Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Readerwhere you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.
i’m still reading Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light and am stuck in the middle of the book where the narrative is so slow as Cromwell reminisces about his childhood and early adult years. I’m also reading The Count of Monte Cristo, such a long book, but it is moving along swiftly and although it’s a bit confusing with all the aliases that Dantès uses I think I’ve now got them straight in my head, and I’m really enjoying it.
But it’s time I started something new – so I picked a book at random off my bookshelves and began reading The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell, the second book in his Kurt Wallander series.
The Book Begins:
It started snowing shortly after 10am.
The man in the wheelhouse of the fishing boat cursed. He’d heard the forecast, but hoped they might make the Swedish coast before the storm hit.
Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.
‘Bjork grabbed hold of the newspaper again and read aloud, “‘Soviet death patrols. The new Europe has exposed Sweden to crime with a political slant.’ What do they mean by that? Can anyone explain? Wallander?’
Sweden, winter, 1991. Inspector Kurt Wallander and his team receive an anonymous tip-off. A few days later a life raft is washed up on a beach. In it are two men, dressed in expensive suits, shot dead.
The dead men were criminals, victims of what seems to have been a gangland hit. But what appears to be an open-and-shut case soon takes on a far more sinister aspect. Wallander travels across the Baltic Sea, to Riga in Latvia, where he is plunged into a frozen, alien world of police surveillance, scarcely veiled threats, and lies.
Doomed always to be one step behind the shadowy figures he pursues, only Wallander’s obstinate desire to see that justice is done brings the truth to light.
I read the first Wallander book, Faceless Killers several years ago and have been wanting to read more, so this book was a lucky random pick from my bookshelves this morning.
I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for Throwback Thursday. It takes place on the Thursday before the first Saturday of every month (i.e., the Thursday before the monthly #6Degrees post). The idea is to highlight one of your previously published book reviews and then link back to Davida’s blog.
Today I’m looking back at my post on The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson a book I loved. I first reviewed it on October 29, 2009. It focuses on the period from May, when King George V was crowned, to September, describing the minutiae of everyday life of both the rich and the poor.
When I finished reading this book I decided that the summer of 1911 was not “the perfect summer”. It was one of the hottest years of the twentieth century, making life most uncomfortable at a time when most people had no means of getting out of the sweltering heat. Even a trip to the seaside for working class people meant they donned their Sunday best clothes and spent the day standing because they couldn’t afford to hire deck chairs!
I intended to post this review of Ethan Frome at the weekend, but Storm Arwen stopped that. We were without power from last Friday afternoon until yesterday (Monday) afternoon! It was a cold, dark weekend. So this post about Edith Wharton’s short classic (120 pages) and the ‘buddy’ read is overdue!
I first read it seven years ago and although I remembered that it was a beautifully told tale I didn’t remember all the details. So I loved it all over again when I re-read it. What follows is a revised version of my original review.
It’s a tragedy, signalled right from the beginning of the book, when the unnamed narrator first saw Ethan Frome and was told he had been disfigured and crippled in a ‘smash up’, twenty four years earlier. Life had not been good to him:
Sickness and trouble: that’s what Ethan’s had his plate full up with ever since the very first helping.
Even though Ethan Frome is a tragedy there is light to contrast the darkness, and there is love and hope set against repression and misery. It’s a short book and deceptively simple to read, but there is so much packed into it. As well as striking and memorable characters the setting is beautifully described – a ‘mute and melancholy landscape, an incarceration of frozen woe‘, in the isolated village of Starkfield (a fictional New England village).
Trapped in an unhappy marriage, Ethan’s life had changed when his father died and he had had to give up his studies to work on the farm. His wife Zeena had always been ill and needing help in the house, which was why her cousin Mattie came to live with them. At first it worked out quite well, but Ethan can’t shrug off a sense of dread, even though he could
… imagine that peace reigned in his house.
There was really even now, no tangible evidence to the contrary; but since the previous night a vague dread had hung on the sky-line. It was formed of Zeena’s obstinate silence, of Mattie’s sudden look of warning, of the memory of just such fleeting imperceptible signs as those which told him, on certain stainless mornings, that before night there would be rain.
