Crime Pick of the Month: September

September was a much slower reading month for me than August.  I was travelling most of the time on business and, although hotel rooms are conducive to reading (especially when you don’t know anyone in that location), I was so tired I would fall asleep after just a few pages.  I don’t want to pre-empt the book reviews I am going to write soon for some of these books, so I will just put TBR (to be reviewed) after the titles and one brief reaction.  As usual, if you do like crime fiction, thanks to the wonderful Mysteries in Paradise you can see what other people have been reading and recommending this past month.

I’ve detected a bit of a French theme in my reading.  Not only have I been trying to choose my favourite Maigret novels amongst Simenon’s tremendous output, but I have also engaged with other novels by French writers or set in France.  And there is a very ‘noir’ feel to all of them, whether they are classed as crime fiction or not.

1)      Pascal Garnier: The Panda Theory  – TBR – disquieting

2)      Pascal Garnier: How’s the Pain  -TBR – my top pick of the month – on general release very soon

3)      Veronique Olmi: Beside the Sea. This book has shaken me to the very core: a very powerful book. Do NOT read when you are depressed!  The story is predictable, inevitable, yet still shocking and heartbreaking. You suffer alongside the children and the mother (or maybe even more so when you are a mother yourself).  The language is almost child-like in its simplicity, yet strangely lyrical.  It feels like an Ancient Greek tragedy.  Here is an interview with the  translator, which I found compelling.

4)      Adrian Magson: Death in the Marais  -TBR – set-up for a new crime series taking place in 1960s France

5)      Adrian Magson: Death on the Rive Nord  -TBR – 2nd in the series, dealing with themes such as Algerian independence and immigrants in the North of France

Then I went back to the UK (both physically and in my reading):

6)      David Mark: The Dark Winter – Hull as I have never seen it portrayed before, gentle (yet stubborn)  giant of a detective (happily married, for once), and a huge ethical dilemma of a storyline – great read!  Again, the first in a series, which promises to be a good one.

7)      Lucy Dawson: Little Sister  -TBR – not sure if this qualifies as a thriller, but it is a fast-paced read nevertheless

8)      PD James: Death Comes to Pemberley.  Sadly, for someone who is a fan of both PD James and of Jane Austen, this was a bit of a disappointment.  The Regency period is lovingly recreated, but the mystery and overall atmosphere are less convincing.

9)      John Burnside: The Locust Room.  Strange book, this: despite some superficial thriller elements to it, it is actually a meditation on male desire for power, on the ability to form relationships, on identity and the family.  Ultimately, it seems to me that the protagonist opts for the easy way out: the ivory tower.  I found it hard going in parts and am not quite sure if it was a rewarding read.  Parts of it were excellent and thought-provoking, though.

10)  Nicci French: Blue Monday.  Nicci French (or should I say Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) are finally doing a series and the main characters are a copper with the faux-Scandinavian name of Karlsson – Sean is half-Swedish, it should be pointed out – and a psychotherapist with the rather overtly Freudian name of Frieda Klein.  Aside from these rather unlikely names, I enjoyed the novel, although I will probably enjoy the next ones in the series even more (this first one required a bit of a setting of the scene and establishing of the characters, which did at times slow down the narrative pace a little bit).  However, Nicci French has a compulsively readable style: it just slides down your throat so nicely, like a well-loved whiskey, and you find yourself turning another page, just one more…