The Wilder Aisles 

Janice Wilder has been a legend of Sydney bookselling for over 40 years.

Abattoir Blues

 - Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Abattoir Blues is the latest DCI Banks novel by Peter Robinson. It is the 22nd in the series, and I'm pretty sure I have read them all. They are all set in Yorkshire, and the weather, the grim beauty of the moors and the small isolated farms all contribute to the rather dark atmosphere in which the crimes take place. Abattoir Blues begins with a man taking his dog for an afternoon walk. They are walking near an old WW 2 hangar, now disused and abandoned. The dog goes through a hole in the fence, and when she doesn't come when called, the man goes in to see what is happening. What he finds shocks him, he sees what looks like blood and maybe other human material. The man, Terry Gilchrist, is a veteran and has been recently serving in the Middle East—so he's pretty sure that someone has died there. Meanwhile, two young men have gone missing, a caravan is burned to the ground and a very expensive tractor has been stolen from a small farm owned by a wealthy ex-city couple. At first Banks and his team find it difficult to tie all the strands together, especially when another very nasty murder takes place. But gradually all the pieces begin to fit together, and Banks uncovers more stolen machinery, missing sheep and cattle plus an illegal abattoir. And it all starts to look like there is international criminal activity involving all three—machinery, animals and abattoir. This all makes for a complex mystery, with lots of interesting characters & even a little bit of romance. DCI Alan Banks is one of my favourites, even though he's a scotch drinker and not much of cook—but he does like music, so all is not lost.

Sue Miller is the author of my next book. It is called The Arsonist. I have read quite a few of Miller's previous books, including The Senator's Wife, While I was Gone and The Good Mother. I enjoyed all of these, so I was pleased to find this new one on the shelves. I feel that she writes 'grown-up' novels, with characters who seem like real people that we might know in our own lives. The latest tells the story of Frankie Rowley, on leave, maybe forever, from her work in East Africa, where she has been for the past fifteen years. Leaving behind her sad and depressing work and a failed relationship, she returns to the small town of Pomeroy, New Hampshire, where her parents, both retired academics, are now living. Unable to sleep on her first night home, she goes for a walk in the early morning. As she walks along the road a car passes and she decides to turn back. Not long after the passing of the car, she thinks she smells smoke. The next morning she hears from her mother that a house burned down that night—so perhaps she did smell the smoke and it wasn't a figment of her jet lag-fuelled imagination. A short time later another house is set on fire and then a third, and arson is on everyone's lips. The town of Pomeroy is supposedly divided between the summer and year-round people, which until now has never caused problems. But as people speculate who is behind these house fires, suspicions, and then schisms, start to emerge. In the meantime, Frankie is trying to settle down to a very different lifestyle, conscious of a sense of not belonging anywhere. At a local get together she meets Bud Jacobs, the owner of the town's only newspaper. Bud is from New York, in Pomeroy looking for a quiet life. Against her better judgement, Frankie is attracted to Bud, but doesn't feel that she can let herself become involved, not just because of the man in East Africa, but also because she's not really sure she's going to stay in this small town. Along with these complications, there is the very real problem of her father's slow decline into dementia and her mother's inability to deal with it. All this means that the homecoming Frankie was so looking forward to, is beginning to look like more of a trial than her time overseas. Things begin to get worse as more fires are set and Frankie is unwillingly drawn into the whole investigation. This, in today's world, is a very interesting—you could say very timely—novel. And it seems to me that Sue Miller is not as well known in Australia as she deserves to be. I hope I've convinced you to give her a go.

Last, I'd just like to mention a book that Louise wrote about in these pages a couple of months ago—I loved it so much I wanted to have my say as well. The book is Love Nina: Dispatches From Family Life, a memoir by Nina Stibbe. I just loved the idea of this young girl from outside London, deciding that being a nanny might be a good life. Very naive, with no experience, she lands in a very unusual London family. Not only is the family unusual, but all the others who drop in from time to time, especially 'AB', are equally strange to Nina, who hasn't the faintest idea who these, mostly more or less, famous people are. Great fun. I loved every moment of it and am looking forward to her first novel (Man at the Helm) due to be released in October.