Reading Bingo for 2014 (Mostly)

Thank you to the wonderful Cleo for making me aware of the reading bingo meme below. She has some wonderful selections on her own blog, do go and check them out, and I doubt I’ll be able to do quite as well, but here goes. I’ve stuck mainly to books read in 2014 and linked to my reviews of them (where available).

reading-bingo-small1) 500+ pages: Pierre Lemaitre’s wonderful recount of the end of the First World War: Au-revoir la-haut

2) Forgotten Classic: Josephine Tey’s Miss Pym Disposes – I hadn’t read it since my schooldays and it was much better this time round

3) Book that became a movie:  Friedrich Dürrenmatt: The Judge and His Hangman – adapted several times for TV and cinema, but its most famous and stylish adaptation is directed by Maximilian Schell

4) Book Published This Year: probably far too many, but one that comes to mind instantly is ‘On ne voyait que le bonheur‘ by Gregoire Delacourt

5) Book with a number in the title: 220 Volts by Joseph Incardona (review still to come) – an ‘electrifying’ account of a marriage in its death throes and a writer searching for inspiration

6) Book written by someone under 30: No idea, as the younger authors don’t usually have a Wikipedia entry with their date of birth, but I suspect that Kerry Hudson might fit into this category. I really enjoyed her novel ‘Thirst’.

7) A book with non-human characters: not really my type of reading, but Lauren Owen’s ‘The Quick’ featured vampires. Does that count? They are humanoid…

8) Funny: Light, witty and making me love my cat even more: Lena Divani’s ‘Seven Lives and One Great Love

9) Book by a female author: LOTS of them, hopefully, but a special shout-out for the delightful Wuthering Heights-like epic by Minae Mizumura ‘A True Novel’

10) Mystery: Well, most of my reading revolves around crime fiction, but I will mention David Jackson’s thrilling, heartbreaking read ‘Cry Baby

11) Novel with a one-word title: Surprisingly, there were a number of contenders for this, but I chose Shuichi Yoshida’s ‘Villain‘ – which is also a single word in Japanese ‘Akunin’.

12) Short stories: I realised this year that I haven’t read many short story collections recently, so I tried to make up for this and read about 4-5. My favourite was Alma Lazarevska’s  ‘Death in the Museum of Modern Art‘, stories set during the siege of Sarajevo.

13) A book set on a different continent: You know how I like to travel, so I have quite a choice here and went for the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean, as portrayed in ‘Devil-Devil’ by Graeme Kent.

14) Non-fiction: Joan Didion’s ‘The Year of Magical Thinking‘ – the most honest and poignant depiction of grief I’ve come across in a long, long time

15) First Book by a favourite author: I’m cheating a little bit here, as I did not read it this year, but ‘The Voyage Out’ by Virginia Woolf surely counts? A much more conventional novel than her later work, it nevertheless contains many of her perennial themes (of trying to fit in, of the difficulties of communication, of allowing your emotions to be your guide and, finally, of becoming your own person with your own thoughts and stimulating intellect).

16) A book I heard about online: I discover many, far too many books and add them to my TBR list as a result of reading so many good blogs. Tony Malone has been the one to blame for many an impulsive purchase (usually well worth the effort!), and now he is also responsible for my obsession with Karl Ove Knausgård and his ‘A Man in Love‘.

17) Bestseller: I’m never quite sure if what I’m reading is a bestseller or not, as this is not one of the criteria I bear in mind when selecting a book. However, I’m pretty sure that ‘Norwegian by Night‘ by Derek B. Miller qualifies for that title – and it won the John Creasey New Blood Dagger Award.

18) Book based on a true story: The partly autobiographical account (supplemented by a lot of imagination and memories from other participants) of the life of her mother by Delphine de Vigan 

19) Book at the bottom of the TBR pile: Well, it depends if it’s electronic book or physical book. I have a massive chunk of double-shelving to get through and the one that happened to be behind all the others was a book I picked up at a library sale ‘Un sentiment plus fort que la peur’ by Marc Levy. Levy is the most-read French author, has been translated into 49 languages and currently lives in the US. I suspect his thrillerish bestsellers might not quite be my style, but at 50 centimes for 400+ pages, I had to see for myself what all the fuss was about.

20) A book that a friend loves: Several friends (both online and real-life) have recommended Claire Messud’s ‘The Woman Upstairs‘. I can completely understand their passion for it.

