Thursday, September 3, 2015

2015 Global Reading Challenge: Progress Report III

Like many, I grew up with crime fiction set in the United States (Hardy Boys, for me) and England (Sherlock Holmes, Poirot). While those two countries have provided plenty of great murder mysteries over the decades, the rest of the world is full of terrific writing and amazing tales that are sometimes overlooked. 

I've signed up for the 2015 Global Reading Challenge, a terrific annual initiative set up by crime bloggers Dorte and Kerrie a few years ago, which encourages booklovers to read more widely, try new authors, and try books written or set in a range of different countries and regions.

I've chosen the expert challenge: three books from each of seven continents, with each book to be from a different country/state. I will focus on crime fiction for this challenge, and I'll be aiming to read books from as many different author nationalities, as well as settings, as possible.

Here's my progress so far, with books read and acquired, as of 2 September 2015.

AFRICA (1 of 3)
  1. South Africa: THE SERPENTINE ROAD by Paul Mendelson (Constable, 2015). A Cape Town cop who dates back to the dark days of the Apartheid era finds himself juggling politics and policing in modern-day South Africa when a rich heiress is found murdered and displayed in a macabre homage to the explicit art she promoted. Author nationality: UK Status: Read and to be Reviewed (4 stars)
  2. Botswana: DEATH OF THE MANTIS by Michael Stanley (Headline, 2011). When a series of bizarre deaths point to a nomadic bushmen tribe, Detective "Kubu" Bengu must journey into the depths of the Kalahari to uncover the truth. What he discovers there will test all his powers of detection . . . and his ability to remain alive. Author nationality: South African/USA  Status: On shelf/To be read
  3. Kenya: STRANGE GODS by Annamaria Alfieri (Minotaur, 2014). A British doctor's body is found with a tribal spear in his back. An idealistic policeman focuses on a local medicine man, but the case proves just as complicated and dangerous as the clash of colonial and local cultures. Author nationality: USA Status: On shelf/To be read
ASIA (1 of 3 read)
  1. Yemen: THE ABRUPT PHYSICS OF DYING by Paul E. Hardisty (Orenda Books, 2015). An oil company engineer with a violent past is ensnared between opposing armies, controllers of the country’s oil wealth, Yemen’s shadowy secret service, and rival factions as he tries to rescue his friend who was kidnapped by a wanted terrorist who thinks his employer is poisoning a local village. Author nationality: Australian/Canadian. Status: Read and reviewed (for Herald on Sunday newspaper). 
  2. Sri Lanka: IN THE LION'S THROAT by Bob Marriott. Motivated by the death of his younger brother, undercover Interpol cop Brett Sadler searches for a missing friend and wages war against the tidal wave of drugs flowing out of South-East Asia. Author nationality: New Zealand. Status: To be read
  3. India: A MADRAS MIASMA by Brian Stoddart. The first Inspector Le Fanu mystery, set in 1920s India as the British are slowly losing their grip on the continent. The Inspector investigates the murder of a British girl, whose body is found in the canal, against a backdrop of complex colonial politics and race relations. Author nationality: New Zealand. Status: To be read. 

  1. Christchurch, NZ: FIVE MINUTES ALONE by Paul Cleave (Penguin NZ, 2015). Old police colleagues Theo Tate and Carl Schroder, both trying to put their lives back together after several tough cases that almost destroyed them, are in action once more as someone is helping violent crime victims exact revenge on their attackers. Author nationality: New Zealand. Status: Read and reviewed in Herald on Sunday
  2. Australia and Fiordland, NZ: POISON BAY by Belinda Pollard (Small Blue Dog, 2014). Aussie TV journo Callie Brown joins friends from the past on a trek into New Zealand's most brutal wilderness, in the hope of healing a broken heart. What she doesn't know is that someone wants them all dead. Lost in every sense of the word, the hikers' primal instincts erupt. Author nationality: Australian. Status: Read and reviewed. 
  3. Auckland, NZ: SOMETHING IS ROTTEN by Adam Sarafis (Echo Publishing, 2015). A government terrorism adviser turned mechanic is coaxed into investigating the grisly ruled-a-suicide death of a budding writer in the university library, uncovering a conspiracy involving the top echelons of local politics, big business, and the military. Author nationalities: Swedish and New Zealand. Status: Read and reviewed. 
Other books read for this continent: BLOOD, WINE & CHOCOLATE by Julie Thomas (Waiheke Island, NZ); THE FIXER by John Daniell (NZ author, French setting); DATABYTE by Cat Connor (NZ author, US setting); TRUST NO ONE by Paul Cleave (Christchurch, NZ); 

