Annie's Reading Diary - 2018 edition

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Annie's Reading Diary - 2018 edition

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Dez. 30, 2017, 2:58pm

Here we come again. I am still in the Sun valley of Arizona and still reading pretty much anything I see. Maybe this year I will manage to stay around and post for a complete year.

I rarely make plans for my reading but I seem to be getting better in not getting distracted and dropping the series and authors I am reading (and then coming back to them months and years later). So I suspect I will read a lot of series novels in 2018.

I am also working through the complete output of a few authors - so these will feature a lot.

The genres most likely to feature here are crime and science fiction, with a healthy sprinkling of other genres, non-fiction and short stories.

I read in English, Russian and Bulgarian and I think I will be writing about all my reading this year. Once upon a time I could also read in German - and I am working on recovering this ability so maybe this will be the year when I can report the first German book/story since the early days of this century (and which is not a graded reader - I am still deciding if I want to talk about these).

I read magazines (both fiction and non-fiction) and lately I seem to be listening to a lot of podcasts and Old Time Radio. I am not sure if I will be talking about my listening - but I suspect I may decide to say something, especially when I finish a series or a podcast.

Welcome to my thread. Grab a coffee/tea/beverage of your choice, sit comfortably and follow me in my reading :)

Bearbeitet: Jan. 10, 2018, 10:12pm

The authors I am working through (incomplete - authors to be added as I read their next book)

Michael Connelly (publishing order, novels)
Mark Pryor (publishing order, novels)
Rex Stout (collected order, novels and stories)
Daniel Silva (publishing order, novels)

Series I am working through that do not belong to the authors above:

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror
The Chronicles of St Mary's (Novels) - Jodi Taylor

Dez. 30, 2017, 2:58pm

Reserverd 2

Jan. 1, 2018, 10:12pm

Hi Annie. Looking forward to your reading.

Jan. 2, 2018, 8:12pm

Just stopping by to star your thread. I'm looking forward to following your reviews again, though it's bound to lead to an ever increasing "to read" list.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 3, 2018, 12:31am

1N. The Poet by Michael Connelly

The first novel by Connelly that is not part of his Bosch series seems to be trying to be different - even though the story, after weaving through the country, ends up in Los Angeles and in one of the houses on the walls of the canyons, the novel is not about Los Angeles. Or about a broken cop. But it is still about a broken man and his quest for justice. And as with all the early Bosch novels, the book reeks of despair from the first page - although the hope is never too far away.

Meet Jack McEvoy. He is a reporter for a daily paper in Denver and he just lost his brother - a twin he was not that close with. The brother had been a cop but he did not die in the line of duty - he shot himself. Or so everyone believes anyway. Jack does not believe that, starts digging and finds what all cops had missed - they had expected a suicide so they either brushed up or ignored anything that did not fit. And the chase is on - because Sean McEvoy had not been the first victim of a murderer with a strange obsession with Poe. Add a woman, a jilted lover, a trek across the country, a red herring or two, a few psychopaths and a few more deaths.

The book is written in 1996 and it shows. No, it is not old-fashioned and the story actually works but... this is the time before wide-spread internet (mails and message boards are already around but the big revolution of Internet is still to come) and (mostly) before mobile phones; before the ability to just open a laptop and find the articles you need. It is in that midway moment in history when the world is already changing but is not where it will be very soon. Had this been set a decade or two later, some of the story could not have worked - the time lost in waiting for searches to be performed and someone to manually scan a book to find a poetry line would not be believable. And some of the plot relies on them. But if you account for the realities of the times, the plot works.

The biggest issue of course is that you know something is coming, a surprise ending. When you are 400 pages in a 500 pages book and it looks like it is wrapping up, you know something else is coming. In this case though it is not unexpected, Connelly leaves the clues through the story and weaves a nice net through them - so he can pull off the ending.

Jack is not supposed to be a likeable character - and he is not. And yet you want him to win - because somehow he is like every human being you know. On the other hand some of the supporting characters (*cough*Warren*cough*) are almost comically stereotyped - anyone not seeing him pulling the stunt he did is just not looking for it. But then, being written 20 years ago, how cliche was that back then? I suspect it was - but it serves its role. In some ways it serves as a smoke screen, hiding what is hidden in some of the other characters' actions.

At the end it was a satisfying read - a bit darker than I expected but at the same time setting up the setting for bringing back some of the characters. And the parallels between McEvoy and Bosch are writing themselves - they have different histories and backgrounds, different jobs and interests and yet, you can see the shadow of one of them in the other.

