Saturday, December 8, 2012

Reviews: A WANTED MAN, PLAYING DEAD, and THE SUMMER OF DEAD TOYS

This year I have once again been doing a monthly-ish crime fiction round-up for the Herald on Sunday, one of the larger newspapers in New Zealand. I always try to mix things up a bit - not just books that have come out in recent weeks, but some older ones worth considering too. I also try to include books that others might enjoy or want to know more about, regardless of my own personal tastes or preferences (ie I don't use the column to promote my own personal favourite authors, or treat it as a 'best of' my recent reads etc), and also expose readers to some lesser-known terrific crime writers, as well as the household names.

With that being said, here is my latest Herald on Sunday crime fiction column.


Crime picks
Craig Sisterson


A Wanted Man
By Lee Child (Bantam, $37.99)
Fans of Jack Reacher will be well-pleased by this latest instalment in Child’s bestselling series, as the itinerant ex military cop finds himself caught up in the middle of more nastiness, simply by hitchhiking through the rural Nebraska. Picked up by three strangers, Reacher can tell they’re lying about something – but is it to do with the police roadblocks they pass? Is Reacher a decoy? A Wanted Man ticks all Child’s usual boxes: a propulsive plotline that keeps you turning the page, plenty of action and excitement, and at its core, Reacher, the disheveled taciturn wanderer who is driven to help the innocent but leaves plenty of carnage in his wake.

Playing Dead
By Julia Heaberlin (Faber, $24.99])
Debutant Heaberlin brings her award-winning journalism skills to bear in this intriguing mystery about a prodigal daughter returning home to rural Texas for her father’s funeral, only to have all her beliefs about her family shattered. A letter from someone claiming that rodeo rider-turned-child counselor Tommie was kidnapped from her real Mom as a child sends her along a dangerous rollercoaster of discovery. Heaberlin has a knack for pithy, memorable description, and really brings the Texas setting to life, in terms of people and place. Packed with fascinating, at times larger-than-life, characters, Playing Dead is a good read about family secrets and what makes us who we really are.

The Summer of Lost Toys
By Antonio Hill (Doubleday, $37.99)
An outstanding debut by Spanish author Antonio Hill, who brings his hometown vividly to life in this murky, fascinating tale that envelops the reader like a humid Barcelona day. Inspector Hector Salgado is still under a cloud, after having beaten a suspected child sex trafficker, and is sidelined with an unofficial investigation into a privileged teenager’s fatal fall from a balcony. The fierce, fascinating Salgado finds himself caught up in secrets and corruption at the highest levels of society. A triumph of a debut, Hill marvelously evokes Barcelona’s sultry atmosphere with vivid prose. An exciting, layered tale that introduces a terrific, complex new hero.

Craig Sisterson is the Judging Convenor for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. He writes about crime fiction for several publications here and overseas, and blogs at http://kiwicrime.blogspot.com.


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