Tag Archives: Tess Gerritsen

We’re Here in the Hills of Perugia (and Holiday Reading)

After twenty four hours in the wonderful city of Lucca, we spent several hours (some of us having to go back for some luggage that has been forgotten, not me for once after the awful incident with my passport in America last year) driving from there to the wilds of the mountainous woods of Perugia and into our, simply stunning, villa. I think you will agree it looks like a reading haven and no mistake…

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We are now here for a week and with no other house in sight, or near us for miles, let alone a town we are just going to spend the days chilling by the pool, reading, playing games and eating vast amounts of the gorgeous local produce and hole ourselves up here for a while. This really, for me with my Dercums, means mainly lying by the pool with books. Which books have I packed with me? Well funny you should ask that, and how kind of you for doing so, I have actually packed seven books in my case and I made a video all about them and why I chose them which you can see below…

… I have finished of the Gerritsen already and am now heading into the Atwood, perfect pair of authors to start my holiday with. That said, the library that this farmhouse is pretty brilliant. I have been eyeing up Ross Raisin, the new Sarah Waters and several more already. Oooh the tempation. Hope you are all well? What have you been upto of late, what are you doing this weekend and what have you been and what are you reading?

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Die Again – Tess Gerritsen

I have broken with tradition and indeed broken one of my own rules. I like to read a series of books in order yet have made an exception by devouring the latest Tess Gerritsen novel, Die Again, before having read the two before it – I like to space out my favourite series in case they suddenly stop or take a while for the next one to come out. I must admit that I was slightly worried this might mean I may miss something along the way yet it proved that whilst a story runs through all the Rizzoli and Isles novels they all actually can stand alone and are all completely gripping…

Bantam Press, hardback, 2015, fiction, 330 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

In Die Again, the eleventh outing for Detective Jane Rizzoli and Dr Maura Isles, we are initially given two stories. Firstly we are miles away from the duo’s home of Boston and find ourselves on a safari trip in Botswana. Here a group of relative strangers, though they include a couple and two best friends, are out to have an adventure in the wilds camping amongst the animals. Things soon take a much darker turn as something or someone starts picking them off one by one. Back in Boston Jane Rizzoli is called to the home of Leon Gott where the owner, a well known hunter and taxidermist, has been horrifically killed rather like a predator might kill its prey in the wild. As Jane and Maura start working together, with some tension between them, it soon appears this might not be a singular incident for the killer. How are the two stories connected? You will have to read the book to find out of course!

I am a huge fan of this series and in Die Again Tess Gerritsen reminds me of why. First there is the way, which I think has become more prevalent and more cunning as the series has gone on, that she will set you up with two stories that couldn’t be less connected if they tried, then slowly drips us information (making us feel super clever, often before she throws in a twist to flummox us) that make the two tales connect. Never to the point where you could easily guess the killer though, which I think makes these novels all the cleverer.

She also finds some subject that oddly often I find fascinating too anyway; like mummies, cults etc (just to name two of my favourites so far) and looks at them in more depth finding out even more fascinating facts that you can regal to your partner/work colleagues/strangers on a train making you seem all the more intelligent. In Die Again the subject is big cats, leopards in particular, and who doesn’t love big cats?

She thought of the cat in her own home, and how it watched her as intensely as this cougar was doing now. The connection between felines and humans was more complex than between a mere predator and prey. A house cat might sit in your lap and eat from your hand, but it still had the instincts of a hunter.
As do we.

The other thing that, for me, sets Tess Gerritsen’s novels apart from many crime series, and also makes me so addicted to them, is the macabre. Now I am not a psycho but I find the human body fascinating, be it alive or be it dead. In Gerritsen’s novels a lot of what we learn about the murders is from the victims and their anatomies as Dr Maura Isles is a forensic pathologist. This might not be for everyone but I just find it genuinely and grimly fascinating (though my dream job is to be a forensic psychologist if I could afford to go to University – any mystery benefactors please do get in touch) and in this series there have been some amazing macabre moments (what looks like a hit and run but has too much of a splat impact/an Egyptian Mummy which has a much fresher body inside it than it should) and Die Again is no exception. Death is after all every person’s final story.

The nude man hung upside down, his ankles bound with orange nylon cord. Like a pig carcass hanging in a slaughterhouse, his abdomen had been sliced open, the cavity stripped of all organs. Both arms dangled free, and the hands would have almost touched the floor – if the hands had still been attached. If hunger had not forced Bruno the dog, and maybe the two cats as well, to start gnawing the flesh of their owner.

While all this horror, notably caused by humans, is played out there are some moments of light. There is the camaraderie between Jane and Maura, which can often be tested or get testy, and their often dark sense of humour, come on if you worked doing what they do you would need a laugh. Giving the novels that extra punch too are the stories of their lives. Jane now married with children and all that brings, Maura and her situation as a single woman… now with a cat, and both of their pasts which have moments of darkness that linger. I can’t speak for everyone but when I pick up a thriller I want something dark, creepy and chilling to escape into in the safety of my own home (even if I have to check under the bed and in the wardrobes before I go to sleep) and Tess Gerritsen does this every time without fail.

I thoroughly enjoyed Die Again and read it in just two sittings. Both the narratives in Boston and Botswana had me hooked, I felt clever when I connected them and then more than happy to be given a final twist I didn’t see coming at the end. I am now really, really keen to head back and read both The Silent Girl and Last To Die playing catch up with Rizzoli and Isles especially as I know there will be a twelfth novel coming in the not too distant future, long may they continue.

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In case you are wondering why I broke with tradition and read the latest book before the others, I was super duper lucky to meet Tess of a lunchtime last week to have a natter about Die Again and much more, some of which I recorded for You Wrote The Book so do have a listen. Who else out there is a big fan of the Rizzoli and Isles novels? Who has yet to read them? Which are your favourite crime series and why?

