Tag Archives: crime novels

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

I’d heard a lot about this book and was keen to see what the hype was about.

It opens with a dead man found lying in a marsh in 1969. A young woman, Kya Clark, always known as the ‘Marsh girl’ by the local community becomes a suspect. The story takes us back in time to 1952 when her mother struggling with a dirt poor life on a marsh with an abusive husband leaves Kya and her older siblings. One by one, the siblings also leave so that Kya is the only one left with her father. On a bender, he too disappears leaving Kya to fend for herself. She knows only one thing and that is the ways of the marsh. Its wildlife her only friend, she struggles to survive through her childhood and teenage years on her own.

Owens writes beautifully and as an acclaimed nature writer, she takes us on a journey through the marsh. We feel as if we are right in the thick of the environment and that’s the power of it.

“Maybe it was mean country, but not an inch was lean. Layers of life –squiggly sand crabs, mud-waddling crayfish, waterfowl, fish, shrimp, oysters, fatted deer, and plump geese – were piled on the land or in the water.”

Kya grows up yearning to belong, to love and be loved never losing hope that someone from her family will come back to her. Her few interactions with people make her conscious of the whispers about her nickname but she is powerless to know what to do than stay where she is. As she grows up she connects with Tate, a young man who helps her to learn to read and write and who loves the marsh as much as she does and with whom she falls in love. But like many before, he too soon leaves her. And she battles once again with abandonment and rejection.

“…the colors, the light, the species, the life; weaving a masterpiece of knowledge and beauty that filled every corner of her shack. Her world. She grew with them – the trunk of the vine – alone, but holding all the wonders together. But just as her collection grew, so did her loneliness. A pain as large as her heart lived in her chest. Nothing eased it. Not the gulls, not the splendid sunset, not the rarest of shells.”

This is a dual timeline novel where the reader’s attention is switched back and forward between the police investigation of the dead man and Kya’s life. The two stories connect when we find out that Kya knew the man and because of the community’s demands to find a scapegoat, she is targeted.

This novel tugs at the heartstrings with a rollercoaster of emotions. It touches on a number of issues including the environment, prejudice, loss, and discrimination. But it is also about beauty, love, resilience, and strength. I wasn’t disappointed.

Book Review: The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan

 

I’d heard a lot about this author and was interested to read her work.

This is the second book in the series about Detective Sergeant Cormac Reilly. His girlfriend Emma, a brilliant scientist stumbles upon a girl who has been the victim of a hit and run. It turns out the girl has been murdered and the only thing she has on her is the swipe card of another girl, Carline Darcy. Carline happens to be the granddaughter of a wealthy man who owns the largest pharmaceutical company in Ireland. The company has many tentacles including funding research and employing Emma. When a second murder occurs, the investigation takes a twist and Emma herself becomes a chief suspect.

Although this was a second in a series, it didn’t seem to matter as it stood on its own quite nicely. I enjoyed the complexities and twists in the plot. The character development was well done and I appreciated the relationships particularly within the police investigation team.

I wondered about the inclusion of Detective O’Halloran and her personal life. Her story, unless it’s set up for the next book didn’t really add much value. The other thing that jarred a little was the repetitive nature of the information. It revealed itself in several different ways and for the reader I felt it was overdone. For example, Cormac at the end explains the case to Emma and apart from a titbit of new information, there was nothing new for the reader. The interesting part for me was Emma’s reaction and perhaps that should have had more focus.

Overall, an easy to read, well written novel. Now, I’m interested to read the first one, The Ruin.

Book Review: The Corset by Laura Purcell

 

This is a difficult book to review without giving away spoilers. But boy, it’s a book which stays with you for some time.

Dorothea, a young, wealthy woman studies the science of phrenology when visiting women in jail. She meets sixteen-year-old Ruth, who is facing the death penalty for murder. Dorothea wants to test the theory that the shape of a skull reflects a person’s propensity for crime and redemption. After getting to know Ruth, she considers another idea, which is that it may be possible to kill with a needle and thread by supernatural means.

Set in Victorian, England this is a fascinating read as we enter the points of view of both women. Ruth tells Dorothea her story; her childhood, dictated by poverty and horrific circumstances meant she had little choice than to become a seamstress for a madwoman. When she loses the people she loves, she takes on the blame. Sewing herself into a corset, Ruth believes it will offer protection against the needle’s evil power to do bad things to the people she sews for.

Dorothea’s ideas are challenged by Ruth’s frankness and she struggles to believe her story. She identifies with Ruth – their mothers both died when they were young. Their fathers are weak. Dorothea, secretly in love with policeman, David, is an unmarried twenty-five-year woman turned Catholic. Her father is desperate to get her off his hands by marrying her off to anyone eligible he finds and Thomas is perfect. She has other ideas and when her father announces that he is to remarry, she takes matters into her own hands with disastrous consequences.

