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Book Bites: 8 March 2015

Miss Carter's WarMiss Carter’s War
Sheila Hancock (Bloomsbury)
*****
Book fling
Downton Abbey fans will love Miss Carter’s War. Set in Britain in 1948, Marguerite Carter is a half-French, half-English school mistress with a Messiah complex and pencil seams running up her legs. Through vivid flashbacks we learn the prim and proper Miss Carter was also a wartime spy who left the love of her life behind in France in her quest to save the world. I anticipated a frivolous afternoon read, but instead found substance that exceeded all my expectations.
- Annetjie van Wynegaard @annetjievw

An Event in AutumnAn Event in Autumn: A Wallander Mystery
Henning Mankell (Harvill Secker)
***
Book thrill
This book, first published in 2002, has only just been translated from the Swedish. In search of a change of scenery, Wallander moves into a new house in the countryside – and finds the skeletal remains of a middle-aged woman. But it is only when another body is uncovered – this time the remains of a man – that the mystery deepens and Wallander’s led down the garden path – literally and figuratively. One for Mankell fans.
- Chantelle Gray van Heerden @CGrayvH

Fourth of July CreekFourth of July Creek
Smith Henderson (William Heinemann)
***
Book buff
This debut novel begins promisingly, with interesting metaphors and engagingly awful characters. It centres on Pete Snow, an alcoholic child welfare agent who progressively loses everything, including his daughter. Unfortunately, two-thirds through, the sentences begin to sound pompously artificial, the story belly-flops its way around, and it becomes clear that in Henderson’s writing, every woman is a whore, or insane, or both. Perhaps his next will be better.
- Cat Hellisen @CL_Hellisen

MaliceMalice
Keigo Higashino, translated by Alexander O. Smith (Little Brown)
****
Book thrill
Children’s author Osamu Nonguchi receives a strange phone call from his long-time, bestselling novelist friend Kunihiko Hidaka, and later that night discovers him murdered. Enter Police Detective Kyochiro Kaga, who recognises Osamu from a school where they both worked. The two men commence a literary sparring match through the telling and retelling of Hidaka’s murder. Higashino masterfully draws us along a path fraught with many twists and false turns.
- Lucy Hillier @LucyAHillier

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