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Filed under Bantam Press, Books of 2015, Review, Rizzoli and Isles, Tess Gerritsen

The Books We Keep Meaning To Read…

Why do we save books for that elusive rainy day? This is something I have been pondering a lot of late and decided that I need to address in my own reading habits. Do not fear this is not going to be a challenge as I have promised myself that I am not going to be doing any of those, which is weirdly a challenge in itself. So maybe I do have one challenge. Anyway, before my head hurts, I mentioned this with Thomas when we recorded The Readers and I said I wasn’t even going to be doing a ‘reading for Gran challenge this year’, I think she would actually be telling me to just read what I want when I want. Though I can also imagine her saying ‘but why do you always need to read contemporary fiction and the latest this and that’. I can imagine it because she said it one day in the hospital a few months before she died. She would be/is right I have soooooo many books that I have been saving for that elusive rainy day, not actually noticing that it rains rather a bloody lot here.

That illusive rainy day...

That elusive rainy day…

Initially I thought of older books, which I will come to shortly, yet there are some newer ones too. I have the joy of interviewing (slight name drop alert) Tess Gerritsen tomorrow and I realised that I had let myself get woefully behind with the Rizzoli and Isles series. Part of this is because I like to have some ahead as I love the series so much I am scared it will stop and the other, you guessed it, that rainy day. Well I have broken with tradition and read the latest one and will have the two I have missed to catch up with. (Another bookish OCD thing I have is that I have to read a series in order, on the whole!) Yet why do I wait? I might get run over by a bus tomorrow – though hopefully not. This applies to lots of series but also to books by new to me contemporary authors I love, like Jenn Ashworth. I am in love with her writing at the moment, waited till a new year to read her second book… but why should I wait till next year to read her third to spread them out? Madness. I should binge till I feel sick surely?

This of course applies to older books, be they classic classics or modern classics. Why have I held of reading all the Margaret Atwood/Kazuo Ishiguro/Anne Tyler books from the last several decades that I have bought over the years and sit on my shelves or in boxes? Why do I pace my Daphne Du Maurier or Muriel Spark’s, is it because they are dead so I won’t find more? Wouldn’t I be furious if I didnt read them all by the time (hopefully in about 60 years) I am on my deathbed thinking of my reading life? Then of course there are the classics, many of which I know I want to read but don’t like a very silly sausage. It’s time to think on Savidge!!

So I have decided I am going to ban the term ‘saving it for a rainy day’ and informally (because I am not seeing this as a challenge like I said) I am going to think about all the books I have always meant to read and bring them back into my reading diet. An unofficial ‘books before I am forty’ list might appear, it might not. I might just see, like my main aim of the year ‘sod it and hurrar!’ What do you think and which books have you been saving for a rainy day and why?

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Dead Scared – S. J. Bolton

How times flies. It doesn’t seem that long ago since I read Now You See Me, the first in S.J Bolton’s, or Sharon Bolton as she has now ‘some out as – as it were, series of DC Lacey Flint crime novels yet it is in fact two years. After having read Now You See Me I remember being desperate to read the next one but putting it off as I didn’t want it to be overkill. Pun unintended. Yet once having finished Dead Scared I was (almost) kicking myself for having not read it sooner. But sometimes the best crime novels shouldn’t be binge read and saved and savoured for the right moment, as you may have guessed from that statement Dead Scared is another bloody brilliant crime thriller. Pun fully intended.

Bantham Press, hardback, 2012, fiction, 378 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

At Cambridge University a girl has tried and failed to take her own life in an extreme and unusual way, and yet she survives. Yet psychologist and lecturer Evi Oliver thinks there is something much darker possibly going on as she looks into suicides in the university and discovers that there have been 19 cases in 5 years. DC Lacey Flint is then assigned an undercover role, from DI Mark Joesbury, as a student at the school to look into the cases and find out more about what might be going on that the clothed detectives are concerned could be a case of something much darker. Soon enough Lacey is thrown into a world of internet suicide pacts, cruel student pranks and then she starts to have nightmares and the suspicion that the scary dreams of a man coming into her room might actually not be her brains overactive imagination. Could someone genuinely be scaring these girls to death?

As with Now You See Me there is much to admire about Dead Scared. Firstly it is really gripping and incredibly chilling. I was completely hooked from the very start of Dead Scared, and actually ended up reading it in two sittings both well into the night which was most unadvised when you then have to go through the house turning all the lights off and frankly have the creeps. Fear is something that we all have and know the sensation of and just as Bolton’s killer, or killers, uses that to their advantage with their victims so does Bolton with her readers. I don’t like clowns, even though they aren’t my greatest fear, I like them even less now. This book seriously gave me the shivers.

Secondly, not only are there several red herrings and dead ends to leave the reader constantly second guessing themselves and who the killer is, there is also a clever second plot around some creepy goings on in Evi Oliver’s life which has you pondering how and if the two may or may not be interlinked. Perfect puzzling fodder for anyone who loves a good (and occasionally rather grisly; one method of supposed suicide really, really bothered me – and it wasn’t even the clown one) crime and playing detective along with the detectives.

Thirdly I love Lacey Flint. Not quite in the on/off way that DI Mark Joesbury does, but she is a really fascinating protagonist. She is likeable despite the fact she is bolshy, she is honest yet sometime all too emotion driven (which is both a good and bad thing), she is also flawed (she likes a drink and casual sex and other activities) but most interestingly is she is a mystery. Still two books into the series Bolton is revealing, or actually not revealing but teasing, us with Lacey’s back story. I think there is much more for us to find out, I won’t give it away but one thing we learn about her made me do a ‘what?’ especially as she works for the police, and as we do I think it is going to get darker and darker.