His dread was so strong that, man-like, he sought to postpone certainty.
As I said I didn’t remember the details of the tragedy and had thought that the outcome was different, so I was surprised by it. I think that made it even more tragic than I’d thought. I’m glad that I re-read it.
Edith Wharton (1862 – 1937) was an American author. Ethan Frome was first published in 1911 and is in contrast to some of her other books about the New York society of the 1870s to 1920s. It’s a rural tragedy of inevitable suffering and sadness that reminded me of Thomas Hardy’s books.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It was first published in 1967 and has since been republished a few times. The copy I read was published by Vintage in 1998. It’s a novella of 189 pages, with a list of characters at the beginning followed by a note, that indicates the truth of the story it tells is in question:
Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the readers must decide for themselves. As the fateful picnic took place in the year nineteen hundred, and all the characters who appear in this book are long since dead, it hardly seems important.
On St Valentine’s Day in 1900, a party of nineteen girls accompanied by two schoolmistresses sets off from the elite Appleyard College for Young Ladies, for a day’s outing at the spectacular volcanic mass called Hanging Rock. The picnic, which begins innocently and happily, ends in explicable terror, and some of the party never returned. What happened to them remains a mystery.
I enjoyed it immensely. I love the detailed descriptions of the Australian countryside and the picture it paints of society in 1900, with the snobbery and class divisions of the period. It’s a hot day, the picnic at the base of Hanging Rock shaded from the heat by two or three spreading gums was going well, and while some of the party dozed in the sunshine four of the girls walked to the Rock to get a closer view. As they walked up to the pinnacles and crags the plain below came into sight, but infinitely vague and distant and a rather curious sound was coming up from the plain, like the beating of far off drums. They neared a monolith rising up in front of them and:
Suddenly overcome by an overpowering lassitude, all four girls flung themselves down on the gently sloping rock in the shelter of the monolith, and there fell into a sleep so deep that a horned lizard emerged from a crack to lie without fear in the hollow of Miranda’s outflung arm.
Nobody had noticed that one of the teacher had also left the picnic. The day ended dramatically when one of the girls ran screaming down to the plain, back to the picnic grounds. She had left the other three girls ‘somewhere up there’, but she had no idea where that was. Despite lengthy searches only one girl was found and she couldn’t remember what had happened. It was all very strange. There’s an eerie feeling hanging over the whole event – during the picnic two of the adults found that their watches had stopped at twelve o’clock and they had no idea of the time. It was as though time had been suspended.
It’s a deceptively simple story, but with so many layers and undercurrents, making this mysteriously compelling reading. All the characters are believable people, each with their own backstories, and all their lives are affected and changed by the events of that one day. There’s a dreamlike quality to the mystery and a suspicion of the supernatural surrounding it. I loved the ambiguity of it all.
It’s the last week of Novellas in November hosted by Cathy and Rebecca, and the final theme is short classics. The buddy read this week is Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton and I’ll post my thoughts later this week. Today my short classic is The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, which won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.In 1954 Hemingway was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 1954 for his mastery of the art of narrative and for the influence that he had exerted on contemporary style.
Synopsis – This is the story of an old Cuban fisherman and his supreme ordeal: a relentless, agonizing battle with a giant marlin far out in the Gulf Stream. Using the simple, powerful language of a fable, Hemingway takes the timeless themes of courage in the face of defeat and personal triumph won from loss and transforms them into a magnificent twentieth-century classic.
A simple story on the surface, told in a few pages, yet full of depth. Hemingway’s language is direct and deceptively simple too, but I was drawn into his descriptive writing, almost a stream of consciousness in placea. I felt the exhaustion of the old man as he struggled to catch the enormous marlin and then to return to the shore with his catch.
