Monday, 12 March 2018

Just Read, Currently Reading and Authors A - Z, Just Starting off

Spring is actually springing the past few days. We've had a couple of glorious sunny, fresh days. I decided to go out for a run this morning rather going to the gym. The stars were shining brightly, it was fresh and crisp, just great. Now if I only enjoyed running more.. :0)

I finished one of my current books after my run. It was a most enjoyable read. My next book will be in my Canadian content section and should be a short read, it being a collection of poetry.

Just Finished

A Necessary End by Peter Robinson (Chief Inspector Banks #3). I've now read the first three of the Banks mysteries and each one has been exceptional. Just entertaining, enjoyable reads. My review is below.

"A Necessary End is the 3rd book in the excellent Chief Inspector Banks mystery series by Peter Robinson. Each story has been excellent. In this one, a police officer is murdered during a protest against nuclear plants and a new US Air Force base being considered for the area of Banks's town. The protest turns into a riot and results in physical interaction between the protesters and riot police.
The investigation results in Superintendent Dirty Dick Burgess being sent from London to run the murder investigation. Banks knows and dislikes Burgess from previous encounters while he worked in London. Burgess is a rabble rouser, heavy drinker and carouser. He runs an investigation as a bulldozer, upsetting suspect and causing turmoil.
Banks has to work around Burgess in trying to solve the murder. Burgess suspects left wing instigation in the murder while Banks has his own ideas. The case revolves around a group of people who live in a sort of commune nearby and varied other people who helped organize the protests, Banks begins to find out some disturbing things about the murdered police officer and wonders whether this might be a reason for the murder. He has some small side investigations being conducted by other police officers which slowly come to light as his ideas firm up.
It's an interesting story. We find out more about Banks's life and his relationships. He's an interesting character. I like the small discoveries about Banks even if I don't necessarily like his taste in music. The ending comes a bit out of left field but at the same time is very satisfactory and believable. I continue to enjoy this series and look forward to continuing the series. (4 stars)"

Currently Reading

The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left Handed Stories by Michael Ondaatje (Canadian Lit). This satisfies my Canadian Literature challenge and also the March genre challenge in another group, that being Poetry of course. I read it back in university and remembered enjoying it (I hope so anyway)

"From the Booker Prize-winning author of The English Patient comes a visionary novel, a virtuoso synthesis of storytelling, history, and myth, about William Bonney, a.k.a. "Billy the Kid, " a bloodthirsty ogre and outlaw saint. "Ondaatje's language is clean and energetic, with the pop of bullets."--Annie Dillard."

Bill's Author List A - Z

I mentioned this in my last entry. I plan to go through my Goodreads' bookshelves and list some of the authors I'm following or planning to follow, hoping some might interest you enough to try yourselves. I won't necessarily list every author on my book shelf; not books I didn't enjoy, or some that I haven't tried for years and years. But lets start with my first three; 'A' Authors.

Jussi Adler-Olsen
1. Jussi Adler-Olsen. Jussi Adler-Olsen is a Danish crime writer, known especially for his Department Q mysteries. I've read the first two books in this series and enjoyed them both very much. They are unique, funny and sometimes intense. At the moment there are 7 books in the series:

a. The Keeper of Lost Causes. "What a surprisingly excellent mystery and story. I've had it on my bookshelf for awhile and am so glad that I finally pulled it down to read. The mystery, the cold case involving the disappearance of Merete, was different from any I've read before. The main characters, Carl Morck, head of new Division Q and his assistant, Assad, were so well crafted. Carl is a police detective just coming back to work after he and his two partners were ambushed, one killed, one a cripple still in hospital and Carl, recovered, now trying to get back to work. His boss assigns him to a newly created unit as its chief, partly to keep him away from the other detectives. Carl avoids work until his new assistant, Assad brings him the cold case involving Merete, who became missing, presumed dead, five years ago on a ferry to Germany. The story weaves between Carl and Assad, working their way through the old case and Merete, working from the past, 5 years before, until the present as she tries to adjust and sort out where she is and why she was abducted in the first place. Carl is an interesting character, his personal life also slowly being developed and his investigating talents becoming more visible. All in all, it was an excellent story, witty, but also with a great deal of tension as the story winds up to its climax. Loved it and am looking forward to reading more Department Q mysteries."

