The Arc of the Swallow

Sissel-Jo Gazan

Reviewed by Sara Maitland

This is, in many respects, a classic ‘good read’ – think long-haul air-flight; week with grandchildren; waiting in A&E for your friend (or even yourself if it is not something too painful) to be seen: it is a plot-driven novel but has some rather well developed characters; it has an intelligent premise without being intellectually demanding; even its absurdly excessive length works for it in this context. And it is such a relief to me to have a murder mystery which is sexual predator/ psychopath/ gruesome-female-body-parts free [Read more...] in Reviews

November Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Clare Mackintosh’s first novel, I Let You Go, is impressive and engaging and absolutely to my taste. Her police officers are not lonely drunken borderline psychopaths or eccentrics. They are ordinary human beings doing their best, much like those who have appeared in Channel 4′s recent documentary series 24 Hours in Custody. This is not surprising because Mackintosh herself served in the police for nine years.

Palawan Story

Caroline Vu

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

One night in 1979, when Kim is fifteen years old, her mother wakes her and takes her on a long walk to the coast. She puts Kim on a refugee boat and disappears, hurrying to make her way back to Hue before she is missed. The only person Kim recognizes on the boat is Aunty Hung, a woman her mother has known since childhood, whom Kim has never liked or trusted. After some time at sea the boat is picked up and taken to Palawan Island in the Philippines and Kim finds herself in a refugee camp. An American immigration officer mistakes Kim for an orphan and she is shipped out to the USA and a new family [Read more...] in Reviews

H is for Hawk

Helen Macdonald

WINNER OF THE 2014 SAMUEL JOHNSON PRIZE

Reviewed by Siân Miles

Macdonald becomes an academic – her father fondly refers to her as ‘my daughter, the absent-minded professor’ – and teaches, at Cambridge, the history of science. In parallel to this trajectory, and having already become a competent falconer, immediately after her father’s death she adopts a goshawk, ‘as similar to the sparrowhawk as leopard is to the household cat’. [Read more...] in Reviews

Infidelities

Kirsty Gunn

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Many of these tales highlight the loss of freedom in marriage, whether this comes from choosing or being chosen. In the first, a wife pursues a stranger barefoot into a wood, commenting on the wood’s ‘hundred little pathways’, to one of which she ‘walks straight in’; on her return, her young daughter mistakes the muddy mess in her mother’s bed for blood [Read more...] in Reviews

October Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

May is a terrific character, all too aware of pain and fear but refusing to let either deflect her from what she knows is right. She is realistic in her ambitions, except when she puts herself in physical danger in the hunt for vicious thugs. But her setting is absolutely convincing. Poor in comparison with the Coroner himself, she is still much better off than many of the people she deals with in Poplar, whose lives are dreadful [Read more...] in Reviews

Away from the Dead

Karen Jennings

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

The collection closes with ‘Resurrection’, the tale of a young father immobilized by the stresses of everyday life and his wife and son’s attempts to cure him. In between are more tales of ordinary Africans, scratching out a living while waiting for the changes promised by the end of apartheid to reach them [Read more...] in Reviews