February/March Crime Round-Up

N. J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

In The Silent Patient, the sleuth is Theo, a psychotherapist at a rundown mental hospital with a special interest in one patient, Alicia Berenson, who has been mute since she was convicted of killing her husband. When she attacked a fellow patient before Theo’s arrival, she was sedated and is still controlled by heavy medication. Theo’s account of his work with Alicia is interspersed with sections from the diary she wrote before her husband’s death. Nothing is straightforward in this clever and manipulative novel, and it pulls you on to the devastating conclusion […] in Reviews

The Snakes

Sadie Jones

Reviewed by Alison Burns

This is a novel full of mental as well as of physical violence, in which one man stands out. Griff’s quick-fire put-downs of everyone around him are contemptuous, deliberately unmanning. The cold elegance and comfort of his expensive London home, his impeccable travel arrangements, his retinue of lawyers and fixers, are accompanied by the icy entitlement and easy cruelty of the self-made man. He has his own greedy secrets, too, and in the end these will bring the whole family down […] in Reviews

Soviet Milk

Nora Ikstena

* Shortlisted for the EBRD prize
* A 2018 Notable Book

Reviewed by Rachel Hore

Although the oppression of life under Communism infuses this tender tale, Soviet Milk is principally a story about individual character, not politics. There’s no doubt that the mother is a wounded soul, who struggles and fails to be happy, but the author offers no pat answers about why. She is so delicately and warmly evoked, however, that the reader is stirred to empathy rather than impatience […] in Reviews

Women Talking

Miriam Toews

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

The women’s analysis of what has happened to them, their treatment, their own futures and their children’s, and above all how to absorb these events into their own sense of faith, fills most of the book’s pages, and might seem at times dry. But its territory is so horrific, so stark, so outrageous and contemporary that it magnetizes the reader. Toew’s sensitivity, lucidity, lyricism and wit ensure it[…] in Reviews

Picnic in the Storm

Yukiko Motoya

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Yukiko Motoya has been mentioned in dispatches for some time as a startling new voice in fiction. Her stories mix an almost deadpan ordinariness with entertaining flights of fancy that should lift the sternest critic off her feet. Magritte meets Murakami in tale after tale of the oddest things happening in the very path of daily life […] in Reviews

Severance

Ling Ma

* A 2018 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

Ma has referred to her book as ‘an apocalyptic office novel’ and its critique of capitalism, done slyly yet tellingly, is a central ingredient in her fusion of narrative themes. There’s suspense too in the gothic, survivalist scenes, complete with maggot-infested corpses. There’s contemplative analysis in Candace’s musing on the oddities of her world and her place in it. There’s a battle of wills, between our steely heroine and the autocratic leader of the survivalists. And there’s the sardonic take on routine, work, wage slavery and consumerism […] in Reviews

Happiness

Aminatta Forna

* A 2018 Notable Book

Reviewed by Elsbeth Lindner

This is a story of wide and significant scope that spans continents and decades, even though it unspools itself mainly in the UK in the twenty-first century. And there’s more to it than mammals or birds, or wildlife or gardens. This is also a book about war and trauma, about refugees and immigrants, survival and the unexpected by-products of suffering. And last, but far from least, it’s a love story. […] in Reviews