I finally got to travel last week, and I loaded my kindle with plenty of reading material. Four in one week is not my personal best, that is reserved for the vacation where I read a book a day, ran out of books, and had to find a bookstore in a panic before the flight home. Obviously before kindles. I read a mystery novel (times 2), a memoir, and a sliver of vampire fiction by Octavia Butler, who never disappoints in the “taking a trope and turning it inside out, on its head, and sideways” department.
A Mystery Novel set in London:
A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins
OH. MY. GOD.
I loved the heck out of this book. It’s swirly, with a plot that twirls back and forth through time, sideways between characters, and an absolutely gripping, heartbreaking story line that connects it all. Masterfully done and very well written.
A Memoir Set in South Africa:
Moffie by André Carl van der Merwe
An incredibly vivid memoir of an Afrikaans/English conscript in the 1980s Angola Bush War. Brutality, bravery, insanity, apartheid, and a deeply felt teenage melodrama.
A Mystery Novel Set in New York:
You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz
Yes, I saw the HBO series first, and I’ll write about adaptations in another post. The novel is quieter, less sensational, but at the same time deeper. Korelitz gets into her hapless protagonist’s head and heart and goes DEEP. It’s impossible to look away as veil after veil is ripped off her life, and then Korelitz begins to rip away skin and flesh. But, somehow, a tenderness beats underneath it all and that’s what makes this book so incredibly compelling.
Vampires in the Pacific Northwest:
Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
No, not THOSE vampires. This is a completely different vision. Maybe. All I can say is that being a lifelong fan of vampire fiction, this might be the first novel that feels completely different. These vampires have more in common with Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake creatures than with Count Dracula or Lestat. In any case, I can’t even describe it, so do yourself a favor and pick it up. You won’t regret it.
A Weird Common Thread Among All Four
Now, there is a particular theme that I usually avoid like wildfire, but there was nobody to warn me away from that in these randomly selected, vastly different novels. But EACH ONE OF THEM had this one theme. I’m not going to tell you what it was because if it’s your trigger you might stay away from them and then you’ll miss out on some A+ reading. But… there you go. I read them. I survived. My vacation was enriched.
Her short stories appear in the Bouchercon 2023 Anthology, A Stranger Comes to Town: edited by Michael Koryta, Secrets in the Water, After Midnight: Tales from the Graveyard Shift, River River Journal, Snowbound: Best New England Crime Stories 2017, and 1+30: THE BEST OF MYSTORY.
When not writing, Emilya works as a visual artist and reads massive quantities of psychological thrillers, suspense, and crime fiction. She lives in the Hudson Valley with her family.