Review: Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

9780857526137Curtis Sittenfeld’s new novel is more than a dazzling and seductive alternate history about a world in which Hillary Rodham decided not to marry Bill Clinton to maintain her independence. It’s a searing commentary on the unjust compromises and aspersions faced by female politicians compared to their male counterparts, and how much harder it is for women to make their way in politics, or any facet of public life; any walk of life, in fact.

Hillary is merely the vehicle Sittenfeld uses to showcase this inequality; but saturating her fiction in the texture of Hillary’s reality, with one major twist, adds a brilliant vitality to the work, and a layer of verisimilitude that using a totally fabricated character would not have allowed. This narrative decision is utterly seductive, and Sittenfeld clearly had great fun contemplating the seismic ramifications that one different decision might’ve produced. Where is Donald Trump in this new world? Barrack Obama? Indeed, what actually happened to Bill Clinton; did he achieve his political ambitions without Hillary as his first lady? Sittenfeld answers all of these questions, and more. I was addicted to learning more, and incredibly impressed by her ability to humanise Hillary, and turn her into a sympathetic character rather than a caricature. I’ve no doubt it’ll be one of my favourite books of the year.

ISBN: 9780857526137
Format: Paperback
Number Of Pages: 400
Available: 19th May 2020
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd

Review: Burn by Patrick Ness

burnOn a cold Sunday evening in 1957, Sarah Dewhurst and her father wait in the parking lot of the Chevron Gas Station for the dragon Gareth hired to help on the farm. Their encounter with Kazimir — a rare, enigmatic blue dragon — ignites a world-ending chain of events they have no hope of aborting; for this is their destiny. This is fate.

Blending the epic with the intimate, Patrick Ness has crafted a novel of exquisite escapism. He weaves new religions, histories and conflicts into an action-packed, character-focused romp, teeming with rogue FBI agents, a cruel xenophobic deputy sheriff, dragons (of course) and a teenage assassin; and that’s only the start of its stunningly diverse cast.

Burn has the propulsion of a thriller — its two grand action scenes are masterpieces of excitement and stomach-clenching tension — and the earnestness of the very best tales of young romance. Ness is a brilliantly nimble writer, able to flick between blockbuster moments and personal with peerless grace. It’s the stuff of literary magic.

ISBN: 9781406375503
Number Of Pages: 384
Available: 7th May 2020
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd

Review: The Dark Corners of the Night by Meg Gardiner

the-dark-corners-of-the-nightSomehow Meg Gardiner manages to take stock suspense plots — a dedicated and relentless FBI behavioural analyst pursuing an ingenious serial killer — and dress them up into the kind of pulse-pounding, irresistibly readable thrillers you can’t help but in inhale in one sitting.

In The Dark Corners of the Night, the third novel in the UNSUB series, Caitlin Hendrix targets a Los Angeles killer who breaks into houses late at night when the family is home, executes both parents, and leaves the children alive as witnesses. He calls himself The Midnight Man. And he might just be the most vicious murderer Caitlin and the FBI’s elite Behavioural Analysis Unit has ever faced. Until the sequel, you’d assume. Which can’t come soon enough.

This is a world class thriller by one of the world’s premier thriller writers. Meg Gardiner has turbocharged the thriller genre. If you need some edge-of-your-seat escapism — and who doesn’t right now — look no further.

ISBN: 9781982627515
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Publication date: 02/18/2020

Review: The New Girl by Daniel Silva

y648The New Girl  — the nineteenth Gabriel Allon thriller by genre stalwart (and personal favourite) Daniel Silva — is a gripping, fast-moving and intelligent spy novel that negotiates the geopolitical fautlines of the Middle East, as the head of Israeli intelligence is compelled to aid the heir to the Saudi throne to negotiate the release of his kidnapped daughter.

If Michael Connelly is the grandmaster of the police procedural, Daniel Silva might just be the grandmaster of the spy procedural. In The New Girl he immerses readers deep in the ocean of his long-developed continuity. Silva’s novels, which once focused on the micro — tightly focused on the escapades of his former art restorer turned assassin protagonist — now have a macro approach, encompassing a broad range of characters who’ve been introduced in previous adventures, as they engage in cloak and dagger schemes. The pacing is deliberate, the action packs a punch, and everything feels rooted in the real world. Silva delivers, as always. The world of geopolitics has never been more fascinating or pulse-pounding.

