Thursday, 17 September 2020

The Sleeping Car Murders by Sebastien Japrisot - Translated by Francis Price - #BookReview

"This is the Way it Began .......... The train was coming in from Marseille. To the man whose job it was to go through the corridors and check the empty compartments, it was 'the Phonceen - ten minutes to eight; after that, breakfast'. Before that, there had been 'the Annecy - twenty-five minutes to' on which he had found two raincoats, an umbrella, and a leak in the heating system. When he saw the Phoceen pull in on the other sice of the same platform, he was standing by a window, looking at the broken nut on one of the valves."

A beautiful young woman lies sprawled on her berth in the sleeping car of the night train from Marseille to Paris. She is not in the embrace of sleep, or even in the arms of one of her many lovers. She is dead.

The unpleasant task of finding her killer is handed to overworked, crime-weary police detective Pierre 'Grazzi' Grazziano, who would rather play hide-and-seek with his little son than cat and mouse with a diabolically cunning, savage murderer.

Sebastien Japrisot takes the reader on an express ride of riveting suspense that races through a Parisian landscape of lust, deception and death. With corpses turning up everywhere, the question becomes not only who is the killer, but who will be the next victim.

***

This book was first published in France in 1962 and in the UK two years following. This re-publication will delight readers who enjoy classic crime fiction as the characteristic format of the story will be recognised as familiar. It reminded me of novels by Simenon, Christie and their ilk.

It was adapted for film in France in 1965. I have not seen the film but I would imagine that it would lend itself to a cinematic adaptation extremely well.

I really enjoyed the atmospheric quality of this book and the author did a really good job of describing both place and character. 

As well as the two detectives investigating this case, we learn much about the several victims and travellers in the titular railway sleeping car and the author has made even these more minor characters relatable.  However, it is the detective, Grazziano, and his quirky assistant, Jean-Loup, who have been so expertly drawn.

I would read other books by  the late Sebastien Japrisot as he was a good storyteller, and whats more, I did not figure out who had committed the murders, so the reveal was exciting for me. It's narrative twists and turns and each time I thought I had worked out who the murderer was there was another spin of the narration and I had to rethink. I so very much enjoy a book that can do that.

It is a short book with a big story within it's pages and I think anyone who enjoys a murder mystery will really enjoy reading this book.

ISBN: 978 1910477939

Publisher: Gallic Books

About the Author:

S├ębastien Japrisot, an anagram of his real name, Jean-Baptiste Rossi, was born in Marseilles, France in 1931 and died in Vichy, France in 2003. 

He was a French author, screenwriter and film director, and has been nicknamed "the Graham Greene of France".

Famous in the Francophony, he was little known in the English-speaking world, though a number of his novels have been translated into English and have been made into films.

His first novel, Les mal partis was written at the age of 16 and published under his real name, Jean-Baptiste Rossi.  






 

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson - #TuesdayTeaser

 I can never resist a book about knitting and am pleased to be including this one as my Tuesday Teaser today. So here is some information about the book and it's beginning. What do you think? Are you tempted to read it with me?






When his adoptive mother, Joy, unexpectedly passes away, Jesse Strong is determined that her Harlem knitting shop, Strong Knits, should stay open. But his brothers - unsure if the flaky playboy Jesse can handle this responsibility - want to tie off loose ends and close shop.

Enter Kerry Fuller. Kerry has worked at Strong Knits for years and she's harboured a secret crush on Jesse for even longer. Soon, she's teaching Jesse and his brothers the knitty-gritty parts of the business they need to know - while trying to keep her heart from getting broken.

The more time they spend together, the stronger the chemistry builds between them. Kerry, knowing Jesse's history, doesn't believe their relationship can last longer than she can knit one, purl one. Can Jesse prove to Kerry that he is the right man for her - and that only real men knit?

***

"There was nothing cute about the first time Kerry Fuller met Jesse Strong.

He broke her glasses; she bloodied his nose and they both ended up in a tangle of yarn on the floor in the loft space of Strong Knits being scolded by Mama Joy.

What she wouldn't do to be scolded one more time, Kerry thought as she adjusted her dark framed glasses as she pushed aside the almost long-forgotten childhood memory. She glanced over at the front window of Strong Knits, the Harlem yarn shop that had been such a part of her life growing up.

Any other day Kerry loved walking through the doors of Strong Knits. It had been that way since she first stepped foot in the little knitting shop where she'd worked part time for the better part of the last ten years and pretty much just hung out for most of her childhood years before that, making it her unlikely sanctuary. A place of calm in the midst of the chaos that was the concrete jungle of upper Manhattan. But this day was anything but normal......"


