Reading Highlights – May 2016

Almost back to normal reading wise last month. Down to six books, well, in reality five books and three short stories. Four crime novels. Once again no non-fiction, which continues to surprise me. Though I guess I read a lot on politics and current affairs online. Anyway, back to the books, this time they included two by authors new to me, both very good, as were the others.

Present Darkness, by Malla Nunn – this is the fourth (and last?) novel set in the early years of apartheid in South Africa. Once again Detective Emmanuel Cooper and his Zulu colleague Detective Constable Samuel Shabalala combine to solve another murder mystery. This time the prime suspect is Shabalala’s eldest son, and the victims are two white people. Not an easy task for the duo, ably aided and abetted by Dr Daniel Zweigman. Will be disappointed if this is the last in this excellent series.

The Serbian Dane, by Leif Davidsen – more of a thriller than a crime novel, the narrative revolves around the attempt by Vuk, the Serbian Dane of the title, to assassinate Iranian author Sara Santana. The Iranians have placed a fatwa on her and Vuk has been hired, via a Russian connection to kill her. Santana is due to come out of hiding for a press conference in Copenhagen. Tasked with protecting her are Per Toftlund from the Danish police and Lise Carsten the journalist who is organising the visit. Will they succeed in foiling Vuk’s mission? This is the second of Davidsen’s novels I have now read. The first was the Woman from Bratislava, another very good thriller.

Un barco cargado de arroz, by Alicia Gimenez Bartlett – the latest in the Petra Delicado series set in Barcelona. This time the victim is a homeless person. No witnesses, nothing to go on, it looks like this will be a very short unresolved case. But Petra is nothing if not determined and a bit bloody minded to boot. With her regular sidekick, Fermín Garzón and the additional help of Yolanda Santos, from the guardia urbana, Petra embarks on a lengthy investigation which leads her deeper and deeper into the dark side of Barcelona.

Everyone Lies, by A D Garrett – this is the first novel to feature Detective Inspector Kate Simms and forensic scientist Nick Fennimore. Theirs is a very strange relationship.  Both are trying resurrect their careers after both were demoted five years previously for their involvement in a botched investigation into the disappearance of Fennimore’s daughter. Simms is now in Manchester trying to solve some unexplained drug related deaths. Her investigation at an impasse when she calls up Fennimore, now a lecturer in Aberdeen. The two decide to work together, but without informing Kate’s superiors. A dangerous tactic which leads to evermore complications and dangers for both Kate and Nick. A.D. Garrett is the pseudonym of writing duo Margaret Murphy, an award winning writer, and Professor Dave Barclay, a renowned forensics expert.

The Girl who wrote in silk, by Kelli Estes – this is a sad, but lovely and finally uplifting tale from a dark chapter in American history, the expulsion of Chinese people in the 1880s. As a consequence of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Chinese living in Seattle, including those born in the USA are rounded up and expelled. A ruthless, and racist ship owner, Duncan Campbell, decides to dump the Chinese on board his ship. Only one survives, Mei Lien, a young girl. Her story forms one part of the novel. The other is the current day story of   Inara Ericsson, great-great-great granddaughter of the same Duncan Campbell. Inara discovers  a piece of elaborately embroidered cloth hidden in the family’s island home. It is this embroidery and the story written on it that eventually links the two protagonists, Inara and Mei Lien. A wonderful story which personalises and exposes a nasty part of America’s history. Not that we are exempt from this here in the UK or in Europe. Strange that so many people need to find someone else to blame for their difficulties.

Three short stories, by Anton Chekhov – I am very slowly and intermittently working my way through the collection of Chekhov’s stories translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. The three I read last month were: The house with the mezzanine; The man in a case; and Gooseberries. All rather sad, but very illuminating of the complexities of being human.




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