It’s one of those books that I find so difficult to write about, a well known story that has received much praise and also a lot of criticism as some people find it boring.. There’s this old man alone on the sea pondering about life and death, what he has achieved and also his failures. He is at the end of his strength and yet he endures. He has perseverance and determination and pride. Pride in his ability and in his way of life. The matter of sin occupies his mind and he thinks it was a sin to kill the fish, even though he did it to keep himself alive and feed many people. Then he thought he was born to be a fisherman:
You did not kill the fish only to keep alive and to sell for food, he thought. You killed him for pride and because you are a fisherman. You loved him when he was alive and you loved him after. If you love him, it is not a sin to kill him. Or is it more?
So, yes this is a simple tale and well told – it is more than just a fishing story and it gave me much to ponder.
Week 4: (November 22-26) – Stranger Than Fiction with Christopher at Plucked from the Stacks: This week we’re focusing on all the great nonfiction books that *almost* don’t seem real. A sports biography involving overcoming massive obstacles, a profile on a bizarre scam, a look into the natural wonders in our world—basically, if it makes your jaw drop, you can highlight it for this week’s topic.
Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of World War II by Ben Macintyre is my choice for this week. When I read it I thought that it was so far-fetched to be almost like reading a fictional spy story. It’s the ideal choice for this week’s topic!
When I reviewed this book back in 2011, I wrote:
Operation Mincemeatis about the Allies’ deception plan codenamed Operation Mincemeat in 1943, which underpinned the invasion of Sicily. It was framed around a man who never was.
The success of the Sicilian invasion depended on overwhelming strength, logistics, secrecy and surprise. But it also relied on a wide web of deception, and one deceit in particular: a spectacular con trick dreamed up by a team of spies led by an English lawyer. (page xi)
At first I found this book a little confusing and far too detailed, but as I read on I became absolutely fascinated and amazed at what had actually happened. The plan was to take a dead body, equipped with false documents, deposit it on a beach in Spain, so that it would be passed over to the Germans and divert them from the real target into believing that the preparations to invade Sicily were a bluff.
Operation Mincemeat would feed them both a false real plan, and a false cover plan – which would actually be the real plan (page 58)
The corpse was a Welsh tramp who had committed suicide. His body was clothed in the uniform of an Royal Marine with documents identifying him as Major William Martin and letters about the top-secret Allied invasion plans. This involved creating a fictional character, a whole host of imaginary agents and sub-agents all with their own characteristics and imaginary lives – just as in a novel. The details of the deception were dreamt up by Ewan Montagu, a barrister and Charles Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley), a flight-lieutenant in the RAF seconded to MI5, the Security Service. Both were enthusiastic readers, which stood them in good stead:
For the task of the spy is not so very different from that of the novellist: to create an imaginary credible world, and then to lure others into it, by words and artifice. (page 62)
The plan was not without its faults and and indeed it contained some potentially fatal flaws, but incredibly it succeeded.
Operation Mincemeat was pure make-believe; and it made Hitler believe something that changed the course of history. (page 307)
This is a book, totally outside my usual range of reading. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I did and I think I did enjoy it because it was so far-fetched to be almost like reading a fictional spy story. I marvelled at the ingenuity of the minds of the plans’ originators and the daring it took to carry it out.
Which nonfiction book that *almost* doesn’t seem real would you choose?
Week 3: (November 15-19) – Be The Expert/ Ask the Expert/ Become the Expert with Veronica at The Thousand Book Project: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).
I’m doing Be the Expert, but I am not an expert! My post is about a subject that I read a lot and enjoy enormously, and that is Autobiography/ Biography and Memoir.
These are just some of my favourites.
Ice Bound: One Woman’s Incredible Battle for Survival by Jerri Nielsen. Dr Jerri Nielsen was a forty-six year old doctor working in Ohio when in 1998 she made the decision to take a year’s sabbatical at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station in Antarctica, the most remote and perilous place on earth. Whilst she was there during the dark Antarctic winter of 1999 she discovered a lump in her breast. This is a true story of survival under extreme circumstances, of courage and endurance.
