Books of 2011 # 11 – A Troubled Man by Henning Mankell

Another one that in some ways could easily have been more highly placed. The top Scandanavian writer in my view, and one of the top fictional detectives in Kurt Wallander. A shame that the series has come to an end, in many ways prematurely in my opinion, but then I am not the author and it is not my place to say whether a character should continue or not. At least the series went out strongly.

The Troubled Man (Kurt Wallander Mystery)The Troubled Man by Henning Mankell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now right up front I need to say that I love the character of Kurt Wallander, and in many ways I am disappointed to see this series come to an end.

Having said that I felt there was much more that could have been done with the character, and although I think I know and understand the reasons behind why Henning Mankell has made the ending of this book (and the fact that there is unlikely to be any further Linda Wallander stories) the way he has, I was disappointed with the end of this book.

It needed to have the epilogue to wrap up some of the loose plot threads, but I feel that this could have been done in later books. The main plot overall was OK. Not one of the best mysteries that has been written, and perhaps if you live outside of Sweden not something that will be immediately familiar to the reader but it is carried through well and there is an unexpected twist towards the end that I hadn’t seen coming.

Only four stars because of the way Mankell dealt with the ending and the epilogue, it left me feeling disappointed. After all the intervening years between Before The Frost and The Troubled Man I would rather that there had not been another Wallander tale, rather than the way this one ended. Perhaps if you read this, do so without reading the epilogue!

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Books of 2011 # 12 – Concrete Pearl by Vincent Zandri

This was a tough choice for this not to make it into the top 10, as it is a cracking good read, but others just have the edge on it.

Concrete PearlConcrete Pearl by Vincent Zandri
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vincent Zandri is one hell of a writer. He’s the author of other thrillers such as The Innocent, Godchild and The Remains (my review of The Remains is here), but Vincent scares me, he makes me wonder where he gets his inspiration, if it’s as true to life as it seems; I’m worried!

Concrete Pearl twists and shocks from the first page to the last. The main character, Ava “Spike” Harrison, she got her name from impaling her foot on a six-penny nail on the first construction site she worked on, is about to have a very bad day.

She’s the boss of Harrison Construction, the company that was originally her beloved fathers, and now Spike’s the boss. She’s a tough, no nonsense character who will never give up, never roll-over. Harrison Construction already has a number of health and safety convictions, accidents that weren’t Spike’s fault but corporately the company takes the hit. Today it’s going to get a lot worse. Today asbestos is going to be found on the current work site. That work site’s a school. Worse; that work site is a school that still has children in it while the work carries on around them. Asbestos contamination might equal sick kids. Cancer. Dead. Kids.

The authorities shut the site down, Spike’s company is under suspicion of negligence, but Spike’s company sub-contracted the asbestos removal and now the removal company and the lab that verified their test results, have shut-down, they’ve vanished. Spike needs to find them and settle what’s happened and clear her name.

The characters are lifelike and believable, some are so believable that you’ll hate them, want to take them out yourself. You’ll feel for others, want to help them. All the characters make this book the more believable page, after page, to the last page.

Zandri winds the plot tighter and tighter, he squeezes his lead character to incredible levels. You wonder if she will ever sort out her problems as with each page a new issue raises its ugly head. As accusations of negligence move to accusations of murder, the author redefines the term “thriller”.

As you think Spike is buried deep, Zandri turns the plot in her favour, revelation follows revelation. You start to wonder just who you can trust. Is anyone innocent? Some are. Zandri manages to tie up a plot and leave the reader very satisfied. What happens to Spike? Well you’ll just have to read the book and find out for yourself.

At the start of this review, I questioned the author’s inspiration, why? Well simply because I did a little reading around, his blog, other reviews before I read this book. Vincent Zandri appears to borrow from his own life as part of his books. A character in the books’ son is born on Halloween, I understand that Zandri’s son is too, and Spike’s family name, Zandris son’s name. So then what is it that Vincent Zandri knows about the construction industry, it’s claimed that this a fictional story based on real events?

Whether this is true or not it doesn’t really matter, because Zandri is one hell of an author, and although he is well published and sells books, he’s probably not the household name of the likes of Patterson or Brown; Clancy or Child; but he deserves to be. Zandri deserves to be the author I see in the window of Waterstones as I walk down the high street; to be in the 3 for 2’s. The one that everyone is talking about, the one that is on bigger blogs than mine. That’s what he deserves, I hope he gets it, but either way I’m buying his next book, and probably the one after that. It’s rare to find an author that you want to read book after book, but Vincent Zandri is in that league.

