My Brother's Keeper by Donna Malane (Harper Collins $29.99)
The second of Auckland writer Malane's Diane Rowe novels, this is even better than the first - which was pretty damn good. Rowe is a sort of PI: she finds missing people. This time she's asked to find the daughter of a woman who has just been released from prison. She drove a car into a lake with her children inside. Her son died; the daughter she now wants to find was rescued. She tells Diane she thinks her daughter might be in danger. But do you trust a woman who killed her own child? This is clever story-telling with a decent twist and Diane has enough of a muddled past and present to make her an increasingly interesting character.
Hard Twist by C. Joseph Greaves (Bloomsbury $36.99)
There's a true story at the hard and twisted heart of this fictional account of a crime spree carried out by a young girl of just 13 and an older man in the America of 1934.
There is the Depression and attendant desperation. The prose is stripped to bones, as bare as its characters who are half-starved of food and hope. There are rough scenes of impoverished landscapes and cock fights and people made venal and violent through poverty. It's desperately and relentlessly bleak, and sad.
Wool by Hugh Howey (Century $29.99)
Set in a bleak future (aren't they always?), Wool is a clever and quite compelling sort of whodunit set inside an enormous "world", contained within a buried silo which is now the only safe place for humans to live. There are periodic "cleanings", which involve those convicted of a crime being sent "outside" to die. The last thing they do before the toxic environment of outside kills them is to clean the screens which offer the only glimpse of what used to be the world. A young girl, a mechanic - the silo is run as a strict hierarchy with various "trades" living on different floors of the silo - is chosen to be the new sheriff. She doesn't want the job and it soon turns out others don't want her to have the job. There is a murder she has to investigate but she is implicated in a "crime". The contained world and its hierarchy are deftly and menacingly conveyed.
The Bone Bed by Patricia Cornwell (Little Brown $34.99)
Well, she keeps writing them and I keep trying to like them - many do; it's why Cornwell is such a big name and big seller. Scarpetta, that strange, elusive and hard-to-like woman, is this time examining the case of a missing palaeontologist. This is not her case and she has no idea why the evidence, such as it is, has been emailed to her. There is the usual cast of strange, elusive and hard-to-like characters (Scarpetta doesn't seem to much like any of her nearest and dearest), including the increasingly peculiar niece, Lucy, who, the blurb tells us, "speaks in riddles."
Cornwell/Scarpetta seem to speak in riddles to me but you can't deny she can spin a story.
Sutton by J. R. Moehringer (Blue Door $34.99)
A fictionalised account of the life, time and lies, possibly, of the great American bank robber and anti-hero, Willie Sutton, this is an intriguing tease and a terrific yarn.
On his release from prison in 1969 (he made many escapes) Willie - who always refers to himself in the third person - goes on a final spree. He spends the day after his release with a journalist and a photographer, visiting his old haunts, reliving his past. He actually did spend a day with a journalist and a photographer after his release; it was his only interview. That account, writes Moehringer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, was "strangely cursory, with several errors - or lies - and few real revelations".
This book is his "guess. But it's also my wish".