After a bit of a slump during August I seemed to find my reading mojo again in September, getting through a reasonable number of books and, more importantly, finding many of them to be outstanding.
In the end I gave my book of the month award to a haunting African tale that I read at the start of September because I simply cannot get its story of the evil motivation for the death of a young girl out of my mind. Unity Dow‘s The Screaming of the Innocent is set in the author’s native Botswana and tells a harrowing tale about a young girl who goes missing, the men who are responsible and the ease with which they engineer a cover up of their actions. It is emotionally harrowing (the ending particularly so) but not gratuitously so and it has flashes of beauty, bravery and humour amongst the sadness.
Other recommended reads from the month are:
Gianrico Carofiglio‘s A Walk in the Dark which tells the tale of an Italian lawyer who takes on the case of a battered woman who no one else will help because her ex-boyfriend is the son of a judge is a marvellous read. It makes me happy to think that my delay in finding this wonderful author means there are already several more books by him ready and waiting just for me. 4.5 stars
Detective Inspector Huss by Helen Tursten was one of the great Swedish novels I read in the month. Göteburg police investigate the death of a wealthy businessman in a superb example of the socially aware police procedural. Some of the story tangents and dead ends were as interesting as the main event and the characters are excellent. 4.5 stars.
Fool’s Republic by Gordon W. Dale tells the story of a man incarcerated and tortured as part of the ‘war on terror’. I was impressed with the understated way the author tackled this difficult subject, eschewing the temptation for overt preaching or simplification of the issues. I didn’t think the first person narrative was quite as successful but overall an entertaining and thought-provoking novel. 3 stars.
Misterioso by Arne Dahl is one of 3 books set in Sweden I read this month and while I found it a bit awkward to get into I did enjoy it overall. Having read them so close together I couldn’t help but compare this debut police procedural with Tursten’s (above) and I did not think this one quite as well plotted but still a very engaging story about a series of murders of high-profile business men. 3.5 stars
Sister by Rosamund Lupton would probably have been better off if it hadn’t been shoe-horned into the whodunnit genre as the parts of the book that work superbly are the depictions of two fragile familial relationships (two sisters and a mother and daughter) and a delicately painted portrait of grief. Frankly the crime-y bits of the story were clunky. 3.5 stars.
The Donor by Helen Fitzgerald tackles the hideous premise of a father with twin daughters both needing life-saving kidney transplants with deliciously dark humour to ensure the book doesn’t fall into the misery-lit category that one-line synopsis could otherwise suggest. 4 stars.
The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney is a novel about a gypsy family and the man hired to find out what happened to one of their members. One of two narrators is a 14 year old gypsy lad known as JJ and he the star of this thoughtful novel (though mainstream reviews would suggest I am in the minority as someone who liked the book). 4 stars.
The News Where You Are by Catherine O’Flynn wasn’t quite as good as O’Flynn’s first novel which I fell in love with earlier this year but only because that book was something extra special. I still thoroughly enjoyed this tale of a melancholic English newsreader who starts to worry about the death of an old friend. A treatise on the downside of valuing looks over substance if ever there was one. 4.5 stars.
The Ottoman Hotel is a debut novel by Christopher Currie and is set in a small Australian town. It tells the story of a young boy whose parents disappear while they are all on holidays and its evocative writing style made for a quick, engaging and nicely unpredictable read. 3.5 stars.
Until Thy Wrath Be Past is the latest instalment of the Rebecka Martinsson series by Asa Larsson. Rebecka becomes involved in the investigation of the death of a young girl whose body is found a long way from where she died and the case turns out to be connected to events from many years earlier. 4.5 stars.
Whispering Death by Garry Disher is one of the most cleverly constructed novels I’ve read in a very long time and has well developed characters and a gentle undertone of social commentary to book. There are far too many story threads to them justice in a brief summary; you’ll just have to read the book. 4.5 stars.
The meh reads for this month were:
Ian Rankin‘s The Complaints (I know, I know I’m the only one who doesn’t ‘get’ Rankin) and Nigel McCrery‘s Scream (gratuitous gore).
I also listened to Dick Francis‘ Second Wind narrated by the always brilliant Tony Britton and while not a meh book in the sense I usually mean it, I do find it hard to come up with something new to say about the 40+ Francis novels which are all, essentially, the same.
Other happenings at the blog
I celebrated a year of eBook reading which has been a mostly positive experience aside from the appalling customer service received from the Sony corporation and the fact that the ever-present geographic restrictions are more of a problem in the eBook world than with physical books. I am however still hopeful of having virtually no physical books at all to read (and worry about finding homes for afterwards) within four years.
I continued to celebrate women crime writers for #SinC25, this time focusing on those who write historical crime fiction which features strong female characters. I propose it’s easy to understand the temptation to write such books given that in much factual history the role of women is often ignored.
a last word…
I’m going to pick up a couple of physical books next week, both new titles by Australian authors. One is the sixth novel in Kerry Greenwood’s fun Corrina Chapman series and the other is the debut novel by Y A Erskine. Australian publishers generally charge the same for eBooks as they do for the equivalent physical books which in one of these cases is $33...an amount I simply refuse to pay for something I don’t really own. I do wish these people would wake up but until they do I’ll borrow most of my Aussie reads from the library (think of the lost sales) and pick up a handful on special or using vouchers.
What about you…was September a good reading month? Did you have a favourite book? Or did you acquire anything you’re itching to read? Any issue you need to get off your chest?