Two completely contrasting books this week...
I'm going back seventy years for this one. You see, lately, I've been putting books down, unable to finish them, bored by the plot, confused by the number of similar characters, or unimpressed by the setting. So I wanted a quick, fun, atmospheric read and got myself Maigret's War of Nerves.
It's by French author Georges Simenon, and is almost a novella rather than a novel. Much shorter than modern mysteries, like a delicious hors d'oeuvre perhaps. Plot summary:
Inspector Maigret, guided by humane feelings behind his stolid facade, puts himself at grave risk to arrange the escape of a condemned man from prison. Judged guilty and awaiting execution for the killing of a rich American woman and her maid, Joseph Heurtin is innocent, as Maigret suspects.
So who did it, and how did they frame Heurtin??
Now for something longer. It's a classic, by one of America's greatest writers. The detail and research in the book are astonishing (and occasionally a little much, frankly) but if you have any interest in true crime and/or the death penalty, it's an amazing story, wonderfully told.
I speak of The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer, the true story of Gary Gilmore, who in 1977 became the first person executed in the United States since the reinstitution of the death penalty. By firing squad, no less.