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.

The Trespasser – Tana French

The Trespasser - Tana FrenchAnother superb mystery thriller in the Dublin Murder Squad. The procedural detail in staging an interview, for example, is fascinating. But the best feature of this novel is the description of the head-space of Detective Antoinette Conway, the only female in the Murder Squad, so she is faced with Prime Suspect-like intrigue from the good-old-boys. French is a great crime writer; all her books are highly recommended.

The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake House by Kate MortonThis book has been on bestseller lists for a long time so I finally decided to read it, and it is excellent. The story is a cold case mystery covering 70 years, involving a missing boy. The setting is mostly Cornwall with some London interludes, and the story telling switches between 1933 and 2003. The plot progresses in stages, so the slow reveal produces different stages of suspicion. The ending also includes some resolved sub-plots which are a bit predictable, but overall this is a very entertaining read.