Tag: Crime Fiction

My Latest Book Haul

Oh, I do love to go book shopping and because I love to buy books as much as I love to read books, I have to temper myself. And while I haven’t actually set myself a budget, I do try to only order 3-4 books a month, given that’s usually how many I read. That said, however, because of this damn virus, and all but being housebound, I am reading more, and yes, therefore, buying more.

What can I say, we’re all probably as bad as one another and why not. Who needs an excuse but hell, I’ll take this one and run with it. So this latest book haul includes:

All The Devils Are Here — Louise Penny

This is Louise Penny’s latest, and the sixteenth Three Pines Mystery (Sept, 2020) featuring the redoubtable Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. And, Toto, we’re no longer in Québec this time around, but the city of eternal light, Paris.

“On their first night in Paris, the Gamaches gather as a family for a bistro dinner with Armand’s godfather, the billionaire Stephen Horowitz. Walking home together after the meal, they watch in horror as Stephen is knocked down and critically injured in what Gamache knows is no accident, but a deliberate attempt on the elderly man’s life.
When a strange key is found in Stephen’s possession it sends Armand, his wife Reine-Marie, and his former second-in-command at the Sûreté, Jean-Guy Beauvoir, from the top of the Tour d’Eiffel, to the bowels of the Paris Archives, from luxury hotels to odd, coded, works of art.

It sends them deep into the secrets Armand’s godfather has kept for decades.

A gruesome discovery in Stephen’s Paris apartment makes it clear the secrets are more rancid, the danger far greater and more imminent, than they realized.

Soon the whole family is caught up in a web of lies and deceit. In order to find the truth, Gamache will have to decide whether he can trust his friends, his colleagues, his instincts, his own past. His own family.

For even the City of Light casts long shadows. And in that darkness devils hide.”

Slow Horses — Mick Herron

Oh, how I love me a good spy novel. I gobbled up a ton of John Le Carré back in the day, and then for dessert, consumed nearly all of Len Deighton’s series of books, Hook, Line, and Sinker. And then Game, Set, and Match. So I was happy to discover Mick Herron and the Slough House series.

“London, England: Slough House is where the washed-up MI5 spies go to while away what’s left of their failed careers. The “slow horses,” as they’re called, have all disgraced themselves in some way to get relegated here. Maybe they messed up an op badly and can’t be trusted anymore. Maybe they got in the way of an ambitious colleague and had the rug yanked out from under them. Maybe they just got too dependent on the bottle—not unusual in this line of work. One thing they all have in common, though, is they all want to be back in the action. And most of them would do anything to get there─even if it means having to collaborate with one another.

River Cartwright, one such ‘slow horse,’ is bitter about his failure and about his tedious assignment transcribing cell phone conversations. When a young man is abducted and his kidnappers threaten to broadcast his beheading live on the Internet, River sees an opportunity to redeem himself. But is the victim who he first appears to be? And what’s the kidnappers’ connection with a disgraced journalist? As the clock ticks on the execution, River finds that everyone has his own agenda.”

Bad Day At The Vulture Club — Vaseem Khan

Another favourite series of mine is the Baby Genesh Agency books by Vaseem Khan. Funny, whimsical, clever, and oh so endearing, not only because our erstwhile hero, Inspector Chopra─who has an elephant for a sidekick─but because the stories, set in Mumbai, India, are so very different to the usual run of the mill for a crime series.

The Parsees are among the oldest, most secretive and most influential communities in the city: respected, envied and sometimes feared.

When prominent industrialist Cyrus Zorabian is murdered on holy ground, his body dumped inside a Tower of Silence – where the Parsee dead are consumed by vultures – the police dismiss it as a random killing. But his daughter is unconvinced.

Chopra, uneasy at entering this world of power and privilege, is soon plagued by doubts about the case.

But murder is murder. And in Mumbai, wealth and corruption go in hand in hand, inextricably linking the lives of both high and low.

So, what do you think? Three more excellent reads to look forward to. And you, dear reader, what are you reading or looking forward to reading next?

Short Fiction: Expressions

“I need an expression, dammit!” Tom barked from the spotlit corner of the room where he was writing.

Teddi closed her eyes, placed a finger in the book she was reading, and shut it. Two heartbeats, she opened her eyes, “How about pi as expressed as a fraction over…” she never got to finish as Tom yelled.

“No, no, no, not a maths expression—” careful to not add the word ‘idiot‘ at the end of his rebuke. “I need something witty for my main character to say to his girlfriend.” His head bobbed over his keyboard as if the keys themselves would start typing.

Teddi chewed the inside of her lip. She knew it had been a mistake to let Tom have his ‘office‘ there, in the lounge not four feet away from the couch—her reading couch. Ever since he had ‘moved‘ in, putting his small computer desk against one wall, and setting up enough standing lights to illuminate the Eiffel Tower, she’s not had a moments peace to read uninterrupted. And woe betided her getting up to go to the kitchen, thereby disturbing his concentration. The filthy looks still unnerved her. Not sure who this man was, sitting in their lounge. She didn’t recognise him anymore.

