You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Crime Month’ category.

august-crimeI have done this before a couple of times but not for a few years and I just have a hankering to read lots of crime function during August when it (theoretically) gets a bit quieter as friends and workmates go off on holiday.

This is a sort of personal challenge but one that doesn’t have any real goals and until yesterday afternoon was going to have a suggested reading list but frankly when I looked at the crime section of my TBR mountain I quailed at the enormity of the the task and I’m basically just going to wing it.

Although I will almost certainly start with the new Lauren Beukes which appeared as if by magic on my Kindle app yesterday¬†morning ūüôā

The Girl Who Played with Fire is the second novel in Larsson’s much-praised Millennium trilogy, and pick Lisbeth Salander’s story up¬†some months after the events of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (which I talked about here).

It’s always difficult to talk about the plot of a book which is part of a series and I suppose theoretically could be read as a standalone but does really need some knowledge of its predecessor to really make sense.¬†

Suffice to say that Blomkvist is now a major celebrity and Lisbeth is no longer in touch with him.¬†Because of stuff that happened in the previous story some nasty people are out to get Lisbeth, and this leads to her being suspected of murdering three people. So the bulk of the story covers her on the run while trying to find out what’s going on.

Separately, Blomkvist is trying to clear Lisbeth’s name; two of the victims were friends/colleagues of his and he doesn’t belive Lisbeth committed the crime (though interestingly enough not because she isn’t capable of doing so). It’s her capacity for wreaking revenge on those who have treated her badly or offended her very personal moral code that makes her such a compelling character.

It’s all very grim, with strong violence particularly (but not solely) against women – the original journalistic investigation which kicks all of this off is about sex trafficking, continuing the theme of the exploitation of women as a hidden facet of Swedish society which characterised the first book.

In the end, how you react to this will depend on your stomach for the subject matter and whether you warm to the character of Lisbeth. I thought this was a very powerful story with some quite appalling events and revelations at the end of the book which mean that I will definitely be picking up the final volume in the series.

Jane Smiley’s Duplicate Keys is part of my summer of re-visiting previous reads.

I first picked this up and read it in March 1997 (astonishingly) and this is my third time of reading. I absolutely love this novel with a passion and will be hard-pushed to explain why but am going to have a pretty good stab at it.

Firs a quick trot through the basic story. Alice is part of a group who moved to New York in the late 1960s/early 1970s following their friends Craig and Denny hoping to make it in the music business and although things hadn’t turned out as planned they have settled there. We are now in the early 1980s and Alice visits the apartment of her friend Susan (away on a trip) to water the plants and make sure all is OK, and finds the two musicians shot dead. The novel tells the story of the impact of the murder on the group and, of course, is all about finding who the killer is.

So much so traditional thriller, but this really clicked with me:

  • I absolutely fell in love with the cover (I can be funny that way)
  • I really, really like Alice – she is ordinary but actually rather brave in her own way (I’ve tried to think over the years who might best play her in a¬† movie version of this but can’t think of anyone) – she is one of my absolutely favourite female characters
  • the initial impact of the murder on Alice is seen at a slight distance – we aren’t with her when she finds the bodies of her two friends but pick the story up as she talks to the investigating detective, and I liked that detachment at the start
  • the novel says a lot about the mindset of a certain 60’s type – trusting people who seemed like themselves to the extent of giving out keys to their apartment – to the point that Susan has trouble telling the police who might have been able to get in

This works really well as a thriller but is also a fascinating study of friendship and how it changes over time. The 80’s setting seems slightly historical now but of course this was a contemporary thriller and I wished I’d read it when it came out (it was published in 1984, the year I got married the first time).

This really is one of my favourite books.

I can announce quite happily that my reading slump is finally over, but what that means is that I now have a nice stack of reviews for both here and the Screen God blog that I need to catch up on (grammatically incorrect I’m sure but too hot to think of an alternative).

But I have an excuse (I think) and it’s not my normal gosh-I’ve-been-so-busy-at-work-poor-little-me¬†nonsense. No, this backlog is all because of a hectic social life which has seen lunches and cocktails and catching up with friends before they go on holiday¬†all having taken place since last Sunday. There won’t be another week like it until Christmas, mark my words.

I like excuses like that, it sounds like I know how to have a good time. Which¬†I do, I just don’t get the chance to do it all at once. Anyhow, enough of all this nonsense.

First on the review pile is the latest Christopher Fowler, namely Bryant & May off the Rails. Now, it isn’t that long ago since I read and reviewed the previous book in the series (see here) and I normally don’t read sequences close together because I’m always afraid that I will somehow lose interest, but in this case I was really keen to get my hands on this because the events follow on almost immediately from the previous story and I wanted to know what happens.

