Monday, September 5, 2016

Recent Reads - Summer Edition

Summer has come to an end. Due to a prolonged, unexpected vacation, I had the opportunity to read quite a bit over the past few months. Now as I get back to my regular work routine, I have a chance to reflect on the many books I read. Some were very good; others don't deserve mentioning. Listed below are short reviews of a few of my summertime reads. I hope I have guided you in some way. Enjoy!

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh (Sphere, November 2014). There is a killer twist in this psychological thriller, one that you won’t expect at all. The book opens with tragedy: A child lets go of his mother’s hand to run into a Bristol street on a rainy evening and is struck by a car in a hit-and-run accident. Jenna Gray moves to a ramshackle cottage on the Welsh coast to escape her memories of the accident, to try to start her life anew. Meanwhile, Bristol Police continue to investigate, the hit-and-run still high on their priority list many months later even though there are no leads as to who caused the accident. The twist mentioned here comes half way through the book, but there is a strong, surprise ending that makes one conclude that nothing in this novel is as it seems. Highly recommended!

The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza (Bookouture, February 2016). The body of a young woman has been found under the ice in a South London lake. Emotionally damaged Detective Chief Inspector Erika Foster is called to lead the investigation, her backstory revealing itself slowly and mysteriously. When three prostitutes are discovered in circumstances very similar to the first murder, Foster must fight the “you’re on the case; you’re off the case; you’re back on the case” attitude of her commander to pursue the man she assumes responsible for the serial killing. The ending of the book, although action-packed, is quite contrived in its attempts to have the story come full circle to its strong opening. Still, the characters are well-developed and readers will look forward to the next two Detective Erika Foster books in the series.

The Writer by D.W. Ulsterman (Kindle Press, June 2016). Advertised as a “dark thriller”, this novel is neither “dark” nor a “thriller”. I would label it a cozy mystery at best, and not a particularly good one at that. It starts out with an ominous prologue and a strong opening suggesting that the expected darkness is indeed forthcoming. A bestselling author lives as a recluse on a small island off the coast of Washington state and has hardly been seen since the mysterious death of his wife 27 years before. A college student of journalism has been granted an exclusive interview with the author and arrives on the island with a sense of foreboding. As readers we quickly imagine the journalist being held captive, or being the first to confirm that the author’s wife was actually murdered, but unfortunately, the plot goes downhill from this point until the novel’s very disappointing conclusion.

Wind / Pinball by Haruki Murakami (Vintage Digital, August 2015). As I have mentioned in a previous article, I am a passionate fan of Haruki Murakami and my bookshelf is filled with most of the books he has written. That is why I was eager to read his first two novels, published in Japan in the 1970s and only recently appearing in a combined edition in their English translation. These short works of fiction are part of the so-called “Trilogy of the Rat”, as they deal focus on an unnamed narrator and his friend, The Rat. The third book of the series is more well known. I had read A Wild Sheep Chase (1982) many years ago. The style of Murakami’s writing had markedly improved by then, a sign that his earlier works were just practice runs preparing the author for his award-winning literary career. There is nothing particularly notable in these two works. They will appeal mostly to Murakami aficionados, like me.

The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis (Soho Crime, 2011). I must admit – it was the title of this book, as well as learning that it opens with a naked, barely breathing three-year-old boy being discovered in a Copenhagen train station locker, that convinced me to buy it. Described as an example of the sparse Scandinavian style of crime writing, this fast-paced award-winning thriller was a New York Times bestseller. That said, despite a few memorable characters, it was not the exemplary, emotional mystery I had expected. Featuring female protagonists “you can believe in” (according to the New York Times), and dealing with the “criminal mistreatment of women and children, compassionately told from a feminine perspective”, perhaps this debut novel, the first in a four-book series, will appeal more to female readers.

Related article:

Recent Reads, March 2016

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