The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson is a cleverly delivered story of events taking place 30 years ‘earlier’ and their repercussions. It opens in the present with a woman – alone on Christmas day – pottering around her house going through old boxes, when she comes across an old diary. She flicks through to a section she knows well wondering (though) if she’s prepared to go back and revisit that ‘murderous year’.
I’ve read a number of books by Peter Swanson however missed The Kind Worth Killing, which became the first in this series. It didn’t really matter but I’d probably recommend reading it first as I was missing a bit of context here and though this offers some spoilers, I’m keen to go back and read it because I very much liked Lily, who belatedly joins in the adventures here.
Missing memories or amnesiac episodes are always good fodder for crime fiction and thrillers. Particularly when it’s indicated that one of the central characters everyone knows and loves may in fact NOT have always been quite as loveable.
It’s certainly the case in Alafair Burke’s latest book, The Girl She Was. Although it features her popular detective, Ellie Hatcher and references a pivotal point in her life, it’s not actually part of that series; rather it’s a standalone novel so perfect for both fans and newcomers.
In her latest novel, Dream Girl, Laura Lippman is able to draw on her knowledge and experience of writing and the publishing industry to offer up a fairly blunt insight into the life of an author.
Through her lead character Gerry, she also offers some commentary on ‘cancel culture’. I couldn’t quite decide if she was supportive of society’s current penchant for calling out bad or inappropriate behaviour and prejudices, or slightly cynical about how easily some to use (the notion of) ‘cancel culture’ to dismiss stuff that annoys us or with which we disagree. Either way, Gerry finds himself constantly wondering if he’s able to say something or think something lest he be berated for its inappropriateness. It’s interesting because, as we gain more insight into his character and his background there’s a sense that the ‘he doth protest too much’ thing is actually rather warranted.
Peter Swanson’s latest release Rules for Perfect Murders (also released elsewhere as Eight Perfect Murders) is a very clever novel. I notice Anthony Horowitz has offered up a recommendation quote for the cover, which makes sense as it’s reminiscent of his (more traditional crime fiction) work as well.
I guess, by its nature the book is (in fact) a homage to crime fiction – particularly that by some of the greats. It’s twisty and very intelligently written. Indeed it’s very different. It could have been amazing but (though still a good read) I felt it fell slightly short of its potential.
I’ve long been a fan of Laura Lippman: her standalone novels as well as her (reporter-turned-PI) Tess Monaghan series.
In my review of Sunburn I note that Lippman is vague about the timing of plot elements so is able to keep we readers guessing. And here, in her latest standalone, she adopts the interesting approach of introducing a lot – like lots and lots – of narrators…. some of whom we meet but briefly. It could be confusing, but it actually works well. And is kinda clever.
Every time I read one of her books I confess my love for Alafair Burke. I’m not as wedded to her series with Mary Higgins Clark as I am to her solo books, but she has offered up consistently good legal thrillers for years. Plus I like the way she interacts on social media. #seriously
I also like that her books often offer a taste of contemporary culture and politics – here through the #MeToo and #ThemToo movement as well as light (and deft) reference to the current US political and legislative environment.
I’m behind with my reviews and not allowed to do any more reading until I catch up… so yesterday I attempted a video review.
Brad Parks’ Closer Than You Know is well paced and kept me guessing for much of the book. The legal procedural possibly rushes the closing a bit more than I’d like but it hooked me enough to read in a sitting.
US author Laura Lippman has published a myriad of crime fiction and I’ve read a great many, including most of the Tess Monaghan series. Like Sandra Brown, Karen Rose and Nora Roberts she usually offers us a good balance in her romantic suspense novels and her latest, Sunburn, is no different.