I’ve been doing a lot of hunkering, lately, my friends. Curled up in front of the fire at home. Or, when I was at my mum’s, stretched out on the bed with a pillow under my knees and the heating pad at my back. In both cases I had, and have, my nose stuck in a book. Even without the back and hip issues, it’s hunkering down with a good book season.
When I was at my mum’s place I read Peter Robinson’s latest Superintendent Banks mystery, Many Rivers to Cross. I really enjoyed it, despite the occasional spout of exasperation at Robinson’s infatuation with music. I am not adverse to background description. In fact, I love an author who uses the details of sky and sea and rolling hills to set the mood. But I think that Robinson overdoes the musical name-dropping sometimes. Still, that might just be me, since based on my ignorance of most of the artists, albums, and songs he mentions, I’m a total musical cretin.
Otherwise I loved the book. Especially since it started out in Croatia, with two characters sipping wine on a hillside overlooking the Adriatic and gazing out at the views of the Istrian peninsula. The main plot, however, takes place back in England and involves the murder of a young refugee boy, drug runners, and slimy rich bastards (if you’ll forgive the profanity) who care only about money, not human lives. The secondary plot involves a returning character named Zelda, a woman who was once the victim of sex-traffickers, and now helps the authorities bring them to justice. We met Zelda in Robinson’s last book when she moved in with Annie’s artist father, Ray. I like that Robinson is expanding his stock of returning characters to include Annie’s extended family. I find the relationship between Ray and Zelda interesting and quite endearing.
Overall, I was captivated by this latest installment in Robinson’s Superintendent Banks series. Which was great considering that I was in pain at the time. Tea and a good book definitely are the cure for most evils, I think. Even if only temporarily.
Both Hubby and I are loving Peter May’s China series. These aren’t new books by any means, and I can’t figure out why we’ve never read them. Too engrossed in the Lewis trilogy and what followed, I guess, to reach back to an earlier series. Peter May is one of the best crime and mystery writers around, in my opinion. His Lewis trilogy is one of my all time favourites, which you’ll know if you’ve been reading my book posts for a while.
The first installment of the China series is The Firemaker. Set in Beijing, the story centers around Chinese police detective Li Yan, and Margaret Campbell a visiting American forensic pathologist, and involves corruption, murder, and a love story. This all sounds like the cliché thriller which I guess is why I’d never picked it up before. I am not a fan of classic thrillers, preferring my chase scenes to be more cerebral than vehicular. Ha. What convinced me to read this book was the introduction, written by Peter May himself, in which he describes his many visits to China and to Beijing, and his growing fascination and love for the country.
Let’s just say you will not be disappointed by this book. I wasn’t. I spent a ton of time while I was reading it following up on various events and places mentioned in the book, and reading about the cultural revolution and Chinese history. Talk about falling down a reading rabbit hole. I’m now listening to the second book, The Fourth Sacrifice, on Audible, and I can’t decide if I will listen to or read the third one. There are six in total. Oh, happy day. Too bad that Hubby has read the first book already, I could have bought him the box set of the whole series for Christmas.
I’ve been reading some “best of” lists lately, and found a few names of writers I thought I’d try. I subscribe to an on-line journal called Crime Reads. Mostly because my former student Sara Weinman, who I’ve mentioned before on the blog, writes for them sometimes. When she’s not writing her own books that is. Crime Reads recently published a list of the best crime fiction of the decade. The Crime Reads list is a little too American-centered, in my opinion, with not enough representation from other countries. I guess this is understandable since it is an American publication, but I still feel they might make a bigger effort to look further afield. But I did find a few names of writers whose work I intend to try.
Hubby and I both read Unravelling Oliver by Irish writer Liz Nugent. Nugent is a new writer for me. Unravelling Oliver is not a murder mystery, but an unravelling of why a crime took place, not about who did it. Why does “handsome, charismatic, and successful” Oliver, writer of award-wining children’s books, beat his wife almost to death? Why indeed? Nugent unravels the truth of Oliver’s unravelling through first-person narrative from several perspectives which jump back and forth in time between Oliver’s childhood and adolescence, and present day. While not a classic murder mystery, there’s still lots of mystery. This book is what Sara would call an example of domestic noir… creepy things happening on the home front, people. Ha. Neither Hubby nor I could put the darned book down once we started. I’ll be looking for more from this author in future.
So it’s that time of year my friends. Not time yet for feverish Christmas preparation. At least not at our house. Although we did go to cut our Christmas tree earlier this week. We met this lovely fellow, below. I am a sucker for a draft horse, growing up on the farm as I did with my step-father’s two horses. His team, as he always called them. There’s just something so …well… kind looking and noble about a work horse, I’ve always thought. Ours at home on the farm did not do so much work as they did stand in the field and wait to be petted. But my step-father did take the team to the woods each year around this time, to haul the wood he’d cut. And we always hitched Myrt to the sled to go and get our Christmas tree.
Hubby is also cutting and stacking wood these days. Although without the aid of a horse. He loves doing this. Good thing we have somewhere to burn it. We’re enjoying nightly fires, now that the winter weather has come. And I’ve been doing some Christmas shopping although we don’t really do the big gift-y thing anymore. More like the little gift-y thing. Since according to Hubby I have everything any woman could possibly want. Ha.
For us Christmas preparations will begin in earnest in a week or so. The baking and decorating, and feverish outfit planning. Right now we’re enjoying the lull. When darkness falls in late afternoon, you’ll find us hunkering down in front of the fire with a cup of tea, or a glass of wine, and a good book. Or three.
What about you, my friends?
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