Rounding Up The Reviews #1; Graves, Shadows, Peacocks and Raindrops

Both in preparation and as a teaser for the change in Savidge Reads next week, I thought I would start a new occasional series of posts (occasional is such a lazy sounding word isn’t it, I have never understood what an occasional table is when it’s not being a table, sorry I digress) where I round up the books that be they good, bad or ugly I can’t quite get an 800+ post out of or, in some cases, don’t deserve such efforts. Yes that is right, finally after almost seven years blogging I am going to start telling you about some of the books that I have read which were average, bad or even downright awful. So I don’t come across a complete old grump there will also be some very good books in the mix, I might just not have oodles to say about them. We all have books like that don’t we? Anyway, I am in danger of falling into my usual waffle territory so let us start with the first four victims books…

Three Graves Full – Jamie Mason

ONE Books, paperback, 2014, fiction, 336 pages, bought by my good self

Jason Getty has killed a man and buried him in his garden. This haunts him daily, but even more so when he has the gardeners in landscaping his lawn because he is so paranoid that someone might suspect from its unkempt state that he has buried someone there. What he, and the gardeners, are soon shocked to discover is that there are actually two other bodies buried in the Jason’s garden. If he didn’t kill them who did? And just who on earth are they? The farce begins…

I use the word farce above because in essence this is not a dark crime, it is not a cosy crime, I think it is trying to be a comic crime. From the synopsis I was sold and had no doubt that this would easily be in my top ten books of the year, alas I didn’t really like it. When the police detectives’ dog started to talk to itself a la Lassie and I was surprised and quite interested I knew all was lost – I don’t like talking animals in books, you know this. The book starts off with too much going on, confusion not being a good move early on in a book with too many characters introduced and random back stories. Then as it petered out, before going AWOL again later, I just coasted along with it. Sorry. Great idea just not crafted in a way that worked for me. You can hear me talking about it here.

Dreams and Shadows – C. Robert Cargill

Gollancz Books, paperback, 2014, fiction, 416 pages, bought by my good self

Now you will have to bear with me on this one. Ewan is kidnapped when he is a young boy by some fairies who swap him for one of theirs, who drives its new mother to suicide. He is brought up as one of their own but it isn’t done for the love, there is a purpose – which I am obviously not going to tell you for spoilers sake and some of you will love this. Meanwhile a young boy Colby meets a Djinn in the woods Ewan has been stolen into, who grants him a wish (because he has to, he’s a Djinn) to see all things supernatural, which is actually more of a curse. Lovely so far isn’t it? Well it gets lovelier as Ewan and Colby meet and become friends. But, yes you guessed it there is a but, when Colby discovers Ewan’s fate he uses his new powers unselfishly and not only does this backfire, pretty much opening hell, but Ewan is rescued but ends up in care, rather disturbed and not in a good way to start out his life… And that is pretty much just the start; after all I did say hell is unleashed.

I loved the first half of this book. Cargill interweaves Ewan and Colby’s tales with snippets from Folklore Encyclopaedia’s and has some wonderful urban legends and spooky/grim stories interweaved. The second half of the book, and this will sound bonkers coming from me, almost gets too real and bogged down in the miseries of the real world and soon enough I lost interest. Liked the writing, would have preferred a tale firmly set in the ‘other’ or collection of spooky and horrific tales set in the now, for some reason this didn’t quite master either. You can hear me talking more about it here.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock – Matthew Quick

Headline Publishing, paperback, 2014, fiction, 288 pages, borrowed from the library

Right! The gloves are coming off with this one. There are some authors who everyone loves and who can clearly write brilliantly but I just don’t get. David Mitchell, Jennifer Egan, Martin Amis, etc. Then there are those authors who loads and loads of people love who can either write okay or badly or write in a way that makes me want to scream. Matthew Quick has become one of those. I read The Silver Linings Playbook and unlike everyone else not only did I get bored of my own eyes rolling as I read it I also questioned how Quick writes about people with mental health issues. It felt like the joke was on them and he was off running to the bank on the proceeds.

