Reading Highlights – August 2012

August was another good month for good books.  I managed eight, including three audio books.  Three of the books were authors new to me – Robert Peston, Toni Hill and Jassy Mackenzie.  The majority were again crime novels.  Of the none crime books, one, Who Rules Britain, by Robert Peston was non fiction.  The book dates from 2008 and offers a colourful history of some of the key people from the financial and business world who contributed in one way or another to the financial collapse.  Quite good, but I would have liked a bit more analysis of how they got away with it.  The Glass Palace, by Amitav Ghosh is a marvellous and sweeping account of three generations of people living in Burma, Malaya and India.  Wonderful novel, which I have reviewed here.

I didn’t make much progress with my various Reading Challenges.  A couple more Nordic novels – Phantom by Jo Nesbø and My Soul to Take by Yrsa Sigurdardsdottir.  I also managed to get back to reading a book in Spanish – El Verano de los Juguetes by Toni Hill.  The other novels were A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny and Stolen Lives by Jassy Mckenzie.  The last was an audio CD version of two of Alexander McCall Smith’s No 1 Ladies Detective Agency stories which were turned into radio plays for the BBC.  Stolen Lives is another excellent crime novel by a South African writer.  I have already reviewed it here, so below are brief notes on some of the other highlights from August.

Phantom is the latest in the Harry Hole series by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø.  I have enjoyed all of this series so far, starting with Redbreast, the first to be translated into English.  Phantom is another cracker of a book and this time it is even more personal than ever.  Again set in Oslo, this is another dark and pretty bleak tale, with a very surprising and perplexing ending.

A trick of the Light is the latest in another cracking crime series.   This one by Canadian writer Louise Penny and featuring Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté de Québec.  This was the first of her novels I have listened to in audio form and very interesting this was too.  It was good to hear some voices to the by now familiar characters.  The novels are all set in the small English speaking village of Three Pines, though this one finds Inspector Gamache in Québec city, recovering from a shooting while on duty.  This is essentially three stories and most unusually one of them is a kind of follow up to the previous case in the series.  Very good novel.

El Verano de los Juguetes/The Summer of Dead Toys. This is the first novel by Barcelona writer Toni Hill and a very impressive debut.  The story pans out over five hot summer days in Barcelona.  The main character is an Argentinian police detective, Hector Salgado, who is officially off duty due to beating up a suspect in a case of sex trafficking.  While this case continues to be investigated by Salgado’s former partner Martina Andreu, Salgado is unofficially asked to look into the case of what appears to be the accidental death of a teenager from a very rich and influential Barcelona family.  The two stories develop in parallel and eventually link together in an unexpected way.  This allows Hill to explore all aspects of modern Barcelona from the rich to the very poorest of the new immigrants.  Salgado himself is a very complex person as indeed are the other main characters.  This is a richly woven work and particularly rewarding to people like me who just love Barcelona.

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