Blood Spilt

Larsson, Asa. Blood Spilt. Translated by Marlaine Delargy. New York: Viking, 2004.

Reason read: to continue the series started in June in honor of Larsson’s birth month.

Rebecka Martinsson returns after killing three people in The Sun Storm. That seems pretty incredible when you consider Rebecka is a tax lawyer. But, she had a good reason. (In other words, read the book.) When we catch up with Martinsson in The Blood Spilt she has been on sick leave and struggling with post traumatic stress.
Police woman Anna-Maria Mella and her partner, Inspector Sven-Erik Stalnacke are also back in Blood Spilt. They are dealing with the murder of Mildred Nilsson, a controversial and strongly disliked and equally liked priest who was found murdered. To catch you up on Anna-Maria, she was pregnant during Sun Storm and is now on maternity leave a year and a half later after giving birth to her son, Gustav.
Back to the plot.
Anna – Maria and Sven-Erik have their work cut out for them. Any number of people could have killed Mildred. Husbands in particular had the strongest motive. Mildred’s life work was rescuing battered women from abusive spouses. She was responsible for households torn apart leaving the menfolk left to care for the children left behind and the upkeep of their homes. Additionally, Mildred was on a crusade to save the grey wolf which put her at odds with farmers and hunters alike. Personally, I could have done without the Yellow Legs subplot. I think the story would have held up just fine without it.
Rebecka inevitably gets caught up in the murder when she befriends a mentally challenged boy who might have witnessed the crime.
As an aside, if you are an animal lover this book will be really hard to read. Just saying!

Lines I liked, “And at the same time: loneliness had her on its hook, a barb through her heart, reeling her in” (p 176. “The hardness of the heart is a remarkable thing” (p 229), and “There’s no room for him among the grieving” (p 293).

Author fact: Larsson was a tax lawyer just like Rebecka Martinsson.

Book trivia: You can read The Blood Spilt without tackling The Sun Storm but if you are going to read both it is recommended to read the books in order, Sun Storm before Blood Spilt.
Another piece of trivia: Larsson includes a few references to cultural icons such as Astrid Lindgren (Swedish author who wrote Pippi Longstocking among others), Abba and Niklas Stromstedt. As an aside, the latter reminds me of Dennis Quaid in some pictures.

Confessional: I had to look up “Modesty Blaise” to see what Rebecka’s colleague was referring to when she said Rebecka was the firm’s very own Modesty Blaise.
Second confessional: I am always wary of “death seems to follow me” characters, especially when they have no business getting caught up in murder (like park rangers and lawyers).

Nancy said: nothing specific about The Blood Spilt.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 222).


Sun Storm

Larsson, Asa. Sun Storm. Translated by Marlaine Delargy. Read by Hillary Huber. New York: Bantam Dell, 2003.

Reason read: June is Larsson’s birth month.

Rebecka Martinsson had fled her small town of Kiruna many years ago to become a successful tax attorney in Stockholm. She attempted to escape scandal involving sex and the church and hasn’t been back since. You can fill in details between the lines, but readers will not know the exact reason why she disappeared all those years ago until much later in the book. They only know Rebecka reluctantly returns only after being called by an old friend needing legal advice and emotional support. Sanna has been accused of murdering her much beloved evangelical brother, Viktor Strandgard. When all of the obvious evidence, including motive, points to Sanna as the killer Rebecka must dig deep to uncover the truth.
Probably the best part of Larsson’s writing is how descriptive she is with people and places. I especially liked how flawed and broken most of her characters were.

Author fact: Sun Storm is Larsson’s first novel.

Narrator fact: Huber does a great job with the different character’s voices. Rebecka Martinsson as a lawyer is strong and direct while Sanna Strandgard, whose brother has just been found murdered, is weak and frightened. Even the male voices are well done.

Book trivia: Sun Storm won an award for Best First Crime Novel.

Nancy said: just that Sun Storm won the Swedish award for Best First Crime Novel, which I already mentioned.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 222).


Sacrificial June

June was all about giving up various elements of my life for the sake of family. I’ll go off the book review protocol to say one nice gesture threw off a myriad of plans. Because of one nice gesture I:

  • sacrificed a camping trip,
  • postponed my first trip of the season to Monhegan,
  • cancelled plans with my mother,
  • lost four training days,
  • lost hours of sleep but gained a kink in my back due to sleeping on an air mattress,
  • got behind on reading and writing end of year reports,
  • spent more money than I budgeted due to a cancelled flight,
  • missed a day of work, and
  • have no idea if I actually helped or not.

Anyway. Enough of that. On with the books:

Fiction:

  • Book of Reuben by Tabitha King
  • Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • Sun Storm by Asa Larsson

Nonfiction:

  • Soldiers of God by Robert Kaplan
  • From a Persian Tea House by Michael Carroll

Series continuations:

  • Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov
  • Because of the Cats by Nicholas Freeling
  • Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian
  • Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope

Short Stories:

  • “Shadow Show” by Clifford Simak
  • “The Life and Times of Estelle Walks Above”
    by Sherman Alexie
  • “At the Rialto” by Connie Willis
  • “The Answers” by Clifford Simak
  • “Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield
  • “What You Pawn I will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie
  • “Brokeback Mountain” by Annie Proulx
  • “Harrowing Journey” by Joel P. Kramer
  • “Ado” by Connie Willis

Because of the Cats

Freeling, Nicholas. Because of the Cats. New York: Penguin Books, 1963.

Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of May 15th – May 21st being Police Week.

Whenever an author takes you on a journey to describe the landscape I always imagine a giant bird flying over the land. For the first few pages of Because of the Cats you get that same sensation. The reader looks down on the bigger picture of where the story takes place, this time in the small town of Bloemendaal. It is a simple place usually bereft of crime. Chief Inspector Piet Van der Valk is back on the case when a rash of burglaries escalates to rape in his jurisdiction. As Chief Inspector of the Morals and Children department his focus turns to a group of teens from Bloemendaal. This seems impossible as the town is virtually crime free and all of the suspects are rich. Why would they need to commit break-ins? Why? Because of the cats!
Because prostitution is legal in Amsterdam, law enforcement have a different relationship with the ladies of the night. Van der Valk allows Fedora to pick him up and bring him home for dinner. He even tells her, “You don’t bother my morals” (p 17). Pay attention to this woman for she is essential to the case.

The first reference to cats is when one of the rapists declares, “the cats won’t like it” (p 11).

Quote I liked, “It was, he knew from experience, fatal to fall in love with a theory” (p 25).

Author fact: when Love in Amsterdam was published and it became a success, Freeling said he was able to stop cooking other people’s dinners.

Book trivia: Because of the Cats was made into a Dutch-Belgium movie in 1973.

Nancy said: Pearl admitted Because of the Cats was one of the best mysteries because she admitted to feeling creeped-out when she finished it. If you can remember the sensation long after you have finished the book, that’s the sign of a good plot.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 119).


Love in Amsterdam

Freeling, Nicholas. Love in Amsterdam. New York: Harper & Row, 1962.

Reason read: Police Week is May 15th – 20th…or something like that.

When we meet first Martin he has already been locked up for two weeks for allegedly murdering his ex-lover, Elsa.
In the first sections of Love in Amsterdam Inspector Van der Valk is an unusual cop with unorthodox methods of investigation. It is up to him to solve the crime and I have to admit, he is the most interesting part of the whole story. His philosophy this: it doesn’t matter whether Martin says or believes he is innocent or if he is in fact guilty as all get out. Inspector Van der Valk is going to let Martin into his confidences and listen to every rambling theory. He is going to allow Martin in on every part of the detailed investigation because the more he and Martin spend together the more the truth will emerge. Sooner or later Inspector Van der Valk will get his man. It is an unusual way to go about solving a crime, allowing his best suspect to be an active part of the investigation, but it works.
The second part of Love in Amsterdam is all about Martin’s past revealing motive for the murder: how he knew the victim, the subsequent relationship they had, and how it all fell apart in the end. Is this section supposed to cast doubt on Martin’s innocence?
The final section is a frantic wrapping up of the case. The murderer is revealed and Inspector Van der Valk gets his man.
Stanley Ellin said it best when he described Love in Amsterdam as having “the sinister, spellbinding perfection of a cobra uncoiling.” That is definitely true for the first part of the story.

Quotes to quote, “Dead bodies are not frightening nor are they communicative” (p 21) and “Professor Comenius watched everything with slightly protuberant, healthy lobster eyes” (p 142).

Author fact: Freeling was British, lived in Holland, and died in France.

Book trivia: Love in Amsterdam was Freeling’s first book. It was made into a television show for the BBC as well.

Nancy said: Pearl said “Freeling’s psychological mysteries…remain a classic of the genre” ( Book Lust p 120).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “I Love a Mystery” (p 117).


June Not Jumping

This has become a morbid joke but I’m not going to the island so there is no chance of me jumping off anything this month. There is time for books, though. Here’s the list:

Fiction:

  • Book of Reuben by Tabitha King – in honor of June being the month when a lot of people (my sister included) like to get married.
  • Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – in honor of Suicide Prevention Day being in June in some states.
  • Sun Storm by Asa Larsson – in honor of Larsson’s birth month being in June.

Nonfiction:

  • Soldiers of God by Robert Kaplan – in honor of Kaplan’s birth month being in June.
  • From a Persian Tea House by Michael Carroll – in recognition of Khomeini’s death in the month of June.

Series continuations:

  • Because of the Cats by Nicholas Freeling – to continue the series started in May.
  • Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov – to continue the never-ending series started in January.
  • Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope – to continue the series started in April.
  • Blue at the Mizzen by Patrick O’Brian – to continue the series started in May.

Short stories for National Short Story Month:

  • “Shadow Show” by Clifford Simak
  • “The Answers” by Clifford Simak
  • “The Life and Times of Estelle…” by Sherman Alexie
  • “What You Pawn I Will Redeem” by Sherman Alexie
  • “Garden Party” by Katherine Mansfield
  • “At the Rialto” by Connie Willis

May Flowers Books

I can’t even begin to describe May. My first time to the Southwest. My first time traveling with family. Many different firsts. But, enough of that. Here are the books:

Fiction:

  • The Man in Gray Flannel by Sloan Wilson
  • Mariner’s Compass by Earlene Fowler
  • Bear Comes Home by Rafi Zabor
  • Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
  • Five Children and It by E. Nesbit

Nonfiction:

  • Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs
  • Farthest North by Dr. Fridtjof Nansen

Series Continuation:

  • Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
  • Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters