BOOK BITES | Sally J Morgan, Douglas Kennedy, Claire Askew

01 February 2021 - 11:17
By Sunday Times Books
A poetic and dreamy literary read, a tour de force of a novel about love and loss, and a dark and twisty thriller from Claire Askew.
Image: Supplied A poetic and dreamy literary read, a tour de force of a novel about love and loss, and a dark and twisty thriller from Claire Askew.

Published in the Sunday Times (31/01/2021)

Toto Among The Murderers ****
Sally J Morgan
John Murray, R310

Morgan draws from her own experience as an art student when she was offered a lift by serial killers Rosemary and Fred West to create a portrait of women living on the fringe of society. It's the early '70s in Leeds, and Toto is a free-loving spirit who gets a high from hitchhiking. Her magnetic North is her friend Nel, who keeps Toto from becoming totally lost. But Nel's own life is crumbling under the glare of the gaslighting and physically abusive Simon. Weaving among them are anarchists, artists, prostitutes, drug dealers, yuppie couples with open marriages, and killers. A poetic and dreamy literary read that glides along a dangerously taunt guitar string.
Tiah Beautement @ms_tiahmarie

Isabelle in the Afternoon *****
Douglas Kennedy
Hutchinson, R330

Sam is a young student whose life is planned out for him - he is bound for law school and Harvard. He decides, however, on a year of travel and freedom before he starts down the road that's been charted for him. He goes to Paris, where he meets the strangely beautiful Isabelle and the pair start an affair that will last for decades. Kennedy renders magnificently the story of a woman taking control of a man; Sam may see her only on her terms, and in her small apartment. She has a husband and daughter and he has to wait on her word. As they age, life changes them. Sam marries and divorces; he moves partially to Paris. This is a tour de force of a novel about love, loss, and growing up - with a bittersweet ending. Jennifer Crocker

Cover Your Tracks: A DI Birch Thriller ****
Claire Askew
Hodder & Stoughton, R350

There's been quite a hunt going on in reading groups looking for a dark and twisty detective series. Askew brings this and more in her DI Birch series. This is number three, so you might want to read the two previous books to get to grips with Helen Birch, a truly multi-layered character. Set in Edinburgh, Birch is worried about her brother, who has been assaulted in prison, as well as her puzzling new case. George and Phamie Macdonald have been missing for years but their disappearance has only come to light because their estranged son has come searching for them (and their money). Birch has a gut feeling that she needs to find the vulnerable Phamie. It looks like her husband is a violent criminal and, if so, could her life be in danger? Jennifer Platt @Jenniferdplatt