Reading Highlights – June 2012

June was a rather disappointing month reading wise.  I only managed to complete six books.  I say completed as I did start another one – The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers.  I was looking forward to this one immensely as I it has received many positive reviews.  It was published in 1903 and counts as a vintage mystery novel.  The only mystery as far as I could see was what all the fuss was about.  It was ostensibly a spy mystery tale in and around the North Sea coast of Germany.  But little of real interest or action happened.  At least not in the hundred and more pages I persevered with.

I did enjoy the other six books though.  As ever most were crime novels, four in fact.  All by old favourites.  Two are Scottish writers – Chris Bookmeyer and Philip Kerr.  Bookmeyer writes very funny, witty and borderline scurrilous tales about modern Scotland.  Murder and mayhem are everpresent.  In Boiling A Frog the subject of his ire was the hypocrisy of New Labour at Holyrood and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in Scotland.  Almost unbelievable at times, but very funny.  The Pale Criminal is the second in Philip Kerr’s trilogy set in Berlin under the Nazis.  This is another gripping and atmospheric mystery, which involves real characters from the period.  The main storyline revolves around the lead up to the infamous Kristallnacht attacks on Jews.

The other two crime novels were by Scandinavian authors.  Hour of the Wolf is by Swedish writer Håkan Nesser.  This is another one in the Van Weeteren series.  This time the inspector is retired, but is called upon to help out with a series of murders.  Van Weeteren is personally involved in this case as one of the murder victims is his own son.  Fear Not is by Norwegian author Anne Holt and is a complex tale featuring family feuds and the savage work of a fundamentalist anti-gay group.  Gripping stuff.

The other two books were rather surprisingly both non-fiction.  The first was The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sands, which I have already reviewed here.   The other was the first volume of Max Hasting’s comprehensive account of the Second World War.  This was one of the four audio books I listened to last month.  Hasting’s book is entitled All Hell Let Loose, which is a succinct description of the horrors of that war.  The book covers all the theatres of the war and does not specially focus on Europe.  He also highlights that it was the Soviet Union that bore the brunt of the fighting against Nazi Germany.  He is also good at exposing the incompetences in the UK leadership during the war.  Volume One covers the years from 1939 to early 1942.  This is an excellent history of the war, enlivened by personal testimonies from some of the participants, from generals to lowly foot soldiers.  I have already started the second and final volume.

All in all some very good books and it was good to get back into reading some history again.  Must keep this up.

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