Well, for me at least, he has done it again with Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock… Only this time it is at the expense of any teenager who has been suicidal or any teenager who has been shot at school. I actually don’t want to give the book any more airtime than that. Note – I talked about it a lot on Hear…Read This if you need more. But sorry Mr Quick, I cannot forgive you for this one.

A Necklace of Raindrops – Joan Aiken & Jan Pienkowski

Jonathan Cape, hardback, 1968 (2009 edition), fiction, 108 pages, , bought by my good self

Aaah!  A book to lighten any mood if ever there was one! This was actually a re-read for me and of a book that I had completely forgotten about until Kate chose it for Hear… Read This. It was a book I used to read way back decades ago when me and Polly, formerly of Novel Insights, were tiny little things and I used to dress up in her princess dresses refusing to be the prince. Back to the book though which is one of Aiken’s collections of short stories that also verges on picture book, thanks to Pienkowski who yes did all the amazing Meg and Mog books from your (or your children’s) childhood, the illustrations inside are as stunning as the cover.

This is a book that can be enjoyed and treasured by adults and children alike with its tales of genies, necklaces that can change the weather, cats that grant wishes and best of all the elves who come out of your books and bring them too life. Occasionally the tales got a little far out, yet that really is all part of the fun as like her readers it seems Joan Aiken had a limitless imagination. Virago are publishing her adult novels again I believe, someone needs to bring this and its follow up back into the mainstream as they are just wonderful and for me proved a real nostalgic trip.

****************

So that is your lot for now. I realised as I was going along that all these books were Hear… Read This choices. Now initially I was pondering if we just choose some dodgy books, I don’t think that is the case I think we all just experiment with choosing slightly random books which can be duds occasionally but overall when brilliant are really brilliant. I do wonder if it is actually a case of having discussed them so much with Gav, Rob and Kate I then feel like I have explored them enough and so don’t feel I can review them as well. Who knows? Anyway, more over the next few days meanwhile have you read any of these and if so what did you make of them? What are your thoughts on occasional review round up posts like this, and indeed what are your thoughts on occasional tables?

8 Comments

Filed under C. Robert Cargill, Hear... Read This, Jamie Mason, Jan Pienkowski, Joan Aiken, Matthew Quick, Review, Rounding Up The Reviews

Ask Simon Anything – Part I

So after seeing bloggers Simon of Stuck in a Book and Annabel from Annabel’s House of Books take part in having their readers ‘ask them anything’ I thought I would have a go. I honestly thought that I would get about five or six questions so I was thrilled that lots of you asked questions and indeed some of you asked lots of questions. The person who had the most questions, though my co-host of The Readers and blogging buddy Thomas did pretty well, was Magdalena. She didn’t ask one question, she didn’t ask three, she asked twenty and so I thought I would go through hers first and leave the rest of you on tenterhooks for yours later in the week. In the unlikely event that you are kicking yourself for not asking me something, you get your chance at the end as I am feeling jet-lagged and so up for anything…

photo 1

What are the top 10 words on a cover/in the description/in a review/in the title/etc of a book that would instantly make you want to read it? The top 10 off-putting words?

The ones that would instantly make me want to read it are; Gothic, secrets, murder, sensation, darkly comic, unusual, enthralling (but they all say that), horrors, unknown. The ones that would put me off; horses, boat, romance, navy, creatures, goblins, spaceship, of the year.

Do you have any hidden talents? Favourite party tricks?

I can do some impersonations, however I don’t tend to do them in public unless I have had a bottle of wine in which case they aren’t as good but I often mimic the telly as I watch it. Apparently I do a mean Droopy Dog, Ru Paul and a rubbish Cheryl Cole – who knew. There is a joke in The Beard’s family that when it comes to party tricks mine is the Vanishing Act as I hate group games and all that so invariably simply disappear.

What’s the best reading/bookish advice you’ve ever received?

