Reading Review – April, 2015

I seemed to have settled on completing five books in a month. This was my total for both March and April. A bit of a mixed bunch this time around. Two general fiction and three crime novels. I did not manage to keep up with my Spanish reading challenge this time, though I did succeed with a German language novel. A couple of audio books were part of the total.

HHHH by French writer Laurent Binet, was the book choice of our reading group. I was very much looking forward to this book, as I generally enjoy historical fiction and Europe during the Nazi period offer a rich vein of subject matter. Alas this was not a very good read. The title HHHH refers to the initial letters of the German words for Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich, a popular nickname from the period. The book is ostensibly about Heydrich and his murder at the hands of two Czechoslovak resistance fighters. While Binet does include a lot of fascinating information about all of the characters involved, none of it hangs together. Binet seems to have two aims with this novel. One is to play around with the notion of historical facts and research. He continually quotes someone, only to then cast doubts on the quote or to admit it was all made up by himself. His second aim seems to have been to glorify himself and in particular his sexual exploits with a succession of very attractive women. A bit of a waste on a potentially interesting subject.

The Invisible One by Stef Penney is about the mysterious disappearance of a young mother. What makes this mystery a bit more interesting is that the woman in question is a gypsy. Though a private detective, himself part gypsy, is brought in to help solve the mystery, the novel is more about the gypsies and their own code of honour and their interactions with the rest of society. Written in an unusual format, with successive chapters written in the voice of each of the main characters, this was an enjoyable book.

Night Train to Jamalpur is an unusual crime novel by Andrew Martin. It is part of a series, all of which feature railway detective Jim Stringer. It is 1923 and Jim is on secondment in India and has to investigate a murder on the train of the title. It is quite a slow paced novel and the main attraction is its portrayal of the social and political intricacies of life in India under the Raj.

Bricks and Mortality by Ann Grainger is another in her series of crime mysteries set in the Cotswolds.  Inspector Jess Campbell and Superintendent Ian Carter are once again called upon to investigate when a dead body is discovered in a burned down manor. Lots of personal animosities and social antagonisms make this a complex case. This is the second in this series I have read and both are good, easy reading mysteries, set in a beautiful part of England.

Rütli Schwur is the German language book I read last month.  It is a crime novel by Michael Theurillat which had the added attraction of being set in Zurich and Einsiedeln, with a few detours to rural Ireland. It is a rather complex novel which has the banking crisis as its background. Not an easy read, at least not for me in German. Still it was worth persevering with. A member of a private bank in Zurich goes missing and is later found murdered. Kommissar Eschenbach of the Zurich police is tasked with solving the murder. But he also was working, temporarily, at the same bank and is badly attacked at the time of the murder. He recovers in the monastery in Einsiedeln with the help of the monks and a mysterious young woman called Judith. As Eschenbach recovers and delves into the murder he gets drawn into the very complex and highly secretive world of Swiss security and banking.

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