I have a kindle that I use at night when I can’t sleep. It creates a different reading experience than that of a physical copy but I’ve greatly enjoyed some of my nocturnal books. The great thing about kindle is that it encourages me to try out new authors and crime sub-genres I’m less familiar with. No Ordinary Killing by Jeff Dawson is set in 1899 South Africa, during the Boer War. Conflict, of course, is a perfect time, when scores are being settled on a wider scale, for crimes of a different nature to be perpetrated. Dawson has produced a strong thriller with something to say about how we wage our battles.
Ingo Finch is a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps who is called to a body discovered in Cape Town who turns out to be one of his colleagues. Convinced that the explanation for the murderer is too pat, he sets out to discover the background to the killing but is soon called into battle. Meanwhile, Mbutu Kefaleze is on the run across the Karoo with a group of villagers pursued by soldiers. They meet a mute woman and her young daughter who tell of the slaughter of their settlement by ‘devil soldiers’, men who faces were covered by strange masks.
The two storylines are equally strong and each with their own mystery and I was drawn into both scenarios. Finch meets Annie Jones, an Australian nurse and a female point of is particularly needed, I think, in a setting which is dominated by men. Annie’s back story is interesting and a foreshadow of many of the nurses of the Great War who left families to gain freedom and employment in the medical corps.
Dawson’s writing style is an intriguing mix of John Buchan style adventuring and well researched period detail. He creates a South Africa full of superstition, mistrust and political intrigue. Images of slaughter and bloodshed are never far away which contrasts with the clear class tensions in the British Empire and superior attitudes towards the indigenous population. I enjoyed the book and it kept me turning the pages (or rather swiping the kindle screen) until the end. A very strong debut.
I’ve followed the Ngaio Marsh Award for New Zealand crime fiction from its inception and it’s been heartening to see the competition go from strength to strength. The Last Time We Spoke by Fiona Sussman is one of the shortlisted entries and rightly deserves its place there. The award’s creator, Craig Sisterton thought I’d enjoy this book and he was right. I’m very much concerned about the portrayal of the impact of a crime on a community and this novel focuses on the psychological legacy of a devastating act on two individuals – Carla Reid, one of the victims and Ben Toroa, the perpetrator.
Carla is the victim of a terrible act of violence which results in the death of her son and her husband seriously injured in an attack in their home. The decisions she is forced to make after the investigation is completed and the media have moved on to other stories are heart wrenching. Salvation comes in the unlikely form of people around her. An Asian neighbour struggling to make New Zealand her home and a doctor who lost his family in the Balkan conflict provide glimpses of the possibility of a future for Carla.
Ben is realistically although less sympathetically portrayed. His life was already on a collision course and it as a matter of time before tragedy occurs.Maori culture and history is woven into Ben’s story and the lack of hope and expectations contrasts with the lost future of Carla’s much loved and longed for child. The detention centre is brutal but its close confines offer Ben a structure in which to redeem his own future.
The Last Time We Spoke is beautifully written and takes you into the heart of two survivors stories. It’s an incredibly moving book and deserves a much wider audience. I wish it all the best in the Ngaio Marsh competition.
During the excitement of publication week for A Patient Fury, I was still able to read lots of crime novels – the new Le Carre, Nicola Upson’s Nine Lessons and a couple of classic crime books. Thanks to everyone who took part in the competitions. All the winners have been notified (names can be found at the bottom of the posts) and their books sent. I’m now catching up with posts on some of the excellent books which I’ve not yet got around to reviewing, the first of which is Kitty Peck and the Daughter of Sorrow by Kate Griffin.
I’m a big fan of the Kitty Peck books, reviewing the first on Crimepieces. I caught up with the second, Kitty Peck and the Child of Ill Fortune before reading her latest outing but I’m relieved that each book can be read as a standalone which I always greatly value in a series. Kitty Peck has inherited Paradise, her grandmother’s Docklands entertainment empire, and is determined to keep the business intact despite rivals circling. The absence of Lady Ginger, however, and the disappearance of her brother means that Kitty is vulnerable and forced to seek new allies.
Kitty Pack and the Daughter of Sorrow is darker than Griffin’s previous book as Kitty gets sucked into the Paradise underworld and, in particular, the grips of opium. This is a more vulnerable Kitty and yet the spark remains despite the trials of finding out who her enemies are. Griffin balances the darkness with glorious descriptions of Victorian London and its ill smells during a heatwave. There are some lovely new characters, particular Sam Collins, who was a delight to discover and, as usual, Griffin’s language is wonderful and suited to the rich and bawdy setting.
I suspect Kitty Pack and the Daughter of Sorrow will garner Kitty Peck new followers and encourage readers to pick up earlier books. This is a series going from strength to strength.
It’s the final day of the giveaway week to celebrate the publication of A Patient Fury. I occasionally review classic crime on Crimepieces and collect the green vintage penguins. A picture of one of my bookcases in on the right. Inevitably, despite keeping a list of my collection, I often end up with duplicates. I’m giving away five classic Penguins in today’s competition written by Wilkie Collins, Simenon, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle and Margery Allingham.
For aficionados the complete list is:
Lord Edgware Dies by Agatha Christie (no.685)
Mystery Mile by Margey Allingham (no.761)
The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (no.805)
The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (no.1072)
The Hatters Ghost’s by George Simenon (no. 1456)
As with the previous days, to enter the giveaway, all you need to do is ‘like’ my Facebook page
and sign-up to my newsletter below.
That’s it! If you’ve already signed up to receive my newsletter, then simply leave a comment below telling me who your favourite classic crime author is.
The competition will be open until tonight Friday evening (the 8th) at 6pm BST when I’ll be drawing ALL the winners for the week and I’ll announce them here. The competition is open to entries worldwide. Good luck and don’t forget to check out the previous competitions this week.
Thanks to everyone who’s taken part this week and made publication so memorable.
***The competition is now closed. Congratulations to winner Linda Cunningham. Thanks to everyone who took part.***