My year in books: Margot Kinberg

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.

Welcome Margot.

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

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31 Responses

  1. Given the amount of crime fiction Margot Kinberg reads, these recommendations carry a lot of weight. All sound great, especially Witness the Night by Kishwar Desai.

    Thanks Margot. And thanks Andrew for posting these picks — a great way to put together a summer TBR pile.

    • Andrew – Thanks so much for hosting me.

      Angela – Thanks for the kind words. And I do think you’ll be glad you read Witness the Night if you get the chance. It’s a compelling book that treats important themes. And the setting is beautifully done I think.

  2. Loved this list–I have read none of them but will now look for them.

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  4. Glad to see The Rage on your list, Margot, which is the only one on it I have read by the way. I’ve also spotted Blackwattle Creek. For the rest I’ll take a a closer look.

    • José Ignacio – The Rage really is a powerful book. I am grateful to you for suggesting I read it. What a find! And as for Blackwattle Creek, I think it’s a superb story. I recommend it highly.

  5. As ever, a thoughtful and unique take on books read this year from Margot. I’ve followed quite a few of her recommendations now and have never been disappointed. More to add to my pile!

  6. Andrew, thanks for hosting Margot and for posting these favorite books.

    Margot, you’ve got quite a list here. I’m sorry to say I haven’t read any of these (yet). Now I’m adding them to my TBR list as I always enjoy your recommendations.

    Mason
    Thoughts in Progress

  7. Fascinating post, Margot. I’m now scratching my head and trying to remember if I’ve read The Earth Hums in B Flat, because it sounds awfully familiar. If it’s the same one, I really enjoyed it too.

    My own crime fiction reading list this year has been disappointing. Six books read, two enjoyed, two rather a struggle, and two that I couldn’t finish.

    • Tess – Oh, I’m sorry to hear it’s been THAT kind of year for you. I’ve had those years too. If you have read The Earth Hums… I’m glad you enjoyed it. It’s such a fine read I think. If you haven’t, hopefully it’ll bring your crimefic mojo back…

  8. Great selection Margot – thanks very much. I’ll definitely be chasing these up in 2014 (or sooner) – cheers 🙂

  9. Sergio – Glad you enjoyed this, and thanks for the kind words. I know we’re all busy and with TBR lists that are far too long. But I do hope you get to try some of these. In my opinion, well worth the effort.

  10. Margot: I am 0 for 10 in the books. Beyond circumstance I know part of the reason is that I read books I can buy in bookstores and not many books from Australia and New Zealand make it to Canada.

  11. Andrew, thanks for having Margot over to visit. And nice to meet you.

    That’s a great list, Margot. My TBR list keeps on growing, thanks to your wonderful blog and the other blogs you introduce to us.

  12. Patricia,
    Nice to meet you, too. Thanks for stopping by.
    Andrew

  13. I have Andrew’s book and I will get to it in 2014. I do have Rage also, another for 2014. And all of the other books will be on a list to find. A great list Margot.

  14. Katherine Howell

    Thanks so much for the mention, Margot 🙂 glad you enjoyed Web Of Deceit!

  15. How you manage to come up with such a list is beyond me. You read so much and it must be so difficult to keep all the authors and their stories separate. I am sure I would get them all muddled up and confuse who wrote what and so on. I think it is amazing you are able to pick 5, and reading your outlines for each I am very impressed with each and every author simply because you read so much, your recommendations are high praise indeed. You have mentioned them before and I have noted their names and work. I shall get there in the end; promise.

    • Jane – How very kind of you! *blush* I’m very glad that you enjoyed the post, and I hope that if you get the chance to read these books, you’ll enjoy them. Each of them has left quite an impression on me. And I know all about wanting to read more than you have time to read…

  16. Thanks, as always, for doing a great job giving me new reading material, Margot! Cross Fingers sounds especially interesting.

    • Elizabeth – Glad you enjoyed this. And I heartily recommend Cross Fingers. It’s a compelling read; it really is. I strongly recommend that you read Traces of Red first, as Cross Fingers has spoilers to it. And trust me, it’s time well spent. 🙂

  17. Great site, Andrew. You cover what I like to read.

    Hi Margot, I’m late in commenting but wanted to say terrific list! I’ve only read one, The Rage that I loved. Thanks for all that you do in the mystery community and for giving us readers new material to read. Off to look these up.

  18. Keishon – Thank you so much for the kind words *blush.* That’s very nice of you.

    Doesn’t Andrew have a great site? I recommend his Ghost Money if you’ve not yet read it.

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