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of Chinaby JungChang – Jung Chang’s book about her grandmother, her mother and herself, telling of their lives in China up to and during the years of the violent Cultural Revolution. Her family suffered atrociously, her father and grandmother both dying painful deaths and both her mother and father were imprisoned and tortured.
Toastby Nigel Slater – the story of his childhood and adolescence told through food; food he liked and food he hated. Reading it was a nostalgic remembrance of my childhood, even though mine was so very different from his, apart from the food.
Daphne by Margaret Forster – an extremely well researched and informative account of Daphne Du Maurier’s life, taken from her letters and private papers, with personal memories of her from her children, grandchildren and friends. It is a candid account of her relationships, eg her troubled married life; wartime love affair; and friendships with Gertrude Lawrence and Ellen Doubleday, as well as an excellent source of information on Du Maurier’s method of writing and views on life.
Jane Austen by Claire Tomalin – I was surprised by how detailed it is given the fact that few records of her life have survived. Claire Tomalin admits that it was not an easy story to investigate, as Jane Austen wrote no autobiographical notes and if she kept any diaries they did not survive her. Most of her letters to her sister Cassandra were destroyed by Cassandra and a niece destroyed those she had written to one of her brothers. But as Tomalin discovered her life was “full of events, of distress and even trauma, which left marks upon her as permanent as any blacking factory.”
Victoria: A Life by A N Wilson – masterful and detailed and like all good biographies this is well researched and illustrated, with copious notes, an extensive bibliography and an index. He had access to the Royal Archives and permission from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to quote from materials in royal copyright. He portrays her both as a woman, a wife and mother as well as a queen set against the backdrop of the political scene in Britain and Europe.
Rebus’s Scotland: A Personal Journey by IanRankinis fascinating, with insights into Ian Rankin’s own life and that of the character he has invented, along with his thoughts on Scotland and the Scottish character. It’s partly autobiographical, blending his own life with Rebus’s biography. It also describes many of the real life locations of the books, in particular Edinburgh, Rebus’s own territory.
Giving Up the Ghost a memoir by Hilary Mantel, which she states she wrote to take charge of her memories, her childhood and childlessness, feeling that it was necessary to write herself into being. From the age of 4 she believed that she had done something wrong and she was ‘beyond remedy and beyond redemption’. She thought it was because of her that her parents were not happy and that without her they would have had a chance in life. Home was a place where secrets were kept and opinions were not voiced. Her experience of ghosts at the age of 7 was horrifying she felt as though something came inside her, ‘some formless, borderless evil’.
This week’s Novellas in November is TranslationWeek and I’ve chosen Georges Simenon’s Pietr the Latvian, translated by David Bellos (165 pages). It is officially the first Maigret book, although it was originally published in instalments in the magazine Ric et Rac between July and October 1930.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Jules Maigret is a Detective Chief Inspector of the Flying Squad in Paris and we get a really detailed description of him – he was a broad heavy man, aged forty-five:
His clothes were well cut and made of fairly light worsted. He shaved every day and looked after his hands.
But his frame was proletarian. He was a big bony man. Iron muscles shaped his jacket sleeves and quickly wore through new trousers.
He had a way of imposing himself just by standing there. His assertive presence had often irked many of his own colleagues.
It was something more than self-confidence but less than pride. He would turn up and stand like a rock with his feet wide apart. On that rock all would shatter, whether Maigret moved forward or stayed exactly where he was.
His pipe was nailed to his jawbone. (page 21)
He has received messages that Pietr the Latvian, an international criminal, is en route by train from the Netherlands to Paris. He has a description of Pietr and went immediately to the Gare du Nord to intercept him. But on spotting him he had to let him go because a man had been murdered on the train – and that man also matched Pietr’s description. From that point on. I became increasingly confused. Who is Pietr the Latvian? Was he the man who got off the train or the man who was murdered?
There are many characters and for quite a lot of the book I struggled to work out who was who. Maigret spends his time going from place to place and interviewing many people and I really had little idea of what was going on. The question of identity plays a major part. Pietr was thought to be the head of a major international ring mainly involved in fraud, counterfeit money and forged documents and his known associates seem to be mainly British and American. The setting in the 1930s is a mix of glamorous hotels and bars in Paris, seedy back streets, and the seaside town of Fécamp in Normandy. The book does feel dated now along with the anti-antisemitism some of the characters voiced.
