Happy New Year, everyone; hope the hangover has abated.
As promised, here’s the second half of that list.
A Room Full of Bones Elly Griffiths
When I first discovered this series I was put off briefly because it’s written in the present tense: something I tend to associate with the more pretentious kind of litfic. But after a couple of chapters I ceased to notice; no books could be less pretentious. These days I can hardly wait for the next one. This time I especially enjoyed the suggestion of the supernatural at work, and the way the scientific explanation doesn’t quite fit with what happened. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio...
I spent half the month on the kind of holiday which includes a lot of lounging around with a good book, so one book of the month was never going to be enough. I’ve whittled it down to four.
The Fear Index Robert Harris
This was before the holiday. I wasn’t going to read it, but husband persuaded me. Half of me is glad I did; it’s gripping, well written, a terrific story. The other half... well, it’s a seriously scary concept, and all too possible, and there are some things I’m more comfortable not knowing...
On Beulah Height Reginald Hill
My first holiday read. Someone told me it was even better than The Woodcutter (see January) though earlier, and part of the Dalziel and Pascoe series, not a standalone. It’s complex, full of landscape and the lives of the lead characters, and as wonderfully written as ever, so I was all set to agree – until the end. Maybe I’m a bear of very little brain, but for me it was a tad too subtle; a clue or two more as to the murderer would have made it Hill’s greatest triumph. Still up there, though.
Crybbe Phil Rickman
I’m a huge fan of Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series, so finding this early non-Merrily on a bookshelf in our rented holiday house was a great treat. There are bodies, so it counts as crime, but mainly it’s about dark forces – but handled with such immense skill that every twist is all too credible.
The Invisible Ones Stef Penney
After The Tenderness of Wolves, it was hard to know what this extraordinary writer would do next. What she did was prove she’s no one-trick pony. She transported me into a world few people know much about, and made it live and breathe without letting the research show. No mean feat.
Sworn Secret Amanda Jennings
I was given this debut novel to review, or I might never have found it. It’s kind of crossover mystery/women’s fic/possibly even YA, and deals with grief in a way which reduced me to tears without resorting to sentimentality. I’ll certainly be looking for the author’s next one.
Good As Dead Mark Billingham
Mark Billingham probably qualifies among my top ten favourite authors, but it’s been a while since I read a new book of his. This one reinforced everything I’ve ever thought: he has a huge talent for making each take on the basic crime fiction theme quite different from all the previous ones, without compromising on any of the basic elements which made me go on seeking out his books after the first.
I read my usual quota with a modicum of pleasure, but nothing in particular grabbed me. Well, there has to be an occasional bad month.
When I started this list, I told myself I wasn’t going to include an author more than once. But sometimes events overtake intentions, and when I made that decision I hadn’t read Susan Hill’s The Betrayal of Trust.
I said the series gets better and better when I read The Shadows in the Streets, book 5 in her Simon Serrailler series. Book 6 made that true tenfold. It blew me away. Not so much the crime Simon Serrailler is tasked to solve, though that’s full of twists and misdirections. It’s the background, and the other issues the book explores, as Simon finally, cataclysmically, falls in love. And it leaves delicious loose ends for book 7. Or possibly 8 or 9. What a finale to a great year for new books!
Looking back over the entire list, I realize only four out of the fourteen are by authors I don’t habitually go in search of; and only two are by authors I’d never sampled before.
I did read other stuff, and quite a lot of it; it just didn’t grab me the way these did.
Does this say something about the quality of the other books I read? Or have I become a creature of habit?