Thursday, December 12, 2019

Five Go-old Books!

by Catriona .

Sorry for the ear worm. You can dislodge it with a quick verse and chorus of Jose Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad" (For readers in the UK - this is a song even more ubiquitous and annoying/amazing than Slade's "Merry Christmas, Everybody" (For readers who don't know either of these songs: do NOT click the links. Save yourselves.))

Aaaaannyway, here we are again, buying books for our nearest and dearest and dropping hints like anvils for the books we'd like to find in our own stockings.

Last year, I had poetry, memoir, YA and all sorts in my Criminal Minds list, as I remember. This year I'm keeping it to crime fiction but I'm covering a lot of the genre.

First and last, most and best, I'm recommending my personal Book of the Year: Steph Cha's aboslute banger YOUR HOUSE WILL PAY.

It's the page-turning, heart-breaking, thought-provoking, touching, enraging and beautifully written story of two LA families bound together by two brutal acts, decades apart. Last year, Angie Thomas's THUG did a marvelous job (for white readers like me) of shining a light on black lives lived under the scourge of racism in contemporary America. Cha's book sets the pain and complexity of racial tension slipping into racial violence even more squarely in its bitter context. Yet this is far from a bleak read - it's full of warmth, humour and love.

Second in my top five, is Ann Cleeve's series debut THE LONG CALL.

Talk about a safe pair of hands! The author of the Vera and Shetland books is in her element here, with a grim rural setting - Midsomer it ain't - a flawed, irresistible, infuriating protagonist in Detective Matthew Venn, and a set of characters whose relationships shift and reform as often as the North Devon tides. The scene is set for a third brilliant Cleeves series. Yay!

My third choice is another series debut.

Sujata Massey's series is two books deep now but you'll want to start here with THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL. It's 1921, Bombay, and Perveen Mistry is the only female lawyer in the city - which gives her the unique ability to investigate murder inside a house where the three widows of a wealthy Muslim businessman live in strict purdah. This book is rich with detail - historical, cultural, and geographical - but it never derails the propulsive plot.

So where are we? Ripped from the headlines, procedural, historical . . . how about a spot of noir next? And it's rural noir: my favourite.

Michael Wiley's MONUMENT ROAD introduces Franky Dast, downtrodden and browbeaten, product of a family that puts a capital D on Dysfunction, as he's released from death row after serving eight years for a murder he didn't commit. For anyone else that would be a change in luck, but not for Franky. To stay free and slay his ghosts he must embark on an investigation that takes every scrap of his tattered belief in justice. Wiley's wry affection for Northern Florida is clear and he has conjured one of its finest fictional inhabitants in Franky Dast.

One slot left.

See what I did there? I wanted to choose a PI novel to add to my genrepalooza but I cannot pick one and discard the other out of these two.

(In alphabetical order) Tracy Clark's Cass Raines is a tough-talking former cop - but with a mordant wit and a soft side, a classic lone gunslinger - but with a rabblesome scooby gang she can't escape, and a seeker of peace and security - but . . . guess how well that goes in BORROWED TIME.

Kristen Lepionka's Roxane Weary is grieving her father, surviving the rest of her family (just), making one good decision out of every ten when it comes to life and love, but she has a passion for justice that carries her through and makes her easy to root for. In THE STORIES YOU TELL her home and work life start to tangle and Roxane's defences crack wide open.

It wasn't easy to choose five (okay, six) books out of this year's reading. Honourable mentions go to  Jeff Cohen - who makes me laugh out loud like no one else; Jess Lourey - whose UNSPEAKABLE THINGS is out on Kindle Firstreads right now; Christine Poulson - whose science-lab-based series is refreshingly authentic and enjoyable . . .

So here's to 2019 - another year of wonderful books in a less-than-wonderful world. And Alex Marwood's THE POISON GARDEN is coming in January!

Have a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Killer Kwanza, Fabulous Festivus, Cool Yule and here's to a bright and beautiful 2020.



Kristopher said...

Your list reads like we are the same person. LOL.

I rarely ever discuss my favorite read of the year, but this year I have broken that trend to say that Steph Cha's YOUR HOUSE WILL PAY is indeed the best novel of the year. (Last year, I broke that trend as well, and named Lou Berney's NOVEMBER ROAD the best of the year - and it has gone on to win countless awards, so maybe this is my new "trend.")

I also agree that THE LONG CALL is the start of another classic series. You can never go wrong with Sujata Massey, Michael Wiley, Kristin Lepionka, or Tracy Clark. YAY.

And let me tell you, I have already read and reviewed the new Alex Marwood. It will be on Top Lists all over next year, it's so very good.

Finta said...

Guess I should read Steph Cha’s book? It’s at the top of most lists. And yes yes yes to your other choices. I’m so proud of our Jess Lourey. She’s knocked it out of the park!

Ann. Xox

Kathy Reel said...

Having read Sujata's The Widows of Malabar Hill and Alex Marwood's The Poison Garden, I wholeheartedly agree with those choices, and I'm currently reading Ann Cleeve's The Long Call, so that one gets my vote, too. The other books are all on my TBR list. And, I'm now convinced that I have to read Step Cha's Your House Will Pay. It seems to be on everyone's list as favorite.

I have to congratulate you on being able to choose five/six favorites. I am terrible at limiting the number of favorites, which is why I usually have such a long list when I finally post one.

Triss said...

Thank you, Catriona! The person who might get some of these books as a gift I've read several books recently by writers whose work I always both like and admire, too, and I didn't enjoy nay of them. (grumble, grumble) Clearly the problem is me. I need to read something new, and ta-da! - here you are with ideas.

Catherine Maiorisi said...

I highly recommend the PI novels by Kristin Lepionka and Tracy Clark. And for those who enjoy historicals, Sujata Massey's book. Steph Cha's book is on my TBR.