Well, as per, I am behind. I have been having my annual Great Purge of wardrobe, drawers etc, bin bags full off to the charity shops, files thinned out and destroyed and am feeling ready to get on with things now.
And I wish to write today about two books which I read just before Christmas and which I absolutely loved.
Firstly, Solitaire by Jane Thynne. I have read all of the Clara Vine novels by this author and they just get better and better. Clara is half German/half English, is an actress and lives in Berlin where she gradually became involved in spying on the top echelons of the Third Reich, with whom she is on social terms. Part of the fascination of these books is reading the interaction between her and the wives of Goebbels and Himmler and the High Command. Internecine rivalry is rife between all of them each trying to outdo the other in their riches, jewels and houses and all eager to curry favour with The Fuhrer. In one book, Clara meets Eva Braun, and by the end of it I found myself full of sympathy for her - she seemed to me a simple country girl totally out of her depth and dazzled by Hitler and, of course, loathed by the wives.
The description of live pre-war Berlin conjours up a claustrophobic gilded existence where the wrong word or a phrase out of place can cost you dearly and Clara walks a very fine line in order to maintain her cover. Here is a paragraph from an earlier review of the books by this author:
The all pervading sense of tension and fear in Berlin at this time seeps through the pages: watching everything you say or do, choosing your friends and acquaintances carefully in case you fall foul of the ever-watchful party officials. Life is bleak and expressed in shades of grey and shadows and rain and dark corners. It makes for gripping and nerve-wracking reading.
"The febrile atmosphere coming from the Chancellery transmitted itself to passing pedestrians who glanced across apprehensively as they passed by. Even the breeze seemed nervous chivvying the leaves along the gutters...." Here is a link to that review which, in turn, links to my thoughts on the other titles.
This series is excellent, well written and marvellously researched and makes engrossing reading. I had Solitaire for a few weeks before Christmas and did not read it as I was saving it up for a special treat. And a treat it was.
And secondly The Gifts of Poseidon by Anne Zouroudi. Now this latest title in the 'Fat Man' series as I always think of it, had me up till 1 pm on Christmas Eve when I really should have been sleeping in preparation for the drive to London the next day, but I simply could not go to bed until I had finished it.
How I love these books! On a dark cold winter's night to read these books set in the sun and glory of the islands of Greece is to be transported out of the gloom and made to feel warm and happy. Hermes Diaktoros, the 'Fat Man' is the enigmatic Greek detective who works for a 'Higher Authority'. We never learn who that authority is but feel we an guess as he has powers of perception and foresight that are far from mortal....
I have reviewed earlier titles and here is a link to those reviews, here
In all the books in this series Hermes arrives at a place where he is needed, where there is unhappiness and injustice and he soothes, cheers and rights wrongs. He also loves his food and oh the descriptions of same literally make my mouth water: "...tiny whole shrimps pan fried with ouzo, aubergine dolmades filled with spiced pork and rice, vivid beetroot hummus with home baked pitta bread. They talked for a while about the food they were eating, then about delicacies they had eaten elsewhere; the fat man mentioned the fleftiko he'd eaten in the twon of Dendra dn the mezedes in the village of Vrisi and Popi spoke of lobster on the island of Spetses, the spiced sausages she had tried in Crete"
It almost does not matter what The Gifts of Poseidon is about, it is simply a joy to read but the cover says "when a lucky fisherman hooks a fabulous golden scaled fish it seems the future prosperity of the island of Liteos is assured. But fifteen years later, the golden fish are all but gone.....then a young couple discover a body in a cave..."
That is all you need to know. Do buy. Do read. And enjoy.
But I know you will....