Leftovers eaten, giftwrap recycled, TV recorded – and a stack of new books on my shelf. And still a handful of old ones to recommend. Here goes.
By July I was catching up with birthday gifts from earlier in the year, especially Death in the Dordogne by Martin Walker. I discovered this delicious series a couple of years ago. Great plotting, perfect ending, wonderful characters I want for friends, and all set in a village I’d move to in a heartbeat if my command of French extended beyond pleasantries and restaurant menus. He even provides a recipe for barbecued steak which I can’t wait to try. And I don’t even eat steak.
August brought me Fiona Griffiths. Again. Reviewing for an e-zine sometimes yields up treasure.
If you haven’t yet discovered Harry Bingham series, it really is time you did. Fiona takes the maverick cop to a whole new level. The plots of this stupendously-written, character-rich, wonderfully-backgrounded series are unbelievably complex, and on the face of it completely unlikely, but once you start reading you’ll just keep going. That’s a promise. And The Dead House is one of the best yet.
I had to wait till the end of September for Never Alone by Elizabeth Haynes (another reviewing treasure), and it took me by surprise. It has a couple of stylistic quirks which sent my oh-dear-she’s-trying-to-be-literary antennae into orbit, but before I knew it I was on page 73 and didn’t want to stop. Atmosphere, misdirection, great characters and a long-drawn-out teeth-clenching finale that never falters. What a find.
October brought another end-of-the-month unexpected treat: Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak. I was put off at first by the naff title, but as a wise person said, you can’t judge a book by its... An eye-opener to many things: psychopathy, American prisons and police service, and above all Alaska. I really don’t want to go to Alaska on holiday, especially in winter.
November’s favourite was Lamentation, latest in C J Sansom’s excellent Shardlake series. A doorstop of a book, but unputdownable, from a master of the genre. The Tudor history feels right: far more important than being right, although I suspect the first follows from the second. More important than either: the characters feel real. And you’re left thinking it really could have happened. And who’s to say it didn’t?
December kept me waiting – many books, but nothing that stood out. Then, at the last minute came The Dry, a masterly debut from Jane Harper, an Australian newspaper journalist. If you enjoy tense plotting and the kind of atmosphere that makes you think it’s ninety degrees when it’s actually freezing outside, you’ll love this.
There were plenty more, of course; it’s a poor and sad year when my reading tally fails to top a hundred, but these were the cream of the crop.
So, just three days away from a brand new year, all that remains is to wish friends and blog-followers everywhere a lot of happy new reading for 2017.