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: R J Ellory – A Simple Act of Violence

R J Ellory is a writer who has been hovering on the edge of my consciousness for a while. I fancied reading his books but wasn’t really sure where to start. I’m so behind with some authors that I struggle to catch up with their latest releases. In the end I decided on A Simple Act of Violence for no other reason than someone gave me a copy and I’m glad I’ve finally been introduced to this interesting writer.

The book is set in Washington DC, where a serial killer is torturing his victims before strangling them and leaving a luggage tag tied around their necks with a ribbon. Detective Robert Miller is assigned to investigate the fourth murder, that of Catherine Sheridan, whose killing is soon revealed to be subtly different to the previous murders. When a witness to the killer’s identity is found murdered in the same manner, a political conspiracy opens up that reaches to the highest echelons of US political and civic life.

Although the plot involves a serial killer it really was more a political conspiracy thriller involving the Washington Police Department, FBI and CIA. I thought the writing was excellent, dense closely written narratives that entwined the points of view of the detective Miller, the assumed killer John Robey and twice that of the victims. In particular the killing scenes were very well done, not particularly gory but quite frightening to read, the archetypal bogeyman in your house. What elevated the plot above others I thought was how nothing was quite what it seemed. Victims, the killers, even the police had something to hide and this smoke and mirrors approach worked very well.

The character of Robert Miller, the main detective was well thought out. There were a couple of references to an incident which I assumed came in a previous book but I think was part of the character’s back story. The plot was so oblique that it wasn’t clear exactly what was going on until the last couple of chapters but this contributed to the impetus of the narrative propelling me towards the finale. I’m now kicking myself I waited so long to read this author.

Other reviews (and a mix of opinions) can be found at crimesquad.com,  Jen’s Book Thoughts and Reactions to Readings .