Today’s book recommendation is more than a recommendation: it’s a reminder that, reading-wise, we can all get stuck in a rut.
Even though I like to think I read widely, actually, I just read a lot within a narrow range. Literary fiction, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, popular science, biography. (I was going to say historical biography, but of course all biography is historical; I mean, non-contemporary non-celebrity biography.) I couldn’t tell you when I last read a crime novel. I don’t like blood and I don’t like being scared and, most of all, I don’t like reading things that are poorly written. Some years ago, travelling for work and having taken a book with me that I just couldn’t get my head or heart into (I think it was ‘Skippy Dies’), I swapped it on a shelf in a hotel foyer for a novel in a famous crime series. I’m not being discreet in not naming the series, I genuinely can’t remember, all I remember was that I recognised the name and thought, ooh, this is really popular, I’ll give it a go. but I only got 50 pages in before I did something I almost never do. I put that book in the bin. I was bored with the main character, thought the plot was predictable, and was amazed at the poor standard of writing.
So, rather unfairly, I have tarred all of crime fiction with the same brush.
Until I read ‘The Murder Wall’ by Mari Hannah.
Full disclosure: I only read this because I know Mari – she and I were introduced by our agent, Oli Munson – and because I know how intelligent and hard working she is, because I appreciate her seriousness and dedication, because I know her heart is in her work, and I know that she knows the world she writes about. So I thought it was worth giving another crime book a go.
And after a couple of days of staying up too late, putting off meals and conversations and walks, and generally behaving with borderline rudeness to everyone around me in order to find out What Happened Next – at one point I think I actually gasped and put my hand over my mouth, like an old lady confronted by a stripper in the Kitchenware department of John Lewis – I am happy to report that this book is a fantastic read. Clever, twisty-turny, exciting, and with characters as real as anyone you might meet today.
Even if you think you don’t like crime fiction – give this one a try.
Here’s Mari talking about it.