More (lockdown) crime reads

My reading this month has consisted of books by international authors. Probably due to the restriction on travel, my mind has needed to journey into spaces other than Derbyshire! The good news is that we’re lucky in the UK in that publishers are willing to take a chance on writers from around the world.

First up was Australia. I’m a big fan of the recent books by Jane Harper and Chris Hammer so I put this debut to the top of my reading pile. Hermit by S R White is the twelve-hour narrative of a crime investigation in rural Australia. Nathan Whittler disappeared fifteen years earlier and is found next to the body of a murdered shopkeeper. Detective Dana Russo has a short period of time to question the troubled, inscrutable suspect and get to the bottom of both the murder and the man’s disappearance. Tense and absorbing, I loved everything about this intelligent thriller which is out in September.

I love Iceland in the winter and The Mist, the new novel from Ragnar Jonasson, beautifully evokes the splendid isolation of its rural farmsteads. In 1987, an elderly married couple are found murdered in their farmhouse after a month long snowstorm. Hulda Hermansdottir is sent from Reykjavik to investigate but she is haunted by her own family tragedy and her failure to spot a crime which was taking place in her own home. Bleak and haunting, I read this lovely novel in one sitting. The translation is by Victoria Cribb.

 

Hijack City is a novel set in Cape Town by Michael Williams. A group of car jackers are terrorising the city and detective Jake Mulligan is given the task of setting up an anti-hijack unit in a crummy building away from the main police station. His partner, Jackson Sondile, has been accused of corruption, tainting all he has come into contact with especially Jake. I loved the descriptions of various facets of Cape Town society, the excellent pace and, most of all, the character of Jake Mulligan.

 

Finally, the trenches of the First World War are the setting for Jon Wilkins’ excellent Poppy Flowers at the Front. Poppy is a ambulance driver ferrying wounded soldiers to the casualty clearing station. This is the story of a young girl plunged into the horror of the trenches, the experience of which assaults all her preconceptions of what it is to live and die. Her companion is Elodie, a French nurse, who provides Poppy with hope and flashes of joy amongst the horror. Beautifully written, with letters to home peppering the prose, I enjoyed this endearing love story.

 

Latest (Lockdown) Crime Reads

I hope everyone is well and keeping safe. During Lockdown, my concentration has taken a dive and rather than open new books I’ve been re-reading many of my favourite novels. However, as we all adjust to the new normal, I’ve finally started on my reading pile – some newly published, others books which I’ve always meant to read.

Lots of parallels have been made between our current crisis and the trials of life in Britain during the Second World War. The Walls We Build by Jules Hayes was a timely read as it has the character of Winston Churchill playing an important role in the story which unfolds. The friendship of Frank, Florence and Hilda is strained by a marriage of convenience in the 1930s the ramifications of which continue through to the turn of the century. Beautifully written, I loved the complex relationships and mystery at the heart of the novel.

Our Fathers by Rebecca Wait is a story of a family obliterated by a sudden act of violence and the impact it has on a remote island community. Tom, eight years old when his father shot his mother and siblings, returns to Litta to find answers to their deaths. Lyrical and reflective, the surprises in this book are as much to do with the web of relationships as to the reveal of the motivation behind the killings.

I enjoyed Lucy Atkins’ debut novel, The Night Visitor, and was looking forward to her follow up which was published recently. Magpie Lane is set in Oxford where protagonist Dee is a nanny to the daughter of a Oxford College Master. We discover, as the book opens, that Felicity is missing and police are struggling to identify any suspects. Dee narrates how she got the job and the odd dynamic of the family, taking the reader on an interesting and twisty journey. I love an intelligent thriller and this is one!

While re-reading Jamaica Inn last week, I realised I had a Daphne Du Maurier on my shelf I hadn’t yet read. The Flight of the Falcon is set in the Italian town of Ruffano which tour guide Armino Fabbio returns to after he’s unwittingly implicated in the murder of his childhood family servant. There, he discovers that a brother he thought was dead is instrumental in reviving the cult of the sinister Duke Claudio who reigned with terror five hundred years earlier. An atmospheric, absorbing read, it has Du Maurier’s trademark eye for the unusual and sinister.

Finally, I was sent this book detailing walks around London with a bloody/murderous theme written by David Fathers. The walks in Bloody London span two thousand years of history and there was plenty I wasn’t aware of, even though I lived in the capital for ten years. With a forward by David Aaronovitch, I particularly enjoyed reading about the goings on in peripheral areas around the city. At the moment, the book is for armchair browsing only but fingers crossed that changes soon as there are plenty of great places to discover thanks to this book.