Whatever it Takes
(Upstart Press $37.99)
Like many of our most successful exports Paul Cleave is much better known overseas than he is here. That's despite setting most of his books in Christchurch, being a three time winner of our Ngaio Marsh award and picking up international accolades as finalist in the American Edgar Awards, Australia's Ned Kelly awards and the Barry Awards.
This time out he sets the story in a small, fictional town in the States where a seven-year-old girl has been kidnapped. Deputy Noah Harper decides he will do what it takes to find her; he does - (this isn't a spoiler, it occurs within the first few pages) - but the case will come back to haunt him. 12 years later Noah (no longer a deputy) gets a phone call from his ex-wife informing him that Alyssa is missing again. It's another solid thriller from Cleave, touching on issues of domestic violence and vigilantism, while keeping the action quotient high.
(Polity Books $29.99)
Writing a book about a writer writing a book might - Proust excepted - seem a recipe for a very dull read. Andy Martin did just that in 2015 - sat in Lee Child's New York apartment while the world-wide bestselling author wrote Make Me which he chronicled in the fascinating Reacher Said Nothing.
In With Child Martin's back alongside Child - this time observing that books publication and reception. He follows Child to book signings, interviews, a gun show, even to the set of the new Reacher movie where Child has a bit part with Tom Cruise (in a show of star power Child demands to be flown there by private jet).
Child is a likeable, wry observer, fueled by countless coffees and cigarettes and most of all by getting the sentence just right.
We learn he's a big fan of Samuel Beckett, obsessed with commas and is extremely competitive; throughout he's worried that Jonathan Franzen or David Lagercrantz (the new author of the late Steig Larsson's Millenium series) might beat him to number one; they don't.
"My bills are paid for the next thousand years," he tells one interviewer. "So it's all about an emotional contract with the reader" and Martin meets some of those obsessives, with one telling Martin that she takes Child's books with her wherever she goes - "I take them with me for moral support whenever I feel vulnerable because I can disappear into their world".
A unique perspective on one of the genre's most popular authors and the industry that's sprung up around him.
The Dirty Dozen
Lynda La Plante
Viewers of a certain age will remember Prime Suspect - a landmark British series which made Helen Mirren a household name playing embattled detective Jane Tennison and cemented Lynda La Plante's reputation as a gritty, compelling writer and show-runner. Most recently Steve McQueen turned La Plante's 80's Widows show into a thrilling, politically driven heist movie. If La Plante's stock is high on the Big Screen - the reception to her recent books - which consist of prequels to Prime Suspect, this is the fifth, has been muted. Like those books The Dirty Dozen is set in 1980s London - a young Jane Tennison is the first female detective to be posted to the Met's Flying Squad.
On the face of it this sounds good; an exciting heist, a smart young women confronting the prevailing sexist attitudes of her colleagues, a fast-moving plot and compelling period detail - but this has a curious lack of energy about it.
How the Dead Speak
Val Mc Dermid
(Little Brown $29.99)
This is Mc Dermid's 31st novel and I'm ashamed to say the first I've read. This is the eleventh book in the popular Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series (he's a criminal profiler, she's now an ex-cop, suffering from PTSD who begins working with a group of law professionals who look into miscarriages of justice) and while there's quite a back story to the troubled couple (Hill's in jail for manslaughter) this is as inviting to new readers as it is old fans. The inciting crime is the discovery of human remains on the sight of a former convent and girls' home. It's a testament to McDermid's skills that she keeps the reader engaged while the main players are separated.
Mc Dermid has a local connection too - she's visiting professor of Scottish Studies and Crime Fiction at the University of Otago.