If Blood Should Stain the Wattle

y648This doesn’t happen nearly as often as I would like, but I can honestly say that I loved this book! I’ve only ever really thought of Jackie French in terms of children’s and young adult fiction so was pleasantly surprised to see her grown up offering – If Blood Should Stain the Wattle.

Now it is probably the Australian in me, but I especially loved how Jackie uses famous Australian poetry and folklore that brought a ‘familiar’ spark to the story for me.

If Blood Should Stain the Wattle is full of wonderful, well established characters that have appeared in Jackie French’s earlier ‘Matilda’ series. I haven’t read any of these books yet but this didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this one; instead it made me want to experience them all.

There are fabulous strong female characters who are making their mark in Gibber’s Creek, finding love and setting their sights on conquering the world. Okay, maybe just Australia. Then we have the odd spiritual moment where they converse with ghosts and even manage to peek through time itself. But this is the seventies so the story wouldn’t be complete if there wasn’t a hippy commune on the edge of Gibber’s Creek and a ‘cult leader’ who is receiving messages from aliens. Did I mention that this is also the story of the Whitlam government coming to power?

Stop, come back! Don’t be put off by the inclusion of politicians and their shenanigans within the pages. Jackie French has cleverly woven the information into short excerpts from newspaper reports, and by having characters Jed Kelly and Matilda campaigning to support a Labor government. No boring political twaddle in sight; instead we get to experience first hand what it was like when the Whitlam Government came to power in early 1970s Australia and the subsequent historic dismissal of Gough Whitlam by then Governor-General Sir John Kerr.
This book really does have something for everyone and it won’t disappoint.

The Matilda series began as a trilogy, became a quartet. It was meant to be a history of our nation told from one country town, and the viewpoints of those who had no political voice in 1892, when the series begins: women, indigenous people, Chinese, Afghans.
But, by book four, I realised that history didn’t stop just because I was born, and that the series will continue as long as I live.” (Jackie French)

The quartet Jackie French is referring to is now a sextet – and who knows how many more there may be. So if you want to start at the very beginning the titles in order are:

  1. A Waltz for Matilda
  2. The Girl From Snowy River
  3. The Road to Gundagai
  4. To Love a Sunburnt Country
  5. The Ghost by the Billabong
  6. If Blood Should Stain the Wattle

Cover of A waltz for MatildaCover of the girl from Snowy Riverimage_proxy[3]Cover of To love a sunburnt countryCover of The ghost by the billabongCover of If Blood should stain the wattle

If Blood Should Stain the Wattle
by Jackie French
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9781460753118

Sister Cities/First Nations – WORD Christchurch

We all consider ourselves good people, so it can be confronting to realise that we’re unwittingly contributing to oppression. For peace of mind it can seem easier to ignore the evidence rather than engage in change, thinking if we cover our eyes then it isn’t there, it’s all the past, it doesn’t affect me. Or we go to the other extreme, demand our education from those we meet rather than listen to those already speaking.

Ali Cobby Eckermann. Photo by Adrain Cook. Image supplied.
Ali Cobby Eckermann. Photo by Adrain Cook. Image supplied.

Ali Cobby Eckermann (Aboriginal Australian descended from the Yankunytjatjara language group) and Elissa Washuta (member of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe) are two who are well worth listening to. First Eckermann read from her poem Black Deaths in Custody:

when I walk down this wing and peer

into this filthy room the door closes behind me

the feeling in my heart is changing

from a proud strength of duty to fear

all the stories I have ever heard

stand silent in the space beside me—

a coil of rope is being pushed

under the door of this cell

And Washuta read out her essay This Indian Does Not Owe You, which I recommend reading in full:

When you quiz me on genocide highlights — “Were those smallpox blankets real? I’ve always wondered about that” — to sate your hunger for facts, I do not owe you a free education of the kind that my university students pay for, and I am not so flattered by your interest in my people that I might unfurl a lecture on 500 years of colonization for your edification.

Elissa Washuta. Photo by Elizabeth Ogle. Image supplied.
Elissa Washuta. Photo by Elizabeth Ogle. Image supplied.

