I love reading novels with well-developed characters and mysteries that have a strong sense of place. Lately, I have read a number of books that meet those criteria; all of them are in the Roseburg Public Library’s physical collection and on the cloudLibrary electronic books platform.
“The Lost Man” is Jane Harper’s third book set in the Australian outback. The story begins with Nathan and Bub Bright finding their brother, Cameron, dead in the middle of the desert, miles away from his car. Why would Cameron take off walking when he knew what would happen without water and shelter? Nathan returns to the Bright family ranch to mourn Cameron’s loss and unravel the secrets Cameron kept. I enjoyed solving the mystery through Nathan’s nonlinear narration; every flashback added depth to the characters. I was fairly certain where things were headed, but the final revelation was a gut-punch I won’t soon forget.
Harper’s books rely on location to set the mood. The Brights live hundreds of miles from each other, and they’re each other’s closest neighbors. It’s an unforgiving place populated by people who don’t forget, and Harper makes it so real you can almost feel the dust in your mouth. As an aside, if you like audiobooks, I highly recommend listening to this one because Stephen Shanahan’s narration is fantastic.
“The Lost Man” is a standalone, but Harper’s other books are part of the Federal Agent Aaron Falk series. Start with “The Dry,” in which Falk returns to his hometown to solve the mystery of his best friend. Then check out “Force of Nature,” in which Falk gets embroiled in the mystery of a woman who goes missing from her workplace’s wilderness retreat.
One of my new favorite historical mystery series is written by Sujata Massey and centers on Perveen Mistry, the only female lawyer in Bombay and one of the first women to practice law in India. It’s the 1920s, and Perveen is constricted by societal and cultural norms; she was educated at Oxford, but she can’t appear in court.
In the first book, “The Widows of Malabar Hill,” Perveen’s gender provides entry into the home of a deceased patriarch in the elite Malabar Hill neighborhood, where his three wives practice purdah, strict seclusion in their home and no contact with men. Perveen is suspicious when she learns that the women signed over their inheritance, and her instincts prove correct when there is a murder.
“Malabar Hill” establishes Perveen’s backstory, which is as interesting as the mystery and helps explain her passion for women’s rights. The second book in the series, “The Satapur Moonstone,” again finds Perveen investigating a legal case involving women practicing purdah. This time she travels to one of the princely states and meets a potential suitor in the British agent who oversees the state on behalf of Satapur’s royal women. Perveen was sent to determine the educational path of the crown prince, but she soon realizes she must track down a killer to ensure the prince has a future at all.
I recommend this series to fans of the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear and “The Strangler Vine” by M.J. Carter.
Finally, I loved Lisa See’s latest historical novel, “The Island of Sea Women,” set on Korea’s Jeju Island, a place where the women earn their families’ living by diving and the men take care of the children. The story follows the friendship of Young-Sook and Mi-ja through World War II and the Korean War to the present day.
This is a saga of strong women who endure tragedy, become estranged and find their way back to each other. With captivating characters and lots of historical detail, “The Island of Sea Women” was a satisfying read that I recommend to fans of “Moloka’i” by Alan Brennert and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini.
I can’t wait to hear what you’ve been reading lately. Stop by the library, and let’s talk books!