Crime novels for Easter

Photo of a yellow tulip

As I mentioned in my previous post Norway has an excellent tradition of reading crime novels during Easter and, as I have read little but cosy crime lately, I thought I should do my part to support the tradition by highlighting my favourite recent reads. All from the excellent British Library Crime Classics series.

Murder by Matchlight by E.C.R. Lorac was the first crime novel I read this year, thanks to a recommendation by Kaggsy. The mystery itself is good but fairly standard, the real treat is instead the atmosphere of war time London. First published in 1945 it must have been written during or directly after WW2 and it really shows.

Having read this one I immediately got the two other novels by E.C.R. Lorac currently in print, Bats in the Belfry (1937) and Fire in the Thatch (1946). They were both good mysteries, especially Fire in the Thatch, but they lacked that special setting that made Murder by Matchlight stand out.

The Division Bell Mystery, first published in 1932, is set in the British parliament. It was written by the Labour politician Ellen Wilkinson, who give us an inside view on the life in parliament, together with a neat locked-room mystery. Although the mystery was rather standard the inside-view of the political life in the 1930s was not, and I really enjoyed it. This one was also recommended by Kaggsy, who clearly have great taste in crime novels.

My third new BLCC favourite, Death in Captivity by Michael Gilbert, is set in a prisoner-of-war camp in Italy during late WW2, a setting the author knew from personal experience. Many of the characters are rather flat and easy to mix-up and the mystery is fine but nothing special, however the setting is unique and claustrophobic. Although I may not have cared too much about who the murderer was, I really wanted to know who would escape and how. All in all it was probably the most thrilling BLCC I have read, and offered an interesting glimpse of life in a POW camp. Really recommended!

What all three books had in common was that they offered something more than just a decent mystery. They showed me glimpses of interesting worlds I can never visit, war time London, the British parliament during the 1930s, a POW-camp in Italy, all places that the authors knew well (I guess, I haven’t confirmed whether or not Lorac was in London during WW2). Only books can bring me to those places.

 

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Which British Library Crime Classics should I read during Easter?

HookEaster time is the time to read crime novels in Norway (påskekrim) and as I pretend to be a well-integrated foreigner I will of course join in. I’m really looking forward to it too as I have a major work-deadline right before Easter which is currently eating most of my reading and blogging time.

However, I need some help, I don’t know what to read. I love classic crime so I’m thinking a nice pile of 3-4 British Library Crime Classics or similar would be perfect but I don’t know which ones to choose. Anyone have any favourites to recommend? I like both the classic locked room mysteries and the more adventurous varieties. I would love to have some great cosy reads to look forward to while I work…

A Late Beginner

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I recently treated myself by ordering three of Slightly Foxed’s paperback memoirs as my first book order for the year.  Two of them, Frances Wood’s Hand-grenade Practice in Peking and Dodie Smith’s Look Back with Love are still in my TBR-pile, but I just finished the third one, Priscilla Napier’s A Late Beginner.

In A Late Beginner Priscilla Napier looks back on her childhood in Egypt during the early 20th century. We follow her from a very young age and until she leaves Egypt in 1921, aged twelve, to go to school in the UK. The first world war and the early steps toward Egypt independence occur in the fringes of her consciousness, mingled with all the normal interests of a young child. Although largely written from a child’s perspective, Napier still manages to give a lively image of the Egypt she knew.

I really like memoirs that place you in the middle of important historical events. Of course the format is a limitation in that you only get one, usually not very objective, perspective on events, but what you gain is the impressions and feelings of someone who was actually there. It is the closest thing I know to time-travel. This one was a really good example.

The dangerous temptations of literature

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I read The Little House in the Big Forest as a child and, although I have forgotten much of it, one scene in particular has stayed with me. I am of course thinking of the time they made candy out of maple syrup. As a child the thought of making candy in the snow was endlessly fascinating to me and I lamented the lack of sugar maples in Sweden.

However, it is said that it is never to late to have a happy childhood and I finally realized that I didn’t need a sugar maple, just ordinary maple syrup and the fresh new-fallen snow outside. Tonight I have finally fulfilled that particular childhood dream and although I may have eaten a bit too much I have no regrets. Thank you Laura Ingalls Wilder!