21) A book that scares me: I don’t read horror fiction very much and am not easily scared. However, horrible situations or characters, such as the mother in Koren Zailckas’ ‘Mother, Mother‘, do give me the creeps.

22) A book that is more than 10 years old: So many of my favourite books are… However, one I recently (re)read was Fumiko Enchi’s ‘The Waiting Years‘, written in 1957, and depicting an even older Japan.

23) The second book in a series: Frédérique Molay’s Paris-based detective Nico Sirsky reappears in the intriguing investigation concerning a dead man’s hidden message in ‘Crossing the Line

LongWayHome24) A book with a blue cover: I am susceptible both to blue covers and to this Canadian writer’s series about Armand Gamache: Louise Penny’s latest novel ‘The Long Way Home

 

Review/Giveaway for Crossing the Line by Frederique Molay

 

Crossing The Line banner

You know I very seldom participate in blog tours – perhaps once a year. However, I feel strongly about making French books more widely known to the English-speaking public, so I share the same enthusiasm and values as Emma from the blog Words and Peace and the independent publisher Le French Book. So, for them, and for the writer Frédérique Molay, I make an exception.  I read and reviewed the first book in the series featuring Nico Sirsky just over a year ago and was looking forward to reading more by this author. For other reviews and Q&A with the author, please visit France Book Tour

Crossing the Line cover

Crossing The Line

[police procedural / thriller]

(translated by Anne TRAGER)

 Release date: September 23, 2014 at Le French Book

224 pages

ISBN: 978-1939474148

Website | Goodreads

***

SYNOPSIS

It’s Christmas in Paris and Chief of Police Nico Sirsky has an uneasy feeling that something is very wrong with the case he’s investigating. He and his team of crack homicide detectives follow the clues from an apparent suicide, to an apparent accident, to an all-out murder as an intricate machination starts breaking down. Just how far can despair push a man? How clear is the line between good and evil? [provided by the publisher]

Crossing The Line- Frederique MolayABOUT THE AUTHOR

Called, “the French Michael Connelly,” Frédérique Molay graduated from France’s prestigious Science Po
and began her career in politics and the French administration. She worked as chief of staff for the deputy mayor of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and then was elected to the local government in Saône-et-Loire.
Meanwhile, she spent her nights pursing a passion for writing she had nourished since she wrote her first novel at the age of eleven. The first in the Paris Homicide series, The 7th Woman, won France’s most prestigious crime fiction award and went on to become an international bestseller, allowing Molay to dedicate her life to writing and raising her three children.

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ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR

Anne Trager loves France so much she has lived there for 27 years and just can’t seem to leave. What keeps her there is a uniquely French mix of pleasure seeking and creativity. Well, that and the wine. In 2011, she woke up one morning and said, “I just can’t stand it anymore. There are way too many good books being written in France not reaching a broader audience.” That’s when she founded Le French Book to translate some of those books into English. The company’s motto is “If we love it, we translate it,” and Anne loves crime fiction, mysteries and detective novels.

My Review:

In the run-up to Christmas, Parisian detective Nico Sirsky’s personal and professional life seems to be going well, although he is still recovering from the bullet wound he received at the end of the previous book. But then something unexpected happens: the head of a cadaver being used for study by medical students contains a disquieting message. Could it be a student prank? The verdict for the death of the man who bequeathed his body to science was suicide, but many details about his last few weeks before dying seem to indicate something far more sinister. Soon, the case becomes complicated, involving and I love the way the author takes us step by step through the investigation, following promising leads which lead to blind alleys, showing all the effort and rewards of good teamwork.

This is no ‘lone ranger’ type of investigator miraculously solving impossible puzzles, whilst watching his private life go to pot. What we have here is a true police procedural in the 87th Precinct tradition, showing just how much work is involved in finding clues, filtering through the data, making connections… and still having a satisfying home life. Sirsky’s family situation takes a back seat in this story and the book is all the better for it.

There is far less graphic description of violence or dead bodies (well, if you exclude the cadavers in a university lab), but the story is a sad one. Interesting twists and bizarre clues along the way will make you want to devour the book as quickly as possible, but this is no superficial action-filled thriller. If you like crime fiction with heart and more subtle thought (and not always a fully wrapped-up parcel of an ending), Frédérique Molay is an author you will enjoy.

