Granny's Good Reads 

Sonia Lee is one of our most treasured customers and a voracious reader.

June 2018

 - Monday, May 28, 2018
I have just ended a Jane Casey binge, reading all seven of her DC Maeve Kerrigan detective novels in one go. I chanced on her name when she was mentioned in a review as being on a par with Tana French and that got me in. I started with The Burning, proceeded to The Reckoning and so on to the latest, Let the Dead Speak—by which time I was thoroughly addicted. In The Burning the serial killer stuns his victims and bludgeons them to death before pouring petrol on them and setting them alight. DC Maeve’s strength is noticing anomalies in the crime scene. For instance, she suspects that the fifth burned body is not the Burning Man’s handiwork but the product of a copy-cat crime—and sets out to prove it. For six of the novels her immediate superior and partner is the abrasive but brilliant DI Josh Derwent— whom initially she dislikes but gradually grows to respect, and they form an unbeatable duo. In The Stranger You Know Derwent is suspected of being a serial killer himself, but Maeve sets out to find the real killer. After the Fire is particularly exciting with an unpleasant MP found in compromising circumstances after a fire on a housing estate. In Let The Dead Speak, 17-year-old Chloe returns home unexpectedly to find blood everywhere and her mother nowhere. She takes refuge with neighbours who belong to a fundamentalist sect, and the plot thickens. Be prepared for a surprising revelation in the last pages. Jane Casey is married to a criminal barrister, admits to sometimes getting a germ of an idea from his cases, and makes all her police procedures entirely credible. Each novel stands alone but it’s best to read all seven in sequence because the characters develop, and there’s a stalker who recurs in several of the novels. It’s also the best way of keeping pace with Maeve’s tangled love life and her Anglo-Irish family. Casey’s great strengths are plotting and interplay between characters, so even the occasionally grizzly details shouldn’t put you off. 

While still in the mood for murder I read Close to Home  by Cara Hunter—the story of 8-year-old Daisy Mason who disappears from her Oxford home during a party. Cara has a 10-year-old brother Leo and parents from hell. I had my heart in my mouth through all the twists and turns of the plot, speed-reading so I could find out what happened, and was completely stunned by the ending.   

I greatly enjoyed The Power Game, the third of the Monsarrat series by Meg and Tom Keneally. Hugh Monsarrat and Mrs Mulrooney have been sent to Van Diemen’s Land to investigate a murder and are on Maria Island where the bosun, who delivers rations and mail from the mainland, has been despatched with an axe and shoved over a cliff. Power in the title alludes to Thomas Power, an Irish nationalist baronet’s son who, though a convict, is under less restrictive conditions than the regulars. However, the authorities would like Power fitted up as the murderer so they can hang him without causing too much of a clamour back home in Ireland. Monsarrat discovers that the bosun, besides running a black market in rum, has had a profitable sideline in reading the island’s mail and blackmailing likely prospects, so there are many suspects. Mrs M, as well as wielding the teapot and making shortbread, does a great deal of detecting herself, making friends with the wife of the hateful commandant and her fey brother Walter. On Maria Island there are numerous miserable convicts, a brutal overseer, a compassionate doctor, a humane visiting magistrate, and a young soldier who, fortunately, can be tempted from the path of duty by the offer of a nice cup of tea. There are also Cape Barren geese, wombats and seals, but our two detectives are anxious to wrap up the case and get back to Parramatta, where Gracie O’Leary from Book 2 is about to be released and Mrs M is worried about her son Padraig. I greatly look forward to the next book in the series.

I’m not quite as enthusiastic about Anna Quindlen’s latest novel, Alternate Side, as I was about Still Life with Bread Crumbs and Miller’s Valley, but anything by Quindlen is sure to contain challenging insights and richly imagined female characters. This one is about an outwardly harmonious upmarket neighbourhood in New York where people’s chief concern seems to be finding a parking spot. Violence breaks out after a minor infringement and the harmony starts to break up as people take opposite sides and marriages come under strain. Well written and with snappy dialogue, a sympathetic heroine, and all the minor mysteries, such as who keeps putting dog poo on the heroine’s front step, are neatly cleaned up at the end. Definitely worth a read. Sonia