This post is related to Kerrie’s meme at Mysteries in Paradise.
I’m one of that unhappy minority of readers who actually read less while they’re on holiday. If commuting is good for anything it’s book consumption. Anyway, in September I read:
- Andrew Swanston: The King’s Spy
- Christopher Fowler: Bryant and May and the Invisible Code
- Colin Watson: Coffin Scarcely Used
- Richard Stark: The Hunter
- Charles Williams: Many Dimensions
- Books To Die For
The King’s Spy by Andrew Swanston is an English Civil War mystery set largely in the garrisoned town of Oxford. It’s an enjoyable read with a little bit of everything: history, code-breaking, battles, murder, imprisonment, food, romance, revenge and a lot of mud. The royal cryptographer Thomas Hill is an interesting character. As a pacifist with no real leaning towards either side in the war, he initially agrees to help the royalist cause for largely impersonal reasons – bringing an early end to the war – but as events progress, matters become more and more personal. 3 stars.
Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May return for their latest adventure in The Invisible Code. The eccentric and increasingly decrepit Peculiar Crimes Unit is handed their strangest assignment yet, a personal request from their arch-enemy Oskar Kasavian to protect his wife. As usual their investigation takes some obscure turns, leading them into the history of insanity and witchcraft. I liked it, but have a suspicion that the series is running out of steam. 3 stars.
Coffin Scarcely Used was the first of the Flaxborough series of detective novels by Colin Watson, now back in print thanks to the Faber Finds initiative. Inspector Purbright, assisted by the slightly hapless Sergeant Love, investigate the odd death of a local newspaper proprietor, in the process uncovering corruption and sleaze in an ostensibly blameless seaside town. Watson is a funny writer, and manages to end on a punchline, but the wit has a real barb. 4 stars.
The Hunter was another first – of the many Parker novels by Richard Stark (aka Donald E. Westlake). It opens with a compelling first chapter before following its amoral protagonist as he hunts down an old enemy, and then some new enemies. I admired the pace of the story and the author’s bravery in confronting the ugliness of violence, but personally I think Parker could have done with a few redeeming features. Maybe I’m just soft. 4 stars.
Many Dimensions is an odd book, mixing H. G. Wells with a load of cod mysticism which has to be read to be believed. 2 stars.
Books To Die For is a new non-fiction title which I reviewed for Euro Crime. It’s a hefty tome which collects 120 essays by 120 crime writers, all of them nominating their favourite crime novel to what becomes an idiosyncratic and very personal canon. To me it felt like the ideal Christmas gift for a crime fan. 5 stars.
Pick of the Month? Books To Die For