Tuesday, March 31, 2015

2015 Global Reading Challenge: Progress Report

As I noted back in February, I've signed up for the 2015 Global Reading Challenge, a terrific initiative set up by crime bloggers back in 2010, encouraging people to read more widely, to try new authors, and try books written or set in a range of different countries and regions.

I've chosen to go for the expert challenge: three books from each of seven continents, with each book to be from a different country/state.

Participants can chose other parameters, beyond the 1-3 books per continent requirement. I will focus on crime fiction for this challenge (though I will read other books this year), and I'll generally list books by the setting first, while also seeking to read as many author nationalities as possible too - ie I will see if I can tick off the challenge on both fronts. I'll go for books at least partially set in exotic/unusual places, although I will list them by their main setting first.

Here's my progress so far, with books read and acquired, as of 31 March 2015.

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. TBC

  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. To be reviewed.  
  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. TBC

  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 print
  2. 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. Australia: TBC
Other books read for this continent: BLOOD, WINE & CHOCOLATE by Julie Thomas (Waiheke Island, NZ); 

  1. Iceland: FROZEN OUT by Quentin Bates (Robinson, 2011). The discovery of a corpse washed up on a beach sparks a series of events that propels the village of Hvalvik's police sergeant Gunnhildur into the deep waters of a cosmopolitan world of shady deals, hired killers, government corruption and violence. Author nationality: English. Status: Read
  2. 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
  3. Greece: ASSASSINS OF ATHENS by Jeffrey Siger (Piatkus, 2009). When the body of a boy from one of Greece's most prominent families turns up in a dumpster in one of Athens' worst neighbourhoods, Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis - now head of the Special Crimes Division - is certain there's a message in the murders. But who sent it - and why? Author nationality: USA. Status: On shelf/To be read. 
Other books read for this continent: PRAYER FOR THE DEAD by James Oswald (Scotland); 

  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. Translated: from Spanish by Peter Bush. Status: On shelf/To be read. 
  2. TBC
  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
  2. Canada: TBC
  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
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); 

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 to be 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: Currently reading
  3. TBC

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.

Feedback welcome.

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