Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha is a novel about two families in Los Angeles – one Korean-American and one African-American. It is a fictionalised version of a real case in which Soon Ja Du, a Korean female convenience store owner, shot and killed a 15-year-old African-American girl called Latasha Harlins in 1991. Du was convicted of voluntary manslaughter but didn’t receive a jail sentence. In the novel, 15-year-old Ava Matthews is shot and killed by Jung-Ja Han who believed Ava was attempting to steal milk from her store. The narrative alternates between both families and the past and the present. Ava’s brother and cousin, Shawn and Ray, struggle to cope in the aftermath of Ava’s death while Jung-Ja changes her name to Yvonne Park and her daughter, Grace, grows up unaware of the incident until the past catches up with them. Cha takes great care to show the impact of events on both sides and the result is a powerful depiction of the background behind racial tensions in Los Angeles in the early 1990s and beyond. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Crime Fiction
It’s been almost three years since Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith was published and it has been a very long wait to find out what happens following the cliffhanger ending of ex-military policeman and private detective Cormoran Strike’s late arrival at the wedding of his agency partner Robin Ellacott and her insufferable fiancé Matthew Cunliffe. The prologue of the fourth book in the series published last month, ‘Lethal White’, picks up exactly where ‘Career of Evil’ left off and the story then jumps forward a year later to the summer of 2012 when London is hosting the Olympic Games. A mentally distressed young man named Billy Knight arrives at Strike’s office and then flees again shortly after claiming to have witnessed the murder of a child many years ago. Strike is subsequently approached by Jasper Chiswell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport who has been receiving blackmail threats from Geraint Winn, husband of the Minister for Sport Della Winn, and Billy’s older brother, Jimmy Knight. Continue reading
The opening chapter of ‘Snap’ by Belinda Bauer presents a chilling premise based on the unsolved murder of Marie Wilks. On a hot day in the summer of 1998, eleven-year-old Jack Bright is left in a broken-down car by the side of a motorway with his two younger sisters, Joy and Merry, while their pregnant mother, Eileen, goes in search of a telephone for help. However, she never returns and her body is eventually found stabbed to death.
Three years later and abandoned by their father who was unable to cope, Jack turns to burgling houses to provide for his sisters and escape being noticed by social services. On the other side of town, a young pregnant woman, Catherine While, discovers a knife next to her bed with a note that reads “I could have killed you” but she decides not to tell her husband about the break-in or report it to the police. Elsewhere, DS Reynolds who does everything by the book and DCI Marvel who takes a slightly more unorthodox approach towards detective work are investigating multiple burglaries and the identity of Eileen’s killer who still hasn’t been caught and are in a race against time to solve both mysteries. Continue reading
‘The Accident on the A35’ by Graeme Macrae Burnet sees the return of Inspector Georges Gorski who featured in The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau. His latest case in the sleepy French town of Saint-Louis in Alsace involves the circumstances surrounding a car accident which fatally injures prominent local solicitor Bertrand Barthelme. Although there is no evidence to suggest a crime has been committed, it is soon discovered that Barthelme had repeatedly lied about his whereabouts to his wife Lucette and teenage son Raymond so Gorski agrees to Lucette’s request to look into the circumstances further. Meanwhile Raymond discovers the address of a house in the rue Saint-Fiacre in Mulhouse on a piece of paper in his father’s desk and sets out to conduct his own investigation.
I really enjoyed reading His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet after discovering it through the Man Booker Prize shortlist last year. His 2014 debut novel ‘The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau’ which was also published by Contraband tells the story of Manfred Baumann, a loner who lives in the nondescript French town of Saint-Louis in Alsace and frequently dines at a bistro where waitress Adèle Bedeau works. When Adèle suddenly disappears one evening after finishing her shift, Manfred quickly comes under suspicion. However, after giving a false statement to Inspector Georges Gorski in which he fails to admit that he was the last person to see her alive, his life begins to spiral out of control. Continue reading
Set in the mid-1960s, ‘Little Deaths’ by Emma Flint tells the story of Ruth Malone, a 26-year-old recently divorced single mother whose two young children Cindy and Frankie go missing from their home in Queens, New York. After they are both found dead in separate locations days later, it doesn’t take long for the police to suspect that Ruth had something to do with their disappearance. However, in the absence of any hard evidence, they draw their conclusions purely from what they consider to be her stylish appearance and unconventional behaviour following the murders. Meanwhile, local journalist Pete Wonicke becomes determined to prove Ruth’s innocence. Continue reading
Shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, ‘His Bloody Project’ by Graeme Macrae Burnet tells the story of seventeen-year-old Roderick Macrae, accused of committing three brutal murders in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands in 1869. Presented as a series of documents “discovered” by the author whilst researching his family history, the first half of the book consists of Roddy’s written statement in which he confesses to the crimes and gives his version of events leading up to the murders followed by an account of the trial and verdict. The identity of one of the victims is revealed at the beginning to be local constable Lachlan Mackenzie while the other two remain a mystery until the event itself occurs. Continue reading