My family and other animals

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I must say that the reading year starts well, I am only four books in and have already discovered a new favourite. My Family and Other Animals, Gerald Durrell’s memoir of his childhood on Corfu, is full of fun anecdotes, beautiful descriptions, and lots and lots of animals.

According to the memoir Gerald “Gerry” Durrell, youngest of four siblings, grew up in Corfu as the youngest son in a loving but chaotic family. Gerald himself appears to have greatly contributed to the general chaos by his interest in everything living and a somewhat inconvenient habit of bringing various animals home. I have great sympathy for young naturalists, and Durrell writes about his observations with an infectious enthusiasm, but there were a few times when I sided with his family. The chaos he created provides many great anecdotes though, so I am grateful.

I am normally not a fan of too humorous books but this one won me over completely. There were plenty of comic scenes but the comedy never felt forced. Highly recommended to anyone who loves amusing anecdotes and/or animals!

I’m counting this novel as my 20th century classic for the Back to the classics reading challenge.

Reading goals for 2019

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New year, new reading ambitions. In 2019 I want to read books that challenge me, and books that don’t but which are exciting or fun or just pleasant reads. I hope to find new favourites and revisit old, and I want to keep having great discussions about books with all my blogging friends.

Reading classics

The Classics Club is my favourite reading challenge and I still have many unread books on my classics list. I hope that I will be able to read at least twelve of them during 2019.

The Back to the classics reading challenge is also fun. There the goal is to read and blog about twelve books that fit particular categories and which are at least 50 years old. I am not too focused on actually finishing this challenge but I like the way it encourage me to actually review the books I read and therefore want to join again.

Keep reading books by African, Asian and South American authors

During the last two years my reading comfort zone has greatly expanded and I now get inspired rather than scared when a book is written by an author from a country I normally don’t read from. As I don’t want too many reading challenges this year I am hoping that this will remain true even without making a challenge out of it. However, I will keep tracking the author’s country of origin of all the books I am reading, and if I find that I have stopped reading books by authors from outside of Europe and North America, I may make a challenge out of it later in the year.

Book buying

For the last two years I have attempted to not buy more books than the number of unread books I read from my bookshelf. Although I failed both years it did help me restrict my book buying. Unfortunately it also had some negative side-effects. I found that this book-buying challenge actually discouraged me from using the library or rereading my own books, as books I read from these sources did not count against my book-buying. As I love the library and rereading I will not attempt this challenge this year. However, I still do need to keep some constraints on my book-buying and therefore have decided that I can buy as many books as I want, but that the total cost of them may not be more than what I paid for books in 2018. Second-hand book-stores here I come!

 

 

 

 

 

Closing the books – 2018 edition

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The geographical distribution (author’s country of birth) of my 2018 reading. (Guide on how to make this type of maps).

A new year has begun which means that I once again get to play around with pretty maps and charts in an effort to illustrate my 2018 reading.

In total I finished 118 books in 2018 (99 in 2017), 57% of them written by women. Books by authors from UK (46), US (17) and Sweden (16) dominated my reading but I managed to read books written by authors from 27 countries (21 in 2017) which I am really happy about. I am especially pleased that reading books from countries I  has gone from feeling like an obligation to being something I really enjoy. Overall I have had an excellent reading year with plenty of reading time and have discovered several excellent new authors and novels.

As I read much more than I review, many excellent reads have gone unmentioned on this blog, but I don’t want them to be completely forgotten. So here comes some honourable mentions from my 2018 reading. Links to the blogger who recommended them where applicable.

These are all highly recommended reads!

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The temporal distribution of my 2018 reading (each book sorted by the year of its first publication).

I have also gotten much better at blogging this year and the number of blog posts I have written in 2018 (36) is more than double the amount I wrote in 2017 (16).

Most visited blog posts in 2018

  1. Mapping your reading
  2. Spending time on the Russian countryside
  3. A selection of brilliant books

I started this blog so I could discuss books with other book lovers and make some blogging friends. I am very happy with how that has worked out. I am grateful every time any of you take the time to read, comment and like my posts! Happy reading year everyone!