Wednesday, May 27, 2015

(No.288) "Part 2 of some enjoyable reading"

"Part 2 of some recommendations for enjoyable reading"

by Alastair Rickard

In my previous RickardsRead column (No.287) I began providing a list of fiction that have read recently. I did not find them all to be of equal value as enjoyable reading but I did find them all to be worthwhile.

In this second instalment of these brief notes on (mostly) recently published fiction I have provided some further recommendations for your attention.


Regular readers of this column will know of my fondness for several novelists. Among then is the Scot Philip Kerr. His series of novels in which the lead character is the German cop/private detective Bernie Gunther and his 'adventures' before, during and after World War II is for me irresistible reading.

"The Lady From Zagreb", the 10th in the Gunther novels, is set mid-war. At the direction of the Reich's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels Gunther is sent on a mission that takes him from war torn Berlin to Switzerland and Croatia.

For me this novel, well-researched like all of Kerr's work,  does not provide quite the same level of enjoyment as did the gold standard provided by the first three Gunther novels (available as a trilogy entitled "Berlin Noir") but this latest novel in the series is still a rewarding read.

Loren D. Estleman is a professional novelist who lives in Michigan. Among his more than 70 novels are 22 in a detective series featuring former Detroit cop and now private detective Amos Walker.

While the setting is the depressed (and depressing) contemporary Detroit area Walker is a throwback not so often seen in crime fiction these days, a sort of Philip Marlowe character who navigates 'hard-boiled' mysteries but in in an environment that would seem like Mars to Raymond Chandler.

Estleman is a genuine professional writer and his award-winning novels, whether a throwback to an older style or not, are a treat to read. The latest two novels in the Walker series, both published in 2014, are "Don't Look For Me" and "You Know Who Killed Me".

Richard Price is an established New York-based novelist. For some reason his latest novel "The Whites" appears as "Richard Price writing as Harry Brandt". The focus of the book is a former hot shot New York City street cop named Billy Graves who, after a highly publicized accidental shooting, has been content to be on a career back shelf for years.

"Whites" is a sort of cop speak reference to suspects that detectives were unable to charge and convict but whose guilt was certain. Graves has such a "white" as do each of the members of Graves' group of former colleagues from 20 years ago.

Old cases of his and theirs haunt his life as does an event from his wife's teenage years.

The plot is absorbing and the writing superior.

The fourth novel featuring Spanish police detective Max Camara is set in his hometown of Valencia. The author of "Blood Med" is Jason Webster, an Englishman who really knows both contemporary Spain and the country's history. His stories have a verisimilitude that is a great strength of each of the Camara novels.

Webster's plots are inventive and frequently touch on the influence on the novel's characters of events in the Spanish civil war of the 1930s. As a character Camara reminds me of  Ian Rankin's Edinburgh D.I. John Rebus -- and that is high praise.

"World Gone By" is Dennis Lehane's 12th novel. He is a genuine star of American bestseller lists. These are not necessarily places to locate rewarding new fiction but Lehane's latest is a novel that is difficult to put down, so well told is the story.

It has an interesting plot involving certain members of a Florida-based organized crime family and their activity and rivalries in Florida and Cuba during a particularly interesting time: World War II. Lehane is a very accomplished storyteller.

Peter Robinson is an Englishman who divides his time between Toronto and Yorkshire. "Abbatoir Blues" is the 22nd novel in a series featuring the Yorkshire detective Alan Banks, now a D.C.I.

Robinson is an accomplished writer to whom I was introduced (literally and figuratively) some years ago by my wife Pat. He is one of her favourite novelists. His success through the years is based on genuine talent as this latest Banks novel illustrates yet again.




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