Recent Reads

Apologies for the lack of posts over the last month. I’ve been reading lots of books but haven’t had time to catch up with my reviews. Every Saturday we have a discussion over on my Facebook author page on what we are reading at the moment. Do come over and take a look. My TBR pile gets bigger and bigger.

However, I’m on the train to London in unexpected sunshine as it’s the CWA Dagger Award dinner this evening and I’m looking forward to catching up with some fellow crime writers and reviewers. It’s also given me a chance to sum up a few of my favourite reads over the last couple of months.

The Conviction of Cora Burns is the debut novel by Carolyn Kirby featuring an interesting protagonist, Cora Burns who was raised in a workhouse and enters the house of scientist Thomas Sherwood as a servant. Sherwood appears to be taking part in a living experiment and Cora becomes sucked into his work. It’s an absorbing read, packed full of period detail and it’s great to read such an assured debut. The book isn’t published until Spring next year but I’m sure Kirby will garner lots of fans.

The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve also has an interesting central character. Leo Stanhope works as an assistant to a London coroner but was born Charlotte, the daughter of a respectable middle class family. Leo suffers physical pain from the bandages he uses to hide his breasts to live as a man and from the anguish of being estranged from his family. One of the people he has trusted with his secret is Maria, a prostitute whom he loves. When she’s found dead, he comes under suspicion of her murder and must find the killer without revealing his secret. It’s an absorbing and well written debut which manages to bypass any cliches.

I picked up my copy of The Martian Girl at Goldsboro books, a great bookshop which always has something to tempt. It’s the first book I’ve read by Andrew Martin and I found it fascinating. Jean, a journalist, is writing a one-woman play about Kate, a Victorian mind-reader which she hopes to stage at a London venue. She is having an affair with a seedy ex-barrister who is known by his surname Coates who’s both impulsive and paranoid. As Jean researches further into Kate’s past, she sees echoes of her own situation. The Martian Girl is an unusual and interesting read and in Coates, Martin has created a compelling figure.

I’ve been reading Australian crime fiction for years, mainly on the recommendation of the late blogger Bernadette at Reactions to Readings. The Dry by Jane Harper has done much to increase interest in crime fiction from Oz and it’s great to see more Antipodean writers appearing in the UK. Scrublands by Chris Hammer is set in a small town which journalist Martin Scarsden visits to do a follow up story on the murder by a priest of five of the town’s inhabitants. It’s a substantial book and absolutely riveting. Hammer excels at characterisation and his depiction of small town relationships is something close to my own heart. I can’t wait to read what comes next. Scrublands is published in January.

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26 thoughts on “Recent Reads

  1. I’ve been hearing good things about The Conviction of Cora Burns, Sarah, and it does sound very good. I’m glad you enjoyed it. And you’re the second person now who’s recommended Scrublands. Looks as though I’ll have to add that one to the list…

  2. Good to see you reading some Aussie crime, Sarah. This is a new one on me and I look forward to it. Of course we have some wonderful authors: Disher, Robotham and Temple to name a few. Cheers from Oz, Dave.

    • Thanks, Debs. I do look at Kerrie’s blog which is great. I think it was Kerrie and the late Bernadette who ran Fair Dinkum where I discovered so many authors!

  3. I loved Scrublands,. Hammer really captures the landscape of a small, isolated, drought affected country town.
    Tomorrow my wife and I will be travelling to see her mum over the weekend, into the general area of the book’s setting.
    I think that familiarity of place made the book even more appealing to me.

      • Its an area to be avoided in summer, when temps can be in the mid 40s C and in recent years have even reached 48C.

        Fortunately there were pleasant temperatures for our weekend visit.

        Regarding a different type of Australian landscape, I highly recommend a recent Australian TV crime series called Mystery Road. Its photography of the North Western Australian landscape was stunning and complimented an intriguing, well-acted story.

        • I used to live in Greece where temperatures were routinely very hot. I don’t remember them reaching 48 degrees though. I found that your brain refuses to function over about 38 degrees!

          • After moving to Australia from England, I lived on the coast until about 13 years ago when I moved 4 hours inland.
            On the coast it seemed uncomfortably hot when it started to get above 30C.

            Out here I find I can tolerate up to around 35 because of the lack of humidity. In summer we usually have a week in the low 40s – very unpleasant. I don’t know whether I could cope where it gets above mid 40s.

            My mother in law, who we visited last weekend, lives in Hay, a small town that gets a few mentions in Scrublands. According to the map in the book, the north eastern road out of Riversend leads to Hay.

            Tim

  4. I can’t wait to read Scrublands, but I am so far behind in my reading now. The library will be sending a search party to my house soon.
    Garry Disher wrote an excellent stand-alone set in an isolated Australian town. The sense of place is excellent. Of course, having a senior moment, I can’t think of the name of it.

  5. The book by Garry Disher that I recommend is “Bitter Wash Road,” also named “Hell to Pay.” Excellent story, characters and location.

  6. Hello Sarah. Funnily enough I bought Scrublands only a few days ago, to be added to my already increasing list of books TBR. I’m really thoroughly enjoying books by Australian authors having read The Dressmaker and Summer at Mount Hope by Rosalie Ham, The Dry, Force of Nature and The Lost Man by Jane Harper and Into the Night and soon to be released The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey. Really unputdownable books. Will have a look at Gary Disher too that Kathy D has mentioned. It’s going to be a busy winter!
    BTW Sarah, congrats on The Shrouded Path. Brilliant plot with a very unexpected twist.

    • Thank you, Kathy, that’s really kind. You’ve also given me plenty of new authors to try. I enjoyed The Dry and I’m waiting for a new Peter Temple when it comes!

  7. Another batch of intriguing books, especially Scrublands. Dry, hot outback scenes in Australia reel me in. What about the other three books?Their time period of each. I usually like contemporary but once in awhile I enjoy a historical book if it’s about a period I’m interested in. And Jane Harper has more books out, must find them.
    On a person note, I have to finish two more books, one from my TBR list and one from someone under 30. Can I read The Shrouded Path as my TBR book even though I got it weeks ago? I would like to move it to the top of the pile. Is this allowed in meme world?
    I also need a book written by someone under 30 and a book set in Latin America or written by a Latino author. Anyone know of a not-so-brutal book.

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