TBR Alert! Books Bought at Quais du Polar

No, it’s not an April Fools’ Day joke! My TBR pile has augmented by another 12 books. Other than rebuying the graphic version of Manchette’s Fatale (you can find my review of the reissued translation of it on CFL),  I could not stop myself from acquiring books by favourite authors, as well as allowing plenty of room for discovering new names. Luckily, there was a fairly good selection of books in English this year as well, so I didn’t have to read the French language translations for some of them.

Old favourites:

I tend not to read series in order (partly out of necessity – it’s not easy to find the English series at libraries here in France, and I can’t afford to buy all of them), so there’s always one or two I’ve missed. The problem is that I sometimes forget which one I’ve missed – or else the title of the US and UK editions are different (Louise Penny says her publishers have promised that will stop – hurrah!). So here are the books I bought from writers whose work I already know I like:

GodsBeastsDenise Mina: Gods and Beasts – I’ve read her Garnethill and Paddy Meehan series, but only ‘The Red Road’ from the Alex Morrow series. This one takes place before the events in Red Road and won the Theakstons Old Peculier Award in Harrogate in 2013.


PennycoverLouise Penny: How the Light Gets In

Book 9 in the series and it’s winter once more in Three Pines. A famous woman has gone missing and Gamache has to battle with hostile forces within his department. I’ve reviewed ‘Dead Cold’ (aka A Fatal Grace) and ‘The Long Way Home’ and was searching for ‘The Beautiful Mystery’, but it was not available from Decitre’s English language section.

Child44Tom Rob Smith: Child 44

I’ll be honest: I hesitated to read this one because I’m a little traumatised reading about brutal repressive regimes (although I’ve had less dramatic immediate experience of it than other close friends). So I read ‘The Farm’ instead (which is very different, more domestic), but this account of a serial killer in the Soviet society where such crime is apparently unthinkable sounds fascinating. The author spoke about the inspiration behind the story: real-life serial killer Chikatilo, probably one of the worst criminals in history (but who committed those crimes two decades later than the events in this book).

Desai1Kishwar Desai: Witness the Night

A combination of influences made me buy this: Margot Kinberg’s spotlight on the book, reading Desai’s second book (on surrogate mothers – wombs for rent in India), seeing her speak so passionately on her panel and direct conversation with the author. As Margot says: ‘There’s always a risk when a novel addresses a social issue that the author may have an agenda that will overshadow the plot, but if it’s done well, a crime novel can be a very effective forum for a discussion of social issues.’ and Desai does just that. This book also won the Costa First Novel Award.

GranotierbookSylvie Granotier: Personne n’en saura rien (No one will know anything)

Sometimes the name is just enough. I’ve read and loved her ‘The Paris Lawyer’ and other books that have not yet been translated into English. I interviewed her at Quais du Polar two years ago and she is so thoughtful and articulate that I’ve succumbed to her charm. I have no idea what this new book is about, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it – even though it is a story of revenge, manipulation and yes, a serial killer.

Always meant to read: 

KhadraYasmina Khadra: Qu’attendent les singes (What are the monkeys waiting for)

A former Algerian army officer who uses his wife’s name to publish some of the most ambitious and topical fiction about the Middle East. Some of his work is available in English, especially his trilogy about Islamic fundamentalism: ‘The Swallows of Kabul’ (about Afghanistan), ‘The Attack’ (Palestine) and ‘The Sirens of Baghdad’ (Iraq). However, his latest book returns to Algeria and features a feisty female detective. Khadra said he is an ardent feminist, and admitted it is very difficult to be a woman in any public position in his native country. Khadra also comes highly recommended by Claire McAlpine at Word by Word.

Debut authors who impressed me at panel discussions:

VongozeroYana Vagner: VongoZero

The title is the name of a lake on the border between Finland and Russia, where a group of survivors of an apocalyptic flu epidemic are travelling for their survival. Dystopian psychological thriller written in installments on Yana’s blog, and incorporating feedback from her readers – very Dickensian.

KillinglessonsSaul Black: The Killing Lessons

Strictly speaking, Saul Black is not a debut author, as it’s the crime genre pseudonym for highly regarded author Glen Duncan. He’s always found it hard to allow himself to be contained by just one genre and has written a werewolf trilogy (which would normally be enough to put me off his writing). However, this book is more typical crime fiction fare, set in Colorado, with shades of McCarthy’s ‘No Country for Old Men’.

QuirosDaniel Quirós: Eté rouge (Red Summer) 

Don Chepe, former guerilla fighter in Nicaragua’s bloody civil war, has retired to the paradise of  a fishing village on the Pacific coast in Costa Rica. But the body of an Argentine woman washes up on the beach one day and he becomes involved in a complex investigation which digs deep into his personal and his country’s history.

