February 2016 Round-Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)Okay- so where the heck did February go? Seems I have only just posted January’s round-up, and am feeling the effects of a busy month indeed. A month of mixed fortunes as far as reading goes, with 5 non-starters (3 of which did not even get a sniff of the magical 40 page rule) and the endless battle to juggle my crime and fiction reading commitments. I feel like I’m in real confessional mode now! Anyhow….moving on to business…

Books reviewed this month…

Helen Fitzgerald- Viral

Manchette’s Fatale- Adapted by Max Cabanes and Doug Headline

Oscar de Muriel- A Fever of the Blood

Chris Ould- The Blood Strand 

Joe Flanagan- Lesser Evils

Travis Mulhauser- Sweetgirl

Augusto de Angelis- The Murdered Banker

41QNtHNg+sL__SX327_BO1,204,203,200_So, in addition to the 7 reviews I did manage to post, I also read Valerio Varesi’s A Woman Much Missed. I’m rather partial to this series set in Parma, and featuring the world weary detective Commisario Soneri, a man who seems to have a deep rooted dislike of everybody and everything. He has a problem with delegation, is a melancholic flaneur with commitment issues, but in his favour has no qualms about donning a duffel coat. I do like a man in a duffel coat. What I particularly liked about this one, was the way that it re-traced the early days of his relationship with his late wife, and the secrets this threw up in its wake. There is always a languorous and meditative feel to Varesi’s writing that puts me in mind of Simenon, but counterbalanced by moments of immorality and violence that appear all the more shocking as they punch through the slowly unfolding plot. If you haven’t tried Varesi before, he really is worth a look…

I’ve also been indulging my penchant for war fiction by picking up Matt Gallagher’s Iraq based novel Young Blood which seems to be pushing the same emotional buttons as last month’s Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker. Also currently reading Tightrope by Simon Mawer– a superb tale of spies, lies and espionage; a curious and unsettling American tale called Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh , and a whisker away from finishing Danish crime novel Retribution by the brilliant Steffen Jacobsen– to be reviewed soon. Still a teetering to read pile,  and two blog tours on the horizon this month too. Deep breaths and focus…

Raven’s Book of the Month

JOEDespite the paucity of reviews this month this was a good eclectic mix and each book had something to recommend it. However, this month my heart belonged to debut author Joe Flanagan for Lesser Evils- a brilliantly constructed and compelling crime novel set in 1950’s Cape Cod, that tackled some weighty issues as well as providing a multi-layered and emotive plot that I was utterly caught up in from start to finish. Marvellous. I just want to read it again….

 

 

Manchette’s Fatale- Adapted by Max Cabanes and Doug Headline

AAAAAimée is a beautiful young widow she s also a killer. Driven by a deep-rooted desire for revenge, she sets about uncovering the secrets of the inhabitants of the sleepy rural town of Bleville, before ruthlessly murdering them. Faced with corruption of a kind she had scarcely imagined, she discovers a deeply moral core under her murderous instincts…

Okay, I’ll put my hands up from the start and say that I never read graphic novels. Well, actually I did manage half of From Hell by Alan Moore some years ago, but never finished as I probably got distracted by something else. Having idly flicked through graphic novels at work- whilst scratching my head over where, and in what series I should shelve them- my general impression of them is that they are mostly populated by a cast of grotesques, and semi-clad women with unfeasibly pert breasts. But I digress. Grasping the bull by the horns, so to speak, and putting my preconceptions aside I embarked on this one with more than a whiff of curiosity…

Adapting the seminal French thriller Fatale by world-renowned noir crime writer Jean-Patrick Manchette into graphic novel form, I imagine, was no mean feat. There is so much darkness, betrayal and violence in the original slim read, underscored by the dispassionate and spare prose of one of the finest noir writers who ever lived, that the reader themselves need to really home in on what is not said by Manchette as much as what he offers up to us with veiled references and the air of burgeoning menace throughout. I was more than a little hesitant, as a staunch reader of fiction where your own imagination comes into play, that my perception of these characters would be undone by reading such a visual representation, and leaving me less for my own imagination to construct for itself. However, my anxieties were largely assuaged, because as much as this book does contain a cast of grotesques and a saucily semi-clad/nude Aimee (with unfeasibly pert breasts) the absolute adherence to Manchette’s novel by Doug Headline, and the darkness that Max Cabanes insinuates into the artwork captures the mood and feel of the original book perfectly with each frame remaining true to the original text. The liberal use of midnight blue and pared down colour, the visual representations of some of the central cast, and the completely no-holds barred depiction of the swift and brutal violence of the book were well-executed throughout. However, on balance, I did find the actual experience of reading this a little unsatisfying, maybe because I was too familiar with the story to begin with, and there wasn’t enough to stimulate my own imagination, but I definitely appreciated the quality of the artwork overall. All in all an interesting digression for the Raven, but probably unlikely to be a regular genre for me.

(With thanks to Titan for the ARC)