Thursday, September 25, 2014

5 British Crime Thrillers Lately Read

English painter Harold Knight 1874 - 1961 - source

Lately I've hit the jackpot, reading-wise. Though there have been a few non-starters which were promptly returned to whence they came - the library - there have also been quite a few intriguing surprises. I am, of course, delighted to share them with you. Fall is almost upon us and you know what that means: Full throttle READING TIME!

I recommended THE RIVER OF NO RETURN by Bee Ridgway in a previous post and now for a few more recommendations to wile away the chilly days ahead.


THE CUCKOO'S CALLING by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling continues to amaze me. What a brilliant imagination - she is indefatigable. When she could be resting on her Harry Potter laurels (and millions) she continues to write, primarily I suppose, because she wants to - she enjoys it. It is her craft.

As Robert Galbraith she's written the first in a series which I hope will last at least as long as the Harry Potter books, but which has the excellent grounding to continue even further. She's created a bruised and flawed hero with an intriguing name, Cormoran Strike. Strike has angst to grind - what self-respecting private dick doesn't? - he's just broken free from a long-term destructive relationship with a woman he still loves. Large, rumpled and unkempt, sleeping in his office, the miserable Strike is only very barely making ends meet.

Strike is the bastard son of a famed rock star whom he's only met twice in his life. His mother, a once-upon-a-time groupie, is long dead and Strike, late of Special Forces, runs his struggling business from a small, shabby office in a London walk-up.

There he is aided and abated by Robin, a young woman first sent to him as a temp (though Strike cannot really afford to keep her on) who later proves (despite her protesting fiancee who'd rather she take a high paying job at some corporation) a tenacious and determined, not to mention, intuitive, assistant. She is someone who has always dreamed of being a private eye and now that she's found a job with Strike, she's not about to give it up without a fight. Strike, for his part, is smart enough to recognize sleuthing talent when he sees it.

Who killed Lula Landry, the rich and uber-famous super-model? When she goes flying off the balcony of her London apartment, the police label it a suicide. But when her brother shows up at Strike's office, refusing to accept the official verdict, he convinces Strike to take on the case. A case which will go a long way towards changing Strike's life.


THE SILKWORM by Robert Galbraith 

Here, in the second book in the Cormoran Strike series, Rowling takes on the dark asides of the publishing industry with gusto. Owen Quine, a pretentious, pompous, untalented and unloved writer with a taste for Jacobean dramatics, goes missing and his hapless wife asks Strike to find him primarily because she's run out of money. One grisly murder discovery later and said wife quickly falls under suspicion. But Strike believes she's getting a raw deal.

Though I enjoyed the Potter books very much and recommend them highly, what I loved best about these two Strike novels is that they are completely different from the world of Harry Potter, in tone, in flavor, in style and certainly in language. Rowling has revealed a modern gritty edge which serves this sort of book well. And though both books are slightly longer than your regular mystery/thriller, they read quickly, the pages fly by. In fact, when I got to the end I regretted having to leave Strike and Robin and wished there were even more pages.

As I said: J.K. Rowling continues to amaze.

Other books I've read lately that you might want to take a look at:


THE MALCONTENTA (1995) by Barry Maitland - The second in the Brock and Kathy Kolla, British police procedurals. On the strength of this one, I went to the library and got out as many Maitland books as I could carry.


THE DEAD IN THEIR VAULTED ARCHES by Alan Bradley - A Flavia de Luce book. I had the feeling reading this that it was the last of the series, but turns out, not. Of all the books in this intriguing mystery series featuring a precocious 12 year old girl living in 1950's England, this is the one in which the author allows 'magical realism' to take a hand in the surprising turn of events.


VERTIGO 42 by Martha Grimes - The latest Richard Jury book and I'm happy to report that Grimes has gotten her mojo back. If you love Jury, don't miss this. If you don't know Jury, go back to the beginning (THE MAN WITH A LOAD OF MISCHIEF 1981) and prepare yourself for one of the more intelligent and offbeat series. Very quirky, mind you - but that's what I love about them. Well, that, and the fact that Grimes is a terrifically inventive writer.

20 comments:

  1. The last two writers are on my t-b-r list. Love Flavia!

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    1. Yes, I do too, Gram. I was afraid we'd come to the end of the series. But I see that there's a kindle book coming out. Not sure if it's available in hard copy or not.

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  2. I just read Vertigo 42 within the last month as well. It was definitely a nice return to Grimes for me.

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    1. Absolutely, Bev. I really enjoyed it. Upper Piddleton rules! I do wish we'd had a bit more of the aunt. Ha.

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  3. Lucky you for having hit such a great reading jackpot lately! These all sound good.

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    1. They're ALL good. Very highly recommended by yours truly. :)

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  4. Love Alan Bradley! these all sound good. I have a dozen Martha Grimes and have not read one yet! too many books.

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    1. Well, Peggy, if you ever get around to Grimes, be sure and read them in order. :)

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  5. Glad you liked the Rowling/Galbraith books. I read the first and enjoyed it, although I thought some details weren't necessary to the story. But I like her writing and Cormoran and Robin. (So many bird metaphors.)

    And I will read The Silkworm. Definitely.

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    1. What I liked best, Kathy, is that I could sink into the book for long stretches of time. So I guess I did like all the details. :)
      I think, possibly, this is the sort of writing I'm liking best right now.

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  6. OK, I have to admit, not read any Rowling (I'm afraid I just refused on principle to get on the bandwagon - call me obstinate) but the other titles sound great though I don't think I can really go back to Grimes (I am always too aware of just how NOT British her books actually are I'm afraid).

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    1. Well, bandwagon or not, Sergio (...and believe me, I know what you mean), she is a damn fine writer. I very definitely recommend THE CUCKOO'S CALLING and THE SILKWORM. How do you mean that Grimes books aren't British? I know she's American, but I've always found the Jury books very English in tone.

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  7. Good list, Yvette! I have been planning to read the novels of Alan Bradley and Barry Maitland ever since I read more than one review of their two books featured here.

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    1. I've just finished THE CHALFON HEADS by Barry Maitland and will be picking up the next in the series. Maitland was recommended to me long ago and it's just now that I'm getting around to really taking the plunge, though I did read one a while back that was excellent as well.

      Alan Bradley is wonderful. But the Flavia de Luce books too, are best read in order. Another author I think you might like, Prashant, is Christopher Fowler.

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  8. Yvette,

    I just recently read Vertigo 42. While it wasn't as strong as some of her earlier works, it certainly was a lot better than her more recent ones.

    I will definitely take a look at her next one. I did have some doubts this time, but I'm glad I took a chance on it.

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    1. Me too, Fred. I really enjoyed this one and will be looking forward to the next. I'm trying to figure out how to go back and reread a bunch of Jury books in between my current reading. It's not always easy. :) But I've just forgotten so much of what I read.

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  9. Interesting reviews of the Rowling books, Yvette. I've been reluctant to try them - for one thing, I really have trouble getting through books that are thick enough to make boat anchors. But perhaps I'm being unfair. And given that a lot of the competition at the moment seems to be coming from "continuations" of other authors' much-loved characters, perhaps I'd be smart to read Rowling instead.

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    1. The funny thing about Rowling's books, Les, is that they read very quickly. I flew through them. There's just something about the way she puts things together. Never mind their heft, once you get into them you'll be amazed how fast the time flies. And they are too good to be missed, which is the most important thing.

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  10. Yes! Too good to be missed. Her writing is very good in a day of mediocre writing.

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