I’ve had an eclectic book month as I’ve been reading for various events plus I’ve been trying novels that I’ve wanted to read for a long time. There’s something about the summer that encourages me to free up time to look beyond familiar authors and I’ve been racing through some interesting books.
Tomorrow, I’m at the Derby Book Festival chatting to Jo Jakeman about her debut novel, Sticks and Stones. It’s a fascinating story of three women involved with the same man, the violent Philip Rochester. When he threatens to make his estranged wife, Imogen, homeless she locks him in the cellar and finds unexpected allies in Ruby his former wife and in Naomi, his current girlfriend. With strong prose and complex characters, Sticks and Stones is a summer psychological thriller to get your teeth into.
Next week-end, I’m at Alibis in the Archives, in one of the most beautifully located libraries in the UK. I’ll be giving a talk on Derbyshire crime fiction and there’s plenty to discuss from Sheridan Le Fanu to present day crime writers. I’m a fan of Kate Ellis’s writing and, in her books, she usually fuses past and present. In A High Mortality of Doves, she turns her attention to 1919 Derbyshire and a community reeling from the effects of the Great War. Mutilated women are discovered around a village and tales of a soldier seen near the murder sites brings Albert Lincoln up from London to investigate a complex crime. Written with Ellis’s attention to detail, she provides a clever twist which adds rather than detracts from the story.
On the subject of Derbyshire, I finally got around to reading Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13. It’s not crime novel but set in a Derbyshire town where a thirteen year-old girl has gone missing. It’s probably the book that most sums up Derbyshire for me: the well dressings, the changing of the seasons and the communities where nothing and everything happens. I absolutely loved this books which deservedly won the 2017 Costa Novel Award.
While we had an unexpected period of hot weather, I read a Christmas mystery. Portrait of a Murderer by Anne Meredith was first published in 1933. It’s a country house mystery where the patriarch, Adrian Gary, is murdered on Christmas Day morning by one of his six surviving children. The murderer is revealed early on but Meredith uses an ingenious plot construction to take us through the impact of the crime and the slow unveiling of the killer. It’s a clever, soberly written mystery and a perfect read if you’re missing the winter already.