Despite its turmoil 2014 did contain some great reads and I’d hate to forget these excellent books.
Crime fiction that’s not really about crime
FATAL IMPACT by Katherine Fox. Series heroine Anya Crichton heads to Tasmania where she becomes involved in investigating a food poisoning outbreak which offers the perfect backdrop for Fox to explore the issue of food security and associated environmental issues. There’s a romping procedural at the heart of the novel but the social and political themes it explores are equally compelling.
INVISIBLE MURDER by Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis. I was not terribly taken with this writing duo’s first novel but am glad I gave them a second chance. This book sees Danish Red Cross nurse Nina Borg assisting some Roma people whose children are getting inexplicably sick. The characters are beautifully drawn but it is the book’s bigger picture – about the difficulties of doing good of our globalised world and the unforseen consequences that can arise when people or groups are marginalised and ill-treated – that has stayed with me for months.
THE MURDER OF HARRIET KROHN by Karin Fossum. Told from the point of view of an unremarkable man who kills this book is not really concerned with the crime at all but rather with what consequences, if any, the murderer will incur either legally or…cosmically…for want of a better word. Series regular Inspector Sejer’s role is much smaller than usual but his interviews with the killer are some of the best passages of their type I’ve ever read. Or listened to in my case (I’d highly recommend the audio book if you like that kind of thing).
Storytelling at its very best
IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE by Adrian McKinty. I wrote back in June that I thought this book perfect and I stand by that opinion. The tale of a Catholic policeman working in the largely Protestant RUC at the height of the Troubles being asked to use his personal connection to locate an escaped prisoner is intricately layered but very satisfying. There is even a modern locked-room mystery that resolves cleverly. Plus the book is laugh-out-loud funny.
ME AND RORY MACBEATH by Richard Beasley. A novel I never found the time to review but still have to mention this fabulous coming of age story set in my home town of Adelaide during the 1970’s. Narrated by Jake Taylor it juxtaposes the innocent freedoms of childhood in that era with a depiction of the sometimes more sinister things that are happening behind closed doors. Jake’s unconventional mother Harry is a chain-smoking, alcohol-chugging barrister and a character long-remembered.
THROUGH THE CRACKS by Honey Brown. A compelling, confronting and worryingly credible story about a boy who has been kept a virtual prisoner by his father. Until he is big enough to break free. I loved the way Honey Brown stayed clear of all the grubby details a more sensationalist approach would take but still made it hauntingly clear just how harmful some human beings can be to each other.
People and Places to remember
ELEMENTAL by Amanda Curtin. Yes I occasionally read things other than crime novels…though heaven knows why when they make me cry in public as this one did. It is a beautifully written story about a young girl – Fish Meggie – who makes her way from a harsh Scottish fishing village to a different kind of harsh climate in Western Australia. Though its characters endure poverty, hardships and heartache ELEMENTAL also contains love and laughter and joy so it avoids the misery-lit air that made me stop attending book club some years ago.
THE FACTS OF LIFE AND DEATH by Belinda Bauer. 10-year old Ruby Trick is an only child in an isolated North Devon community. Her father can’t get a job and is obsessed by all things-cowboy; an interest which seems to foster his interest in searching the community for the people who have begun playing nasty pranks.
VISITATION STREET by Ivy Pochoda. The book tells the story of the impact on the local community when a teenage girl goes missing from a working class neighbourhood in Brooklyn on a hot summer night. The friend who was with the missing girl, the local business owner who wants to use the search to help bring the community together, one of the girl’s teachers…all of these people come alive in the hands of this skilled writer.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
What about you? Any special books standout from your year’s reading?