Lexie Conyngham's Blog: writing, history and gardening.

Friday 14 April 2023

Reading in March

 Here we are - March's books.

Soul Scent: A Zackie Story of Supernatural Suspense (The Zackie Stories Book 2) by [Reyna Favis]

Reyna Favis, Soul Scent: A return to this intriguing supernatural series, with Fia and Zackie trying to help souls to a peaceful afterlife, and encountering murders on the way, some more recent than others. The final scenes are weird but wonderful. Favis has created a whole logical world of the hereafter and how we might deal with it.

William McIlvanney, Laidlaw: I’ve come to McIlvanney very late, I know, and I think it’s because I saw it as the darker side of Taggart, which I still think it is. Laidlaw is a remarkably depressing and depressive character, but redeemed by his desire to do things right and make the world a better place in the face of what he sees as ruin and corruption. The prose is almost overwritten for a police procedural of this time, but beautifully done. It’s just a bit unrelenting. What’s extraordinary is that writing of this quality is seen as the father of all Tartan Noir – not all of its children are of anywhere near this quality. Just occasionally it tips into being overdone, but mostly it’s a delight, despite the dark setting and tragic events.

Wendy H. Jones, Killer’s Cross: A breezy, pacy police procedural without too much of the technological detail and a good deal of banter. Strong-willed Shona is battling multiple murder once again as someone leaves bodies dressed in clerical gear arranged around Dundee. Full of energy and action!

White Silence: An edge-of-your-seat supernatural thriller (Elizabeth Cage, Book 1) by [Jodi Taylor]

Jodi Taylor, White Silence (Elizabeth Cage series): I had to stop reading this several times just to go away and recover. Exciting, traumatic, funny, alarming, full of suspense and ‘whom can she trust now?’ thrill. I went off to the next one as soon as I could deal with my seesawing emotions! I’ve devoured three of these in a row, and am delighted to hear that a fourth one is on its way. They are thrillers and mysteries, and if they sometimes seem episodic it all has a purpose – hang on in there! And the relationship between Jones and Cage is wonderfully drawn. Read everything Taylor has written, but definitely read these.

One For the Ages: A Scottish Crime Thriller (DCI Logan Crime Thrillers Book 16) by [JD Kirk]

J.D. Kirk, One for the Ages: We’ve a new and dreadful character here, Tammi-Jo, who would be almost unbearable if it were not for the compassion with which she’s drawn. She and Tyler together would drive anyone to drink. But this book as usual manages a happy marriage between the excruciatingly funny and the tremendously touching, via all kinds of action, violence and upset. I hope we haven’t seen the last of the team.

Baltimore Blues (Tess Monaghan Book 1) by [Laura Lippman]

Laura Lippman, Baltimore Blues: This is a good read: the heroine is an out of work journalist, pretending to herself that she’s getting on with her life, when her friend and fellow rower is accused of murdering someone who was apparently having an affair with his girlfriend. I wouldn't sympathise with all the main character does, and you couldn’t call this a love song to Baltimore, but the setting works well and the plot skips along with some interesting characters along the way – almost nothing is as it seems. 

An Honourable Thief: A must-read historical crime thriller (A Company of Rogues Book 1) by [Douglas Skelton]

Douglas Skelton, An Honourable Thief: I’d been looking forward to this as I like the author’s contemporary work, but I wondered if this was a bit of jumping on the historical crime bandwagon. I found this a bit overdone at the start, though there was plenty of excitement and suspense to draw the reader in and maybe no need for the ‘I’ve done all this research and you’re darn well going to see it even if you don’t make it beyond the second chapter’ feel. Quite a generous and bloody body count by ten percent in, too. Slightly surprised that Flynt is such a successful card player when everyone seems to read his slightest expression. Wonderful portrayal of the Edinburgh mob and how they might come about. Some rather anachronistic expressions, particularly when Flynt’s father comes over all supportive, or the City Guard sergeant tells his men they have ‘something of a situation’. I had to struggle to read to the end, but maybe it was me: I just couldn’t find any of the characters that engaging. It won't stop me going back to his contemporary fiction, though.

Lightseekers: Intelligent, suspenseful and utterly engrossing by [Femi Kayode]

Femi Kayode, Lightseekers: I saw this author speak at Granite Noir in, I think, 2021, bought the book, then for some reason the cover put me off. I finally started it and was drawn straight in – my only qualm was the present tense and, occasionally, how events in the past were handled grammatically. Picky picky! The setting is fascinating – the huge country of Nigeria, and a necklace killing in a university town where students and locals have been on edgy terms for several generations. Reading this alongside Skelton’s An Honourable Thief provides a bit of insight into crowd violence, as well as some contemporary thoughts as to whether or not, or up to what point, a university has a duty of care to its legally adult students. Going to have to go and read more about the Biafran War now, though. A complex plot, with some very odd characters – and a potential set-up for a sequel. Interesting read.

Cheerfulness Breaks In (Virago Modern Classics Book 367) by [Angela Thirkell]

Angela Thirkell, Cheerfulness Breaks In: A book with its humour so tongue in cheek it’s a wonder the words come out at all. Wonderfully long meandering sentences accompany the account of the wedding of Rose, spoilt rotten and quite horrible though beautiful, with Lieutenant Fairweather, who seems the only person likely to be able to deal with her. It’s hard to tell what the actual plot is for we wander from character to character, but there is always someone to like and the style is so pleasantly gossipy that we don’t mind that we can’t remember the significance of someone’s brother-in-law being married to the Dean’s second daughter. I don’t think it really matters. But it’s very funny and of its time, the outbreak of the Second World War. The ending is abrupt, and has sent me scurrying for a sequel, though I think I would have read more anyway.

Hippolyta VII, A Day for Death, is about 4/5 drafted and is going horribly! However, A Vengeful Harvest, first in the Second World War Alec Cattanach series, is now out for preorder, which I hope is some consolation ...