McTiernan, Dervla (2020) The Good Turn. Police corruption in Ireland’s gardai is the central theme of this new Detective Cormac Reilly story. Reilly faces enemies at work and his colleague, Garda Peter Fisher, is banished back to his father’s patch in the small seaside village of Roundstone, with the threat of prosecution hanging over his head. Anna and her daughter Tilly have escaped trauma in Dublin and found refuge in Roundstone, but is it far enough from evil? Top-notch storytelling. The best of the best. Rating: 9/10.
Broom, Sarah M (2019) The Yellow House. Grove Press. This stunning memoir of a multigenerational large black family, a beloved house, and Hurricane Katrina, is a work of great cadence. Sarah (Monique), one of thirteen children, was brought up in a shotgun house (The Yellow House) by her mother Ivory Mae, in the promising new suburb of New Orleans East. A suburb on the edge of a fault line, bounded by Lake Pontchartrain, canals and swamps that was wiped off the map by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The pull of home and neighbourhood, grounded by Broom’s meticulous archival research and family lore, is a sprawling reframing of love, pride and place. Extraordinary. Rating: 9/10.
Swanson, Peter (2020) Rules for Perfect Murders. Faber. A series of unsolved murders brings the FBI to Malcolm’s door. The murders appear to be directly associated with a blog post that Malcom, a Boston crime bookshop owner, wrote a few years ago on ‘my eight favourite murders’ in classic crime fiction. Key to a ingenious and well-executed crime novel is concealment and misdirection, which Swanson does by diverting our attention with the plot’s many twists and turns. Can the killer get away with eight perfect murders? An old-fashioned murder mystery for the well-read crime buff. Rating: 8/10.
Griffiths, Elly (2020) The Lantern Men. Quercus. Dr Ruth Galloway has distanced herself from DCI Nelson, and the North Norfolk Police, and now has a new job and partner in Cambridge. However, her forensic archaeology skills are soon called upon when a convicted murderer demands she undertake a search for buried bodies in the damp waterlogged fens, said be haunted by folklore’s mysterious Lantern Men. Is the killer himself a lantern man, luring Ruth back to Norfolk? Are the killings really over? An unreliable cast of suspects amongst familiar friends from the Dr Galloway series. OK read. Rating: 8/10.
Hadlow, Janice (2020) The Other Bennet Sister. Mantle. Mary Bennet is the last remaining unmarried Bennet sister, from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Hadlow has revisioned (and reinterpreted) the marginalised life of the ‘plain’ middle daughter in the aftermath of her sisters’ nuptials. The first third of the book is taken up with a retelling of life in the Bennet household at Longbourn. The story does not take-off until after Mr Bennet’s death, and with Longbourn entailed away to Mr Collins Mary is required to live at the favour of her relations. As she takes refuge in her books she comes to understand her true nature and the romance begins. Mary is a well-rounded, albeit conflicted, protagonist. Sympathetic to Austen. Rating: 8/10.
Foley, Lucy (2020) The Guest List. HarperCollins. A glamorous high-profile wedding is held on a remote island off the Irish coast, with an exclusive wild-card guest list. The groom is a handsome and charismatic rising television star, and the bride is a smart and ambitious magazine publisher – who doesn’t wish the happy couple joy? As the celebration begins resentments and petty jealousies emerge, lives unravel and tragic secrets are revealed. Each of the principal narrators has a reason to want one of their number dead. A gripping murder mystery with the mounting sense of doom. A delicious read for classic crime fans. Rating: 8.5/10.