2016 has been a slow year so far. I am woefully behind on my goodreads challenge and chances of catching up seem abysmally low. I have kept up with some of the series that I have been following over the years and have started with some great new series. Continuing with my practice of trying to read books set in as many different countries as possible, I have so far read books from 18 countries. Europe tops the list as usual but I have also made conscious efforts to read good books from Africa and Australia.
Europe – 8 Countries – 13 books
I am an armchair traveler and normally do not bother to venture out of my cozy reading nook, but if there is one place that I absolutely must visit, its Scotland, thanks to Ian Rankin’s John Rebus and Peter May’s haunting Lewis Trilogy. Now add Mark Douglas Home’s wonderful The Sea Detective series and Scotland wins the top place in my travel bucket list hands down. The Sea Detective presents Cal McGill, an Oceanography student with passion for studying sea currents. Mark Douglas Home makes this obscure field interesting with solid plots and sedate yet engaging pace. Plus the first book has a strong Indian connection.
I also kept up with John Rebus. Even Dogs in the Wild is yet another masterpiece from Ian Rankin. Age has mellowed down Rebus somewhat but he still retains his sarcasm and wicked charm. Rankin has given wider berth to Siobhan Clarke and Malcom Fox in this book with a separate plot for each of them. There are three intertwined plots that culminate at climax.
Then there is London, the most visited city of my book sojourns. I started with Judith Flanders‘ sparkling new series set in London featuring book editor Samantha “Sam” Clair. This series looks like a cozy mystery but the plots are complex, move at a fast clip and are interspersed with humor. This is a fun series to read and I will be awaiting its next book.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie has an extraordinary heroin – 11 year old Chemistry wunderkind Flavia de Luce living in a picturesque English village in the 50s. Having two rival elder teenage sisters to consistently fight with, Flavia is a tough girl who is equal measure smart and athletic. She gets embroiled in a suspicious death that opens a thirty year old theft of a rare stamp and a possible murder cleverly disguised as suicide. This is a fast paced book and I will be definitely following Flavia’s future exploits.
Dan Fesperman’s books based in war torn former Yugoslavia featuring policeman Vlado Petric are hidden gems. I really like Vlado. He is a conscientious man in an increasingly polarized society. Vlado, is a tortured soul who toils for justice even though he can see the futility of his efforts. In The Small Boat of Great Sorrows Vlado finds himself on the scent of a war criminal but is actually being used as a pawn in a greater game. He also finds a dark secret about his silent and brooding father that will change his life.
I have kept pace with Inspector Montalbano. Camilleri’s books are predictable with their usual twists and turns but they still manage to take me on a joy ride in Montalbano’s fictional town Vigata. But Blade of Light is different from earlier books. Montalbano contemplates his lost relationships as he grows old and is forlorn at the end, faced with a terrible personal tragedy.
I started with two new series with Gary Corby’s The Pericles Commission and Lindsey Davis’s The Silver Pigs set in ancient Greece and Rome respectively. Both series have smart protagonists, private eyes of their respective era and equally charismatic leading ladies who play an important role in the story. Loosely based on Greek and Roman history, their plots are enticing enough to coerce me in following these series.
Zygmunt Miłoszewski’s Entanglement was on my TBR list for a long time and the book lives up to its top billing. Public prosecutor Teodor Szacki is not a man who is exactly out there to win brownie points from readers. He is a lone wolf, going through a stagnant marriage, flirting with a young reporter and loathes his colleagues. Szacki is overworked, underpaid and yet ardently covets truth. The book is slow, the plot, a simmering cauldron that takes its time to boil and readers of fast paced crime novels may want to skip it. But it’s a classic ‘Locked Room’ mystery and I liked the psychological twists of the arcane therapeutic sessions involving equally depressed cast of characters.
Chris Pavone’s The Expats is set in Luxembourg. It has a strong female lead in Kate Moore. This is a spy thriller where nobody is what they claim to be or seem to be. Even Kate. Kate thinks that she has left her spying days behind and is trying to be a devout housewife and mother of two young kids, but her past will not let her escape so easily. However when her past catches up with her, the attack comes from unexpected quarters and is not aimed at her but her boring IT whiz-kid husband. The Expats is fast paced and even though you can guess the twists beforehand, it’s still an engaging read.
When I started with Holy Orders I was not aware that Benjamin Black is the pseudonym of celebrated author John Banville. Dr. Quirke is a brooding, melancholy pathologist from 1950s Dublin with its suffocating catholic hold and a conservative society. Quirke is dealing with his demons, both real and imaginary. The novel is not high on mystery, I found the plot quite straightforward. What makes it different is its characters – Dr. Quirke, Inspector Hackett, Quirke’s daughter Phoebe and even other minor characters. Banville writes with lyrical prose, the novel has a dark, atmospheric feel. It can be read as a standalone book but I felt that there are threads from past books, earlier events that have shaped the characters. I had the impression that reading the series in order may help me understand Quirke’s maladies better.
I will continue with my 2016 books from other continents in my next post.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your time.