Book reviews on The Trees, Vine Street, Dinner Guest, The Bullet that Missed, Everyone in My Family Killed Somebody and Secret Identity

Today’s novels have the common feature of being classified in the Crime Fiction category in most bookstores. But that’s only half the story, because Everett is written like a literary fever dream, and is as much a commentary on racism as a police procedural. Nolan encompasses eighty years of obsession with unsolved murder cases. The others mix a formal dinner, geriatrics, family, and comics in unique ways. Good hours of reading guaranteed!

The Trees of Percival Everett
A novel shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize, it’s easy to see why it won acclaim – after consuming a quick three to four chapters of this work. Inspired by the real-life lynching of Emmett Till in the 1950s but set in the present day, the book is part fast-paced murder mystery, part police procedural, part tongue-in-cheek comedy. It’s all covered in the scathing social commentary on racism in the United States, its history and continued persistence, and police brutality. Shot full of irony, there is this aspect of how those charged with enforcing the law and preventing racism from happening; are often the very people who promote it and let the abuse happen.

From the African-American officers at the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation to the African-American female FBI agent assigned to the case, these law enforcement agencies are caught between what passes for racist normalcy in the Southern states. Not to mention the hate crimes that are perpetrated against white supremacists and their like-minded descendants. There’s a whiff of the supernatural and dark magic in these pages, but they’re just used to propel the fantastical plot elements and how shrill a message is made by Everett. There are moments towards the end of the novel where this fantasy aspect seems to come to life and escape the confines of the book you are holding. If ever, it’s thanks to the immersive nature of the story told and its effectiveness.

Vine Street by Dominic Nolan
With an expansive time frame and a crime mystery that crosses the line between police procedural, it’s a magnificent piece of work that deftly transcends Crime Fiction. Plus a psychological study of the sense of duty bordering on obsession. There’s 1935 in Soho, London, post-war London in 1946, a sequence of events that takes place in the early 1960s, and a coda that takes place in 2002. That’s a lot of ground to cover, but with an impressive and complex plot, Nolan weaves us in time for a journey of continuous discovery and a magnificent “revelation”. What’s amazing is how he leaves little hints and hints throughout the story, and it’s only when we reach the home stretch that we look back and appreciate what he’s done. .

At the center of the story are three well-developed main characters. There is the sergeant. Leon Geats, your badass guy from the street – a policeman. There’s his ex-partner Mark Cassar, now seconded to the Flying Squad. And there’s Billie, a police officer who often finds herself in between, defending each of them and trying to keep the peace within the team. The case revolves around women of the night who end up dead and maimed in the most gruesome ways. At first there’s the idea that they might be collateral damage from Soho’s gang wars between Italians and Jews. But over time, a serial killer seems to surface. Although not in writing style or language, but rather in scope, it will remind you of James Ellroy. And this is a good thing !

The Dinner Guest by BP Walter
Here is a mystery novel that can rightly be described as the proverbial page-turner. It’s so well-written and plotted that the jumping between time points adds beautifully to the revelations and suspense that characterize effective detective writing. What we infer from the prologue is that during a dinner party hosted by gay married couple Matthew and Charlie, with their son Titus at their home, a friend named Rachel arrives unannounced. Matthew is then murdered, the murder weapon a kitchen knife, and we read that Rachel confessed to the crime – a crime she did not commit. From this beginning, we are then taken back in time to first understand how Rachel befriended the upper class West London couple, and Charlie and Rachel take turns telling .

West London’s posh milieu is wonderfully explored – that social stratum of privilege and snobbery. Rachel, an outsider and considered below Matthew and Charlie’s social strata, is properly explored and commented on. Titus’ teenage rebellion and the obscure origins of how he became Matthew’s son is yet another interesting facet of the narrative exposition. And what becomes an exciting part of the story is that the narration of Charlie and Rachel throughout most of the novel allows us to be on our own to decide who is the most or least reliable narrator. reliable. It’s a mystery that unfolds and reveals itself in strategic increments, and one ends the novel knowing that something beautifully executed has just been read.