Both Granny Savidge and her husband, my granddad Bongy (long story) said that you shouldn’t waste your life reading books you actually don’t like or aren’t that bothered about no matter what. I am determined to get better at that.

Did you ever think of/experience something about yourself as a weakness, but then realised it was truly a strength, either in your personal of professional life?

Is this a job interview, ha! I would say that I am very critical of myself which I used to think was a sign of insecurity in myself and fault finding, however I just think now that really it is a way of checking yourself and how you’re doing and acting as a human – which makes me sound bonkers, so let’s move on…

What’s the most valuable or surprising thing you ever discovered or realised about yourself, thanks to a book or some kind of reading related experience/situation/etc?

Oh I think you learn something about the world, let alone yourself, with every book even if you can’t see quite what you have learnt. That is one of the very best things about books. I suppose I have been surprised by how much I enjoy the darkest sides of life, all through the safety of a book. Is that the police at the door?

If The Beard were to plan a date for you both, loosely recreating a scene from a book (or film), what would you like it be, where and why?

Oh I have always wanted to be proposed to in the fountains at Somerset House; I cannot remember what the film that happens in is. In reality I would get really cold and grumpy, I like the idea though I know that isn’t a date. I would really like him to take me out on a drive in a convertable to a foreboding old mansion and have him say ‘This is Manderlay…’ Again, probably not going to happen.

What is the view from your favourite work/blogging space? (Pictures would be fun!)

I haven’t put in pictures as my wardrobes or a white wall wouldn’t make for exciting photos, yet they are the best view as nothing distracts me then. I hate being distracted when I am trying to review or work freelance, even if it someone offering me a cup of tea. If I overlooked the road I would just end up being really nosey and spying on people all the time and there would be no blog. I am the same with reading.

Where is the most oddly memorable place you ever read a book?

Probably on a night train through Africa which was like being in an Agatha Christie mystery, I was only ten so I was on Nancy Drew rather than Miss Marple. I vividly remember all the noses and the motion and indeed the heat.

What’s the most thought-provoking review or discussion you ever read on somebody else’s blog?

I am opting out of this one as it will get me in trouble… again.

What’s your worst or most embarrassing bookish/reading habit?

Probably that if they get tatty I don’t want them as much, I am one of those annoying pristine readers who likes a book to go back onto the bookshelves as it came off them in the shop.

If you were suddenly able to read in a foreign-to-you language, which one would you choose and why? Any particular book?

I wanted to say all of them. I think though if it was any language it would be a tie up between Italian and Spanish just because they are the languages I would most like to learn. I would love to read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruis Zafon again in its original language.

Name 3 authors/writers who have affected your reading habits or choice of books, how and why.

Enid Blyton made me read as a young child. Arthur Conan Doyle kept me reading more than I might have as a teenager. Daphne Du Maurier rescued me from the land of not reading.

What are the 5 books that you have recommended the most often to others over the years, and why?

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall. Gillespie and I by Jane Harris. Diving Belles by Lucy Wood. Armadale by Wilkie Collins. Because they are all bloody marvellous books.

Tell us about a book that you bought/received/found/etc in a really interesting or unusual way?

My copy of Daphne Du Maurier’s Happy Christmas came to me in a fairly unusual way. I saw it on my 30th Birthday in a bookshop in Much Wenlock and had forgotten my wallet and didn’t want to ask anyone else to get it as I had been treated enough that day. Went back and the shop was shut. Went back again and the copy had moved. Then the bookshop saw me talking about it on the blog and they had found it, now it lives on my bookshelves. It was meant to be mine. Another one would be Nancy Mitford’s Noblesse Oblige which I had wanted for years and discovered when my friend had bought 16 meters of penguins from an Oxfam Warehouse for an art installation. He had too many so asked me to have a rummage and see if I wanted any, I couldn’t speak when I found it I was so amazed.

Based only on your books and bookshelves, what do you think a complete stranger would think or conclude about you as a person, about your life?

