Recent Reads

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed my reading but I’ve been busy working on various projects, more news of which soon. However, I’ve been powering through books on my kindle which has been a godsend during this lockdown.

Sound of the Sinners is the latest book by Hull author Nick Quantrill. Private eye Joe Geraghty is back in Hull to attend the funeral of his old friend and colleague, Don Ridley. The city has changed during his stint in Amsterdam and Geraghty becomes convinced that his friend’s death was no accident. A cold case, it appears, is coming back to life and it’s Geraghty who feels honour-bound to finish what Ridely started. As usual, the city of Hull leaps from the page in Quantrill’s novel and I’m always impressed by the author’s clear and compelling prose.

Hell Gate by Jeff Dawson is another well-written and compelling thriller set in New York. After the sinking of the steamship General Slocum which killed over a thousand souls, mainly from the German immigrant community, a populist senator preys on his voters’ grief. It’s 1904 and alliances haven’t yet been formed, the senator reminding people that, except for one vote in the House of Representatives, the nation would be speaking German. British spy Ingo Finch arrives in Manhattan to infiltrate and expose the new political movement and is soon under attack from all sides. I loved the historical detail in this book, genuinely feeling I’d learnt something about the period and the pace never lets up. A very strong spy story.

Barbara Copperthwaite writes psychological thrillers with interesting themes and empathetic characters. In her latest book, The Girl in the Missing Poster, Stella plasters posters around the town looking for news of her twin sister Leila who disappeared twenty five years earlier. It attracts the notice of a TV company who feature her quest on Netflix. Stella receives a letter from someone claiming they took Leila and, as a reunion is organised for those who were present on the night her sister disappeared, old secrets begin to emerge. It was great, after a gap, to read a new Barbara Copperthwaite and I found it to be a page-turning read.

I haven’t been reading as much Scandinavian crime fiction recently but I was reminded of how much I love the genre after reading The Therapist, the debut novel from Helene Flood. Sara’s husband, Sigard, leaves early one morning for a trip to a holiday cabin. A phone call from his friends waiting for him reveals that he never arrived. As she tries to interest the police in her husband’s disappearance while running her therapy practice, she begins to notice that objects are being moved around her house. Does she have an intruder and is it connected to Sigard’s disappearance? This is an excellent thriller with sharp insights into how people behave and how not everyone is how they present themselves. It was, as I always expect from Maclehose, a high-quality read. The translation was by Alison McCullough.

The Ormering Tide is the debut novel from Mercury Prize-nominated musician Kathryn Williams. Rozel lives with her three older triplet brothers on a small island. When one brother goes missing, Rozel is forced out of her comfortable existence to see the community as it actually is. Secrets, odd behaviour and repressed truths are explored with beautifully evocative language. A truly stunning read.

Books of the past, present and future. My top reads of 2020 (and early 2021).

As we gladly say goodbye to 2020, the good news is that we should be able to meet up in more normal circumstances at some point in 2021. My reading this year has been a little different as I’ve relied on well-loved authors such as PD James and Josephine Tey and also read widely outside the crime genre. However, I’ve also enjoyed some outstanding crime novels which were published in 2020 and have discovered four exceptional reads for 2021.

First up my top five crime reads of 2020 (in alphabetical order).

 

1. The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves: Vera, snow and family secrets. What more could you want from a crime novel?

2.  The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths The welcome return of Ruth Galloway to Norfolk and a genuinely creepy tale.

3. The Glass Hotel by Emily St John Mandel Not a traditional crime novel but a powerful story of a Bernie Madoff style figure and the impact of his crimes on family and victims.

4. The Wayward Girls by Amanda Mason Reminiscent of the Essex poltergeist hauntings, I loved the strong characterisation and atmospheric setting.

5. Sorry for the Dead by Nicola Upson The combination of Josephine Tey and Charleston makes for a rich narrative and there’s an intriguing historic murder to solve.

And what are the books you really want to read for 2021?

First up is the fabulous Body of Stars by Laura Maylene Walter. Set in a world where women’s skin is mapped with markings which predict their future, Celeste reaches the age where her markings change from temporary to permanent. She finds her changing body an object of fascination and she, along with other changelings, becomes an abduction target. The story is both compelling and menacing and bursts with originality.

Body of Stars is out on the 18th March

If you love alternative realities, another book I’ve read which pulled me into its worlds was The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley. Joe Tournier receives a postcard with an etching of a lighthouse on the front. It has been in the sorting office for 91 years but Joe discovers the lighthouse has only recently been built. Joe is a British slave in the French Empire. It’s a world where the French won the Napoleonic Wars. Or is it? Joe can remember a world where English is spoken and in his quest to discover if his memory losses are down to epilepsy or a more shadowy truth, he travels to Scotland to visit the lighthouse in the postcard. Brilliantly inventive with a plot designed to enthral, I didn’t want to leave the world Pulley created.

The Kingdoms is out on 27th May

The Last House on Needless Street is an atmospheric, creepy thriller reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Lulu disappeared aged six, the supposed victim of a predator. Dee, her sister, is haunted by the disappearance and rents a house near one of the suspects at the time. Ted lives with his daughter Lauren and cat, Olivia.  A loner who takes trips only to visit a dubious therapist,  is Ted responsible for Lulu’s disappearance? Unusual, sad and ultimately redemptive, it’s a book to surprise and delight.

The Last House on Needless Street is out on 18th March.

Finally, The Drowned City is the first in a series by K J Maitland. Set in the year following the Gunpowder Plot, a conspirator, Daniel Pursglove, is set free in exchange for entering Bristol and spying on the Catholic conspirators there. The city is recovering from a drenching by a River Severn wave which killed thousands. In the middle of mayhem, Daniel finds himself hunting for a killer. Beautifully written with a dark heart, Maitland knows how to pull you deep into the early Jacobean period.

The Drowned City is out on the 1st April.

So, some great books to look forward to. What were your outstanding reads for 2020?