I’d like to blame the shortness of February for only finishing 10 books in the month but my relative slackness was more likely due to the heat and the crazy business of my non-reading life. There were several days in the month when I didn’t read a word for leisure – a rare thing in my 45 years! However, the quality of my reading continues to make up for the quantity, to the point that I can’t decide which of these two books are my favourite for the month
Wendy James’ OUT OF THE SILENCE was published in 2005 but is set at the turn of the last century when Australia was a collection of separate colonies and society prescribed very strict rules for women. It is a fictional account based on real facts, central among these being that a young woman called Maggie Heffernan was convicted of an awful crime around this time, and addresses the question of how a basically good person might have come to such a point in her life. It’s terrific reading.
Arnaldur Indriðason’s BLACK SKIES is the eighth novel in a series of Icelandic procedurals and is a great example of an author keeping a series fresh and interesting by taking risks. Both he and his publishers are to be congratulated for allowing two books in a row to focus on someone other than the series’ main protagonist. This one features a down to earth cop trying to unravel a strange crime set against the backdrop of the briefly booming Icelandic economy. It’s a treat.
The other notable books I read for the month were
- Attica Locke’s BLACK WATER RISING which I thought worked better as a piece of historical fiction (it’s set in Texas in the early 80’s with flashbacks to the previous two decades of civil rights activism) than as a crime novel though it did attempt to be both. The characters and writing though are both outstanding and I’ll be reading more of Locke’s work
- Martin Limon’s MR KILL takes place in 1970’s South Korea and sees two US military investigators on the trail of a rapist and murderer who is probably another military man/. The setting and plot are first rate and the characterisations are good too though one is so repugnant a human being that I was glad to see the back of him.
- Julie Hyzy’s FONDUING FATHERS is a light but fun read in which a woman uncovers the secret of her father’s death
- Robert Gott’s GOOD MURDER took me to war time Queensland where a troupe of travelling actors was attempting to stage Shakespeare but got caught up in the investigation into a series of murders. A must read for fans of satire or caper novels.
- I thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with my old friends Ruth, Harry, Cathbad and co in Elly Griffiths’ DYING FALL
- Peter Corris’ THE DUNBAR CASE took his intrepid private eye to Newcastle and beyond on the trail of an old manuscript.
- Shona MacLean’s CRUCIBLE OF SECRETS is the third novel to feature 17th century amateur sleuth Alexander Seaton and, for me, was a return to the excellence of the series’ first novel. It is a novel in which everyone has secrets, many of which would seem innocuous today but which, in austere and conservative Aberdeen in the early 1600’s, could get you killed.
I didn’t make a conscious decision for this to be the case but it seems I am drawn to historical crimes at the moment – with 5 of the 10 books I read for the month having been set in the past (1631. 1900, 1944, 1974 and 1981). Still I’m not doing too badly on my personal diversity index having read an equal mix of male and female authors, visited 6 different countries and read books by three new-to-me authors. Only one of my books for the month was a translated one though so I must improve on that score.
Progress towards my book-ish goals
- I’ve read and reviewed 4 of my nominated 10 books by Australian women for this year’s version of the Australian Women Writers Challenge and am relatively happy with that progress. I’ve got a couple of titles awating me at the library (and one of them isn’t even a crime novel!).
- I read two books by Australian male writers this month which has helped even up the numbers on that score
- My goal regarding book acquisition is to buy less but buy local (audio books excluded) and I have done well, buying only one non-audio book during February and buying it from a local store (I had a voucher which makes it OK to have bought a book I know absolutely nothing about other than the fact it is set in Tasmania and is written by an Australian woman)
I posted two different wrap-ups of Aussie crime fiction news and reviews during February. One was the first wrap up of reviews posted around the web as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2013 that were tagged crime, mystery, detective, thriller or true crime – it’s great to see so many Australian women crime writers being read and discussed. The second was my semi-regular roundup of reviews and news about all Aussie crime fiction that I posted at my other blog.
Was February a good reading month for you? Did you have a favourite book or three? Have you lost sight of your new year’s reading resolutions yet?