Since starting this series, I’ve endeavoured to read more widely, to hop out of my crime fiction comfort zone and dip my toes into short stories, memoirs and other unfamiliar genres. I’m willing to give almost any book a punt, but if there are typos, shallow characters or plots that make watching paint dry seem like a more promising proposition, I’m very rarely prepared to give that author a second chance. (I gave one to Jo Nesbo, in the hopes that Blood on Snow was a blip, but sadly Midnight Sun was no better.) I’ve been ever so tempted to abandon a couple of books partway through, but there’s always a niggling voice in the back of my head telling me to just plough on and see if it improves: in for a penny, in for a pound, as the saying goes – or in for a page, in for the whole printed work, as the case may be.
And Then There Were None – Agatha Christie
After reading just two of Christie’s mysteries, I’ve been seduced by the Queen of Crime. And Then There Were None is, quite simply, in a league of its own when it comes to whodunnits. Lured to an island off the Devon coast by a mysterious U.N. Owen, ten strangers, seemingly with nothing in common, quickly come to realise that they have not been brought together by accident. Someone knows their deepest, darkest secrets, and is going to make them pay the ultimate price for their sins. Trapped on the island by an oncoming storm, one by one they meet their maker, in ways which appear to echo the deaths in the nursery rhyme hung in their rooms. Christie’s masterpiece is brilliantly executed and mindboggling to the very end – were it not for the postscript, I wouldn’t have had a clue who was behind it all.
Paris for One and Other Stories – Jojo Moyes
Usually, I’ll have my nose in a thriller, but every so often, I need something light-hearted, a dose of escapism from the dreary weather and train delays. Moyes’ collection of short stories was just the ticket (no pun intended): eleven uplifting tales of love in all its guises, with plausible characters to boot. In Paris for One, the title story, Nell books a spontaneous romantic getaway in the City of Light. Stood up by her unapologetic boyfriend, she seizes the opportunity to prove to her friends – and herself – that she does have an adventurous streak. I also particularly enjoyed Margot, Crocodile Shoes and The Christmas List.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
While I’ve enjoyed watching Nordic Noir for quite some time, I’ve only got into reading it fairly recently. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was everything it was cracked up to be, and a wee bit more besides: misfits, mysteries and missing pieces aplenty combined to create a page-turner of a thriller. Hedeby Island, 1966. Harriet Vanger vanishes without a trace, in the midst of a family gathering. Decades later, ageing industrialist Henrik Vanger remains haunted by the loss of his great-niece. Suspecting that someone in the family had a hand in her disappearance, he asks disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist to delve into his family’s past and uncover the truth, in exchange for information on Blomkvist’s arch-rival, Hans-Erik Wennerström. Together with Lisbeth Salander, security specialist and hacker extraordinaire, Blomkvist resolves to get to the bottom of Harriet’s disappearance, at any cost.
The German Girl – Armando Lucas Correa
I thoroughly enjoyed this book – if enjoyed is the right word to use, given the tragedies at the heart of the narrative – and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, assuming books set during wars are your cup of tea. Berlin is on the brink of war, and Hannah Rosenthal’s family are forced to flee Germany. The St. Louis appears to be their salvation – a gateway to a world of opportunities – but during their passage a new law is passed, rendering many passengers’ permits and visas invalid. Before their eyes, the life they had imagined became a cruel illusion. Decades later, Anna Rosen receives old negatives and a magazine from her great-aunt, and is inspired to uncover her family’s past. The German Girl beautifully captures both the uncertainty and confusion experienced by those who were labelled as outsiders simply because of their faith and the political undercurrents simmering beneath the surface.
Titles | January – March 2018
Notes From an Exhibition (Patrick Gale) / Anything to Declare? (Jon Frost) / Sparkling Cyanide (Agatha Christie) / To Catch a Rabbit (Helen Cadbury) / The Pursuit of Happyness (Chris Gardner) / And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie) / A History of Loneliness (John Boyne) / La Mémoire des Murs (Tatiana de Rosnay) / Paris for One and Other Stories (Jojo Moyes) / Cautionary Tales (Francis Dingwall) / I See You (Clare Mackintosh) / The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson) / The Longest Ride (Nicholas Sparks) / More Bitter Than Death (Camilla Grebe and Åsa Träff) / Unbound Optimism (Milan Wielinga) / The Stolen Child (Sanjida Kay) / I Am Malala (Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb) / Midnight Sun (Jo Nesbo) / Dark Corners (Ruth Rendell) / Confessions from Correspondent-Land (Nick Bryant) / Repeat Prescription (Dr Michael Sparrow) / A Killing Winter (Tom Callaghan) / Cosmétique de l’Ennemi (Amélie Nothomb) / Salem Falls (Jodi Picoult) / The German Girl (Armando Lucas Correa) / Nagasaki (Éric Faye)