Fourth and finally, because I may just sound like a stuck record of praise, what I like so much about her novels is that yes there is a lot of crime yet there are also real issues of ‘the now’ which are dealt with in her books. In Now You See Me (which I also heartily recommend if you hadn’t guessed) we are given a Ripper copycat killer thriller, which also looks at the issues of the homeless in London and how they are treated and seen by society. In Dead Scared we have a genuinely unsettling and creepy novel which also looks at the rate of suicides in the young, some hard facts and figures are placed in the book which leaves you really thinking.

I would highly recommend Dead Scared. If you like gritty and realistic crime thrillers which will have you hooked but also look at the darker aspects of society and we human beings then you can’t go wrong with these. If the series carries on like this then Sharon is going to be up there with Tess Gerritsen, Sophie Hannah, Susan Hill and Kate Atkinson as one of my very, very favourites. I can’t wait for the next one, and as I have discovered the 4th DC Lacey Flint book is out in May I might have to dive into Like This, For Ever (the third) ridiculously soon.

P.S From now on I will always call S.J. Bolton Sharon Bolton, this edition was just under the S.J. title.

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Filed under Bantam Press, Books of 2014, Review, S.J. Bolton, Sharon Bolton, Transworld Publishing

The Silent Wife – A.S.A. Harrison

When you have a book that is such a hit as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was last year it is natural that publishers  and readers want to hunt out the ‘next Gone Girl’ as it were. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison, who sadly passed away this April, has been heralded by many as being that book, the cover glimmering with wonderful quotes from Kate Atkinson, Tess Gerritsen, Sophie Hannah, S. J. Watson and S.J. Bolton, Hannah even saying it is even better than Gone Girl. Quite some praise there from some of my favourite authors. The question of course was before I started the book was could The Silent Wife live up to it?

Headline Books, 2013, paperback, thriller, 384 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Jodi Brett and Todd Gilbert seem like the perfect couple and have done for over twenty years. She the beautiful house proud psychotherapist and he the property developer, they are both high achievers. However every couple has secrets behind the facade and in the case of Jodi and Todd it is the fact that he goes and has many a dalliance, because he simply cannot be faithful, and Jodi accepts it and lives with it as he always comes back. Yet Todd has recently met someone who is different than the rest and things could go horribly wrong for Jodi as his common law wife, as we discover from page two things will go wrong ‘given that a few short months are all it will take to make a killer out of her.’

Unusually that makes The Silent Wife less of a whodunit and more a mixture of a whydunit and when-gonna-do-it which I don’t think I have come across in a novel before and so from the start gave it an edge. It is also quite a risky move as from the outset the reader knows what is coming… or do they? For one thing that Harrison does prove good at is switching things on you when you are least expecting it.

What Harrison also does which is risky is make both her lead characters rather unlikeable. Todd is just pretty repugnant. A man living on credit to the max, yet acting like he is rolling in money and splashing it about, who will pretty much shag anything but come back to the woman who makes him divine meals and then occasionally puts out too. Yep, a complete letch, a clever move though as I was desperate to see him slaughtered. Jodi herself is more of a mystery and an enigma. Initially we see a strong woman wronged. Yet as we get to know her she becomes slightly more intriguing, why does she get so obsessive about how our pasts and youth affect us for example? Also we get to see a darker side now and again, as if the aforementioned hint of her killer nature at the start wasn’t enough, we learn that while she may appear fine with Todd’s wandering pants there is an icy rage and eye for small but important revenge on occasion.

The next day opens with a series of misadventures. To begin with he gets to work at his usual early hour only to find that one of his keys – the one that opens the street door – is missing from his key ring. Stranding on the sidewalk with his mobile phone he curses when he fails to connect with the janitor. He doesn’t know how this could have happened; keys don’t detach on their own from a steel ring. He nonetheless walks the three blocks back to his Porsche to search the seats and floor and then calls Jodi, waking her up, to ask if she’ll have a look around at home.

It is the dislikeable nature of the protagonists and the breakdown and secrets behind a relationship plus the fact it’s a thriller that bring the comparisons to Gone Girl. Yet the comparisons do a disservice to The Silent Wife in many ways. Firstly because The Silent Wife is, no pun intended a much quieter book and all the more real for it. The breakdown of the relationship is one that we hear about all too often and is therefore something we completely believe in, and the way Harrison writes about it is spot on.

Secondly, deep down, there is a very dark subject going on linking to the characters pasts. The book looks into how our parent’s relationships affect ours with our partners both for the good and the bad as we try to learn from what we liked, and indeed, didn’t like about their partnership. It also looks at the things that we like to hide, even from ourselves, and that inevitably no matter how much something is hidden cracks will start in the foundations of that secret, deeply hidden as it may be, that will eventually reach the surface. This is explored in Jodi’s job as a psychotherapist, and that practice seemed to me another subject up for discussion, as well as with Jodi herself.

Gerard grew in her esteem, became an anchor that kept her stable in unchartered waters and also, in a way, her muse. A nod, a word, a gesture from Gerard could be a marker and a prompt. His dependable squint and mellow vowels were co-conspirators in the enterprise of drawing her out. Even the room itself, the neutral colors, the uniform light, and the quietude, with only an occasional burst of voices from the hallway or a distant bump or thump of a door closing, but muffled, as if underwater, could turn the crank of her memory, take her back to the jurisdiction of her earliest years, bringing them once again to life.  

In those aspects the book is possibly better or equal to Gone Girl, as the narrators there both have ‘pasts’ yet sadly for me a few things really let The Silent Girl down. I loved the back story of Jodi, but the more I read it the more I thought ‘no, this woman wouldn’t settle for Todd no matter how wonderful he was’ and I couldn’t believe in them having got together and having been that happy for so long as he really is that vile. I was also sad that actually this back story didn’t get built up, it’s all very vague and mysterious (which I know is part of building the mystery) yet it seemed a little ‘tacked on’ which leads me to the major issue I had with the book. The ending.

