This means novels that I started and read straight through, completing them to the last page. I pick up a lot of fiction and give up on the book by the end of the first chapters, as well as many others where I get about half or two thirds through and quit due to do not care, and also, why is this so much longer than it needed to be?
So July's fiction reading is much more than usual, that’s for sure. Staying home alone during the brutally hot, polluted and humid 8 days that el V was off to hot and humid Cuba, and feeling physically crummy is probably responsible -- that, and maybe some novels I wanted to read.
Brookmyre, Christopher. (2016) Black Widow.
Right after finishing this novel, which I'd picked off the shelves without any prior knowledge of either the book or the author, I learned Black Widow was just won the UK's Crime Writers' Association Golden Dagger award for 2016.
Nerd pop culture references all the way through, which gets wearing and doesn't wear well for readers of the future. The investigator of the mystery, and primary narrator is really too old for this stuff, so it was annoying as hell. But since many of the other characters were nerds and young and live in that culture I kept page turning / reading, until fairly close to the end I got all too familiar sensation that comes with trying read fiction, which is "Isn't this over yet?????" -- "gads, this is at least 50 pages too long!" -- so skipped to the end to find out who did it and why. Spoiler alerts!
SPOILER CONTENT HERE
The conclusion was disappointing: two rich sibs caught in flagrant incest, cut out of the money by their outraged father, had concocted an elaborate plot to fake a murder, create a false identity for the sake of a life insurance policy and getting married in France. But they needed to find a woman who would be plausible as a husband killer to take the rap. She is subjected to gaslighting to the highest degree. It this character, a brilliant women who is a surgeon, that kept me reading almost all the way through. It was fine, except for the incest.
SPOILER CONTENT ENDS
Pop culture / nerd culture, you bet he does GOT too. Feh. He and his ending let me down, as endings so often do.
However the following books all have satisfying endings.
Cleeves, Ann (2016) Cold Earth.
The latest of her Jimmy Perez Shetland series. It was slow-going, particularly in getting going, in an almost exact replication of the first Jimmy Perez - Shetland Islands book I read. In fact, the location is where the first one took place even. This in an on going problem in almost all of her Shetland books. though not in the television adaptations.
One of the many pleasures I receive from reading Cleeves (she's the author of Yorkshire's Vera Stanhope novels too -- the first one of which, The Crow Trap, originally published in 1999, I finally got to read last month! And it was the very best of the Vera novels I've read so far), is how different the television series are from the books. Both the Vera and Shetland tv series are among my big watching pleasures. These provide good lessons in how to adapt successfully from print to screen. The first lesson, may well be the most important -- the casting makes all the difference, and when it's perfect, the visual adaptation may well be more compelling than the print, without being in the least faithful to the plots or even who the characters are -- but then television has its own rules, which may not be necessary for the page. As said, an education in writing.
French, Tana; (2008) The Likeness.
I’ve read all of Irish writer French’s novels almost as soon as they were published in the US, except this, her second one. It was involving, though the pretext, that divine, insulated group of college kids who are interested only in each other is rather more than tired. But so talented a writer as French (rather like the great talent that was Daphne Du Maurier for our age) did something fresh with it. The problem, though, is is that they really aren’t kids, and don’t even feel in the early 20’s. So how does this undercover female detective protag manage, since, even though older than the 'kids', still her experience seems too deep for her early 30’s, as she says she is, even though she supposedly looks a lot younger.
But hey, it’s hot, I read in the bed, with the a/c cranked until deep into the night. I turned the pages compulsively. This passed the hours most agreeably until I could relax enough and sleep while el V was in Cuba.
Leon, Donna (2016) The Waters of Eternal Youth: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery.
Venice is drowning in tourists and their crap, immigrants, the mob and general corruption of everything. But still, despite everything being online these days, the Commissario and his family continue to read the classics and eat the most wonderful meals at least three times a day.
Rankin, Ian. (2016) Rather Be The Devil.
Rankin's hard drinking, chain smoking, 60's rock and roller, rule breaking, ass kicking, Scott's cynic Rebus is retired from Edinburgh's police force. It's all caught up with him after many books in the Rebus series. He's not smoking, but coughing disgusting crap with a shadow on his lung, trying to cut back on drinking. But he’s still dueling with Big Ger, frustrating Siobhan Clarke and everyone who cares for him, but going to the center of what has happened in the past that has bled into the bloody present. Another change in Rebus -- the proverbial lone wolf detector, he's one of three -- and actually cooperating as much as Rebus can cooperate with them. This means the narrative provides additional povs beyond Rebus's in this convoluted case, which is about – what exactly? The disappearance of a banker, who seems to be connected to all sorts of nefarious financial deals, drugs, gambling, homicide – and, well, not Russians, but Ukrainians, laundering money in and through Scotland. But then Rankin's Rebus has never about the case, really, but about the wild ride he takes you on..
In the end, again, Rebus's nemesis, and in these later novels, now at least a frenemy, if not friend, Big Ger Cafferty’s back, old as he is -- as old as Rebus, but he's not over the hill yet, any more than is Rebus. But Rebus has learned to work with others, as much as Rebus can: Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke, and the male officer promoted and moved over her, to international crime, Malcolm Fox. They all get what they want. Further, Rebus still has his girlfriend from the previous book, Deborah Quant, who works post mortems for Edinburgh, has since the last book acquired a dog named Brillo – and he’s lost weight. Neither Big Ger nor Rebus are anywhere near down for the count yet, and they glory in it -- and that they have both proved they are both still at the top of their intersecting game.
It was good reading for a hot and humid July weekend in NYC.
Today the weather is splendid, a perfect July summer day. There's enough July left that I may be able to get in yet another novel. Tonight I begin an historical set colonial Manhattan of 1746. I've been looking forward to this one.
Spufford, Francis (2017) Golden Hill.
If I am able to finish this one (it's not long) it would make a grand total of six -- 6 -- novels, I read this month!