Monday, December 10, 2018

Q: End of year recommended books?

From Susan

My crime fiction reading was haphazard but enjoyable this year. I read less because I took on some non-fiction recommended by others to help cope with our national, um, circumstances. But I kept buying books, which means I either retire to my bed to read non-stop while drinking hot chocolate, or postpone to 2019 many undoubtedly excellent books to read and report on. But here are a few that I loved, not all of them new in 2018:

THERE, THEREby Tommy Orange. A new voice, a new perspective, a brilliant, lyrical writer inviting us to understand and care for Native Americans coping – or not - in an urban setting, specifically Oakland, California, a place I know reasonably well. Orange pulls no punches in his condemnation of the myriad ways that Native people have been screwed, but the novel pulls us in with its power and focus on a cluster of characters being pulled as if by magnets toward disaster. It is a crime story on many levels, individuals against individuals, and society against a whole group of people. It’s also a nail-biter.

THE WINTER GROUND, a Dandy Gilver mystery by Catriona McPherson. Published in 2008 as the fourth, it’s one in the series I had missed. It’s a corker! Like so many of her Dandy mysteries, there’s a puzzling death and no end of possible killers. The setting is near Dandy’s home but it’s exotic because the circus has come to town, or rather to the estate of an odd couple who are themselves quite a mystery. The circus folk are great fun, and the author’s dry humor shines an unflattering light on the wealthy landowners and one particularly posturing younger son. When the Russian bareback rider has an accident, Dandy’s nose for trouble begins to quiver. A treat for me was a deeper look at Dandy’s uncomfortable marriage and her relationships with her two sons. 

THE SEAGULLby Ann Cleeves.  Again, from a prior year, but it’s never too late to catch up with the cranky detective Vera Stanhope as she tackles crimes, this time two bodies long dead found in a drainpipe that may have something to do with a brand new murder victim. Leave it to her to start connecting dots other people don’t – or don’t want to – see. I am a great admirer of Vera and Ann, so of course this is on my list.

A NECESSARY EVILby Abir Mukherjee. Abir and I were on a panel together at Bouchercon this year, which sparked my interest in his novels about an English policeman and his Indian partner in Calcutta. The crime they’re investigating is good but what I enjoyed most was the growing relationship between the two men, the setting of the story earlier in the 20thcentury, and the nuanced description of the racist society and the toll it took on everyone.

There are others, but if you choose to read one of these, I think you’ll find it worth your time. And, happy holidays to everyone. May they be occasions of love and joy, and may 2019 be a good year for us all!

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