Sunday, 12 June 2016

Book and audiobook talk on a cool, bright morning...

I’m certainly appreciating my steaming cup of chai tea this morning, as it’s a brisk, windy 13 degrees, quite a change from extra humid day we had yesterday.  

I have a book and an audiobook to tell you about today.  The book is one I read just for fun, Thursday’s Children (alternate UK title Thursday’s Child), a psychological thriller by Nicci French.  I must have read a review of this book somewhere, as I can’t imagine why else I would have requested it from the library.  I’ve read other books by this British husband-and-wife writing team, but not for quite a few years.  This book is the fourth in the “Frieda Klein” mystery series, and opens with Frieda having tea with a friend while waiting for an old school mate to show up.  It is clear from the first few pages that Frieda is not very open about her past, and that she is reluctant to share any information about it with those who are currently in her life, which is interesting since Frieda is a psychotherapist, someone who helps others come to terms with their past and take control of their lives.  Maddie shows up at Frieda’s door seeking help for her teenaged daughter, Becky, who claims to have been raped in her home a few days before.  Maddie doesn’t believe her, and thinks that Becky is just seeking attention and being dramatic, but asks Frieda to assess her and try to help, as she has stopped eating and has become withdrawn.  When Frieda hears Becky’s story, there are details that ring true and Frieda believes her, because when she was sixteen, Frieda herself was a victim of the same rapist.  She offers to do a proper assessment of Becky and then recommend a therapist, and Becky seems to be getting a bit better and even agrees to go to the police, but Maddie is more angry than ever, because she still doesn’t want to believe that her daughter was raped and feels that Frieda is just encouraging Becky in her attention-seeking behaviour.  Then Becky commits suicide, and Frieda must go back to Braxton, the small town where she grew up but a town she has avoided since she left suddenly shortly after her own rape.  Her mother, too, did not believe her, but she eventually went to the police anyway, although that investigation led nowhere.  Frieda visits her mother, whom she hasn’t seen in 23 years, and it becomes clear where Frieda learned to be so antagonistic.  She reaches out to Maddie for information because she doesn’t believe that Becky committed suicide, but Maddie just wants her to go away.  So, forced back into her old life, she sets herself up in Braxton and tries to contact people from her past who could help her piece things together from that night 23 years ago when she was raped in order to figure out who the rapist/murderer is.  All of this leads to a nail-biting conclusion that makes me want to read the first three books in this series, as well as the next two.  While not everything was totally believable, and Frieda’s character was not terribly likeable, the story was complex enough and fast-paced enough to keep me anxiously turning pages and looking for extra opportunities to read.  It definitely would have been helpful to have read the earlier books in order to better understand the relationships between Frieda and most of the male characters in the book, who all seem to be a little in love with her, but you could read this one on its own and still get most of it.  I was reminded of the awesome British film, “Truly, Madly, Deeply”, about a woman who can’t seem to get over the death of her partner, who comes back to haunt her flat and help her move on.  There are many men in her life who are also a little in love with her, and all want to help her with her grief (and her rat problem).  There are many similarities between the characters in the book and in the film, except that the main character in the film, Nina, is wonderful, while Frieda is, well, not-so-wonderful.  Anyway, I’d give it a 7.5 out of 10, and would recommend it to anyone who likes a complex, fast-paced psychological thriller.  As an aside, since I finished reading this book, I haven’t been caught in the rain!

And the audiobook I want to tell you about is March Violets by Philip Kerr, narrated by my favourite reader, John Lee.  I mentioned this book last time in relation to All Quiet on the Western Front and book banning in Nazi Germany.  Well, I’m not quite finished, but I don’t think I will have time to write a post next week, as I will be going away for a “girls’ weekend” and will be getting back late on Sunday.  Bernhard “Bernie” Günther is a 38-year old ex-cop-turned-private investigator in 1936 Berlin who is hired by Hermann Six, a rich industrialist, to track down the diamonds stolen during the home invasion that led to the murder of Six’s daughter and son-in-law and the fire that destroyed their house.  Günther’s investigation leads him to discover that Six and his son-in-law, Paul Pfarr, were at odds with one another, and that Pfarr was planning to reveal Six’s shady dealings to the SS.  One discovery leads to another, including corruption within the government and illicit relationships.  All of this takes place against the backdrop of Nazi Germany just before the outbreak of WWII, and the horror of what is happening is ever-present.  It really hits home during the disturbingly detailed scenes in Dachau camp.  If you are like me, you’re understanding of the conditions in Germany at that time have been informed largely by films and popular books that depict these conditions.  I have not read extensively outside of the usual material, but this section of the book gives me a fresh look at the horrors that took place in the years leading up to the war.  This seems to be a major theme, the everyday violence, as well as horrific conditions, Jews and others faced at that time, and the inability or reluctance of ordinary Germans to do anything about it.  I’m nearly finished, and it’s certainly been an interesting listening experience so far.  This is Book One in the Berlin Noir series featuring Bernhard Günther.  I’ve listened to Book Two, Pale Criminal, recently, and will definitely check to see if the third book, A German Requiem, is available as an audiobook.  I give it an 8 out of 10, and would recommend it to anyone who likes reading detective novels set in WWII, especially if you enjoy the Philip Marlowe novels (Bernie is definitely his German counterpart).  

TIme to get outside and enjoy all the gorgeous sunshine!

Bye for now…
Julie

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