fulfilling my 2021 goal to read one book each month by an author i have never read despite owning more than one of their books.
AND pulling double duty:
fulfilling my 2021 goal to read one ARC each month i’d been so excited to get my hands on and then…never read
in short, this was a perfect mystery novel.
unaware of how harmoniously i was organizing my media consumption, i picked this up at the same time i was (finally*) getting around to watching dublin murders—a series based on tana french’s first two books. this debut has a lot in common with french’s debut, In the Woods: it’s set in a very small town where everyone knows everyone’s business, it involves two crimes separated by decades, and it features a detective with, to put it mildly, a conflict of interest.
like tana french, harper takes a very literary approach to writing genre—and i know this is a very controversial statement—all the mystery fans shaking their tiny bloody fists and shrieking, “what, mystery novelists don’t write good?” &etc, but alls i mean by that assessment is that it’s not *driven* by the mystery; there’s a perfect balance between the mystery plot and her character work, and the writing in this puppy simply glides in that prose often deemed “effortless;” a distinction which does, in fact, require considerable effort to pull off.
He pushed open a heavy door to a hallway that smelled like sandwiches. Along the walls, kids’ paintings and drawings were pinned up.
“Jesus, some of these are depressing,” Raco murmured.
Falk could see what he meant. There were stick-figure families in which every face had a crayon mouth turned downward. A painting of a cow with angel wings. “Toffee My Cow in Heaven,” the shaky caption read. In every attempt at landscape, the fields were colored brown.
“You should see the ones we didn’t put up,” Whitlam said, stopping at the office door. “The drought. It’s going to kill this town.”
the atmosphere is tremendously potent—the oppressive weight of an australian heatwave during an interminable drought, the harsh landscape backgrounding the anxieties of those with crops and livestock to consider, tensions flaring in the relentless heat, everything in the natural world and the human community seems to be crackling, on the verge. it’s the perfect place to drop a murder plot.
and, yeah, ⬆️see above⬆️: this was a perfect mystery novel. both the present-day investigation and the unwrapping-the-past backstory were compelling, with plenty of folds and wrinkles and red herrings, but there was also emotional heft, and real nuance in the way she wrote damage. i loved it, and i hate that i waited so long to read this. good thing i now have THREE other books of hers to read here, although knowing me, it’ll be another year before i get around to it. someone needs to investigate the mystery of where all my time goes.
* seriously, who has starz??
well, now i feel stupid for waiting so long.
review to come.