Recommendations from blogs or bloggers:

BouysseFranck Bouysse: Grossir le ciel (Magnifying/swelling up the sky)

When Catherine from Le Blog du Polar de Velda recommends a new French writer, I sit up and listen. She has a nose for up-and-coming talent – and quite often a similar taste as myself, on the noirish side. This story of two isolated farms in a remote rural area of France  – and the men who inhabit them – sounds intriguing (especially to me, coming as I do from solid farming stock).

GornellBarry Gornell: The Healing of Luther Grove

Gothic tension in the Highlands, where an urban couple relocate, believing they have found their rural paradise. Barry was interviewed by Crime Fiction Lover as part of New Talent November, so his name seemed familiar, and I approached him at the book signing. When I discovered he was a debut author and this was his first participation at an international crime fiction festival, I just had to find his book in English and get it signed. It also got a glowing review by Eva Dolan on CFL.

Impulse Buy

CrystalPalaceFabrice Bourland: Le diable du Crystal Palace (The Devil of Crystal Palace)

Bourland is a great admirer of Poe and Conan-Doyle and he’s written a series of supernatural thrillers set in London, featuring elegant 1930s detectives Singleton and Trelawney. A couple of them have been translated by Gallic Books. This one hasn’t, but has a personal connotation, as it’s set just a stop or two away from the part of London where I used to live.

You may well argue that I overestimate the number of books I can keep on my shelves (even signed books), and that I still haven’t read all of the books I bought at the previous two editions of the festival. [I am in good company there, as I heard several festivalgoers say the very same thing.]

But you know what? I don’t smoke or gamble, I seldom drink or go out on shopping sprees. A girl’s got to have some vices, right? And books are my vice. What do you think? Have you read any of the above and what did you think of them? Are there any which tantalise your taste buds?







19 thoughts on “TBR Alert! Books Bought at Quais du Polar”

  1. I’m a huge fan of Yasmina Khadra and have read loads of his books ( although not Singes). He really should have a wider audience in the anglophone world .

    1. Yes, it’s surprising that he doesn’t, because a few of his books have been translated, they are very readable and very topical. There are quite a few of his books at my local library, so once I finish this one, I’m all set. I’ve seen the film ‘L’Attentat’ based on his book as well.

      1. Gallic books have recently published a trans of The African Equation and have another in the pipeline so hopefully he will get some more attention now .

  2. I think it’s a mighty fine vice & one I certainly share. To me it’d be criminal to attend such an event and come back empty – or even light – handed!

    The Granotier catches my eye – fancy The Paris Lawyer too and the Bourland. I’m working on expanding the geographical aspects of my reading but sadly rely on translation.

    1. Thank you for sharing my addiction and encouraging me to go truant. I feel truly liberated this month to be as naughty as possible and have just been to two libraries and returned with four books I wasn’t planning to read.

      1. 😄😆😄😆😄 Love it! And surely anything that supports libraries is more saint like behaviour than vice!

  3. What a good crop! No regrets to have. I enjoyed Child 44 and look forward to hearing what you thought of it. The Granotier book caught my attention, I’ll look it up at the library.

  4. Thank you for the kind mention, Marina Sofia :-). I think Witness the Night is an excellent read, and I hope you’ll enjoy it. And you’ve got several other really fine books, too. I’d like to read more of Granotier myself, along with several authors you’ve mentioned. Sometimes, those good TBR intentions must go by the wayside…

    1. You do know that the ‘kind mention’ is actually veiled criticism for tempting me so much… when you know how utterly without will I am when it comes to books.

  5. Well, I’ve read God’s And Beasts and Child 44, both of which I loved. I thought Child 44 fantastic for a debut – but very dark. I have the Louise Penny, but haven’t got round to it yet. Oh, and I have The Killing Lessons too, which I intend to read v soon. Great pile – and the TBR Double Dog Dare is over, so you’re fine on that score! Enjoy your spoils!

    1. Well, I bought them all just before the Double Dare was over! And I’ve just calculated with Annabel that I’ve failed with the Double Dare, as about 20 of the 37 books I’ve read so far this year were… spontaneous combustions.

      1. Ha ha! I like that phrase. Sometimes you’ve just GOT to have a book – and its a lot better than having to have a bottle of whisky! (That’s a more common hobby in Oban!)

    1. Do you read Spanish then? I also spoke to the translator, a French man who lived for a while in Costa Rica and has been trying to spread the love for Costa Rican literature abroad (well, at least get people to know it exists). But it will take a while till it’s translated in English, although the author now teaches at a university in Pennsylvania.

  6. You’re worse than me. Only 6 new additions for my TBR after the festival? But it comes after La fête du livre de Bron where I also got new books.

    I’ve just finished La part du mort by Yasmina Khadra and he’s a fantastic writer. Great style, super political insight and Alger comes to life.

    I have Still Life on my kindle, so I’ll get to it soon. I’m almost sorry to have it in English. I would have liked to read a translation in Québécois.

    Fabrice Bourland was charming, wasn’t he? I’m looking forward to reading your review about this one.

    PS: I have the same addiction and yes, it costs less than cigarettes, doesn’t fall on the hips like chocolate and feeds your mind. Is there a better addiction than books?

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