Series: Jack McEvoy (1)
Original Publication Year: 1996
Original Language: English
Type: Novel
Genre: Crime

Notes: The 5th novel published by Connelly; can be read as a standalone or as an introduction to the author.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 2, 2018, 9:57pm

>4 dchaikin:, >5 valkyrdeath:

Welcome to my thread :)

Jan. 2, 2018, 9:40pm

Star added

Jan. 3, 2018, 6:23am

>6 AnnieMod: And here it is. The first novel to go onto my wishlist for 2018! Thanks for the review!

Jan. 3, 2018, 12:01pm

>8 NanaCC: :) welcome.

>9 OscarWilde87: Sorry about this. :) Naah, I cannot even pretend I am sorry about that. It is a dark crime novel/thriller, much darker than what I was looking for the start of the year but still a good read. It won both the Anthony and the Dilys awards in its year. It always made me chuckle that it missed the Edgar (not even nominated), considering the Poe connection :) But then Connelly still does not have an Edgar (which is a bit weird considering all the other awards) but then his books do not fit the mystery genre very well and that one is more of a thriller than a mystery...

Jan. 4, 2018, 1:30pm

You know I don’t read these books, but that was a fun review and enjoyed thinking about the 1990’s again, which were my college years. I have a soft spot for that odd decade.

Jan. 5, 2018, 10:10pm

>11 dchaikin:

Thanks :) I was in university in the following decade but I suspect that you may had had better technology in yours than I did. :) As for the 90s - as long as the book is not about Bulgaria, I am just fine with it.

Jan. 7, 2018, 5:05pm

2N. A Symphony of Echoes by Jodi Taylor

At the end of the first book, our band of time travelling historians (just do not call them in such way when you see them) had found a previously unknown Shakespeare play (well, found may not be the correct word but someone did stay with Shakespeare while he wrote the thing and then it was discovered so let's call it that). And the main suspect is the splinter group led by Ronan of course - the historians that rebelled, stole a few pods and are now being chased across history in an attempt to stop them from ending the world.

Welcome back to St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research - the place where historians investigate major historical events in contemporary time. And they never call it time travel - that's unprofessional after all. The play they found would have been a way to finance the institute for a very long time - except there is a small problem with it - it is a play about Mary Stuart but somehow at the end of it the wrong queen got executed. So either someone knew where it was buried and changed the end before the discovery or history had been a bit messed up. Or, because it is St Mary's after all, it probably is both.

But before they have a chance to investigate, Max and the rest of the historians, have a few small and easy assignments to do. Which of course is the easiest way to put everyone in mortal danger - a lovely stroll to check on Jack the Ripper ends up with discovering the truth about him but it also almost kills Max and Kalinda, the search for the Hanging Gardens of Babylon is a bit more successful when they realize that noone had seen them because they are in the wrong place (but of course go wrong and instead of seeing them in a nice and peaceful time, Max and Peterson end up there just in time to witness the assassination of Sennacherib (yep, wrong kingdom - because the gardens were not in Babylon after all) and Farrell being abducted to a future St Mary causes even more havoc (but it also ends up containing one of the calmest episodes for the ragtag team - the capture of a few dodos before they manage to get disappear from the face of Earth).

And when all was set and done, it was time to deal with the main problem - that play. So off to Tudor times everyone goes - and things go well enough - for St Mary's that is.

Taylor knows her history and uses it to he advantage - I did not know that there is any question about the Babylon gardens being in Nineveh but a quick check proved that to be a viable theory. But she manages to connect the real history with her inventions to create a narrative that might have been. Of course, as with the first book, it is not just a time travel story - there is a love story (if you do not feel like you want to smack Max on the head, I'd been surprised), the Ronan team is still in play (and because of the story, he is untouchable if discovered early in his criminal career), more people die (which is unexpected) and St Mary's is a disaster magnet... as always.

I really enjoy this series - it is light and airy (but that does not mean that there is no gore and violence) and entertaining. Highly recommended.

Series: The Chronicles of St Mary's (2)
Original Publication Year: 2013
Original Language: English
Type: Novel
Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel

Notes: 2nd in the series; not a good standalone

Jan. 7, 2018, 5:08pm

3N. The Paris Librarian by Mark Pryor

And after the prequel set in London and the previous volume in the series set in Barcelona, we are finally back to Paris. Hugo Marston is an interesting man anywhere but Paris is what draws you into this series - he is the partner of Hugo and these novels are as much about him as they are about the city.