Without giving away any spoilers I have to say that I felt cheated. I had been sold something from the start that wasn’t the case at all. Whilst I could see the merits of this, and sorry if you haven’t read the book but should you choose to you will understand, as a double/triple/quadruple twist (there may be a red herring there) I get really cross when an author at the end of a thriller throws in an element that no one in their wildest dreams would guess. It’s fine if clues have been dropped and you get it wrong, that is part of the fun, yet here I felt cheated – yes it was possible but I didn’t feel the author was playing fair, she didn’t want us to get it and that to me spoils/spoilt the fun.

I don’t normally compare books as closely as I have this with Gillian Flynn, but because of all the chatter I couldn’t not. I feel bad being negative about some of the aspects of The Silent Wife as up to about 50 pages from the end I thought it was a rather good portrayal of a relationship imploding and indeed a well written and overall well paced thriller. Alas the ending just didn’t work for me and I didn’t buy the mega twists and I just felt a bit cross – I am clearly in the minority as all the authors I mentioned above loved it and Nicole Kidman is making the movie, so what do I know?!? It saddens me that Harrison will not write anymore; as at its best moments there is something very different about The Silent Wife that makes me think whatever followed would have possibly been incredible.

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Filed under A.S.A Harrison, Headline Review, Review

I’m Sick… But The Cats Are Blogging!

Since the excitement of a few days in London (which I have realised I took almost no photos during) and the rollercoaster thrills and spills of judging the Not The Booker I have come down, quite literally from all those highs, with a really nasty cold. I don’t want to say flu as its not quite there but it isn’t far off. So I have actually been spending more time being grumpy, feeling a bit sorry for myself and listening to audiobooks as my eyes were so sore.

Well, I am still feeling pretty crap but my eye ache has moved to my throat and nose so at least I can read again and this morning I decided I would grab some books of the shelves that would be perfect reads and this was the haul I managed very groggily and swiftly before disappearing into the depths of my duvet once more…

Ill Books

Before we discuss them, yes you’re right that is an ebook in the mix of all of these treats. I have discovered, begrudgingly, another perk in the world of ereaders that if you are stuck in bed and ache too much to do too much a few swipes and there is your next read. Last night I simply couldn’t resist a new Susan Hill ghost story in the form of this ‘Kindle Single’ perfect for the time of year ‘Printer’s Devil Court’. I am very much looking forward to it. As I am also looking forward to reading the next, for me not actually the newest, Agatha Raisin mystery ‘Agatha Raisin and the Curious Curate’ (I have let Agatha for too long). I also have Victor & Rolf’s ‘Fairy Tales’ which sounds amazing with tales like ‘Disco Hedgehog’, Flowerbomb’ and ‘The Fifth Perfume Bottle’. Finally, but by no means last, I thought as the nights are getting darker (well the days are in my sick suite as I have not allowed the curtains to be opened) it was time for some crime and I need to catch up with my favourite duo Rizzoli & Isles. So that should see me through a day or two while I get this out my system.

Now I mentioned the cats were blogging. Well they aren’t blogging here. In fact, as part of a special ‘Cat Day’ in honour of the ‘The Big New Yorker Book of Cats’ they have blogged for Windmill Books and you can see it here. I think they believe that book offers will be flying in. They are acting like they are really chilled about it…

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…But we know the truth. Do have a look at them discussing ‘Living With A Book Lover’, they are quite cute after all, if incredibly naughty for not letting me know a think about it, ha!

Hope all of you are well? What are you reading at the mo? Is it good or bad? Which books do you turn to when you are poorly? How cute are cats reading?

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The Killing Place – Tess Gerritsen

Anyone who knows me or has been following Savidge Reads for any length of time will probably know by now that I am a big fan of Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles novels. That said though, because I am such a fan of them, I read them rather sparingly. However the other day when I was feeling in a slight bookish lull, aware I wanted something crime filled and thrilling yet familiar it seemed like it was time to catch up with the eighth in the series ‘The Killing Place’, or ‘Ice Cold’ as its titled abroad, and so I sat down and devoured the book in two sittings, starting one evening and finishing the following morning. They are utterly compelling.

Bantam Press, hardback, 2010, fiction, 322 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Dr Maura Isles, who you will know by now if you have been reading the series a while, leaves Boston for a medical conference in Wyoming where, needing a change of scene from the disastrous love affair with Father Daniel Brophy, she meets up with an old college acquaintance, Doug, and decides on the spur of the moment (not something a control freak like Maura normally does) to join him, his daughter and friends on a skiing trip for the weekend. Alas the spontaneous adventure takes a darker twist when a sudden snow storm descends and the motley crew end up stranded in the middle of nowhere with a broken down car… Until they spot Kingdom Come a seemingly abandoned settlement of part of a religious group. At first they think they have found their salvation, but they couldn’t have been more wrong.

To give anything else away after this would be to ruin all the wonderful, and truly gripping, twists and turns that Gerritsen will delight you with as ‘The Killing Place’ continues. I was one hundred percent gripped from the start of the book until the very end which I didn’t see turning out the way it did, though knowing Tess Gerritsen’s other books I should have known there is always an added twist or two to any of her tales. Before I carry on raving about the book I should throw in a few slight issues I had with it. Firstly was one of the character names. I won’t say who ‘Rat’ is in the story, as he is quite pivotal, but having that as his name very nearly broke the spell for me. I simply couldn’t get my head around it initially however I carried on as the story was just too good. Secondly I did get a little lost at one point which doesn’t usually happen. Rare for me to say it but about a quarter of the way through too much seemed to happen at once. I was delighted there were so many threads to the novel but for a chapter or two I did find myself thinking ‘hang on a minute… what?’ This did pass though and suddenly all made sense.

What I did really like about this book, and I have noticed this more and more as the series has progressed, is that Gerritsen uses the situations she puts Rizzoli and Isles, or the crimes they investigate, Isles being the Medical Examiner to Rizzoli’s detective, to talk about issues. As the series has gone on its has remained a brilliant set of thrilling crime novels but they have become less slasher and more psychological. In the case of ‘The Killing Place’ the theme is about religious sects and how they are, and aren’t, controlled and how this effects the people in them and outside of them.

