Holiday reading: ‘Bad Blood’ and ‘Gods and Beasts’

The family and I are shortly off to France for a couple of weeks – a chance to catch up with les beaux-parents, play on the beach, drink my body-weight in pastis and generally have a good time. As usual, I’ll be taking along plenty of good reading material – this time, I’m armed with John Sandford’s Bad Blood and Denise Mina’s Gods and Beasts.

gods and beastsI’ll take the latter first. Mina has just picked up her second consecutive Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year Award for Gods and Beasts, an accolade she also won last year for The End of the Wasp Season (and isn’t that a wonderfully evocative title?). Gods and Beasts is the third novel featuring Detective Alex Morrow, and is set in Mina’s home town of Glasgow. Recently returned to work after giving birth to twins, Morrow finds herself investigating the robbery of a post office – one in which an elderly bystander mysteriously steps forward to help the robber, and pays with his life.

Having seen the news about Mina’s award, I snapped up a copy of Gods and Beasts when I found it in my local library this morning. If the award(s) weren’t reason(s) enough, I see on Mina’s website that she’s written several graphic novels in the Hellblazer series. These feature blue-collar magician and master of the dark arts John Constantine, a character originally created by Northampton-based god and all-time hero of mine Alan Moore. Having something like that on your CV is a pretty big tick in the box for me, so I’m looking forward to getting cracking with Gods and Beasts, and sharing my views with y’all when I return from les vacances.

bad-bloodJohn Sandford’s name was one I came across thanks to Ken Bruen, who name-checks him in The Guards. Thanks must go again to my library (and when was the last time you visited yours? Eh?), where I picked up a copy of Bad Blood, one of several books featuring Minnesota investigator Virgil Flowers. I’m about a quarter of the way through, and enjoying it very much; the writing is lean and direct (reflecting Sandford’s journalist background), and the dialogue crackles with energy. I’m also having some fun trying to keep up with the plot – I’m on page 80, and so far we’ve had one definite murder, one murder disguised as an accident and two murders disguised as suicide. I’d be very surprised if there aren’t more to come, with over 300 pages still to go.

Flowers is an engaging central character – part cowboy, part preacher’s son with a penchant for quoting the Bible, and equally comfortable flirting with local sheriff Lee Coakley on his first meeting with her. His determination to crack this most complex of cases is evident from the outset, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Flowers takes on the forces that are now beginning to arrange themselves against him.

So that’s what I’ll be reading over the coming quinze jours, if my busy schedule of ice-creams, sandcastles and paddling in the Med allows. Keep on reading, and I’ll see you when I get back.

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