And it doesn’t disappoint, building on what’s gone before, developing the character of the enigmatic Mr Fox, and throwing in loads of absolutely fascinating information about the London Underground. As before, not going to discuss the plot as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone but as always I really, really enjoyed this. Not terribly eloquent as a review, but that just shows what too many Cosmopolitans can do to a woman; although I’m not entirely convinced that there is such a thing as too many Cosmopolitans, but that may be a Scottish thing.

And behind the curve as always, I discover that I’m one of the last to know that Mr Fowler has his own blog which is really worth reading; you can find it here.

TheVictoriaVanishesBryant49878_fSo in The Victoria Vanishes our favourite elderly detectives, Arthur Bryant and John¬† May become involved in yet another peculiar crime as women start turning up dead in London pubs. Not violently dead, you understand, but drugged and basically put to sleep. Bryant in particular has cause to be concerned as it becomes clear he saw one of the women shortly before her death entering a pub which, the following day, has mysteriously disappeared and possibly hasn’t actually existed since before the war. So, why are these women being killed? Why are they being killed in pubs? And what happened to The Victoria?

The joy of this novel isn’t just the plot, which is enjoyable and ingenious if a tiny wee bit far-fetched (a very minor quibble believe me), but the knowledge of and love for London which comes through every page. Fowler gives a list of the pubs frequented or at least mentioned in the book, and a number of them are in the area near my office (around Holborn, Fleet St, The Strand and Shaftesbury Avenue) and between us the Book God and I managed to identify a number that one or other or both of us had been in over the years we have lived in London. Sadly a lot of these pubs are beginning to be overrun by developers, but there are still one or two dotted around that are worth visiting, and they give a colourful backdrop to an enjoyable story.

And that brings August to an end and Crime Month¬†is over¬†for another year. I managed to read eight from what was quite an extensive list, and could quite happily have read more if the need to earn a living hadn’t inconveniently got in¬†the way!

So it’s August Bank Holiday and in London it’s¬† warm and humid but there is a promise of autumn (my favourite season) later in the week, and I am two thirds of the way through the Annual Lord of the Rings Extended Version DVD marathon which finishes this evening with (of course) The Return of the King. It’s only five weeks until I go on holiday, and I have Carl’s RIP IV challenge to participate in so what more could a girl need? Apart from a new handbag, of course…….

TheLanguageofBeesLaurie54241_fThe Language of Bees is the latest instalment in the tales of Mary Russell, wife to Sherlock Holmes, and starts off from the end of the last story (Locked Rooms) with Russell and Holmes arriving back to their home in Sussex to find one of the bee colonies deceased (if that’s what happens to hives) and a figure from Holmes’ past (and I’m not going to say who it is) looking for help. This starts a murder mystery which involves Mycroft (one of my favourite characters from the canon) and his extensive resources assisting¬†Russell and Holmes in travelling up and down the UK to visit some of the most ancient sites in the country, seeking a dangerous and influential man. I think. It’s quite hard to write about this without giving away too much of the plot, which is something I really don’t want to do as the intricacies of the story is what makes the series so successful, alongside as the lead characters of course.

I will put my cards on the table and say that years ago, when King first started writing this series I was sceptical; I loved Sherlock Holmes and couldn’t see him ever getting married, especially to a much younger woman. But I picked up The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and gave it a go, and was instantly hooked. The books are written with such affection for Holmes, Watson et al, Russell herself is a distinctive character, and the events of each (while often harking back on occasions to the past) are all set after Holmes has retired, so don’t really tinker with the mythology at all.

The only disappointment in relation to The Language of Bees is the phrase “to be continued” which appears at the end, and the knowledge that I have to wait untill sometime in 2010 to find out how this particular story develops.

Well worth reading, snatched out of my hands by the Book God as soon as I had finished it, and if you haven’t read any of the Russell stories, then you really should. Excellent.

AnExpertinMurderJosephine52125_fSo, In An Expert in Murder Nicola Upson has created a new mystery series around a real person, namely Elizabeth Mackintosh, best know to those of us who love crime and mysteries as the author Josephine Tey.

The setting is London’s Theatreland, where Josephine’s successful long-running play Richard of Bordeaux is coming to an end. At the beginning of the novel we see her travelling from her home in Inverness, and on the train she meets a fan, a young woman called Elspeth. They hit it off, but soon after the train arrives at King’s Cross, Elspeth is murdered. Josephine’s friend, Archie Penrose (the model for her fictional detective) is leading the case and Josephine herself soon becomes involved in finding out what secret from the past has led to this and other deaths.

I’m always fascinated when authors use real people in their novels, and I’m always pleased when they include an author’s note to tell you what and who is real, what’s conjecture, what’s totally fictional. I’ve also always liked Josephine Tey’s work, especially The Daughter of Time (though I didn’t agree with her conclusion, but that’s not the point) and hopefully her transition to a fictional character will popularise her work a bit more.

