July has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster all in all, with some rather unexpected and not altogether welcome personal news, a landmark birthday, big, let’s not dwell on it, and the 20th anniversary of my bookselling career. A shout out to all the amazing underpaid and absolutely committed booksellers I’ve worked with over the years, whose passion and joy for books have made my bookselling life so enjoyable! Big love.
Bit of a mixed bag all round this month really, but the book love remains unabated, and here are some of the goodies I have been reading this month. All of of these I bought myself, so nice to give them a little spin in the spotlight, and I loved both my blog tour books this month too, Jérôme Leroy- Little Rebel (tr. Graham Roberts) and Will Carver- The Beresford from two amazing independent publishers Corylus Books and Orenda Books.
So July’s pick of the crop are:
For over a century, one of the world’s great treasures, a six-hundred-year-old copy of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, has been safely housed at Bombay’s Asiatic Society. But when it vanishes, together with the man charged with its care, British scholar and war hero, John Healy, the case lands on Inspector Persis Wadia’s desk. Uncovering a series of complex riddles written in verse, Persis – together with English forensic scientist Archie Blackfinch – is soon on the trail. But then they discover the first body. As the death toll mounts it becomes evident that someone else is also pursuing this priceless artefact and will stop at nothing to possess it . . .
There is absolutely no doubt that Vaseem Khan’s The Dying Day will claim in a place in my Top Ten of the Year, being a superb follow up to Midnight At Malabar House, which also appeared in my final round up of 2020. Persis Wadia is a fantastic character, being an intelligent, astute and utterly focussed female police officer, grappling with the natural misogyny that arises from her position, but also for the layers of personal tribulation that Khan builds into her character. Coupled with this, Khan has constructed a mystery that is blindingly clever and intricate that will appeal to all bibliophiles, centred on the theft of a literary treasure. There are riddles and ciphers along the way, that not only test Persis and her colleagues, but will also baffle and misdirect the reader too, leading to a rich and rewarding reading experience. Khan also demonstrates his trademark precision in his rendering of the historical detail of the period, giving the reader a real sense of India emerging from the suffocation of British rule, and finding its feet in a new era, not wholly untroubled by violence and division. I completely loved The Dying Day from start to finish, and came out of the other side of it totally sated by not only the characterisation, but also the feeling of having read a truly satisfying and intriguing crime mystery. Wholeheartedly recommending this one to you all.
The last thing Jack Baxi expected when a detective rang his doorbell in the middle of the night was that he’d be tortured and left for dead, with a young woman he’s never met before. Now, running for their lives, Jack and Aisha frantically try to discover why the detective was so convinced they both have information on a missing person. Jack is a Sikh corner shopkeeper with a criminal record. Aisha is a Muslim medical student from a wealthy family. What could possibly connect them? Their desperate hunt for answers will take them on a perilous journey, from the sprawling underground markets and dangerous red-light district of Delhi all the way to the most militarized zone in India. But little do they know, a dangerous organisation is watching their every move – and they’ll do whatever it takes to stop Jack and Aisha learning the truth . . .
Being a confirmed fan of Harry Virdee series set in Bradford, I did have a slight feeling of trepidation at the prospect of a stand alone from A. A. Dhand as sometimes these can feel a little unsatisfying. But have no fear, as Dhand has produced a genuinely blistering paced and exciting thriller spanning two continents, and more va va voom than you can poke a stick at. I fair raced through this one, as Dhand totally hooks the reader at the end of each chapter with a mini cliff-hanger that entices the reader to one more chapter, and then one more chapter, making putting the book aside entirely futile. Both Jack, our erstwhile hero and Aisha, a young girl who gets sucked into the mystery are perfectly characterised, and Jack in particular is painted as not wholly good and not wholly bad which makes him and his shifting moral compass an extremely interesting aspect of the book. I heard an interview with Dhand saying that he had physically walked the Indian locations himself, and this shines through in the authenticity and atmosphere that he injects into the depiction of the locations too. The Blood Divide is a bloody and brutal ride packed full of betrayal and double, triple crossing, leaving the reader breathless and unnerved in equal measure, and I thoroughly enjoyed the ride. Recommended.