Jesse Ball’s SILENCE ONCE BEGUN

9780307908483This is one of those great novels that blends up truth and imagination so well that the lines between fact and fiction are so blurred you don’t even know where to begin trying to unravel it. It also doubles the intrigue especially the way Jesse Ball structures the story to unfurl piece by piece, layer by layer in such a way you are taken by surprise after surprise.

The story concerns the “Narito Disappearances”. A crime that baffled local authorities in Osaka where eight people had gone missing seemingly without a trace until one day a signed confession is handed in to police. The man who has made the confession is quickly arrested and doesn’t say another word. But this is not a whodunit because as the story goes on we see there is a much bigger and more important question that who.

“I am looking for this mystery. Not the mystery of what happened but the mystery of how”

One one level this is an ingenious crime novel. By telling the story in a different order the facts and “truth” aren’t revealed to us until we get to the beginning of the story. Rather than telling the story in chronological order we follow the path Jesse Ball’s investigation follows like a trail of breadcrumbs. Ball recounts his investigation through interview transcripts and internal notes as well as letters and other documents he is given along the way.  Each interview shines a little more light onto the story and leads Jesse to another piece of the puzzle.

I was so engrossed in this book it wasn’t until finishing it that I truly digested what I had read. In many ways this is a modern parable about the moral fallacies we place on our systems of justice but the skill and subtlety in which Jesse Ball tells the story gives it not just power but also emotional resonance. And by doing so Jesse Ball gets to the absolute core of what a crime story is and what it should mean when we read one.

 

Hardback (out now)
ISBN: 9780307908483
ISBN-10: 0307908488
Classification: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945) , Historical fiction , Crime & mystery
Format: Hardback (223mm x 145mm x 26mm)
Pages: 232
Imprint: Random House USA Inc
Publisher: Random House USA Inc
Publish Date: 28-Jan-2014
Country of Publication: India
Paperback (out July)
ISBN: 9781922182494
ISBN-10: 1922182494
Classification: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 256
Imprint: The Text Publishing Company
Publisher: Text Publishing Co
Publish Date: 25-Jun-2014
Country of Publication: Australia

Michael Pitre’s FIVES AND TWENTY-FIVES

9781408854457 (1)A remarkable piece of fiction following proudly in the footsteps of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, The Yellow Birds and Redeployment. Wars never truly end for everyone involved and this is the territory Michael Pitre explores in his impressive debut novel.

On the eve on the Arab Spring in Tunisia three men are grappling with their futures now that their war has supposedly finished. Each is scarred and tainted by what they have witnessed and the decisions they have made. They are changed men returning to a changing world not sure if they achieved what they were fighting for. And if they possibly did whether it was worth the price.

Lieutenant Pete Donovan led a Marine platoon in charge of repairing potholes outside of Baghdad. What sounds like an innocuous responsibility is in fact extremely dangerous work as every pothole Donovan’s platoon must repair contains an IED. Every time.

The novel is told in flashbacks. Donovan has resigned his commission as an officer in the Marine Corps and is studying for his MBA in New Orleans. He is removed and detached from his class mates as well as the men and women with whom he served.

Lester ‘Doc’ Pleasant was the corpsman in Donovan’s platoon. His war ended with a dishonourable discharge. All the doors that Donovan’s service opened for him are closed for Lester who became isolated and detached from the rest of the platoon well before their deployment finished.

The third man is known only as Dodge. He was the platoon’s Iraqi-born interpreter. Through Dodge we see what the war means for Iraqis. The damage it has caused not just physically on the towns, cities and countryside but the damage it has caused to families, friendships and individuals.

Dodge’s story is the most powerful and insightful of the novel. While the lives of Donovan’s platoon are directly in his hands, Dodge’s own life and the people around him are a day-to-day juggling act where loyalties are won and lost, tested and betrayed.

Each man must try to make sense of the senseless violence they have lived and breathed and work out if they can possibly resurrect a new life from the aftermath.

War is never one-sided. It is all-encompassing and personally harrowing. Pitre has captured this aspect of war with compassion, complexity and clarity. It maybe a cliche to say that this is an important book about war that we should all read but it is only a cliche because it is true. We can’t understand a war until we have seen all its sides and Michael Pitre’s powerful debut novel is the first to explorer the pain and destruction wreaked on both sides of this long and different war.

ISBN: 9781408854457
Format: Paperback (153mm x 234mm x mm)
Pages: 288
Imprint: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publish Date: 01-Aug-2014
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

John Harvey’s DARKNESS, DARKNESS

9780434022939John Harvey has written a superb final case for the enduring and never weary (ok, just a little weary) detective Charlie Resnick. It has been a while between drinks and the way Cold In Hand finished a few years ago had me thinking that might have been the last we’d seen of Resnick. However John Harvey had other ideas and gives Resnick one last hurrah.

