The Best of January’s Reading

Well, January is over thank God. I can see from my stats that I have plenty of readers from the Southern Hemisphere and recent Januscomments about the Australian heatwave mean I am sending envious glances across the globe.

Perhaps I should have geared my reading to books set in sunnier climes, but my need for escapism was more than amply met by the amount of historical fiction on my list. Five out of the eight crime books I read this month were set in the past, from first century Alexandria to 1980s Northern Ireland. Compiling this post, I’m slightly ashamed to notice that only 1 and 1/2 books (Nicola Upson and Maj Sjöwall) were written by women. However, I’m pleased to say that a number of women crime writers – Lindsay Davis, Elly Griffiths and Eva Hudson are already lined up for my February books.

My book of the month is a tie between Paul Doiron’s The Poacher’s Son and Adrian McKinty’s Hear the Sirens in the Street. Doiron is a new discovery of mine and I’m looking forward to reading more of his books. McKinty is an old favourite and once more he didn’t disappoint.

The eight books I read for crimepieces were:

1. The Chessmen by Peter May

2. The Abominable Man by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö

3. The Dark Winter by David Mark

4. Fear in the Sunlight by Nicola Upson

5. HHhH by Laurent Binet

6. The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron

7. Furies by D L Johnstone

8. I Hear the Sirens in the Street by Adrian McKinty

Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise is putting together a list of reviewer’s favourite books for January.

Review: Adrian McKinty – I Hear the Sirens in the Street

Adrian McKinty, I Hear the Sirens in the StreetAdrian McKinty’s The Cold Cold Ground was my favourite read of 2012 so I was looking forward to the next book in the series. Post-Christmas England is a miserable place and after living in a Mediterranean country for the last four years, I wanted something to combat the January blues. At first glance, a crime novel set in the Troubles in the early 1980s might not seem the ideal read but McKinty’s books are written with humour and have page-turning plots. I also find this particular series fascinating as it is set in the recent past, featuring real life characters that I can remember well from the time.

I Hear the Sirens in the Street opens with the discovery of  a torso in a suitcase. A tattoo on the body suggests an American identity of the victim but the suitcase is traced back to a farm where the husband of the owner was murdered by the IRA. Newly promoted DI Sean Duffy suspects something is amiss with the original murder inquiry but his investigations are thwarted by the local landowner with links to the car manufacturer John DeLorean who has just set up a plant in the country.

As I’d expect from McKinty’s books, this was an enjoyable read. Sean Duffy returns with a police medal in recognition of his escapades in the first book. However he remains the music listening, joint smoking detective with the chaotic love life that was so enjoyable. The foibles of the RUC are given a wider view here, home to alcoholic policemen who joined up for what would have a been a relatively easy job before the Troubles began. We also get a sense of the conflicts with the other law agencies: army, special branch and MI5 in addition to US intelligence. I had forgotten all about the DeLorean case and it fascinating was to read a fictional take on era when government money was being pumped into an enterprise that seems doomed from the start.

The background of both the Troubles and the onset of the Falklands War gives the narrative a sense of anything is possible which helps the slightly OTT action, especially towards the end. The novel finishes on a sombre note and it will be interesting to see where book three takes us. With McKinty anything is possible.

The author’s website is here. I bought my copy of the book which has also been reviewed at The View from the Blue House and The Game’s Afoot.