Nic Low asked about the role of anger in writing. Both have been through traumatic experiences – rape, disordered eating, the removal of a child – but are still gentle, kind people in person. Writing provides a safe space for anger. Eckermann brought up the idea of good anger and bad anger, and Washuta responded:

We have that bad anger and what do you do with it? A lot of us just destroy ourselves with drugs and alcohol, because that bad anger has just embedded itself, and then we’re told Oh that’s all in the past, that was hundreds of years ago, get over it. The reality is that in our communities we are experiencing ongoing colonisation every day, all the time. We are still a colonised people.

Eckermann agreed – they don’t want to hurt others, so they hurt themselves. She hopes writing can bring us closer to a collective understanding and healing. By acknowledging pain, maybe some can begin to heal.

Cover of Inside My MotherWho are you writing for?

Initially I thought I was writing for myself, or for my community, but now I think I’m writing for the future. Poetry is supposed to change and inform lives… I mean statistically we know that one in four women is raped in their lifetime, but we have to share our stories so it’s not just statistics, it’s life lived. – Eckermann

I wanted to see people like me on the page – I didn’t know any other native people at college, I was diagnosed bipolar, raped, had an eating disorder, and to me they all seemed interconnected but I couldn’t find anything that reflected my own experience. So my books are a gift to other college students. I knew there had to be other people like me, and there are. – Washuta

How do you feel about your country?

I’d like to remove the culture of denial in Australia.  It’s been really rewarding going to other countries that know their histories, who aren’t afraid of their history. — Eckermann

There’s this cheerful narrative about the brave pioneers who crossed the continent to create something out of the “pristine untouched wilderness” when really people were doing all sorts of maintenance work. The pioneers just didn’t understand how the land was being used, or couldn’t see it. But it’s always “It’s really nice that the Indians helped the settlers make something out of this super boring place.” — Washuta

The session ended with a plea for greater friendship and connection in the face of the tsunami of racism that seems to be washing over the world.

So listen to others. Be kind. And go read their books.

WORD Christchurch

Win an interview, VIP afternoon tea with Andy Griffiths, & two tickets to his show!

Christchurch kids, you can win the chance to interview Andy Griffiths and share a VIP afternoon tea in town with him – as well as two tickets to see his show – thanks to WORD Christchurch and Macmillan!

Have you read all of Andy Griffiths’ books? Do you know all the floors in the 78-storey Treehouse? Have you read The Bad Book over and over? If you answered yes to all these questions we have the most amazing chance for you!

Andy Griffiths, the author of the Treehouse series, the ‘Just’ series and The Bad Book, is coming to Christchurch on Friday 16 September for a special presentation by WORD Christchurch. Andy is going to be talking at a SOLD OUT session on the Friday night, as well as a morning session at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre on Saturday 17 September.

But wait, there’s more! You can win the chance to interview Andy Griffiths while having a VIP afternoon tea with him. All you have to do is email competition@ccc.govt.nz and tell us the one question that you would ask Andy if you had the chance to interview him. Make sure to include your name, phone number and address so that we can contact you if you win.

This prize includes afternoon tea with Andy Griffiths for you and a caregiver at 3:30pm on Friday 16 September, and tickets for two to his show at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre on Saturday 17 September.

Competition closed Wednesday 7 September. The winner was Jorja.

Thanks to publishers Macmillan and WORD Christchurch for bringing Andy to town! The WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival kicks off today (Wednesday 24 August) and includes cool events for the whole whānau.

Terms and conditions

  • To enter this competition you must be between 8 and 13 years old and live in Christchurch. We may ask for proof of your address and your age.
  • If you are a winner, you consent to your name, photograph, entry and/or interview being used for reasonable publicity purposes by Christchurch City Libraries.
  • The winner must be available to come to the afternoon tea at 3:30pm on Friday 16 September.
  • The winner must bring a caregiver to the afternoon tea with Andy Griffiths.
  • Staff of Christchurch City Libraries and their immediate families are not able to enter.
  • The competition ends on Wednesday 7 September at 6pm.
  • We will notify the winner by telephone and/or email on Friday 9 September.
  • The judge’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
  • Prizes are as stated and are not transferable.
Image supplied.
Andy Griffiths. Image supplied.

