Fiction – January 2020

You can tell I’ve been on holiday. There’s a lot of reading here. (Probably some of these belong with December’s reading, but at least I remembered to review them.)

Part of my Connelly reread. This one involves a dead body found in the trunk of a car. Bosch sorts it out, but not without some more danger, some twists, and the usual inter office politics. Great stuff.

Well, if Trunk Music was great, this was superb. I had forgotten just how good it was. An intricate plot involving the killing of a lawyer, famous for suing the police and the city. Bosch has to deal with the obvious candidates making him even less popular. And, of course, he has to keep digging for the truth. That doesn’t make him any more popular! This story is well put together and in overall quality stands that little bit above the rest of the books in the series to this point, so far. Excellent.

Inspired by watching the BBC adaptation, the book is a fine piece of crime writing with a fresh backdrop, an interesting back story, and some terrific plot twists. That having been said, I wasn’t 100% convinced by the central character’s portrait. It seemed slightly off to me. I suspect most people given his history would be staying well away from the murder being investigated here – the murder of a local girl about to leave for the big city as a student at the Royal Ballet. That personal observation aside, this was a good read and reminded me I really need to check out Tana French;s other books. (I enjoyed her book The Trespasser.)

I’m trying to keep up with Michael Connelly books at both ends. This is his latest starring Bosch and female policewoman Ballard. She’s as much an outcast as Bosch, in her case for ratting out a superior who sexually harassed her. Good qualifications to have in the modern era. Both get involved in a cold case, the murder book for which was passed to Bosch on his former mentor’s death. But why did the deceased policeman keep the file? Was it to protect a killer? After all these years, Bosch and Ballard start a fresh investigation. Inevitably, there’s drama and trouble. I thought this was better than the previous Bosch and Ballard book. And I can see that as Bosch inevitably fades, his legacy will be carried on by Ballard with ample skill and determination. They are, for the present, a good (if sometimes dysfunctional) team.

One of the author’s Chief Inspector William Wisting series (televised now), the gentle detective gets involved in a case involving Frank Mandt, a deceased criminal of some renown. Wisting’s daughter is friendly with Mandt’s granddaughter, the latter inheriting Mandt’s house, complete with locked safe. And when the safe is opened, all sorts of secrets slowly come out.

As usual in these books, father and daughter are caught up, each in their own way, in the unraveling of the lose ends and the mysteries. It’s good stuff if sometimes a bit pedestrian.

Although a later book, this is a flashback, featuring the start of William Wisting as a detective. He is there when somebody finds a bullet-ridden car in an old, abandoned barn. The mystery intrigues him, and he resolves to find out what happened. It’s a good tale, well told, but occasionally losing steam. Still well worth reading. The author is a fine observer of human nature and well knows how to give depth to his characters. Gentle, but good.

Sadly, Sue Grafton died before she could get to Z, so her Alphabet series will forever remain at 25 books. (Impressively, the author did not want anyone ghosting her work. Nor did she want a film or TV adaptation. So the 25 books are it.) I presume she knew she was dying because the impression I get – as compared to the preceding couple of books in the series – is of a much higher intensity in the writing. Kinsey Millhone is more alive in this book, ironically. The story involves an old case of teenage boys assaulting a classmate and the aftermath – a killing and two people going to prison. Fast forward to the release of one of those convicted at the end of the sentence, and old grievances come to the boil. Then, there’s the fact that Millhone may be in the sights of someone who has a major grudge against her. A good book, a good story, and a good way for the series to end.

Oh, and it may be me reading more into it than I have any right to, but I found the author’s dedication mighty powerful and emotional.

Thank you Sue Grafton for all those years of reading pleasure you gave me.

This is a tale of two twisted minds coming together and the by product of their alliance. A fine psychological thriller with a deadly and dark thread running all the way through it to the bitter, bitter end. The police characters – Thorne and Tanner – are largely props to support the display and narrative featuring the twin baddies, but the book hardly suffers from lack of direction. Instead, what you get is pretty damn good and very much worth your time. But be prepared to go to some haunting pockets of the human psyche.

This was the first in a 77 book series featuring Kosuke Kindaichi, one of Japan’s greatest fictional detectives. It features a rural Japanese setting in 1937, with a mix of embedded traditions and the intrusion of the modern world. The style of writing is quirky, but once you get used to it you realize how mush the author is playing with you. (The extent of this is hammered home at the end of the story.) It’s a locked room mystery of real quality, and a fine piece of entertainment. Different.