Translated from the Japanese by Ross and Shika Mackenzie, ‘The Tokyo Zodiac Murders’ by Soji Shimada opens with the last will and testament of Heikichi Umezawa written in 1936. Heikichi is an artist obsessed with alchemy and astrology who outlines his plans to create the supreme woman Azoth by killing and dismembering his female relatives. However, the murders he had planned in his confession are carried out by someone else several weeks after Heikichi himself is murdered in a room locked from the inside. Having baffled investigators for decades, the case remains unsolved over forty years later in 1979 until Kiyoshi Mitari and his sidekick and narrator Kazumi try to crack one of the most intriguing locked room cold cases of all time. Continue reading
I was intrigued by Professor John Sutherland’s recommendation of ‘The Appearance of Murder’ by John Nightingale in his books of the year round-up in The Times last Christmas in which he described it as “the most teasingly pleasurable crime mystery novel I’ve come across this year”. It tells the story of crime fiction author David Knight who is trying to finish his latest novel but gets caught up in a mystery from his own past. A young woman named Perdita unexpectedly turns up at his house with an old photograph of five Cambridge undergraduates including David himself and a musician named Mark Ryland who died in mysterious circumstances. She believes that one of the five men in the picture is her father but doesn’t know which one. However, following an accident during a hockey game twenty-five years ago, David’s memory of that particular period of his life is decidedly sketchy, which somewhat restricts his ability to unravel the mystery of what happened to his university contemporaries all those years ago. Continue reading
Last week, I attended another bloggers event at the Groucho Club in London to celebrate the work of classic crime writers Margery Allingham and Eric Ambler with short talks delivered by Barry Pike, a founder and Chairman of the Margery Allingham Society, and Simon Brett, a crime writer and Ambler expert. I developed an interest in classic crime fiction after reading Martin Edwards’ compendium of the genre The Golden Age of Murder last summer which outlined the lives and works of key members of the Detection Club in the early 20th century including Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Anthony Berkeley among others. I was therefore very keen to learn more about two other crime writers whose names were familiar to me but whose novels I had never read before.
This week, I was lucky enough to get a place at a special launch event for ‘Career of Evil’, the third book in the crime fiction series by J. K. Rowling written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. I really enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm and was very keen to read the latest instalment of Cormoran Strike’s adventures.
To celebrate the launch, the publishers of ‘Career of Evil’ teamed up with Time Run to organise a special crime thriller version of a live gaming experience where teams need to solve clues and puzzles to “escape” the room as quickly as possible. Based in Hackney, it’s been described by the Metro as “immersive theatre meets Crystal Maze but better”. This definitely wasn’t going to be a typical book launch… Continue reading
‘The Golden Age of Murder: The Mystery of the Writers Who Invented the Modern Detective Story’ by Martin Edwards investigates the mysterious Detection Club of famous crime writers including Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Anthony Berkeley, Margery Allingham amongst others. While many of the works by these authors have been dismissed by some as “cosy” crime stories compared to the more graphically violent offerings today, Edwards reveals that this assumption couldn’t be further from the truth as he investigates the stories behind the authors, their books and the curious social network that linked them together.
‘A Dark-Adapted Eye’ by Barbara Vine opens with the death of Vera Hillyard, one of the last women to be hanged for murder in Britain in the late 1940s. The story is told from the point of view of Vera’s niece, Faith, who was in her early teens during the Second World War when the main events and crime in question take place. Some thirty years later, Faith is approached by a journalist called Daniel Stewart who is researching the case for a book he is writing and she slowly unravels her version of events as well as a number of family secrets.
I consider myself to be a pretty fast reader but it is rare even for me to race through a whole book in one Sunday as I did with ‘Rubbernecker’ by Belinda Bauer which won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival’s Novel of the Year award in 2014. The story begins with an account of how Sam Galen ended up in a coma following a car accident and his experiences in a high-dependency neurological ward in the care of Tracy Evans, a selfish nurse attempting to charm the wealthy husband of one of the other patients. Meanwhile, Patrick Fort, an anatomy student at Cardiff University, discovers that the body he is dissecting didn’t expire from the causes officially stated on the death certificate. Gradually, these different plot lines become more closely entwined with each other. Continue reading
Hyped as this year’s ‘Gone Girl‘, ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins tells the story of Rachel Watson, who takes the same commuter train every day to London. The train always stops at a red signal where she observes a seemingly perfect couple who she names Jess and Jason in their house which is coincidentally a few doors down from where she used to live with her ex-husband, Tom. Except one day, Rachel sees something shocking from the train and becomes more closely entwined with their lives when “Jess” suddenly disappears.