Fast Five with Leigh Hobbs

There are some wonderful authors and illustrators for children who are coming to Auckland in August as part of the 2016 IBBY Congress. You can read all about who we are excited to meet in our post about the IBBY Congress here on the blog. We approached some of the speakers and asked them a few questions about books and libraries.

Today’s featured speaker is the current Australian Children’s Laureate, Leigh Hobbs:

What are you most looking forward to when you visit New Zealand for the 2016 IBBY Congress?

I’m looking forward to meeting others as involved and enthusiastic about the world of children’s books as I am.

What is your favourite memory of libraries?

My favourite memory of Libraries is as a sort of safe haven when I was a child at school, where I could pore over books to ‘my hearts content’ – as they say…

What are 5 of your favourite books?

My favourite books are:

What do you love most about the world of children’s literature?

What I love most about the world of children’s Literature is feeling that I am, to a small degree,  a contributor to that wonderful unbridled world which is the child’s imagination.

What do you believe is the most important thing that adults can do to encourage children to read?

I think the most important thing that adults can do to encourage a child to read is to expose them to a broad range of books, not just ‘story books’, or ‘children’s books’.

More

Aussie teen fiction

Cover for Looking for AlibrandiOh, Australia. Home of red dirt, too many snakes, and some super readable YA fiction. I picked up another one from the new book pile yesterday entirely due to the blurb quote by Melina Marchetta. Marchetta writes books about — brace yourselves — teens with issues (so, all teenagers, because who doesn’t have issues?), but they’re funny and sad and beautifully written. She’s probably best known for Looking for Alibrandi, which was made into a movie, but the one I return to most often is Saving Francesca (and sequel The Piper’s Son).

Cover for Feeling Sorry for CeliaAnother favourite writer from across the pond is Jaclyn Moriarty, author of Feeling Sorry for Celia and sequels. She writes quirky novels told through notes left on the fridge and letters from a character’s subconscious and other epistolary ephemera, which is a favourite trope of mine (see my Epistolary Novel list). Two of her sisters are also authors (I recommend Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, currently being filmed as a TV series), albeit for adult readers — what a disgustingly talented family.

Cover of WildlifeFiona Wood rounds off my top three Aussie contemporary YA authors — a colleague wrote a lovely post about my favourite of hers, Wildlife, which covers grief and friendship and living out in the bush with a bunch of teenagers. She’s also written Six Beautiful Things, a modern genderswapped retelling of Cinderella, and Cloudwish, a super sweet story about Vietnamese-Australian Van Uoc Phan, wishes, and Jane Eyre.

Any other fans out there? I’ve been writing down Marchetta’s recommendations from her blog and adding them to my list of Aussie YA, so if you’re stuck for something to read do take a look. Or let me know if I’m missing someone amazing!

Cover for YellowCover of The Yearbook CommitteeCover of The First ThirdCover of The Flywheel

Tusiata Avia and Maxine Beneba Clarke on friendship and reading beyond the colour – Auckland Writers Festival 2016

Do you remember the excitement of finding a true friend in high school days? When you were lost but then found yourself by finding a friend? When you realized there is someone else out there, who likes the same weird books as you do, listens to the same music and shares the same humour and passion for so many other exciting things? The one you could talk to late into the night and (nearly) never run out of things to say? And when you did, it was nice and comfortable to just be quiet. Together.

AWF16tusiata
Tusiata Avia (Image supplied)

I came across such friendship at this year’s Auckland Writers Festival. Though it revealed to me on the stage, it was clearly not staged. Christchurch born poet Tusiata Avia and Maxine Beneba Clarke, Australian poet and writer, were like two shy girls, who have gathered in their hideaway, somewhere far from the adult’s world, to share their most precious and beloved sweets with each other. Sitting behind the coffee table on the stage, they were begging each other to read another poem. And another. And another – almost forgetting about the presence of the audience.