This one mixes both of his passions again - books and murder. A man dies in a locked room and noone thinks of it as a murder - except that Hugo has a feeling. He manages to convince Lieutenant Camille Lerens that something does not sound right and when more bodies start dropping, it starts looking as if Hugo is right. Add one of the most beautiful actresses in the world (now in her nineties), a cache of papers, Merlyn and her friend Miki who are visiting from London, Tom Green, still sleeping in Hugo's spare bedroom, and a library and the initial cast is assembled. And for a very long time, it looks like people are just dying - not being murdered. Until Hugo makes the connection between some small things and an old crime gets resolved, allowing a few new ones to be solved as well.

It was a good book but the killer was clear from the very beginning - as was the way the murder happened. It usually takes Hugo awhile to figure out what is happening but this time he took way too long to be believable (but then it may have been clear because a lot of other mysteries had used the way before). Tom's involvement felt almost as the way to go around impossible situations and the red herrings were falling apart while being constructed. On the other hand, I did not expect that final twist - even though the leads for it are all over the text - and the reason for why the killer did what he did was revealed late in the book. If you look at the novel not as looking for a murderer but as an exploration of why he killed the novel stands a lot better. But it was not constructed this way. And Pryor set the scene for something from Tom's past to come back in them future so we will see where that leads.

Despite being relatively weak as a mystery, the novel was still enjoyable - and we even get to meet another policeman that may end up part of the permanent cast but we will see what happens. If you had never read Pryor before, do not start with this book but if you like the series, don't skip it.

Series: Hugo Marston (6)
Original Publication Year: 2016
Original Language: English
Type: Novel
Genre: Crime

Notes: 6th in the series; can work as a standalone but not recommended as such

Jan. 7, 2018, 10:10pm

4N. The Great Passage by Shion Miura

A love letter to a process that is slowly disappearing - the process of putting together a dictionary. With the decision to switch to online/e-book only formats for newer versions of some popular dictionaries, chances are that the last new dictionaries will be printed this century. Because the dictionary is not just the words - these will continue to live in the e-dictionaries. But once away from paper, an editor does not need to agonize over which words to include and which ones to remove; how to rewrite a sentence so that it fits a given space, leaving almost no white space on a page.

I love dictionaries - I owe a lot of them and I tend to buy new ones when they catch my eye for one reason or another - multilingual and monolingual, generic and thematic. And yet, I had not thought about the process of creation, the editing job that goes into it. I knew it is not easy but somehow I never wondered just how much.

And this novel did. "The Great Passage" is the name of a new Japanese dictionary and the novel spans the 15 years it takes for the dictionary to be completed. In these 15 years not everything is about the dictionary - making one is expensive, dictionaries in Japan are not subsidized with public funds and the team that works on it needs to find other means to make money. So the process lags behind and slowly crawls - never stopping but moving very slow. The novel can be split into two parts - the arrival of Mitsuya Majime and his introduction to the fascinating life of lexicography and dictionaries and then, 13 years later, the arrival of Midori Kishibe and her transition from someone that does not care about it to someone that lives for it. The first part is closed with the departure of one of the members of the team (and his understanding just when he is losing it how much he loved the process); the second open opens with the outsider looking in.

And of course, noone can put life on hold so within the 15 or so years it takes to get the dictionary to the market so there are clumsylove stories (symmetrical between the parts again), a couple of cats, food, secondary characters and a lot of word play. The translator, Juliet Winters Carpenter, had done an awesome job translation a novel that was written in Japanese, for Japanese readers and full of the oddities of the language. There are places where I wish she had added some notes and explanations - I know how kanji and kana are used or what a particle is but if one does not know, some passages would not make sense (including the introduction of Majime) but these are small gripes. And it looks like her choices when to leave the word in Japanese and when to translate it from the start worked very well.

And then there is the actual love letter - the one from Majime to the woman he marries - written in an old style and flowery style, full of Chinese poetry and wordplay. The translation of that is also exquisite but that is the part where you can see what you are missing not reading it in Japanese.

When I started writing this review I wondered if I want to call it a love letter or a farewell letter. And somehow could not make myself calling it the latter - even when death strikes, there is nothing final or foreboding in this novel; reading it you would think that this process will continue for decades and centuries to come. And maybe my thoughts that it will not will turn out to be too pessimistic.

It takes a few pages to get used to the style but once it starts working, it just does. Highly recommended - even if you do not like dictionaries - if you like language, reading or words, the book will probably resonate with you.

Series: N/A
Original Publication Year: 2011
Original Publication Year in English: 2017
Original Language: Japanese
Original Title: 舟を編む (Fune o amu)
Translator: Juliet Winters Carpenter
Type: Novel
Genre: Contemporary

Notes: There are two important things to know about Japanese before you start reading:
- a name can be written with different characters (kanji) that sound the same but mean different things so you never know how to read one's name when you see it written and you never know what someone's name means until you see it written
- the kana is a syllabary used among other things to show how to read a word - so a dictionary would be ordered based on the order of the kana (and readings) of words. Technically there are also the kanji dictionaries but that is a different story altogether.

