After a very successful month of reading in October, I wanted to keep it up this month. I’m fairly impressed as this month was certainly just as busy and more importantly, I really enjoyed the books I read!
The Axeman’s Jazz – Ray Celestin
Set in early 1900s New Orleans, this is a classic crime thriller against a backdrop of a time when jazz was becoming more and more popular and racism and segregation remained. With three different threads, we follow the story of a set of murders by a mysterious, jazz-loving axeman.
It’s been a while since I’d read an out and out crime thriller. Particularly one I enjoyed so much as well. It helps that I’m very interested in New Orleans, the amount it’s been through, the amount of things it’s spawned and its ability to continually rebuild itself storm after storm. All threads that are well explored in this. For a British author to write so confidently about an American city (set in the past) is impressive. At no point do you not believe the setting, Celestin does a great of building the world and allowing you to feel right in the heart of it. For all of its flaws, I would love to be able to go back in time and spend a day there.
There are four central characters that we stay with virtually the whole time. Ida and Lewis (soon to become Louie Armstrong, very clever!) who can offer an insight into how difficult it was to be anything other than white in the early 1900s. Given the way the world is shifting again right now, it was sort of depressing to know that one or two quick clicks on the internet would reveal modern day stories of hate in an all too similar way. These two provide our more independent look into events, choosing to investigate their own threads on a personal mission. We’re connected to the police and the investigation from the centre through Michael, a particularly interesting character. Then there was Luca, a former cop, just released from prison and asked to look into it for entirely different reasons. I really enjoyed his character and the development throughout.
It does a good job of not only writing about, but discussing the issues of racism, oppression, segregation and sexism, the writer’s stand-point both a positive and clear one.
Without wanting to give any of the plot, or reveals away, because it’s a book worth reading, I loved some of the touches in it. The way he brought a storm into the plot at the head of it all coming together. The first of a series, featuring a couple of the aforementioned characters, I look forward to reading the next one, set in Chicago.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz
I’ll admit that I was sceptical that somebody else could continue on Stieg Larsson’s quite fine, and neatly ended, Millenium Trilogy series but I really liked this. I didn’t realise how much I wanted more Lisbeth and Mikael until I read this in the space of three days (not that impressive to reading aficionados but very good for somebody who barely finds an hour a day to read usually). It probably helps of course that the members of Larsson’s estate, commissioned this. The closest Lagercrantz could get to a proper nod of approval.
It starts off at a brisk pace and rarely lets off, making it yet another page-turner. It felt like the characters were accurately portrayed too. Their traits that we know and love were well honoured and the story, while not quite as great as those that preceded it, is still very interesting and makes it a page-turner. It was interesting to have other characters, like Gabriella Grane, reappear too, a nice little touch I thought.
When I last read the trilogy, I’d been to Sweden but not to Stockholm. After a pretty fantastic holiday there in 2015, it was great to read the book knowing I’d walked some of the streets being described. The maps included were a great touch too. I’m a sucker for maps and illustration in my literature! As with so many works of diction, be it television, film or books, it makes clever use of weather to up the mood and the intensity.
I don’t think this is a spoiler, but I’ll be a little more vague than I could be. The geekier part of me also loved the mini delve into Marvel that this book makes, when discussing Lisbeth’s hacker name and the way her enemies have set themselves up. I felt this book was definitely heavier for Lisbeth’s story, which truly felt it honoured Larsson who wrote her so well. She’s such a fantastic and important character so it was nice to delve a little more into her past once again.
It would have been interesting to have seen what Lagercrantz would have done with Larsson’s notes for where he saw both the story and the characters going (he started with virtually a free license after the late author’s girlfriend blocked the notes/material being released), but it might have been for the best. You can tell in the way that it’s written that he cares for the characters and is mindful of what came before this so as not to go against the grain.
He chose to explore modern ideas and concerns too, the big brother state of affairs that allow those in power to survey practically anybody and anything they like. Plus the more complicated idea of AI. The book doesn’t stray into the theory or the technical aspects too much, but still manages to convey the threats that both have, or can cause. It taps into the things that always make Blomkvist’s world turn too; corruption and abuse of power.
It’s said that Larsson envisaged as many as ten books for these characters, and this one tied us up quite nicely for more to follow. One potential spoiler? I really enjoyed getting Blomkvist and Salander back together, in whatever way, so the ending was very satisfactory.
Blizzard – Issue Twenty-two
My Dad’s the one who began to introduce me to football fanzines, or more independent magazines. Blizzard is thicker, with more content to read than the average fanzine, it’s a collection of essays about various themes. International football was a big topic as this issue came out shortly after the Euros. Some were more interesting than others but particular highlights for me were the features on Colombia’s national team, along with the piece on Wales, Accrington Stanley and the Manuel Pellegrini piece. Worth a read, or a subscription, for anybody even half interested in the sport.
Bonus Book – Truman Capote – In Cold Blood
I hadn’t intended to read this one this month, I didn’t even own it until halfway through the month. While out on a client meeting for my job, the client gave myself and a colleague a copy to read. With me having rather burned through my other reading material and not wanting to skip ahead to my planned December reads, it made sense to give this a go.
I knew roughly of the story, of how Capote had chosen to write this, but I’d just not gotten around to reading it. It’s certainly interesting. While not the thickest book, it foregoes the traditional length of chapters, each one seemed to be closer to 70-100 pages, which made the temptation to just keep reading even worse. I’ll admit that I didn’t get on with it in quite the way I did with my other main books this month. The other two engaged me more quickly. This was incredibly intriguing, don’t get me wrong, but the rather grim subject matter (and knowing it really happened) didn’t help initially. It picks up as it progresses though.
I did like the originality of it though. I’ve not read many crime stories told in such a way and I respect Capote for digging so deep to provide him with the material. It’s an interesting insight into the criminal mind, if not frustrating at the same time. When I was reading about how he’d come to write this afterwards, it’s alleged he had 8,000+ pages of research. Which is astonishing if true. That’s dedication right there.
+ The 100 (on Kindle so no photo)