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: Paul Doiron – The Poacher’s Son

Every now and then I pick up a book that I have absolutely no expectations of whatsoever. I’ve not read any reviews, never heardThe Poacher's Son of the writer nor the book, and I’m reading it solely because of the novel’s premise. Of course this can be a mixed blessing as reading is such a subjective experience. However you can come across some gems this way and my latest find was The Poacher’s Son by Paul Doiron, a writer who I will be reading more of in the future.

Mike Bowditch is a game warden in Maine who returns home one evening to find a rambling message on his answer machine from his estranged father. Hard-drinking and violent, Jack Bowditch left Mike’s mother when he was small and despite a couple of attempts  by Mike to bond with his father, he now keeps a distance from the man who makes a living from illegal game poaching. However, when he discovers that Jack is on the run from the police, accused of shooting a local cop, Mike is torn between his instinctive loyalty to his father and the demands of his job. When it becomes clear that Jack is being set-up, Mike gambles his career and his life to discover the true versions of events.

I think this is the first book I’ve read set in Maine, a US state that I know little about and whose location I had to look up. However the setting was a major attraction of the book and like the novels of CJ Box and Nevada Barr, we see the landscape through the eyes of a professional worker. However, Mike Bowditch has an off-hand attitude towards his employment and his loyalty is stretched even further when familial ties prove strong. The book gave a persuasive portrayal of the complexity of relationships and how superficial alliances can hide deeper attachments.  All the characters were well drawn particularly Mike’s mother who has escaped from her trailer park upbringing and and is enjoying suburban life with her lawyer second-husband.

For a first novel, it was paced very well and with a genuine surprise towards the conclusion. It was also well written with an engaging narrative voice. A very accomplished début by Paul Doiron who I can see  has gone on to write two further books. Hopefully these we will see these published in the UK in the near future.

I received my copy of this book from the publisher, Constable and Robinson. Other reviews can be found at Raven Crime Reads and The Lighthearted Librarian. The author’s website is here.