Favourite Books: October 2007 – 2010

Each month I’ve been looking back at some of my favourite books I read during the years 2007 ‘“ 2010. These are some of my favourite books I read in October in each of those years. October seems to have been another great month for books as I rated so many 5/5, but I’m highlighting just one for each month in this post. Revisiting these books makes me want to re-read all of them.

Click on the titles to see my original reviews.

2007

Crossing to SafetyCrossing To Safety by Wallace Stegner – was Wallace Stegner’s last novel published when he was 78 years old. It’s a beautiful, and thought provoking novel and I loved it. It’s a story about love, marriage, friendship, relationships, ambition, illness and death; in other words it’s about life and death. In essence, the novel recounts the lives of two couples who first met during the Depression in 1930s America and the joys and difficulties they encounter throughout their lives.

The painful honesty of this book in portraying life’s happiness, joy, pathos and sorrow is what touched me the most and makes it a book to remember and treasure.

2008

Behavior Of MothsThe Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams, a brilliant book! It’s the story of two sisters, Ginny and Vivi. Vivi, the younger sister left the family mansion 47 years earlier and returns unexpectedly one weekend. Ginny, a reclusive moth expert has rarely left the house in all that time. What happens when they meet again is shocking to both of them. It’s a story full of mystery and suspense as it is revealed that the two have very different memories of their childhood and the events of the past.

Two events in particular affected their lives. The first is when Vivi aged 8 fell from the bell tower and nearly died. She was impaled on an iron stake and as a result lost her ability to have children; the second when Maud, their mother died having tripped down the cellar steps changing their lives for ever.

And I loved all the detail about moths. They are not an aside but are integral to the story.

2009

The ComplaintsI thought The Complaints by Ian Rankin was one of the best books I read in 2009.

It’s the first book featuring Inspector Malcolm Fox of the PSU, or Professional Standards Unit, part of the Complaints and Conducts office.  The PSU is sometimes called  ‘˜the Dark Side’. He is asked to investigate DS Jamie Breck, a likeable young cop who is allegedly involved in a paedophile site run by an Aussie cop in Melbourne. Then Jude’s partner, Vince is murdered and Breck is the investigating officer. As Fox gets to know him it becomes increasingly difficult for him to know just who he can trust. Just who is the good guy?

I grew to really like Fox, yet another divorced cop with a drink problem. He is a good guy, he plays by the rules and looks after his family. He’s bit of a philosopher, an outsider mistrusted and hated by other cops.

2010

Quite Ugly One Morning (Jack Parlabane, #1)Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre begins with a graphic description of a particularly nasty murder scene, which is normally guaranteed to make me stop reading. But it would have been a great shame if I’d let it put me off this book, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was  first published in 1998 when it won the First Blood Award for best crime novel of that year.

The dead man is Dr Ponsonby, a well- respected doctor working for the Midlothian NHS Trust in Edinburgh. Investigative journalist, Jack Parlabane gets involved as he lives in the flat above Ponsonby and the terrible smell coming up from below leads him into the murder scene. It soon becomes apparent to the reader who did the murder and it is the motive behind it that needs to be ferreted out.  It’s fast, full of action, and surprisingly funny.

Crime Fiction Alphabet: C is for The Complaints

crime_fiction_alphabetThis week the Crime Fiction Alphabet  is featuring the letter C, which for me is Ian Rankin’s latest book The Complaints. The ‘Complaints’ are the cops who investigate other cops.

Set in Edinburgh in February 2009, Inspector Malcolm Fox works in the the PSU or Professional Standards Unit, part of the Complaints and Conducts office.  The PSU is sometimes called  ‘the Dark Side’,

They sniffed out racism and corruption. They looked at bungs received and blind eyes turned. They were quiet and serious and determined and had as much power as they need in order to do the job. (page 4) …

A lot of cops asked the Complaints the same question: how can you do it? How can you spit on your own kind? These were the officers you’d worked with, or might work with in the future. These were, it was often said, ‘the good guys’. But that was the problem right there – what did it mean to be good? Fox had puzzled over that one himself, staring into the mirror behind the bar as he nursed another soft drink. (page 5)

And there in those two quotes is the nub of this book. Who is the good guy? As Fox, yet another divorced cop with a drink problem, his father in a care home and his sister, Jude, in an abusive relationship, is drawn into an increasingly complex and puzzling investigation he has to work out just who the bad guys are.  He is asked to investigate DS Jamie Breck, a likeable young cop who is allegedly involved in a paedophile site run by an Aussie cop in Melbourne. Then Jude’s partner, Vince is murdered and Breck is the investigating officer. As Fox gets to know him it become increasingly difficult for him to know just who he can trust.

As I read on I grew to really like Fox. He is a good guy, he plays by the rules and looks after his family. He’s bit of a philosopher, an outsider mistrusted and hated by other cops.Then he finds he has to defend his reputation when he himself is accused  of a misdemeanor and comes under suspicion and surveillance. It’s about morality and vice. It’s up-to-date and I was absolutely engrossed in this book from the beginning to the end; one of the best books I’ve read this year. I hope Ian Rankin will write at least one more book featuring Malcolm Fox – and Jamie Breck.