May was a great reading month for me – I managed ten novels in total. Here are my top five:
This is very much a novel but the story was inspired by an article that Jami Attenberg read about in Joseph Mitchell’s Up in the Old Hotel, a collection of his New Yorker journalism (and something I’m keen to read). This is a Jazz Age novel set mostly in the Lower East Side of New York. If you enjoyed Daisy Jones, this is a similar style, written in diary entries and interviews with people who knew the titular heroine Mazie Phillips.
A Rage in Harlem – Chester Himes
This is the first of Himes’ Harlem detective novels starring Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones. Still in New York, but moving ahead to the 1950s, I loved the comedy caper aspect of this novel. Feckless criminal Jackson’s girl has found him a foolproof way of turning ten dollar bills into hundreds. It sounds too good to be true but that doesn’t stop Jackson from taking a chance that leaves him racing through one long night, trying to stay alive with the cops on his tail.
Detransition Baby – Torrey Peters
Yes, there’s a definite New York theme this month (I am currently writing a novel set there)! Longlisted for the Women’s Prize, Detransition, Baby is a witty novel about unconventional relationships (if you enjoyed Luster I think you’d love this – I actually preferred it). Reese is a trans woman scraping by in New York. Her ex, Ames, de-transitioned a few years earlier after being attacked and has just found out that his boss, with whom he’s been having a fling, is pregnant. When Ames contacts Reese and asks if she wants to become a mother to his unborn child, the three of them begin the exploration of how such an unconventional set-up might just work.
The Jigsaw Man – Nadine Matheson
South east Londoners will know many of the locations in this terrifying novel set in Deptford. DI Angelica Henley has just returned to active duty when a body washes up on the banks of the Thames. As more bodies are discovered, she realises that the MO fits that of serial killer Peter Olivier. Only it can’t be him, he’s already behind bars. But he might be the best chance she’s got to find the new murderer… This is the first in a series and I’m already looking forward to the next instalment.
The Hidden Child – Louise Fein
Out on 2nd September (pre-order now!), The Hidden Child tells the story of the Eugenics movement in the UK, focusing on one family at the heart of the movement. It’s 1929 and Edward and Eleanor live an almost perfect live in their idyllic country house, with their young daughter Mabel and another child on the way. When Mabel falls ill, they are shocked to discover that she is epileptic, exactly one of the conditions that the Eugenics movement wants to eradicate. Well researched, I found some of the novel’s revelations shocking (forced sterilisations for anyone with disabilities, mental health problems were some of the movement’s policies).