Fantastic new fiction from New Zealand writers feature in this month’s Other Genre selections. Some really great reading that includes The Mann Booker Prize 2013 contender Eleanor Catton with her novel The Luminaries. Also highly recommended is The Secret Life of James Cook by Graeme Lay.
The elbow stories / John Adams. “A self-important surgeon reveals peculiar tastes; regulars at a holiday park watch Sweetie and Cowboy fail at camping; unexpected feels arise after child is lost; traditional arranged marriages conflict with modern desires; a family falls apart when Auntie Pam contests Granddad’s will and much more. These imaginative and unpredictable stories, told with wit and keen observation, take the reader into unusual lives and explore the intricacies and quirks of being human.” (adapted from book cover)
The luminaries / Eleanor Catton. “It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
Tough / Amy Head. “Men awake floating in their tents when a river bursts its banks. Four girls gather around a Ouija board as a boy crouches at a window. A woman visits the man who took her prisoner as a girl. A boy decides to become a sinner as he tramps out of Reefton in the last of the daylight. Some of the 12 stories in this remarkable collection that tunnel back and forth between the West Coast’s present and its gold-mining past. They explore rugged lives lived against rugged landscapes.” (adapted from book cover)
The last days of the national costume / Anne Kennedy.
“You’d think that mending clothes would be an uneventful, uncomplicated occupation. No drama, no unnecessary explanations, no personal involvement. But people love to talk, and as they make their excuses to GoGo Sligo, of Megan Sligo Mending and Alterations, they reveal the holes in their stories as well. It doesn’t take long for GoGo to get to the truth behind the rips and tears they’ve brought her to fix. As GoGo listens and sews, she realizes she is also helping her clients cheat and lie to their husbands and wives. She’s covering their tracks so they won’t be found out. A five-week blackout brings the city to its knees, and a drama to her doorstep. A lover, a wife, and finally the cheating husband all come to claim a vintage Irish costume that GoGo’s been mending. She doesn’t want to like the guilty husband, but can’t resist being drawn into the enticing web of his deceit, and then into his story of heartbreak and death on the streets of Belfast.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The fall of light : a novel / Sarah Laing.
“Rudy is a successful architect, but life is not as happy as it should be. His work leaves him artistically frustrated, his wife and two young daughters have moved out of the house he designed for them, and his pushy young associate is vying for design supremacy. When a Vespa accident puts him into hospital and forces him to recuperate at home, he looks in danger of losing everything, but it is then that his repressed artistic yearnings start to make their presence felt, not just in the glass creations he begins to craft, but also in his strange, vivid dreams.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The secret life of James Cook / Graeme Lay.
“A fictionalized account of the famous navigator’s early life. It explores the relationship with his remarkable wife Elizabeth, the woman he married when he was 34 and she 21 and by whom he had six children all born while he was away at sea. This novel also depicts the often stormy relationship between the self-made English naval commander and the dashing, privileged naturalist Joseph Banks who accompanied Cook on his first voyage.” (adapted from book cover).
Cross fingers / Paddy Richardson.
“Television journalist Rebecca Thorne is working on a documentary project exposing a crooked ex-cop property developer. Much to her chagrin she is removed from the project to work on another documentary about the notorious 1981 South African rugby team’s tour of New Zealand. At the same time, Rebecca breaks up with boyfriend Rolly. Strange things start to happen: is someone stalking her, breaking into her house and moving her things? Or is she just being paranoid? As she learns more about the 81 tour, Rebecca becomes fascinated by the Lambs, two anonymous protesters who mocked the police and entertained the crowds, and by the disappearance of one of them on the night of the Wellington test. As sinister events in Rebecca’s life increase, she gets closer and closer to finding out what happened to the Black Lamb” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The misplaced affections of Charlotte Fforbes / Catherine Robertson.
“When Charlotte Fforbes inadvertently falls in love with her boss, her usually cool self-control is tested to its limit. Thus far, Charlotte has carefully avoided love’s emotional tar pit, but suddenly she is in it up to her neck. Her first strategy is to ignore it; for one thing, boss Patrick is a husband and father. Then Charlotte is given a clue that Patrick’s marriage may not be as stable as believed, and that is enough to fan a spark of hope into an infatuation-fuelled inferno. Transformed from efficient PA into a woman whose reason has been muffled with duct-tape and locked in a cellar, she’ll now do anything to find a way into Patrick’s heart. Anything includes arranging to be nanny-for-a-month to the small children of Patrick and his wife and two other families at a Lake Como villa.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The factory world / Joseph Edward Ryan. “Waking in a pipe in a silent forest, unable to remember how he got there or where he came from, Simon finds himself walking a rusting railway track with a mysterious stranger who cannot even remember his own name. Abandoned factories and eerie mannequins dot their path; falling stars light the night sky and sear holes through the earth to reveal a maze of pipes beneath. A dream, and a thousand miles away is their only way home. But they are not alone on this factory world, and soon realize that they are fighting for their lives.” (adapted from book cover)
Only the dead / Ben Sanders.
“When a failed witness protection operation ends in multiple homicides, evidence suggests the crime is linked to a series of violent robberies in Auckland City. For Detective Sergeant Sean Devereaux, solving the case is proving next to impossible. His own superiors in the police department are refusing to cooperate with his investigation. After Devereaux shoots a suspect in a botched surveillance job, he is forced to start providing the answers rather than demanding them. With his career on the line and old demons threatening to consume his very sanity, Devereaux is running out of time as he succumbs to a nightmare world of extreme brutality, where bad and desperate men stalk both sides of the legal divide” (adapted from Syndetics summary)