There was something truthful and playful in their relationship, in this game of exchanging tiny little gems. In the era of authorship and general egocentrism, it is very rare to see such genuine friendship amongst authors. Most of the time, we read about one single author, we listen to her or him speak on the stage about their work. So having two minds and hearts tripping on each other with such sincerity was really refreshing.

AWF16beneba
Maxine Beneba Clarke (Image supplied)

Maxine and Tusiata read poems from their award-winning books. There was a big stack of them on the table, with stationery stickers in various places, marking pages populated by voices that wanted to be heard. Gifts that Maxine laid on the table included her newly released poetry collection Carrying the World, a collection of short stories Foreign soil and three other collections of poetry. Tusiata brought along her Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, Bloodclot and freshly launched Fale Aitu | Spirit House, all poetry collections as well.

Voices captured in their work are voices of diaspora. Many different voices, who speak many different Englishes. But for Maxine as well as Tusiata the main reason why these voices need to be heard and their stories told lays in the human experience and not in the cultural aspects these voices bring with them. So they are both getting a bit tired of culturally and racially focused receptions of their work, when their intention is to show something universal, something human. “It is not a great position to be in,” says Tusiata. “If you are a ‘writer of colour’ you are pigeonholed at the beginning of every presentation. People need to identify you before they engage with your work.”But at the same time, she confesses, that identification is unavoidable, as “poetry is so personal and our personal paths are about where we are from.”

Cover of wild dogs undermy skirt  Cover of Fale aitu -  spirit house

They are not the only ones raising their concern about the biased reception of work from ‘writers of colour’. During the Sunday session titled The Diversity debate, Marlon James declared, half jokingly, half serious, that he will not be attending any sessions about diversity any more. Pettina Gappah earlier that afternoon talked about the burden that sort of labelling gives to ‘coloured writers’: “This label comes with expectations of what you talk about in your work.”

I could feel myself being challenged after each of the sessions. They made me think of myself as a reader and my own reception of work written by ‘writers of colour’. And they also made me wonder, if true friendship happens, when we look at the world above and beyond pigeonholes of colour, sex, race, ability, language, culture, age and socio-economic status. According to Maxine’s inscription in my copy of her book, that may as well be true. “From my heart to yours”, it says.

Which, when read again, it could also sound like a tutorial on how to read.

Find out more

Making literary fiction exciting: Michel Faber – Auckland Writers Festival 2016

Michel Faber
Michel Faber (Image supplied)

Michel Faber’s novels defy easy categorisation. He has written in genres as varied as historical fiction (his novel The crimson petal and the white, is set in Victorian London), horror, and science fiction.

Born in the Netherlands, Faber’s family moved to Australia when he was 7 years old, and he describes himself as something of an outsider, an alien, an outlier. He now lives in Scotland, which for a migraine sufferer, has a much more overcast and hospitable environment.

When he sat down to talk at the Auckland Writers Festival with Kiwi writer Paula Morris about his work (and life), I was woefully unprepared for how raw and heartbreaking the conversation would become.

Cover of The book of strange new thingsThis unexpected poignancy was largely due to his discussion of the loss of his wife Eva, who died in 2014 from cancer. Her diagnosis was made while he was writing his latest (and what he claims will be his last) novel, The book of strange new things, and he admitted that her illness had an affect on how the book developed. The novel has a dystopian, futuristic setting, with a pastor sent to a far-off planet to minister to the indigenous population there. He is separated from his wife and themes of love and loss permeate the tale.

Although the setting is sci-fi one, this Faber says, is just “the furniture”, and to some degree is there for the entertainment aspect. At its heart the story is about human beings, faith and love. Though he lost his faith himself when he was 11, he still feels that religion has a purpose for being and he’s interested in what it gives to people.

Religion is intrinsically ridiculous but there is a reason that people have needed it.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber, Flickr File Reference: 2016-05-15-IMG_1939

Regarding the adaptations of his books for the screen, he was very happy with The Crimson Petal and the White,  and on such good terms with the star Romola Garai that he stayed at her house at one point when they needed to be in London for treatment for Eva. He’s even happier with the film version of Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson.

