A month of pleasant surprises ... not least finding myself as the central character in a rather good novel! Well, it wasn't really me, but it was still quite a surprise to that, Yang Pao, the flawed hero of Kerry Young's Pao, was given the anglicised name "Philip Young" when he arrived in Jamaica from China.
And I certainly didn't expect to be reading and enjoying zombie horror, but Feed, by Mira Grant, had enough about online journalism to spark my interest, and turned out to be rather fun - a story I think I would have loved when I was 16 or 17 .
I also visited a strange and nameless country. As in Per Wahlöö's Steel Spring, the protagonist in Ferenc Karinthy's Metropole, finds himself mysteriously transported to a land he cannot understand. Not only does he not know where is, or why he is there, Budai, a linguist by profession, finds he can find no way of communicating in a language that seems to have no correspondence with anything he has encountered before.
Two Nordic crime stories provided pleasant surprises. I don't remember being too impressed by The Ice Princess, and sort of understood why one of her Swedish peers tweets about Vanilla Läckberg, but I thought Camilla's The Hidden Child was rather good - more because I identified with the domestic situation of at least one character than for its crime elements.
Thomas Enger's Burned, however, firmly hit the mark for me - my first five star crime read of 2012. I think I have read enough Swedish crime for it not to be lazy to compare Enger's Henning Juul with Mankell's Kurt Wallander, and for the comparison to be favourable.
Juul is a journalist, badly injured in a fire which killed his son. After two years of traumatic recovery, he returns to work on an online newspaper in Oslo, and on day one finds himself caught up in a murder story, apparently connected to barbaric sharia practices. Like Wallander, Juul is a very strong character, and his observations, his dogged if flawed personality, and his sometimes tense interactions with colleagues more than compensate for a slightly flawed plot.
If I hadn't read Burned, my book of the month for August would definitely have been Madame Mephisto, by AM Bekalar. I have high hopes for Stork Press.