Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Jodi Picoult: The storyteller

When the young baker Sage Singer strikes up an unlikely friendship with Josef Weber, a quiet man old enough to be her grandfather, and respected pillar of the community, she feels that she may have found someone she can open up to. But then Josef tells her the evil secret he's kept for sixty years. Caught between Josef's search for redemption and her shattered illusions, Sage turns to her family history and her own life for answers. As she uncovers the truth from the darkest horrors of war, she must follow a twisting trail between betrayal and forgiveness, love and revenge.

As with all Jodi Picoult stories you cannot put this book down. The storyline is gripping, the characters are fascinating and credible and you end up sympathising with the good and the evil. At times the story was a little predictable, such as the relationship between Sage and Leo, but Minka's story and Ania's story more than make up for the clichés.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Joanne Harris: Peaches for Monsieur le Curé

It isn't often you receive a letter from the dead. When Vianne Rocher receives a letter from beyond the grave, she allows the wind to blow her back to the village in south-west France where, eight years ago, she opened up a chocolate shop. But Lansquenet is different now: women veiled in black, the scent of spices and peppermint tea, and, on the bank of the river Tannes, facing the church: a minaret. Father Reynaud, Vianne's erstwhile adversary, is disgraced and under threat. Could it be that Vianne is the only one who can save him now?

I loved "Chocolat" and the "Lollipop shoes", but this is an even better story than the two previous ones. I'm not sure how good the story would be for someone who hadn't read the other two books, but I can see how the characters have developed over the years and I as a reader have developed, too. The storyline in this sequel is very topical with Father Reynaud sensing a war between the Maghrebins and the Catholic French. I could not put the book down and found myself totally engrossed in Lansquenet.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Donna Leon: Brunetti 20 - Drawing conclusions

A young woman returns from holiday to find her elderly neighbour dead on the floor. A heart attack seems the likely cause, but Commissario Brunetti is not so sure and decides to take a closer look. Soon he discovers that she was part of an organization that cares for abused women and that her apartment was a safe-house. He is drawn into a decades-old story of lies and deceit that has blighted love and ruined lives - and has claimed this innocent woman as its newest victim.

This is a less spectacular case for Brunetti, but it is still a great storyline about love and deceit and corruption in modern-day Italy.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Donna Leon: Brunetti 21 - Beastly things

When a body is found floating in a canal, strangely disfigured and with multiple stab wounds, Commissario Brunetti is called to investigate and is convinced he recognises the man from somewhere. However, with no identification except for the distinctive shoes the man was wearing, and no reports of people missing from the Venice area, the case cannot progress. Brunetti soon realises why he remembers the dead man, and asks Signorina Elettra if she can help him find footage of a farmers' protest the previous autumn. But what was his involvement with the protest, and what does it have to do with his murder? Acting on the fragile lead, Brunetti and Inspector Vianello set out to uncover the man's identity. Their investigation eventually takes them to a slaughterhouse on the mainland, where they discover the origin of the crime, and the world of blackmail and corruption that surrounds it.

Having noticed that I hadn't read the latest two Brunetti cases, I was very keen to get my hands on them again after such a long time, especially as I'm planning to visit Venice again this summer. As always, I enjoyed the Venetian setting and the Italian charm of the crime fiction and I also enjoyed the story line around Dottore Nava. However, I found that this book included more ramblings about politics, corruption and EU policies than any of the previous novels. I wouldn't have minded that too much if it had been part of a character's views, but often this was the narrator's voice and as such actually slowed the story down. A shame...