Reading Highlights – October 2013

October was quite similar reading wise to September. Once again I only managed to read five books. And a very mixed bag they were too. A couple of crime novels, two non fiction books and a hard to categorize novel from Argentina. The list included just one audio book. All bar one were very enjoyable and interesting.

DBDyingDead Before Dying is the first novel by Afrikaans writer Deon Meyer. I have read most of his work now, so it was good to go back in time to his first offering. Published in 1999 it has many of the by now familiar themes in Meyer’s work – fast paced action, lots of intrigue and an insight into the tensions within post apartheid South Africa. This one features Mat Joubert as an alcoholic, depressed detective. Still failing to come to terms with the murder of his wife, he is a bit of a mess. A new case, a new chief and an attractive therapist all combine to get Joubert back to the world of the living. And to solving a series of murders. Very fine debut, with a couple of unexpected twists.

BMImg_229531_BDOLImageTempExposed is the first novel I have come across by Swedish author Liza Marklund. I listened to the audio version and very good it was. Marklund has written over 12 crime novels and her heroine is a journalist, Annika Bengtzon. Exposed is the second novel in the series, though it is the first in time sequence, as it goes back to Annika’s first job as a temporary reporter with a newspaper in Stockholm. There she gets involved in what turns out to be a intricate intertwining of a sleazy sexual murder, political corruption and newspaper infighting. As a young inexperienced reporter she has a very hard time of it, particularly as her own personal relationships become involved. Though we do find out who done it as it were, the cases are not fully resolved. Life just has to go on. Very good and thought provoking stuff. I will definitely continue with this series.

tapa-blanco-nocturnoBlanco Nocturno is the difficult to classify novel. By renowned Argentinian writer, Ricardo Piglia, Blanco Nocturno is superficially a crime novel. But only superficially, for the novel is in many ways an unsettling read, which takes you all over the place, almost literally. There is a crime to solve, at least one crime, for there may be more. One is never quite sure about what has happened in this tale. Set primarily in the Argentine provinces, hundreds of miles away from anywhere, there is a definite feel of claustrophobia about the place. Intriguingly there is no main character in the novel. To begin with it looks like detective Croce will be the one to guide us through the morass, but later on a new arrival, an outsider, in journalist Emilio Renzi becomes the main focus for developing the narrative. The murder of another outsider, Tony Duran, is just the starting point for an exploration of the uncertainties of what motivates people. The novel moves forward through a series of different perspectives, all of which may be unreliable. Piglia himself has written, “There should be a new kind of detective novel, paranoid fiction. Everyone is a suspect, everyone feels persecuted. The criminal is no longer an isolated individual, but rather a member of a group who has absolute power. No one understands what is happening, the clues and testimonies are contradictory and keep suspicion in the air because they can change with each perspective.” Blanco Nocturno certainly fits this bill.

The other two books I read were both about Scottish football. Saving Scottish Football by Paul Goodwin is a little book with a big aim. The subtitle is What we need to do next, and Goodwin hopes that his book will provide us with an insight into the biggest issues in football in Scotland and to offer potential solutions. Quite a task, and if the book had even provided us with some genuine analysis this would have been a useful contribution. Alas the book does no such thing. It seems to be based solely on Goodwin’s own, limited experience with Stirling Albion and talking to a variety of ex players and managers in Scotland. There is no real analysis of the game, nor is there any international comparisons whatever. His potential solutions are a mix of his personal preferences and some things just plucked out of the air from apparently nowhere. How else can you describe his suggestion for a football draft as applied in the USA. Not worth reading. I have already commented on a couple of the issues he raises here.

Touring Scotland’s Football Grounds is not yet a book. It is the tale of one person’s adventure in visiting all 42 of the football grounds in Scotland in one season. That person is my nephew, Martin. He started a blog to share his experiences and has now put all the visits together and is hoping that they might find a publisher. I had the pleasure of proofreading the text. Which meant I got a preview of the whole thing. It is an enjoyable, interesting and humorous account of the travails of getting to and from football grounds. It offers an insight into what goes on at each of the grounds and a glimpse of some of the people who help keep Scottish football on the go, week in week out. You can get a snapshot of the tour by visiting the website.

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