The most common question I get when people come round is ‘have you read all these?’ I think a stranger might not think I live much of a life but then I don’t let strangers into my house very often. I think a bookish guest on their first visit would notice I have an eclectic array of authors on my shelves yet all the books I have probably have that line of thrilling yet unsettling darkness running through them in some ways, yes even my Agatha Raisins.

To what extent do you judge people by what they read?

I would love to lie and say I don’t but I do a little bit. I saw a woman buying some utter drivel in the supermarket the other day and was desperate to put some other books in her hands from the selections BUT who am I to judge? I have no right to condone what someone is reading because at least they are reading aren’t they and I would never want to put someone off reading anything.

Draw a quick doodle (2 minutes max!) that represents an amazing reading experience for you.

This is the inside of my head when a book is brilliant…

Inside my head

If you had to answer all your emails and text messages (business ones too!) for a whole day only using lines from a book, which one would you choose and why?

Probably my copy of the entire works of Nancy Mitford. What a day that would make. Barbed witty and probably fired.

If you could pick a book and give it to someone (living or dead, famous or otherwise), and that person would have read it, no matter what — what book, who and why?

Come on you should know me by now, it would have to be Rebecca which I would give to anyone and everyone, as I did on World Book Night a few years ago. I would love to have given Alfred Hitchcock a copy of it and just said ‘Let’s discuss…’ as he loved it too and I think he would be a brilliant person to chat to about it for hours.

What’s the loveliest thing someone ever said about your writing or your blog?

Gran said ‘you’re reviews are getting much better you know’ not long before she died. From her that was the highest form of flattery. I also like it when I hear people say it made them laugh (it has made my mother cry, in hopefully a good way, a few times) and even better when they have gone and borrowd/bought/mugged someone for a copy of a book I have recommended and then read it and loved it.

Do you have any “rituals” or habits that helps you get in the right mood and mindspace for writing/blogging?

I like a coffee beforehand and a cup of tea for during. I do it in stints so that can be repeated upto three or four times per review. Other than that I just like silence and to be left alone, what a miserable sod!

***************************************

If you have made it this far, well done! Thanks to Magdalena for the marvellous questions, it really put me through my paces. On Wednesday you will get to see the hilarious/ridiculous questions Thomas of My Porch asked me. If you would like to add any questions for the final post on Friday do leave them in the comments below – unless you are Magdalena in which case you have asked me quite enough hahahaha – the more the merrier.

18 Comments

Filed under Random Savidgeness

And I’m Back!

Safe and sound from the US of A and have had an amazing time! Seriously from the wonders of the utter bookish brilliance of Booktopia in Asheville, with the legends of Books on the Nightstand and utterly lovely Michael Kindness and Ann Kingman (we found time to do a joint podcast or two coming soon), to the joys of spending lots of time (for the first time) with my Readers co-host Thomas in Washington…

IMG_4150

To having a crazy and wonderful whirlwind of a time in NYC…

IMG_4544

Amazing! All of which I will be reporting back on in much more detail in due course, once I have caught up on the world, jet lag and had a small mini break in London with The Beard later this week (it is all go, go, go) but in the meantime you want to know all my bookish news don’t you? And probably are pondering about the threat statement I made about changes to Savidge Reads!

Well, while I was away I did lots of relaxing and thinking but not actually any reading. Nope not on the plane flights and no not on the Booktopia weekend (get a big group of readers together and they don’t shut up about books), not with Thomas (again too much gossiping along with book shopping and sightseeing) and NYC (more of the same). I finished one book on the flight back and am a little into another plus am about a third way through Gone With The Wind, which I am now dipping into regularly; as some of the language and themes are much harder going than I was expecting. I left The Goldfinch in Washington, hang on before you judge me, I have a copy here and needed the space for new books – I came back with one more bag of luggage than I left with.

