Crime Fiction

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Alphabet Soup

We called our reading theme for October ‘Alphabet Soup’. We each drew a letter of the alphabet and read something with a connection to that letter…
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Our group runs on very informal lines and one of our unwritten rules is that we don’t have a ‘set’ book to read. Instead we pick a theme and choose to read something that fits into it – however loosely! Picking a letter from a ‘hat’ brought its own challenges – a brain-teaser for the person who drew Q, and plain sailing for the one who drew the Joker and could read anything they liked.

Not being tied to a reading list means our discussion is always free-ranging and our last meeting was no exception. The news had broken that Tom Cruise is no longer going to play Jack Reacher in the films, and this brought a collective sigh of relief. We’re aware the plan is to move the franchise onto TV so we’re not sure if that means no more feature films. But… however we looked at it, it seemed good news. For all his acting ability, Tom Cruise just doesn’t cut it as Jack Reacher.

At our meeting we also talked about rating our reads. Without having some sort of points scale it’s difficult to gauge how much someone has enjoyed a book, so we’ve decided to institute a Star rating system where 5-stars is ‘Beyond brilliant’ and 1-star is ‘Don’t even bother to read the flyleaf!’ We know this is still subjective and some of us will be nervous of giving either the highest or lowest score to start with, but over time we may get more comfortable about it.

So, alphabetically-speaking, what did we actually read?

'Little Deaths' by Emma Flint
Rated: 4-stars Set in New York in 1965 this was inspired by a true story, which added an extra layer of interest. A mother of two dead children is suspected of killing them herself. Only an inexperienced newspaper reporter eventually begins to doubt the police version of events and investigates further. Calendar Girl enjoyed the way the plot unfolded and looks forward to Emma Flint’s next book, whenever it appears.

‘X’ by Sue Grafton
Rated: 4-stars The 24th book in the Kinsey Millhone series, the story features a serial killer. A darker story than some of Sue Grafton’s other books and Freyja says it’s a gripping read. She’s enjoyed most of the books in the Alphabet series partly, she thinks, because of the lyrical language and descriptions of the Californian landscape and countryside.

‘Vanish’ by Tess Gerritsen
Rated: 3-stars "One of her better books," was Freyja’s verdict on this. But it only earned 3-stars. A story built around a hostage situation in a hospital, where one of the hostages is pregnant homicide detective Jane Rizzoli.

‘Outrage’ by Arnaldur Indridason
Rated: 4-stars Cornish Eskimo recommends this Icelandic author because his books are always absorbing. ‘Outrage’ is no exception. Not least because the murder victim is the character you’d more usually expect to be the killer. Detective Elinborg steadily picks away at the clues until all is revealed.

‘Pretty Baby’ by Mary Kubica
Rated: 4+ stars One of our highest scores this month. A psychological thriller with so many twists and turns that it was hard to keep up. And even though Clover felt many of the characters weren’t even likeable it was difficult to put the book down. The story just builds and builds. And the verdict? Read it!

’29 Seconds’ by T.M. Logan
Rated: 4+ stars Another book rating a high score. The story of a good woman whose career is being stymied by her boss. Things change when she rescues a girl in trouble, and the girl’s father offers her the chance to turn her work situation around, with no comebacks. It was gripping and felt very topical. Pink Alpaca recommends it.

‘Fire Sermon’ by Jamie Quatro
Rated: 1-star The lowest score in this month's list. The best that could be said was that it was "fortunately, a short read!" It’s the rather tedious story of an extra-marital affair.

‘The Mother’ by Jaime Raven
Rated: 2-stars The young daughter of a South London detective is abducted, and she must take the investigation into her own hands to save her child. Feebs didn’t feel the characters were authentic which is why it gets a low rating.

‘Her Every Fear’ by Peter Swanson
Rated: 5-stars The highest accolade! Feebs says this is the best book she’s read for ages. But it was exhausting too, because it was so hard to put down she was snatching moments to read a few more pages, whenever and wherever she could. A psychological thriller.

‘Without the Moon’ by Cathi Unsworth
Rated: 3+ stars Set in London during the Blitz, DCI Greenaway is trying to stop a serial killer. But is this there more than one murderer? Oxo considered this "an OK read, which was atmospheric and worldly".

Other books we chatted about included:
‘Careless Love’ by Peter Robinson. The new Inspector Banks novel. "Proceeds at a steady pace but DCI Banks is always good value." 3-stars.
‘Wild Fire’ by Ann Cleeves. The last in the Shetland series. "Sad to see the series end. It's been really enjoyable." 3-stars.
‘Behind Her Eyes’ by Sarah Pinborough. "A strange, psychological thriller." 4-stars.
‘The Chalk Man’ by C.J. Tudor. "A frightening and clever story." 4-stars.
‘Paying the Ferryman’ by Jane A. Adams. "A slow-building story about a murdered family." 3-stars.

And finally, a non-fiction crime book ‘The Good Mothers’ by Alex Perry was highly recommended by one of our number. It’s the true story of an Italian state prosecutor called Alessandra Cerreti who persuaded three women who were married to Mafia men to testify against them. This is an eye-opening account of the reach and power of organised crime today. Rated 4+ stars.

So, there you have it. Pick and choose from our selections as the mood takes you! For November we’re each reading at least one book that doesn’t feature a detective so we hope to have some interesting titles to discuss at our next meeting on Friday, 14 December at 2.30pm in Oundle Library. Do join us if you’d like to!