May 2015 Round Up and Raven’s Book of the Month

 

_DSC0185 (Common Raven)May has been a good month all round, with an extremely entertaining and informative trip to the CrimeFest international crime writing convention in Bristol, and a plethora of good reading. Read my tongue in cheek review of CrimeFest  here, with the added bonus that I have now discovered a clutch of new authors, that I will be catching up with over the next few months (no, my to be read pile has not diminished that much). At a cursory look, there appear to be over 20 books requesting my attention in June, so I will endeavour to get through as many as possible, and will obviously be focussing on the debut, and less familiar authors amongst them for you. Also hosted four blog tours this month:

 Guest Post- M. J. Carter on Edgar Allan Poe

 Ragnar Jonasson- Snowblind (Dark Iceland 1)- Review and Extract

 Cal Moriarty- The Killing of Bobbi Lomax- Review

Christoffer Carlsson- The Invisible Man From Salem- Extract and Giveaway

and there are another batch of blog tours scheduled for June including William Shaw and Gunnar Staalesen so watch this space. Have a good June everyone, and hope you’re all reading some great crime fiction!

Books read in May:

Andy Boot- No Doves (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Ragnar Jonasson- Snowblind

Cal Moriarty- The Killing of Bobbi Lomax

Christoffer Carlsson- The Invisible Man From Salem (www.crimefictionlover.com)

Liad Shoham- Asylum City

Oscar de Muriel- The Strings of Murder

I also went on a little detour to the mean streets of Los Angeles with the gritty debut All Involved by Ryan Gattis and Ghettoside (Invesigating A Homicide Epidemic) by Jill Leovy. With both books attracting a huge amount of critical praise from writers and reviewers far more eloquent than myself, I can only say that both present a sharp focus on the societal ills and problems of this multi-cultured and troubled city, from the LA riots of the 90’s so vividly recreated by Gattis, and the more contemporary picture of street violence, and gangs depicted by Leovy, both focussing with an unblinking and critical eye on the LAPD along the way. All sides of the human experience are captured with them, balancing their books with hope and desperation, but all the more potent for being so firmly grounded in truth.

Raven’s Book of the Month:

shohamWithout a doubt the most mesmerising and heartfelt read of the month for me, despite some stiff competition. As I read more and more crime fiction, it is wonderful to tread new paths with an unfamiliar author, whilst also gaining a window into a world that I am completely unaware of. This book not only encapsulates the elements of a suspenseful thriller, but addresses much larger issues, through its superb research and vibrant characterisation. Pretty perfect all round.

Blog Tour- Cal Moriarty- The Killing of Bobbi Lomax- Review

 

Former private eye turned debut novelist, Cal Moriarty, surprises and wrong-foots the reader at every turn in The Killing of Bobbi Lomax, her refreshingly different blend of police procedural and conspiracy thriller. She also succeeds admirably in giving reviewers a tough time in explaining the plot without giving anything away…

This is the first part of what Moriarty describes as a loose trilogy, takes us on a trip into the American religious heartland, setting her book in the god-fearing community of the fictional Abraham City in Canyon County. The story opens in 1983 with the death by incendiary of Bobbi Lomax, the much younger wife of Arnold Lomax, a prominent figure in the local church The Faith, which influences and controls every aspect of this small, quiet community. The investigation into her death is led by detectives Marty Sinclair and Alvarez, two former city cops relegated to this veritable backwater for reasons as yet unknown, and how local book dealer, Clark Houseman, a casualty of another bombing incident, (one of the three that occur in 24 hours) may, or may not, be linked to the central crime. The story then pivots between the present and a year previously taking us on a cerebral trip into the world of religious fundamentalism, and the counterfeiting of literary and religious documents, that expose the less than Christian underbelly of The Faith but,  just what has the bookish Houseman to do with it all, and could he really be a stone cold killer?

Obviously, any overt dwelling on the plot, would be detrimental to you, the reader, so I will just say that the labyrinthine plotting, and clever and surprising plot turns, work incredibly well throughout. This is a real novel of smoke and mirrors, particularly in the character of Houseman, who stands at the front and centre of this book, navigating the waters of religious fervour, and turning a quick buck. However, Moriarty neatly uses him as a prism, consistently presenting different versions of himself to not only his fellow protagonists but, also delighting the reader with the differing shades of his character. This more tricksy character is pitted against the solid characterisation of Sinclair and Alvarez, who although reminiscent of a couple of other detective duos I have encountered, admirably hold together the straight police procedural aspect of the plot, and I rather enjoyed the less well-drawn picture of their previous career, making me intrigued to find out more in future books. Likewise, Moriarty got me on side instantly with her playful probing of the nature of organised religion at work in the cult of The Faith and the moral outrage they display towards counter-church The Real Faith, and the characters within are as bullish and misguided as one would expect of two religions divided by the arcane concept of polygamy. As Houseman and our intrepid detectives, seek to infiltrate these groups for differing reasons, Moriarty plunges us deeper into the the secrets and lies these supposedly upright citizens are desperate to conceal to great effect, with a plausible and thoroughly enjoyable outcome.

This is an unerringly clever crime novel, packed with literary allusions, cold-blooded murder and sociological musings. Underpinned by the author’s familiarity with the location of the religious heartland of America, and the pivoting timeline Moriarty brings us a tale that tricks and surprises the reader, this is a welcome diversion from the more familiar tropes of crime fiction. An excellent read, with I’m delighted to say considering my nom de plume, with plenty of  Poe time too…

Cal Moriarty also writes for film and theatre, and previously worked as a private eye. She attended both the ‘Writing A Novel’ and ‘Edit Your Novel’ courses on the Faber Academy in 2012-13. Visit her website here and follow on Twitter @calmoriarty

(With thanks to Faber for the ARC)