I can't believe almost two weeks has gone by since I last posted! I really thought it was only last week since I posted.....I've been under the weather, and very happily reading. I've read 4 books so far this month! You already have the review for The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke. So I thought for this very late Sunday night, I'd give a short review for the other three books.
Blood on the Strand - Susanna Gregory - Book 2 in the Thomas Chaloner series. Set in 1663 London, this book sees Chaloner asked by Lord Clarendon, for whom he works, to investigate the murder of wealthy merchant and a vagrant who tried to attack the king outside Whitehall. I don't know if it was the aftereffects of Christmas, but I kept falling asleep through the first half of the book. I didn't matter when I tried to read it, I'd start dozing within a few lines. I finally made myself sit and read it for over an hour one day this new year, and the longer period of reading helped. There is a long period of set-up, and lots of double-dealing with the agents, lots of potential murderers. This is all made more complex by the Castle Plot failed set in Ireland before this book opens but many of the same spies are back and are named in a conspirator letter that sees some sentenced to death, which the vagrant turns out to be one of, and so the mystery deepens. Why was Chaloner left off the list? Why are some freed on a King's pardon and others not? Who killed Matthew Webb, and why? There are all sorts of subplots here, which I am glad to say finally in the last quarter of the book satisfyingly pull together. I do enjoy Thomas Chaloner as a character, and there is a serious twist to the ending that caught me unprepared - it's quite good. So while it starts off slowly, there is really good characterization, dialogue, and Restoration London comes to life. It's a 3.5/5 read. I will continue on with this series.
Arctic Chill - Arnaldur Indridason. This is so good! I can see why it made so many lists over at Kerrie's Top Ten Mysteries Poll she was running at the beginning of this year. You, my dear readers, know that I have been talking about Indridason for over a year now, ever since I read Silence of the Grave and Tainted Blood. I can't recommend this series enough. It is well-thought out police-procedural with a main character who is very quiet and a very astute observer of people, although not of himself. It's only in this book that he really begins to wonder how his disappearance from his children's lives has affected them, even as he continues to reveal slowly the deeper aspects of his childhood before and after his brother died, and how that has affected him. It's interesting that he doesn't talk about how burying himself in the snow to survive has affected him, but that's part of the charm of this series. There is time to learn, time to puzzle it out, even as he throws himself into murders to solve them. It is the ones who die alone who get to him,which he admits in Arctic Chill is because of his brother, the ones whose mysteries he has to solve while he waits to solve what happened to his brother all those years ago. This haunting sense envelopes this particular book, as it did the previous one (The Draining Lake, which I have sadly yet to review from last year!). A boy dies alone, and the book is about the investigation into his death.
I found this a moving book to read because the victim's death reminded me a real-life case, of Damilolo Taylor, who was murdered in London in 2000. I don't want to say much more about Damilolo's case because this book has many similarities to the outcome of the real case as well, so I don't want to give anything away to my readers who aren't familiar with the Taylor case. I, as well as most of Britain, was horrified during the investigation, and it is one that I find still affects me now - I expect it always will. So Arctic Chill could have been too similar to a real case, and I am relieved to say it wasn't. It's different enough, that I think it is more a comment on youths and crime today, and modern society. This is a gripping read. I cried at the ending, for both the book and the real life case, again. Even if Arctic Chill is entirely a creation out of the author, it so eerily recreates what happens all over the world that it becomes about a crime we have all heard about, somewhere. This is a mystery, and a series, that really is among the very best currently being written. And all the way through it is a haunting sense of loss that almost feels like music. A slow elegy, a mournful awareness of loss and change, and that some things can't really be recovered from. Excellent. 5/5
The Calling - Inger Ash Wolfe. A new Canadian author! A new mystery series! I'm excited! And how is it, you ask? Very good. It has its flaws (this is good to see in a first novel, because otherwise I'd be completely jealous that a first novel could be perfect!), mostly regarding how the acting chief of police for the tiny town of Port Dundas, Ontario, could lead a country wide investigation for a serial killer. To Wolfe's credit much of it is credible; I only wonder at Inspector Hazel Micallef not getting into major trouble as she would in real life, for not calling in the RCMP, although this is kind of talked about in the book, it's not what would happen in real life. That aside, this is really well-written. Hazel Micallef is believable as the acting Inspector of her station - acting because her superior officer actually wants to amalgamate the station with others in the region, thus cutting costs, so he won't hire a permanent Inspector. The killer is believable and surprisingly sympathetic at times. The premise is an elderly woman dying of cancer is found murdered in her home. When links are discovered to another murder later that weekend, suspicions begin to amount even though the murders are over 300 km apart.
The supporting cast of detectives is very well-drawn, the dialogue is excellent, the descriptions of Ontario in the fall makes me wish it was fall again! and the pace is fast and this is a very enjoyable mystery. I highly recommend it, and very much look forward to reading her new one later this year when it comes out in paperback. 4.7/5
****Hmm. Just discovered while downloading the pictures of the books, that Inger Ash Wolfe is a pseudonym for a "well-known Canadian literary figure". So not a first novel!!!***** Well, at least I don't have to worry at it's being soooo good for a first novel.
Only The Calling and Arctic Chill count for my 100 Books read challenge; Blood on the Strand was started in December. But, I count that as four books read this month, so I'm pleased.
I hope you have been happily reading this new Year too, dear Reader.