Jan. 8, 2018, 7:46am

>15 AnnieMod: Have you read Caught in the Web of Words: James Murray and the Oxford English Dictionary? It garnered a lot of, 40 years ago. From the reviews, building the OED was an epic feat in the late 1800s.

Jan. 8, 2018, 11:50am

>16 dukedom_enough:

No, I had not. I've read the story of the building of the OED elsewhere through the years but had never read this one. Maybe it is time to get around to it.

Jan. 8, 2018, 6:11pm

>15 AnnieMod: I do love stories about words and language, so this one appeals to me. Googling it, I see there's an anime series and a live action film both based on it too, since they both seem to come up before anything about the book.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 10, 2018, 2:29am

5N. Too Many Women by Rex Stout

This is more an Archie than a Nero Wolfe book - Wolfe is there and helps (and solves the problem) but most of the story happens outside of his office and without him being anywhere around.

It all starts weirdly - a company had had too many people leaving in the previous year and decides to check what had happened. One man had left because he was hit by a car and left - and his manager insists on calling it murder. And the director decides to hire Wolfe to investigate and find out if it was an accident or a murder. So Archie gets a new job - a personnel expert in the company, reviewing practices and what's not. Of course, his job is to investigate.

Except that he seems to spend more time being chased by women (all of them seem to really love him), being beaten by men (more than usual) and chasing his tail. Except that there is another corpse, Wolfe get hired again to now discover who the killer is and Archie's role is known by everyone (officially that is, the gossip was always there).

It is a strange novel - the Nero Wolfe novels are sexist (because of the times) but that one seems to be even more so. It is partially because most of the action happens in the work-space, with all the stenographers and typist are and women are only considered good enough for those jobs. But Archie is also womanizing a lot more than usual - and the women in the novel behave as damsels in distress. On the other hand, it may not be so unrealistic. But all the characters sound a bit off - Cramer, who is usually intelligent, behaves like an idiot in places and the end feels a bit rushed.

I am not sorry I read it but it is my least favorite so far from the series. I think I prefer this series with Wolfe in the center and not Archie - at least not Archie behaving like that.

Series: Nero Wolfe (12)
Original Publication Year: 1947
Original Language: English
Type: Novel
Genre: Mystery

Notes: The numbering of this series is a bit complicated - 2 of the previous 11 books were actually collections with 2 novellas each - but the later one in each is out of sequence but connected to the first ones in the book. So I am just following the usual order and will sort out at the end what I had not read yet. Outside of Lily and a few characters like that, the novels can be read in any order anyway.

Jan. 10, 2018, 12:48am

>15 AnnieMod: The Great Passage sounds like an excellent book, and it's only $1.99 for Kindle (or free for Kindle Unlimited). So I bought it, and hope to enjoy it soon.

Jan. 10, 2018, 4:49pm

>18 valkyrdeath:

I am not surprised that the anime shows up before the book in searches - that's how the world works these days. I am not a huge anime fan (despite liking the language...) and did not realize it had been made into one until after I read the book.

>20 arubabookwoman:

Have fun reading it. Give it a few pages at the start to get used to the style - it is very language-heavy when it starts and the translation had to work hard to get it working - which makes it a bit weird to read. Then it evens out and I appreciated this start a lot more than I did when I read it.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 11, 2018, 1:14pm

6N. The Confessor by Daniel Silva

Sooner or later most of the thriller series that are not domiciled in a single location or country end up with a Vatican/secret society installment. Silva's series had always been a prime candidate for that - and that is exactly what this third novel is.

Meet Mario Delvecchio, a 51 years old restorer in Venice, working on a Bellini altarpiece and being his usual lonely self, even when the team that is restoring the rest of the church. Until he gets some news from Munich arrive that is - a friend of his is killed and it seems like the book he had been writing is missing.

The Italian restorer is actually Gabriel Allon, an assassin for the Israeli secret services. Ari Shamron, his ex-boss, knows how to pull the right strings and before long the art is (temporarily) abandoned and Gabriel is racing across Europe. And the pursuit takes him from Rome to London and from France to Germany. Somewhere along the line, he ends up with half of the police force of Europe trying to get him (for various reasons), discovers a secret Catholic society that had been instrumental in some of the decision made by the Popes and meets a Pope - who turns out to be an interesting character. Of course there is a lot more - a beautiful woman, an assassin and an old secret from the early days of WWII.

