Reading Highlights – January 2013

2013 has gotten off to a good start reading wise.  I managed to read eight books, including two audiobooks.  While half the books were in the crime genre, I did manage to fit in two non-fiction reads.    The list included works by three authors new to me.  These were Snowdrops by A D Miller, Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie and Budapest Noir, a crime novel set in Budapest in 1936 by Hungarian writer Vilmos Kondor.  The other crime novels were by old favourites.  Birthdays for the Dead, another violent murder mystery from Stuart Macbride; The Beautiful Mystery, the latest in the Inspector Gamache series set in Québec, by Louise Penny and La Playa de los Ahogados/Death on a Galician Shore, the second outing for Inspector Leo Caldas, by Domingo Villar.  I read this one in Spanish to keep up my monthly quota of books in that language.  The list for January is completed with Dark Summer in Bordeaux by Allan Massie and The Gift by Lewis Hyde.  This is an amazing book, really a series of essays on creativity and how artists engage with society and the economy.  So much in this book, that I will need to reread bits of it to comprehend it all.  In addition to Dark Summer in Bordeaux which I have already reviewed here, the other books worth a special mention are:

SnowdropsSnowdrops by AD Miller, a novel about how easily western people can be corrupted by life in Moscow.  The author who worked for a spell in Moscow as a journalist has written a wonderfully compact tale of the willing descent into self deception of the main character, Nick Platt, a lawyer working in Moscow in the early 2000s.  Blinded by his lustful obsession for the beautiful Masha and the glamour of life in Moscow, he is slowly but surely drawn into a web of deceit, corruption and betrayal.

sightlineSightlines is a collection of essays on nature and the environment by Scottish writer Kathleen Jamie.  Most of the essays are set in bleak, barren and remote landscapes – Rona, St Kilda and other isolated islands.  While the essays are mainly about the landscapes and the wildlife to be found on and around the islands, she is also interested in the interaction, for good or bad between humans and the environment.  There are two almost stand alone essays which are set indoors, one in the pathology dept at Ninewells hospital in Dundee and the other in the whale museum in Bergen in Norway.  But the essence and joy of the collection is the outdoors and the thrill of seeing and experiencing nature in the raw.  A particular memory for me is her sighting of a family of killer whales looping around the island of Rona.  You can just feel her excitement and exhilaration at this discovery.

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