A crimfic round up before I go away for a few days.
I love detective stories set in Italy. So far I have read the Michael Dibdin Aurelio Zen books set in Rome, the Donna Leon Venetian mysteries with lovely Guido Brunetti, the gloriously funny Montelbano books by Camilleri set in Sicily and recently discovered the books of Marco Vichi which are located in Florence. Now I have just read Temporary Perfections by Gianrico Carofiglio set in Bari, a port on the coast of Puglia. His main protagonist is Guido Guerrieri a defence counsel. He is in his forties, lives on his own and, much to his surprise, is a good lawyer. One day he is asked to investigate the disappearance of a young girl, Manuela, the daughter of a rich couple living in Bari. Nobody can track her down or find her and though this assignment is more suited to an investigator than a defence lawyer, Guido takes it on.
He retraces the steps already investigated by the Carabinieri and, at first, cannot find anything unusual which would prevent them from closing the case and filing it away. And then he re-interviews Manuela's friends, including the beautiful Caterina and finds himself becoming deeply involved, in more ways than one.
This is a thoughtful book, not full of thrills and spills so if you are looking for a tense thriller, you will not find it here. What you will find is an immaculately written book full of elegant prose (my congratulations to the translator Antony Shugaar though I feel he could not go wrong with this author's writing) which was such a pleasure to read. There is an ease and a style to good writing - difficult to explain what it is, you just know when you come across it.
The Woman Before me - Ruth Dugdall. A debut novel and rather dark and upsetting as it has at its centre the death of two babies which always gets to me. When I realised this I almost put it to one side, but decided to persevere though I must say that my feelings have affected me, because though this book is an extremely well written, and psychologically bang on piece of writing, I did not like it. It is purely the subject matter that I did not like, not the book and I am repeating this so that there is no misunderstanding.
Rose Wilks is suspected of starting a fire in a house which kills Luke, the son of a friend Rose met in hospital when they were both in the maternity ward. Sadly Rose's child died and she forms an unhealthy relationship with Luke's mother, Emma Hatcher who seems to have all that Rose lacks, a healthy son and a loving husband.
She is due for parole after five years in prison and a new probation officer, Cate, must interview her and decided if she is really remorseful for Luke's death or whether she remains a threat to society. Cate becomes more and more involved with Rose and begins to doubt her own judgement, but it is her decision which will decide Rose's fate and she has to be sure of her ground. A twist at the end I had not foreseen which upset me more so you will have to accept that though I think this is an excellent novel, I was glad to finish it.
Mud Muck and Dead Things - Ann Carter. This is the first Campbell and Carter mystery in a new series by this author who seems to have written shed loads and I have missed them all. I reviewed the second book in this series Rack Ruin and Murder here so I am reading them back to front but it does not really matter.
Lucas Barton, a self made man, hates the countryside. He turns up at a deserted farm in the middle of nowhere hoping to conduct a secret business deal. Instead he stumbles across the body of a dead girl in the barn. Panicking he rushes to drive away but has he is driving a silver Mercedes his presence does not pass unnoticed. Inspector Jess Campbell is on the case and Lucas is Suspect Numero Uno until he turns up dead as well.
A new Inspector, Ian Carter, has arrived and Jess is eager to do well and solve the mystery and she does, well you know she will, in great style. I do like Ann Granger's books and will look out for more of her. The characterisation is sharp and spot on, tightly plotted and good pacy narrative and, really, exactly what an English Detective Story should be. Loved it.
Susan Hill - The Betrayal of Trust. Oh how I love these Simon Serrailer novels of Susan Hill. I don't buy them for my Kindle, I don't wait for them to come out in paperback, I don't blag a review copy from the publisher, I just buy as soon as the latest one is published and I sit down and read it straight through.
In this story Simon is faced with a cold case when a dead body is uncovered after a flash flood and torrential rain has caused a landslip on the Moor. As the rain drains away a grave is uncovered containing a skeleton which is identified as that of Harriet Lowther, a schoolgirl, who had vanished sixteen years earlier.
The Lafferton force is struggling with staff shortages and economies and Simon finds himself doing a lot of the leg work himself; his sister Cat Deerborn is involved in fighting for extra funding for the hospice which is in danger of closing down. A new fundraiser is found for the hospice who also opens a new home for sufferers of dementia. He is handsome and charismatic but is there more to him than meets the eye? Two stories run in parallel through the Betrayal of Trust, Simon's investigation and the seemingly unrelated thread of the lack of care in the home and the suffering and difficulty of the carers and the curtailment of their life. Throw into the melting pot the possibility of assisted suicide and the reader may well begin to wonder what this all has to do with the original discovery of the dead body. Have no fear, Susan HIll does not let you down, and the denouement brings all the threads together. I got there a little earlier on in the book as my suspicions began to grow, but was not entirely sure until the confirmation which I felt was a masterly story line.
Susan does not forget Simon's love and family life and here we find him comforting his now loved stepmother who is finding out for herself how distant and cruel Simon's father can be, struggling to find time to be with his now fatherless nephews and nieces, and falling deeply in love with a woman who is tied to somebody else.
As always, a simply marvellous read, Susan Hill is just so eminently readable and her narrative and writing flow along with an ease of style which one can only admire. I think sometimes she can be underrated as it can all appear too easy, but believe me I don't suppose for one moment it is.
I remember one critic writing about this author and being rather sneery and calling her 'prolific'. Well, what's wrong with that I ask? The more the merrier think I and if she carries on being prolific may I ask that she write TWO Simon books a year please instead of one?
So a goodly round of up goodly reads. Am off for a few days up to Leicester to stay with my sister and bro in law. If I have a chance I may drop in but if not will be back next week.
Oh and I have already set my TV to record Strictly. I do believe in getting my priorities right....