Candle for a Corpse – Ann Granger

gangerI had occasion to stop by Gjest Baardsen this week, where there is an OBCZ, and picked up a couple of books, one of which was Candle for a Corpse by Ann Granger.

The book was unregistered, but I have now registered it on Bookcrossing, and I’ll get it passed on. I’ll try to figure out if I can get it journalled by the OBCZ first, though.

Anyhow, this was pretty perfect reading for me at the moment. What with having a newborn in the house I do get a lot of reading done (it’s something I can actually do while nursing), but my concentration is not at its best. So I’ve been doing a bit of rereading, which is always good for a «rest», but I need a bit of new input too.

Ann Granger’s sleuths are a perfect pair, really. One – superintendent Alan Markby – is a policeman and therefore a pro, the other – Meredith Mitchell – works for the Foreign Office, and is thus just a curious amateur as far as detective work goes. So you get the best of both worlds as far as sleuthing go. They are also a pair in the romantic sense, which provides a little bit of personal interest (which I like in a crime story, as long as it’s a little bit and doesn’t take the focus away from the main plot) and a little bit of tension, too.

In this book, the lokal grave-diggers dig up a corpse which is too close to the surface and too recently interred to be legitimately buried, and that sets off the investigation. The plot twists are just clever enough to keep me guessing while still being believeable. The gallery of characters is charming (mostly, and I suppose in this context even nasty characters have their charm), and the feel of the setting is spot on.

All in all, I’m very happy to have made the acquaintance of Markby and Mitchell.

Lions’ sale, doctors office

31 Dream Street – Lisa Jewel
The Tiger in the Smoke – Margery Allingham
Cargo of Eagles – Margery Allingham
The China Governess – Margery Allingham

Very happy about the Allinghams, after getting Police at the Funeral for my Birthday  I’ve been wanting more. The Jewel I thought would make a good candidate for holiday reading, for leaving behind once I’ve done with it. Off to register it at bookcrossing, therefore.

April, May and much of June

I swear I meant to write proper posts on some of these. However:

Police at the Funeral – Margery Allingham
Showed up in my mailbox as a sort of birthday present – bookcrossing style. A quirky and charming read and definitely an author to look out for later. I still haven’t quite decided who next to «inflict» this on, I think it takes a certain kind of reader… Hm.

Portnoy’s Complaint – Philip Roth
A little dreary, but good in its way – I think its supposed to be a little dreary, to be honest. Recognisable and not so recognisable themes of guilt and shame, religion and upbringing.

The Chronicles of Prydain – Lloyd Alexander
A reread occasioned by finding the first three books in Norwegian second-hand by chance.

Sputnik Sweetheart – Haruki Murakami
Also a bookcrossing copy, my suspicions that I’d like Murakami in novel-form was confirmed. A perfectly beautiful – though quite sinister – book, and very hard to put down once you’ve started.

Under the Duvet, Angels and The Other Side of the Story – Marian Keyes 
A three for one sale on Marian Keyes paperbacks, and these are the ones I came away with. Under the Duvet was entertaining, but possibly a little too light-hearted for my taste (even the pieces dealing with serious issues such as alchoholism somehow felt light-hearted, something Rachel’s Holiday – the novel dealing with the same issue – doesn’t). I realised, shortly after having started it, that I’ve read Angels before. Nevermind, I didn’t remember how it would all end and it was worth a reread (even if I still don’t really like the ending. Bah). The Other Side of the Story was, uhm, not quite up to Keys’ usual standard, I don’t think. I think partly it was the narrative form I didn’t like, it was slightly too disjointed to suit the overall style of the novel (or me, possibly).

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox – Maggie O’Farrell
Received from Tonbel, who grabbed the chance to get rid of some books while I was there. Most of them ended up bookcrossed, but this one she suggested I read, and I’m glad she did. The main problem with this book was that it was at least 400 pages too short. I wanted to know more, much more, and it left me (internally, I was on the bus) shouting «But what happened next?» Not that the story is unfinished as such, just that the characters were compelling enough to make me want to read more. I think I will have to put the books O’Farrell mentions as helpful when researching on my tbr list.

I’ve probably forgotten something here, oh well.

Stiff – Shane Maloney

«Huh», I thought, upon finding this on the OBCZ-shelf, «I’ve never read an Australian crime novel before. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever read an Australian novel before.» I think I might be wrong on that second count, though. Nevil Shute, possibly? Anyhow, I brought the book home and it happened to be handily available shortly after when I’d finished Perdita.

Stiff is entertaining enough and the basic plot is sound, and fairly original. However, there’s not much local colour to be getting on with, to my mind the story might as well have been set in Britain or the States. Also, and worse, the subplots and characterisations are pretty much what you’d get if there was such a thing as an «off the peg crime story character shop». Especially the near-divorce, down-at-heel characteristics of the hero made me feel that I’ve read it all before, which is a pity.

