I read fourteen books in December and January, mostly fiction though I was also researching for my third novel (hopefully!). Here are my five favourite reads:
Leave the World Behind – Rumaan Alam
A family leave New York for a holiday in a remote corner of Long Island. Their rented house is beautiful and all is well until one night there’s a knock at the door. An older couple have arrived, claiming that they own the house and have had to flee the city. Something has happened but what? With the internet down and no TV or phone service how will they find out? I hated all the characters but that didn’t make this book any less terrifying to read.
Allie Reynolds’ debut came highly recommended and I read it in a day. Milla is invited to a reunion in a French ski resort. She hasn’t seen her snowboarder friends for ten years, ever since one of them, Saskia, went missing. When they find themselves trapped in the ski lodge, the old secrets start to emerge… At its most basic this is a locked room mystery but I loved the flashbacks in particular, showing Milla as she tries to advance her career as a snowboarder, examining the pressures and rewards of professional sports.
The Hunting Season – Tom Benjamin
The second in the Daniel Leicester series set in Bologna, this novel is perfect for any fans of Donna Leon. Leicester is an English private detective, widowed and bringing up his teenage daughter with the help of his wife’s family. In this novel he is employed to find a missing American ‘supertaster’ who came to Bologna for the truffle season. I found myself immersed in this investigation into the murky side of Italy’s food industry.
Raft of Stars – Andrew J. Graff
This debut novel isn’t out until April but you can at least pre-order it now! This is a coming-of-age novel set in the Wisconsin woods. Beautifully written, the story begins with two boys, Bread and Fish, who run away after accidentally shooting Bread’s abusive father. Their plan is to build a raft and take the river to safety but what they don’t know is that there is a gorge up ahead with a drop that has never been survived…. Luckily a misfit group of adult rescuers are on their tail.
What is there left to be said about this wonderful novel? Yes, it is bleak at times, but it’s also uplifting. I’ve read so much about this book that there weren’t any surprises – I was under no illusions that Agnes Bain would overcome her addiction – but that didn’t detract from the experience. The strength of the book is in its characterisation, its chapters providing snapshots of a person’s life. I read this book slowly, wanting to take in each sentence rather than racing through. It deserves all the praise.