We’re moving into festival season where much of my reading will be books of authors I’m interviewing. This is always a great opportunity to discover new writers and I’ve already read some excellent books. In the meantime, February and March was a time to tackle my TBR pile and read titles from around the world.
I’ve been reading Jonathan Kellerman since the 1980s and still love the Alex Delaware/Milo Sturgis partnership. City of the Dead is, I think, the thirty-seventh book in the series. A naked man is found dead in the street and in a nearby house, a woman with an odd array of clients is discovered murdered. Alex realises he knows the dead woman. She’s a psychologist with dubious credentials which might prove to be a motive for murder. I loved the wide ranging feel of the investigation which takes the duo around LA. As usual, Kellerman gets into the heart of the city’s psyche.
Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight is the evocative title of the new book by Riku Onda. It’s one of the few psychological thrillers I’ve read which actually does delve into the psyche of the characters. Aki and Hiro have decided to go their separate ways and spend a last night together in their Tokyo flat. A year earlier, on a trekking holiday, the guide fell to his death. Both are convinced the other is repsonsible and the night is to be a battle of wits until the truth emerges. Tense and unflinching, this a book which gets into the heart of the characters and there are plenty of surprises along the way.
The Poisonous Solicitor is the true story of a well-known Hay-on-Wye solicitor, Major Herbet Armstrong, who was hanged for killing his wife and the attempted murder of a rival solicitor with arsenic-laced food. The case was infamous at the time and is even mentioned in Dorothy Sayers’ crime novel Unnatural Death.The author, Stephen Bates, gives a modern perspective on the incident. Of the two previous biographies, one strongly argued that Armstrong was guilty of the crimes, the other that it was a miscarriage of justice. Bates treads a path between the two theories in this excellent book. Armstrong comes across as completely unpleasant but his wife was no saint either. I was left with a strong view on the man’s guilt but there’s plenty of mystery in the case to arrive at a different conclusion.
One of the best books I’ve read this year is The Distant Dead by Heather Young. Chatting to American readers, I believe it was published a few years ago there and I’m delighted the book has found a UK publisher. A maths teacher, Adam Merkel, is found burnt to death near a ranch in the hills. Sal Prentiss, a boy he befriended, might know more about the death than he is letting on and Adam’s teaching colleague, Nora, also believes the solution to the crime lies in Merkel’s past life. The story takes you into the politics of a small American town where most of its residents will never have the opportunity or inclination to leave. I found the story engrossing and loved Young’s use of language to draw you into the heart of the story.