Now before I move on I must mention Trespassing with Tremain, my reading of Rose Tremain in memory of Granny Savidge, which has been slightly waylaid – which she would have approved of as she loved travelling and it was a very bookish travelling trip away. So the NEW dates for your reading diaries, as I know a fair few of you are reading along and loved Trespass which was amazing, are…

  • The Road Home – Sunday September the 14th
  • The Darkness of Wallis Simpson and Other Stories– Sunday October the 5th
  • Sacred Country– Sunday October the 26th
  • Restoration– Sunday November the 16th

Yes I have made it every three weeks. Part of this is because so far I simply adore her writing so much  so I don’t want to rush it – yet at the same time I almost want to binge on it, but I must be strong! (Oh The Road Home, you wait!) Part of this is because of the way Savidge Reads will be changing in the coming weeks, well when it turns 7 years old (I know, seven years, blimey) a week on Monday on the 15th. I know, I am such a tease. In the meantime get ready for the answers to all the questions you asked, as well as some mini reviews as I have a clear out and catch up with myself.

But before all that, enough about me, what have you all been up to over the last few weeks? Even more importantly what have you been reading? I want the good, the bad and the ugly!

20 Comments

Filed under Random Savidgeness

I’m Off To America…

So by the time you read this I will either be on one of the three planes or three airports on my way to Asheville where I am going to Booktopia with Ann and Michael of Books on the Nightstand and some great authors and fabulous readers; on one of the two planes or airports it takes to get to Washington before staying with Thomas of My Porch and my Readers co-host for a while; or on the bus to or in New York. All in all as you can see I have an amazing few weeks ahead as I head out to the US.

While I have this time away I have also decided to have a bit of a blogging break and a breather. I have been mulling this for a while, along with what I want Savidge Reads to be going forward, and think a little time away from reviewing and waffling might be good for me and it. I was trying to schedule posts and reviews (sorry if you are Trespassing with Tremain with me, The Road Home will be live as soon as I get back, well give a day or two for jetlag) for while I was away and I think I am just too tired and a bit brain frazzled. Nothing was coming out as I wanted. But let us not get bogged down in that…

So instead I am going to read lots (well Gone with the Wind – one of Grans favourite books as a child – and The Goldfinch – which I keep calling The Goldfish- are two of the books in my hand luggage) as well as doing lots and lots and lots of bookish things out in the real world. Just on the other side of the Atlantic – eek, I am excited!!!!

If you decide you miss me don’t forget both You Wrote The BookThe Readers and Hear Read This which you can catch up on and are going live while I am away. You can still Ask Me Anything and make suggestions for Savidge Reads 4.0 when I come back. You can also go through the archives. Oh and I will probably be tweeting and instagramming @SavidgeReads (find me, follow me, stalk me) as I go about my travels and bookish excursions.*

Have an ace few weeks!

*There is every chance I might get the blogging itch as I did in Sweden and suddenly start posting, though one of my hosts (Thomas) has threatened to tie me to the bed Misery-style and force me to read all the books he loves and watch A Room With a View on repeat if I even think about it!!!

8 Comments

Filed under Random Savidgeness

Reading Retreats #1: The Weather Islands, Sweden

It is a general rule of thumb that when any of us go away, avid reader or not, we always make sure we have some reading time scheduled in on our holidays, yet we never think of having a holiday that is simply a reading retreat do we? I have to admit I find it hard to find a quiet space to read in my own home so wouldn’t it be great to have trips away that were just ‘reading retreats’? Be they somewhere without readers and authors and booky types or somewhere completely out of the way, surrounded in almost silence where you can just read and relax in the remoteness. In the case of the later I might have discovered the perfect place, The Weather Islands. The furthest islands West of Sweden yet within 40 minutes of a boat ride of the mainland.

IMG_3433

Väderöarna is a protected marine nature reserve where one passed you can only see the horizon for miles, no sign of life apart from seals, gulls and the odd dolphin on occasional summers. It actually feels like you are on the edge of the world. On it however there are some holiday cottages and the wonderful Väderöarna Vardshaus Inn, a wonderful guest house that sits right between two of the bays that interlinks Storo Island and Ramno Island. These buildings were all part of a community of pilots from the 1750’s until the 1960’s. These were set up with a lighthouse on the islands as the amount of ships that were wrecked in the area was endangering lives at sea but also putting off trade on the land. It is like walking straight into the past.

