I'm really not sure how I manage to kid myself that I have enough time to blog, read or knit much in December, but I fall for it every year. Somehow, between one December and the next I forget that it's not just the extra day of work each week that sucks up my spare time (such as it is) but also the weariness that comes from working extra, extra hard for those few crucial weeks in the shop. Someone remind me next year, will you?
Anyway it's all over now, bar the January sales, and I have a few days off (in a row!) now so I can get back up to date with the blog and the housework and all the other sad neglected stuff.
I'm having a little trouble remembering what I've read since the last update. I went on a bit of a Stuart MacBride kick, reading first Dark Blood (out in paperback in January) and then the proof of Shatter the Bones (thanks to Karen at Eurocrime for that). Both are excellent. They seem to be getting darker though as the series goes on, less of the gallows humour, more of the stuff that makes you wince when you read it. They're not for the faint-hearted these books, but they are well-written and the characters are wonderful. I do think, should you be reading this Stuart, that it may be time you gave Logan McRae a break - how much misery can you heap on one man? Can something nice happen to him? Just once?
I had a proof (courtesy of Little, Brown) of the new Dennis Lehane novel Moonlight Mile (out in hardback in January), which is a long-awaited return to his Kenzie-Gennaro partnership. The story is set some 12 years after the events of Gone Baby, Gone in which the four year old Amanda McCready was kidnapped. Amanda's aunt contacts Patrick because Amanada is missing again. Patrick, who's doing corporate investigative work to pay the bills (and hating it) really doesn't want to open that old can of worms again, to rehash all those old moral dilemmas, especially as he's still not sure he did the right thing back then. Eventually though he gets dragged back into the case, and into a world he thought he'd left behind. This is intelligent crime fiction at it's best. I love Lehane's writing style. He's not afraid to pose difficult moral questions of the reader and of his characters. And it's immensely readable, just sucking you straight into the story and keeping you gripped, right to the end. I really didn't want to put it down. This caused me a problem with my Christmas knitting, but more of that later.
Now I'm reading Telling Tales by Ann Cleeves, which is one of the books being adapted for TV by ITV. The series will be called Vera (after the main detective Vera Stanhope) and stars Brenda Blethyn. My copy is a battered ex-library paperback, but they've been repackaged for the TV series with new covers and are in the shops now.
Also at the moment I am reading Findings by Kathleen Jamie. This was recommended by someone, either a fellow blogger, or on a podcast somewhere, I really can't remember, but it sounded interesting. It's very much a book to dip in and out of meaning that it's been perfect for December when I haven't really been able to concentrate on anything for long. All I knew about this book was that the writer lived in Fife and that it was a sort of travelogue of her journeys around Scotland. Reading the first few chapters however I realised that I recognised some of the landscapes she was describing, and it turns out that she lives in Newburgh, where my parents used to live, and where I lived myself for a few years before I left home. This makes it all the more interesting to me, quite apart from the fascinating detail about wildlife and the landscape and history which pepper the narrative. She's obviously very influenced by George MacKay Brown who is one of my favourite writers, referring to him often thoughout the pages. If it was you who recommended this then I thank you. One of my favourite books this year.
Talking of favourite books - it's that time again. Time to figure out my favourite European crime books of the year for Karen's annual list over at Eurocrime. And next up - drumroll - the traditional Mysterious Yarns Book Awards.