I skipped the Pick of the Month in May (for what it’s worth, I’d have gone with Cop Hater), but here I am, back with a bang for June.
It’s quite a tough, apples-and-oranges-style choice this month, as none of the books I read has been anything like the others.
Barbara Vine: A Dark-Adapted Eye (1986): Familiar Vine territory: the inexorable approach of tragedy in a densely written saga with some distinctly odd characters hiding deep-seated ruthlessness.
Gene Kerrigan: The Rage (2012). Set in post-Celtic Tiger Dublin this is a tough crime novel with a moral core. In true noir style, it focuses on a committed career criminal working on his first big job but about to fall prey to his own weakness – in this case, revenge. Vincent has a Parker-esque charm and his heist is cunning and believable – I’d love to know what happens to all the incidental characters. Bob Tidey is the frustrated mid-life-crisis Garda who becomes his opponent.
Also, a nice-feeling book – proper production values from the American publisher Europa Editions.
Ian Fleming, From Russia With Love (1957): Istanbul and the Orient Express form the exotic backdrop to the sixth Bond novel. Tatiana Romanova is the innocent young cipher clerk sent to Turkey to entrap James Bond in a snare designed to kill him and publicly shame British Intelligence. Everybody knows it’s a trap, but Bond is gambling that the risk will bring greater rewards.
William Le Queux, The Doctor of Pimlico (1919): Le Queux once stood alongside Childers and Buchan as a purveyor of patriotic thrillers with a strong anti-German flavour. This title, originally from 1919, depicts Europe recovering from WWI but still threatened by an unstable peace with a treacherous enemy. The titular Doctor holds the bluff General Elcombe and his step-daughter Enid in his power. Only popular novelist Walter Fetherston can save them. Another book with proper production values, by the way.
Cyril Hare, Best Detective Stories (1959): A collection of 30 fair-to-good short stories from the lawyer and novelist Hare, best known for his tour de force Tragedy at Law. Most have the black humour and final twists of Tales of the Unexpected.
Pick of the month? The Rage. Thanks Nigel, if you’re reading this.