And the winner of the Indie Book of the Year is… Jane Harper’s The Dry: for the best Australian writing of 2016, as chosen by Australian independent booksellers. Our congratulations to Jane — we’ve barely been able to keep her book in stock since it came out!
Other prize winners this year:
* Fiction: The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
* Debut fiction: The Dry by Jane Harper
* Non-fiction: Everywhere I Look by Helen Garner
* Children’s: Circle by Jeannie Baker
* Young Adult: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
All titles in-store now, or on order in desperate haste if we’ve sold out! Let us know if you want any of the prize-winners put aside for you, and come enjoy some great Australian writing.
This book came as a very pleasant surprise. I’ve long been a fan of Holly Throsby’s music, so I was happy to hunker down with her first novel, Goodwood. Set in a fictional NSW town of the same name, the story follows one sad and unusual summer in the sleepy town’s life. Seventeen-year-old narrator Jean tells us about fishing, the high school assembly, Davo’s sleazy uncle from Albion Park, and what happens when Rosie from the chip shop and Bart the much-loved butcher both disappear in one short week in 1992… and all the secrets that are revealed until they are found.
Goodwood is a laid-back, loving portrait of a small town, where each individual has their place be they good or bad. Each character is well-drawn, the early ’90s are realistically described, and Jean’s voice is just spot-on. Less a crime novel than an untangling of relationships, despite the untimely disappearances, Throsby’s plotting and portraiture make this a great, easy read. And since she’s a good feminist (Happy International Women’s Day, everyone) all the wife-beaters and slimeballs get treated with the respect they deserve.
I whipped through most of this in one read, and highly recommend it to those seeking some sensitive Australiana (as The Age thought) or a light-but-deep read. The book is also shortlisted for the Debut Indie Award, due to be announced in a couple of weeks, so fingers crossed for Holly. Enjoy!
Goodwood – Holly Throsby – TP – Allen & Unwin – $29.99
PS And if you’re interested in Aussie crime, don’t miss out on the event at Northcote Library tonight!
Steph’s best books
Clancy of the Undertow – Christopher Currie – PB – $20
Convict Tattoos: Marked Men and Women of Australia – Simon Barnard – HB – $40
His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet – PB – $20
The Turner House – Angela Flournoy – TPB – $33
Words in Deep Blue – Cath Crowley – PB – $19
That’s our best books for 2016, all wrapped up. Why don’t you comment or post to let us know your favourites?
Heather’s best books
Days Without End – Sebastian Barry – TPB – $33
The Dry – Jane Harper – TPB – $33
Everyone Brave is Forgiven – Chris Cleave – TPB – $30
The Sympathizer – Viet Thahn Nguyen – PB – $23
To the Bright Edge of the World – Eowyn Ivey – TPB – $33
Stay tuned for Dick’s best books tomorrow…
The Fairfieldbooks staff have put our heads down, and we’ve each come up with our five top titles for 2016. You can see most of our choices in the lovely display (above). We’ll post one list every day over the next week, and do come in and tell us what your favourites have been this year!
Stay tuned for Heather’s best books coming tomorrow…
Filed under Crime Fiction, Fiction Reviews, Gift Ideas, Junior Readers (8-11 years), Memoir, Non-fiction Reviews, Picture books (0-5 years), Teen Fiction, Tweens (11-14 years), Xmas Gift Ideas, Young Adult (14+)
Disillusioned with his legal career, dumped by his fiancee and down in the dumps generally, Charlie Jardim is thrown a bone by his mentor Harlan Weir. It involves going to a small town which is divided between the people who have an abalone fishing licence, and those who don’t. There has been a murder and Charlie is to help prepare a witness for the prosecution. He finds Dauphin is a town where loyalties are long established, but fragile for all that. Les the publican at the pub, strangely called the Norman Woes takes Charlie under his wing, but the rest of the town regard the outsider with suspicion.
The murder occurred between abalone fishing competitors, both of whom were involved in going over the ‘quota’ for the product. As well as the illegal abalone trade, a spot of drug running had been muddying the waters, so to speak, and the money involved has been getting bigger and bigger.
Charlie’s witness is nervous, and has changed his testimony, making him a target of violence in the town. Charlie himself earns himself no favours amongst the townsfolk.