I also like to think that these books make me slightly more clever, in a fun if grisly way, as Gerritsen is/was a doctor and so when awful things happen to the victims I find myself learning all sorts of scientific words and phrases I would never normally learn but can now use at will. I am dying to throw organophosphate into a conversation over dinner sometime soon.

‘Pasternak said, “How sure are you that this organophosphate stuff is what we are dealing with?”
   “It will need to be confirmed by the tox report. But the clinical picture is classic. Gruber responded to atropine. And a STAT blood test showed a significant drop in cholinesterase activity. Again, that’s something you’d find with organophosphate poisoning.”’

I highly recommend ‘The Killing Place’, it will grip you from the start and (cliché alert, yet true) have you hooked turning the pages until the small hours. I also think that being more of an Isles story and out of its usual setting of Boston this could be a good place to start the series randomly, unless you are like me and simply have to read everything in order. ‘The Killing Place’ is also a great example of a thriller that deals with issues of our times and leaves you thinking with the questions it asks. Oh, one final thing though, I hope the next book is about the random body that Rizzoli finds in a dead (natural causes) old ladies storage unit. I was really grimly fascinated by that and then Rizzoli went off in search of Maura, I felt that was ‘to be continued…’

Who else is a Rizzoli and Isles fan? Are you a fan of the TV series, I am! Which is your favourite of the books, which would you recommend to a new to Gerritsen reader? Have you read any of the non Rizzoli and Isles tales and if so what did you make of those?

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Filed under Bantam Press, Review, Rizzoli and Isles, Tess Gerritsen

Why Does Literature Seem To Snub Genre?

I seem to have a backlog of random posts on my thoughts about the book world and reading at the moment. It seems I am having a phase where every book I read sparks a question about my reading habits or reading in general. I hope you all enjoy these posts because there is going to be quite an influx of them over the next few weeks. The first of these that I want to talk about came from my review of Penny Hancock’s ‘Tideline’ yesterday when I said it was ‘the sort of thriller that I want to put in the path of anyone who doesn’t deem thrillers as literature’ because this is something that seems to be a common misconception in the book world or in bookish circles. Why can’t a crime novel, and indeed any work that is deemed genre, also be deemed ‘literature’?

My initial line of thinking is the fact that on the whole crime novels are not particularly known for being flowery, you can’t really make a dead body picturesque can you – though you can make it haunting and atmospheric, yet flowery prose doesn’t mean that a book is literary either does it? Crime novels, and I am focusing on these as they are the genre I read the most outside what people deem ‘literary novels’, by their nature have to focus on plot and they have to have pace. This doesn’t have to come at the expense of good writing though as I find with authors like Kate Atkinson or Susan Hill the writing that they use in their ‘crime’ novels (atmospheric, observational, vivid) is the same as they use in the novels that would be put in the ‘fiction’ section and which are deemed to be much more literary because they lose the crime tag.

I have just recently given up on a very ‘literary’ novel because while the writing was stunning the book itself wasn’t going anywhere. The plot was there but it was fizzling out, it was dragging, and I was getting increasingly bored. So I gave up. That very rarely happens to me with a good thriller. With literary novels you often here the phrase ‘a multi layered novel’ have any of these people read the aforementioned Kate Atkinson (whose use of small coincidences to twist a tale is fantastic) or Sophie Hannah by any chance as both these authors created tales which are definitely multi layered, whilst being gripping reads with big stories at their heart, and I do think every reader loves a good ‘story’. Many people will say that genre fiction is train station or airport reading, but isn’t that in itself interesting that when people go away they want those sorts of books? Here we could go into the dangerous territory of ‘readability vs. literature’ so lets move swiftly on…

The other misconception I have often heard is that crime novels, or any genre novel actually, often feature one dimensional or rather stereotypical characters. I always find myself wanting to shout ‘what about Sherlock Holmes, people actually wrote to the man, they thought he was real’ to this, but I suppose that’s classic crime so doesn’t fit in with my discussion on modern crime now, though it was deemed literature in its day. If I was discussing chick-lit I would here use the Jane Austen argument and how at the time it was not deemed as ‘literature’ and look at how she is hailed now, Charles Dickens is another one, paid per word as a regular newspaper serialisation, now heralded as one of the greatest writers ever to have lived by many.

Let’s get back to the characters in modern crime though. I think we could find the ‘stereotypical’ characters in almost every novel we read, does ‘stereotypical’ therefore actually mean the true to life people who live next door or you might pass by on the street? What of one dimensional characters? I read few crime novels where this is the case, they wouldn’t work for me as a read if they were. Again there are a number of authors, including the above, where I could say this statement was untrue; Tess Gerritsen (I read the Rizzoli and Isles series because I want to know what they are up to, I like them, I feel I have gotten to know them over a series) and Val McDermid (Jacko Vance might be my favourite serial killer ever, if one can have one) for starters.

Val McDermid once said to me ‘it’s not the crime that’s the really important thing to me, it’s what crime or murder does to the people surrounding it that truly motivates me’. I have paraphrased there, sorry if you read this Val, but I think is one of the true signs of why crime can be counted as literature, it looks at how humans are conditioned to react, emote and deal in extreme circumstances. People say ‘oh but crime stories are so farfetched’ but they happen and often it’s the most bizarre crimes that have us sitting watching the news and saying ‘oh you couldn’t have made that up’ and ‘how would you deal with that, can you imagine?’ With a book you can from the safety of your sofa, just as you can being in a war torn country, having been bereaved, experiencing dictatorial leadership or simply being in a very dysfunctional family. All these things people are experiencing all over the world but just because it’s not happening to us or those we know doesn’t mean it is ‘farfetched’. Also thanks to crime in translation we learn about other cultures through the subject matter dealt with by the novels of the likes of Henning Mankell or Natsuo Kirino.

