Review of the Year 2022

During 2022, I have managed to read 60 books. Not all of them crime, though that does take up a large percentage of the titles. The makeup is:

Okay so by now you may have realised that I’m also a bit of a geek and I love my spreadsheets, but there you go.

As you can see 24 pure crime books and a further 18 of fantasy crime books.

As for stars, well I’m apparently getting a bit tight on giving stars. Or possibly I’m just enjoying fantasy crime more than crime, because the distribution of stars and the averages by genre surprised me.

I know most people give their favourite books of the year, but honestly, I’m struggling to bring the list down to do that.

Of pure crime my favourites have to be split in two. For UK crime, it would have been “The Safe House” by Louise Mumford. I loved the premise, I like that it’s set locally (relatively) to me. Mr Wiffles is just wonderful! Plus, it’s just a cracking good read and I would highly recommend it. For overseas crime, has to be “The Rabbit Factor” by Antti Tuomainen. It’s funny, unexpected, gives a good sense of location, and the lead character is an actuary, and it’s so rare to find a hero who’s that interested in maths. And he has a cat. I do like a cat (see Crime Cats).

Of the fantasy crime, I’m really struck for picking just one. I loved “The Invisible Library” by Genevieve Cogman, but I read it for the second time this year, which shows that I really loved it (and the series that follows). Then I read “Doing Time” by Jodi Taylor. This is the first of the Time Police books and I loved it, laughed out loud and really loved the characters and all they are up to. Then, in December, I read “The Stranger Times” by CK McDonnell, this was a birthday gift from my hubby (my birthday is the end of November), and I read it in like two sittings because I couldn’t put it down. The premise alone made me smile, sections of the books, and sometimes individual lines made me laugh out loud. It’s intelligent and sassy, irreverent and, at times, beautiful. Unusually, my hubby also read it and enjoyed it.

I would recommend any of the above, so give one or two a go. Of the fantasy crime books, unless you are into fantasy, the most pure crime one is in fact “The Stranger Times”, so if you’re going to step outside the norm, give that one a try.

The point really is all about enjoying reading. Read books, talk about books, share books, but most importantly, find some books you love. Doesn’t matter what genre you read, I don’t believe in getting sniffy about any of them, just read what you enjoy. Have fun!

Book Review – The Moose Paradox by Antti Tuomainen

Blurb

Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen has finally restored order both to his life and to YouMeFun, the adventure park he now owns, when a man from the past appears – and turns everything upside down again. More problems arise when the park’s equipment supplier is taken over by a shady trio, with confusing demands. Why won’t Toy of Finland Ltd sell the new Moose Chute to Henri when he needs it as the park’s main attraction?

Meanwhile, Henri’s relationship with artist Laura has reached breaking point, and, in order to survive this new chaotic world, he must push every calculation to its limits, before it’s too late…

Absurdly funny, heart-stoppingly poignant and full of nail-biting suspense, The Moose Paradox is the second instalment in the critically acclaimed, pitch-perfect Rabbit Factor Trilogy and things are messier than ever…

My Review

As with The Rabbit Factor, this book starts with an attack, and then goes back to explain how mild-mannered Henri got dragged into whatever deadly situation he’s in this time. This time the trouble comes in the form of a dead man walking. The Dead Man Walking predictably then drags Henri and YouMeFun into trouble. That is the trouble is predictable, the way he does it is more of a surprise. Using white collar crime in these books shows that there are more crooks in business than in prison, and the way that everything works out just goes to show how incredibly intelligent Henri is.

I love Henri. I understand Henri. Dead Man Walking on the other hand is someone I’d want to punch from the moment he showed his face. Laura is lovely as ever, though she seems to walk all over Henri too, though of course he doesn’t mind. The people surrounding Henri are all lost in their own little worlds and while Henri tries (and usually fails) to really understand them, it’s less convincing that they are trying to understand Henri. Though Minttu K is surprisingly supportive in this instalment. Of course, Detective Inspector Osmala does a good turn in this book, several of the descriptions reminded me of Mr Incredible, especially those relating to the car.

I found this book less gripping, and slower than The Rabbit Factor, but as it’s the middle of a trilogy, it’s not unusual for the second book to be the problem middle child.  I did still enjoy it, and I am looking forward to book three of the trilogy.

Crime Cats

I like cats, always have. I openly admit to being a cat slave, though of late, the cat has been mostly concentrating on domesticating my husband. 

Recently I was asked to recommend a few reading books for Christmas, and as I was going through it struck me how many of them included cats. 

For those who love cats, I have no doubt you totally understand what is it to be a cat captive, and those who don’t, well it’s hard to put into words, but while dogs are said to be man’s best friend on a species level cats have actually been more successful in domesticating humans for their own survival, and they don’t even have to submit to leads, walkies or obedience training. Or in fact, doing anything for their owners. Why we put up with it is anyone’s guess.  

Probably the best known criminal cat is the big fluffy one Blofeld had in James Bond. Which is kind of similar to Nero the over excited powder puff that Baron Silas Greenback had in Danger Mouse. And yes, you can expect wild swings in references like this.