b The Absent One. "The first book in the Station Q mysteries, set in Denmark, was a pleasant surprise last year. I was worried about the sophomore jinx with this second book, but I needn't have been. The story was different and excellent. Detective Inspector Morck is such an interesting character, intelligent, troubled, thoughtful and funny. His assistant, Assad, is a wily, hard working character and I still want to find out more about him. Added to the mix in this second story is Rose, an unwanted assistant thrust upon Morck by his boss. But we find that Rose, even though she is outspoken and irritates Morc to no end, she also proves to be a smart, independent thinking and hard working. I like how Olsen presents his stories, alternating from the point of view of Morck and that of the suspect(s). It's a dark story, edgy and hard hitting but engrossing all the same. If you enjoyed the first book, you won't be disappointed with the next in the series. Give it a try."

The other books in the series are -

c. A Conspiracy of Faith.
d. The Purity of Vengeance.
e. The Marco Effect.
f. The Hanging Girl.
g. The Scarred Woman.

Rennie Airth
2. Rennie Airth. Airth is a South African novelist (and here I thought he was British) who lives in Italy. He writes a historical mystery series featuring Detective Inspector John Madden. Madden has returned from WWI where he served as a Provost Marshal. He returns to his job in Scotland Yard. I liked the first book and each one after it was even better. I've read the first three of the five book series.

a. River of Darkness.
"Bloodied bodies of Fletcher, his wife and two of their staff have been discovered. The victims have all been stabbed. The Surrey police force seem ready to put the murders town to robbery with violence, but Detective Inspector Madden sees things differently. He is certain this crime has been perpetrated by a psychopath who will strike again."

b. The Blood-Dimmed Tide.  "I liked Rennie Airth's second book in his Inspector Madden series very much. He seems to have found a nice style and pacing. The mystery was interesting and kept me reading. The final resolution was also well-thought out. The characters, especially Inspector Sinclair and Sgt Styles and, of course, Madden are all easy to picture. My only criticism of the story was that there wasn't enough of Madden, that the story revolved more around Sinclair, which isn't a problem, just a point. As well, I don't think that Airth got into the psyche of the suspect enough, that at the end, you still haven't really seen him. My final point is that the jacket of the book says, 'And soon significant links are discovered in Germany, where the Nazis are on the brink of power'. I had expected this to be more developed, but this plot line remained more on the periphery. All in all, I still find this series interesting and worth reading."

c. The Dead of Winter. "This is the third in the John Madden series of mysteries. The stories get better and better. I enjoyed this very much. It's more than just a mystery featuring one detective. In fact, in this story, John Madden has been retired from Scotland Yard for a number of years, now happily married and living in the country with lovely country doctor, Helen. The story is set during the final throes of WWII, during the Battle of the Bulge as Hitler's army tries a last desperate attempt to throw back the Allies. Mind you, this story is basically set in England, with a warm up from France, when a Jewish businessman is murdered. We move to England and another murder, that of a Polish girl who has been working on Madden's farm. This brings Madden into the story as he feels an obligation to help solve the murder. But the story also focuses on Deputy Inspector Angus Sinclair, Madden's old boss, and a team of police led by Billy Sykes and others. The investigation is handled nicely as they try to find a mystery man, a possible serial killer. It's such a nicely paced and choreographed story and all of the characters are well-presented. I kind of had some things figured out by the end, but it didn't matter, the story was excellent, the tension nicely built and it was an all-in-all enjoyable mystery. One more in this series, unless Mr. Airth decides to write another. Enjoy!"

The remaining two books in the series are -

d. The Reckoning (2014)
e. The Death of Kings (2017).

