2015: The good, the bad and the dog walkers

As seems to be almost mandatory among book bloggers I’m wrapping up last year’s reading by reflecting on what the year threw at me, book wise. I should tell you this list is a bit haphazard because my memory for some of this year’s reading is a little fuzzy and some of my notes are indecipherable. There is, for example, a post-it stuck neatly to page 37 of DUCK SEASON DEATH that reads muffin? clock make. Or something like that. Whatever profound thought I was trying to convey there is lost forever. With that proviso, here’s my year’s reading in summary.

GiveTheDevilHisDueGentillMost favouritist book of all: Yes I know that’s not a word. Sue me. I feel guilty because I didn’t even repay Sulari Gentill for writing my most loved book of the year by scribbling a review of GIVE THE DEVIL HIS DUE. Sorry Sulari. But I really am very, very grateful. It’s not just that I adore Rowland Sinclair and his three chums Edna, Milt and Clyde and the way they stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves and never let their friends down, even when it really costs them.  Or that Gentill has become a true master of weaving fact and fiction together in the way that only great historical fiction writers can do. Or that this is a terrific, exciting adventure featuring old-school motor racing, a dabbling of the occult and a smattering of Errol Flynn. Or that it gently reminds us all of the dangers that can lurk behind extremism – in this case the right-wing, Nazi-admiring New Guard that existed in Australia in the 1930’s. It’s all of that plus the fact that I felt better after reading the book than before I started. That’s magic that is.

TheHuntingDogsHorstBest depiction of society in crisis: Jorn Lier Horst’s THE HUNTING DOGS has stuck in my mind for months due to its depiction of how even an ethical policeman can be pressured – by superiors, media and the public – into poor choices and decision making. The book makes you realise that we all play a part in the societal corruption we love to tweet our outrage about.

AutumnAllTheCatsReturnGeorgetBook that wore its melancholia with most pride: Philippe Georget’s AUTUMN ALL THE CATS RETURN depicts a current spate of murders in southern France that hark back to the Algerian war of Independence – the languid pace of the story and mild sadness of its hero draw the reader in.

PresentDarknessNunnAudioBook that best hid its powerful political message inside a ripper yarn: Malla Nunn’s fourth novel PRESENT DARKNESS is the best of a great series of novels. The way it allows the reader to see into a world in which skin colour is the only thing that matters is both brilliant and frightening.

TheUnquietDeadAusmaZehan23526_fAn honourable mention here must go to Ausma Zehanat Khan’s THE UNQUIET DEAD which in is a fitting tribute to the senselessly lost souls of the tragedy that was the 1990’s Bosnian war.

ATimeToRunPeaceFrontBook that best confound my expectations: J.M. Peace’s A TIME TO RUN the publicity material screamed serial killer and made references to Wolf Creek which all turned me off. But this isn’t one of those inside the mind of a killer stories that seems to celebrate psychopathy. The focus here is on his victims, the people trying to catch him and the telling of a ripper yarn.

And because to every yang there must be a yin

SurveillanceBernardKeane24261_fBook that failed most to live up to my expectations: Bernard Keane’s SURVEILLANCE A brilliant idea from one of my favourite political thinkers was lost in soft porn endless bonking.

WhiteCrocodileMedinaBest discovery of a body by a dog walker: K.T. Medina’s THE WHITE CROCODILE‘s atmospheric novel set mostly in Cambodia contains this passage of dialogue between DI Andy Wessex and DS Harriet Viles regarding the body of an at that time unidentified Asian girl lying on an English beach

‘Who found her?’
‘Dog walker.’
‘Ah. Who’d be a dog walker? As I’ve always said, cats are the way forward.’

I must give a nod here to the Puzzle Doctor over at The Search for a Classic Mystery whose yearly wrap ups inspired me to keep note of some of the more esoteric features of my reading. For the record only 2 other books I read this year featured the much maligned dog-walker-finds-body trope (DEATH OF A NIGHTINGALE and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN). Are less fictional dogs being walked these days or what?

LettersToMyDaughtersKillerStaincliffeAudioBest book exploring the theme of domestic and family violence: Filed under better late than never is the fact that this theme is finally starting to get the attention it so desperately needs from governments, serious media and the wider community. Popular fiction plays a role too in shining a light on our most hideous secrets and I read at least a half-dozen books this year that delved into this issue in some way. The one that has lingered with me most strongly is Cath Staincliff’s LETTERS TO MY DAUGHTER’S KILLER which really gets inside the head of a mother left shattered by the unthinkable.

NorwegianByNightMillerAudioBest book with an over 60’s hero: NORWEGIAN BY NIGHT by Derek B Miller. Older people as heroes and heroines are something of a favourite with me and this book’s 82 year old grandfather is a good example of the reason why.

