I’ve seen a few book bloggers set themselves the challenge of spelling the month using the first letters of book titles and I thought I’d give it a try for April, May and June.
I’ve spelt April with the title of books that I rated as five-star reads and which I’m happy to recommend as books that are worth your time.
An Accidental Death (2013) is the first book in Peter Grainger’s contemporary English police procedural series about DC Smith, an older, unconventional Police Detective with a slightly subversive way of dealing with power and threats, who is trying to solve an unusual crime while coping with the crippling cuts in the Police Force.
This is a deeply imagined, character-driven novel written with a startling assurance for a debut novel. It has a well-structured plot that is firmly grounded in reality. It’s also perfectly narrated by the inimitable Gildart Jackson.
Petra’s Ghost (2019) is another strong debut novel. It’s an emotionally powerful book about guilt and forgiveness. It follows a recently widowed man as he walks the Camino de Santiago. Burdened by guilt over his wife’s death, he begins to doubt his own sanity and we are left to judge how much of his reality we share.
This book tends to get categorised as a horror novel (it was a Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Best Horror (2019)) but, to me, it read more as a subtle mainstream novel with supernatural undertones.
In Rain Reign (2014), Rose Howard, a neurodivergent young girl, tells us about her search for her missing dog, Rain, who her father should not have allowed out into a storm and who she is determined to find.
Rose’s narrative voice is direct, compelling and sometimes heartbreaking. She tells her story with structured, straightforward honesty, setting out the events and providing the background we need to understand them.
She tells us about her life, her father’s life, why she isn’t allowed to ride the school bus any more, her teacher, her classmates, her uncle, the damage that Super Storm Hurricane Susan did and her dog, Rain (whose name is a homonym: R A I N and R E I G N), whom she loves even more than homonyms and who loves her back.
I read this back in 2016 but it’s still very fresh in my memory as a wonderful portrait of a girl who sees the world clearly but differently.
I was stunned by Impact Winter (2022). It was the first time that I’d listened, totally spellbound, to an all cast audible production.
It was brilliant entertainment. It built a credible and frightening dystopian future that gleefully twisted Science Fiction and Horror tropes into something new and fascinating. The casting was perfect. The sound was stunning. I felt like there was a movie playing in my head.
Land Of Careful Shadows (2014) is the start of a police procedural series about an Hispanic detective working murder cases in Up-State New York.
It grabbed my imagination in a way that most police procedurals don’t because, instead of just offering me an engaging puzzle to be solved, it used the investigation to demonstrate how the rules around immigration and its enforcement shape the lives of people involved.
The storytelling style is engaging and the narrative is propulsive but the focus isn’t on solving the mystery but on the phenomenology of power, helplessness, exclusion and fear. Instead of using people as instruments for plot exposition, she uses the plot to get the reader inside the head of everyone involved and share their experience.