(End of) Summer Reads

Summer is nearly over. We had a hot burst in July and it’s returned with a vengeance. For me, the only way to cope with the heat is to sit in a cool room to write and read. I’m not a great fan of hot weather even though I lived in Greece for four years. I can’t wait for autumn to appear but while I tap my feet for the first signs of cooler air, here are my end of summer picks. It’s a satisfyingly eclectic mix.

The Harbour by Katrine Engberg will give you a bit of Scandi coolness. Fifteen year old Oscar Dreyer-Hoff goes missing and his family are convinced its not teenage angst but his disappearance the result of a kidnapping. The solution to the mystery appears to lie at the harbour where the family own a boat and it takes the skills of detectives Jeppe Korner and Anette Werner to unravels layers of secrets. Although I haven’t read the author before, I found her writing absorbing and very much enjoyed the police procedural element to the novel. The translation was by Tara Chace.

I’m a big fan of Deon Meyer and was looking forward to reading his latest Benny Griessel novel, The Dark Flood. Benny is almost out on his ear after a failed investigation and exiled to Stellenbosch. The region’s economy has been ruined by entrepreneur Jasper Boonstra who has fixed his sights on Sandra Steenberg to sell one of his properties. But Sandra realises Jasper has plenty of dirt on her background and the stakes are high. Tense and compelling this is classic Meyer. The translation is by K L Seegers.

The Prime Minister’s Affair is the new thriller by Andrew Williams. While reading this absorbing story, I was struck by how little I knew about the politics of the late 1920s/early thirties. Labour’s first PM is Ramsay MacDonald, a widower whose affair with Kristina Forster lays him open to blackmail. The relationship is common knowledge amongst Ramsay’s friends, colleagues and enemies and it is down to Dick (French) Stewart to come to some arrangement over the indiscreet letters. As I’d expect from Williams, the story was compelling and full of rich portrayals of both real and fictional characters from the period. Shady intelligence practices and political manoeuvrings make for shifting allegiances and the story moves from Brecon to Paris via London. A wonderful read.

The fascination with the writer Georges Simenon is almost as strong as that of his fictional character Jules Maigret. In this new book by journalist and critic, Barry Forshaw, the author’s life and legacy is considered alongside his books and film adaptations. There is plenty of interest to attract both those new to Simenon’s work and more informed readers. I particularly liked the chapter on collecting Simenon – I began reading his books with the green penguins and have continued with the new translations. Forshaw’s writing is always accessible and wide ranging and this is no exception.

The Bad Sister by J A Corrigan is a tense, quick moving psychological thriller. Three sisters come together for a celebration and a tragedy occurs. Years later as another celebration is planned in the luxury riverside home, old jealousies and tensions rise to the surface. Corrigan’s work is always page-turning and I continue to be impressed by the range of her talents. Perfect end of summer reading.

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