His feeling regarding literary fiction is that it should be interesting and entertaining as well and that’s what he tries to achieve with this books. There’s a risk, he says, that literary authors will write for the entertainment of other literary authors thus forcing ordinary readers towards entertaining but not very good fiction, that doesn’t give them anything of depth.

He doesn’t want people to regret, after several hundred pages, reading his books – “how pointless is that?”

There is actually nothing worse than a really dull work of literary fiction.

Shortly after the session started, a member of staff appeared carrying a pair of red women’s ankle boots. They were placed next to Faber’s chair, he uttered a quick thank you and carried on with what he was saying. Later on as Paula Morris asked him about what Faber would be working on in the future, since no more novels were in the pipeline, he talked about the projects that involved his wife and explained the mystery of the red boots.

His next projects will be working on Eva’s unfinished short stories as well as writing a biography of her life, not for publication, but for the family. As for the boots, he was taking them to parts of the world to which she had never gone and taking pictures of them in contexts in which he thought she’d be happy…

Then he read several poems from a new book called “Undying” (due out in July) which deals with Eva’s illness, her death, and the grieving process. And this was when everyone started crying. In particular, the poem “You were ugly” which describes the physical changes to Eva’s appearance in illness is brutally honest and heartbreaking with its revelation that after death those changes are forgotten, that her beauty returns. Even Paula Morris was seen to be dabbing her eyes after that one.

Find out more

On effective altruism – Peter Singer

Cover of The Most good you can doLast night, the WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View at the Christchurch Arts Festival featured a discussion session with hugely influential author and thinker – Peter Singer. The discussion centered around a variety of topical ethical issues, but also those traversed in his most recent book The Most Good You Can Do – How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically.

It was a stimulating and funny evening with the discussion lubricated cleverly by chair Eric Crampton (Head of Research at the New Zealand Initiative in Wellington), who also provided some interesting insights and witticisms. You can read Charlie Gates take in The Press: Top philosopher Peter Singer says take more Syrian refugees and help Lebanon.

Peter Singer is perhaps one of the most polarizing philosophers of our time. His radical views and ideas have provoked many with inflammatory pro-abortion remarks and animal rights activism. However, Professor Singer spends lots of time at Princeton University, where he works in the field of bioethics and “practical ethics”, which wrestle with the diverse ethical and moral implications of reproductive rights, animal rights, genetic engineering and other bio-medical advances. So he’s pretty brainy.

But being a utilitarian philosopher, he is generally guided by the classic utilitarian notion that “the morally right action is the action that produces the most good”. He acknowledges a perplexing problem –  how do us lowly citizens decide what produces the most good, in a world wracked with seemingly insurmountable problems?

That’s where Effective Altruism comes in. A movement Peter Singer promotes. Effective Altruism is an international social movement concerned with charitable works, and seeks to fuse “global empathy” with “critical thinking” so as to enable us citizens of the Earth to ascertain the most “effective ways to improve the world”, and therefore, enhance the way we give.

Mr Singer discussed the dilemmas we face as charitable givers, and how we are often emotionally compelled to favour certain charitable efforts over others (emotive advertising campaigns etc). This is despite the fact that some charities are arguably more deserving, or more productive than others. The questions of “how to give and who to give to” often stifles people who are prepared to help financially, for example, should we give to programmes abroad, or, does “charity start at home”? Is it better to directly help feed starving children in developing countries, or, do we give to biotech’ programmes which conduct research into crop enhancement, which could potentially feed and save millions?

Peter Singer - crowd

Peter Singer’s audience. Flickr 2015-09-07-IMG_9202

The discussion at the festival had a distinctly globalized feel, as most subjects traversed were generally pegged to a broader global context. This is reflected in his book, which tries to determine the areas of greatest need and deprivation in the world. Therefore, when we consider the world and all its problems in its entirety, it seems that as global citizens the greatest good we could do is probably in Africa and developing countries where things are the most dire. These notions of global giving are quite challenging in light of various domestic issues.

