When I wrote my review of March 2020, I knew that April would prove to be a difficult month for all of us. It most certainly was. Popping out to the supermarket once a week seems like a major undertaking in these days. But I wasn’t expecting to be hit by the virus personally. Sadly, my lovely mum died suddenly of COVID-19 on 28 April. I’m not going to dwell on that here but I will say that it’s had a catastrophic impact on my reading and blogging and, well, doing anything at all, except perhaps doing jigsaw puzzles and staring at the wall. I have, though, reached the stage where I can think about engaging with the world again, although as I organise a funeral which will be nothing like the one my mum deserves, I will stumble. So, having got that sad news out of the way, as I did want to say why my reviewing has stalled, here’s what I have been able to read.
I only read nine books in April, I’m ashamed to say. So few! Which is no reflection on the quality of the books published or available because there were some corkers released and I still have every intention to catch up on many of them as my reading takes off again, as it has begun to do.
I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed historical fiction as much as I do at the moment, which is saying something because I’ve always loved it to bits. The month’s reading began in fine style, thanks to Andrew Taylor’s The Last Protector. This is a fantastic series, set during the late 1660s, when the glow has most definitely gone from the Restoration. People even begin to think nostalgically about a certain Oliver Cromwell, which brings me to another historical novel I read in April, The Puritan Princess by Miranda Malins. Set in the late 1650s, this romance features Frances, Cromwell’s youngest daughter, who has to grow used to her new and strange status as a member of what is effectively England’s new royal dynasty. But time is not on Cromwell’s side. My third historical read of the month was a return to a favourite series of mine, Lindsey Davis’s Roman mysteries starring Flavia Albia, daughter of the infamous and cherished Roman private investigator, Falco. Flavia has taken over the family business of detection and this time she has a nasty killer to catch, who preys on their victims in the gardens of the old Caesar. There’s also the matter of some old writings that have been dug up in the grove.
In April I also went off-planet, thanks to John Scalzi and the superb The Last Emperox, the final novel in Scalzi’s brilliant trilogy, the Interdependency. There is so much exhilarating and thrilling plot in this space opera and it’s matched by the fabulous wit of the author and some very appealing characters, some good, some very bad. I’m so sorry this trilogy is done but it’s the perfect time to read it if you haven’t already.
As we head deeper into Lockdown, I’ve really enjoyed finding escape in fast and furious thrillers. I read three in April. Unfortunately one didn’t really work for me, A Knock at the Door by TW Ellis, but happily I loved the other two. I love Tony Kent’s thrillers, each of which features a federal agent (British but based in New York), a barrister and a journalist. The third in the series, Power Play, is a belter of a thriller and the stakes are very high indeed when a candidate to the US Presidency is blown up in a plane above the Atlantic. What secrets was he hiding that would make someone kill over 500 people to get at one man?
I am a huge fan of Clive Cussler and I was so sad to hear of his death earlier this year. Journeys of the Pharaohs was the last book published before his death and it was a bittersweet read. It reminded me of Cussler’s old books. This one had the quality of the Dirk Pitt books and I loved every page of it. It’s good to learn that Cussler’s series of thrillers, and there are so many of them, will continue, thanks to his talented co-authors. Graham Brown is the co-author of Journeys of the Pharaohs and he is a thriller writer whose work I enjoy in its own right. The books are in safe hands but they will never be the same again, without the original driver at the wheel (in his vintage motors).
I had a bit of a hiatus with crime fiction at the beginning of the Lockdown. Perhaps I found it too gritty and real. But I’m glad to say that I’m now back reading it again. I do love a good police procedural and Kate Rhodes is one of the very best in the genre. I love her Ben Kitto novels set on the Isles of Scilly and thoroughly enjoyed Burnt Island. These books make me want to travel and one of these days I can’t wait to explore these islands for myself (without the murders, though, thanks very much).
Looking ahead to May
Without doubt, May will be a difficult month again. There are some personal challenges ahead for me. But I do sense that there might be some light at the end of the tunnel and I expect my reading to pick up again. Which is all to the good because I am once more one of the judges for the HWA Gold Crown! I’m so honoured to be asked again. I love historical fiction so much and it’s great to have an excuse to read so much more of it. This will take up quite a bit of reading time through the summer.
But there are other books I’m looking forward to in May. Having said that, it’s not always certain when book publication dates are put back! So there’s a chance that not all of these will keep to their schedule. I can’t wait to read Ben Kane’s new novel, Lionheart, which is a move to another time period for Ben, the late 12th century and the time of the Crusades. I’m also partial to a bit of horror and so Devolution by Max Brooks is on the pile. Emma Kavanagh has a crime novel out in May, which is always a treat, so I’m looking forward to The Devil You Know very much. Tom Bradby’s thriller Secret Service was a standout read for 2019 and so I was so pleased to hear that a sequel, Double Agent is on the way before the end of May.
There are, of course, many other books to look forward to in May and it is a wonderful thing to support authors, publishers and book shops. I’m looking forward to discovering what else is on the way. There are also all those April books that I missed! I’m looking forward to letting you know which of those I read in my May update.
I hope May behaves for you and that you and your family are well and safe x