Of course there is some badly written and one dimensional drivel out there on the crime shelves, but the same applies to literature doesn’t it. We also all have different tastes. I have always found it interesting when I have reviewed an M.C. Beaton and then had emails saying people won’t read my blog any more as they thought I only read ‘proper’ books. What constitutes a ‘proper’ book I do not know, any ideas?

I am fully aware that I can fall prey to the same issues with other genres (aliens… like they exist) though I have just read a stunning werewolf novel (no, really) and indeed I have been umming and ahhhing about reading Jojo Moyes ‘Me Before You’ because I have heard rave reviews from people I trust and think the premise sounds interesting, but from just looking at it my mind says ‘chick-lit’ and I switch off, this has happened whenever I have been recommended Marian Keyes, which has happened a lot. Am I then adding to the literary snobbery myself, I hope not, and may now rush and get ‘Me Before You’ just to prove a point.

This might be one of those posts that often appear on Savidge Reads where I start with a question that has been buzzing around in my head, write about it and end up asking more questions than I can answer and coming out the other side without a conclusion. It is a subject that interests me and one I would love to have a good old natter with you all about, so your thoughts please…

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Boxing Day Books (The Savidge Reads Advent Winners)

Hello one and all, I do hope you have a lovely Christmas Day? Thank you for your festive wishes. Mine was very nice; I had goose for the first time and found it rather delicious. I have also been playing card games (mainly spite and malice, which my thirteen year old sister has been teaching me), scrabble, drinking rather a lot and worn my party hat all day long. Oh and I had presents, no books but I got a really funky set of psychedelic proper chef knives for my new pad (I am moving at the end of Jan, oh the books are going to have to be sorted), lots of Jelly Belly – too many is never enough and my favourite present so far has been three pairs of Mr Men lounge pants (Messy, Tickle and Bump) so there was one present with a literary twist. I have been reading but not as much as I would have expected, that is normally left for today, Boxing Day, my favourite Christmas Day.

There is something about Boxing Day that I have always found rather joyous, and not just the left-over’s from Christmas dinner which normally end up in a sandwich (though my Mum is currently off making pastry for a pie this year) and the endless supply of crisps and chocolates that we all buy for Xmas day and then don’t eat because we are too full. I love the fact it’s a delightfully lazy day, well at Savidge Christmas’s it is, we generally spend most of the day lounging around reading before a big TV fest in evening (Miranda Hart going trekking with Bear Grylls will be my Christmas TV highlight) so I am looking forward to that, I have already recorded an episode of The Readers so I feel I can now slob – that was my hard work of the day, now it’s time for my good deed of the day. It’s time for present giving…

Boxing Day can be another day of presents as the family you didn’t see might pop round, we won’t be seeing any other family members so today I have plucked all the Savidge Reads Advent Calendar winners from a random number generator and here are the winners…

Day 1; The Complete Nancy Mitford – Reading With Tea
Day 2; Burned by Thomas Enger – Harriet and Ellen B
Day 3; Smutt by Alan Bennett & Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan – Steel Reader and Gaskella
Day 4; Godless Boys by Naomi Wood & Snowdrops by A.D. Miller – Louise and Dog Ear
Day 5; The Great British Bake Off Book – Dovegreyreader and Janet D and Novel Insights
Day 6; Jennifer Egan books – TBA
Day 7; The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall – Rhonda Reads and Simon Saunders and Belinda
Day 8; Shes Leaving Home by Joan Bakewell  – Gaskella and Mystica
Day 9; Sophie Hannah’s series – Emma
Day 10; In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood & China Mieville books – Louise and Ragamuffinreader
Day 11; Sue Johnston autobiography – Sue and Simon T and Ann P
Day 12; Wait for Me by Deborah Devonshire – Janet D and Dominic
Day 13; Selected Agatha Raisin books – Kirsten and Victoria
Day 14; The Beautiful Indifference by Sarah Hall – Janet D and Ann P
Day 15; When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman – Femke and Ruthiella and Alex and Joanne In Canada
Day 16; all David Nicholls novels – Sue
Day 17; Patricia Duncker novels – Gaskella
Day 18; A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French – Ann P and Gabrielle Kimm
Day 19; all the Yrsa Siguardardottir novels – Kimbofo
Day 20; Frozen Planet & White Heat by MJ McGrath – Emma and Mystica
Day 21; A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse & The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – Nose in a Book and Novel Katie
Day 22; The Hunger Trace by Edward Hogan – Jenni and Ann P and Femke
Day 23; Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series  – David
Day 24; Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series – Harriet

Merry Christmas to both those of you who won (and some of you won a few times) and those who didn’t. If you did email me savidgereads@gmail.com with the book/s you have won in the subject and your address and I will make sure these are sent out in the first week of January. Right, I am off to go and pick at some stuffing before curling up with my book. Hope you are all having a wonderful time, what did you get for Xmas?

Oh and a MASSIVE thank you to the publishers who got involved: Penguin, Faber and Faber, Profile Books, Hodder, Picador, Atlantic, Serpents Tail, Ebury, Corsair, Constable and Robinson, Portobello, Little Brown, Virago, John Murray, Headline, Bloomsbury, Europa Editions, Mantle, Macmillan, Simon and Schuster & Transworld

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Tess Gerritsen – The Savidge Reads Advent Calendar Day 24

So it is Christmas Day tomorrow, which frankly has come around too soon, I am hoping you will be all getting books in abundance (though if you are like me your family normally steer clear of buying you books as gifts), fancy a few more? It is the finale of the Savidge Reads Advent Calendar and so we are going out with a bang. I am giving one of you what has probably become my favourite series of books, though it’s a close daily battle with these and the ‘Tales of the City’ novels I gave away yesterday (you still have time), and that is Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles novels, all nine of them…

   

  

  

All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning this lovely, if a little grisly lot, is to leave your name in the comments below with your favourite crime novel of the year and why it was so good. You have until midnight GMT tonight, good luck and Merry Christmas to you all.

