I only read three books again in February. I’ve got so many books in my ‘to be read’ pile I really need to get back to reading 8-10 books a month like I used to.
I had a think about why I’m reading less these days and I don’t think I actually am reading less – I’m reading differently. I read so many blogs and magazines and spend time reading posts on social media or study materials for courses that it doesn’t leave a lot of time for reading books. Also a lot of the time I would have spent reading in the past, I’m now spending working on this site. The other thing I realised was that when I lived in London I’d spend a couple of hours commuting each day on the tube or bus and this would be reading time. Now I can spend the same amount of time commuting, but I’m driving so it’s dead time as far as doing anything else is concerned.
So maybe I just have to accept that my reading output isn’t going to increase anytime soon and the ‘to be read’ pile is just going to keep on getting bigger and bigger.
Anyway, on to what I did manage to read last month.
Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves
This is the latest in the Shetland series. Lerwick based Inspector Jimmy Perez has yet another murder to solve. If Ann Cleeves’ books were based on fact Shetland, with a population of just over 22,000, would have the highest per capita murder rate in the world. In reality it has one of the lowest. I struggled to find out when the last murder in Shetland was as Google kept trying to tell me it was in 1231. As much as I believe Shetland is one of the safest places in the world to be, I thought there must be a more recent murder than that. Eventually I found one that occurred in 2008 where a husband murdered his wife and then killed himself.
As long as you suspend all thoughts of reality when it comes to crime rates (even Cleeves’ editor originally thought the first book would have to be a standalone as no-one would ever believe there could be more than one murder in such an idyllic place), these books are brilliant. So much better than the TV series which is based on them. Cleeves knows Shetland so well and the books takes me right back there. She manages to weave so many facts and anecdotes about island life into her stories they’re also a great way of doing research before a trip to the islands.
If you’ve never read any of her Shetland books before I suggest you read them in order. Although the crime stories are all independent of each other, the stories around the lives of the characters are developed throughout the books and so would make more sense if read in the order they were written.
The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths
This is another ‘latest in a series’ book and as with the Shetland books I suggest you read them in order so as to be able to follow the stories around the lives of the characters as they develop, though the murder investigations are standalone stories in each book.
Elly Griffiths writes about an archaeologist and lecturer based at the fictional University of North Norfolk. The character, Ruth, constantly finds herself embroiled in murder cases partly due to her role as liaison to the police and partly due to bad luck (like having a homicidal maniac move in next door to you, for example).
In this book a woman is found murdered at a posh health sanctuary and Ruth just happens to have been out to dinner with her and a group of other women hours before her death.
The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill
I picked up a few of Colin Cotterill’s books in a charity shop recently and this is the first one I’ve read. It’s the first in a series set in 1970’s Laos. A doctor, one of the few left in Laos, wants to retire but is reluctantly drafted in as the new State Coroner. With no experience in this line of work, very limited facilities and equipment and a heavy dose of political intrigue he doggedly pursues what he believes is murder when the body of a top politician’s wife is brought into the morgue. Things spiral out of control and he ends up investigating a much bigger crime than mere murder and almost ends up as a client in his own morgue.
I don’t know very much about modern day Laos and I know even less about its recent history. It seems like these books will go some way to remedying that.
What have you read recently? Share in the comments below.