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Book Chat Catch-Up for June

Bookchat June reads 1

Winter seems a good time to settle in with a good mystery novel or a suspenseful psychological thriller. Some well-known authors in this genre plus some newbies recently turned up on the Book Chat table.

One of Us by Kylie Kaden takes us to the wealthy suburb of Apple Tree Creek. We’ve got an unexpected death, marriages in trouble and, in a gated community, the murderer can only be one of the neighbours. A really good suspenseful read.

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas brings a cold case to light by the discovery of a body, 18 years after the disappearance of 21-year-old Sophie. Francesca was Sophie’s friend and has spent years haunted by her disappearance. This one has an ending you won’t see coming.

Lemon by Kwon Yeo Sun is another cold case but this one concentrates on the effects on a family after the killing of a nineteen-year-old girl. Her sister has been unable to move on and somehow in trying to recover what she has lost sets herself on a course to discover the truth.

Just the Nicest Couple by Mary Kubica is a mystery novel, but more of a whydunit than a whodunit. A story about a missing husband, a strained marriage, secrets and betrayal, this is definitely a psychological read, and is both satisfying and compelling.

The Therapist by Hugh McKay is an interesting read about several cases on the books of Martha, a maverick psychotherapist who will do whatever it takes to help people. A mysterious couple appear who, unlike her other clients, are more interested in Martha and the secrets she hides.

Chaos by Patricia Cornwell is number 24 in the Kay Scarpetta series following a forensic pathologist in Massachusetts. Kay and her team are on the case of a murder which looks at first to be a death by lightning. Drones, cyberbullying and anonymous poems all make an appearance in a series that always seems fresh.

The Jealousy Man by Jo Nesbo. We’re familiar with this author as the creator of the Harry Hole series. Here he turns his hand to short stories, but still with his trademark focus on the dark and twisted desires that lead to revenge and murder.

Winter might also be a good time to take ourselves off to another time and place. But maybe not Antarctica, as our reader found with the novel Endurance by Tim Griffiths. The story focuses on the experiences of Australian photographer Frank Hurley who was part of Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition. It might make you want to hunker down by the fire, but it is a gripping read none the less.

The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eve Rice takes its heroine, a vicar’s daughter from Cornwell to London in the Swinging Sixties. Tara is a talented singer, and we follow her ups and downs, trying to make a go of it, in a pleasantly relaxing read. While it is perhaps a little long, this is a book that is easy to put down and pick up where you left off.

Atlas – the story of Pa Salt by Lucinda Riley is a kind of companion piece to her bestselling Seven Sisters series. The new book fills us in on how their father came to adopt his daughters and the secrets of his past. A bit repetitive if you have read all the books, but with enough new plot to keep you interested.

Bookchat June reads 2

The House of the Hanged Woman by Kate Ellis is book three in the Albert Lincoln series. It is 1921 and the disappearance of an MP has our Scotland Yard detective investigating what looks like a murder. Other cases seem to have mysterious links. An excellent mystery and a terrific new series that’s well worth checking out.

The Librarian of Burned Books by Brianna Labuskes is set in the 1930s through to World War II and follows three women in three different cities: Berlin, Paris and New York. Each is determined that books have the power to triumph over the darkness that has spread across Europe. A gripping read once you get into it, ideal for fans of The Rose Code by Kate Quinn.

We had plenty of interesting contemporary fiction on the table, beginning with Companion Piece by Ali Smith. Celebrating companionship in all its forms, this is a lock-down novel that shines a light on difficult times and makes you think, yes, it really was like that. And the writing is brilliant too.

Australian author, Sofie Laguna, doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects in her books. The Eye of the Sheep is about a poor family and their struggles with raising a difficult child. Jimmy can’t understand why his father gets so angry with him all the time while only his mother can keep him on an even keel. Yes, it’s a bit dark, but a satisfying read none the less.

The Illuminated by A Ghose is set in India, where a mother and daughter deal with the loss of the girl’s father. They have to negotiate their tricky relationship, while a rise in religious fundamentalism threatens their independence. Drawn by a beautiful book cover, our reader found this an interesting story but hard work to understand the detail describing Sanskrit scholarship.

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult has two families connected by a tragedy in a sleepy New Hampshire town. Was Olivia’s teenage son Asher responsible? His father had a darker side to his nature, but how much can she trust her instincts about Asher? The story evolves against a background about beekeeping with some fascinating details.

In the Time of Our History by Suzanne Pari is another story set around a family, this time in Iran where Mitra returns home from USA to observe the anniversary of her sister’s death. There are family secrets as well as problems between Mitra and her father to deal with. Another beautiful cover but just an average read.

The Man I Think I Know by Mike Gayle is a terrific feel-good novel about two private school contemporaries who meet decades later in unusual circumstances. Despite their promising boyhoods, James is disabled by an accident that sees him reliant on a carer; Danny having fallen on hard times. A charming story about friendship, family and life’s surprises.

The Windfall by Disha Basu is a humorous novel about the Jha family and what happens when Mr Jha wins a lottery and the family move to a swanky new neighbourhood. After years of small dramas in cramped housing, the move has unexpected consequences and forces the Jha family to understand what really matters.

A Manual for Cleaning Women by Luccia Berlin is a collection of stories by an author compared to fellow American writers like Raymond Carver and Grace Paley. Berlin’s stories combine wit and melancholy, uncovering moments of grace in a variety of settings. A really excellent read.

Other genres also hit the table, including one YA novel by Mandy Hager. Singing Home the Whale is a terrific story about a troubled teenage boy sent to live with family in a coastal area of New Zealand. Discovering a young orca in trouble sets in motion a string of events and the chance to learn some of life’s lessons.

Turning to fantasy, In the Lives of Puppets by T J Klune is a kind of retelling of the story of Pinocchio, in a dystopian setting with robots. There's a fatherly android named Giovanni as well as Victor, a human, and the characters all live in a secluded woodland setting. When Victor discovers and repairs an android named HAP, Giovanni’s future is thrown into danger. A delightful and imaginative adventure story.

Similarly Phaedra by Laura Shepperson is a retelling of an old story, this one from Greek mythology. Phaedra is the sister of Ariadne and the Minotaur of Crete, who marries the powerful and older Theseus, King of Athens. When Phaedra is attacked by Theseus’s stepson, her attempt to bring it out into the light is met with scepticism. Another interesting read in a popular new genre.

27 June 2023

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