Sunday 24 November 2013

More tea and book talk...

It is a bright, crisp Sunday morning as I write this post – winter has certainly arrived in my part of the world.  My hot cup of chai tea is a real comfort on this chilly morning.

My week has been quite hectic and out-of-the-ordinary, but I did manage to get the Camilla Lackberg murder mystery I mentioned last week finished.  If you recall, The Drowning begins with the murder of an unknown man who has accepted that he must confront his past, whatever that will bring.  Move ahead in time 3 months to the successful publication of The Mermaid by first-time novelist Christian Tyndall, a man who is clearly astonished by his success but shuns the media publicity it brings.  It is soon revealed that he has been receiving threatening letters, which he refuses to talk about.  At the same time, there is an investigation going on to find a missing man, a friend of Christian’s.  When the missing man is found murdered, the investigation escalates and the detectives on the case believe that the murder and the letters are somehow connected.  Christian is reluctant to talk about the letters or his past, but when another friend is threatened and more bodies turn up, the police put pressure on him to find the truth.  What they eventually uncover is horrific and yet all-too-possible.  I have never read anything by this author before, and I must admit that I have become a fan of this Swedish mystery writer.  She reminds me a bit of Minette Walters, in that her novels are quite dark in their exploration of murder.  The similarities between these two are slight, but they both offer complex stories involving many characters.  I will have to read another to get a better sense of this author’s work, but so far I have not been disappointed.

Right now I’m reading The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell, about a woman who is suddenly given the responsibility of caring for a great-aunt whom she didn’t know existed until a few days before, and who has spent 60 years in a psychiatric institution.  It is not a “great” novel, but it is an easy and interesting read, and I’ve invested a fair bit of reading time into it already so I will finish it, as it is short – I may even find time to finish it this afternoon. 

I had more of a struggle finding an audiobook to listen to this week.  I finished listening to a novella by Henning Mankell, I think it’s called The Pyramid, which explored the early life of Kurt Wallander, the character that is featured in Mankell’s most famous mystery series.  In the introduction to the story, Mankell tells how he wanted to write about the social condition of Sweden, but only his mystery novels were popular, much more so than those he wrote which focused on the social conditions in Sweden and other parts of the world.  So he tried to incorporate this focus into his mystery novels.  When the Wallander novels begin, Kurt is already an aging detective, divorced with a grown daughter.  Fans have asked Mankell how Wallander came to be in that situation, which prompted him to write The Pyramid.  In this novella, Kurt has only been on the police force for a short time, and is not yet part of the homicide squad.  He and Mona are still in the early days of dating when he stumbles upon his first dead body, that of a neighbour, an elderly man in the apartment next to his, which he suspects may be murder, although the police want to dismiss it as a suicide.  It was really interesting to listen to this story, as I have been a Mankell fan for many years, and have recently listened to the last novel in the Kurt Wallander series, The Troubled Man.  I actually recently read that another mystery writer, Ian Hamilton, the Canadian author of the “Ava Lee” series, is making available for free for a limited time an ebook that goes back to the original meeting of Ava Lee and Uncle, the shadowy figure who helps Lee out in her investigations.  I read that Hamilton has done this in response to a request from one of his readers when he was in Kitchener at Word on the Street – this fan wanted to know how these two characters met and formed a relationship.  I thought that was really interesting, as of course these are characters, not real people.  Then I thought about the series I read regularly, and the main characters do seem like real people, with their own lives and relationships, over and above the murders they are solving (they are generally mystery series).  So what this tells me is that readers really want to know what happened to the characters before the first book in a series was ever written.

Speaking of series, I finally settled on the first book in Val McDermid’s “Tony Hill” series, called The Mermaid Singing.  It begins with a murderer visiting the Museum of Torture in Rome, and getting ideas for his first murder.  Switch to Bradford, England, and the first meeting of Detective Carol Jordan and profiler Tony Hill, who is called in to help in the investigation of a serial killer dubbed the Queer Killer by the police and media, since he is killing gay men in the city.  There is an immediate attraction felt between Carol and Tony, but both are reluctant to act upon it.  I’m not far into the audiobook, but I’m finding it really interesting because I have read some of the books in this series and have also watched a few of the BBC television adaptations of this series, “Wire in the Blood”, but somehow I have missed this first novel and so didn’t really know how things got to be where they are in the other novels or episodes, mainly in terms of their relationship.  This novel is giving me the backstory, filling in some of the blanks.
That’s all for today.  I hope to get outside and enjoy the sunny, brisk weather and then settle down for an afternoon of reading.

Bye for now…

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