WhisperingWallCarlonAn honourable mention in this category goes to Patricia Carlon’s 1969 offering THE WHISPERING WALL in which a 61 year old paralysed woman proves to be more dynamic and engaging than any of the much younger women featured in the year’s most hyped nonsense (see below).

TheGirlOnTheTrainPaula23768_fBook that best reminded me why I hate (and should avoid) publishing industry hype: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN by Paula Hawkins is a story of whiny narcissists and first world problems and dishonest, amoral people and the only mystery is why I bothered reading to the end. This experience has however inspired a new bookish goal for 2016 (stay tuned).

Hope you had some great reads during 2015 and that 2016 brings many more.

This entry was posted in Ausma Zehanat Khan, Bernard Keane (Aus), books of the year, Cath Staincliffe, Derek B. Miller, J.M. Peace (Aus), Jorn Lier Horst, K.T. Medina, Malla Nunn (Aus), Patricia Carlon (Aus), Paula Hawkins, Philippe Georget, Sulari Gentill (Aus). Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to 2015: The good, the bad and the dog walkers

  1. kathy d. says:

    Oh, good, more books for the 2016 list. I have reading three of those cited here: Present Darkness, Norwegian by Night and The Girl on the Train.
    I agree about your opinion of Present Darkness, a terrific read and expose of the heinous apartheid system in South Africa. I hope Malla Nunn has more books for this series set in 1952.
    And I loved Sheldon Horowitz in Norwegian by Night. I had Jewish immigrant relatives on one side of the family and I could hear their voices and humor in Horowitz’s thoughts and comments.
    I also concur about The Girl on the Train. This much-hyped book is that — all about hype. It is not a book for serious readers. One cannot tell the voices of three unreliable characters apart. They’re all alike. I also should have stopped reading it, but it’s like watching a runaway train on TV; one wants to see what happens. But couldn’t I have spent my reading time more prudently, I ask myself.
    Lots of suggestions here I’ll write down.

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    • Happy to give you some new recommendations Kathy…hope some at least are available at your libraries. Let’s all hope there are no more girls on trains or equivalent dreck in our reading piles this year

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  2. I love your categories, Bernadette! And I couldn’t agree with you more about the Gentill and the Miller. I suspect I’ll agree with you about the Nunn, too, but haven’t gotten to it yet (shame on me!). A couple of others there have certainly got my attention, too. I’m glad you found some that you really enjoyed.

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  3. Thanks for the shout out, Bernadette. Lots of books here for me to think about, if only I hadn’t given up buying books for a while… Still, nothing lasts forever…

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  4. MarinaSofia says:

    I loved your categories – would never have thought of dog-walkers! I read Girl on the Train before all the hype and thought it was OK but average – does what it says on the tin but nothing to get excited about… and then was proved wrong, when everyone did get excited about it.

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  5. Love your work, Bernadette. Have just bought ‘White Crocodile’ in Bangkok — a no-brainer for me, given my penchant for crime fiction set in this region.

    I hope the new year is a much less turbulent, more reading-friendly one for you.

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  6. Mrs P. says:

    Thanks for this great list, Bernadette (like others above, I loved your categories).

    Have scribbled down four for my TBR pile. Thanks especially for the reminder about Malla Nunn’s series – I read the first and really liked it. Norwegian by Night is one of my all time favourite books – Sheldon is a wonderful creation.

    Wishing you very happy reading in 2016!

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  7. tracybham says:

    Bernadette, you were the person who introduced me to Sulari Gentill’s books. I still have only read the first one because they are available here in Kindle versions (not my preferred format) but I have hopes they will eventually be published in paper versions here… and in the meantime I will have to go the e-book route.

    About Autumn All the Cats Return… I mistakenly bought that one and haven’t found the first one yet. Do you think it is preferable to read Summertime first?

    Lots of other books and authors here I haven’t gotten to yet.

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    • eBooks are not my preferred format either…I wish I did like them more but I just like paper.

      I think you could read Autumn All the Cats return without having read the first book – there’s nothing plot related that refers to the earlier book and only a small amount of character development that you would not be aware of.

      Hope you have a great reading year

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  8. Jo @ Booklover Book Reviews says:

    One of the more interesting yearly wrap-ups I’ve read Bernadette!

    It is truly a perplexing mystery to me as to why I’ve still not read Sulari Gentill’s work despite having it on my wishlist for so long – I just know I’ll love it. My goal for 2016 is to rectify that wrong. And I wholeheartedly agree re Malla Nunn’s Present Darkness.

    PS: I appreciate the heads up re ‘Surveillance’, I’d recently put that it my wishlist :{

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