ISBN: 9781460755495
Imprint: HarperCollins
On Sale: 22/07/2019
Pages: 496
Price: 32.99

 

Review: Sticks and Stones by Katherine Firkin

9781760893026I’ve whined before about a distinct absence of “metropolitan cops” in this new age of Australian crime fiction. Los Angeles has Bosch. Edinburgh has Rebus. Quebec has Gamache. Galway has Reilly. New Orleans has Robicheaux. Once upon a time, Sydney had Cliff Hardy and Scobie Malone. Melbourne had Jack Irish. But the notion of the quintessential city detective seems to have faded. Australian crime fiction has turned its focus to our harsh landscape. Geography has become king. And used to great effect. But where are the stories that flip the coin, and tackle our big cities? Here’s one — Katherine Firkin’s debut, Sticks and Stones.

What begins as a routine investigation into the disappearance of a beloved mother quickly turns into the hunt for a merciless serial killer lead by Melbourne Detective Emmett Corban, head of the Missing Persons Unit. Corban’s unencumbered by the tropes of many series leads. He’s as clean-cut as they come, a dedicated husband and father, and a staunchly focused investigator, almost glowing with integrity. Presumably some kind of tragedy awaits him in future instalments. Cops in crime fiction never remain blindingly righteous for long. He’s kind of a blank canvas, at this point, this being his premiere, which works, because it means the pacy plot is the engine of the novel. And it certainly thrums.

Structurally Sticks and Stones reminds me of Harlan Coben and Cara Hunter; short, taut chapters, regular changes of perspective and flashbacks maintain its acceleration. It’s chockfull of thrills rather than chills. When there’s violence on the page it’s fleeting rather than gratuitous or stomach churning. Firkin’s objective seems to be to speed up the readers’ page-turn, make the experience as breathless and twisty as possible, rather than terrify and unnerve. She succeeds. Firkin knows her craft. A fine start for an exciting new series.

Published: 2 June 2020
ISBN: 9781760893026
Imprint: Bantam Australia
Format: Trade Paperback
Pages: 400
RRP: $32.99

Review: Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

9780571348213Powerful and raw, harrowing and unsentimental, incredibly ambitious yet tightly focused in its scope, Your House Will Pay confronts the legacy of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, when the city exploded into violence after four white police officers were acquitted of any wrongdoing in the beating of  Rodney King. Laced with tension and suspense, Steph Cha’s novel proves the past is prologue as it probes the residual pain, rage and grief felt by two families almost 30 years after a young black girl named Ava Matthews was shot to death by a Korean woman, who mistakenly believed the girl was stealing from her convenience store; an adaptation of the real-life murder of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old black girl fatally shot by convenience store owner Soon Ja Du, who was sentenced to five years of probation, 400 hours of community service, and a $500 fine.

Almost three decades have passed, but Shawn Matthews — an ex-convict now working for an LA-based moving company — is haunted by the death (or blatant execution, as he sees it) of his sister. The shooting and the subsequent trial, in which Jung-Ja Han was convicted, but received no jail time (and was able to relocate and disappear) exacerbated the racial tensions already simmering as a result of the Rodney King trial. These hostilities are festering in the present day, and have almost reached boiling point, after an unarmed black teen is killed by a police officer.

Shawn has dreamed of revenge for his sister, and has worked hard to deny this impulse, building a life that’s not exactly filled with riches, but is at least honest, and one he can be proud of. But when a Korean woman named Yvonne Park is wounded in a drive-by-shooting in front of her daughter, Grace, the LAPD comes knocking on Shawn’s door, and on his cousin Ray’s, who has just been released from prison, and is struggling to adapt to life on the outside. The LAPD are certain the drive-by was intended as a hit, not a random act of violence; setting the carefully-constructed lives of the Park and Matthews families are on a collision course.

This is the crime novel in its most serious form, reflecting and lamenting the mistakes of the past, and clanging a warning bell for the future. The past doesn’t fade; it lives, breathes, and gnaws in future generations.

ISBN: 9780571348213
Publisher: Faber
Imprint: Faber Fiction
Pub Date: January 2020
Page Extent: 320

Review: Cleaning the Gold by Karin Slaughter and Lee Child

x293This team-up between two of thriller-lit’s most enduring creations — Lee Child’s Jack Reacher and Karin Slaughter’s Will Trent — is exactly what you’d expect it to be; nothing more, nothing less. Our heroes meet, inside Fort Knox, and become instant foes, before quickly forming a partnership that enables them to take on some bad dudes, and uncover a criminal ring operating inside the famous United States Army post. It’s bread and butter stuff from Child and Slaughter; a fun short-story-length aside, with an interesting connection to Reacher’s debut adventure, Killing Floor, with some amusing banter between the two leads, but ultimately, it reads more like a trailer for a full-size adventure we’re never actually going to see in print.

ISBN: 97814607122692269
Imprint: HarperCollins
On Sale: 09/05/2019
Pages: 128