Now retired Charlie Resnick is still involved with the job he loves, and can’t get away from, assisting with witness statements and other administrative work. However when a body from thirty years ago is unearthed during some excavation work Charlie is asked to lend his expertise.

Thirty years before and at the height of the miners’ strikes Jenny Hardwick disappeared. Jenny was heavily involved in the strike movement however her husband refused to stop work in the local mine. Rumour had it she had run off with another man. Her disappearance only raised small suspicions and a limited investigation. Until now, thirty years later.

Resnick was heavily involved with the police action at the time, police action which is now under the microscope. Command wants the case cleared up as quickly and as quietly as possible. However with the trail of evidence and witnesses buried in the past questions are only going to open old wounds.

John Harvey’s mastery is on full display as he crafts together not only an intricate and intriguing murder mystery but also a look back at the social powder keg that the miners’ strike was. Not only on a national scale but for a small town and within a marriage.

Charlie Resnick gets the farewell he and his fans deserve and if you haven’t encountered him before I implore you to go back and read one of the best crime series ever written by an author who continues to get better and better.

ISBN: 9780434022939
ISBN-10: 0434022934
Classification: Crime & mystery
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 352
Imprint: William Heinemann Ltd
Publisher: Cornerstone
Publish Date: 22-May-2014
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Monthly Round up – March ’14

My blog posts from March

9780060572150Ann Patchett’s TRUTH & BEAUTY

After reading Ann Patchett’s This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage I had to go back and read this book. Firstly because I learnt Ann writes non fiction just as beautifully as she does her fiction and secondly she talks in the book about a controversy surrounding Truth & Beauty. Read more…

9780007552795David Gilbert’s & SONS

I am a sucker for a great American novel, in particular ones set in college and this kind of fits into both those categories but with a twist. This was originally described to me as Wonderboys meetsThe Art of Fielding which isn’t necessarily true. Instead imagine a novel like Wonderboys or The Art of Fielding and then imagine what happens to the author and his family forty years later. Read more…

GalvestonNic Pizzolatto’s GALVESTON

I have been completely and utterly addicted to (and obsessed by) True Detective so when I found out the show’s creator and writer had written a crime novel I had to read it. And what a cracking book it is. Using some of the same elements as his television show Pizzolatto has constructed a highly atmospheric, slow burning thriller. Read more…

9780062122476Elmore Leonard’s RIDING THE RAP

With news that there will be only one more season of Justifiednext year I thought it was time to complete my Raylan Givens reading. I’ve read the Raylan Givens books completely out-of-order. I started with Fire In The Hole, then I read Raylan before going all the way back to Pronto. Which doesn’t matter too much because Raylan’s timeline is a bit screwy anyway as the TV character and book character have a few major differences which 2012′s Raylan blurred further. Either way both the books and TV show are brilliant and are going to be sorely missed. Read more…

9780571300297Willy Vlautin’s THE FREE

I have always meant to read Willy Vlautin. My old Allen & Unwin rep practically begged me for years to read him (I still have two books in my to read pile). One of my favourite authors, George Pelecanos, ranks him as one of his favourite writers (which should have been enough for me). But what finally got to me read Willy Vlautin was the Ann Patchett quote (alongs side a Pelecanos) quote on the front of his new novel, because quite frankly Ann Patchett has done me no wrong lately. Read more…

9780857864239Phil Klay’s REDEPLOYMENT

What an amazing book! This is a firm candidate for my book of the year already and it is beyond doubt the best collection of short stories I have ever read. I literally could not put this book down but at the same time wanted each story to last as long as possible. I went into total procrastination mode today before reading the final story because I was not prepared for this book to end but resistance was futile. Read more…

9780091956134Andy Weir’s THE MARTIAN

This was of the funnest books I can remember reading in a long time. Gripping, funny and told in a totally original and authentic voice you can’t help but be hooked in by this part-Apollo 13, part-Castaway survival story. Read more…

9780356502564Claire North’s THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST

This book draws immediate comparisons to Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. But where Life After Life was about a character who kept reliving their life over and over without knowing they were doing so, this is about a character who keeps reliving their life over and over and remembers everything. And this difference changes everything. Read more…

 

Claire North’s THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST

9780356502564This book draws immediate comparisons to Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life. But where Life After Life was about a character who kept reliving their life over and over without knowing they were doing so, this is about a character who keeps reliving their life over and over and remembers everything. And this difference changes everything.

