Books of the Months – October (& September) 2012

Having neglected to wrap up September’s reading this is a summary of two months’ worth of topsy turvy reading. And two months deserve two books highlighted. Right?

The first would probably be called a classic, having been published first in 1967.  Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo’s THE MAN ON THE BALCONY takes place at the tail end of the Swedish summer. In quick succession the bodies of two young girls are found in Stockholm parks and despite pouring countless man hours and other resources into the case police are hampered by a lack of evidence and community outrage which leads to a plethora of useless information and the formation of vigilante groups that siphon resources from the main case.

The second is one that deserves to become a classic in the future. Y.A. Erskine’s THE BETRAYAL tells the story of a young Tasmanian policewoman’s decision to bring charges of rape against one of her fellow officers. We see events from various points of view most of which side against the policewoman.

People often think crime fiction offers readers a chance to see the justice that is not available in the real world to play out properly. But if that’s what you’re looking for then neither of these books will fit the bill. Although taking place 45 years apart both novels provide very realistic and uncomfortable depictions of the weaknesses of the justice systems in their respective countries and the apparent unravelling of civilised society. I don’t suppose either could be called entertaining in the traditional sense of the word but both have provided me with much food for thought. And both made me cry.

Other books I’ve finished over the past two months include:

  • Charlotte Link’s THE OTHER CHILD which I found pleasant but fairly forgettable
  • Daniel Suarez’ KILL DECISION – a topical political/techno thriller which I rather enjoyed for its timely thoughts on the modern military’s move towards unmanned aircraft as weapons
  • Belinda Bauer’s FINDERS KEEPERS which I think demonstrated that an author can draw once too often from the same creative well
  • Greg Barron’s ROTTEN GODS – another thriller, this time of the environmental kind, which I also enjoyed for its topical subject and non-judgmental take on the complexities of our modern world
  • Deon Meyer’s 7 DAYS – the latest procedural thriller from this South African author did not disappoint, its main character and gentle humour are a particular treat
  • Ann Holt’s THE BLIND GODDESS – is the first novel of Holt’s series though the most recent to have been translated into English and I found it uneven in quality, its political conspiracy thread in particular was difficult to swallow
  • Shona MacLean’s A GAME OF SORROWS might have suffered from my reading slump as I struggled to get through the minutiae of 17th Century Irish politics (one reviewer likened it to Mantel’s WOLF HALL and I’d agree – I thought that was far too stuffed with details too so what do I know)
  • Mari Jungstedt’s DARK ANGEL – I liked but did not love the latest in this series set on a Swedish island
  • Michael Ridpath’s 66° NORTH which I thought fascinating due to its depiction of Iceland’s experiences of the global financial crisis (and a murder or two as well)

In non reviewing posts I participated in the 2012 version of my life in books (still not too late for you to play with that one), talked about the things readers hate (and don’t), talked about being surprised at how much the physical absence of books around me has impacted my mojo and offered another round of Book vs Adaptation (Peter Temple’s BAD DEBTS) for your consideration.

I am hoping to spend much of November reading books by Australian women writers. Although I have reached my goal of reading 10 books by Aussie women writers (13 so far) I’m falling short of last year’s tally of 20 books by Aussie women (though to be fair to me I have read far fewer books overall this year). Still I’d like to get through a few more of the ones on my TBR shelves, especially one or two of the non-crime novels.


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4 Responses to Books of the Months – October (& September) 2012

  1. Bernadette – I couldn’t possibly agree more about both of your choices. The Martin Beck series is one of the few series I think that every crime fiction fan should read. And Erskine’s books are as you say realistic, if not always, comfortable, portrayals of what really happens when a crime occurs.


  2. Maxine says:

    Great summary, Bernadette. I too like the Sjowall/Wahloo books, it is amazing how they stand the test of time trough the classic stories and the authors’ strong message that runs throughout the text. And I’m looking forward to reading The Betrayal, I’ll check to see if it is available here, yet (amazingly The Brotherhood was so I have hopes!). Of the ones on your list that I’ve read, I agree with your assessment in almost all cases (of course!) though I think I enjoyed The Blind Goddess more than you did. However, I have encountered so many mediocre, derivative, badly written (or written at very low level) books recently that anything half-way decent is a relief.


  3. Norman Price says:

    I liked The Blind Goddess, but then coming from a country that had Gordon Brown as Prime Minister I am a believer in political conspiracies. I do agree Dark Angel wasn’t the best of that series. Anything by Sjowall/Wahloo still seems relevant today even after 40 plus years. Obviously with recommendations from you and Maxine I must read Y.A.Erskine although I find it very easy to cry.


  4. Sarah says:

    I’m looking forward to reading ‘The Betrayal’. ‘The Man on the Balcony’ is a great book.


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