A lot of the book takes place in the court room, with a lot of courtroom procedure and evidence being explained which could flag, but doesn’t.The big character barristers you hear about it get an outing in the book, and their antics, along with those of the Judge are very entertaining. Charlie is a character to like, and I can see a sequel coming where he gets back on track with his career, or maybe not. Quota makes a welcome change from the police procedural crime novel with it’s country and court room settings and is a good choice for a crime fiction fan. Recommended. $30
Picking up where The Old School left off, Beams Falling ($30.00) sees Detective Nhu ‘Ned’ Kelly recovering from physical trauma as well as PTSD. But she’s soon working in Sydney’s Cabramatta . It’s 1993 and there’s been a surge of crime in the area, brought about by new Vietnamese drug gangs. her colleagues think Ned’s the one for this job, given her Vietnamese heritage, but she not only has to confront the violence, drugs and murder in her suburb, but deal with her mental health as well as police corruption. The sense of place in Beams Falling is tangible – and it’s unapologetically honest and grim. Her characters are so well-realised, and a plot so snappy you won’t be able to put this down. Newton is such an exciting new – well, new-ish, this being her much-awaited second novel – voice in Australian crime fiction.
Ian Rankin has been writing books featuring the detective John Rebus for almost as long as I’ve been reading crime fiction, which, ahem, is quite a while. A few books ago, Rankin retired Rebus and created another character, Malcolm Fox who worked in the police complaints division, and was naturally, loathed by all of his colleagues. A subsequent book had them meeting and in this new book Fox is back in detective mode and Rebus, after a brief sojourn in a cold case unit has become a detective again, albeit at a lower rank than he was when he left. This provides the story with the interesting situation of Siobhan Clarke who was for so long subordinate to Rebus as now being his boss. Not that that that means Rebus won’t still do his own thing. Not at all.
The title of the book, Saints of the Shadow Bible refers to the self named team Rebus joined as a young, green detective many years previously. Rebus had left them all behind but a summons from a dying member threatens to bring it all back, and not in a good way. A new Solicitor General who wants to make a mark is opening an old case and some dirty laundry is about to be exposed. Rebus and Fox strike an uneasy alliance to solve a current case and Fox, against his better judgement, becomes involved in proving whether Rebus has his own dirty laundry or not. Siobhan meanwhile is struggling with her own history with Rebus and whether that is clouding her judgement.
The city of Edinburgh is less of a character than usual in this book and I miss that but Saints of the Shadow Bible is still a good installment in the continuing story of John Rebus. And probably of Malcolm Fox. $33
For those of you who have yet to read Angela Savage’s crime series, tracing the mysteries and mishaps of Australian ex-pat P.I. Jayne Keeney in Thailand, you’re in for a treat. Savage is a previous winner of the Scarlet Stiletto Award, and her third Jayne Keeney novel, The Dying Beach, was released to acclaim in mid-2013.
Like her earlier two novels — Behind the Night Bazaar and The Half-Child — The Dying Beach is rich in local colour, furnished by Savage’s long Thai residence in the ’90s, and is a sensitive Thai culture guide wrapped in a crime thriller. Aussie P.I. Jayne has lived in Thailand for five or so years, speaks fluent Thai and is past mistress of the art of the diplomatic wai or the boozing with the blokes as required to advance her case. Here, she gets sucked in to investigating the suspicious death of her tour guide at a beach-side resort in Krabi, and it ain’t over till the fat cobra sings.
I enjoy these mysteries because Jayne is smart-arsey and wily, is both trashy and clever, and has an astute sense of her role as a white foreigner in a Third World country. Satisfying crime for the politically hungry.
The Dying Beach – Text – TP – $30
The Half-Child – Text – PB – $23.95
Behind the Night Bazaar – Text – PB – $23.95
I had never read a novel by Stuart McBride before but I had been given one by a rep and picked it up at random from the pile one night when I needed a change from the run of literary books I’d had been reading. They were all terrific, (The signature of all things! Goldfinch & the Luminaries), but for me crime is a bit like an ice cream. It goes down very easily after dinner!!
Anyway, Stuart McBride has a recurring character DI Logan McRae and as you may have gathered from all the ‘Mc’s, the books are set in Scotland. The book starts with a gruesome scene, then moves to McRae waking up in a caravan and when leaving the van, he finds a small knot of bones on his doorstep. It’s not the first time it’s happened, and it’s puzzling to say the least but he chooses to pretty much ignore it. But as you would expect this is a foretelling of what is to come and the action goes fro film sets, to witches, troubled women and of course some really nasty people. McRae’s boss is a foul mouthed lesbian, who is forever tweeking her ill fitting bra and their relationship has a surprising twist. It is atmospheric and Logan is a character I’ll happily read about again. $20