Read More

Waiting on Wednesday

Bonjour tout la monde: For today’s Waiting on Wednesday post, I want to talk about a new series I’ve just discovered written by British author, David Young. The first book in the series is STASI CHILD, featuring Lieutenant Karin Muller of the East German police. The premise alone was enough to get me hooked. I mean, after all, Lt. Muller is working with what we always think of as the bad guys, the Stasi; the State.

What’s more, this is set in an era—the mid 70s—in which I was actually living and working in Germany and had, on several occasions, visited East Berlin, as it was back then. So I instantly felt an affinity with the location and time period of this series.

Book Summary

1975: When Oberleutnant Karin Muller is called to investigate a teenage girl’s body at the foot of the Berlin Wall, she imagines she’s seen it all before. But she soon realizes that this is a death like no other before it—the girl was evidently trying to escape from West Berlin.

As a member of the People’s Police, Muller’s power in East Germany only stretches so far. The Ministry for State Security, the Stasi, assures her the case is closed, all they need to know is the girl’s name. Yet they strongly discourage her from asking questions. The evidence doesn’t add up, and it soon becomes clear the crime scene has been staged. But this regime does not tolerate curious minds, and it takes Müller too long to realize that the trail she’s been following may lead her dangerously close to home.

STASI CHILD
David Young
Minotaur Books
Hardback, 416 pages
Thriller

Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny

Book Summary

When a peculiar letter arrives inviting Armand Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder named Benedict.

None of them had ever met the elderly woman.

The will is so odd and includes bequests that are so wildly unlikely that Gamache and the others suspect the woman must have been delusional. But what if, Gamache begins to ask himself, she was perfectly sane?

When a body is found, the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem less peculiar and far more menacing.

But it isn’t the only menace Gamache is facing.

The investigation into what happened six months ago—the events that led to his suspension—has dragged on, well into the dead of winter. And while most of the opioids he allowed to slip though his hands, in order to bring down the drug cartels, have been retrieved, there is one devastating exception.

Enough narcotic to kill thousands—carfentanil—has disappeared into the inner city of Montreal. With the deadly drug about to hit the streets, Gamache races for answers.

As he uses increasingly audacious, even desperate, measures to retrieve the drug, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots. And the terrible things hiding there.

What I Thought

Once again, Louise Penny pulls out all the stops and gifts us with another insightful look into her characters, the village of Three Pines, and the thriving underbelly lurking down dark alleys and in the hidden corners of seedy Montreal, complete with two compelling storylines that deliver intrigue and murder in equal measure.

What’s so special about a Louise Penny Three Pines novel, are the complex nuanced characters, the display of camaraderie, the shared bonds of friendship, and sometimes, the not so subtle ribald humour. Plus the sheer complexity to her stories that draw you right into the narrative. Not satisfied with one or two threads, Penny’s novels are always layered and richly textured with wonderfully written detail. From the descriptions of the characters themselves, to their interactions with one another and the deliciously described food they eat. From the village of Three Pines dressed deceptively in winter snows, to the city of Montreal itself, all play a part bringing a Louise Penny novel to life.

The one thing you can be sure of, in a cut-throat world where anything goes and does happen, to the brutal world of drugs and murder, the one thing you can be sure of is Penny will always counterbalance the pain, grief, and abject horror. Three Pines will always be a welcomed respite with characters who have lived though and known pain, and understand that a community such as theirs survives not because of their idealism, or hope, but in the strength of their diversity. It’s through their flaws and failings we see, as Leonard Cohen wrote, how the light gets in.

In Penny’s own words the books are about “…the common yearning for community. For belonging. They’re about kindness, acceptance. Gratitude.” Wisdom and insight into human nature are infused into her books naturally and with such ease. She’s never preachy but gives us so much more to think about in life’s morally grey areas. And there’s always plenty of grey areas in a Penny novel. Why people lie, why people murder, motivation is not always money or prestige but sometimes bitter revenge. In Kingdom of the Blind, we have two very disturbing threads, one warped by the need for revenge, the other a the desperate need to stop deadly opioids from hitting the street. Both, in their own way, are going to destroy any number of people’s lives. 

Of course, on a much lighter note, we can’t forget to mention the poet Ruth Zardo’s duck, Rosa, who, like it’s owner, provides a great deal of the humour in a Penny novel, with her on-point commentary throughout, “… fuck, fuck, fuck …” And, after all, isn’t that just what a duck would say?

As a side note, it would be helpful to first read, Glass Houses, the preceding novel to Kingdom of the Blind, for further context.

All-in-all, this may very well turn out to be my favourite Louise Penny novel, ever. As always, this one comes highly recommended.

KINGDOM OF THE BLIND (Book 14)
by Louise Penny
Murder Mystery
Hardback, 389 pages
Nov 27 2018 by Minotaur Books