So I won’t go out of my way to find another Murray Whelan mystery. But I won’t run in the opposite direction if I see one, either, so it’s not all bad.


(Here is one I prepared earlier, i.e. last night:) This is not good. The diary seems to be stopping me from updating this reading log (would that be a rlog or a glog, I wonder?). I will try to improve the frequency, especially because this is going to have to be some post to get me up to date…

Hornblower… Finished the series. Thought once again what a pity it was that there are only 10 books. Reflected that I am glad there are 20 Aubrey/Maturin books (O’Brian), especially since they are infinitely better than Forester’s books, although there should have been more. There should always be more books, good ones, that is.

Read some more Sayers. Thrones, Dominations arrived, so I dropped everything to read that. Kjetil was a bit miffed, as he was visiting that week, and I became rather engrossed. Lovely book. I don’t think I would have noticed that it wasn’t all Sayers’ work if I hadn’t known (it was finished by Jill Paton Walsh), and also suspect that the bits I did wonder at were probably Sayers’ own. At least considering JPW’s statement that the majority of the letters she’s had saying «that’s not the way Sayers would have wanted it» actually referred to Sayers’ own passages.

And, of course, I’ve been reading No Logo. It really is highly recommended. Even if you don’t want to get involved in actual activism, and even if a boycott of all the brands that deserve being boycotted is virtually impossible (unless you start producing everything yourself), knowing why others become activists and exercising a little bit of consumer awareness when shopping is no bad thing. And if you think, as I vaguely did, that the main focus of the book is the exploitation of the «third world», you really should read it. The main impression I am left with is that the so-called globalisation is not only an economic and ecological threat, first and foremost it is a cultural threat. Corporate thinking is taking over our cultural space. That can’t be good. Read the book!

On a lighter note, I got hold of India Knight’s (my favourite columnist) new novel, Don’t You Want Me. It is a vast improvement on her first, My Life on a Plate, and that is very good, so this is rockin’. The most enoyable parts of Don’t You Want Me are, in fact, the parts that are most like her columns, rants of various kinds on any topic that happens to be remotely related to the plot. There are also a couple of hilarious scenes when the main character takes her toddler to an extremely PC playgroup. I suspect, however, that the reason I liked it so much more than the first one, is that this has a perfectly happy ending of the «and they lived happily ever after» sort. I like happy endings.

The new job gives me plenty of bus-time to read. It makes up for the fact that getting to work now takes 45-50 minutes instead of 20-30. So I read Populärmusik från Vittula on the bus. Risky stuff, as it’s of LOL quality, and that sort of thing tends to startle the other passengers. Apart from being side-achingly funny, it is a very enjoyable book on many levels (though enjoyable might be the wrong word, it’s rather tragic in a way), and fully deserves all the attention that’s been lavished on it in the Scandinavian media lately (and how often does that happen?).

This weekend I read Arthemis Fowl, after having put it off for ages, thinking I probably wouldn’t like it much. I finally caved in (due to the «what to read while waiting for Harry Potter 5» hype), hoping to be proved wrong. Unfortunately, I wasn’t. It’s decently written, but suffers from a severe lack of likeable characters. People talk about Harry Potter being immoral and bad for children, well, what about a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind? How moral is that. Ok, so he loves his mother and he has a soft spot, preferring not to kill people (or fairies), but that really does not make him sympathetic. And the other characters aren’t much better. By the end of the story I was rooting for something to go wrong and blow up and kill everyone involved so the rest of the world could get on with it, and good riddance. NOT a book I will put on my «what to recommend to children (of any age)» list (notice that I have NOT linked to this book).

I’ve also read, of all things, a couple of so-called «erotic classics», The Story of O, which was more disturbing than erotic, really, and Uten en tråd (Jens Bjørneboe). I can see why the latter caused a stir when it was published in the latter half of the 60ies, but in a way I also wonder at it, because it is so obviously written to provoke. I thought I’d read Mykle next, the other serious Norwegian author tried in court for publishing obscene/pornographic material. Unlike Bjørneboe, Mykle apparently was caught unawares by the hullaballoo, he was simply trying to write good literature. Hopefully that will mean the books are better worth reading, and possibly have an actual plot (I like plots).

This Saturday saw me on the prowl for more Saxegaard books, and I had amazing luck at one of the second-hand book-shops at Majorstua, where I found the last Ina-book, Ina og Ingolf (which means I’m now down to missing only four Ina books to complete the collection). Obviously, that’s what I read Saturday evening.

I’m sure I’ve left something out, this doesn’t actually seem like a lot for one-and-a-half month’s reading. I’ve watched a lot of television, though (bad girl!), and I’ve read at least one trashy romance of average quality (no, I’m not going to tell you the title, there’s no point, they’re pretty much all the same anyway).

Right now I’m in one of those «too many books at once» moods, where I have a hard time settling down to one book, because there’s so many others I’d like to be reading at the same time. Consequently, I read a chapter of one and then swap to another one and then back and then to a third, and sometimes end up just turning the television on instead (which is quite stupid, really, as that’s just going to postpone the finishing of the books further). Anyhow, I am currently in the middle of the following:
Two Feet, Four Paws, the travelogue by a girl, Spud, who, with her dog, Tess, walked the coastline of Britain in order to raise money for Shelter. Very enjoyable, though I have not yet come to Scotalnd, which was what I was looking for when I bought the book (trying to read as much about Scotland as I can before I go in September).
The Port-Wine Sea, by Susan Wenger, fellow O’Brian fan and member of the Gunroom – the book being a parody on the beloved series. Immensely satisfying.
Hele verden er min, Annik Saxegaard – another of Saturday’s finds.
Big Chief Elizabeth, by Giles Milton, is reminding me why I so seldom read history. Despite being avidly interested in the subject, I tend to find «proper» history books too heavy going (remember I do a lot of reading on the bus and such places), on the other hand, «popularisations» like this are just too lightweight – I keep looking for more depth, more source references, more detail, more critical reflection (not PC condemnation of anything resembling racism and sweeping generalisations).
Sangen om den røde rubin (Song of the Red Ruby), Agnar Mykle – as mentioned above, I’m only a few pages in, though, so no opinions to vent yet.
Those, as well as several others, including Min son fäktas mot världen by Björn Ranelid, which I stranded in half-way through sometime around Christmas and still really want to finish (I was enjoying it before I got stuck), but can’t quite work up enthusiasm for. We’ll see. I’ve also got the Chaim Potok biography by Abramson on the table, and I want to get started on it in order to write a proper Potok page for the bookshelves – there is very little good information on Potok on the web, and I feel I ought to at least try to remedy it somewhat.

Updates will (probably) follow once any (or all) are finished.

Odds and ends

Ok, Easter is over and I’m back at work (sigh).

For some reason it has become almost mandatory to read whodunnits at Easter in Norway, so that’s what I’ve been doing. I had a very frustrating time of it, though, as what I like is to be surprised when I get to the end, and this year very few things surprised me.

First, I read Kakerlakkene by Jo Nesbø. It’s a Norwegian one, and I don’t think it’s been translated, so those of you who don’t read Norwegian will just have to ignore this bit. Nesbø is one of my favourite songwriters, so I thought it was about time I checked out his novels, too. And I’m glad I did, too. Very engaging, and beautifully written. Unfortunately, I sort of guessed major parts of the plot way before they happened. Pity. Still, I’m certainly going to read the other Harry Hole books as well.

Right, then I got on to P.D. James’ last novel, Death in Holy Orders. I got rather worried half way through, as the person I thought would be murdered had just been murdered and I thought maybe I knew who’d done it, too. Fortunately, I was proved wrong – I hadn’t guessed the murderer, though I’d sort of guessed the motive. All in all, the end made me very happy (for another reason, too – trying to avoid spoilers here), and I can say that, as usual, P.D. James really has to be read.

I also watched Evil Under the Sun (Agatha Christie) on television, and got the murderer way too early. Very annoying, but the Poirot mini-series are always so throughly enjoyable because of the setting and the people that it didn’t really matter all that much.

Gosford Park is a whodunnit of a sort, too, and I saw that Saturday. Beautifully done, with an amazing cast, wonderful props, costumes and cars, lovely lines abounding and an invaluable addtion to the portayal of upstairs/downstairs life. But again: there were no surprises. It was obvious who the murderer was, how the murder was done and what the motives were. So disappointing. On the other hand, you get Altman’s inimitable touches of reality twisted, so despite the obvious solution it’s a picture well worth seeing. And you never know, you might not think it all too obvious…

Adding to the disappointments, I finished listening to Ian Carmichael reading The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L. Sayers yesterday. Delightfully read, Lord Peter was lovely company as usual and Sayers isn’t normally one to disappoint. But. I actually guessed at the «murder weapon» in the very first few chapters – granted, by the time the body was found I had forgotten about this (it was a few days later, my time). However, when the puzzle was almost solved but the weapon still a mystery, of course I remembered again. And it was so b****ing obvious! Fair enough, a little specialist knowledge helped, but I can’t believe that Lord Peter (who should, judging from the rest of the story, have more knowledge on the subject than me) would take weeks and even months to come up with the solution. In this case, then, as opposed to the others, the problem wasn’t so much that I guessed the solution, but that the sleuth didn’t. And in some ways I think that’s worse. I really do not want to be steps ahead of Lord Peter. Really.

All in all, as you see, I have been a bit too clever this Easter. Problem is, I don’t really think I’ve been too clever, I think the authors haven’t been clever enough. I still think I’ll read those other Nesbø books, though. And I’ve just started Lord Peter views the Body (same narrator), so I haven’t given up on him, either.