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…
The Blinded Man by Arne Dahl
First reviewed 11th April, 2013. This is the first book in the Intercrime series, about a special police unit set up by the Swedish authorities to investigate ‘violent crimes with an international character’. I said “an enjoyable, well plotted police procedural with elements of both mystery and thriller” and mentioned that I was looking forward to reading the next in the series. But did I?
I did! The next one was Bad Blood, also in 2013, a dark and complex story about a serial killer who has come to Sweden from the USA. I gave it five stars and again said I’d be looking forward to the next one. But I haven’t read any more since. I was already losing interest at that stage in both Scandi crime as a genre, though I’ve continued to read some sporadically over the intervening years, and in darker, more graphic crime generally, and I guess by the time his next novel appeared it simply didn’t appeal to me. And I’m afraid it still doesn’t. The blurb mentions terrorism and massacres – not for me, I fear!
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Close to the Bone by Stuart MacBride
First reviewed 19th April 2013. This is the eighth in MacBride’s Aberdeen-set Logan McRae series which I had been following since it started. However, my enthusiasm was wearing thin, since it seemed to me MacBride was bored with his characters and taking the series in the direction of broad farce more than crime fiction. I said “I’m not sure where the series is heading and I’ll probably stick with it for another book or two but I think it may be close to the time that it should reach an end before it becomes too farcical.” So did I?
Hmm, no and yes. When the next book came along I decided I really wasn’t enthusiastic to read it, so dropped the series. However, a couple of years ago HarperCollins sent me a review copy of All That’s Dead, the 12th book in the series, and I decided to give it a chance to bring back the old magic. And to an extent it did. I said “I felt he’d pulled the recurring characters back a little from the extreme caricaturing that lost me eventually in the earlier books” and I felt the plotting was stronger again. I enjoyed it a lot and gave it 4½ stars. It hasn’t made me want to read the books I’ve missed, though, and I’m not sure whether I’ll read the next, if a new one comes along. Maybe. His most recent book is a standalone thriller and it doesn’t appeal to me at all – apparently about a serial killer called the Bloodsmith! Sounds graphic, gruesome and bloody – not for me!
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Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru
First reviewed 23rd April 2013. A beautifully written book about a diverse cast of characters all of whose lives are affected in some way by the location in which they find themselves, the empty and mysterious Californian desert. I said “…the wonderful prose, the fascinating tales, the occasional flashes of humour and, above all, the sympathetic characters all combine to make this a book to be both savoured and enjoyed.” Its five star rating put it on my list to read more from him. But did I?
I did! I loved his next book, White Tears, even more than Gods Without Men – a book that uses the history of early blues music to muse on race, on cultural appropriation, and on race guilt, and a book I still think of often. Then I was a little disappointed by his next, Red Pill, purely because its subject matter – a man having an existential crisis mirroring the political existential crisis in the US, all told with a lot of reference to German romantic poetry – didn’t work for me. He’s still firmly on my looking forward to list though, and has a back catalogue that I must find time to explore. His breakthrough novel, The Impressionist, has been lingering on my wishlist for far too long…
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Death in a Scarlet Gown by Lexie Conyngham
First reviewed 23rd April 2013. This is the first in the Murray of Letho series – historical fiction set in the Scotland of the early 19th century. When I reviewed it I had already read a couple of the following books, and said “For me, this one is the weakest in terms of plotting but the setting and historical context make it well worth reading.” I fully intended to continue with the series… but did I?
I did! Well, for a while anyway. I read and thoroughly enjoyed the first five books. And then, at the end of the sixth, the author did something to one of the characters (can’t explain – spoiler!) that would seriously affect the direction of future books. I hated it, so much so that I commented that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue with the series as a result. And I didn’t. However, doing this post has reminded me of how much I enjoyed Conyngham’s writing, and I see she’s branched out into a new series now, starring Hyppolyta Napier, a crime-busting doctor’s wife in the Scottish town of Ballater in the 1820s, so it’s time to put her back on my wishlist!
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So, one author I probably won’t read more of, one I’m ambivalent about but might, one who’s a firm favourite and a fixture on my list, and one I’d fallen out with over character differences but am now prepared to forgive, forget and move on!