ISBN: 978 0008435233

Publisher: Harper Collins











Friday, 4 September 2020

A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville - #BookReview



"My Dear Son, James, has given me a task for my last years, or months, or whatever time I have left beyond the many years I have lived so far. It is to compile an account called 'The History of the Macarthurs of Camden Park.' Meaning myself and my late husband John Macarthur. He was barely cold in his grave when they began lauding him as a hero, even the ones who loathed him in life."


It is 1788. Twenty-one-year-old Elizabeth is hungry for life but, as the ward of a Devon clergyman, knows she has few prospects. When proud, scarred soldier, John Macarthur, promises her the earth one midsummer’s night, she believes him.

But Elizabeth soon realises she has made a terrible mistake. Her new husband is reckless, tormented, driven by some dark rage at the world. He tells her he is to take up a position as Lieutenant in a New South Wales penal colony and she has no choice but to go. Sailing for six months to the far side of the globe with a child growing inside her, she arrives to find Sydney Town a brutal, dusty, hungry place of makeshift shelters, failing crops, scheming and rumours. 

All her life she has learned to be obliging, to fold herself up small. Now, in the vast landscapes of an unknown continent, Elizabeth has to discover a strength she never imagined, and passions she could never express. 


***

I loved every word of this book. It was beautifully written and when I got to the end I could have happily gone straight back to the beginning and started it all over again.

The book is narrated by Elizabeth, the wife of John Macarthur, and is inspired by her letters to family and friends in England. Ms. Grenville has taken those documents and given Elizabeth a voice of her own from a time when the voice of women was very rarely heard. This is the memoir that Elizabeth never wrote but the author has such acute understanding of what Elizabeth's life was probably like that this reads as an extremely believable account.

The author's description of New South Wales was highly evocative and she describes the brutality towards the indigenous population and the transported convicts with perceptive skill. This is a brilliantly imagined account, of the lives of the first settlers in Australia.

This is the first book I have read by Kate Grenville and it certainly will not be my last. Thankfully, she has already published several novels for me to choose from. I highly recommend this book. I would be surprised if it does not make it into my Top 2020 Best Books at the end of this year.

Have you read anything by this author? Which of her novels do you suggest I read next?

ISBN: 9781838851231

Publisher: Canongate Books


About the Author



Kate Grenville is one of Australia's best-known authors. She's published eight books of fiction and four books about the writing process. Her best-known works are the international best-seller The Secret River, The Idea of Perfection, The Lieutenant and Lilian's Story. 

 Her novels have won many awards both in Australia and the UK, several have been made into major feature films, and all have been translated into European and Asian languages.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020

Left on the Shelf: Reading in September - 2020

Left on the Shelf: Reading in September - 2020:   Sitting at my desk on this first morning of September, I cannot help but watch out of my window and watch the world go by. The best of the...

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Reading in September - 2020

 


Sitting at my desk on this first morning of September, I cannot help but watch out of my window and watch the world go by. The best of the summer has passed and this morning it is beautifully sunny and I cannot help trying to grasp this late summer sunshine before we head into Autumn.

Yesterday, I purchased a bunch of sunflowers which are bringing some much wanted colour into my room. They are such beautiful flowers - loud and brash, they make no apology for the statement they make and neither should they. Beautiful in their own unique way and when they go over they leave a seed head to nourish the garden birds.

Some of the books I plan to read this month I have carried over from last month as I did not get around to reading them. There are some books that I am very excited to read this month so without any further ado - here they are.

Happy reading everyone. 

***

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (This will be a re-read for me)

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Independent People by Halldor Laxness

Gift Wrap Green by Camille Wilkinson

Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain

Renia's Diary by Renia Spiegel

The Story of Babushka by Catherine Flores

Jerusalem as a Second Language by Rochelle Distelheim

Spirited by Julie Cohen

The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Books to Finish

The Weaker Vessel, Woman's Lot in Seventeenth Century England: Part One by Antonia Fraser.


Women Who Run With the Wolves: Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman 
by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

This Isn't the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You by Jon McGregor.

Monday, 31 August 2020

August 2020 Roundup

 


What a peculiar month August has been weather wise. We have had some unpleasantly hot sweltering days when it was impossible to keep cool. We have also had torrential rain at times as well as the winds brought to us courtesy of Storm Francis. I wonder if September will bring us a late summer heatwave.

