The best of February’s reading.

February can be summed up as quality not quantity when it came to crime fiction reading. After a glut of Scandinavian crime fiction in December and January it was great to read some excellent books by British writers including Elly Griffiths and R J Ellory.

However, my book of the month is a tie between Stav Sherez’s A Dark Redemption and Peter May’s The Black House. I loved Sherez’s book because it cleverly combined the horror of modern day demonic crime in London with the political violence of East African insurgent groups. I’m already looking forward to the next in the series. Peter May’s book, the first of a trilogy, created some memorable characters to the backdrop of the picturesque Isle of Lewis. Again it should make a great series.

The 8 books I read for crimepieces were:

1. City of the Dead by Sara Gran

2. A Simple Act of Violence by R J Ellory

3. Bereft by Chris Womersley

4. A Dark Redemption by Stav Sherez

5. Skin and Bone by Kathryn Fox

6. The Black House by Peter May

7. The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths

8. Tom-All-Alone’s by Lynn Shepherd

February was also marked by a cold snap across Eastern Europe including Greece. The picture is the view from my balcony in Athens. Meagre by British standards I appreciate but Greek houses are not insulated….

Kerrie over at Mysteries in Paradise is hosting a meme summarizing the crime fiction recommendations for February 2012.

Review: Kathryn Fox – Skin and Bone

Participating the Australian Women Writers Challenge is an interesting experince as we don’t have a huge amount of Australian crime fiction written by women published in the UK. This means that I can’t pick and choose as I ordinarily would but have to read books out of my comfort zone. One author who is easily found here is Kathryn Fox, a medical practitioner who writes books in the forensic genre. It’s not a type of book that I normally buy although I have read Patricia Cornwall and Kathy Reichs in the past. I chose Skin and Bone for no other reason than the plot summary seemed to be the least gory of the blurbs.

A dead woman is found badly burned in a house fire and post-mortem evidence suggests that she has recently given birth. There is no evidence of the missing baby and Detective Kate Farrer who has recently returned from sick leave has to try to identify the mother to solve the mystery of the baby’s disappearance. After a few days, however, she and her new partner, Oliver Parke, are pulled from the case and assigned to investigate the disappearance of the daughter of wealthy parents. As they delve deeper into the apparent abduction, the two cases begin to merge and the detectives plunge into a complex web of relationships.

I found the book a straightforward read. The plotting is good and the idea of a female detective with a partner who is the father to five children was a nice idea. The writer obviously knows a great deal about forensic medicine and the descriptions of death by fire were fairly gruesome but written about in a knowledgable way. Fox writes well about family relationships and there were some quite interesting dynamics going on in the book, particularly in relation to the stepfather-stepdaughter relationship.

I thought some of the writing a bit pedestrian although the book is clearly written for a specific audience who I imagine like a fast and engrossing read. I would have preferred a bit more depth to the book because I found the subject matter interesting. But considering it is a genre I don’t normally approach, I enjoyed it and it was nice to read something outside my comfort zone.

The book has been reviewed at Eurocrime and Reactions to Reading.

2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge

One of the best things about blogging are the wonderful suggestions you pick up from fellow crime fiction reviewers. We can all get stuck in a rut in our reading if we’re not careful, particularly when it can be so enjoyable to read old crime fiction favourites. In October, on the recommendation of Fair Dinkum Crime, I read Katherine Howell’s Cold Justice, a well plotted crime novel set in Sydney. Then this month I read and reviewed Peter Temple’s White Dog and I now a have a serious taste for Australian crime fiction. Realistically, given that I read a lot of crime fiction I thought that I could fit in a challenge around Aussie authors for 2012. This week Fair Dinkum posted about two challenges that are being hosted to promote Australian fiction. Both sounded interesting, but I decided to go for the 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge simply because I would also like to read more women writers.

One of the challenges, of course, will be getting hold of the books in the first place. There isn’t a huge amount of Australian crime published in the UK and narrowing the field to women restricts this even more. However, nothing ventured nothing gained and I going for the ‘Miles’ level (read 6 books and review 3) and have settled on the following so far:

1. Katherine Howell – The Darkest Hour (Aready in my TBR pile)

2. Kathryn Fox – Skin and Bone (Again in my TBR pile)

3. Carolyn Morwood – Death and the Spanish Lady (reviewed at Fair Dinkum and sounds interesting)

4. Kirsten Tranter – The Legacy (published by Quercus in the UK and again sounds good)

5. P D Martin – Kiss of Death (not available in the UK or on Kindle but I fancy reading it)

6. ?

My sixth book I will add over the coming year when something grabs my fancy. So six books and nothing too strenuous. I’m looking forward to getting started in the new year.