Reading Highlights – November 2015

In November I managed to up my reading quota to eight books. Half of them were in audiobook format, which helps enormously to increase the number of books I can devour in a month. As usual a mixture of crime and general fiction novels, though it is a times difficult to know when a book is strictly speaking a crime novel. Anyway here is the complete list for November.

Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, by Hilary Mantel – a collection of short stories.

Hunkeler macht Sachen, by Hansjörg Schneider – a very grumpy and out of sorts Hunker in the fifth case for the Basel detective.

A rush of blood,  by Quintin Jardine – some more bloody murders for Bob Skinner of the Edinburgh force to deal with.

Dead Girl Walking, by Chris Brookmeyer – the latest in the series featuring maverick  journalist Jack Parlabane.

Sydney Chambers and the problem of evil, by James Runcie – a collection of short stories involving Church of England vicar and amateur sleuth, Sydney Chambers.

Devil’s Peak, by Deon Meyer – the first of Meyer’s novels to feature  detective Benny Griessel from Cape Town as the lead character.

Matthew’s tale, by Quintin Jardine – the story of former soldier Matthew Fleming and how he makes his way in Scotland after the end of the Napoleonic wars.

The day is dark, by Yrsa Sigurdardottir – the Icelandic lawyer is once again caught up in a murder mystery. This time in snowbound and frozen Greenland.

All the books were enjoyable and all well worth reading. Three stood out though as particularly good. Dead Girl Walking is a very exciting and quite ambitious novel. Disgraced and outcast journalist, Jack Parlabane is hired to unravel an intriguing mystery – the disappearance of star rock singer Heike Gunn, just before a highly rewarding tour of the USA. To complement the third person narrative, we also have extracts, and insights from the diary of another member of the group – Monica, a young fiddle player from Shetland. The story takes us around Europe and ends in an exciting, thrilling and unexpected denouement.

I had read all but the latest of the Benny Griessel series. So is was quite intriguing to come upon his first appearance as the main character in Devil’s Peak. Benny’s life is a real mess and he has a constant battle with his alcoholism. However he is a very good detective and in Devil’s Peak he is charged with finding what appears to be a serial killer. To add to the mystery, the victims were all involved in the rape and murder of very young children. The story is told from the perspective of three of the protagonists. One is Thobela Mpayipheli, a former freedom fighter. Early on we know he is the killer and why. The second narrative line comes from Christine, a prostitute who confesses to a church minister, and of course the police investigation led by Benny himself, provides the third narrative perspective. Just how these three strands will eventually cross and coalesce provides the glue which keeps us enthralled until the surprising ending. Deon Meyer is an Afrikaner and his novels are a wonderful and enjoyable insight into the complex world of post apartheid South Africa.

Matthew’s tale is Quintin Jardine’s first foray into historical fiction and a very good tale it is. The setting is rural Lanarkshire in the decades after the end of the Napoleonic wars. Into this peaceful backwater returns Matthew Fleming after his stint fighting the French. He hopes to be reunited with his sweetheart Elizabeth, but alas, his mother and the whole village believed him dead, due to a wrongly sent letter. So Matthew returns to find Elizabeth a married woman. However he stays in the area and becomes a rich and successful businessman, due to his skill in the leather industry. Matthew himself marries and it seems as though all will end well. But that was never really likely as there is bad blood between Matthew and the nasty, dissolute heirs to the local laird. One of the heirs is murdered and Elizabeth’s husband is arrested and falsely charged with the crime. Can Matthew save the man? Can justice be found? This is a fine novel with the beginnings of the transformation of Scotland into the new industrial world of coal, iron and railways as its background. Added to this is the corruption at the heart of the judicial system in Edinburgh. However the true heart of the novel is the love between Matthew and Elizabeth.




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