Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Recommended reading

The problem with getting to the end of the year and being asked for recommendations is that it tends to be the most recent stand-outs that come to mind. So I'll start with those, and try and cast my mind back for future posts!

"Clear to the Horizon" by Dave Warner. I started reading Dave Warner after seeing other people recommend his crime novels (and then someone said he was the most under-rated crime novelist in Australia so ...). I picked up "City of Light" by lucky chance in an op shop, and enjoyed the somewhat hokey depiction of Fremantle in the late 70s, main character Snowy Lane, with Aussie similes leaking out of the story left, right and centre (but a lot were quite funny). Then I managed to get hold of "Before It Breaks" which is a different character - Dan Clements - based in Broome. So "Clear to the Horizon" brings Snowy and Dan together in a bunch of crimes up around the Broome/Port Hedland/Derby area.

People always talk about crime fiction being a genre that makes the most of location, and Warner does a great job (kind of put me off travelling in the WA outback, to be honest!). We begin with a serial killer in 1999, snatching girls who are never found again, then move into the present day with a missing billionaire's daughter (Snowy's job as he's now a PI). Segue to Dan with local drug dealers and then a series of robberies by someone who can outrun just about anybody.

As with any good crime novel, the various crimes are interwoven and skilfully used to lay clues or send the reader (and the investigators) up the garden path. I really enjoyed both the setting and Warner's ability to keep all the various threads and crimes and suspects under control. We get to meet a range of local characters as well as blow-ins, mixed in with crucial iron ore deals and lots of money and drugs in the wrong places.

It's been a while since I read a crime novel that I really only put down reluctantly, and took any opportunity to grab it up again and keep reading. My one quibble is that Warner's novels are published by Fremantle Press who seem obsessed with small font sizes that make for hard reading.

"One Would Think the Deep" by Claire Zorn
I'm not a fan of tricksy titles, even when they are from quotes (all right, so I will excuse Adrian McKinty's latest novel). Plus this YA novel was about surfing, and I have zero interest in that.

However, the book has won major awards, and so I decided to give it time and read with an open mind. I'm really glad I did. Sam is not in a good place, with his mum dying on him, and then finding that the only place he has to go is to live with his aunt and two cousins. Two out of the three don't want him there. But Minty, his surfie cousin and loveable guy, welcomes him with open arms and takes him into the surf, sure that it will cure everything.

Not so, of course. Sam has violence issues, he's deeply grieving but no one seems to understand that. It's the Aussie "suck it up" syndrome that means he has to bury his feelings until they rush up screaming into the light. And people get hurt.

I was worried all the way through this novel that Zorn would take the easy out - something "magical" would happen and Sam would be a new person with a new hope-filled life. I'm glad she didn't, and I'm not giving away what she did with Sam, but it's satisfying and real. The writing is great, the surfing stuff is not overdone (but expertly conveyed), and the emotional heart of the story is sound.
(And there is no cover image because Blogger is being very stupid today.)