My year in books: Karen Chisholm

I’ve very happy to welcome Karen Chisholm as the next contributor to the ‘my year in books’ series I’m running on this site over December.

Karen probably does need any introduction for many of you, especially readers in Australia. For those of you who are not familiar with her work, I think it’s accurate to say she’s one of the foremost crime fiction reviewers in the country. She’s certainly one of the most prolific. If you want proof, check out her great site, AustCrimeFiction.

Over to you, Karen.

Up front, I hate doing best of book lists. Obviously there’s the chance that I’m going to change my mind a nanosecond after crafting the definitive list. But the major problem is that if you’re as lucky as I am to read a lot of really good books every year, getting those numbers down to five ends up with some very arbitrary decisions being made. Which never seems fair, particularly as there is some seriously great storytelling going on out there.

So, in no particular order, and apologies for the massive cheating going on, the book(s) that have stayed with me in 2013 are:

The Discword Series, Terry Pratchett

Nothing like starting a limited list cheating, but the Discworld Series is and will always include some of my all time favourite books. I’ve been promising myself a re-read for ages, and this year, due to the joy of impulse purchasing that is ebooks, I’ve started from the first and am working my way through. Sheer bliss. Crime, mystery, science fiction, philosophy, moral tales, strong female and male characters, clever plots, action and adventure all thrown together. Did I mention bliss?

Gentlemen Formerly Dressed, Sulari Gentill

Sulari Gentill writes historical crime set in 1920/30’s Australia and beyond. The latest release, Gentlemen Formerly Dressed, is book number 5 in the Rowland Sinclair series. Escapist reading which sneaks in some historical learning along the way, this has rapidly become a favourite of mine. Which, for somebody who thought she preferred the darker, hard-boiled side of crime fiction, continues to be a welcome pleasant surprise. Clever, extremely readable, light without being fluffy, the next book is now a much anticipated release.

Death on Demand, Paul Thomas

Every time there’s a new release in this fabulous series from the other side of the ditch, I remember just how much I love it. This year I read, late as usual, Death on Demand, which sees Maori cop Tito Ihaka sidelined to rural Wairarapa, policing a rural beat and following the local cricket. Until he’s hauled back to Auckland because of a twist in the case that got him exiled in the first place. Really these should be read from the start as Ihaka is a magnificent character who you need to get to know. But tracking down the early books became a major quest – not sure if they are now in ebook format. Regardless, this is a series that I wish had a much higher profile.

The Midnight Promise, Zane Lovitt

The jaded PI can be horribly clichéd, but in the hands of this author, there’s something glorious about him. Possibly it’s because Dorn himself, in a lovely twist, is acutely aware that he’s a bit of a cliché. Perhaps it’s because his jaded is what he’s supposed to be (suffering for your art and all that). Of course he’s also profoundly flawed, not in a dodgy way, but strangely as a form of self-preservation. Whatever twists and turns, and leaps and bounds John Dorn takes, however, the book is deliciously readable and extremely well done.

Bitter Wash Road, Garry Disher

More of a Wyatt fan than a Challis fan always, there’s something more pared down, terse, dark and brooding about Bitter Wash Road than even in the early Wyatt books. Disher has always written strong storylines and character studies, but this book is like a master-class in perfection with a diverse and large cast of characters, each fleshed out just enough to give you a sense of who they are and what sort of impact events are having on them. For once, without having to be held up against a wall and threatened into it – I’d happily declare this to be my favourite book of the year.


2 Responses

  1. I also enjoyed Gentlemen Formerly Dressed, Karen, while The Midnight Promise made my top picks of 2012. Bitter Wash Road is on my summer reading pile.

  2. Sorry I am so late coming back to these Year in Books posts. All of these sound interesting, I just have to see how available they are to me in the US. I do want to try Terry Pratchett, I just haven’t figured out the best way to get started on the books at this point.

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