I loved Life After Life and this feels in no way treading over familiar territory. In fact I would compare it more to Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls (minus the serial killer part) as there is a large mystery to solve that spans multiple times, places and of course lives.

Through Harry August we are introduced to people who live multiple lives. We meet Harry on the deathbed of his eleventh life where he has just been informed (by a seven year-old girl) that the world is ending. All the worlds; past, future and present. 9780316399616Time is literally running out.

The story jumps back and forth between Harry’s past and future lives as he tries to slowly piece together what is bringing about the end of everything. Harry must race against the length of each of his lives to find out who is responsible and if they can be stopped. And the closer he gets the more high stakes the game of cat and mouse becomes.

Part unique and intriguing mystery, part philosophical look at life, memory and time travel this story kept me totally gripped from the opening words to the mind-blowing finale. Now all I want to know is who is the pseudonymous Claire North?

UPDATE: Claire North Revealed

 

ISBN: 9780356502564
ISBN-10: 0356502562
Classification: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 416
Imprint: Orbit
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 8-Apr-2014
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Andy Weir’s THE MARTIAN

9780091956134This was of the funnest books I can remember reading in a long time. Gripping, funny and told in a totally original and authentic voice you can’t help but be hooked in by this part-Apollo 13, part-Castaway survival story.

Mark Watney is an astronaut, part of the third manned mission to Mars. Six days after landing on Mars a fierce dust storm forces Mark and his crewmates to abandon the planet. However during the evacuation Mark is left behind. Now he must work out how is going to survive on Mars until the next resupply mission. In two years time.

The majority of the book is told via Mark’s log entries detailing his survival. The log is written in a beautifully sarcastic tone where outright panic is only a hair’s breath away. There is plenty of self-deprecating humour and the log format works perfectly in detailing Mark’s day-to-day survival.

Mark is completely stranded. He has no way of communicating with his crewmates or NASA. He only has enough food and water to last half the time he needs. Mark puts to work his skills as an engineer and botanist to figure out if he can survive. The how is one of the most entertaining reads you will come across. Full of insane (but practical) problem solving you are glued to the book wanting to find out how Mark gets himself out of each new predicament he finds himself in. I defy anyone to be able to put this down once they start!

 

 

ISBN: 9780091956134
ISBN-10: 0091956137
Classification: Science fiction
Format: Hardback (240mm x 162mm x 34mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: Del Rey
Publisher: Ebury Press
Publish Date: 13-Feb-2014
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Phil Klay’s REDEPLOYMENT

9780857864239What an amazing book! This is a firm candidate for my book of the year already and it is beyond doubt the best collection of short stories I have ever read. I literally could not put this book down but at the same time wanted each story to last as long as possible. I went into total procrastination mode today before reading the final story because I was not prepared for this book to end but resistance was futile.

I first read the title story of this collection in last year’s Fire & Forget. It was one of the standout pieces in a standout collection. I knew at the time reading Fire & Forget that the contributors in the collection were destined for big things. And Phil Klay not only reaffirms that but announces himself in a massive way with his first book.

I have blogged a couple of times here that short stories are not usually my thing. Often there is a story I wish there was more of or a story that leaves me unsatisfied. But absolutely every story in Redeployment was spot on. This was writing as close to perfection as I have ever read and I want to read the book again right now.

I am a big reader of war fiction. They are stories I am drawn to, that seem to resonate with me more than any other fiction. What I loved about Phil Klay’s collection was that each story resonated in a different way. One of the unique aspects to Klay’s collection are the different points of view he conveys in his stories. It is impossible for me to highlight one story and I don’t wish to go through each story one by one because that would spoil the magnificent reading experience.

Klay covers stories about soldiers in action and soldiers coming home. Soldiers wounded in action and soldiers haunted by the fact they saw little or no action. We read about a Marine chaplain, a Marine in Mortuary Affairs, a Foreign Affairs officer sent to Iraq to help rebuild. And through all these stories Klay shows the war in all its messy permutations and consequences, the good and the bad, the humanity and the inhumanity. He even explores the art of telling these stories and the different ways stories can be used and told, hidden and untold.

Every story packs an emotional intensity not only rare in short stories but rare in longer fiction too. Imagine the emotional wallop of The Yellow Birds with the frank and brutal insight of Matterhorn distilled into a short story and you get close to the impact each of these stories makes on their own. Put together as a collection and you have something very special that will be read (and should be read) by many long into the future.

ISBN: 9780857864239
ISBN-10: 0857864238
Classification: Short stories
Format: Hardback (214mm x 135mm x mm)
Pages: 288
Imprint: Canongate Books Ltd
Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
Publish Date: 27-Mar-2014
Country of Publication: United Kingdom