When I read a book from this series for the first time, I was not sure if I really want to read a series about an assassin. But it somehow works - Allon is not perfect but he does not pretend to be; he kills because it is his job - and he pays the price for it. This book is not an exception (including almost managing to die) and the story is as compelling as the previous two in the series. The plot should not have worked - it is so overused that I was not sure I can read one more book on the topic without being bored. And yet it works - partially because the Jewish and Catholic faith had been the historical counterparts in a long war; partially because Silva can write. Including managing to pull a surprise ending when you do not expect it - one that is not necessarily needed but without it, the book will be incomplete - even if I would not have thought so if it was not there at all.

I can see the end of this book changing some things in the fictional world of Gabriel Allon. I will be interested to see how Silva handles that going forward. And I wonder if we will meat the Pope again - the pair of a Jewish assassin and a Catholic Pope sounds like someone's dream (or nightmare for some people) but the two men are very similar in a lot of ways.

Overall another great book by Daniel Silva.

Series: Gabriel Allon (3)
Original Publication Year: 2003
Original Language: English
Type: Novel
Genre: Crime, Spy

Notes: 3rd in the series; 6th novel overall. Can be read as a standalone but some details from the first two books in the series may help with spotting some trends and patterns faster.

Jan. 11, 2018, 12:07pm

Keeping an eye on your reading. I haven't read any of the crime novels/thrillers you've listed, but I enjoy reading what you have to say about them.

Jan. 11, 2018, 1:57pm

>23 avaland: I am trying to get a bit more organized in my mystery/crime/thriller reading so there will be a lot of repetitions of series and authors this year (or such is the plan anyway - I tend to get distracted...).

Bearbeitet: Jan. 23, 2018, 11:15pm

7N. Paper Doll by Robert B. Parker

Parker had never shied away from the social commentary (via actions and murders mainly) in his novels and this novel is not an exception. If anything, he decided to throw more than the usual - from gay policemen and AIDS to racism and the attitudes of a small town deep in the South.

4 months ago Olivia was killed - apparently without a reason. Her husband is not ready to accept the lack of explanation so he hires Spenser. So our favorite detective starts investigating - and ends up being in real trouble in South Carolina. Which is not exactly surprising. Parker decided to leave Hawk out from the action (he shows up for a second but stays strictly on the periphery) and it made sense - it is the Boston police that is the partner here - both the known faces and a new detective that everyone seems to have issues with (for being gay mainly).

By the end, Spenser has to make one of those decisions that define a person - is truth the most important thing or does human dignity still matter. Somewhere in the heart of the deep South, where the people that know the answers are always invisible albeit always being there, an old mystery becomes the answer to the new one.

I wish Parker had also decided to cut the scenes with Susan - the novel would not have lost anything if they are not there. Where she is usually insightful and helps with random remarks or by simply being there, here she is just there...

At the end I really enjoyed the novel - both the main story and the sideline story exploring the attitudes in the police (both in Boston and in the South). I am not sure how that sounded when it was written and how up-to-date it was but it works - and adds another layer to Spenser.

I am not sure if that works as a standalone - the mystery will work but a lot of the things that are said and done can be misread without the back story.

Series: Spenser (20)
Original Publication Year: 1993
Original Language: English
Type: Novel
Genre: Crime

Jan. 23, 2018, 11:18pm

8N. Night Work by Steve Hamilton

Joe Trumbull is one unlucky guy - he lost his fiancee 2 years ago to a grisly murder and when he finally decides to go on a date with another woman, another murder happens.

"Night Work" is the first Hamilton non-series novel and it is decidedly different from his series. It is a lot darker and I suspect it was an exploration of a different storytelling that cannot work with Alex McKnight.

Trumbull is a probationary officer in Kingston, New York and had buried himself into his work and into boxing after the love of his life died. The biggest issue is that it seems like he may be a killer - hiding behind a civilized facade. And when the state police decides to investigate, things start looking worse by the minute - especially when more corpses show up.

For most of the novel, I was not sure if we are dealing with an unreliable narrator or if something is really off. And when one decided to trust Joe's story, the clues and misdirection were always there to make you doubt yourself. Trying to pull this technique usually backfires but here it works beautifully - all the way to the very end.

It takes awhile to get into the story - the setup is part of how Hamilton pulls off the story. The only thing I am sorry about is that I will not be able to read this novel again while not knowing what happens at the end. And Steve Hamilton proves again that he can write.

Series: N/A
Original Publication Year: 2007
Original Language: English
Type: Novel
Genre: Crime

Bearbeitet: Jan. 23, 2018, 11:21pm

9N. Memory Man by David Baldacci

I was not sure I will like this novel - the whole idea of the changed brain of Amos sounded as a gimmick. And then it somehow crept on me and I ended up liking it a lot more than I expected.