Margery Allingham
3. Margery Allingham. Allingham was an English writer of crime fiction. She lived from 1904 - 1966. She is especially known for her famous sleuth, Albert Campion. She is one of a group of female crime writers known at that time, including Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ngaio Marsh. There were at least 30 books in the Campion series. She also wrote some stand alone mysteries. I won't list all of her books but below are the ones I've enjoyed thus far and the ones still sitting on my shelf to be read.

a. Black Plumes (1940).  "This is my favourite book so far in 2012. It's a nice, tense, parlor-style mystery. Set in one house in London, there are murders committed and the family must deal with a police investigation and their suspicions of each other. It moved along nicely, the characters are interesting and the story is well-written. I particularly liked the main female lead; Frances Ivory and also the Scottish Police investigator, Inspector Bridie. Very well-done. This is my second Margery Allingham and I look forward to reading more of her mysteries. (4 stars)"

b. Dancers in Mourning (Campion #9, 1937). "Strange pranks are being played on dancer Jimmy Sutane, star of London's Argosy Theater. When they spread to the Sutane's country estate, it becomes apparent that someone wants Jimmy's famous feet to tap their final dance. Campion never dreamed the big show-stopper would be murder - and a case that promises to test his mind and break his heart." (3 stars)

c. The Allingham Minibus (Campion #25; 1973). "An excellent collection of short stories from Margery Allingham. I expected them all to feature her favourite detective, Albert Campion, but, in fact, only two of them did. Both of them were excellent, demonstrating Campion's ability to grasp the salient clues to quickly solve both mysteries. I enjoyed them very much. I was surprised, pleasantly it turned out, that there were 3 or 4 ghostly stories contained in the book. I can't say the endings totally surprised me, but I enjoyed them very much. My favourite story also happened to be the longest, A Quarter of a Million, which featured a gang of ruthless, cunning robbers who didn't mind killing to get what they wanted and an intelligent police inspector who was able to outsmart the gang, with a neat little twist at the end as he explained how he had figured things out. All in all, a most enjoyable collection. (4 stars)"

d. Mr. Campion: Criminologist (Campion #9; 1937). "This is the 2nd collection of Allingham's short stories I've read this year and both were excellent. In this collection, every story features her favourite sleuth, Albert Campion, a gentleman who likes to get involved with interesting cases. Each story is presented as an entry in Campion's casebook and as you see with one of them, the casebook is written by the author, Margery Allingham, sort of presented as Campion's secretary. This book features 7 of Campion's cases and for the most part, they also include his friend, Scotland Yard inspector, Stanilaus Oates. I enjoyed how Allingham presented the cases, I liked her writing style and I like Campion, somewhat like Dorothy Sayer's, Peter Wimsey, a confident, wealthy gentleman, who likes mysteries. The stories show how quickly he grasps the facts and how he is able to solve each case, each of which was interesting and different. I've read a few of the Campion books now and find that I'm enjoying them more and more. (4 stars)"

e. The Tiger in the Smoke (#17, 1952). "While they aren't necessarily my favourite mystery series, I still enjoy the Albert Campion books. I think Campion is sort of unique in that he doesn't seem to play a major role in the stories. He is always around and involved, helping the police and investigating, but at the same time, the other characters; such as the police, the villains, secondary characters, etc also play important roles. This story starts off with a friend of Campion requesting his assistance. She is a widow, her husband having been supposedly killed in the war. She has moved on and is engaged to a new man, when she begins getting pictures of her previous husband, which seem to indicate he might still be alive. From this interesting beginning, we find ourselves involved trying to solve the crimes of a serial murderer (who may or may not be related to the previous case), treasure from the war, etc. The story meanders through the plot, moving over to the criminals, back to the police, to Campion's relatives and family, but all the time leading inexorably to the exciting conclusion. Well worth reading (3 stars)"

f. Death of a Ghost (#6, 1934). "The first killing took place at a crowded art show, in full view of the cream of London society. For the second killing, only the victim and the murderer were present. Now the scene was set for the third--a lavish dinner party with vintage wines, and with Albert Campion's death as the main course. (3 stars)"

g. Pearls Before Swine (#12, 1945). "Albert Campion returns from three years’ work for the War Office in Europe to find that Lugg, his manservant, has brought him an unusual gift from Edna, Dowager Marchioness of Carados: the black silk nightdress-clad body of a dead woman, an apparent suicide, found in her son's bed the night before his wedding. (4 stars)"

It seems I've read a few of her books. These are the ones are still on my book shelf to read.

h. The Black Dudley Murder (#1, 1929).
i. Cargo of Eagles (#19, 1968).
j. The Mind Readers (#18, 1965).
l. The Beckoning Lady (#15, 1955).

I hope you like this upcoming series of posts. More next post. Enjoy your week.

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