To recap, Sisters in Crime is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, so book bloggers are participating in Barbara Fister‘s three-level challenge to help them celebrate. My introductory post provided the challenge in full, and this is my stab at the “easy” level:
write a blog post about a work of crime fiction by a woman author; list five more women authors who you recommend.
The not so easy part comes in having to make a decision about which writer to choose. After some thought, I have opted for a writer who is not so well known, is from a remote (to most of us) part of the world, and who is published by a small, independent press, not one of the giants. Her name is Unity Dow. As you can see from her Wikipedia entry, this extraordinary Botswanan woman is a writer, a lawyer, a human-rights activist and a high-court judge – yet her mother could not speak English and she grew up in traditional, rural surroundings.Unity Dow has taught and practiced in the USA, and she has won numerous international awards and honours, including the Légion d’honneur de France. As well as the Wikipeida biography to which I have already linked, you can read about Unity Dow at the African Success website.
She has written five novels, of which I have read one, The Screaming of the Innocent (link goes to my review). It is a harrowing and haunting read: in itself the book is a constructive, positive account of the changing values of Botswana and its many new opportunities for women. But also, the novel delves into the dark and ignorant souls of a superstitious community that harbours very evil people – and tells the heartbreaking story of a potential star who never had the chance to shine. If you can bear it, I recommend reading this novel – but it is likely to make you very angry. From the African Success website: ” The Screaming of the Innocent is described thus by Elinor Sisulu: “Unity Dow courageously voyages into uncharted waters in this gripping tale of ritual murder in contemporary Botswana. Strong female protagonists wage battle against the hypocrisy and evil of male abuse as the story moves inexorably towards its horrifying climax.” ” You have been warned, but do not doubt the sincerity and importance of this book. Many Western readers no doubt prefer the cosy, comforting nature of Alexander McCall Smith’s treatment of the same country in his Precious Ramaotse books. Those books are fine, and do address difficult issues in part (including the one forming the main plot of The Screaming of the Innocent), but only scratch the surface of the reality depicted by Unity Dow.
For the most part, Dow’s books are published by a small Australian press, Spinifex. Here are the publisher’s details for: The Screaming of the Innocent, The Heavens may Fall, Juggling Truths and Far and Beyon’. Another book has been published by Harvard. It seems to me very appropriate in the spirit of this particular challenge, to recommend Unity Dow and Spinifex, which describes itself as “an award-winning, independent feminist press, publishing innovative and controversial feminist books with an optimistic edge”.
Now I have to list five more women authors whom I like. In keeping with the tone of this post, I am going to name here five feminist authors who are unafraid to travel into the depths of the tortured soul in their crime novels:
Karin Alvtegen (Sweden) – try Shadow, but they are all very black, in different ways from each other.
Karen Campbell (Scotland) – The Twilight Time is the first of a varied and increasingly dark series.
Karin Fossum (Norway) – I suggest Black Seconds in this context.
Petra Hammesfahr (Germany) – The Sinner is a very black journey indeed. (I don’t recommend her other translated novel, The Lie.)
Asa Larsson (Sweden) Sun Storm is her first, her series is probably best read in order. They are all very gripping.