Amos Decker lost everything twice - he lost his career and his personality when he got flattened on the gridiron (but he got hyperthymesia and synesthesia as a result (so he cannot forget anything and he sees numbers and colors everywhere). And then, just when his life seems perfect again, with a wife, a daughter and a career in the police, fate strikes again and his whole family is slaughtered. And this second loss makes him throw his life away, lose his job and house and join the ranks of the homeless. By the time we meet him again, 16 months after the murders, he had cleaned up a bit, became a private detective and managed to start living again... somewhat anyway.

And then a shooter comes to the local high school and kills a lot of people on the same day when someone admits to the killing of Amos's family. He ends up in the middle of the investigation - partially because he is asked to help and partially because the killer leaves messages for him - drawing lines between unrelated events and making sure everyone realizes that Amos is the key to the whole thing.

And the chase is on - through more bodies and bad choices, through history and bad memories.

When it was published, it was not advertised as the start of a new series but since then Baldacci decided to make it a series. And I will be curious to see what happens in a case that is not tied to Amos Decker's past.

Series: Amos Decker (1)
Original Publication Year: 2015
Original Language: English
Type: Novel
Genre: Crime

Jan. 23, 2018, 11:24pm

10N. The Man on the Balcony by Per Wahlöö and Maj Sjöwall

In a novel called "The Man on the Balcony", the first scene we see is a man smoking on a balcony, with his eye lingering on the neighborhood children.

Then a child is found dead and molested. Stockholm is paralyzed by fear when another body is found and the police, led by Martin Beck (now promoted) tries to find the man that had turned the parks of the city into a nightmare in 1967. Technically there are two of them - a mugger and the killer - because long before the first child was found, another man had started hitting and robbing people in the same parks.

The reader knows that the killer is that man we saw in the start but we have no idea who he is. And even though the police knows about him, they ignore him - because the timing of the report was just wrong. It will take an almost forgotten memory and a coincidence to put him back into the frame and to find him.

The novel is undoubtedly a crime one but it is also a depiction of the city and its people. Reading it 50 years later, it is a glimpse in a world that does not exist anymore. And that makes it an even better story.

Series: Martin Beck (3)
Original Publication Year: 1967
Original Language: Swedish
Original Title: Mannen på balkongen
Type: Novel
Genre: Crime

Jan. 23, 2018, 11:26pm

11N. The Sorbonne Affair by Mark Pryor

A popular writer, Helen Hancock, is working in Paris - writing her new novel and teaching a seminar in the craft of writing (and selling) novels. But she has some strange ideas about someone watching her so she decides to find Hugo Marston and ask him for help. And as always when Hugo is the vicinity, the first body is discovered shortly. And it won't be the last one.

The story revolves around the hotel Sorbonne (thus the name of the novel) but our heroes spend very little time there - everyone is too busy chasing their shadows around the city and trying to find out who is killing people, using literary allusions and methods.

Meanwhile Tom Green is sure that the man that causes his and Hugo's careers in FBI to finish is back to haunt them. We had seen some glimpses of that story through the series but this is where we learn what really happened. I am happy that Pryor decided to write this part the way he did - without trying to make it a prequel or lengthening it in any way. He does not tell it linearly though - he reverses it and gives us a glimpse into what is happening every 15 minutes, starting from the end. And a story that should have been almost trivial is shown in slow motions, from the end to the beginning. And when that last part of the story (the one that is chronologically first) starts getting revealed and then crashes with an awful clarity, a lot of pieces click into place. And make you like both men even more - despite what happens.

And what about the murders around Helen? If you stop to think, you may know realize what happens a lot earlier than Hugo does. But even if you do not, the novel's slow actions and progress is a nice counterbalance to the backstory. And the final revelation is worth the wait.

And just like that, this is one of my favorite books in the series - the series was bound to bounce back after the previous book. Plus the Scottish Parisian cop is back (although cops in this series don't fare very well in the long run so we will see how that one goes). The fact that it was explicitly connected to the previous book and previous events also helps - all the backstory pays off. And then there is Paris - the other main character in the series - exquisite and timeless.

Series: Hugo Marston (7)
Original Publication Year: 2017
Original Language: English
Type: Novel
Genre: Crime

Bearbeitet: Jan. 26, 2018, 1:25pm

12N. The Shadow District by Arnaldur Indridason (Arnaldur Indriðason)

Novels that use double timelines are hard to pull off - especially when both cover an investigation of the same crime. And Indridason manages to do exactly that in the first novel of his new series.

