Saturday, January 12th 2019 : "New Year, New Reads"
I get sent lots of proofs for endorsement, but often even the ones which catch my eye remain unread - I'm too busy, too tired, too disorganized to work through them. Sometimes I start a novel to find that, even though it might be beautifully written, it's just not to my taste. This Christmas however, I went on a real holiday, a week in the sun with time to spend with my family and to relax on the beach or by the pool with a good story, and every one of the books I'd taken with me were brilliant. It felt as though I'd won the lottery.
The first I'd bought for myself. Louise Penny is a good friend and I love her Inspector Gamache series, but she's a New York Times bestseller and needs no endorsement from me! Kingdom of the Blind takes us to Three Pines in the winter, to snow and warm fires and the friendship of a close community. But as always, with Penny, darkness and shards of ice lie within the heart of families and individuals. This is a story of betrayal and risk and I was captivated as always.
Alice Blanchard is another trans-Atlantic writer with the skill to create and explore small communities. Trace of Evil is the first book I've read and I'm grateful to Minotaur Books for sending me the proof. It's set in rural up-state New York, a small town where everyone thinks they know everyone else - they all went to school together after all - but there are secrets that somehow come to the surface and explode the myth of friendship and support. Natalie Lockhart is a great protagonist and I hope there are more books in the series.
Mel McGrath's book The Guilty Party, is about toxic friendship too I admired this book more than I can say, from a technical, writer's point of view, but also for its honesty and the emotional punch in the gut, the outstanding reading experience. It's set in London and in the island of Portland in Dorset and over different times, but it's never confusing. Every character and every incident is clearly drawn, beautifully written and even though the narrators have their own agendas, their own attempts to justify a contemptible act, we're swept along by them. We hope we would never have behaved as they did, but we almost understand.
The last of my list of recommended reads for the new year is Scrublands by Chris Hammer. Since the success of Jane Harper's The Dry, I've been sent a few Australian crime novels, but I've found this by far the most interesting and accomplished. Hammer is a journalist and so is his central character Martin Scarsden. It starts dramatically; a priest comes out of his church and shoots five members of the congregation who are waiting outside for the service to begin. A year later Scarsden is sent to explore the impact of the tragedy on the drought-ridden, inward-looking community of Riversend His arrival triggers more violence, and his image of himself as a journalist and a man is undermined. This is a perceptive, beautifully written book as well as a compulsive page-turner.
Happy New Year to you all. I hope you come across as many fantastic books as I have in this first month of 2019. Look out for a new season of Vera beginning on January 13th and a new season of Shetland coming soon after.
Posted by Ann at 09:32 AM GMT