If you haven’t read any of the Maigret books I suggest you start with one of the later books, which are much better. What I liked about it is that it establishes Maigret’s character and appearance right from the beginning. He feels like a real person with solidity and presence. He’s also tough, carrying on chasing around after Pietr even after he’s been shot. I think it’s an interesting story, in which a lot happens and even if I was mystified at first it did become clearer as I read on and I was pleased to find that I had worked out Pietr’s identity before it was revealed.
Pietr the Latvian is included in the Inspector Maigret Omnibus 1. The four titles are Pietr the Latvian, The Hanged Man of Saint-Pholien, The Carter of ‘La Providence’, The Grand Banks Café.
Previously I’ve read:
Lock 14 (2) aka Maigret Meets a Milord / The Crime at Lock 14 / The Carter of ‘La Providence’
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.
This week’s topic is Books to Read If You Love/Loved X (X can be a genre, specific book, author, movie/TV show, etc.). TheWolf Hall Trilogy by Hilary Mantel tells the story of the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII.
Wolf Hall – England in the 1520s as Henry VIII is seeking a divorce from Katherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. It tells of the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell. Bring Up the Bodies, by 1535, Anne has failed to bear a son and Henry gas fallen in love with Jane Seymour – Anne has to go. This is mainly about Cromwell’s scheming to bring about Anne’s downfall. The Mirror and the Light, the final part, which I’m still reading, set in 1536 – 1540, about Cromwell’s final years.
Here are 10 other historical fiction trilogies/series that I’ve read and loved. I’ve given brief descriptions of the first books for each with links to Goodreads for the details of the rest of the series..
Mathew Shardlake Series by C J Sansom – Mathew Shardlake is a lawyer-detective in the court of Henry VIII. Seven books – I’ve read all of them. The first one Dissolution is closest in time to the third book of Mantel’s trilogy set at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537. Thomas Cromwell’s Comissioner is found dead, his head severed from his body. Dr Shardlake is sent to uncover the truth behind what has happened.
Marwood and Lovett Seriesby Andrew Taylor – 17th century London during Charles II reign, who was restored to the throne in 1660 Five books – the first, The Ashes of London is set in 1666 just after the Great Fire. The fathers of both James Marwood and Cat Lovett has fought against Charles and so they are both disgraced. they become involved in investigating the murder of a man is found in the ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Christopher Redmayne Seriesby Edward Marston – Christopher Redmayne, an architect, and Jonathan Bale, a constable in 1600s London, England. The first book, The King’s Evil is also set in 1666 just after the Great Fire and is also a murder mystery. Redmayne is an architect, working to restore London after the Fire, when he becomes involved in investigating the murder of Sir Ambrose Northcott. whose body was found in the cellars of his partly built new house.
Damian Seeker Series by S G MacLean – historical thrillers set in Oliver Cromwell’s London. Five books – the first is The Seeker, set in 1654. Damian Seeker, Captain of Cromwell’s Guard, works for John Thurloe, Cromwell’s Chief Secretary and spy master. England in 1654 is a Republic in name only, Parliament had been dissolved in 1653 and Cromwell was appointed as Lord Protector – King in all but name.
Raven, Fisher, and Simpson Mystery Series by Ambrose Parry – murder and medical experiments set in 19th century Edinburgh. Three books – the first one is The Way of All Flesh, set in 1847. It begins with the death of Evie, a prostitute in Edinburgh’s Old Town, found by Will Raven, a young medical student about to start his apprenticeship with Dr Simpson. a professor of midwifery, who discovered the anaesthetic properties of chloroform. Sarah Fisher, Dr Simpson’s housemaid is an ambitious and enterprising young woman who would love to have a career in medicine. She and Will join forces to uncover the killer in the depths of Edinburgh’s dark underworld.
