Snow Day Reading and More…

 

I’ve been reading a lot in various online publications about Nordic lifestyles.  Articles that throw around terms like Hygge, Lagom and Fika.  I also enjoy Nordic Noir so I thought it would be good to read something Nordic in which no one dies.  My library had  Lagom by Linnea Dunne and How to Hygge by Signe Johansen.  How to Hygge had quite a big recipe section, so it might be more of a book to buy if you’d like to try the recipes.  Both of these were interesting, quick reads, with nods towards finding balance, minimalism, a sense of community and connection, and outdoor living.  They certainly make the lifestyle and more importantly  the priorities of Nordic countries sound idyllic, how accurate they are I can’t really say.  I found the interesting conversation to be less about why Hygge is so desirable/beneficial and more about why American lifestyle is so determinedly headed in the opposite direction, more stress, more working hours, less time off, less socialization.   Two interesting reads for anyone interested in lifestyle trends or who reads all these Nordic murder mysteries and want to see something less grim about Nordic life.

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty is a closed room mystery set in space.  I am not a big Science Fiction reader but the idea that it was a mystery just with a science fiction setting appealed to me so I picked this one up from the library.  The crew of ship headed to a new world with a cargo of humans to populate it as Earth is in its death throes awaken in their cloning pods amidst a grisly scene of death.  Instead of the pristine cloning lab there is blood and bodies everywhere.  The lynch pin of this story is cloning.  The conflicts on earth are between clones and humans and the crew are all clones.  They have to be to survive the long journey.  The idea being as one ages and dies the next clone awakes complete with the memories of each of its predecessors.  This was OK, but it was much more to the science fiction side than the mystery side and that is not really my thing.  Lots of discussion of cloning, cloning politics, mind maps and the computer programming that goes into them.  Science Fiction fans will probably like it as it does have strong characters and an interesting plot.

Dead Silent by Helen Durrant is this month’s read over at the Kindle English Mystery Club on Goodreads.  This is book 2 in the Calladine and Bayliss series.  I have not read Book 1 so this is my introduction to the characters.  The main protagonist of Calladine is a good character with conflicts occurring in his love life, in his relationship with his adult daughter, in the impact having a criminal relative is having on his career and in dealing with the death of his mother and her deathbed revelations.  All this and a missing child and mysterious, horribly tortured body found at the scene of an auto accident.

I found the torture over the top, way over the top and not really realistic.  Dehydration would have killed the victims before anything else.  I thought the pacing seemed rushed somehow and it didn’t really feel like the story flowed naturally.  Thrillers are usually fast paced but this just seemed to race towards the end at the expense of the story.  The storyline of the missing child felt incomplete, although perhaps it will be explored in the next book?   An ok read.

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Dead on Demand & The Missing Ones

 

Dead on Demand was a free kindle book, that I decided to try.   The sleuth is DCI Morton and the murders involve an entire host of suspects connected in a web of deceit on the dark web.  The plot was intriguing as one murder led to the next with one “hand” not really knowing what the other was doing.  The initial trigger for all the crimes was the breakdown of Edwin and Eleanor’s marriage.  Their divorce has far-reaching consequences even beyond London.  DCI Morton is a capable investigator and there is enough of his personal life included to make him a fully fleshed out character.  I did find that with so much going on, the story felt a little rushed.  I also found that the post-resolution piece didn’t really ring true with what we had heard from Edwin throughout the book.  I think that could have been left off.  Overall, an okay mystery read.

The Missing Ones has been on my Kindle for quite  a while and I finally got around to reading it.  Detective Lottie Parker is a widowed parent of 3 teens, struggling with her grief, parenthood, and her job.  Of the three, she seems most successful with her work.  The storyline interweaves a crooked planning committee, a child abuse scandal involving the Catholic church ala Magdalen Laundries, and Lottie’s personal life. The pacing was well done, but the mystery felt like there was nothing new here.  I have read a few Irish Catholic church/Magdalen Laundries storylines in other series and there was not really anything new here.   I do like the character of Lottie and will probably read another in the series.

