Witness the Night by Kishwar Desai wins the Costa first novel award

Congratulations to Kishwar Desai, who has just won the 2010 Costa (previously Whitbread) first novel award for Witness the Night (published by Beautiful Books), which, says the Costa citation, “explores India’s hidden female infanticide and [is] the first book of a series featuring the unconventional female protagonist, Simran Singh.”

This novel is one of my favourites from those I read and reviewed in 2010. I reviewed the book for Euro Crime, writing:

“The main character is a great invention, and I hope she’ll return. She deals with the prejudiced and patriarchal society in which she lives with humour, resolve and determination, simply refusing to bow down or accept that other people’s rules apply to her. In addition, the story of Durga’s and Sharda’s history is truly appalling, and one that can only make the reader’s blood boil. This is an excellent, no-holds-barred and moving account, with a clear moral tone that adds resonance to the whole.”

Read the rest of my Euro Crime review.

Read more about the novel, and the author, and why it won the prize, at the Costa awards website. According to the judges: “Kishwar Desai pulls off a remarkable trick, transplanting a country house murder to modern day India in a book that’s not afraid to tackle serious themes.”

Publisher’s press release about the award.

The novel has also been reviewed at The Bookbag, Iris on Books, The Guardian (brief), and Curious Book Fans.

Open Season by C J Box

Open Season is the first of a longish series (10 or so) of books about Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett. Open Season was first published in the US in 2001 but it, and the whole of the series so far, is being published in the UK this year by Corvus – one title a month, apparently. (Some of the books were published briefly in the UK by another publisher in the first decade of this century.)
Because Open Season was available for £1 for a Kindle download as part of Amazon’s UK 12 books of Christmas promotion, I decided to give it a go. Although I was not particularly interested in reading about a game warden, I’d enjoyed the previous two standalones by C J Box that I’d read, Three Weeks to Say Goodbye and Blue Heaven, both also published in the UK by Corvus. And, I’m pleased to report, Open Season is very much up to standard.
The two main things going for the novel are the character and situation of Joe Pickett and his family; and the author’s evident love for the countryside of Wyoming and its natural wildlife. To take the first theme first, Joe is a keen, dedicated young ranger, relatively recently qualified and with a pregnant wife and two young daughters. His first job is to look after the region around the small town of Twelve Sleep, which involves checking that hunters are not shooting animals at the wrong time of year, or too many of them, or with the wrong guns, etc. He earns only $26,000 a year, which is not enough for his family to live on, but he loves his job and spends far more than his allotted hours out in the woods and mountains. This leads on to the second theme, in which the author conveys his deep love for the area – he’s sympathetic with all views, and provides a telling account of the upsides and downsides of the conservationists as well as the hunters and those who need to make a living off the land, really drawing the reader in to his passions.
The plot of the novel is kick-started when one of the local good ole boys, who has previously bested Joe in an encounter over a hunting permit, is found dead by the woodpile in the yard of Joe’s house. The sheriff (whose been in post since the year dot) and his men pursue the investigation without involving Joe, much to the younger man’s chagrin as he feels personally involved by the threat to his family (the incident has given one of his daughters nightmares, and indeed the girl may have seen something of what happened). Soon, the sheriff has to include Joe whether he likes it or not, because someone has to trek to a remote camp site to follow a lead. Joe and his ex-colleague Wincey, now ranger of the neighbouring area, undertake this task, which comes to a shocking end when they arrive at the camp.
The novel is fast-paced, although it is not too difficult to work out what is in Joe’s woodpile, or why vested interests are trying to prevent the truth from coming out. Who is representing those interests is the “mystery” of the novel, though there aren’t enough candidates or subplots to make it a surprise when the villain(s) emerge(s). The characters in Joe’s family, particularly his mother-in-law from hell, lift this book well above the average, not least in the appealing nature of the upstanding Joe himself. My main reservation about the book is the same as the one I have about the other two novels I’ve read by this author – too much violence towards the end, this time involving a child and a pregnant woman, which I find unedifying especially when spun out beyond a necessary length.

About C. J. Box’s books, and about the Joe Pickett novels, from the author’s website.

Read reviews of this novel at: Allreaders.com (Harriet Klausner), Blogging for a good book, and Mystery Ink (David Montgomery).

C J Box at Wikipedia, including the Joe Pickett series listed in chronological (reading) order.

What’s in a name challenge, old and new year

An old (2010) and new (2011) year challenge is the “what’s in a name” challenge, featured at Fleur Fisher, DJ’s Krimiblog and elsewhere. I managed to do both years from the books I’d reviewed in 2010. (Click on book title for the review.)

The old year (2010) challenge.

A book with a food in the title:
The Dinner Club by Saskia Noort

A book with a body of water in the title:
River of Shadows by Valerio Varesi

A book with a person’s title in the title:
The Inspector and Silence by Hakan Nesser

A book with a plant in the title:
The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly

A book with a place name in the title:
The Demon of Dakar by Kjell Eriksson

A book with a music term in the title:
The Siren by Alison Bruce

The new year (2011) challenge

A book with a number in the title:
Three Seconds by Roslund-Hellstrom

A book with jewelry or a gem in the title:
The Eye of Jade by Diane Wei Liang

A book with a size in the title:
Hidden Depths by Ann Cleeves

A book with travel or movement in the title:
American Visa by Juan de Recacoechea

A book with evil in the title:
Bad Intentions by Karin Fossum

A book with a life stage in the title:
The Last Child by John Hart

If this particular game does not appeal, Karen has rounded up several of the current reading challenges over at the Euro Crime blog.