I'm aiming to read about 6-7 books per month in 2012 (78 total, or one and a half a week, down from 2 per week in 2011 - going for quality over quantity a little more this year), of which around four to five per month will be crime novels (I'm trying to read a little more broadly than my 88 per cent crime fiction intake in 2011) - so each month I will share the crime novels I've read, provide a few brief comments, and choose a pick of the month'. In my case, I might not always pick the 'best' book, but perhaps the one I enjoyed the most, for whatever reason, or the one that is lesser known but that I think readers should give a go.
For February 2012, I read four crime novels (I’m partway through a fifth as we head into March):
- TAKEN by Robert Crais: I’m quite a fan of Crais, particularly his series starring Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, but I was pretty underwhelmed by this latest instalment. Cole is hired to find a missing girl and her boyfriend – who may or may not be in danger. Then Cole himself is kidnapped, and Pike is on a race-against-the-clock to find him. There’s some interesting things about people smuggling in this book, but overall it just felt unfinished, like it had been rushed to print. There wasn’t the depth of character etc usually found in Crais’s writing – it was more of a breezy airport thriller, and the jumping perspectives distracted, rather than adding to the tension. It just felt ‘thin’, which is a shame in a series that has been really good at having layers beneath the exciting plots. 3 stars.
- CATCH ME by Lisa Gardner: I liked, didn’t love, Gardner’s LOVE YOU MORE, which came out last year. But whatever qualms I had about the depth of characters and engagement with the story of that novel were whisked away by this latest tale, which for me was far superior. Boston detective DD Warren is approached by a woman who thinks she’s going to be killed in four days; at the same time Warren is investigating a series of slayings of child molesters. Are the cases linked? Is the woman crazy? Told from the perspectives of the two main females, but packed with plenty of other interesting and layered characters, and flashes of insight into wider ‘human’ desires, fears, and more CATCH ME really is an emotionally tense page-turner that hooks you early and doesn’t let go. 4.5 stars.
- OPEN SEASON by CJ Box: it’s back to the beginning with Box’s debut, which introduced his terrific series character, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett. When a poacher who once stole Joe’s gun winds up dead in the game warden’s woodpile, life for the Pickett family will never be the same. When the case comes to an all-too-easy close, Joe wants to keep digging – which is something hidden forces really don’t want. Box combines a beautiful touch for the rural setting – the small communities, diverse people, attitudes, concerns and politics, clash between appreciating and living off the environment, etc – with exciting storytelling and marvellous characters. 4+ stars
For me this month, there were three very good books, and one okay/disappointing book. As much as I enjoyed CJ Box’s debut and Zirk van den Berg’s exciting South African set thriller, in a close call my Pick of the Month for February is CATCH ME by Lisa Gardner. I was very impressed with this book – I was fully caught up in the book from both a plot and character sense, and it was a significant step up from what I'd read from this author before. Now I can see why other readers and reviewers praise her writing.
With CATCH ME, I felt emotionally invested and engaged in what was going on, much more so than with LOVE YOU MORE – with which I felt a ‘wonder what will happen’ desire to turn the pages, but nothing more - and the twists and turns that Gardner took me on during this ride seemed organic rather than contrived. Her characters, from ongoing heroine DD Warren to an intriguing cast of supporting character, ‘ring true’, while still being interesting and having unique voices or perspectives. A crime novel that delivers everything fans of popular long-running series love.
What has been your best crime fiction read of February? Please feel free to share your choices with me here in the comments section, and with all of us on Kerrie's meme at Mysteries in Paradise.