  1. France: AFTER THE CRASH by Michel Bussi (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2015). Eighteen years after a tragic airline crash, a French private eye prepares to commit suicide as he hasn't solved a longstanding mystery: just who was the baby found amongst the wreckage, the sole survivor? Then everything changes. Author nationality: France: Status: Read and reviewed for the Herald on Sunday. 
  2. Sweden: THE GIRL IN THE SPIDER'S WEB by David Lagercrantz (MacLehose Press, 2015). Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist return to the page thanks to a new author, fighting against injustice in a twisting story involving the NSA, a world-renowned scientist, an autistic witness, Eastern European gangsters, and professional and personal threats much closer to home.  Author nationality: Swedish. Status: Read and reviewed. 
  3. Glasgow, Scotland: BEYOND THE RAGE by Michael J Malone (Saraband, 2015). Glasgow criminal Kenny O'Neill is angry. Not only has his high-class prostitute girlfriend just been attacked, but his father is reaching out to him from the past despite abandoning Kenny as a child after his mother s suicide. Kenny is now on a dual mission to hunt down his girl's attacker and find out the truth about his father... but instead he unravels disturbing family secrets and finds that revenge is not always sweet. Author nationality: Scottish. Status: Read and reviewed. 
Other books read for this continent: PRAYER FOR THE DEAD by James Oswald (Scotland); BROKEN DOLLS by James Carol (England); THE MISTAKE by Grant Nicol (Iceland); IN BITTER CHILL by Sarah Ward (England); THE DUNGEON HOUSE by Martin Edwards (England); FROZEN ASSETS by Quentin Bates (Iceland); INTO THE NIGHT by Jake Woodhouse (Netherlands setting, English author); THE FIELD OF BLACKBIRDS by Thomas Ryan (Kosovo setting, NZ author); A BRUSH WITH DANGER by Adam Frost (France and Russia setting, UK author). 

  1. Cuba: HAVANA GOLD by Leonardo Padura (Bitter Lemon Press, 2011). A 24-year-old teacher is beaten, raped, and then strangled. Lieutenant Conde is pressured by 'the highest authority' to conclude his investigation quickly. Set in a Havana of crumbling, grand buildings, secrets hidden behind faded doors and corruption. Yet also a eulogy to Cuba: its life of music, sex and the great friendships of those who chose to stay and fight for survival. Author nationality: Cuban. Status: On shelf/To be read. 
  2. Brazil: THE BODY SNATCHER by Patricia Melo (Bitter Lemon, 2015). Drug dealing gone wrong, police corruption, and macabre blackmail in South America, . Author nationality: Brazil: Status: On shelf/To be read. 
  3. TBC

  1. Washington DC/Virginia/Maryland (USA) + Iraq: THE NIGHT CREW by Brian Haig (Thomas & Mercer, 2015): Cocky US Army lawyer Lt Col Sean Drummond is forced to take a case with a fiercely anti-war civilian lawyer defending a naive or evil female prison guard accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners. As Drummond uncovers evidence that his client has been used as a pawn in a secret strategy involving torture, he realizes that he’s caught up in a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of government. Author nationality: USA. Status: Read and reviewed. 
  2. Canada & Mississippi: ONE NIGHT IN MISSISSIPPI by Craig Shreve (Thomas Allen, 2015): After the Department of Justice starts going after old racist killers from the Civil Rights era, forty years later, drifter Warren Williams is inspired to search for justice for his brother Graden, leading to a surprising showdown north of the border. Author nationality: Canada. Status. Read and reviewed. 
  3. Pennsylvania, USA: DEATH FALLS by Todd Ritter (Avon, 2015, originally published by Minotaur as BAD MOON in 2011). Decades after nine-year-old Charlie Olmstead went missing, presumed drowned, on the night Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, Perry Hollow Police Chief Kat Campbell is convinced by Charlie's brother to follow newfound evidence that Charlie might have been abducted, and that he wasn't the only victim. Author nationality: USA. Status: Read and reviewed. 
Other books read for this continent: MISSING YOU by Harlan Coben (New York); DON'T LOSE HER by Jonathon King (Florida); CRASH & BURN by Lisa Gardner (New Hampshire); PAST CRIMES by Glen Erik Hamilton (Seattle); SOMETIMES THE WOLF by Urban Waite (Pacific Northwest); THEY CALL ME ALEXANDRA GASTONE by TA MacLagan (Washington DC & surrounds, NZ author); BLACK EYED SUSANS by Julia Heaberlin (Texas); AMERICAN BLOOD by Ben Sanders (New Mexico, NZ author); 

