Monday 12 March 2018

Three Crime Titles

This month I seem to have read three crime books in succession, just as I did at the start of February. Unlike February though, not all of them worked for me, but that's just the luck of the draw.

First up, The Herring Seller's Apprentice by L.C. Tyler.

Ethelred (known at school as 'Ethel') Tresider is a writer, a fairly average one who is never going to win any literary awards but his books sell well, especially his Sargeant Fairfax crime series. He's divorced, his wife left him for a close friend ten years ago. When she suddenly goes missing, people seem to think Ethelred should lead the search to find her, rather than the police. Until her body is discovered in a lonely spot close to his home and then he becomes a suspect in a murder enquiry. Luckily he has a watertight alibi, he was in France at the time of her death. But Ethelred's agent, in the form of Elsie Thirkettle, who doesn't like writers, won't let the police have sole responsibility for the investigation. She eggs him on to dig into the affair. The trouble is... she can't really decide what he's up to, could he really have done away with his ex-wife?

I'm not sure what was wrong with this book for me. I gave it a three on Goodreads, which tends to mean I liked it, but didn't love it and really felt a bit 'meh' about it. It started out making me laugh, some nice humour, and Elsie is a fun character. But I didn't get a really strong sense of anyone in it to be honest. It was lightweight, which is fine, sometimes that's exactly what you need to read at times, but I do like to feel connected to the people in a book and I didn't with this. I didn't care about anyone and that's fatal for me. I did read to the end though and there was a bit of a twist, although it's easy to guess at. All in all it was ok and will appeal to lots of cosy crime fans but I probably won't carry on with the series.

Next, The Misty Harbour by Georges Simenon.

Maigret is on his way to the village of Ouistreham on the Normandy coast. It's a village at the mouth of the canal to Caen and is very busy with large ships going back and forth. He has with him two people. A Captain Joris who was found wandering in Paris and has no idea of who he is and a bullet wound in his head. His housekeeper eventually came to claim him after word was put out and the three of them are now returning to the village to try to discover who shot the captain. A day or so after their arrival the captain is found dead in his bed, poisoned. This is now a murder investigation but how to make the village people talk? They're determined not let out any secrets, but so is Maigret determined... to find a killer!

Some of these Maigret books hit the mark with me and some don't. I think I like it when he leaves Paris and heads off to an insular community full of secrets - which is the case here. Simenon was 'excellent' at atmosperes in remote coastal regions... The Yellow Dog and Maigret in Holland are just two examples. I love these windswept, lonely places where he is always looked upon with extreme suspicion and has to ferret out secrets. These closed communities might seem idyllic but they're often very far from it and Simenon obviously knew that. An excellent read, really enjoying these occasional Maigret books.

Last book, Breakup by Dana Stabenow.

It's Spring in Alaska and with it comes the melting of the snow and ice that entombs the state throughout its long winter. This period is commonly known there as 'Breakup'. Kate Shugak hates this time of year. People cooped up all winter in cabins go a bit mad when they're suddenly let loose and mayhem often ensues. The season doesn't start well when two things happen. First, she's just about escapes with her life after an encounter with a Grizzly, near her cabin, and second, an aircraft passing overhead loses an engine and it falls onto Kate's land almost destroying her house. After that things go downhill rapidly with a shootout at a local bar followed by a trip out with the parents of her neighbour when a light aircraft falls on their car, more shootouts, and a woman is found dead, mauled by a Grizzly. This is one of the worst Breakups Kate can remember.

This is number seven in Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak crime series of books. I have to say it's much more about Alaska and its quirkiness during Breakup than it is about murder. I liked that as it was funny and just a bit mad but it might not be everyone's cup of tea. Kate is well and truly put upon by all and sundry. Even though she does not work as a police officer any more they still think she should be available to solve all their woes. All she wants is a peaceful life with Mutt, her wolflike dog, but the likelihood of her getting it is zero as she has inherited a personality that exudes authority from her grand-mother. I love this series... not so much for the crime element, though that it is good, but for Kate herself... she's an amazing character. And also for Alaska. I'll probably never go there but these books give a good idea of what the state is like and feed my hunger for armchair travelling.



Nan said...

There are two facets to armchair traveling. One is being able to spend some time in a place that you would love to visit, and the other is reading a book about a place you never want to go and being glad you can just read about it. It is magical whichever. I keep meaning to get more serious about Simenon. I can see why you didn't like the first one.

Kay said...

I agree with Nan regarding armchair traveling. Honestly, I don't want to travel abroad - maybe your part of the world, but that's it. I am a horrible actual traveler. Way too nervous. I do, on the other hand, love reading about other parts of the world. Dana Stabenow's series is one of my favorites and you and I have talked about that. I keep meaning to reread it. Is it strange that every time I read about a series that I've enjoyed in the past, I want to pick up the first book and begin again? I never have time for that, but still...I remember Breakup. ;-)

Cath said...

