Bleed a River Deep is the third in Brian McGilloway's Inspector Devlin series and it seemed a long time since I read the last one. But not to worry, I was soon into this novel's plot and experienced timely reminders of what had gone before.
"In a safe pair of hands" applies to the author as well as the character Benedict Devlin. McGilloway provides yet another tale full of plot twists, with Devlin wrestling his conscience as he seeks justice for the victims and takes work home with him, sometimes literally. The prose is simple, but packs a punch when conjuring up the moment, the emotion, the person. Take the opening paragraph, for example:
The last time I saw Leon Bradley with a gun in his hand, he was standing in our garden at home. Only five years old and a little under three feet tall, he had a cowboy hat tipped back on his head, his hair, strands of fine spun gold, hanging in his eyes. My younger brother, Tom, who was playing the Indian, had taken refuge in our shed, sharpening his plastic knife in preparation for a scalping.
Many of us will remember days like that one.
Most of us can name authors whose work we anticipate so keenly that we know not whether to devour or savour a new volume. For me, Laurie R. King fell into that category over ten years ago and now, with her 19th novel, we see the most welcome return of Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes in what turns into the most personal of their cases.
The Language of Bees is the follow-up to 2005's bestselling Locked Rooms. It is 1924 and we see Russell and Holmes return to Sussex after seven months of travel through India, Japan and California. As well as the mystery of the disappearance of an entire colony of bees from one of Holmes's hives, their homecoming is disrupted even before crossing the threshold by the unexpected reappearance of a disturbingly familiar face from the past. Damian Adler, a talented young painter, is seeking their help in locating his missing wife and child.
Well, the competition for female Scandinavian crime authors writing of dark places of both the mind and geography, but with some added and well-placed humour just heated up. Yrsa Sigurðardóttir remains in the lead for me, but having read The Preacher, Camilla Läckberg is certainly hot on her tails. Women will love this one – and men prepared to laugh at their own sex – where men are portrayed in all their dignified and undignified glory. And it seems that Swedish men are very similar to British men; take the summer BBQ for example:
“…As usual, the males gathered round the barbecue, feeling like he-men while the women sat and talked. Erica had never understood the thing about men and barbecuing. Men who would normally claim to have no idea how to cook a piece of meat in a frying pan regarded themselves as complete virtuosos when it came to getting the meat exactly right on an outdoor grill. Women might be entrusted to provide the side dishes, and they also functioned as excellent beer-fetchers.”
Ms Läckberg had me chuckling on many an occasion and it has to be said that there are certainly very dark elements in this rather clever crime novel, which kept me guessing until the end.
Läckberg’s other main depiction-of-character-skill lies with children, and the novel opens with a wonderful passage describing a naughty six year old boy getting up early to play at the King’s Cleft, a forbidden location because of its seclusion. Unfortunately, he never gets to play as he quickly discovers the corpse of a naked woman and when he works out that the woman is dead he runs home, no longer fearful of a scolding. When the cops and forensics arrive, two skeletons are then discovered underneath the woman’s body.
Notified of the meme by Maxine, I got the details from one of her links: Sunnie's Book Blog. The idea is that you list 15 books that will always stick with you, within 15 minutes. I compiled the list within the 15 minutes and added the extra text later. I won't tag a further 15, but I invite you to do the same, if you feel like doing so. Here are mine, in a sort of chronological order:
Anon – Go Ask Alice
When our school’s Religious Education lessons went further off-topic, we read this book. Until then, I had been a naïve teenager. Some thirty years on, the book remains in print.
L. P. Hartley – The Go Between
Another one from school and about adult relationships. Oo, er. I later loved the film too, although the story’s rather sad.
Mary Higgins Clark – A Stranger is Watching
The Early Warning Signal that I was in for a life of crime (fiction). I wasn’t actually too keen on the English literature we did at school. The fact that my English Language teacher saw me with this and asked to borrow it gave it credibility.