 

Season of the Witch by Arni Thorarinsson

13447568  This is the fourth book in the Einar series and I have not read the first three and don’t really know the whole story why Einar appears to have been exiled from Reykjavik to this much more isolated outpost.  Einar is a journalist and he falls into murder investigations through his work for the paper.

The voice of Einar is written somewhat strangely.  It took me a while to realize he was a man, there was just something about it that made me assume Einar was female.  The mystery is fine, although I didn’t like his decision about the resolution at the end.  The other characters are ok and even provide some comic relief.  By the end, I was drawn into the story, but it is not one of my favourite series.  I’m not sure I would read more in this series.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

16160797  I’ve had this on my bookshelf forever.  I’d heard such mixed reviews that I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it.  Cormoran Strike is an amputee ex-military man, who now has a PI firm.  On top of this, he is the illegitimate child of a notorious rock star.  Robin is referred to Cormoran through a temp agency, to work as a secretary/assistant.  They form a great team as they investigate the suicide of a supermodel, Lulu.  Cormoran and Robin are both great characters and coupled with an intriguing storyline, I could not put this book down.  This is not a thriller with car chases and lots of death-defying feats, this is more of an investigative mystery.  The reader follows Cormoran as he interviews all the people who touched Lulu’s life and follows up on the leads that Robin digs up for him.

I really enjoyed it and suspect that lots of people who rated it poorly were expecting more thrills and action ala Harry Potter and this is really quite different.  I am glad that I already own the next one and plan on reading it.

The White Lioness by Henning Mankell

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This is book 3 in the Kurt Wallander series.  Wallander is confronted with a seemingly normal middle class well-liked woman’s murder.  As he searches for a reason why she would be executed, connections are revealed to the South African political upheaval.  The book works back and forth between the South African plot and Wallander’s search fo the killer in Sweden.  He follows false leads and is confounded by the South African connections as they are revealed.  Eventually, the story lines are connected as Wallander follows the leads.  I enjoy this series, but this was definitely not my favorite book in it.  Quite a bit of the book was spent in South Africa and following the political upheaval that followed Nelson Mandela’s release from prison.  I will still continue with the series as I have liked the other books and the character of Wallander.

 

I’m Travelling Alone by Samuel Bjork

25716670  This was a book that was recommended to me on a discussion in Goodreads related to cult themed Nordic Noir reads and I was fortunate that my library had it.

This book hooked me in immediately.  Loved the lead characters, Munch and Mia, and the newbie to their team, a hacker, who is just finding his footing in police work.  The characters are well-developed enough so that the reader can get into their heads, but without slowing down the pacing of the story.

The crime(s) involve six-year-old girls being abducted and killed.  A storyline with a local cult is occurring in tandem to this.  At the same time Munch and Mia are having issues in their personal lives.  All these intricate story lines thread together in the end along with a sprinkling of red herrings to keep the reader guessing.  This was a really good Nordic Noir read and I hope they continue to translate the series.

The Devil’s Claw by Lara Dearman

32187728  I saw some reviews for this on Goodreads and decided to give it a try.  Set in Guernsey, it has a great deal of atmosphere and that closed in feel that a somewhat isolated, small community setting can give a book.  The protagonist, Jennifer, is an island girl, who left for a career in journalism and now has returned after her pursuit of a story went wrong.  She finds the body of a beautiful young woman on the beach and is unwilling to drop the story.   She shares her research with a local police officer, Michael, and then, as another girl is missing, it becomes a race against time.

There is a lot of tension built here and many red herrings.  I was convinced I knew who did  it and was completely wrong.  There are also references to Guernsey’s history of Nazi occupation and the impact that had on the community.  Themes of suicide, loss of a child, and obsession are explored.

The killer’s voice is heard in excerpts throughout the book beginning in his childhood and continuing up until the end of the book.  They give insight into his thoughts and especially his triggering (or motivating) event.  I enjoyed this thriller and would read more by the author.