IMG_3431

As you can see from the above pictured, the beautiful view from my bedroom, the Island isn’t teaming with people, in fact there are only about 10 or 12 buildings most of which are summer homes and so the silence is incredible. Perfect for reading! However even I can’t solely read for a whole day when there are such natural wonders around but fret not there are three options available on the island when you need a break from a book. The first is hiking…

IMG_3448

Sweden has reinvigorated my love of hiking hugely and it is thanks to a trekking in Fjallbacka, Valo Island (more on that in a few weeks) and The Weather Islands. Not only is the scenery stunning…

IMG_3437

Where you have to play ‘spot the posts’ as wooden posts guide you through rocky terrain, marshes and a woodland that suddenly creeps up on you – being the adventurer again. The wildlife is incredible. I saw seals, Guillemots and lots and lots of toads which live in abundance as there are no predators (bar the occasional gull) on the island, they are honestly everywhere…

IMG_3432

You also couldn’t feel more like you were walking in a Cold Crime novel if you tried…

IMG_3449

There are also a few of my other favourite pastimes on the Weather Islands. There is marvellous swimming, in some of the clearest waters (which in summer get to over 20 degrees) I have ever splashed about in and also the quietest. I had an entire cove just to myself like a private swimming pool, though I have saved you from the horrors of me paddling. There is also an amazing restaurant on the island, part of the Inn, where I had one of the best prawn starters of my life, seriously…

IMG_3464

They also have a bar where guests of the Inn, folks from the summer houses and boats and a few toads can all sit together, chatter, read or just ‘be’ and watch one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen in my life.

IMG_3471

Yes, I had a little weep as I have done before in Tel Aviv and Iceland when the beauty of the world hits you with a wallop (I have also since done this just down the road in Wales which I will share soon) and just leaves you speechless. A blissful place which for me was much more a ‘heaven in the sea’ than a ‘hell on earth’ which is what the folk of the past used to call it. A perfect reading retreat indeed.

Why is it that we go on holidays and schedule in time for reading yet we don’t just go away on a reading retreat? For example we schedule time by the pool or on a lounger on the beach if we are off somewhere hot, or we use the travel time as quality reading time. When I fly to America in a few days I am seeing the almost twenty four hour journey (three flights one long stop in Chicago) there as a day which I can dedicate to reading. (Forgetting the facts that I will have the panic sweats on the plane, possibly get sidetracked by a film or three, or be asleep – the latter being unlikely as I will be in a panic about being 30,000ft up in a tin can, though would be ideal as I have a horrid feeling I might be slightly over tired when I arrive in Asheville.) Should we not just take reading breaks away? If so where have you been that is a perfect reading retreat and where would you love to go?

This post is the fifth and final post in a week of Savidge Reads in Sweden after I was sent by the lovely people at the West Sweden Tourist Board to go on a cold crime adventure.

6 Comments

Filed under Random Savidgeness

Fjallbacka; Where Fact and Fiction Meet (Part II)

So after our first walk through the village of Fjallbacka the other day (which only lead up to lunchtime with much more to discover after) visiting some of the sites from Camilla Lackberg’s series of books I thought in the second instalment I would take you to a place that inspired her. I wanted to say that this is the place inspired the novel yet it might have just inspired the murder that opens it – why quibble though, it was inspiration behind The Preacher in some way.

I am always fascinated by what can inspire an author and so, having been forewarned that it was quite a hike and I should take a bottle of water and a Mendelberg cake, I turned from Ingrid Berman Square (which I shared with you the other day) and headed to the start of Kungsklyftan, which leads you on a walk through and then over the mini-mountain of Vetteberget.

IMG_3279

Now when the lovely Emelie, of the West Sweden Tourist Board, said that all you had to do initially was walk up a few steps I think she might have made a small understatement as the first thing that greeted me after I had turned the corner was these wooden steps which lead you high off up into the wilderness.