In the last days of WWII, a girl is killed in Reykjavik. 70 years (or so) later, an old man dies in the same city. It first looks like a natural death but is soon proven to be a murder and the newly retired Konrad decides to help the understaffed police department. And before long he realizes that the current death is connected to the one from the war - and that the man died because he was close to solving the old murder.

The area where the girl was found is called the The Shadow District - and Konrad has more than one reason to investigate - he grew up in the same area and he had heard of the story before. So his memories of the past are mixed with the new investigation and with the two detectives back during the war trying to find out the truth. And the two investigations run in parallel - but without crossing too often - the files do not exist anymore so Konrad needs to reconstruct what happened; some of his discoveries could have helped Flovent and Thorson; some of what they knew would have solved the mystery for Konrad. And yet, it is only the reader that knows both sets of facts. And the man that died is featured both in the past and in the present - because he belonged to both.

It is not a perfect novel - some of the coincidences were are a bit too much to believe. But at the same time they somehow worked. And Iceland during the war, on the brink of change, was fascinating. So is the Icelandic folklore - which becomes part of the story in more than one way. It is yet another novel that could not have happened anywhere else.

Apparently there are more novels in the series. I do not know if they have the same structure but even if they do not, I will read the next entries.

Series: Reykjavik Wartime Mysteries (1)
Original Publication Year: 2013
Original Language: Icelandic
Original Title: Skuggasund
Type: Novel
Genre: Crime

Bearbeitet: Jan. 23, 2018, 11:33pm

13N. The Ghost War by Alex Berenson

I am always worried when I pick up the second novels of authors - especially when I really liked the first one as was the case with Berenson. John Wells, the man that spent years under cover with the Taliban in Afghanistan, did not sound like the kind of CIA agent that will be very useful outside of that storyline. And writing the same novel multiple times (the way Dan Brown does) is not so easy to pull off.

Berenson made me forget all of those concerns pretty quickly. He weaved a story that connected an arms dealer, a Chinese Mao-wannabe, Iran, the Taliban and North Korea. If it all sounds too familiar, remember that it was written in 2008 - when things were not so different but they were a lot calmer. It is a classical spy novel, full of misdirection and surprises that never stop - the world peace in in jeopardy and CIA's rag team is doing their best as always - not always using the legal means (but managing to pull off a very expensive rescue mission).

It is a violent book - even more violent than the first one. And in addition to all the beating Wells took, he managed to add one more enemy to the list of people that really want to kill him. Considering the the one from the first one was Osama bin Laden, this one sounds like the smaller problem - but based on geography and abilities, I have a suspicion that this will be the main feature somewhere later in the series.

This series may not be high literature but they are great at what they are - spy novels with enough thriller thrown into them to almost move them away from the genre.

Series: John Wells (2)
Original Publication Year: 2008
Original Language: English
Type: Novel
Genre: Spy, Thriller

And I am uptodate on my reviews/notes.

Jan. 24, 2018, 7:39am

I didn't know that Indridasson had another series. I'll be looking for that!

Jan. 24, 2018, 10:45am

>32 RidgewayGirl:

I did not know either - the book just showed up in the library and I grabbed it :) The second one comes out in English this year.

Bearbeitet: Jan. 24, 2018, 3:12pm

1NP. The Book of Emma Reyes by Emma Reyes

I had not idea who Emma Reyes was when I saw this book. But the idea of a memoir written in the form of letters to a friend appealed to me so I decided to give it a try. I am still not sure who Emma Reyes is (this memoir finishes too early in her life) but the glimpse into Colombia of the 20s and 30s will stay with me for a long time.

I rarely read introductions before reading a book. Daniel Alarcón does a great job introducing the book though - setting the context and the backstory and explaining how this book came to be. And then you start reading the letters.

The story in the letters start when Emma is 3 (or thereabouts) and end when she is 19. But they are not written until the late 60s when the painter is in her 50s and her life had changed drastically. She writes the letters to a friend, trying to explain where she came from and recall a story that is both heartbreaking and unbelievable.

Considering how young Emma was when the story starts, you have to wonder how reliable her memories are. She addresses that more than once in the letters and explains how all the misery and suffering made her remember and she had her sister to assist with the memories. One have to wonder though. But even if we accept that we are dealing with an unreliable narrator, the story still works.

Emma grows up in a windowless room with an older sister, a woman that may be her mother (but is never explicitly stated) and a little boy. She is allowed out to play and she spends most of her time out in the trash, looking for things to play with. And then things change and they start traveling from one Colombian rural location to another - until the day when the two girls are abandoned and end up in a convent. And somewhere in the middle of all the beatings, hunger and suffering, there is Emma - unhappy, unloved and mostly invisible.

