It’s been too long since I read these books to write detailed reviews, so here are a few notes them.
The Last Rose of Shanghai by Weina Dai Randel 3* – historical fiction set in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, this is a World War Two romance, the story of Aiyi Shao, a young heiress and the owner of a glamorous Shanghai nightclub and Ernest Reismann, a penniless Jewish refugee who had fled from Germany. I loved the beginning of this book but the rest of the book was not so good – too much ‘telling’ and I’d have liked less focus on the romance, which to me was barely believable So, 5* for the first 40%, 2* for the rest, so 3* overall. But plenty of other readers love this book.
Shroud of Darkness by E C R Lorac 4* – a Golden Age crime fiction beginning with five passengers on a train from Cornwall to London. When it arrives at Paddington Station in thick fog, one of the passengers is brutally attacked and left for dead. Chief Inspector MacDonald first has to identify the victim, whose pockets had been rifled, and then discover why he was attacked and who did it. Another book I really enjoyed, trying to work out what had happened and failed – I was completely baffled, as much in the dark as the fog-bound passengers.
A Death in Tuscany by Michele Giuttari 4* – crime fiction, set in Florence and the surrounding area. It’s a detailed police procedural, the second in a series of seven detective novels featuring Chief Superintendent Michele Ferrara. It’s written with authenticity, as Michele Guittari is a former Florence police chief 1995-2003), where he was responsible for re-opening the ‘Monster of Florence’ case and jailing several key Mafia figures. It’s not a quick read, because of the detail but I was fascinated first of all by the Italian police structure and the division of responsibilities and jurisdiction, which seemed to hamper Ferrara rather than help him. But despite that it is a page turner. He’s investigating the death of a young girl found dead by the edge of a wood on the road above Scandicci. There are drugs involved, the Mafia, and also the disappearance of his best friend, accused of murder for him to investigate. See also this post about the beginning of the book and an extract from page 56.