Books and reading are among the most satisfying pleasures in life, and this year’s offerings are an inspiration to write more about books.
Starting with Gillian Flynn’s wildly successful novel, Gone Girl (Crown Publishing, 2012), psychological suspense has grown as a popular book genre. As an early fan of the works of Daphne du Maurier, including the classic, Rebecca, I am drawn to the genre, but have been disappointed by many of the contemporary novels.
There is nothing disappointing, however, about novels written by Jane Harper. Most recently I read The Lost Man (Macmillan, Flatiron Books, 2019). In Harper’s latest suspense novel, set in the Australian outback at the intersection of three cattle ranches, one can almost taste the desert dust and feel the scorching heat. Two brothers contemplate the apparent suicide of their third brother.
Cameron was the bright one, successful and charismatic. With a beautiful wife and two young daughters, he has every reason to live. But his car, filled with emergency water and food, is found abandoned miles from where his parched body is found. Why would he walk alone in the scorching desert to meet his certain death?
Published in 2016, Jane Harper’s The Dry (Macmillan, Flatiron Books, 2017) also is set in Australia, in a small farming town. This is a different type of dry from the desert outback, the result of a devastating drought that is decimating the crops and the cattle. Federal Agent Aaron Falk (also featured in The Lost Man) returns to his childhood home to attend the funeral of his former best friend, Luke.
Suspicion falls on Luke as the perpetrator of the murders of his wife and son. Local authorities are happy to consider the case closed. As Falk is drawn into the investigation, however, it becomes clear that he cannot return home without coming to resolution about the murders, as well as a mystery involving his own past.
Harper is a master at leaving clues yet leaving the reader guessing until the end at what lies below the carefully crafted surface of her novels.
Watching You by Lisa Jewell (Simon and Schuster, 2018) is another page-turner. It is not often that a publisher tells you on the jacket blurb that there is a startling revelation on the very last page. This story, set in contemporary times in an upscale neighborhood in Bristol, England, is replete with complex characters, and ultimately, a murder. But the question throughout the novel is, who was killed, and why? There are no spoilers. This novel keeps you guessing, and the last pages, should you choose to peek, will make no sense without reading the story beginning to end.
For mystery lovers, I recommend Donna Leon’s Unto Us a Son is Given (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2019). Venetian Commissario Guido Brunetti, devoted to family, good food, and wine, nevertheless manages to solve many crimes. Each title in this series is innovative, fresh, original, and set in a very realistic present with modern day challenges, such as rising waters, toxic waste, graft, and corruption. In this latest, Guido discovers the human side of his superior, Vice-Questore Patta, while exploring issues of aging, income disparity, Italian inheritance laws, and murder.
In the first few pages of Where the Crawdads Sing, I learned the difference between a marsh and a swamp. This novel is singular in its lyrical descriptions of a small community surrounded by the beauty of the North Carolina coast. Left to the care of an alcoholic, abusive father, six-year old Kya is abandoned by her mother and older siblings, and shunned by most of the community as “the swamp girl.” She learns to fend for herself, but as an adult in the late 1960s, she is accused and brought to trial for a murder, with few friends to give her support. This is a first novel by Delia Owens, a scientist and nature writer.
People who are drawn to work in libraries tend to be readers. Over the course of a long library career, I had the pleasure of working with librarians and non-librarians, as well as meeting writers and other members of the public who love to read. It is from these people, as well as from reviews in magazines and newspapers, in addition to professional review journals, that I select my reading lists.
Spring and summer are ideal times to take a break and catch up on reading. Look to future posts to read more about books. Happy reading!
Rebecca Novel by Daphne du Maurier. Encyclopedia Britannica