Nan: You're so right. I think this is possibly why I love armchair travelling so much, it's a really safe way to read about places that fascinate me but am not brave enough to go to. India would be a prime example. What an interesting, amazing country. But go there? No. I'm told everyone gets some kind of stomach trouble for at least a week and this does not appeal to me in the slightest! I'll stick to reading about it and watching TV docs thanks.

Kay: I haven't actually travelled abroad a lot. We've been to the USA and France and that's it. I enjoyed both countries, the US more than France, but suspect our overseas travelling days are over because of Peter's health, the insurance would be prohibitive. We'll see... never say 'Never'. I would also add that I too have become a nervous traveller, I'm not sure why but there you go.

If either you or Nan ever make it to the UK ('return' in Nan's case), Peter and I would love to have you to stay.

Rereading favourite series is something I always love the idea of but never actually achieve. Too many new books and too little time as they say. I bet you remember Breakup!

BooksPlease said...

I don't think the first book would work for me either, but I really like the sound of the Maigret book. I've read the first book of Dana Stabenow's Kate Shugak books but have never managed to get the second book. Our local library has a few - do you need to read them in order or can I just dive in with which ever book I find on the shelves?

Cath said...

Margaret: The Maigret book was excellent, so full of atmosphere and a good sense of place which I like. Um... I think you could probably just read whichever KS books you find on the shelf. There is some character progression and back story but not heaps. I've just read book seven which I thought would bring serious change in a certain dept. but it didn't so... Given the choice though I would try to read them in order but it isn't crucial. My husband hardly ever reads anything in order. LOL!

BooksPlease said...

Thanks, Cath - I do prefer to read a series in order, but it's not always possible. So next time I'm in the library I'll see what's on the shelves.

TracyK said...

I haven't read any Simenon in years and I do have some in my TBR piles. And they are all short. I don't know why I don't read them.

I did just join the European Book Challenge yesterday. I have enjoyed reading some books about different European countries in the last two months so thought I should join in.

I have got to read some of the Kate Shugak series. I have the first one and heard it was not as good as later ones but I have had it forever, so I should give it a shot. And then try some others.

Judith said...

Well you have more than convinced me to try the Simenon. Should I start with this one, or is there an earlier "Maigret" book that I should try first?

This Shugak book sounds marvelous--again, I'm with you, that Alaska is much of the charm of her series.

Easter Holiday coming up soon! Will you be spending time with your grandchildren? Do tell if you do. And what about the bitter March weather you've had, and the future of your garden?

Best wishes for the first day of spring!

Cath said...

Tracy: I have to say, I like the shortness of the Maigret books, it makes a change from 400 pagers.

Yes, I saw your European Reading challenge post, I hope you enjoy it as much as I am.

That's right, the first KS book is not as good as subsequent books... not in my opinion anyway but you might disagree.

Judith: To be honest there is no continuing back story to the Maigret books so you can read any of them at any time... I certainly do. You can start anywhere but the earlier books are better.

Yes, Easter is fast approaching. Before that we're taking our grand-daughter to Aberystwyth in Wales to look at the uni there. Lots of fun. And yes, I'm sure we'll see the family over the Easter period too. More snow is apparently forecast so the garden's on hold. My husband's getting rather impatient to start planting but no chance at the moment.

Happy Spring to you too... if it ever arrives!

Nan said...

Speaking of visiting England, my dream right now is to go to the Oxford Literary Festival some year. I want to spend a week just in Oxford. I want to see in person all the sights I saw in Inspector Lewis. And I wouldn't mind going down a canal. I've just watched on Britbox a show called All Aboard in which we see a boat going down the Kennet and Avon canal. I wonder if you saw it when it was on over there. There is no talking. You hear the water, and birds, and an occasional bicycle on the path beside the canal. I absolutely loved it.

Cath said...

Nan: The Oxford Lit Festival would be absolutely wonderful I would imagine! To be honest I would love to go to any large Lit Festival... Hay on Wye for instance. We have a local canal - The Grand Western - which is only 11 miles long but which I've been on. Have also been on the Kennet and Avon *many* years ago when we lived near Bristol. Canals are always so peaceful and relaxing. Yes, I saw All Aboard... there was a bus one we watched as well.

Nan said...

I just watched the bus one, but I wasn't as interested in it. Yes, the Yorkshire Dales are beautiful, but not much variety in landscape, and I wondered what that flowering white bush/tree was, if it was an invasive species. It seemed to be the only flowering tree. And the show didn't offer as much information as the canal one did. I would have liked them to tell us not just about mining, but about changes in the landscape from when James Herriot was practicing. Are there still farmers? That sort of thing. I'm going to give the sleigh ride a try, too!

Cath said...

Nan, no I didn't like the bus one as much either. Possibly because I've always fancied a canal-boat holiday myself so it was more interesting to me.

Yes, there are still hill farmers in Yorkshire. I can't bring the white flowering bushes to mind but imagine they were what we call 'May trees'... Hawthorn in other words.

Nan said...

I've read of Hawthorn. It just seemed very pervasive with nothing else around it. I'm glad there are still farmers.