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April 11, 2015
Women, whether as detectives, victims, or perpetrators, emerge very clearly in the set of books reviewed this week. We start with the latest in Philip Kerr's account of the life and times of Bernie Gunther, THE LADY FROM ZAGREB, which centres on an iconic Berlin movie star, with whom detective and reluctant Nazi Gunther falls dangerously in love. I thought it was at once a marvellous evocation of 1940s American noir and a chilling reminded of a past we ignore at our peril. Also set in the 1940s, but this time in the United States, Deborah Johnson's THE SECRET OF MAGIC, despite its somewhat misleading title, is about what a young black woman, a civil rights attorney, learns about the racist South. Jim Napier calls it both enlightening and entertaining, a story that should profoundly move the reader.
DI Marnie Rome is doing her best to find three missing battered women in Sarah Hilary's SOMEONE ELSE'S SKIN. Sharon Mensing says that the author is successful in maintaining suspense while investigating some very serious issues. A prostitute is the victim in veteran Cara Black's MURDER ON THE CHAMP DE MARS and new mother Aimée Leduc is after the real killer. Lourdes Venard enjoyed this visit to Paris, which she calls "noir light." It's a long way from Paris to small-town Texas, but Diana Borse says that Terry Shames' A DEADLY AFFAIR AT BOBTAIL RIDGE presents a rich portrait of a little world all its own with a protagonist it is a pleasure to know.
Gentler still, but still enjoyable is Maggie Barbieri's LIES THAT BIND. Phyllis Onstad remarks that the author successfully combines humour, romance, and coincidence as well as a satisfactory amount of suspense in this cosy. Though the protagonist of LIES is a baker, this is not a true culinary cosy, but Gail Oust's KILL 'EM WITH CAYENNE, also set in small-town Texas, is and Caryn St Clair found it an enjoyable comfort read.
But of course there is a side to Texas much darker than bread and barbecue and this is the subject of LIFE OR DEATH, by Michael Robotham, a writer who once lived in London and now in Sydney, Australia and who here deserts both to present the story of a convict who escapes a Texas jail with just one day left on his sentence. New Zealander Craig Sisterson thinks that this may be Robotham's masterpiece. Karen Chisholm, who lives in Australia, wants to call attention to Paddy Richardson, a New Zealand writer whom Karen thinks deserves far more attention than she has been getting outside her native country. SWIMMING IN THE DARK compares well to the best of Scandinavian psychological thrillers, she believes. We hope that both Karen and Craig will continue to report on crime fiction from their part of the world that we might otherwise overlook.
The female unreliable narrator remains a viable device thanks to the success of a novel that need not be named. We have two this week. THE POCKET WIFE, by Susan Crawford, has a woman suffering from bipolar disorder who is struggling to remember whether or not she might have killed her friend. Christine Zibas thought this debut well-written and fascinating. In CRASH AND BURN, by Lisa Gardner, a woman wakes in hospital suffering from confusion following a car crash and must try to make sense of her situation. Craig Sisterson reports that not only is Gardner's plotting sublime, but she also succeeds in making the reader genuinely care about the characters.
Never fear; we do have some out-and-out thrillers this week as well. Although Anne Corey worries a bit about the long arm of coincidence in Owen Laukkanen's THE STOLEN ONES, on the whole she found this novel about the international trade in sex slaves engrossing. As the date to file income tax returns is rapidly approaching, Steve Berry's THE PATRIOT THREAT might seem appropriate reading matter, as it deals with a conspiracy theorist who believes that the federal income tax is illegal. Christine Zibas found it both action-packed and provocative.
Jørgen Brekke's DREAMLESS is very much a walk on the darker shores of psychological thriller territory. Anne Corey found it mesmerizing. And, speaking of dark, we have an anthology, DARK DETECTIVES, edited by Stephen Jones, first published some fifteen years ago and newly released. Deb Shoss says it is both ingenious and informative.
This week we present our 200th interviewee in the "Sixty Seconds with..." spot over to your left. The subject this time is Will Thomas, who will be publishing his next novel in early May.
If you want to read more about what's happening in British crime, take a look at CRIMEREVIEW where our former colleagues can help.
And there you have for now. Don't forget to come back in a couple of weeks to see what we've been up to.
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