan, not sure what Zafon writes in) and my Japanese is so rusty that it would take me a whole month to read just one. If you need any help or advice about learning Japanese, let me know. (But Kirino is perhaps not the best author to start with for younger readers…)

      1. Gotcha on the Kirino book. Thanks. I’ll have to see if I can find them in English. They sounded interesting especially the Zafon book.

  4. I look forward to your upcoming post on Natsuo Kirino as I have read Grotesque and possibly one other of her books (can’t remember which) and really struggled to get on with them… Couldn’t decide if it was the style of writing or the translation. Or if simply a matter of my own lack of understanding of Japanese culture…. I await with interest…

  5. Thank you very much for including “Murder in Mykonos” in your July reads, and I empathize with your “down phase.” I’m at that point myself with my fifth in the CI Andreas Kaldis series (“Murder in Mykonos” was the first) and if it’s any consolation, if you don’t feel at some point along the way that what you’re writing is terrible, it probably is:)

    1. Thank you for writing in, Jeffrey – I’ve just been away on holiday in Greece (sadly, not Mykonos) and saw all your books at a bookstore in Athens. I look forward to reading more of them and thank you for your encouraging words.

  6. Hi Maria. I see now that it’s your turn for passing on very encouraging words–specifically those about all my books being on sale in an Athens book shop. Even though they’re best sellers in Greece, it’s been difficult getting the stores to keep them in stock! Hopefully that’s a thing of the past!

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