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Posts tagged ‘Jo Nesbo’

Reading List: December 2011

Jo Nesbo – Nemesis

Another installment in Nesbo’s increasingly popular Harry Hole series of detective novels, all set in the author’s native Norway. Harry Hole reminds me a bit of Ian Rankin’s John Rebus character; a real maverick police office that delightfully annoys his colleagues. I’ve read three of Nesbo’s books now and plan to keep going. He has been compared to another popular Scandinavian mystery writer, Stieg Larsson, but Nesbo is a much better writer.



Robert Hicks – Widow of the South

Picked this up to read just because it looked interesting and had a nice blurb on the cover, comparing it to Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, which was an excellent novel indeed. I’m not a big Civil War buff (unlike one guy I knew back in Florida, who sold most of his record collection to buy a musket for Civil War re-enactment events!), but I found this combination of historical fiction and a love story to be very gripping. I’ll be eager to read more by this author.


Laura Hillenbrand – Seabiscuit

I’ve never been a big horse racing fan, or even a fan of horses for that matter, but this novel is about much more than horses and racing. Hillenbrand is a skillful writer and she keeps the reader’s interest throughout this great book, merging 1930s history with a fascinating cast of real people that were devoted to an amazing horse. Hillenbrand’s research and writing skills help to make the reader feel like they really knew these people.


Martin Cruz Smith – Stalin’s Ghost

I hadn’t read a book by this author since Gorky Park many years ago, but after hearing many customers rave about his writing, I felt it was time to try another one. This recently written novel features the same protagonist, police investigator Arkady Renko, and is once again set in Russia. Smith is certainly a very gifted writer, but his storytelling style, use of too many characters (maybe it’s all the Russian names that trip me up!) and convoluted subplots often left me confused and not so eager to keep turning the pages. The story was far from boring, but after finishing this one I’m not compelled to read more books in the Renko series right away.


Eric Newby – What the Traveller Saw

This is a collection of essays by the famed travel writer, covering a variety of unusual destinations around the world over several decades. Newby’s writing is both informative and amusing; he truly has a special eye for people and details. The book is also illustrated with many striking Black & White photos taken by Newby.



K.C. Constantine – Always a Body to Trade

This is one of Constantine’s delightful Mario Balzic crime novels, featuring the cranky, profanity-spewing Rocksburg, Pennsylvania police chief. First published in 1983, this one is a delight, as are all of the Mario Balzic novels; little gems that need to be rediscovered.


Michael Connelly – The Drop

The latest Harry Bosch mystery, this one finds the hard-headed L.A. detective wresting with investigations — old and new — and trying to raise his increasingly independent teenage daughter. Biggest surprise; the kid like some of her father’s favorite jazz albums! Another strong novel by one of the best in the business.


Danny Goldberg – Bumping Into Geniuses: My Life in the Rock and Roll Business

Goldberg reflects on his many years in the music business, from starting as a young rock magazine writer, to being tour manager for Led Zeppelin in the early 70s, running a record label in the 90s, and working with Kurt Cobain and Nirvana during the Nevermind period. A fascinating memoir with plenty of good tales. I especially enjoyed the chapter about Warren Zevon, one of rock’s most underrated geniuses.


James McBride – The Color of Water

This famous, bestselling memoir is about a mixed race man whose mother was white. McBride tells his own tale, while interspersing his mother’s own reminiscences between chapters. His mother grew up in a very conservative Jewish family but later became a Christian. The author also seems to have deep religious beliefs, thus there’s a bit too much Jesus babbling in the book for my tastes. But overall this is an unusual and interesting read.


Ed McBain – Ghosts

I’ve loved reading McBain’s 87th Precinct series of police procedural mysteries — I read three or four of them each year and still have a dozen or so to go — and this one is another good one. It’s very short, at under 200 pages, but a very fun, and sometimes funny, read.


Recent Reading

On the road, at home, and occasionally at work, here are some of the books that I’ve read in the past month or so. All real books with stained pages and no digital versions.


Graham Greene – Our Man in Havana

I went on a Greene spree about 20 years ago and read five or six novels, then didn’t read anything again until last year when I belatedly finished The Quiet American. I found a copy of Our Man in Havana while browsing the street book stalls in Yangon recently. This is a very gripping tale, and probably the funniest thing I’ve ever read by Greene.


T. Jefferson Parker – Renegades

Parker continues his run of strong mystery novels, this one featuring the ingratiating Charlie Hood character once again. Parker’s vividly real characters, sharp dialogue, and deft plotting have elevated him to the top tier of those currently purveying the crime fiction genre.


John Sandford – Buried Prey

The latest in Sandford’s addictive “Prey” series of mystery novels, featuring sharp-dressed crime-stopper Lucas Davenport, is another winner. Some truly hilarious moments amidst all the violence and suspense.


Norman Lewis – Naples ‘44

Lewis is best known as a travel writer, but this book is more of a memoir of the time he spent in Naples, Italy as a soldier during World War II. As always, Lewis graces the pages with descriptive prose, giving the reader a real feel for the place and time. And his fondness for the kind but beleaguered Italians he meets during his time in the city comes pouring off the pages.


Chester Himes – The Heat’s On

This is one of the novels in Himes’s acclaimed “Harlem Cycle” featuring police detectives Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones. In addition to being a highly entertaining work of crime fiction, this novel, like others that Himes wrote in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, sheds light on racial relations and tensions in the United States. It’s akin to exploring an entirely different world, far from that of mainstream white America. Realistic dialogue and absurd scenarios make this an entertaining read. For some bizarre reason, the novels of Himes remain more popular in France than in his native US. Himes died in 1984.


Jo Nesbo – The Leopard

Nesbo is the hottest new writer on the mystery circuit — hailed as the “next Stieg Larsson” due to his Scandinavian roots no doubt, although Nesbo is Norwegian and Larsson was Swedish. This is the newest of five novels that Nesbo has penned so far, and I liked it a lot. Much better writing than Larsson (or, at least, better translating) and an endearingly complex character in detective Harry Hole (yes, that’s his unfortunate name). I’ve already started reading The Snowman, figuring I’ll just go in reverse order until I get to the first one in the series.


David W. Moore – The Superpollsters

This is a fascinating insider’s tale about the history and “business” of opinion polls, particularly those involving politics in the USA. It’s a bit dated, having been written and published in the mid-1990s, but it’s still an important book and offers an illuminating look at polling and the mistakes that are often made by these “experts”. After Thailand’s recent polling debacle — in which all of the major opinion polls made huge miscalculations in their projections — this is a must read for anyone who has doubts and reservations about the accuracy and ramifications of polling.


Bill Pronzini – Boobytrap

Pronzini is one of America’s better, yet more unheralded mystery novelists. This novel, published in the late 1990s, is one in his “Nameless Detective” series set in San Francisco. Absolutely stellar stuff; sharp dialogue, memorable characters, and lots of tension.


Joseph Hansen – Early Graves

Hansen wrote many mystery novels featuring the Dave Brandstetter character, a whiskey-drinking insurance investigator who is also gay. Inevitably, Brandstetter ends up solving crimes that the police cannot. Early Graves is one of the better books in the series. A few troubled, if not screwed-up characters, along with Brandstetter’s sexuality and a turbulent relationship make for an absorbing novel.


Ed McBain – Lullaby

I can’t get enough of McBain’s wonderful 87th Precinct “police procedural” novels, and this ranks as one of the best of the bunch. And it’s certainly one of the longest in that series. Between the frenzied action, and colorful characters at the precinct, McBain shows that he is also a skilled writer who can move the reader.


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