January Picks

The Chestnut ManSveistrup, Soren (2019) The Chestnut Man. M. Joseph. An atmospheric Danish police procedural and thriller, by the writer of the TV series The Killing. The brutal murders of young mothers, with missing appendages (hands and feet), and a chestnut doll, bring young detective Naia Thulin and her world-weary partner Mark Hess onto the case. It soon becomes clear that the killer is on a mission that will need all the talents of both investigators to solve. Harrowing but an excellent read.  Rating: 8.5/10.

Strangers we knowDrysdale, Pip (2019) The Strangers we Know. Simon & Schuster. When Charlie spots her perfect husband on a dating app, the betrayal overwhelms her. She signs up to the app to catch him out. She soon discovers infidelity is just the tip of the iceberg. In this fast-paced modern-day tale of deceit and mistrust we are challenged with the question – can we ever know those closest to us? Light-weight and neurotic thriller. Rating: 7.5/10.


Nowhere ChildWhite, Christian (2018) The Nowhere Child. Affirm Press. Kim Leamy is approached by a stranger claiming she is his long-lost sister Sammy. Sammy had been abducted from her Kentucky home twenty-eight years ago. Is Kim’s Australian family history a fiction, or is she indeed Sammy Went? Buckle up for this melodramatic tale full of trauma, secrets and fundamentalism. In spite of all the accolades for this debut bestseller its tortuous plot and unlikeable characters didn’t do it for me. Rating: 7/10.

The wife & widowWhite, Christian (2019) The Wife and the Widow. Affirm Press. This second Christian White novel is a simple story, told from two perspectives. In a Victorian island town in the dead of winter, Kate, the widow, is forced to confront her husband’s secrets when he suddenly goes missing, later found dead, while Abbey, the wife, uncovers evidence that her husband is a murderer. Both have been deceived – what is the truth about the men in their lives? A clean narrative and an unexpected plot device. Nothing is quite what it seems. Rating: 8/10.

RibbonsDavies, Catrina (2014) The Ribbons are for Fearlessness. Skyhorse. Catrina is devastated when her best friend tragically dies and her lover leaves her. She dreams of running away.  In an old yellow van, with no money, she sets off on a journey of self-discovery, busking her way from Norway to Portugal. Part travelogue and part inspirational memoir we share Catrina’s adventures and misadventures on the road as her courage is tested, and she begins to understand the true power of love and music. Wonderful.  Rating: 9/10.

FleishmanBrodesser-Akner, Taffy (2019) Fleishman is in trouble. Random House. Toby Fleishman’s reality shifted when he separated from his wife of fifteen-years. Then she goes MIA leaving him responsible for two children whilst he is adapting to his new single life. He starts to fall-apart. In this acutely observed New York tale of modern love and marriage Brodesser-Akner presents an unapologetic witty cultural narrative, with plenty of wisdom and angst. Smart but stamina necessary.  Rating: 8/10.


Olive AgainStrout, Elizabeth (2019) Olive, Again. Viking. Olive Kitteridge is growing older, coming to terms with her life and the lives of those around her in the coastal town of Crosby, Maine. The woman we met in Olive Kitteridge was in late middle age, a formidable woman with no filter. In the sequel of linked stories Olive is now in her later seventies, still uncompromising, enjoying a second marriage. Strout’s meticulous observation and realism and her emotional subtlety allow us to witness the nuances of grief, loneliness and ageing. Powerful and totally raw. Rating: 9.5/10.

Madness of SunshineSingh, Nalini (2019) A Madness of Sunshine. Berkley. Grief-stricken classical pianist Anahera returns home to a remote town on the West Coast of New Zealand. Before she can come to terms with her tragic past she meets Will, the taciturn local cop, and becomes involved in the search for a beloved young woman. As the town’s deadly secrets are slowly uncovered Ana’s trust in her childhood friendships are severely tested. The landscape is the only realistic character in Singh’s new genre novel. Trite and deeply flawed – never fulfils its potential. Rating: 7/10.

Gutsy womenClinton, Hilary Rodham & Chelsea Clinton (2019) The Book of Gutsy Women: Favourite stories of courage and resilience. Simon & Schuster. Although the majority of the over 100 women heroes in this book are American it is nonetheless a diverse and optimistic testament to women trailblazers. Hilary and Chelsea share stories of women who have inspired them – women who have achieved in a wide variety of fields, women who have fought battles and paved the way for the rest of us. This book is a homage that reads like a conversation often reflecting the different generational perspectives of the authors. For gutsy women everywhere battling for their place in the world. Rating: 8.5/10.

ConfessionBurton, Jessie (2019) The Confession. Picador. Twenty year old Elise meets Constance, a successful author, and forms an intense relationship. When Con’s novel is picked up by a Hollywood Studio Elise follows Con to LA. Elise finds herself floundering in the glittering city and makes a decision that impacts on her daughter, Rose, thirty years later. Rose is adrift, having never known her mother. She is desperate for information. Her search takes her to the now reclusive Con, the last person to see her mother alive. The narrative is set in a dual time-frame, between the 1980s and the modern-day. A perceptive tale of female creativity, insecurity  and self-discovery. Engrossing. Rating: 8.5/10.

That timeLeung, Carrianne (2018) That time I loved you: Stories. Liveright. In a new subdivision in Scarborough, Ontario, lives a diverse multi-cultural group of residents. The new neighbourhood promises improved social-status, community and happiness, but underneath the tidy gardens and uniformity lies tension – racism, monotony, isolation, abuse, and shocking deaths. In a series of linked stories Leung unearths the inner-lives and troubling secrets of a group of characters struggling to fit in. Insightful and sharp. Rating: 9/10.

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