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Books of 2011 # 14 – Savage Run by C J Box

Another entry for C J Box in my top thirty-one of 2011.

Savage RunSavage Run by C.J. Box
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second Joe Pickett novel and the series is getting stronger.

The series is set in some amazing scenic backcountry, and Joe Pickett is a pleasantly flawed lead character. Unlike many flawed heroes in crime novels, Joe is just human. He’s mucked up a few times, but he believes in what he does.

Although I enjoyed the story, there was an element of predictability about it, but not so much that the overall story suffered, I think I would just rather have known a little less about what was going on in the background and therefore the way the story unfolded would have been a little less obvious.

The strengths of this series; the backcountry and Joe Pickett mean that I’ll be returning to it again soon, for the third instalment

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Books of 2011 # 15 – Rose In A Storm by Jon Katz

Jon Katz is one of my favourite authors, and another who features multiple times in this list. This is an unusual book, in that it’s a work of fiction which is a departure away from his normal non-fictional works. Still just as good though.

Rose in a StormRose in a Storm by Jon Katz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very spiritual book. A tale of Rose, Sam, Flash and the other animals of the farm during a terrifying storm.

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Books of 2011 # 16 – Sixty Days and Counting by Kim Stanley Robinson

In truth this was a re-read, but it is a great story and worth a second reading. The story could so easily be what the human race is facing soon. Power outages, food shortages, out of control climate change. Mother Nature sticking it to the humans who’ve abused the planet for too long.

Sixty Days and CountingSixty Days and Counting by Kim Stanley Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Books of 2011 # 19 – Back of Beyond by C J Box

As with David Hewson, here’s another author who makes multiple appearances in my top thirty-one of 2011, C J Box.

Back of BeyondBack of Beyond by C.J. Box
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cody Hoyt is a troubled cop, at the edge of control, with the threats of alcohol abuse and violence only ever a step away.

When he receives word that his friend and AA mentor has been burnt alive in a fire Hoyt goes to the scene.  First impressions are of an accident, but Cody Hoyt realises that not everything is how it seems, and sets to work investigating his friends murder.

A recovered computer hard-drive from the scene leads Cody on the trail of the murderer and to a backcountry outfitter and a trip into Yellowstone National Park.  Can Cody stop the killer before he strikes again, and perhaps his next victim is Cody’s son who is on the same backcountry trip with his stepdad.

C. J. Box starts this one out at what seems like a perceptively slow pace, but the initial investigation  rapidly leads to a rattling pace that sees the story expand and lay out a great narrative, in one of the most stunning locations on the planet.  Box doesn’t stint on using the backdrop as a part of the tale, using wolves, bears and hot springs as part of the story.

The tale can be tricky to follow if you’re not paying attention, and if you’re planning to work out the who, what, why before the end you’ll need to be playing close attention.

C. J. Box is probably best known for his Joe Pickett series, but this stand alone (although Hoyt has appeared before), is just as good as any of the Pickett series, and well worth a read this summer.

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Books of 2011 # 20 – The Lizard’s Bite by David Hewson

This series of posts is my review of the top 31 books that I’ve read of 2011. As we enter the top twenty this is the first from an author who will feature again.

Two posts today, as the next two days are devoted to a virtual book tour and guest post.

The Lizard's Bite (Nic Costa Mysteries 4)The Lizard’s Bite by David Hewson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Falconi, Peroni, Costa, Lupo & the former FBI agent Emily Deacon return. 

A fire in a glass foundry leaves two dead, but is it an accident, a murder/suicide, or double murder?  Falconi and his team having been banished from their Roman home to the city of Venice slowly uncover a tale of deceit and murder in the ancient city.   With Massiter the intriguing Englishman all is not as it seems, and as further murders follow, Falconi’s men must uncover the truth.

This is the fourth “Nic Costa” book, and the series goes from strength to strength, from the horrific opening scenes to the satisfying final chapters, this entry in the Costa series is by far the best of the first four, in my opinion.  As I have read the series out of order I know that it goes from strength to strength from here on, but I am trying to start and read/reread the series from the beginning.

For me, whilst these are very much of the crime crime/mystery genre, they are also about art, culture, architecture, travel, good food and good wine.  One of my favourite weekend pastimes now is to sit with a Nic Costa tale, and a glass of Italian white that I have read about in a previous outing.

The Lizard’s Bite also sits alongside David Hewson’s standalone novel, “The Cemetery of Secrets”, although I have yet to read the latter, and either book can be read without the benefit of the other, some characters appear in both books.

Ah, Venice and murder, another outstanding Nic Costa tale from David Hewson, recommended!

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