Another selection in my occasional looks back at old reviews which I finished by saying something along the lines of “I’ll be looking forward to reading more of her work/this series/his books in the future” to see if I actually did read more and, if I did, did I like the ones I looked forward to as much as the ones that made me look forward to them?
Let’s see then…
First reviewed 5th May 2013. This was the book that started me reading serious history again after a lengthy break during my working life. I said “For a non-historian like myself, this is exactly how history should be presented – assume no knowledge on the part of the reader, fill in all the necessary background, give a picture of the wider society and tell the whole thing in an interesting way.” The five-star rating put Guy on my list of authors to read more of. But did I?
I did! I loved his sympathetic biography of the divisive Mary, Queen of Scots, and was equally impressed by his biography of the later years of that other towering female of the Tudor era, Elizabeth I. I also read a couple of short histories he’s written, on the Tudors generally and on Thomas More, both of which I felt were good but too brief to do the subjects justice. I don’t know if he’ll be writing more – he’s retired from academia now – but if he does I’ll be reading it!
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Testament of a Witch by Douglas Watt
First reviewed 7th May 2013. A historical crime fiction set in late 17th century Scotland, a time of uneasy peace, treasonable plots, religious division, superstition and witch-hunts. I thought this was an excellently researched novel from a man who should know his stuff, since he holds a PhD in Scottish History and has written factual history. It gives a great picture of Scotland just at the moment when the days of superstition are about to give way to the age of Enlightenment. I said “I will now be backtracking to read the first in the series, Death of a Chief, and look forward to meeting MacKenzie and Scougall [the detectives] again in the future.” But did I?
No, I didn’t! What can I say? Death of a Chief has been lingering in the depths of my wishlist ever since, and the series now runs to five books! I am duly ashamed, and will purchase it forthwith. And I’ll try my best not to let it linger for another several years on my TBR!
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The Stranger by Camilla Läckberg
First reviewed 14th May 2013. This book briefly restored my then-fading interest in Nordic crime because the lead character, policeman Patrik Hedström, is that rare and precious creature – a sober, likeable, intelligent detective who works within the rules and has a happy home life. Such a change from the stream of drunken, angst-ridden detectives who had already begun to bore me. I said “…this book works well as a standalone for anyone who, like me, hasn’t read the previous ones in the series – an omission I now intend to rectify.” But did I?
Hmm, well, yes and no. I backtracked to the first in the series, The Ice Princess, and thoroughly enjoyed it too, so added the second book, The Preacher, to my TBR where it has remained ever since! There is a reason for this, though. In the interim, I tried to read a new book by her, a non-series book called The Gilded Cage. Here’s the feedback I sent to the publisher via NetGalley:
Umm…no thanks. I still have some standards of decency, unlike, apparently, Ms Lackberg, whose books I used to enjoy. I didn’t make it past the first few pages. I think the blurb should have given some indication of the graphic, indeed pornographic, sex scenes the unsuspecting reader will encounter as soon as she opens it. Then I could have put on my dirty mac and turned the collar up, like the dirty old men who used to sidle into the ‘blue’ movies in my youth…
It rather put me off Lackberg, I fear! I may still read The Preacher one day, though, once Time the Great Healer has had a chance to work… 😂
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Someone to Watch Over Me by Yrsa Sigurdardóttir
First reviewed 15th May 2013. Another Nordic crime, this is the fifth in a series but was the first I read. Darker than Lackberg and with a mild supernatural element to it, it’s very well written and chillingly atmospheric, and with an excellent sense of the Icelandic setting – its culture, weather and recent economic woes. I said “Highly recommended, and I look forward to backtracking through the rest of the series.” But did I?
No, but I read several other books by the prolific Sigurdardóttir that aren’t in this series. She alternates between dark crime and supernatural stories, sometimes combining them, and I continued to admire her writing, sense of place and ability to create an incredibly tense and often spine-tinglingly spooky atmosphere. However, my tastes were changing and gradually she became too dark for me. Some of her murder methods have remained inextricably lodged in my memory banks and I suspect I’d need several years of therapy to get them out! I have a couple of her books still sitting in my TBR, including the first in this series, Last Rituals, and will read them some day, but I’ll need to be in the right mood to cope with the inevitable gore…
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So, one I’ll read again if he publishes another book, one I have shamefully neglected and am now vowing to put that right, and two Nordic crime novelists who are both in different ways victims of my increasingly conservative tastes. Safe to say this is a fairly mixed batch, but none of them have been banished from my reading list for eternity… 😂