For the second instalment of my year in books series, I’m very happy to welcome Margot Kinberg. Margot is one of those people who make the crime fiction community such a cool place to hang out in, a mystery novelist who has a genuine passion for reading, writing and talking about crime fiction. She has a wonderful website, Confessions of Mystery Novelist. It’s full of thoughtful reviews and features on a truly eclectic selection of crime fiction. You can check it out here.
Thanks very much for hosting me, Andrew; it’s a real honour. I’ve been asked to share my five best crime fiction reads of 2013 and to tell the truth, that’s quite a difficult undertaking. I’ve read some fantastic crime fiction this year and it’s very hard to narrow it down to just five novels. Let’s say, then, that these are five novels that have had a profound impact on me. Here they are in no particular order:
Witness the Night, Kishwar Desai
This astounding debut novel tells the story of the murders of thirteen members of the wealthy Atwal family, and the efforts of one social worker to find out what happened on the night they died. It’s an unflinching look at life in Punjab, at the choices people make and why they make them, and at the effects of class, wealth and prejudice. At the same time, Desai’s love for her country is also evident and she gives the reader a fascinating look at one part of India. The writing style is clear and compelling and the protagonists are beautifully drawn.
The Earth Hums in B Flat, Mari Strachan
The real appeal for me in this debut novel is the unusual and unforgettable character of twelve-year-old Gwenni Morgan, who’s coming of age in a small Welsh town in the 1950s. When a shocking death comes to the village, we see its effect on the town through Gwenni’s eyes, and that makes for a fascinating story. But this is as much a story of family, of living in a village with all of its secrets, and of sorting out life as it is anything else. Strachan has created a memorable protagonist and the Welsh setting is especially well-drawn.
Blackwattle Creek, Geoffrey McGeachin
This is a second helping of Melbourne cop Charlie Berlin, who first appears in The Diggers Rest Hotel. What begins as a simple request to look into an oddity about a friend’s funeral draws Berlin into a web of international intrigue, high-level cover-ups and murder. But this is much more than a crime novel and that’s what I found compelling. It’s an authentic look at 1957 Melbourne, a portrait of family life (yes – a cop can have a basically happy marriage!) and a look at politics. It’s also about dealing with the grit in life without succumbing to it.
Cross Fingers, Paddy Richardson
I admit I’m a Paddy Richardson fan, so I am biased. Even so, this novel is truly compelling. Wellington TV journalist Rebecca Thorne is working on an exposé of dubious land developer Denny Graham when she’s asked to do a story on the Springbok’s 1981 rugby tour of New Zealand. ‘The Tour’ was controversial and as Thorne looks into it, she discovers an unsolved murder from that time. For suspense, for an unmistakeable New Zealand setting and for a solid set of mysteries, you don’t get much better than Richardson. I know, cliché, but I couldn’t stop reading it.
The Rage, Gene Kerrigan
In this noir novel, Dublin DS Bob Tidey and Detective Garda Rose Cheney investigate two cases that turn out to have a common thread. Dubious banker Emmet Sweetman is murdered at home. At the same time Vincent Naylor has recently been released from prison and is planning the heist of a lifetime. These stories intersect effectively with the story of Maura Cody, a former nun who witnesses something that draws her into the cases. Through different perspectives, Kerrigan paints an indelible portrait of post-‘Celtic Tiger’ Dublin. There are brilliantly drawn characters and a solid discussion of social issues too.
Here are also a few ‘Honourable Mentions.’
You’re doing yourself a big favour by reading them:
Ghost Money, Andrew Nette
The Dying Beach, Angela Savage
The Twelfth Department, William Ryan
Web of Deceit, Katherine Howell