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Oh Tess, Look What You Made Me Do…

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog of late and I don’t actually have the excuse that I have been busy reading instead because really I haven’t. I’ve just been busy with other non bookish bits and bobs. This of course leads me to frustration when I look at the pile of books that surround me in my book den, and then when temptation hit I was most furious with myself as the latest book I have just finished (insert a dun, dun, dun noise now)… Was on a kindle!

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It is all the fault of Tess Gerritsen and the fact that ‘Freaks’ is only available as an e-book. If the story hadn’t been so good, review soon, then I might not have been able to ever forgive her. Fortunately I have. I haven’t bought a kindle though, and have now deleted the app from my phone too! So not converted, just diverted.

What have you all been reading of late? What else have you been upto?

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Keeping the Dead – Tess Gerritsen

In my book thoughts yesterday I mentioned how that book had appealed to me because as a child I really liked fairy stories. Well, something must be in the air because one of the reasons that I utterly loved ‘Keeping the Dead’ by Tess Gerritsen, or ‘The Keepsake’ as its known on some international shores, was the fact that it started with a tale of mummies and dusty old museums, something else I was fascinated by as a kid. I am wondering what is making me want to read books which have, for me not anyone else, such links with my childhood and my first early reading days. That could start a whole post of its own, so let’s get back to the book in hand.

Bantam Books, paperback, 2009, fiction, 448 pages, from personal TBR

Madam X is the talk of the town as ‘Keeping The Dead’ opens, though she is not initially (oh how things change) as salacious as she sounds. In fact she is an ancient mummy who has been unearthed in the archives of one of Boston’s biggest, if longest forgotten, museums. This is big news for the museum and indeed for the city and so a packed room of media and specialists, including Maura Isles, await the live X-Ray. When a filing appears on the screen they initially believe they have found a major new discovery in the field of Egyptology, who knew that the Egyptians had made these advances in dental treatment? However, when the bullet from a very modern gun appears on the screen it appears that this may have been a much more recent homicide and so Detective Jane Rizzoli is called in to investigate. Soon the Museum is searched and before long more relics are found and they appear to be much less ancient than they look. It seems someone is collection women, or bits of them and soon enough this killer strikes very close indeed.

It is an overused cliché, yet ‘Keeping the Dead’ is an incredible page turner. I read this in three sittings (all at an airport, and if you don’t love flying read a book like this, I didn’t think about landing, being in the air or taking off as I was so engrossed) during a single day. I then promptly felt guilty for devouring it so quickly when I imagine it took quite a time to write, but this was a pure reading pleasure. Well, if you can call a book about a psychopath who likes to make relics of his victims, and use ancient ways of preserving them, a pleasure that is?

‘Keeping the Dead’ is the seventh in the Rizzoli and Isles series which has made Tess Gerritsen so well known, and now of course is a major (and not to bad from what I have watched so far) TV series. It is also possibly the novel which, I think, stands alone the most if you haven’t read any of the previous novels. It’s not that Rizzoli and Isles don’t develop as characters, they just aren’t the focus of this thriller, and indeed it happens over a very short space of time, in the present day sequences, because it’s the back story that we learn as we go. So Rizzoli and Isles are necessary, and indeed it is another of their shared cases, just not on every page because the heart of the story lies elsewhere. I have heard that the next in the series ‘The Killing Place’ focuses much more on our heroines as one of them goes missing. I have had to force myself not to pick it up twice in the few weeks since I put this one down, I want to savour them.

It is always hard to try and make anyone rush out and by a crime novel when you can’t really give anything away, instead I just keep banging on and on about the series and hope that you will all take note and go and pick one up. I have been debating it a while but I think, whilst I have special memories attached with the first two; both ‘The Surgeon’ and ‘The Apprentice’ for introducing me to Rizzoli and Isles, I think that ‘Keeping The Dead’ might be my favourite one yet. They started off well,they just keep getting better and better, and more and more addictive.

Who else is a Gerritsen fan? Which of the non Rizzoli and Isles novels have you read and what did you make of them? Should I really spread out a series or just indulge when the mood takes? What do you do?

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The Comfort of a Series…

There is a real comfort in being able to open the pages of a book, cosy in your perfect reading spot, and being surrounded by a world that is familiar and where you are joined by some of your favourite characters. To me this is the joy of having an ongoing favourite series, and it’s been a saviour in the last few days after what had been a severe bout of readers block.

I had got myself into a vicious thought circuit of ‘why am I not reading anything, why am I not reading anything, why am I not reading anything’ last week, something I seem to do which I am aware only adds to the pressure but it can’t be helped. I was well aware I had a few of the submissions for The Green Carnation Prize to get through, which has involved some stunning reading, as we announce the longlist in just over a fortnight – but I needed a break. I instantly thought ‘right time for something completely different’ and so pulled down the next of M.C. Beatons Agatha Raisin novels ‘Agatha Raisin and the Love from Hell’ (if anyone is sniggering, these are awesome books) and before I knew it I had devoured that and polished off the next one ‘Agatha Raisin and the Day the Floods Came’. Then I got what I call ‘series guilt’.

In my mind ‘series guilt’, though maybe guilt isn’t quite the right word, is rather like when you have an author binge. You read one, want to read more and then think ‘hang on I have almost read all their books and I have no idea when the next one is out’. In the case of Agatha Raisin this doesn’t really apply, I have another eight (as I read two out of sync) to go. Yet I do get this with other series I read. Hence why I have stopped with Sophie Hannah, Paul Magrs etc, I don’t quite know when the next one will be so am saving the latest one for a while instead.

