The Child – Fiona Barton

The Child - Fiona BartonBarton’s very successful debut novel, The Widow, was going to be a tough act to follow, and admittedly The Child is not as good. However, there are some very strong aspects to this second novel. Once again, this is a well-written psychological thriller/mystery. What is the relationship between skeletal remains of a child found in a construction site with a child abduction case from the 1970s? Also this is a story almost entirely about women including Kate, the intrepid reporter from The Widow. Male characters other than the plodding police are either inconsequential or sleaze balls. And finally, one of the female characters has incredibly poor parenting skills, setting up the engrossing question – what will she say/do next? Overall, this is a book that becomes hard to put down.

The Fortunate Brother – Donna Morrissey

The Fortunate Brother - Donna MorrisseyA gritty angst-filled guy book set in West Newfoundland. The context – geography and people- is described perfectly. A father and son are paralyzed by grief, so they retreat and psychologically “run away” into a life of drink and anger. The book then becomes a murder mystery with deception and lies and misunderstandings. Annoying behaviour to be sure but the descriptions of the people in a fishing outport trying, usually badly, to have each other’s back is compelling. This is one of Morrissey’s best books.

The Thirst – Jo Nesbo

The Thirst - Jo Nesbo .jpgAnother Harry Hole novel – hurrah! The story is rather bloody: a serial killer in Oslo with vampirism (you will have to look up the precise meaning of this word). There are two main reasons why this book is a splendid read. First, there are long discussions of moral philosophy – why does Harry obsessively pursue the solution to murders, knowing the strain this obsession places on his relationships? And second, the plot is intricate and impossible to predict. This is great summer reading.

Burial Rites – Hannah Kent

Burial Rites - Hannah KentA young Australian woman was on a Rotary Exchange to Iceland, where she discovered a story of Agnes who was beheaded in 1828 for alleged murders. This was the last execution in Iceland. The story is all context, life in Iceland in the early 19th century and the place of an independent woman, with issues of poverty and religion. HK was a participant in a Vancouver Word Fest session on archival research about 2 1/2 years ago that I attended. She talked about the issue of cultural appropriation, for example. This is an excellent debut novel, and my enjoyment was enhanced by the fact that I read this book in Iceland!

The Dry – Jane Harper

The Dry - Jane HarperA chance purchase in the Auckland Airport  became a very satisfying mystery. An apparent murder-suicide is presented in the context of a small town in Australia 500 km north of Melbourne, with the added complexity of a cold case from the past. The context of how heat and continuing drought and mystery affects the psychology of a place and people both individually and collectively is presented very well – a very good read.

Umbrella Man – Peggy Blair

umbrella-man-peggy-blairBlair is a Canadian who writes mystery novels about Inspector Ramirez in Cuba. The plot is complicated: murder and spies and double/triple agents. But as in most mystery stories, the context is more important than plot. In this case, the context is Havana: decaying elegance, a hopelessly under-resourced police department, and the general deprivations of life in Cuba. This is a very fun read, and topical since Cuba has received more attention after the death of Fidel.

The Widow – Fiona Barton

the-widow-fiona-bartonThis contemporary novel is a very well-written story about a child abduction in Britain. The story unfolds Gillian Flynn-like with an alternating time frame and chapters from different points of view: The Detective, The Reporter … The Widow is a stand-by-your-man wife so her psychology unfolds ever so slowly. Several characters in this book are overcome by obsession. This is a very good companion book to Zoe Whittall’s The Best Kind Of People in that the main focus is on the aftermath of a traumatic event.