Reading Highlights – June 2014

Like the previous month I only managed to read six books in June.  This time around it was a bit of a reversion to type as all but two were crime novels and only one of the authors was new to me. For the first month in a long time I failed to read a non fiction book, nor did I manage to keep up my book a month in Spanish.  Still the ones I did read were all enjoyable, if not exactly exciting.

The one new writer was HRF Keating, an Englishman who wrote a series of 26 novels featuring Inspector Ghote of the Bombay police. The one I read was Inspector Ghote breaks an egg. It is an enjoyable tale, set in a provincial town. It is the sixth in the series and was published way back in 1970. Keating does paint a rather stereotypical portrait of post independence India. Perhaps due to the fact that he only visited the country after he had written the first 10 novels.

Anne Holt is another prolific writer of crime mysteries. I have read a couple of her novels, but Blind Goddess is an early work and the first to feature police detective Hanne Wilhemsen of the Oslo police. First published in Norway in 1993 it is an exciting tale which involves not just murder, but a bit of corruption in high places as well. I think I will be reading more of this series.

Alex Gray is another well read author on my part. I read the Swedish Girl last month and this time I followed it up with her latest mystery to feature Inspector Lorrimer, The Bird that did not sing. Another very good and gritty tale. This one is bang up to date as it revolves around a planned terrorist attempt on the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

The fourth of the crime novels from last month was Tatiana by American writer Martin Cruz Smith. This is the latest in his series of novel to feature Moscow detective Arkady Renko. I have read the first of this series, Gorky Park, which dates from 1981  and went on to become a very successful film. So this is my second encounter with Arkady Renko. Set more or less in the very recent past, Tatiana is another very good read. As well as murder and a bit of mayhem we get into the world of Russian gangsters and their links with leading politicians. Tatiana is an investigative journalist and it is her suspicious suicide which provides the starting point for the excitement and mystery which follows.

Last month I also managed to read another instalment in Alexander McCall Smith’s gentle series featuring the world of philosopher and amateur sleuth, Elizabeth Dalhousie. The Uncommon appeal of clouds is a typical Dalhousie novel. A bit of poking around into the affairs of others, further developments in the personal life of Elizabeth and lots of gentle reflections on the meaning of life and of living a good life.

Kate Atkinson is another of my favourite authors and she has returned with a bang. Never a writer to stand still, she has once again moved into new territory with her latest novel, Life after Life. The heroine, of the novel is Ursula Todd. But in a daring and audacious break with the norms of storytelling, Atkinson gives us a range of alternative outcomes for Ursula Todd. Right from the beginning when it appears that baby Ursula dies at birth. But in the very next chapter she survives as a healthy child. The novel continues in this vein. It can be quite disturbing to follow at times, as some of Ursula’s alternative lives appear at first to be very similar to the previous one. Weaved into this innovative tale is a very moving account of a young girl growing up in England between the wars and then surviving, or not, the horrors of the blitz in London.  Very good!

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