I just realized I now have a big backlog of reviews to share and keep reading and writing more, so I’ll step up posting to once a week. Here we have a mystery, a treasure trove of literature, and an English novel of manners (or lack thereof).
Hanging Hill by Mo Hayder
Back to Bath, England, and another grisly murder: Lorne, a pretty teenager is found with a tennis ball stuffed in her mouth and her body inscribed with furious graffiti-like cuts. PD Zoe, with her own shadowed history, has some theories but the forensic psychologist, young and pretty, seems to have seduced the entire department with her alternate perspective. Zoe's been out of touch with her sister Sally, the strapped single mother of Millie, Lorne's classmate. Sally gets mixed up in some scummy business and there are lots of desperate, suspense filled scenes until the shocking denouement. Hayder is very good with class conflicts, famiy conflicts, and the qualities of Bath itself, almost like a character in its own right. Highly recommended.
2012 Pushcart Prize XXXVI Best of the Small Presses Edited by Bill Henderson
If you haven't already discovered this amazing compendium of fine writing, and you like short stories, essays, and poetry, get a hold of this or any previous volume and prepare to be blown away. The material is very varied and it's unlikely you've seen it elsewhere, unless you subscribe to reviews (Kenyon, Georgia, Iowa, etc.) or read The Alaska Quarterly, for instance. I don't read every piece (there are 500+ pages) but in the current offering found 20 that really struck me. Among them, essays about horse slaughtering, a beloved but maddening old teacher in his final days, and a short story about the fatal combination of lobster fishing, testosterone, envy and alcohol. At least seven of writers were old favorites (like Tallent, Mattison, and Millhauser) but most I didn't recognize and will now try to track their upcoming works. Don't be put off by the bulk; just keep grazing through it until one of the pieces seizes you by the lapels, and you'll be hooked and eagerly await the new Pushcart every year as I do.
How It All Began by Penelope Lively
A mugging on a London street leads to all sorts of lives turned topsy- turvy. Charlotte needs to recuperate at her daughter Rose's house. Rose works for Henry, a retired windbag of a historian. Henry's daughter Marion is having an affair with Jeremy whose marriage breaks up when his wife discovers a suspicious text. Charlotte tutors Polish Anton and Rose, whose marriage is a bit stale, is intrigued by him. All this sounds like a soap opera, but it's really a witty commentary on aging, boredom, habit, and shift. In the past I've found some of Lively's books a bit chilly, but this one really drew me in.
Back in a week or so with more…