For the seventh continent, which used to be Antarctica (for expert readers), participants can chose their own category - historical murder mysteries, a particular theme, etc. I have decided that since we are currently commemorating the centenary of the Great War, I will focus on books that harken back to the two world wars - whether being written during that time, set there, or being modern books whose plotlines tie into things that happened during the war and have come home to roost for the contemporary characters.
  1. Ireland and World War II: THE LOST AND THE BLIND by Declan Burke (Severn House, 2015). Journalist Tom Noone is hired to ghostwrite the biography of a forgotten thriller author but instead stumbles upon a tale of a never-discussed Nazi atrocity on Donegal. What it covered up (and if so, why) or has he been hooked by the ravings of senile old men? As he digs further and bad things start happening he realises that powerful people don't want anyone to know what's true or not. Author nationality: Ireland Status: Read and reviewed
  2. New Zealand, Italy, and WWII: THE CASSINO LEGACY by Michael Wall (Penguin, 1999). Former SAS soldier turned ski patroller Adam Kennedy's life changes when he meets glamorous Italian art expert and keen skier Toni Travato in rural New Zealand. But when someone tries to kill them both and she disappears, he's left with hundreds of unanswered questions. Who was she really? What is really going on? And how does it relate to a military scandal from fifty years ago? Author nationality: New Zealand Status: Read. To be reviewed (4.5 stars)
  3. USA and WWII: A SONG OF SHADOWS by John Connolly (Hodder & Stoughton, 2015). Charlie Parker is recovering from a near-fatal incident when he gets sucked into a swirling mix of past and present in a New England coastal town with historic links to Germany. Author nationality: Irish Status: Read and reviewed for Herald on Sunday. 

31 March 2015: I'm on to my 24th book, and 16th crime novel of the year, and so far I've covered fifteen different authors of seven different nationalities, who have set their thrillers in six different countries. So that's not too bad a start! I'm looking forward to a lot of great authors and books to come, and am excited about some of the new-to-me authors on my bookshelf.

15 June 2015: I'm on to my 45th book, and 26th crime novel of the year. I've completed four of the seven continents (Australasia, Europe, North America, and the Seventh Continent), though still need to publicise some reviews of those books. I need to find some more books for Africa, Asia, and Latin America. So far the books I've read have been set in 11 different countries, and have been written by authors of ten different nationalities. So not too bad a spread. I'm excited about completing the challenge and discovering even more great authors.

2 September 2015: I'm on to my 65th book, and 38th crime novel of the year. I haven't completed any further continents since the last update (four out of seven), but I have added several reviews, found books for the Asian and Latin American continents, and added some other countries within Europe. So far the books I've read have been set in 19 different countries, and have been written by authors of 12 different nationalities, so that's pretty good going, with more diversity still to come.

Feedback welcome.


  1. Love your blog btw. But one continent you've missed out is – Antarctica.. Although it is a political thriller and not crime fiction, so might not fit the brief, Revolution Earth is co-written by Kiwi/Irish/Brit and set on five continents – including Antarctica. And yes, full disclosure, I am one of the co-authors!

    1. Kia ora Lambert, thanks for the comment. Yes, they don't use Antarctica as the seventh continent anymore in the Global Reading Challenge - it was included back in 2011 etc for the Expert/Extremist level. Though I guess people could select it as their own seventh continent choice. I've read a couple of thrillers set in their in the past, including NZ novel WHITE FOR DANGER. I'll keep a look out for REVOLUTION EARTH as well.