As the phrase ‘April Showers’ became a huge understatement in Britain, there was plenty to enjoy book wise. My resolution at the end of March was to read some new (to me) authors and in fact 80% of my reading was by writers I hadn’t read before. I particularly enjoyed expanding my list of female crime writers including Y A Erskine, Eva Hudson, Margot Kinberg, Camilla Ceder and Rebecca Cantrell.
It was an author writing his twelfth (I think) book who provided the stand out read for me. The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty was a compelling read set during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. It made me think for days afterwards and I am very much looking forward to future books in the Sean Duffy series.
The ten books I read in April for crimepieces were:
1. The Loyal Servant by Eva Hudson
2. The Man Who Went Up in Smoke by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö
3. The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty
4. A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell
5. The Hour of the Wolf by Hakan Nesser
6. Publish or Perish by Margot Kinberg
7. Last Seen Wearing by Hillary Waugh
8. Frozen Moment by Camilla Ceder
9. The Holy Thief by William Ryan
10. The Brotherhood by Y A Erskine
Kerrie over at Mysteries in Paradise is compiling a list of Book of the Month selections.
Tasmania is a region I know little about but which conjures up images of beautiful scenery in a temperate climate. The Brotherhood written by Y A Erskine, a former Tasmanian police officer, provides an alternative view of the island. In this excellent book, racial tensions and stresses of police work combine to provide a snapshot of the realities of law enforcement on the island.
The plot opens with the murder of Sergeant John White, a policeman in the city of Hobart, who has a reputation for honesty and integrity. His killing takes place during a burglary in which he is being accompanied by a rookie cop whose narrative sets out the context of the killing. A suspect is soon identified which opens up a political nightmare for the police hierarchy. He is a boy from an Aboriginal family who are ‘known to the police’. Tensions clearly run high between the law enforcers and the Aborigine community and the narrative moves to the Commissioner of Police who clearly fears that the situation could escalate existing stresses. The chapters then tell the story from the perspective of various people involved in the investigation and those who were close to the dead man, including a local journalist, a lawyer called in to defend the suspect and Sergeant White’s wife and ex-girlfriend.
Gradually the personality of the policeman is revealed and his squeaky clean reputation comes under scrutiny along with the cynical manipulation of laws introduced to protect the Aborigine population. This cynicism is reflected in the style of the writing which is honest and brutal with strong expletives meted out by police and criminals alike. The shifting narrative worked very well I thought and brought out the humanity not only of suspect and victim but also of people on the periphery of the investigation. This wasn’t so much a whodunnit but a “whydunnit” and I thought it a very accomplished debut novel.
I read this book as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge.
Other (very positive) reviews of the book can be found at Fair Dinkum Crime, Petrona and Aust Crime Fiction.