There are however three series that I will be playing catch up with as a bit of a reading treat for myself and because I know that I have quite a few more of the series of Susan Hill, Val McDermid and Tess Gerritsen to go. So expect to see these three books featured in more detail…

   

Isn’t it odd that these series are all crimes, well and one spooky-goings-on series? I think I need to be looking outside of the box. Though they are perfect for this time of year as autumn starts to show its true colours. I have also thought that the only way to not have to worry if a series is running out is to find some more to get into the swing of, and this is where you come in.  I would like your recommendations for some new series to find.

So I wondered if you would share your favourite series (or two) with me but also if you could let me know of any series of books which aren’t of a ‘genre’ so I can branch out. The only one I can think of at the moment is Anthony Trollope’s ‘Barchester Towers’. I know there are many more than just those, can you help?

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August’s Incomings…

As always if you don’t like posts about books are incoming then look away now, there is another post coming later today about my favourite memoir of the year, if not in quite some time. But now to the post in hand and the books which have come in during the last month. I hope you will note it’s a much slimmer selection than in previous months.

Of course August is Man Booker month and so a few of those came in through the door…

I have to say that I was really excited about the longlist this year when it was announced, but from dipping in and out of some of them I am beginning to simply not get it. There are six books I think could make a rather strong short list (more about that next week) but in the main I am a little bit non-plussed after trying and failing with a few of them. I am thinking it might be time to introduce a new series of posts on ‘Books I Didn’t Finish and Why’ but maybe with a snazzier title.

So moving on from Booker books what else has popped in from the publishers? Well you will be shocked to learn that I can fit my hardbacks, trades and paperbacks in one photo, that’s quite a breakthrough. I haven’t had as many unsolicited books and those I have had have been much more my cup of tea. Hoorah! So here they are…

  • Good Offices by Evelio Rosero – unsolicited copy, winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize sounds a little bit different and is short so could be worth a read.
  • Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt – I didn’t think I would try another Byatt, I find her a little full of herself in her writing and in person (oops), but books should be about good stories and this looks a treat as its one of the Canongate Myth retelling series.
  • The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai – A book about a librarian who kidnaps and is kidnapped by one of the children who comes to the library. I am half way through this and I think it is wonderful so far. I can’t wait to tell you more.
  • Blow On A Dead Man’s Embers by Mari Strachan – I really liked her first novel ‘The Earth Hums in B Flat’ so I begged for this one. When it arrived my aunty, who is a whatsit for a title, asked if it was about something rude. I hadn’t thought of it but now I keep giggling when I see the book. Oh dear.
  • The Gendarme by Mark Mustian – You know when you see a book in Waterstones and just love the cover but aren’t sure it would be quite your cup of tea, you keep seeing it and you keep being torn. Well, now I have it and am expecting quite a lot.
  • Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson – I thought Winterson’s debut novel ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ was wonderful, I am puzzled by the author though. On TV I have seen her be delightful or prickly, and I know she had a phase of hating being labelled as an LGBT author, and yet now we have a very LGBT book. Should be interesting, but puzzling too.
  • The Book Lover’s Tale by Ivo Stourton – I admit I asked for this solely based on the title.
  • The Blue Book by A.L. Kennedy – This is probably going to be read this weekend. It’s a book about psychic’s on a cruise ship and just sounds right up my street. I have struggled with Kennedy before so am hoping this is the way in. It’s also a beautiful book to look at.
  • The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan – I have wanted to read this since Marieke Hardy called it a ‘cock forest’ on The First Tuesday Book Club, she didn’t like it and her reaction just made me want to read it even more.
  • The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen – I love Tess’ books so there is no way I couldn’t have this. Its signed too. Hoorah.
  • 666 Charing Cross Road by Paul Magrs – A new series starts… could be very exciting.
  • Twenty Six by Jonathan Kemp – Twenty six (very) short stories from one of last years Green Carnation short listed authors. Looking forward to this one.
  • Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes – Kevin from Canada mentioned this on the Man Booker forums as a brilliant crime and had a very nice review of it too. It’s not his genre so if its got non crime fans raving then I need to give it a whirl.
  • Something Was There edited by Kate Pullinger – unsolicited copy, Asham Award Winning shost stories, perfect for the autumnal nights which seem to have come early this year.
  • The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson – unsolicited copy, a book about sideshow freaks and the love story between the Human Skeleton and the Bearded Lady, erm yes please (I have to say if I had seen the drab cover in a shop though I wouldn’t have picked this up, Picador are normally ace at covers, what’s this about?).
  • The Shadows in the Street by Susan Hill – unsolicited copy, had the hardback so this reminded me a read was due, especially seeing as the next one ‘The Betrayal of Trust’ is out in October, which I will of course really be desperate to read.
  • Electricity & The Man Without by Ray Robinson – I thought ‘Forgetting Zoe’ was brilliant and so I am really looking forward to reading his back catalogue.

There was a second hand spree this month so I can’t say I have been that good in terms of treats. However I have had a lovely loan and two lovely gifts too.

I did a call out to see if any of you had Sue Johnston’s first autobiography as I am ‘in conversation’ with her next Tuesday at Waterstones Deansgate (a review of her stunning autobiography out today will be up this afternoon) and the forementioned Paul Magrs had a copy of ‘Hold onto the Messy Times’ which he has kindly loaned me. I don’t know why I didn’t ask Paul first, he has lots of the TV books from the 1980’s so it should have been an instant thought. Ruth from my book group has kindly given me her latest finished read which is ‘The Fallen Leaves’ a Wilkie Collins book I don’t own. Naturally I was thrilled. And finally, all the way from the USA, Rachel of Booksnob sent me ‘Bedilla’ by Vera Caspary which she read and adored and with a tagline ‘she seduces men… but does she kill them? A mystery bout the wickedest woman who ever loved’ knew would be right up my street. Thrilled, again.

A more compact month, but a month filled with gems I think you will agree. What have you had through the post/from the library/bought from the shops lately? Which of these have you read or are looking forward to reading and which would you like to see reviewed on Savidge Reads in the near future?

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