Rapid Reviews: designer deaths for holiday reading

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Unless they’ve moved it, I can’t find the enormous and artificial tree symbolizing the season of gift giving and enforced goodwill which usually appears at our local shopping centre.   It, with its accompanying multi-coloured companions of elves, toadstools and reindeer, is the annual reminder to this Antipodean that it’s time to think about hauling in a truck-load of books to wile away at least part of the hoped for heated summer holiday hours.

I have a practice run down at the Omokoroa Library and bring back three books (not so good) and several glorious NZ House & Garden magazines and then another at the Tauranga City Library where I follow my process of choice – looking at the titles on the large and cold grey metal book trolley.  

This time I’m not disappointed. Billingham’s contribution is so well-woven that you don’t initially realize the breadth of the contemporary social and political issues he is incorporating.   And before your inherent racism tries to kick in remember William Wallace and that tragic list of tiny New Zealand coffins.

Richard Beasley writes about Sydney, lawyers and white collar criminals all dressed up with Greek names and sprinkled with cocaine – another kind of violence and dysfunction. Although the ultimate violence within business appears to be to withhold payment of accounts and then go belly-up and ruin your sub-contractors and suppliers. Would you believe Beasley’s story? Regrettably, yes. And again, before your inherent racism tries to kick in, remember all the internecine corporate and trust battles we’ve seen played out here.

It’s funny that with both of these books I didn’t follow my usual approach of reading the last chapter first and then seeing how the author maps out the path to the conclusion.   Perhaps I’m getting less impatient?

Love Like Blood   Mark Billingham Little Brown Great Britain 2017Billingham weaves contemporary prejudice and issue into an unputdownable narrative. It’s hideously believable as are the comparatively understated characters of the “serial detective” DI Tom Thorne. You could almost be living next door to him so unconventionally conventional is this UK working cop. His supporting cast of social workers, teachers and the “extras” of the wider community are real. The hero/ine another perceptive and persistent police person has also been drawn with a restrained pencil. Even the pierced to perfection forensic medical persona has the aura of reality. There is the cloak of ethnicity. The double jeopardy of religion and cultural practice.   Sexual preference. Family and social dysfunction and sociopathy.  All the ingredients so beautifully mixed.

The Burden of Lies Richard Beasley Simon & Schuster (Australia) 2017

If you don’t have time to read the book, read the back cover and then just the last ten pages or so.   I think it’s what you’d call a “synopsis” but as a repetitive reader of crime, thriller, murder etc “fiction” it’s “too much information”.   However, despite the back cover I found this was a second unputdownable read. I love books set in major Australian locations. Who can’t see those huge Moreton Bay Figs glowering over the road?   And I love books about legal systems and the process of finding out.

I can’t say this is as well-written as the Billingham contribution to my weekend’s reading but it was still worth the time investment.   There is an overarching flavour of traditional Greek tragedy with little threads of contemporary issue in the fabric.. Like a traditional tragedy in the end the answer is glaringly simple.

On my 2019 scale of great&goodreads:- definitely both “steal and hide from fellow holidaymakers until finished”. And don’t be tempted to disclose either outcome or you too could become a designer death.

And in case I forget in the increasingly dizzy rush to Christmas morning.  Thank you to all our gracious, knowledgeable and helpful Librarians.   This year a particularly loud shout out to the Omokoroa Library for their help in photocopying the images to include with my end of year Te Reo Maori presentation.  Kia Ora. Meri Kirihimete.

Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current Managing Editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.

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Meet Cindy of Cindy Lou Vintage Snodgrass Road Te Puna

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