This week, I’m reading the first of the ‘Five Christmas Crime Books’ that I recommended at the beginning of November and returning to two mystery writers that I’ve enjoyed before.
Given that two out of three of my books last week didn’t go so well, this week I’ll be happy if the books are well written and keep me engaged until the end.
‘Shamus Dust’ by Janet Roger (2019)
The bio on Janet Roger’s website describes her as:
‘An historical fiction author, writing literary crime. She trained in archaeology, history and Eng. Lit. and has a special interest in the early Cold War.’
She also confesses to having fallen in love early with Raymond Chandler’s writing, mainly because his stories began
‘to seem incidental to the city, its moods and characters and speech patterns. What really mattered was a time, a place and the people you might run into there.’
My attention was drawn to ‘Shamus Dust’ by some good reviews I saw online. I bought it because a brief look at the text was enough to confirm that ‘Shamus Dust’ showcases Janet Rogers’ admiration for Chandler. Here’s an example of the style from the start of Chapter Two:
‘It wasn’t complicated. Not more than an early morning call from a City grandee, a nurse who came across her neighbor dead or dying before dawn on Christmas Day, and the dead neighbor’s latchkeys in my hand. That and the voice that always whispers in my ear, soft as telling a rosary, that for every reason I might think I have for mixing in a murder, there are ten better reasons to walk away. I crossed the angle of the court, fitted one of the keys in its lock and gave it a quarter turn. As for the voice that whispers, I hear it every time I step uninvited into an unlit room. The trick is not to let it start a conversation.’
I’m looking forward to Janet Roger curating my visit back to a London that has been ripped up by war and hasn’t yet had the time to write itself a cosy future.
‘The Homecoming’ by Alan Russell (2017)
Alan Russell is an American writer, based out of L.A. who has published thirteen novels ranging from classic whodunnits through humorous books to unconventional mysteries. He’s probably best known for his ‘Gideon and Sirius’ series about LAPD detective Michael Gideon, his K-9 partner.
He caught my attention with ‘St Nick’, described as a ‘Christmas Cop novel’ which is one of my favourite Christmas books.
‘Homecoming’ looks like it’s going to be more than a little strange but I trust Alan Russell to keep the characters real and my attention engaged.
‘Survivors’ by Jane Harper (2020)
‘The Dry’ was one of those books that asserts itself as something new and unique in your imagination. That is was also a debut novel was astonishing.
This was my reaction to the book at the time:
‘The Dry’ seeps into your imagination like a stain. It clings to you like a smell of something foul that you can’t wash out of your hair. It opens with a description of the aftermath of violent death that is steeped in a harsh indifference that sets the tone for the book.
“It wasn’t as though the farm hadn’t seen death before, and the blowflies didn’t discriminate. To them, there was little difference between a carcass and a corpse.”
Aaron Falk, the flawed policeman at the centre of ‘The Dry’, was also the lead for Jane Harper’s second book, ‘Force Of Nature’ but it was already clear to me then that Jane Harper wasn’t going to be a detective franchise writer. Her main interest in ‘Force Of Nature’ was in the five women who had gone out together into the wilderness where one of them had died. It’s quite rare to read crime books that pass the Bechdel Test of having at least two women talking to each other about something other than a man. “Force Of Nature” is MAINLY about women talking to each other.
Her third novel, ‘The Lost Man’, which I thought was the best of the three, left Aaron Falk behind and immersed me in the unforgiving environment of the Outback where two brothers are neighbours but their houses are a three-hour drive apart and getting separated from your car can mean death from exposure in less than 24 hours.
In her fourth novel, ‘The Survivors’, Jane Harper again strikes out for something new, this time taking us to the coast of Tasmania and life among people who earn their living from the sea.
I’m hoping for something where the landscape is a character, the people are compelling and the secrets are dark and dire.