Over the last couple of years I have amassed a pile of books to read - a pile even greater than normal due to my not being able to concentrate while my mother was ill. Recently I have devoured so many whodunits and similar escapist writings. Crime and detective stories are not only quick transport to mysterious closed circumstances: a dangerous box in which one can be a safe observer, but they are so often really well written, and can also whisk the reader off to different places and times.
My favourite authors for blocking out my everyday, and whose latest titles have been neatly stacking up on my recently acquired Kindle include Val McDermid (The Retribution) who takes me into fascinatingly sick minds - although I'm afraid that I did guess the denouement of this one, but that could possibly be a result of the sickness of my thinking at the time! Ian Rankin (The Impossible Dead) just does not write quickly enough for me. I also love going back to Edinburgh with him, as I do with Kate Atkinson (Started Early, Took My Dog).
I recently discovered the books of Camilla Lackberg, set in Fjallbacha, Sweden, and have been working my way through them. The last one I read was The Gallows Bird, which is the fourth in her series about detective Patrick Hedstrom. I very much enjoy the small community interaction which she captures, as well as the consequences of the claustrophobia which can arise. She has filled the gap I've felt waiting for the next Karin Fossum to drop in price a bit (The Caller). It is the examination of family history and the unravelling of motive which I very much appreciate in both of these Scandanavian authors.
From the extreme cool of one hemisphere to the heat of another, I was recently introduced by a friend to the writing of Deon Meyer, a South African who writes in Afrikaans, and so again I am benefiting from the underrated skills of excellent translation. I read Dead Before Dying, and Blood Safari, and thoroughly enjoyed the adventures.
Another introduction, this time through a review in the Guardian newspaper, was The Lock Artist by Steve Hamilton. This is mystery, but turned somewhat on its head - perhaps describing it as a psychological thriller would be more accurate. A different angle is also taken by Belinda Bauer whose Darkside I recently read. It was by reading a review in the Guardian again that I found her brilliant Blacklands. I must say that I preferred the latter, although Darkside is good too.
And it was because of the translator mentioned in the Guardian review of Death in August by Marco Vichi. Stephen Sartarelli, a poet with a lovely feel for idiom, also translates the detective novels of Andrea Camilleri (whose The Potter's Field I am anticipating with impatience). Death in August is a more gentle crime novel set in 1960s' Florence. The drawing of the characters are more of the attraction than the intricacy of the crime - but all is enjoyable.
For the history I love reading the novels of Jason Goodwin. An Evil Eye is the fourth set in Ottoman Istambul, with an Eunuch as the detective. Istambul is a great attraction to me, in present day as well as in history, and I always eagerly await the Inspector Ikmen novels of Barbara Nadel - the latest is A Noble Killing.
I read good reviews of Ruth Rendell's The Vault, which follows on from a novel she wrote years ago under her pen name Barbara Vine: A Sight for Sore Eyes. I had read the latter, but a long time since, and so I read both together. I enjoyed the Vine again, but was rather disappointed with the new novel. I have been going off Ruth Rendell recently, and I suspect that this is the last of her current work that I'll read. Past Barbara Vine titles, however, are usually worth reading as psychological thrillers.
And then for something completely different: PD James' Death Comes to Pemberley. This is a 'sequel' to Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and although it involves a mysterious murder is not exactly a murder mystery, nor a detective story. It was fun to read, although occasionally questioning whether certain expressions really were used at the time - they probably were; I'm constantly surprised.
Now I have so much time to myself - I still cannot believe it - my determination is to make a start on that ever increasing pile of books-which-need-concentration, and books which deserve chunks of time. First is The Grid Book by Hannah B. Higgins, a fascinating examination of how a grid was and is used in town planning, music, art, ... it is divertingly informative and thought-provoking.
Also I'm progressing through the biography of painter Edward Burra, written by Jane Stevenson. I was attracted to this for two reasons, and now a third. First, I have always admired a lot and disliked some of the work of Edward Burra, and have been curious about him for a long long time. Second, I very much enjoyed a book of short stories: Good Women by Jane Stevenson, and now third, there is a retrospective exhibition of Burra's work which I intend to see soon.
Waiting at the top of the pile, next, is Katharine Harmon's You are here:Personal geographies and other maps of the imagination.