Having completed the Sisters in Crime book bloggers’ easy and moderate challenges, I have with this post reached the end of the expert challenge! The task:
write ten blog posts about works of crime fiction by women authors. For each, mention three similar women authors whose works you would recommend.
I’m choosing Erin Kelly for my last post. Her second book The Sick Rose is a suspense novel told from the point of view of two characters, in two different time frames. Yet unlike many books that use the “switching time” device, Kelly writes with discipline and focus. Hence there is a strong framework for the story she tells to be revealed gradually to the reader. Kelly’s first book, The Poison Tree, was mainly set in London and concerned some young people who spent a lethal summer living in a big house owned by the father of two of them. The Sick Rose* is set in two contrasting areas of London for its earlier time frame, but in the present the action occurs in Warwickshire – at a castle not unlike Kenilworth, and in the town of Leamington Spa. Rather than recommend three authors who write similar novels to Kelly (who could be Ruth Rendell as Barbara Vine, Morag Joss and Tara French), I am going to highlight three authors from, and who write about, the same midlands region of the UK, which is somewhat unfashionable in international, and even national, terms.
(*The Sick Rose is retitled as The Dark Rose in the USA, which is incomprehensible as the author explains the meaning of “the sick rose” during the book.)
Catherine O’Flynn has written two wonderful novels set in Birmingham. The first, What Was Lost, is a very different kind of detective story, a very sad one, featuring England’s first (real-life) enormous shopping mall and its effect on the lives of the characters. Her second book, The News Where You Are, has a detective story element (again very “different”), and conveys the same sense of sadness in human relationships. One of its themes is of the architecture of Birmingham, widely derided nowadays as a soul-less “concrete jungle” but in the eyes of its architect a marvellous vision of the future. The architect is loosely based on the visionary but misunderstood John Madin, who died earlier this year. Here is a Guardian profile of the author, written just before this novel was published.
Diane Janes set her first novel, The Pull of the Moon, in the countryside round Birmingham and Hereford. The main character, Kate, grew up in the city, went to college there, and as the novel opens is enjoying early retirement. The novel tells of a traumatic experience one summer in Kate’s youth. Janes’s second novel, Why Don’t You Come For Me?, is an excellent suspense novel in the Karin Altvegen mould, set a little further north in the Lake District.
Judith Cutler lived and worked in Birmingham for many years. Her first series of novels featured Sophie Rivers, a teacher at a college in the city. She has also written several other series, some of which are set in the region.
The Sisters in Crime 25th anniversary challenge was started by Barbara Fister. Thank you, Barbara, for the fascinating journey – even though I completed it after the end of the official 25th anniversary year!