Today I have a review and a Shiny link for you – both thrillers published today.
The Lost Man by Jane Harper
Let me get the Shiny link out of the way first. The Lost Man is Harper’s third crime thriller, set in the Australian outback. Whereas her first two featured Aaron Falk, a cop from Melbourne, this one stands alone.
It begins with a body in an isolated and historic spot which begs the perennial question, was it suicide or was it murder?
I couldn’t put this book down at the time, loved it. But I’ve since read her first novel The Dry, which was perhaps even better, (reviewed here).
Read my full Shiny review HERE.
Source: Review copy. Jane Harper, The Lost Man (Little, Brown, 2018) Hardback, 384 pages. BUY at Amazon UK (affiliate link).
Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain
I love novels set in closed communities, especially exclusive estates, (see my review of J.G. Ballard’s Running Wild for an exemplary novella of this type). They’re almost the modern-day equivalent of the locked room mystery.
This was the first book by Irish author Jo Spain I’ve read and I will look out for her others for I really enjoyed it; she’s written four others, one standalone and three in a series featuring a police inspector, Tom Reynolds. Dirty Little Secrets is another standalone novel.
We know that Olive is dead from the outset of the novel – found by the mother and son from the family next door, after three months of decomposing. Cue bluebottle opening scene, that beloved trope of crime writers, (c.f. The Dry). Yuck!
Once upon a time, they’d all tried to be more neighbourly. As recently as a couple of years ago, that effort had taken the form of a street party.
Nobody could remember who had suggested it. Alison, a newbie at the time, reckoned the street party was Olive’s doing. Chrissy thought it was Ron’s. Ed presumed it was David’s. Nobody supposed George had come up with it. […] George, though, had put in the most effort. (p2)
Olive at No 4, lived in the one original house on the now exclusive Withered Vale gated housing estate, the other houses being built around her. The others housing a host of different (stereotypical, but I’m not complaining) family types. From single rich men – a shy one and a charmer, a liberal vegetarian family with twins – the boy is called Wolf, to a stressed single mother with teenaged daughter, a younger couple with a baby on the way and an older couple who cruise a lot, Olive watches them all. The estate being separated from the city, she doesn’t go out much and can devote herself to getting to know her neighbours.
The police officer in charge of the investigation is Frank Brazil, widowed and nearing retirement – he’s a great character, as is his young partner Emma. The initial assumption had been suicide, but as Frank and Emma talk to the inhabitants of Withered Vale, a complicated picture of relationships, strained and otherwise, between the various households begins to add up to something more sinister.
The chapters alternate between the various residents, the police officers who are investigating Olive’s death, and Olive’s thoughts on her neighbours, mostly told from beyond the grave. Spain cleverly shifts our suspicions from household to household all the way through. Most of the inhabitants of Withered Vale are, frankly, not very likeable, although some have their moments where you can empathise with them; Wolf, of course, is mostly adorable!
The ending when it came was clever, and sort of expected yet unexpected – can’t say more! The little twists all add up to build a psychological drama which was a good read indeed. (8.5/10)
Source: Review copy. Jo Spain, Dirty Little Secrets (Quercus, 2018) Hardback, 206 pages.