Missing You


Harlan Coben; Missing YouTo me, spring hasn't really arrived until I have managed to get my paws on the latest Harlan Coben standalone. This has become a ritual of some ten odds years: me reading Coben while watching the White Witch slowly yet mercilessly thawing. Ever the stickler for a good ritual, me, it goes without saying that I've already read this year's standalone, Missing You. This time, the protoganist is – somewhat gasp worthy given the general, um, guyness of Coben's oeuvre – female, but despite this, things are very much recognisable in Coben land. NYPD detective Kat Donovan – good cop, loner, heartbroken over the death of her father year back, fan of the plonk – begrudgingly finds herself on an online dating site one booze-fuelled night. Out of the blue, a very familiar face appears. It is that of Jeff, her fiancé who broke her heart some eighteen years ago. Soon Kat finds herself up to her ears in a sordid affair where the bad guys prey on the most vulnerable of hearts. Meanwhile, details of her father's murder come spinning back with a vengeance. What does it all mean? Well, I will let you find out for yourself. Suffice it to say that you're in for a bumpy ride... again. Otherwise it just wouldn't be Harlan Coben writing.

Coben's books are as eerily similar as they are unputdownable. I always devour them, racing through the pages in a near-bulimic fashion. Later, the last page turned, the first spring flowers detected out in the garden, I always find myself thinking "was that in the last one, or am I thinking about another Harlan Coben novel?". Flawed but sympathetic protagonists, twisty events, mobsters and kidnappings are abundant in the darkly alluring world of Coben – as are, in the latest two books, remote farmhouses where evildoings take place. I sort of saw the ending coming here – parts of it, anyway – but that didn't stop me from having a grand old time all the way through. I tend to judge a book's page turning qualities by the amount of time spent in the bath reading it. In the case of Missing You, I went through nearly 200 pages in the bathtub, ending up all cold and wrinkly. Perhaps last year's standalone, Six Years, was slightly better but take it from me: Coben definitely still has it.

 Karen Campbell; This Is Where I AmLyndsay Faye; Dust and ShadowJennifer Weiner; Good in Bed


This Is Where I Am (Karen Campbell)

I was a massive fan of Campbell's dark and gritty Glaswegian police novels starring Anna Cameron and must admit to a certain degree of alarm when I learned that she would be changing genres entirely. No need to fret: this is as exquisitely written and atmospheric as anything she has written, with plenty of Glaswegian grit, albeit with a lighter, more heartwarming delivery. This story of the unlikely friendship between recently widowed Deborah and asyulum seeker Abdi deserves all the praise that's been coming its way. More than anything, this beautifully realised tale breathes hope. We all need a bit of that these days, don't we?

Dust and Shadow (Lyndsay Faye)

Loved last year's Edgar nominee The Gods of Gotham – so much so, in fact, that I was rooting for it to win, despite noble competition (Lehane, Flynn). Was delighted to find out that she has previously written a novel of Sherlock Holmes' close encounter with that most elusive of Victorian villains, Jack the Ripper, as accounted, of course, by Doctor Watson. This is, needless to say, a must-read for all fans of Victoriana. As in The Gods of Gotham, Faye manages to get the tone just right. Lovely stuff. Will be picking up the sequel of The Gods of Gotham, Seven for a Secret, asap. (It is currently looking very pretty on my nightstand.)

Good in Bed and Certain Girls (Jennifer Weiner, re-reads)

Fans of snappy, laugh out loud funny, and genuinely moving chick lit – make that lit, period – ought to check out Jennifer Weiner's work. Her later novels in general and, perhaps, Fly Away Home in particular, have a more mature feel to them, but I LOVED revisiting original Weiner heroine Cannie Shapiro – big, brazen, utterly relatable – in these two early books, to be read in the correct order starting with Good in Bed. Can't wait for her upcoming novel, All Fall Down, due out in June

PS: I will be covering the Edgar nominees this year, too, so stay tuned for that!