Out of all of the books I planned to read during August I only actually read four of them. Other books came along and lured me along the path of reading temptation, and weak soul that I am, I gave in to it. I completely blame the authors for writing such good books and publishers for creating such gorgeously tempting book covers. I accept no responsibility for my own feeble attempts at resistance :-)

I am also a bit behind with my reviewing as, with some Covid 19 restrictions being eased, it has been wonderful to see my family again and I know you will all understand that that became my priority this month. I will be catching up with writing my reviews very soon.

What books were you tempted by this month? I would love to hear about them.


Books I Read During August

Murder in Chianti by Camilla Trinchieri - I was transported to Italy when I read this book. My review can be found by clicking here.

Girl by Edna O'Brien - This was a great book but made for uncomfortable reading at times. It is the story of one of the 276 girls who were kidnapped by the Boko Haram organisation in Nigeria in 2014.  A very worthwhile read that I highly recommend.

A Room Made of Leaves by Kate Grenville - This was my favourite book this month. A fictionalised account of the life of Elizabeth Macarthur, wife of John Macaruthur, a military man who was posted to Australia at the time of the transportation of criminals. My review of this book will be up very soon.

Dear Mrs Bird by A.J. Pearce - This is another book that I really enjoyed reading this month. Set during World War II it is the uplifting story of a young woman in London assisting the agony aunt of a woman's magazine.

Out of Bounds by Val McDermid (Karen Pirie #4) - I am enjoying the Karen Pirie series. She is an excellent character and the book has just the right amount of her personal life running alongside this police procedural novel. I am looking forward to reading the next one in the series.

The Sleeping Car Murders by Sebastien Naprisot - Translated from the French this tells the story of how and why a woman was murdered on an overnight sleeper train. A fascinating novel of twists and turns. My review will be up for this book very soon.

How's the Pain? by Pascal Garnier - Another novel translated from the French. It is an excellent short novel about the unlikely pairing of Simon, an ageing vermin exterminator and Bernard, a young man he employs as his driver. An excellent novel and my review of this book will be up very soon.


Books I am Partway Through

The Weaker Vessel, Woman's Lot in Seventeenth Century England: Part One by Antonia Fraser.

Women Who Run With the Wolves: Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.

This Isn't the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You by Jon McGregor.




Thursday, 20 August 2020

Murder in Chianti by Camilla Trinchieri - #BookReview

                                                                                                                                                                     


"Monday, 5.13 a.m. The sun wouldn't show up for at least another hour, but Nico got out of bed, shrugged on a T-shirt, pulled on a pair of shorts and socks, and laced up his trainers. Bed had stopped being a welcome place, both back in the Bronx brownstone he and Rita had lived in for twenty-five years, and here in this century-old, two roomed farmhouse he'd rented since May."


Mourning the loss of his late wife, Rita, former detective Nico Doyle moves to her hometown of Gravigna in the wine region of Chianti. He isn't sure if it's peace he's seeking, but that certainly isn't what he finds: early one morning he hears a gunshot near his cabin and walks outside to the sight of a flashily dressed man with his face blown off.

Salvatore Perillo, the local inspector, enlists Nico's help with the murder case. It turns out more than one person in this idyllic corner of Italy knew the victim, and with a very small pool of suspects, including his own in-laws, Nico must dig up Gravigna's every last painful secret to get to the truth.

***
So many of us have had to stay-cation this year. Not a bad thing in itself as we have some beautiful places to visit here in the UK. However, reading this book transported me to Tuscany. It is so rich in atmosphere that I could almost taste the food, sample the wines and feel the Italian sun seeping into my bones.

Additionally, there is a stray dog who attaches himself to Nico, who has this huge void in his life following the death of his wife. I think I may have fallen a little in love with Nico. The author's portrayal of him as a kind, compassionate, grieving man is extremely well executed. As he becomes involved with the local police force in solving the murder of the man whose body he discovered we see his resourcefulness and sensitivity.

The secondary characters are equally well drawn and Ms Trinchieri is able to portray the members of a close community with real skill. Evocative language and great storytelling skills made this an extremely enjoyable read for me.

It is perfect for fans of Donna Leon, Philip Gwynne Jones and Andrea Camilleri.

I am thrilled that this is set to be the first in a series and I am looking forward to the next one already. It is a wonderful combination of character, atmosphere and murder mystery and far exceeds many books of this genre that I have read. I hope that you will enjoy it too.

ISBN: 978 0749026462

Publisher: Allison & Busby

About the Author



Camilla Trinchieri worked for many years on films in Rome with directors including Federico Fellini and Luchino Visconti. She emigrated to the US in 1980 and received her MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University. Under the pseudonym Camilla Crespi, she has published seven crime novels, including The Breakfast Club Murder.