MunroScottish Saga Series by Margaret Skea – set 16th century Scotland. Three books, the first is Turn of the Tide which begins in 1586 in the Scottish Borders in the middle of the centuries-old feud between the Cunninghames and the Montgomeries, with all the drama of their battles, ambushes and schemes to further their standing with the young King James VI. It’s a tale of love, loyalty, tragedy and betrayal.
The Burning Chambers Series by Kate Mosse – 2 books, with a third book in progress. The first is The Burning Chambers, set in Languedoc in the south-west of France in 1562 during the French Wars of Religion. It’s centred on the Joubert family, Catholics living in Carcassonne and Piet Reydon, one of the Huguenot leaders. Bernard Joubert, a bookseller had been imprisoned accused of being a traitor and a heretic after he had let slip information about a secret will. It’s a complicated story of war, conspiracies, love, betrayal, forgery, torture and family secrets.
Cicero Series by Robert Harris- set in Ancient Rome – three books. The first is Imperium. Beginning in 79 BC, this book set in the Republican era is a fictional biography of Marcus Tullius Cicero by Tiro, his slave secretary. It is basically a political history, a story filled with intrigue, scheming and treachery in the search for political power as Cicero, a senator, works his way to power as one of Rome’s two consuls.
Theseus Series by Mary Renault – Two books, The King Must Die and The Bull from the Sea. I remember being captivated by these books when I first read them years ago and would so like to re-read them. They retell the life of the mythological Greek hero Theseus, following his adventures from Troizen to Eleusis, where the death in the book’s title is to take place, and from Athens to Crete, where he learns to jump bulls and is named king of the victims. In the second book Theseus defies the Gods’ and claims the throne of Athens a move that culminates in the terrible, fateful destruction of the house of Minos where he slays the Minotaur.
Alexander Seaton Seriesby Shona MacLean, set in 17th century Scotland. Four books, the first is The Redemption of Alexander Seaton. It is set in the town of Banff, Scotland in the 1620s. One stormy night Patrick Davidson, the local apothecary’s assistant collapses in the street. The next morning he is found dead in the school house of Alexander Seaton, a failed minister, now a schoolteacher. When one of Alexander’s few friends in the town is arrested for the murder, he sets out to prove his innocence.
Guilty Creatures: A Menagerie of Mysteries edited and introduce by Martin Edwards. I like these anthologies as much, if not more, for Martin Edwards’ introductions than for the actual stories. I often find that they’re too short for my liking, but I’m hoping there will be some that will prove me wrong. This collection includes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, G K Chesterton, Edgar Wallace, Josephine Bell and Christianna Brand, among others.
The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry. During the fist lockdown I loved watching Grayson’s Art Club, Channel 4’s documentary series hosted by him and his wife, psychotherapist Philippa Perry. In this book he is looking at masculinity, particularly examining how men dominate much of our world, how men dress and act, how men resort to crime and violence, and how men feel.
Black Sheep by Susan Hill, a novella about a brother an sister who grew up in a coal mining village and yearn to escape. Neither can break free and their decisions result in brutal consequences. It sounds a bit grim!
Rescue by Anita Shreve. The last few books by Anita Shreve I’ve read haven’t been as good as her earlier ones, so I’m hoping this one won’t be disappointing. It’s about a paramedic who rescues a troubled young woman from a car crash. They start a love affair and have a daughter. Eighteen years later he is raising the girl on his own,
Servant of Death by Sarah Hawkswood, historical murder mystery set in the 12th century, the first in the Bradcote and Catchpole mystery series. The Lord Bishop of Winchester’s clerk – is bludgeoned to death in Pershore Abbey and laid before the altar in the attitude of a penitent. Who hated him enough to murder him?
The Long Way Home by Louise Perry. I thought it looked familiar and when I got home and checked my blog I realised I’d borrowed this book before – in 2018! But I took it back unread, thinking I’d try to get the first one. It’s the 10th Chief Inspector Gamache novel – and I still haven’t read any of the previous books, so maybe I’ll read this one this time.