IMG_3314

Having climbed those, had a quarter of my bottle of water and a third of my Mendelberg cake (which is a meringue bigger than most average human hands) to keep my fluids and sugar levels up I spotted that the previous steps had been a walk in the park, almost literally, as what lay ahead was stone steps in the most liberal sense of the word.

IMG_3312

Whilst climbing them I felt a real sense of adventure, especially as the walk was pretty much deserted. I was suddenly taken back to my youth when I was sent off ahead on walking holidays to ‘go and find the route’ up a mountain. There is also a wonderful sense of history of the place especially when you come to the level and are greeted by this…

IMG_3294

This is the path that goes over an old fault which was created by an earthquake in the ice age (yes I did wonder both if there might be one right then and what would happen and also if I might fall at any moment into the earths core – not that I am a drama queen at all) and as you can see amazingly three rocks go wedged by the ice and earthquake and all those tectonic shenanigans and have been wedged there ever since (and yes I did briefly worry that they might choose that minute to fall and flatten me) – isn’t it amazing?

IMG_3296

You can certainly see why Camilla Lackberg was haunted/fascinated/inspired by this place to stick a dead body down it, it does make a good place for someone to leave one that is at some point going to be found – as is the plan of the killer in The Preacher. It is a stunning place that at once feels rather out of this world and yet really grounds you to the earth and reminds you that you are on this big huge rock spinning through space. Before that made my head hurt I headed up a much steeper set of wooden steps to the top, and what a view awaited me…

IMG_3303

The whole of Fjallbacka (though this is only the old side as wordpress won’t let me upload panoramic photos) and the Islands that surround it lie before you, beautiful. I spent a wonderful forty minutes just looking at the view (and eating more Mendelberg) before the sun started to set and I knew it was time to head back down and onwards towards dinner.

IMG_3360

As everyone loves a food picture (oh come on you know they do) I thought I would share with you the amazing starter that arrived in the restaurant, which also luckily enough happened to be at my hotel – Stora Hotellet Bryggan which Lackberg used to base Erica’s parents home on in her books – where I got to watch this whilst I devoured more food and a cheeky cider or two.

IMG_3362

I am slightly obsessed with sunsets, I think they are one of the most beautiful natural daily occurrences ever, and this was one of the three up to that point that made me a bit breathless and weepy, you wait till we go to the Weather Islands in the next post though!

IMG_3273

Will all that it was time for this wanderer and adventurer to head to his bed, which aptly is where a sailor is once supposed to have laid his head after his adventures at sea and also aptly has a Victorian feel which is my favourite era, before more adventures (and several boat trips) awaited him next…

This post is the fourth post in a week of Savidge Reads in Sweden after I was sent by the lovely people at the West Sweden Tourist Board to go on a cold crime adventure.

4 Comments

Filed under Random Savidgeness

The Preacher – Camilla Lackberg

It is unusual for me to review two novels by the same author in succession but then it unusual for me to read several novels by the same author in quick succession. Or having, as some of you may like to call it, a binge read. However this is what I did with Camilla Lekberg’s first three novels whilst I was in the place that they were set, the stunning village of Fjallbacka. Having enjoyed The Ice Princess I was looking forward to The Preacher, I didn’t realise that in many ways they would be polar opposites of each other…

Harper Books, paperback, 2009, fiction, 432 pages, bought by my good self

When a young boy goes out to play one morning in Fjallbacka and discovers the body of a girl, Detective Patrik Hedstrom is called to investigate a murder cutting short his summer holiday at home with wife Erica. However things get more complicated, and Patrik’s holiday is cut short, when they discover a further two skeletons have been left under the body of the recent victim. Could these be the bodies of two girls who mysteriously disappeared back in the 1970’s which became linked to the Hult family? If so does that mean that they may have had the wrong man down for murder or that a member of the Hult family has been biding their time? Or do they have a new killer who is copying the murders of the 1970’s? As another girl goes missing, a killer needs to be uncovered quickly.

