In Her Blood by Nikki Crutchley introduces two families and a missing girl; stories unfolding decades apart. Both families have been torn apart by tragedy and loss, but they’re not blameless we learn and Crutchley offers some very flawed and unlikeable characters in this dark and twisty read.
The Whispering by Veronica Lando centres around a myth – ‘the whispering’ apparently luring children to their death off the boulders in Granite Creek’s rainforest in Far North Queensland.
I was slightly worried there’d be a supernatural theme to this book as it’s not a genre I enjoy, but – though there’s reference to ‘whispering’ – Queensland author Lando sets the events of this book (past and present) firmly in this earthly realm.
I’d heard a lot of good things about The Torrent by Dinuka McKenzie and now that I’ve read it, am happy it’s tagged on Goodreads as Detective Kate Miles #1 meaning there are more to come. Of course my finely honed deductive skills also noted the inclusion of a preview of book number two at the end of The Torrent, so….
McKenzie’s introduced us to an engaging lead in Kate and I liked the support cast we’d expect to see again – her husband, her work partner, her boss and her father. There’s a bit of backstory and baggage in relation to her father’s past but it doesn’t overwhelm the story unfolding here in any way which also includes a nice balance of the crime/s-at-hand and the usual personal stuff impacting on work lives – particularly that of cops’.
All She Wants by Kelli Hawkins is about a woman who wants a family… a woman who is desperate for a family. I mean ostensibly she wants a baby, but she really wants the whole kit and caboodle. A family. As someone who went through fertility treatment in my early 40s (as a single woman) I could relate to some of Lindsay’s obsessiveness and the daydreams of a long-expected child.
I could similarly relate to how much it smarted to see others with children, taking it for granted and seemingly rubbing it in my face – though of course they weren’t. The pill nonetheless was bitter.
I’d heard good things about The Good Mother by Rae Cairns, which I believe was previously self-published and shortlisted for the prestigious 2021 Ned Kelly Debut Crime Fiction Award.
I was a little worried however. I’m a bit ‘over’ books about motherhood in general… not being a mother myself means I often struggle to relate to the whole there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to protect my kids thing. And then there’s mention of Belfast and the IRA and even though that’s not exactly historical fiction I tend to stay away from anything that delves too deeply into politics or well…. history.
Other People’s Houses by by Kelli Hawkins is an intriguing and bittersweet tale of loss, grief and obsession. It could be akin to breakdown porn as readers get a front-row seat to the disintegration of someone’s mental health. However Hawkins handles lead character Kate with respect and sensitivity. This book is being compared to Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train and I suspect it’s due to the similarities between Kate and TGOTT’s Rachel. Not only are both heavy drinkers, but they indulge in risky and obsessive behaviour… even though they know better. Both authors however, treat their leads sympathetically.
The Valley of Lost Stories by Vanessa McCausland arrived wrapped with a gold bow and handwritten note from the author. It was a lovely gesture from Vanessa and Harper Collins and an acknowledgement that 2020 has been pretty shitty for almost everyone and we should grasp any glimmer of light and joy we can get.
I read McCausland’s The Lost Summers of Driftwood last year and enjoyed it though took umbrage at a couple of references to the fact a character in her late 30s must have felt like a failure because she didn’t have a partner or child.
Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe was one of my favourite books of 2018. Possibly my favourite book. I’ve long been a fan of Dalton’s writing and though I avoid non-fiction, am generally riveted by his pieces in weekend newspapers. Articles or non-fiction essays about seemingly ordinary people and places, made extraordinary through his telling.
Dalton’s second novel, All Our Shimmering Skies is quite different to his first. It’s far more fantastic and mystical. It’s deeper and requires more intellectual translation in many ways. As my taste is fairly prosaic and comprehension very literal I was probably less drawn to the plot. The characters however, are as bewitching as I expected and (again) Dalton’s writing is beyond beautiful.
It’s been a while between books set in psychiatric facilities. There seemed to be a spate of them for a while. Books about current or former ‘institutions’ featuring some of horrific practices of the past and those remaining today (well, at least in the more sordid settings popping up in crime fiction and thrillers).
The Patient by Jasper DeWitt is written as if a first-hand account (via online forum) by a Ivy League graduate who—for various reasons—accepts a posting at an old and obscure mental health facility in Connecticut.
Our lead Parker uses initials and pseudonyms to talk about a patient and colleagues he comes across at the facility. He’s arrogant and he’s open about—what he believes to be—his superior intelligence and insight. It could make him unlikeable but he also acknowledges this arrogance and is honest in revealing his misjudgements and failings.