The novel really does invoke the period of the 1930s, and it was great fun reading about events taking place in streets very close to where I work in central London (though obviously it all looks very different now). And though it reads like a classic murder mystery of the golden age, the occasional swearword and the description of relationships that wouldn’t have been written about quite so openly at the time remind you that this is very much a modern novel.

I’m now really looking forward to the sequel, which comes out quite soon I think.

TheSeptemberSocietyCharles53587_fSo in The September Society Charles Lenox is approached by the widowed mother of an Oxford student who has gone missing leaving only a dead cat behind him in his rooms.

Lenox takes on the case and finds himself working with both the Oxford police and Scotland Yard as a dead student is found in a public space, and the name of the mysterious September Society keeps on turning up.

And as if this wasn’t enough, Lenox is wrestling with his feelings as he considers making changes in his own personal life.

Although I quite enjoyed this novel I didn’t find it to be as strong as the first in the series, which I reviewed here. I still like Lenox as a character, but found the whole thing about his private life got in the way of what could have been a cracking mystery, and I’m not sure why, because generally I like to see the lead character rounded out and not just be a pawn in the game of solving the mystery. I also think that it didn’t help that I had worked out one of the big reveals quite early on and was slightly annoyed that Lenox took so long to do so, although of course it would have been a much shorter book if he had.

So, pretty solid and likeable but not as gripping as it might have been. Probably won’t stop me reading the next one though. Oh and once again I really liked the cover…

AmongtheMadJacquelineWin53129_fSo Among the Mad is the fifth in the increasingly excellent Maisie Dobbs series, and finds our heroine in London on Christmas Eve 1931, where she and her faithful right-hand man witness what we would call now a suicide bomber blow himself up in a busy street.

Although she doesn’t know the man involved, Maisie is soon drawn into the case when she is named in a letter which follows the bombing and it becomes clear that some sort of campaign is afoot. Maisie finds herself trying to apply her unique methods of working while assigned to Scotland Yard, and with all of the cases she has been involved in before now, the shadow of the First World War is never too far away.

I really like Maisie as a character and was pleased to see that this story matched up to the previous volumes. The psychological impact of the war on all of those involved in whatever capacity comes across very strongly in the novel, and it’s worth remembering that returning soldiers were not always treated as well as they deserved given what they had suffered, as much because the rest of the population wanted to move on, and of course the Depression also had an effect. The author manages to get this detail into the story without being too heavy handed and I thought it worked very well.

It’s also nice to see Maisie’s own personal story develop, not just in relation to her family and friends but with the people who have become her colleagues in investigating this case, whether she has chosen them or not.

A good solid read for a warm and humid summer.

august-crimeI don’t like August very much. It can be too hot (though the weather here in London up till now has suggested otherwise, but I bet a mini-heatwave will sneak up on me when I least expect it); all my friends and a large proportion of my team at work head off on holiday (and I get grumpy because my hols aren’t until October but they’ll all miss me when I’m not here, just wait and see); there is very little on TV and¬†all of these things added together mean that I¬†get very bored very easily.

But there are two things that help to keep me going. One is the BBC Proms (and I am going to five concerts this year between 4 August and 12 September) and the other is Crime Month on Bride of the Book God. Because of all the things I’ve said above, I don’t want to read anything too heavy or difficult where my brain has to work even though I’m sitting in a hot train trying to manage a bottle of water, a fan, my bags, my iPod and a book, and crime fiction has been the perfect solution in the past.

So between now and August Bank Holiday (after which life gets back to a semblance of normality) I intend to read as many of the following as I possibly can (in no particular order):

Broken Skin, Flesh House and Blind Eye, all by Stuart MacBride

The Victoria Vanishes and Bryant and May on the Loose by Christopher Fowler

When Will There be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

In the Dark by Mark Billingham

An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson

Dead Clever by Scarlett Thomas

Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs

After the Armistice Ball by Catriona McPherson

Oscar Wilde and a Game Called Murder by Giles Brandreth

The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen

The September Society by Charles Finch

Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

I hope that the Language of Bees by Laurie King will arrive very shortly and if it does it will almost immediately go to the top of the pile. And I’ve made a start with The Dead of Winter by Rennie Airth. If you’ve read any of the above I’d love to know what you think.

Bride of the Book God

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Scottish, in my fifties, love books but not always able to find the time to read them as much as I would like. I’m based in London and happily married to the Book God.

I also blog at Bride of the Screen God (all about movies and TV) and The Dowager Bride, if you are interested in ramblings about stuff of little consequence

If you would like to get in touch you can contact me at brideofthebookgod (at) btinternet (dot) com.

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April 2021