As I mentioned above The Preacher interestingly is like a polar opposite of The Ice Princess. Here I should note that I don’t mean that it is a bad novel as I enjoyed the first, I enjoyed this one equally. However Lackberg seems to have turned everything on its head for her second novel. First of all there is the fact that we were previously in Fjallbacka in the depths of winter, the snow was thick on the ground adding a cold and icy edge to the book. This time however we are in the dead heat of summer. Fjallbacka is sweltering, much to the Erica’s dismay as she is eight months pregnant, yet this cleverly brings the tense balmy heat which can be just as hard to deal with as the severe cold and seems to bring out the madness in people.

The second, and probably biggest, change is that our focus has completely switched from Erica to Patrik. In The Ice Princess we followed Erica as she tried to find out the mysteries behind her friend Alex’s death as an amateur investigator with a personal link to it all. In The Preacher we have a novel that is much more of a police procedural as we follow Patrik and his team and their investigation.

He began writing down notes about how he was going to handle the investigation into the Tanja case.  First, contact the German police authorities, which he had been about to do when he was interrupted by the call from Tord Pedersen. Then he had to talk with Liese again, and finally he thought he’d get Gosta to drive out to the campground with him and ask around. See whether Tanja might have spoken to anyone there. Or perhaps it would be better to ask Patrik to assign that task to Gosta. In this investigation Patrik, not Martin, had the authority to give orders to Gosta. And things had a tendency to go much more smoothly if protocol was followed to the letter.

This adds two new dynamics though as we get a new cast of characters, like the brilliant Annika who keeps it all together and the more complex Martin and Gosta. We also get a detective who has a happy home life which is unusual in the genre, they are normally angry drunks in their spare time. It also adds some light relief and comedy into the mix as Erica and Patrik keep getting deluged by unwanted guests who make themselves less and less welcome.

These light moments are needed as The Preacher is a very dark book. Without giving away any spoilers the Hult family have many secrets in their past and are not a happy bunch and the more we are given insight into their family life the darker things can get. We also have a continuation of the story of Erica’s sister, Anna, who has left her aggressive bullying husband and is now in a new relationship, but will this be any better? There is also of course the murders at the heart of the novel the mystery of them and also as importantly the emotions they bring up. Lackberg looks at how people are affected by the present murder and also that of a cold case, how does it affect those who have never been able to say a proper farewell when that final farewell comes?

She also throws in a rather brilliant and thought provoking strand as another girl goes missing. We follow the story of Jenny’s parents after her disappearance and as they have to wait to see if she will be discovered alive or be the latest victim of a cruel and torturing killer. This adds a real poignancy to The Preacher and really takes us into the lives of a family who are being torn apart by someone else’s cruelty. It is a side that we don’t always see in thrillers and gives both Lackberg and The Preacher a certain edge in the genre.

Seventeen years flickered quickly past like in some sort of internal film. Kerstin felt the weight of Jenny’s little new born body in her arms. Unconsciously she formed her arms into a cradle. The baby grew and after a while everything seemed to go so fast. Much too fast. Why had they spent so much of their precious time bickering and squabbling? If only she had known what was going to happen, she wouldn’t have said a single mean word to Jenny. Sitting at the table with a hole in her heart, she swore that if everything ended well, she would never raise her voice to her daughter again.

All in all the second in Lackberg’s series is a smart police procedural that delivers on dark thrills as it does on an emotional level. I also liked the ending, which does do what you might think – always a clever move. Lackberg is building a great cast of characters in a wonderful setting that I want to get to know better and follow further. I am hoping we get a little bit more Erica as we continue the series as I warmed to her so much in the first. Either way, I am looking forward to returning to Fjallbacka again.

This post is the third in a week of Savidge Reads in Sweden after I was sent by the lovely people at the West Sweden Tourist Board to go on a cold crime adventure.

1 Comment

Filed under Camilla Lackberg, Harper Collins, Review