 

If you would like to participate in the giveaway draw for a chance to win one of 5 digital copies of ‘Crossing the Line’ (open internationally), plus a further 5 copies open for US readers only, please enter your details by clicking below. The winners will be announced on the website and individually on the 7th of October. Good luck and enjoy your read!

Crime Fiction Pick of July

Come and join me over at Mysteries in Paradise, led by the very able and well-read Kerrie, to see what everyone has been reading this month.  In my case, fewer books got read this month, for a very simple reason called school holidays!

Even fewer got reviewed, so let me just add a sentence or two about my thoughts for each one:

1) Bernard Minier: The Frozen Dead

A strange tale involving a decapitated  horse, a serial killer and a mental asylum in the Pyrenees. Exciting read to cool off during the hot summer months (it takes place in winter, as you might have guessed from the title).  Full review will be shortly available on Crime Fiction Lover.

2) Frédérique Molay: The 7th Woman

Gokan3) Diniz Galhos: Gōkan  (in French, no English translation available yet)

Tarantino-like crime caper set in Japan, involving an American assassin, a French professor from the Sorbonne, grumpy yakuza chasing each other and a bottle of saké belonging to (you guessed it!) Quentin Tarantino.  Dynamic, explosive and just a shade incomprehensible.

4) Denise Mina: Garnethill

How did I ever miss this series?  A fantastic narrative voice, plunging you into the gritty world of low-paid jobs, drugs and Glasgow squalour. Not as grim as it sounds: ultimately hopeful and uplifting.

5) Karin Fossum: Calling Out for You (a.k.a. The Indian Bride)

Almost unbearably sad story about settled, peaceful middle-aged Norwegian man Gunder Jomann and his Indian bride, who gets murdered as soon as she arrives in the country.  It was disturbing to see how evil deeds can arise out of nowhere, in the apparently most peaceful little town in one of the safest countries in the world.  Not your average police procedural, and one that will haunt me for weeks to come.

6) Orhan Pamuk: The Museum of Innocence – will get a review of its own for my Works in Translation Challenge.

midas7) Anne Zouroudi: The Taint of Midas

Not as cosy as you might think at first sight, given the idyllic location of the Greek islands, the authoritative presence of the investigator Hermes Diaktoros and the overall charm of the author’s writing style.  The ‘whodunit’ component was not quite compelling enough, but this is a book to savour for its characters, descriptions and telling details.  Perfect holiday read, in the best sense of the word.

8) M.C. Grant: Devil with a Gun

Another great holiday read, this time a would-be noir set in San Francisco, featuring the Russian mafia and starring Dixie Flynn, the most feisty, witty, don’t care-ish female detective (actually, a journalist) since V.I. Warshawski and Kinsey Millhone.  Review coming up on Crime Fiction Lover.

9) The PEN/ O. Henry Prize Stories 2012

The quality of the stories is not in doubt, but I was somewhat disappointed by the uniformity of the selection.  All the stories were rather wistful and nostalgic, all a bit oblique – sometimes too much so, to the point where I felt like saying ‘So what?’.  But perhaps that’s just me being obtuse.

FossumHappy to say that half of my reads were by women authors this month, and four of them were originally written in another language.  And my Crime Pick of the Month?  It’s a tie between Denise Mina and Karin Fossum, very hard to choose,  but perhaps the Fossum book will linger in my memory longest.

 

 

Review of ‘The 7th Woman’

7th-Woman_cover_3_v2It’s my great pleasure today to be a stop on the blog tour of ‘The 7th Woman’ by  French author Frédérique Molay.  This tour is organised by France Booktours and I jumped at the chance to be part of it.  You know me and my passion for French crime fiction!

My Review:

When foreign authors set their crime novels in France, they tend to dwell on the more nostalgic and touristy aspects of French culture (the wine, the food, cute historical villages and the weekly markets, for instance). Nothing wrong with that lovely escapism. However, contemporary French crime fiction is much more likely to be closer to the Anglo-Saxon model.  Serial killers, police profilers, forensic science and police teamwork all feature prominently, but I love the way French authors use and adapt these conventions,  giving them a French twist.