I am not sure how much of what she narrates is true and where the embellishments are. It seems like at least the base of the story is right and even if it veers in the fictional space, it is still worth reading.

However, it is not for people that expect a happy story. Columbia is presented as a hovel; most of the people we meet are either evil or more evil than good (some by design, some seem to had just decided that this is easier); everyone is broken and as a result tries to break everyone else. The story through the eyes of a child told by a woman at the middle of her life sounds almost magical - until you realize that there is nothing magical or fairy - it is just life.

Original Publication Year: 2012
Original Language: Spanish/Colombia
Original Title: Memoria por correspondencia
Type: Non-fiction
Genre: Memoir, Epistolary

Jan. 24, 2018, 3:36pm

>30 AnnieMod: Adding this one to my wishlist.

Jan. 24, 2018, 3:59pm

>34 AnnieMod: Will definitely have to keep an eye out for The Book of Emma Reyes.

Jan. 25, 2018, 5:57pm

>34 AnnieMod: The Book of Emma Reyes has gone onto my wishlist. I wonder if that is her artwork on the cover?

Jan. 25, 2018, 6:22pm

>35 NanaCC: Have fun reading it when you get it - I think I will be rereading his more popular series - I know I had not read the latest ones but it had been a decade since I read the first ones and they may be worth rereading...

>36 auntmarge64: I hope you like it when you get it. :)

>37 arubabookwoman:

I think so - her name/signature? and "'89" are visible on it. But I will check tonight the actual book to see if one of the flaps confirms it. And it matches the style I had seen in some of her other paintings (here for example: and here: ). Thanks for reminding me that I was planning to do that!

Jan. 25, 2018, 6:42pm

I am very attracted to that style--now I will have to be sure to read the book.

Jan. 25, 2018, 6:59pm

>39 arubabookwoman:

The book does not talk about her painting - it finishes when she is a teenager and escapes from the convent - it is the "my childhood" kind of book. But it does talk about art here and there... And some of this style probably comes from the childhood. (I don't understand art so who knows...)

Jan. 25, 2018, 7:53pm

>37 arubabookwoman: And confirmed (on the back dust cover flap): Cover Art: Emma Reyes, Untitled acrylic on paper, 1989 (exhibited in 1993 at the Galería Diners in Bogotá). It is not exactly my style (give me the Dutch Masters or Kinkade any day) but I kinda like it as well.

Jan. 26, 2018, 12:28pm

> A double timeline is what I loved in the first Indridason that I've read, Silence of the Grave. His other Erlendur books have not appealed as much to me.
So this one is definitely going on my wishlist!

Jan. 26, 2018, 1:40pm

You're on a roll! So much to catch up on here, and great stuff at that!

Feb. 16, 2018, 5:18pm

>29 AnnieMod: The Mark Pryor sounds interesting....

>30 AnnieMod: I was less pleased with the new Indridason than you were, it seems. I thought it very odd that the current timeline seemed to have no mentions of technology. Surely, that is one giant difference between the 40s and now. Otherwise, I agree with your comments about Iceland during the war and the folklore. There is another new Icelandic series set north of Reykjavik that features a young, less experienced policeman by Ragnar Jónasson. There's three now, the first I think is SnowBlind. I was kind of interesting to follow a newbie around. And one of the books, it may have been the first, showed how he copes with the long dark days of winter in a relatively small community (I know when I was there one November, it didn't get light in the morning until close to 10 am). I thought they were pretty good (I think I got them from the UK).

Feb. 16, 2018, 5:29pm

>44 avaland:

I did not miss the modern world quite honestly - maybe because he went with a retired policeman (so not too much technology available), maybe because I got caught up in the story and I just did not miss it.

I read Snowblind last year - waiting for the second to show up in the library. I really enjoyed that one as well :)

For Pryor - start with the first in the series :) It is one of my favorite underrated series.

Feb. 17, 2018, 5:48pm

>45 AnnieMod: Oh, dear, another series ....

Feb. 17, 2018, 10:12pm

You keep putting series on my radar. I know I’ll never be around long enough to get to all of them. I’m 71. How many can I get to?

Apr. 30, 2018, 5:38pm

Where are you? I hope all is well. Can you come out to play?

Apr. 30, 2018, 6:20pm

Yeah, all is fine - just in a never ending cycle of too much work and too little time. Not reading much - (and when I am reading, I do not feel like talking about it). Will try to come by a bit more often. I need to post about some books as well...

Jul. 20, 2018, 9:40am

>49 AnnieMod: Our loss!