July Picks

Browder, Bill (2022) Freezing Order: A True Story of Russian Money Laundering, Murder and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath. Simon & Schuster.

This mind-blowing book reads like a thrilling tale of espionage, rather than a memoir. It is a compelling caper of crime and corruption, assassinations, bribery and intimidation, legal battles, tax evasion, and the laundering of billions of dollars, all emanating from Putin’s Russia. When his young lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was ‘murdered’ Browder made it his mission to pursue justice, bringing him head-to-head with Putin himself. As Western agencies began freezing Russian assets Putin retaliated, with Browder a target. A story of survival, Western complacency and the unbridled power of a greedy and ruthless regime. Terrifying.

Rating: 9/10

Mason, Meg (2020) Sorrow and Bliss. Fourth Estate.

In the aftermath of her marriage breakdown, Martha is trying to understand her life, and herself. Her husband Patrick has been in her life for as long as an “old sofa”, since he started coming to her family’s Christmas lunches from the age of thirteen. Martha has always known there is something wrong with her. Even when she is well Martha fears a recurrence. By the time she finds out why she is the way she is it’s almost too late. This is a novel about cyclical mental illness, family dynamics, and hurt and loss. A dark and unreliable first-person narrative, but overall a heartfelt story handled with a light touch. Compulsive read.

Rating: 8.5/10

Goodman, Peter S (2022) Davos Man: How the Billionaires Devoured the World. Custom House.

Many of us believe democracy is being warped by the billionaire class. Goodman’s exposé profiles five billionaires who control a large percentage of the world’s wealth, Davos men. Men who have exploited the global pandemic, whilst expounding generosity and empathy. At the same time he recounts the impact on the lives of ordinary people caught up in their wake. A study in indignation at contemporary capitalism, growing inequality, tax avoidance, price gouging, anti-competitive behaviour, and the failure of trickle-down economics. Ambitious and unflinching.

Rating: 8.5/10

Walker, Martin (2021) Bruno’s Challenge & other Dordogne Tales. Quercus.

Six new short stories, and eight previously published tales, of the adventures of Bruno Courrèges, aka Bruno Chief of Police, in the Périgord, are a welcome addition to the series. In food packed local stories the inimitable Bruno continually saves the day. In the lead story Bruno is severely challenged when his friend Ivan, the proprietor of a popular eatery, takes ill on the eve of a large anniversary dinner calling on Bruno to cater the event. Always a fan. Delightful fun.

Rating: 8.5/10

Barton, Fiona (2022) Local Gone Missing. Berkley.

DCI Elise King is on sick leave following surgery and she spends much of her day watching, from her window, the goings-on in her small seaside town of Ebbing. She soon discovers the quiet town is anything but peaceful with locals and newcomers at each other’s throats, and a host of unsettling secrets. When popular pensioner, Charlie Percy, goes missing Elise starts to use her detective skills to poke around a bit, putting her in good stead when she is called back, ahead of schedule, to the Major Crimes Team. Barton spins a number of storylines and each chapter reveals another layer of deceit. Slow-burning thriller.

Rating: 8.5/10

Jonas, Julia May (2022) Vladimir. Picador.

In this provocative tale we meet an unnamed fifty-eight year-old English professor from a small liberal arts college whose husband, a senior professor at the same college, is being investigated for inappropriate relationships with former female students. The couple have long had a tacit arrangement when it comes to extra-marital pursuits, but the allegations are set to impact them both. As the story unfolds the narrator becomes deeply infatuated with a younger colleague, Vladimir. This increasingly disturbing obsession and her perceived complicity in her husband’s affairs is the contradiction of this novel. Issues of changing sexual politics, predatory men, the meaning of consent, and age-related power dynamics are at the heart of this narrative of a woman’s midlife crisis. Surprisingly dark and subversive.

Rating: 9/10

Lodge, Gytha (2022) Little Sister. M. Joseph.

This is the fourth procedural in Gytha Lodge’s DCI Jonah Sheens series. When a young flame-haired girl wanders out of the woods covered in blood Jonah offers to help, but is told that it is her sister that needs the help. The girl, Keely, and her sister, Nina, had disappeared from their children’s home a week ago. In order to find the missing sister Keely insists that Jonah listen to her story. She tells a tale of life in care and of the three men who had caused them grief. She does not, however, reveal the whereabouts of Nina. Is Keely a manipulative sociopath or is she disclosing a true story?  As Jonah and his team follow the story’s clues they find a trail of lies, violence and abuse. An engrossing mystery that keeps you guessing.

Rating: 8.5/10

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