The themes of poverty and wealth in society are explored particularly for women whose wealth is dependent on men. It was fascinating to learn about debtor’s prisons where prisoners were unable to earn money to pay their debts and so were doomed as soon as they entered.

As a reader, we’re swept up with the idea of superstition and the ‘magic’ of the needle and thread. Purcell weaves an intricate and clever plot with unexpected twists and turns. I wondered about the two men in Dorothea’s life – David and Thomas – who seemed to fade away and I would have liked to know what happened to them. However, this may be deliberate as we are left wondering about Dorothea and what she has become, long after the last page. The ending is masterful and reading each word carefully is a must. It’s a pity I can’t reveal more.

It’s a definite page-turner, although grisly and gruesome in parts. Beware! Just check it out for yourself.

Book Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White


What would you do if you found out from a stranger that he suspects you are a missing girl, named Sammy, who may have been abducted when you were two from another country? This is the basic premise of a book which is full of suspense and twists right until the end.

Kim Leamy is the woman who has been approached and after initially brushing off the idea, she begins a quest into her family history. Her mother is already dead so she can’t ask her and the more she questions the more difficult it is to find logical answers. Her digging takes her to unexpected places with almost disastrous outcomes.

I’d heard a bit of hype and had actually seen the author talking about his debut novel at a couple of events and after reading it, I was not disappointed.

It’s much more than a kidnapping and whodunit story as the author explores trauma, cults and religious zealotry. The alternating stories between past and present was superbly done and as a reader we feel Kim’s gradual realisation,her confusion and pain.

I finished this one in two days so immersed was I in it. Highly recommend it.

Book Review: Force of Nature by Jane Harper

After reading The Dry last year, I was keen to sink my teeth into Jane Harper’s second book. Force of Nature is another gripping crime novel featuring Detective Aaron Falk whom we grew to love in the first book.

Alice together with four female colleagues attend a work retreat in mountainous country where they are expected to trek for three days through remote wilderness without communication with the outside world. When they return to their designated point the women are distressed, injured and have no idea what has happened to Alice. Panic ensues and Aaron Falk and his sidekick Carmen Cooper who happen to be secretly investigating money laundering in the firm with Alice’s assistance, become involved in the search for her.

The story weaves back and forward into the point of view of each of the women hikers from the beginning of their journey then back into the Aaron’s present day point of view. It is a clever and engaging way of progressing the story compelling the reader forward as information is revealed bit by bit.

For me the premise seemed far-fetched and a little hard to believe. To put executives in such a situation without communication would be a health and safety issue and would hardly be accepted practice in today’s corporate world. There seemed to be no real purpose to the exercise and the company running the expedition would surely have been more involved. Nevertheless, if you disregard all this, it is an engaging enough story.

The intertwining relationships of the women’s private lives is really interesting but we learn little more about Aaron Falk whose personal story unfolded in The Dry except for his relationship with his father, which frankly for me wasn’t that interesting. I wanted more about him but he was as remote as the wilderness which, I might add, is very beautifully and accurately described.

Carmen who was an interesting character seemed a little out of place and a gratuitous romantic notion toward Aaron left me puzzled. However, the tension between the women and the bleakness of the environment was portrayed very well – I  felt for their misery and desolation.

The second half of the novel is gripping and makes for a fast paced read. Like The Dry it’s a page turner with twists and turns of the unexpected. I did enjoy this novel, but not quite as much as The Dry. I would however read another of Jane’s books again.

Book Review: The Heat by Garry Disher

Wyatt is a smart thief with scruples who’s been around long enough to be cautious and wily. Turning down a job in Melbourne with the haphazard Pepper brothers, he instead, accepts a job in Noosa to steal a painting. He’s meticulous in his planning, holding off the charms of the local real estate agent who freelances as a crook herself. But the plan dramatically unravels as Wyatt, using his wits fights to survive.

I don’t often read crime novels and this one was told from the criminal’s point of view. This is the first book I’ve read by Australian Garry Disher. I’d not heard of him until this book was recommended to me by a friend. Although, this is the eighth in a series, it appeared not to matter that I’d not read any of the earlier novels.

The start was slow as the story and characters were set up. Then the action started and I could barely put the book down. I enjoyed the description of places I know well.  I didn’t  really warm to any of the characters – well, they are crooks after all. The fast pace of violence and suspense hooked me as I tried to figure out the double cross. Oddly, I found myself on Wyatt’s side hoping he’d get away with the crime and survive.

Overall, I enjoyed the writing style. The Heat is an enjoyable holiday read, perfect to take you away from your everyday.  I think I may now be hooked on crime novels especially by Garry Disher.