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman
It’s hard to believe Richard Osman is doing anything other than writing as this is his third in the series from his recent Thursday Murder Club. The first was a lovely introduction to four retirees, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim, who reside in a rural retirement home. The four decide to go through the cold cases of the local police and try to solve them. Each of the four was vividly drawn – Elizabeth a former spy, retired Ron a union boss, Ibrahim a psychiatrist, and Joyce a simple housewife. Together, there was so much nice chemistry, and the deft crime-solving would be accompanied by hilarious banter, crazy storylines, and a rich cast of supporting characters.

If anything, this third is the best, as Osman is much more comfortable in the genre. He really knows how to end each chapter laughing at ourselves or remaining speechless. It’s so devilishly plotted that you’ll have to stop every once in a while to admire how it was built. The supporting cast is still here, and you’ll find that you miss them as much as we missed the four main characters. One of the evil creations in this novel is the Russian ex-KGB fixer Viktor. You’ll love how he convinces a streaming service BPO to send an engineer to fix his connection in just 90 minutes. It’s literally the romance you can’t put down because you have to know what happens next. From halfway through, you start slowing down, because you don’t want it to end. Happy to wait for the fourth!

Everyone In My Family Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson
A more intriguing title for a mystery novel would be hard to find. And I understand that this meta-crime novel has already been picked up by HBO to be made into a limited series. It’s easy to see the attraction. With Ernest Cunningham as the narrator and author of books on how to write mystery books, you’ll see how it approaches the meta. But can he be too smart even for his own good? So the premise is that Michael Cunningham spent three years in prison on testimony provided by his own brother Ernest. Settled in the rugged mountains of Australia, the family has now planned a reunion of sorts. And beyond the matriarch and her lawyer second husband, we have Michael’s wife and other assorted relatives, all of whom have killed someone in their lifetime.

It takes place in a ski resort in the middle of winter, offering opportunities to be isolated and cut off from civilization. All of these are important to how the narrative develops. There’s a rich cast of characters and a twisted take on dysfunctional families about how secrets, resentments and betrayals have arisen and festered over the years. And, of course, since this is a detective story, the corpses begin to pile up. Michael’s release from prison is complicated by the fact that he appears to be having an affair with Ernest’s ex-wife. Meanwhile, Michael’s real wife is still in the picture, hoping to get back together. It’s all part of the script. The only criticism that could be leveled is how there’s a little undertone of smugness that creeps in and lacks appeal.

Secret Identity by Alex Segura
A tribute to the world of comics in the mid-1970s while offering a penetrating look at how women faced the comics industry, this latest from Segura is a labor of passion and love. . As one of today’s famous graphic novelists, it’s nice to see him step away from his known genre/medium and create a mainstream novel. Even if it must be said that he simply couldn’t get out of the traditional, like every five chapters or so, there will be a comic page or two that you will be delighted that he put that little touch. Carmen Valdez, transplanted from Miami to Manhattan, is the central character of this detective story. She’s the one who must assume a “secret identity” in order to make a dent in the comic world as a writer, and not just as secretary to the head of Triumph Comics.

This is where we find her at the start of the novel, harboring a burning desire to write but having her spec scripts rejected by her boss Carlyle. He just doesn’t believe in women being writers or artists in the world of comics. So Triumph staffer/writer Harvey concocts this collaborative plan with Carmen., but for the start, using only her name in the credits. Carmen, desperate to create, accepts the deception. Then Harvey is murdered and everyone believes he was the only writer. And, of course, the new comic is a hit from Triumph, something rare as they’re still catching up with Marvel and DC. Carmen is stuck in a very delicate position. Why Harvey was killed and how can she reveal her role as a ghostwriter without putting herself in danger. It’s classic noir mixed with the world of comics. Fun!