A serial killer is the subject of Frédérique Molay’s first novel about Chief of Police Nico Sirsky, head of the brigade criminelle in Paris.  The first murder is brutal (the description can get a bit graphic, not overly so, but squeamish readers will need to exercise some caution here), but everything is meticulously staged and there are no clues.  They barely have time to get started on the investigation, when another murder follows.  The killer appears to have a predilection for relatively well-off, dark-haired, thin women, and is planning to kill 7 such women in 7 days unless the police can stop him.  From about the third murder onwards, it becomes clear that the killer is sending a personal message to Sirsky, and knows far too much about him and his family.

Although it feels like this story has been covered many times before (in books and on film), Molay does a good job of keeping things fast-paced and interesting. The plot has plenty of twists and dead ends to keep you guessing and entertained: it certainly had me reading until late at night.

But what I really liked about the books are the realistic and workman-like descriptions of the police investigation.  This is a well-oiled team, suffering a little from the long hours and the stresses of the job, but working well together, against the clock.  There are no primadonnas or melodramatic confrontations simply for the sake of making the characters appear more interesting.  And, although Nico Sirsky is the main protagonist, we get to know and appreciate other members of the team as well: strong-minded psychologist Dominque Kreiss, specialising in sexual assault; deputy police commissioner Cohen, a top-notch professional who manages to steer clear of politics; fiery medical examiner Armelle Villars; hard-working Commander Kriven, Nico’s right-hand man.  These are all promising characters in their own right and I look forward to finding out more about them in the next books in the series.

Sirsky’s home life is complicated, but not depressing, as is so often the cliché about lonely police detectives.  Sirsky has almost too much family, all concerned about his welfare: a larger-than-life mother, devoted sister, a depressed ex-wife Sylvie and his teenage son Dimitri.  He also embarks upon a passionate love affair with Dr. Caroline Dalry, whom he has consulted about his stomach pains.  Some readers have found the progression of the love affair to be far too rapid, but I thought it was understandable for a man in a profession where he is daily confronted by death and the transitory nature of life.

All in all, an enjoyable, solid police procedural, which proves you can sustain suspense without going overboard on thrillerish elements.  I look forward to reading the next in the series.  Le French Book is to be congratulated for finding such a great variety of contemporary French crime fiction and for making it available to English speakers.

The 7th Woman

A bestselling police procedural set in Paris

 Synopsis

There’s no rest for Paris’s top criminal investigation division, La Crim’. Who is preying on women in the French capital? How can he kill again and again without leaving any clues? A serial killer is taking pleasure in a macabre ritual that leaves the police on tenterhooks. Chief of Police Nico Sirsky—a super cop with a modern-day real life, including an ex-wife, a teenage son and a budding love story—races against the clock to solve the murders as they get closer and closer to his inner circle. Will he resist the pressure? It has the suspense of Seven, with CSI-like details, giving a whole new dimension to Paris.

-Won France’s most prestigious crime fiction award, the Prix du Quai des Orfèvres

-Named Best Crime Fiction Novel of the Year by Lire magazine

-Months on the bestseller lists

-Translated into seven languages

-Over 150,000 copies sold in France

Author: Frédérique Molay

Translator: Anne Trager

Publisher: Le French Book, Inc.

First published in French (Librairie Arthème Fayard, 2006)

Genre: police procedural/thriller

BISAC cat.: Mystery and Detective/Police procedural

ISBN: 978-0-9853206-6-9 (Kindle)/

978-0-9853206-7-6 (epub)

List Price: $7.99

Buying links:

For your Amazon Kindle.

For your Barnes & Noble Nook.

For your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch.

For your Kobo.

Praise for The 7th Woman

“Frédérique Molay is the French Michael Connelly.” — Jean Miot, former head of Agence France Presse and the French daily Le Figaro

“It’s really an excellent book. It’s the kind of suspense that makes you miss your subway stop or turn off your phone once you’ve started it.” —RTL

“You barely have time to catch your breath between turning the pages of this spine-tingling novel.”— Cine Tele Revue

About the Author

Frédérique Molay graduated from France’s prestigious political science school Science Po and began her career in politics and the French administration. Meanwhile, she spent her nights pursing a passion for writing she had nourished since she wrote her first novel at the age of eleven. After The 7th Woman took France by storm, Frédérique Molay dedicated her life to writing and raising her three children. She has five books to her name, with three in the Nico Sirsky series.

http://www.lefrenchbook.com/our-authors/frederique-molay/

Contact:

anne@lefrenchbook.com

Website:

http://www.lefrenchbook.com

More at:

http://www.the7thwoman.com

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Twitter: @LeFrenchBook