Wonder Valley

Ivy Pochoda

Reviewed by Shirley Whiteside

Set in modern-day California but not in the affluent areas often portrayed in films and television programmes, this work is located in the grimy, smelly underbelly of the sunshine state and the city of angels. It opens with a traffic jam on an LA freeway, people sweating in their cars as they try to get to work. Suddenly a naked man appears, running between the cars at a steady pace [Read more...] in Reviews

September Crime Round-Up

N.J. Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

The police investigation into the death by hanging of a young woman is carried out by Jimmy Perez and his sometime lover, DCI Willow Reeves, along with Sandy. They are among Cleeves’s best characters and Jimmy’s relationship with his stepdaughter, Cassie, is both realistic and touching. Cleeves has said that Wild Fire will be the last of her Shetland novels, which is a great pity. I hope she will take the many excellent aspects of this series to some other island somewhere else and build up new fictional relationships there [Read more...] in Reviews

Severance

Ling Ma

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 [Read more...] in Reviews

The Missing List

Clare Best

Reviewed by Alison Coles

[Best] uses these memories, noticing the change in her carefree seven-year-old self, to a child who shunned the camera or showed off for it, never at ease again with her father watching her. ‘We want to believe that abusers are monsters but generally they look and behave like responsible people.’ The damage of abuse is not just a physical one, it does damage psychologically – and Clare is looking for the monster in the father with whom she has always been in a symbiotic relationship. It is this unravelling of each skein of memory that is her quest, trying to separate the two people. The monster and the protector [Read more...] in Reviews

The Guilty Feminist

Deborah Frances-White

Reviewed by Zoë Fairbairns

The Guilty Feminist, which is part-autobiography, part-interview collection, part-manifesto and part-book-of-the-podcast, is generally engaging in its cards-on-the-table clarity. The author’s recommendations for action are inspired by the reminder that ‘my life now is the direct consequence of the hopes of the long-dead women before me. We live their hopes every time we walk down the street unchaperoned, uncorseted, uncensored...we live the hopes of the suffragettes and the demands of Maya Angelou’ [Read more...] in Reviews

July Crime Round-Up

N.J.Cooper

Reviewed by N.J. Cooper

Lex is a new mother just returning to work, full of the familiar difficulties of leaking breasts, guilt, and anxiety. She loves her daughter but hates being a mother. Unlike most such women, she is a specialist in the neat and violent extermination of her country’s enemies. Her husband has no idea, believing she works in some dreary data-processing part of the government, and her closest colleague and sometime lover thinks he’s a prat [Read more...] in Reviews

Clock Dance

Anne Tyler

Reviewed by Alison Burns

Her mother had always behaved wilfully, then sought forgiveness with disarming songs and smiles. Her husband had turned out to be rigid and unimaginative, quite unlike Willa’s kindly father. By the time she acquires a second husband, Peter, her optimism has quite gone: ‘Marriage was often a matter of dexterity, in Willa’s experience’ [Read more...] in Reviews