Anyway, I just wanted to share a list of the cats in crime books that I’ve enjoyed. The cat isn’t always prominent, but you know what cats are like, they only come out when they want to. The lists are in no particular order except grouping.

Here are the obviously crime books

  • Schopenhauer in The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen 
  • Gramsci in the Venetian series by Philip Gwynne Jones
  • Dexter in the Dexter and Sinister Detective Agency books by Keith W Dickinson
  • The Trinity Cat by Ellis Peters (a short story in the Murder on Christmas Eve collection)
  • Even Henry turns up at the end of the Dead Man’s Prayer by Jackie Baldwin.

Less obviously crime:

  • The Cat Who Saved Books by Sôsuke Natsukawa (there are obvious crimes, but this is really a coming of age book)

Fantasy and Crime

  • The Terror and the Tortoiseshell by John Travis (only read a couple of pages so far)
  • Gladstone in Aether Chronicles by Abi Barden 

Good books with cats that are only here because of the cat

  • Nanny Ogg has Greebo in Terry Pratchett’s Diskworld, which are criminally funny.
  • The Dire-Cate in Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree (High Fantasy, Low stakes)
  • The Unlikley Ones by Mary Brown has a cat, a crow, a toad, a goldfish, a horse and a dragon. (For the YA crowd)

Crime Books with cats that I haven’t read:

  • Max the Detective Cat by Sarah Todd Taylor (for children)
  • Murder Past Due (Cat in the Stacks Mystery) by Dean James
  • The No2 Feline Detective Agency by Mandy Morton
  • Meow if it’s Murder by TC LoTempio
  • Purrfect Murder by Nic Saint
  • Mystery Cats: Felonious Felines from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (it’s a collection so lots of names)

Other notable non-cat familiars include:

  • Toby the Dog in the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch.
  • The Chronicles of St Mary’s has a chicken (don’t ask) by Jodi Taylor
  • Irene Winters has a dragon in The Secret Library (okay so it’s Prince Kai and he’s gorgeous in human form, but I wanted to include because good books and well – a dragon! Several dragons, in fact)

I have absolutely no doubt that there are others, so if you have a favourite crime cat story, please share in the comments.

Book Review – The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen

The Blurb

Just one spreadsheet away from chaos…

What makes life perfect? Insurance mathematician Henri Koskinen knows the answer because he calculates everything down to the very last decimal.

And then, for the first time, Henri is faced with the incalculable. After suddenly losing his job, Henri inherits an adventure park from his brother – its peculiar employees and troubling financial problems included. The worst of the financial issues appear to originate from big loans taken from criminal quarters … and some dangerous men are very keen to get their money back.

But what Henri really can’t compute is love. In the adventure park, Henri crosses paths with Laura, an artist with a chequered past, and a joie de vivre and erratic lifestyle that bewilders him. As the criminals go to extreme lengths to collect their debts and as Henri’s relationship with Laura deepens, he finds himself faced with situations and emotions that simply cannot be pinned down on his spreadsheets…

Warmly funny, rich with quirky characters and absurd situations, The Rabbit Factor is a triumph of a dark thriller, its tension matched only by its ability to make us rejoice in the beauty and random nature of life.

My Review

I picked this book up because I was in CrimeFest and I’d attended one panel with Antti Tuomainen. As soon as he mentioned beating someone to death with a giant rabbit ear, I thought “that book’s for me!” And I was right.

I loved this book from start to finish – Finnish even. No? Oh, okay then.

The very first scene is the beating a man to death with a rabbit ear, but you have no idea why. And then the why unfolds. Or maybe it unravels, because that is certainly the way Henri’s life feels, an unravelling.

I have a great deal of respect for Henri. He’s an actuary, he calculates everything. I love maths, and many years ago was accepted onto an actuarial degree course, then life happened, and I couldn’t go. But Henri did and he is very good at it. Also, Henri can’t stand touchy-feely emotionally connective management speak. Totally with you there Henri.

And he had a haughty cat, what cat owner doesn’t? This one is Schopenhauer. I love Schopenhauer. I just kind of wanted Schopenhauer to have had a more active role, but there again, cat, it’ll do what it wants.

Anyway, Henri loses his job, a job he loved – other than the management twaddle – and then he loses his brother. Who leaves him an adventure park. Note that it is an adventure park, not an amusement park, Henri is most particular about that. Then things really change for Henri.

As a fish out of water story, this one is a doozy. As the tale of an innocent caught up in a criminal world, it’s a cracker. It even works as a character sketch of a cat and a pessimist (the philosopher, not the cat, though, who knows…). There’s even a bit of a love story for the softer of heart, but not so much the harder of heart will sneer and put it aside. In other words the funny, the criminal, the ouch and the ahhs are all in perfect balance.

There were a couple of phrases that jumped out when I was reading as lost in translation, but that might be just me not getting it.

This book is just wonderful, and it should be read. Highly recommend.