The Temptation of Forgiveness – Donna Leon

The Temptation of Forgiveness - Donna LeonThis is the 27th Leon novel set in Venice with Commissario Brunetti solving crimes, and each one is a joy to read. The key is context. Venice is a delightful setting, and the crimes, although serious, are not desperate (no blood spatter analysis, for example). The pace of the investigation is relatively relaxed (Brunetti only seems toward on one case at a time), and Brunetti has a normal happy home life (unlike so many conflicted and tortured detectives like  Harry Hole and Wallender). Finally, the women in this story, specifically Ms. Elletra and colleague Griffoni, are becoming increasingly important to the story and plot. Importantly, this story centres on moral ambiguities when characters do something wrong (illegal) but for the right reason. As an example of fine writing, this is a description of a Brunetti encounter with his hapless superior (page 253): “Brunetti applied psychic botox to his smile and nodded while turning his attention to Saint Antonio, patron saint of lost things and lost causes”.

The Night Manager – John Le Carre

The Night Manager - John Le CarreReading mystery/thrillers is a guilty pleasure; for me, plot is less important than context. Two factors distinguish Le Carre’s novels. First, the writing is much better than most mystery writers. Here is a description of Ireland: “The day had been sullen and damp, an evening that began at breakfast”. And second, Le Carre’s plots are sublime in their complexity. In this novel, someone infiltrates a drug/arms dealer’s entourage so lots of danger and suspicion; the complementary plot of political intrigue for the spymasters is wonderfully suspenseful (really, who are the good guys and who are the villains). This is a very entertaining book which was made into a TV mini-series a few years ago.

The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian - Elizabeth KostovaThis fascinating book has a Dan Brown-like plot (but with much better writing). Academics search for clues to find missing persons and to research Vlad Dracula’s life (is he still living?). This research is conducted in medieval libraries (yay!) with much travel: Oxford, Istanbul, Budapest and Bulgaria. Actions happen in three times: the 1930s, 1950s and 1970s, often with parallel stories so the complex plot with much historical detail requires the full attention of readers. This is a really enjoyable read; thanks Steph, for this recommendation.

The Tiger In The smoke – Margery Allingham

The Tiger In The smoke - Margery AllinghamThis is a wonderful book, written in 1952 describing events in London in 1949 so the dense toxic London fog is a prominent feature. The writing is fabulous with words like lugubrious (full of sadness or sorrow). Although this book is identified as a Mr Campion Mystery, there is little emphasis on the police. Instead the psychology of different individuals (criminal and non-criminal) is described in detail: what is goodness and what is evil. This is a totally fun read; thanks Amy*!

 

*Amy says: “Erin and I picked it up in one of those wee community library houses on the way to the Folk Festival – sheer luck that it was good!”

The Child – Fiona Barton

The Child - Fiona BartonBarton’s very successful debut novel, The Widow, was going to be a tough act to follow, and admittedly The Child is not as good. However, there are some very strong aspects to this second novel. Once again, this is a well-written psychological thriller/mystery. What is the relationship between skeletal remains of a child found in a construction site with a child abduction case from the 1970s? Also this is a story almost entirely about women including Kate, the intrepid reporter from The Widow. Male characters other than the plodding police are either inconsequential or sleaze balls. And finally, one of the female characters has incredibly poor parenting skills, setting up the engrossing question – what will she say/do next? Overall, this is a book that becomes hard to put down.

The Fortunate Brother – Donna Morrissey

The Fortunate Brother - Donna MorrisseyA gritty angst-filled guy book set in West Newfoundland. The context – geography and people- is described perfectly. A father and son are paralyzed by grief, so they retreat and psychologically “run away” into a life of drink and anger. The book then becomes a murder mystery with deception and lies and misunderstandings. Annoying behaviour to be sure but the descriptions of the people in a fishing outport trying, usually badly, to have each other’s back is compelling. This is one of Morrissey’s best books.

The Thirst – Jo Nesbo

The Thirst - Jo Nesbo .jpgAnother Harry Hole novel – hurrah! The story is rather bloody: a serial killer in Oslo with vampirism (you will have to look up the precise meaning of this word). There are two main reasons why this book is a splendid read. First, there are long discussions of moral philosophy – why does Harry obsessively pursue the solution to murders, knowing the strain this obsession places on his relationships? And second, the plot is intricate and impossible to predict. This is great summer reading.