Reading Highlights – October 2012

October was a bit of a difficult month for reading.  We had a lovely visit by Emma and Alessio and then I was off to Nablus for a week.  All this meant less time for reading, so I am quite pleased that I did manage to complete six novels and three short stories.  No great progress in any of my reading challenges alas.  Though I did get back to reading in German again.  The third in the Inspector Hunkeler series set in Basel – Das Paar im Kahn(the couple in the boat) – by Swiss writer Hans Jörg Schneider.  The murder of a young Turkish woman bothers Hunkeler, who does not accept the official explanation.  I also came across two new authors, Gil Courtemanche, a French Canadian writer, who wrote A Sunday at the pool in Kigali, and Ann Granger who wrote Mud, Muck and Dead Things, a murder mystery set in the Costswolds.  I only managed one audio book, The Lost Art of Gratitude, by Alexander Mccall Smith.  This was my first venture into the gentle inquisitive world of Isabel Dalhousie, and most enjoyable it was too.  I also read In the Darkness, another in the inspector Sejer novels by Norwegian author Karin Fossum.  More dark tales of murder from Scandinavia. Must be the long dark winters.  Good novel though.   I continue my slow progress through the works of Australian crime writer Peter Temple. I love his work and this one was Black Tide, the second in the Jack Irish series.   Finally I read three short stories from my Anton Chekhov collection – A Boring Story, Gusev and Peasant Women.  All beautifully crafted, but very bleak tales.  Apart from the Chekhov stories and A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali, the other books were all crime novels.  I must try and branch out a bit more, but I enjoy the crime genre so much this will prove difficult.  Two particular books deserve a bit more comment.

Black Tide by Peter Temple is the second novel in the Jack Irish series.  More mystery for the barely legal Irish to sort out in his inimitable way.  For the uninitiated Jack Irish is a part time lawyer who spends much/most of his time helping a skilled cabinet maker and participating in horse racing gambles.  Now and again he somehow gets involved in rather complicated and exciting murder mysteries.  Black Tide is no exception.  It starts off as a simple missing person, but soon degenerates into the murkier and messier depths of the Victorian underworld.  Temple’s writing can take a bit of getting used to.  A bit sparse and full of Australian slang, Jack Irish inhabits a very tough and violent world. – Melbourne to you and me.  Great stuff and well worth a try.

A Sunday at the pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche is set in and around Kigali, the capital of Rwanda in 1994 at the time of the infamous genocide.  The novel explores and exposes the hatreds behind this genocide.  The author does so through the lens of an expatriate French Canadian journalist, Valcourt who has been living in Rwanda for some four years.  Valcourt is a bit washed up when the story begins, but he is aroused out of his lethargy when he falls in love with Gentille, a young Rwandan.  Gentille as a character sums up the tragedy of Rwanda.  She is officially registered as a Hutu, but looks like a Tutsi.  So she condemned to die at the hands of the Hutu extremists for whom it is not enough to just be a Rwandan.  Valcourt exposes the stupidity behind this racist thinking which dates back to the Belgian and German colonisation of the country.  The other great theme of the book is AIDS, and how it devasted the country and how its very existence was denied by the authorities.   The novel is populated by some rich and entertaining characters, most of whom are based on real people.  The deaths were real too.  A tender insight into one of the worst tragedies of the last century.

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