Sea of Bones by Deborah O’Donoghue
After the funeral, her partner Declan returns to London while Juliet stays on in Scotland, partly to support her twin sister, Erica, and partly to clear out the summerhouse where Beth had been living until she went missing and her body was washed up on the beach. Juliet can’t accept the verdict of suicide but, when she questions the evidence, she’s afraid her suspicions will be dismissed as paranoia, her experience attributed to mental illness as her sister’s has so often been.
Deborah O’Donoghue’s debut novel is a sophisticated thriller cleverly weaving multiple psychological, social and political themes in a manner that’s both chilling and authentic. As someone who isn’t a fan of the genre because of the tendency for characters to put themselves too easily in jeopardy, I found this all too convincing. (Apart from Juliet’s phone calls from Erica’s psychiatrist, which weren’t a big feature of the plot.) It effortlessly encompasses mental health, twinship, childlessness, grief, trust, corruption, scandal, refugees, sexual offences with minors, investigative journalism, politics, vice and blackmail in an honest rather than box-ticking manner. I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it – the issues are too disturbing for that – but I did keep turning the page. Congratulations to Deborah and thanks to Legend Press for my review copy.
The Lost Man by Jane Harper
Cameron’s death upsets more than the family Christmas, as everyone, from his mother to his five-year-old daughter, from the hired hand with the role of paterfamilias to the itinerant backpacker staff, tries to reconcile the man they thought they knew with the facts. The main focus is on the brothers: the younger, Bub, who still answers to the nickname they gave him as a baby, and is considered not too bright; and particularly the eldest, Nathan, divorced, in debt and persona non grata in the dispersed community for the past ten years.
I really enjoyed the gradual uncovering of Cameron’s secret, and the insight into the pressures of outback life. It’s extremely perceptive regarding the dynamics of dysfunctional families and the chess-board manoeuvres around but each person knows and/or assumes about the others.
I was aware of the buzz around Jane Harper’s two previous bestselling novels but, with a more peripheral role for the police in The Lost Man, I think this was the best place for me to start. Thanks to Abacus for my review copy.
I thought I’d pair these reviews with a reading from my short story collection, Becoming Someone. Like both of these novels, “I Want Doesn’t Get” features sibling rivalry around a family funeral. Enjoy!