Thursday, November 2, 2017

Read All About It! About what? About Everything!

"With American Thanksgiving just around the corner, it's getting near to present-buying time. What five criminally good books would you recommend and for whom?" By Catriona

I've recently read all of these and loved every one. Loved some of them so much I wondered why I bothered. That feeling is the essence of bittersweet, the best bit of reading and the worst bit of writing, and (it now occurs to me) maybe not hitting the right note for the second day of Nanowrimo. So proceed at your own peril.

There's cozy, hard-boiled, literary and classic here. And a master-class on how to start a series. I'm looking at you, Vicki Thompson.

Okay . . .

For jaded palates: If you're feeling as if you've read it all before and it's been a while since a book surprised you . . . try ERRANT BLOOD, the debut novel by C.F. Peterson. It's set in the Scottish Highlands - but not the shortbread tin version of the Highlands. Forget Hamish Macbeth. Forget Whisky Galore. There are refugees billeted in the roadworkers' houses and lots of dodgy Russian money sloshing around.  There's also a death scene more visceral and compelling than any I've ever read. And beautiful writing about landscape, about cruelty, about loyalty.  And laughs too.  It's a crime for a debut to be this good, frankly.

If you loved The Sting: then here's a treat. I adore a sympathetic grifter, I adore a dazzling heist and if there's a rich historical setting thrown in too, all the better. Victoria Thompson's new series debuts with CITY OF LIES and it is splendid stuff. The true history of a murky moment in US suffragism is woven skillfully through the story (you will fume, I promise) and the character of a boorish, repellent, New York real estate mogul begging for comeuppance is good for a wry chuckle too.

Want a heroine to fall for? I'd recommend Bobbi Logan, a fierce, funny, vulnerable, kind, wounded, brave . . . hairdresser. Bet you weren't expecting that, eh? SEVEN SUSPECTS is Renee James' third novel about Bobbi, and it's a structural (and emotional) belter, violent and searing, with a moral centre made of granite and a heart bigger than Jupiter. The setting is a love letter to Chicago too.

But if you don't want to moan with horror so loud that a guy on a train asks you if you're okay (yes, really) then why not curl up with a little more comforting?

To be taken with a hot toddy (in your whitewashed cottage on a clifftop, ideally): Alexia Gordon's debut, MURDER IN G MAJOR, must be the hardest novel ever to pitch in an elevator.  Ahem, it's an orchestra-themed, fish-out-of-water, Ireland-set, amateur sleuth story. With a ghost. Gesthemane Brown spends the novel drinking whisky, conducting a high school orchestra, communing with the spirit of a famous composer and - oh yes - solving a mystery. And you can carry right on to Book 2 now: Death in D Minor is all that and a ghostly sea captain.

And finally . . .

If you think you don't like Agatha Christie, if you reckon she's twee, if you wonder why she's still revered: read one of her masterpieces whose genius plot you don't yet know. There's no point trying to see The Orient Express for what is was on publication day. Or Roger Ackroyd. But try one where you haven't looked behind the curtain yet. It could be the psychologically creepy SLEEPING MURDER, or the out-and-out horrid serial-killer novel, ABC MURDERS but I'd recommend - THE MOVING FINGER. For me it's the very best of Christie's explorations of shame.  She's brilliant at shame and never better than here. Go on.


Jacki said...

So many books!

Thanks for all of the suggestions!!

Victoria Thompson said...

Thanks for your kind words, Catriona! Can't tell you how much it means to know you really like the new series! Here's hoping everyone else does, too!

Susan C Shea said...

A great selection. I have to read one of Renee James' books soon - it's on the short list! And I agree that we sometimes forget Agatha Christie created some devilish plots that get lost in the twee.