I seem to be averaging once a month with these posts, not often enough to get caught up with what I've been reading, so I'm going to ramble off a long list of titles here and offer just the briefest commentary on each. Better than nothing, I hope. . .
Before our trip, I mentioned that I'd just got Patrick Modiano's Les Boulevards de Ceinture (I think the English translation is titled Ring Roads) from the library, and I enjoyed that, found its dreamy, strange tone very similar -- as was the subject matter, a son searching for a father, various shady characters, an elusive, glamorous woman, the Paris streets, social history (racism, xenophobia) -- to that of Nocturne, which I'd read earlier, in English.
Since we've been back, over the summer months, I've read a slew of mystery novels:
Donna Leon's Blood from a Stone, even more interesting to read now that I've walked the streets of Venice. This volume in her Commissario Brunetti series focusses on the plight of African immigrants trying to make a living as unlicensed, but generally tolerated, vendors. It reflects and illuminates some of what we've seen in Italy and France, immigrants, refugees, displaced and disenfranchised persons trying to survive on the bottom rungs of capitalism. As always, Brunetti and his wife, the professor, provide a thoughtful perspective, and despite Leon's clear indictment of Italian bureaucracy, corruption, xenophobia, and environmental shame, there is also aesthetic pleasure to savour in her descriptions of place, of culture, and perhaps especially of food.
More of those mysteries I read over the summer:
Val McDermid's Out of Bounds (a Karen Pirie mystery) -- No point pretending that my favourite McDermid books aren't the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series, but Karen Pirie is an engaging, credible woman, strong and smart and very human, exposed in her grief here. This volume is well-plotted with twists enough to keep you turning the pages, although I'll admit that three months after reading it, I'm only retaining the rough outlines.
John Farrow, Perish the Day, If you don't know Farrow's Emile Cinq-Mars mysteries, I'm envious that you still have them to discover. Farrow is a nom-de-plume of Trevor Ferguson, a Canadian novelist whose reputation was built on supposedly more literary writing. Honestly, I hope he never turns back to that from his mystery-writing. The genre, so far, has demosnstrated his ability to sketch compelling settings -- in this book, rural, small-town, and academic New England; to develop characters and explore the challenges of ageing (retired detective Cinq-Mars is 66) and of maintaining a relationship across a significant age difference; and to explore questions of good and evil, epistemology, hermeneutics, in a provocative, never pedantic, literarily stylish prose. I'm already impatient for the next one. . . (Instagram posts on Perish the Day, featuring quotations I liked, here and here
Sara Blaedel, The Forgotten Girls (a Louise Rick mystery). Paul picked this one up at an airport and passed it along. Another Scandinavian writer worth following, with a strong, but vulnerable, female detective (and a backstory that will be unfolding with each volume, I suspect). Character development, plot, setting, all strong -- the hermetic sense of a tightknit small rural community is convincing. . .
Julia Keller, Last Ragged Breath (a Bell Elkins mystery) -- my favourite, so far, of this series, as Keller seems less prone here to the extended (and often folksy) metaphors that tended to irritate as much as entertain, in the earlier books. The series reads well with/against J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy, which I hope to get 'round to here, eventually.
I do have several more mysteries to recommend, but if I don't click "Publish" today, this post may well languish for another month. So . . . .
Comments always welcome: your feedback if you've read any of these as well, or recommendations from your recent reading. Or whatever. . . .