Everyone On This Train Is A Suspect by Benjamin Stevenson is a sequel to the equally lengthily-named Everyone in my Family has Killed Someone (EIMFHKS) – a book I absolutely loved. In fact I’ve really enjoyed all of Stevenson’s books but the narration in EIMFHKS was outstanding. Written conversationally and very VERY cleverly in first person – sometimes second – the narrative is delivered via the droll, witty, exceedingly forthright writer-turned accidental detective (turned novelist) Ernest Cunningham.
Stone Yard Devotional by Charlotte Wood is yet another stunning piece of prose from this masterful writer. Her writing is superb. Splendid. Beautiful. And Wood is an excellent storyteller. The strangest thing for me about this book however is that I was waiting to understand what the book was about. Unlike The Natural Way of Things, I didn’t think it was a huge metaphor that eluded me, rather I kinda understood it was about a middle-aged woman undergoing a crisis of identity. Not a mid-life crisis, but one in which she’s questioning her purpose. There’s a part early in the novel where she talks about the nuns constantly interrupting their work each day to attend services in the church. But then realises that IS their work. I think I felt the same way about this book. I was waiting for the story arc to kick in amidst the quiet reverie of life at the retreat and memories of our narrator’s past. But it never did. Her contemplation – of the past and present IS the story.
Green Dot by Madeleine Gray is a book based on a premise that will possibly divide its readers. Essentially it’s about a woman who falls in love with a married man and continues to have an affair with him, even after finding out. It’s cliched in some ways because she’s sure he’s desperately unhappy in his marriage and just waiting to escape in a way that doesn’t hurt his wife. Too much.
The thing I liked most about this book however is that Gray doesn’t take the easy way out by making our leads cliches. Hera knows she will be harshly judged by others for her behaviour. She knows it’s viewed by everyone – including herself – as ‘wrong’ but she loves Arthur desperately and cannot imagine life without him. And Arthur – doesn’t make a lot of false promises. He doesn’t diminish his relationship with his wife. But he falls in love with Hera nonetheless.
This is a beautiful story and reminded me of Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe which I also loved. Dalton’s writing sings but he can also spin a yarn and this one – about a 17 year old girl with no name – is enchanting and addictive. The book opens as she’s waiting for her 18th birthday when her mother will turn herself into the police after being on the run for all of their lives, and then – only then – will she know her name.
I hadn’t read the blurb for Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll until after I finished reading it so didn’t know it was inspired by a true story (and even then I just assumed it was someone with whom I wasn’t familiar, not realising it was based on Ted Bundy’s last murders). It explains why Knoll tells us almost nothing about the killer. Including his name. She calls him The Defendant. And I very much appreciated that this book is about his victims and those left behind rather than the killer.
I read Knoll’s Luckiest Girl Alive when it came out in 2015 and more recently watched the Netflix movie based on the book. I also read and reviewed her second book, The Favourite Sister. She writes unlikeable characters well. Almost too well perhaps. Though here her disdain lies with some of the male characters introduced rather than her female leads.
I was very excited to see Judgement Prey by John Sandford pop up for review that I let it leap-frog over a heap of other books. And I’m even blessing it with a review on my much-esteemed website 😉 rather than just on Goodreads even though I only had an electronic copy. Because I freakin’ loved this book. I’m almost tempted to give it 4.5 stars except I was a smidge disappointed by the actual ‘who’ part of the whodunnit. It wasn’t left-field but let’s just say we weren’t given some of the clues we needed earlier and I do prefer an even playing field when it comes to the big reveal / finger-pointing thing.
Lioness by Emily Perkins is a beautifully written book. I’ve bookmarked a lot of pages featuring phrasing or passages that leapt out at me – as being eloquent, or perhaps relatable for me personally. Which is interesting, as though I could relate to some elements of this and its lead characters (who are similar in age to me), I really did not connect with them in the way I expected. In fact, I did not like them at all. Therese our narrator seems surprisingly enamoured by her neighbour Claire and I confess I did not see the allure.
I met New Zealand author Chris Stuart at the Theakston Crime Writing Festival. We were introduced by crime fiction guru (and big promotor of antipodean crime fiction) Craig Sisterson (pic of we three below).
Chris, he told me, had won New Zealand’s Ngaio Marsh Award for Best First Novel for her debut, For Reasons of their Own in 2021. We hung out while at the festival and she handed me a copy of her second book, The Glasgow Smile. Very weirdly we had similar backgrounds, as we’d both worked in international aid and development overseas and – at different times – worked with the same Australian project management company in the Pacific. Small world. We also both seemed to be wearing bright clothing, so we stood out in the dull England drizzle.
I’d had Lie by the Pool by Susan Walter awaiting me on my iPad for a while before getting to it. I’m not sure why I requested it, but something about it leapt out and I’ve seen other Aussie bookbloggers or bookstagrammers reading it too. In some ways it’s a proverbial sleeper. We come into the story part-way through. Bree has lost everything – her husband and house – and is living out of her car. When we meet her she’s sneaking into the poolhouse of a large house in Beverley Hills. It’s obvious that it’s familiar to her for some reason but that’s all we know. And that’s all we do know until Walter very cleverly starts pulling together multiple threads.