I've been away for a week on a cruise of the Adriatic, a chance to unwind in some truly marvellous places, and also to catch up on some reading. The day before my departure I was sent three of the latest titles in the Arcturus Crime Classics series, and I enjoyed reading these as well as a brand new best-seller and an excellent psychological suspense novel from the 70s, written by someone who achieved fame in another genre. Reviews of each of these enjoyable books will appear on this blog in due course.
The cruise set off from Corfu, a delightful island. I haven't read any crime novels set there (though I'm sure there must be some.) The next stop was Koper, in Slovenia, a country I'd never visited before. Are there any Slovenian crime novels, I wonder? I was greatly impressed by this small yet entrancing old town, but above all by a tour which took us to a resort not far away, Piran - a very beautiful place indeed. To my shame, perhaps, I'd never heard of either Piran or Koper,and this stop was a reminder of how many wonderful parts of the world there are that I'm simply not aware of. The snag of course is that life is too short to get to know more than a selection of them.
Venice, the next destination, is a city everyone has heard of. This was my fourth visit, and I love the city more than anywhere else overseas. I enjoyed having another look in the window of the bookbinder's shop that gave me the inspiration for "The Bookbinder's Apprentice", the short story which won a Dagger four years ago. And the sheer mysteriousness of Venice remains, for me, part of its appeal. One of my favourite films, the uniquely sinister Don't Look Now, was set there.
After that came Split, in Croatia. This is another increasingly popular destination, and again I found it fascinating. It's remarkable to think that, just 20 years or so ago, this was an area riven by war. Thankfully, the disputes that fuelled all the bloodshed seem - to a casual outsider, certainly - to have been resolved. Tourism is one of the means by which the area has got back on its feet. I'll post tomorrow about a visit to another Croatian city that I found truly memorable, and which made me think more about history and historians (and so, inevitably, about Daniel Kind's take on life, and the idea of historians as detectives that lurks in the background of the Lake District Mysteries.).