For these three authors, the thrill definitely hasn’t gone
Sinister new stuff on the bookshelves
When She Was Gone by SA Dunphy (Hachette)
“Criminologist” is such a CSI TV show word. The definition on Wiki is: “Criminologists must be expert researchers and have a good understanding of statistics and human behaviour. A background in sociology, psychology, criminology or a related field is essential.”
In this novel we have David Dunnigan, a criminologist who receives his niece Beth’s shoe, 18 years after she disappeared in a shopping mall when she was under his care. Tormented with guilt, his career stalled, he now has the chance to reopen the investigation and find out what happened to Beth.
Set in Dublin and then in north Greenland, Dunphy takes us to unexpected and sometimes unexplored places. The writing is a bit scattered (first-person, then third-person), but Dunphy pulls it off to create characters who are sometimes fantastical but other times so real that they are scary. Beware of an imperfect ending as it seems that Dunphy is working on book two.The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton (Headline)
Juliette has a plan to win Nate back after he broke up with her six months ago. She believes they belong together and will do whatever it takes to marry him. She changes her job from a hotel clerk to become a flight attendant because Nate is a pilot. She sneaks into his flat when he is not there to make sure he has his favourite wine. Juliette, though, is not your typical villain. She has her reasons and there is catharsis to what she does.
Stick with it even if it does seem ludicrous at times; the last few chapters are worth the trouble. Hamilton says she has been working on this book for a while and her own experience of being a flight attendant and returning to anonymity after changing from her uniform gave her “the seed of an idea for a sinister character who really did change her persona”.Bitter by Francesca Jakobi (Orion)
Jakobi takes us to 1969 with a wedding and a fretful Gilda, who realises she has worn white and a net veil to her son Reuben’s nuptials – symbolic of the toxic relationship she has with him. She is completely obsessed with Reuben, and starts stalking his wife Alice. Gilda also starts to mimic Alice, changing her matronly style to that of her colourful daughter-in-law. Then you get to know the complicated Gilda, and how she was shipped off to a boarding school in England by her strict, unfeeling German parents, bullied by classmates and forced to marry her father’s business partner.
The chapters are short, veering between past and present, and Jakobi’s imagery transports you from the bombed London streets to the anything-goes vibes at the end of the Swinging Sixties: the severe navy and browns of wartime clothes versus colourful maxi dresses, tight-rolled curls versus the freedom of the flyaway bob.
You get to know Gilda, why she left Reuben, why she is stalking his wife Alice and why she is so alone. It’s a terrifying and poignant portrait of a lonely woman. Bitter is Jakobi’s first novel, inspired by her grandmother who was sued for divorce in the 1940s.