Interestingly, Singer concedes that the works of charitable organizations are tricky to measure because the services they provide might be preventative, therefore, it’s hard to prove a service prevented (or failed to prevent) something which “otherwise WOULD have happened”. It was also pointed out that determining the success (the greatest good) that non-governmental organisations achieve is almost impossible in certain environments where one would have to randomly visit, for example, 200 villages scattered across a region of continental Africa so as to gauge how well an NGO is doing on average. There are many cultural and political variables which determine outcome.

Ultimately, the guidance of Peter Singer, and the Effective Altruism movement is pretty awesome, as it’s easy to get emotionally coerced into supporting any old venture in our ever changing, needy world.
Peter Singer signs books
Peter Singer signs books, Flickr 2015-09-07-IMG_9208

Utilitarian links

Julia Markovits (Cornell University) gives an introduction to the moral theory of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is the view that the right moral action is the one that maximizes happiness for all.

The History of Utilitarianism, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
You can catch up with our posts & pics:

Michael Robotham – The psychology of crime

Michael Robotham is full of stories. He had a crowd enraptured at South Learning Centre last night with his tales of crime, psychology, writing, and the Ozarks.

He is now a best-selling, award-winning writer, but started out as a journalist. Later he was a successful ghost writer, working on 15 autobiographies (including Ginger Spice, Rolf Harris, and Lulu – he turned down Bryan Ferry though!)

Michael started writing his first novel The suspect when he had some time off between ghostwriting memoirs by Lulu and Rolf Harris. There was a bidding war – he had arrived with a bang. When it was published, he sent a copy to his Mum. After a while, she still hadn’t read it and told him “I had three library books to get through”.  She won a Friends of the Library Award for that commitment to libraries. Her review of his first book? “It took me a while to get into and then I did”.

Michael and author Paul Cleave
Michael Robotham and Paul Cleave. Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8920

Michael talked about his road to becoming a writer, and his literary parent Ray Bradbury, as told here in Ray Bradbury is my ‘Father’.

He also shared stories about his dealings with Oz’s most wanted crim Raymond John Denning, It is a ripper of a tale and was sparked his fascination with the psychology of crime.

Michael told us about time with psychologist Paul Britton (who was the basis for the fictional character Cracker played by Robbie Coltrane). This was the man who went to Fred and Rosemary West’s house and when they found bodies in the garden said “they’re in the garden because the house is full”. Very creepy stuff.

His books all have a factual basis. The spark for his latest book Close your eyes was the murder of Janet Brown in Somerset. Life and Death was inspired by a man who escaped from prison the day before he was due to be released – and was never seen again.

I try so hard to write fiction that reads like fact.

Audience
Michael Robotham talk at South Learning Centre. Wednesday 26 August 2015. Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8919

Michael told us about his trip to the Ozark Mountains, scouting for a location for Life or Death. The locals were less than friendly. A burly Ozarkian Sheriff sparked good lines like someone being “dumber than shit on a biscuit”.

Not only did we get most excellent anecdotes, Michael also shared some writing tips. Find your own way. Do just enough research so the premise works, don’t let your research dominate.

Michael has just gained a new gang of Christchurch fans.

Michael Robotham and Dennis
Michael Robotham and my Dad.  Flickr 2015-08-26-IMG_8922

Search our catalogue for Michael Robotham.

Cover of Close your eyes Cover of Watching you Cover of Say you're sorry Cover of Life or death Cover of The suspect

A beautiful place to die

Cover of A Beautiful Place to DieI’ve read a couple of books recently at opposite ends of the reading spectrum – one’s funny and character-driven, and one’s dark and atmospheric. The first you’ve probably heard of already — Jojo Moyes’ The One Plus One (not as sappy as it sounds! If you enjoy Liane Moriarty or Raffaella Barker you’ll love it) — but the second I hadn’t noticed before, although that’s probably due to my reading prejudices. And I wouldn’t have picked it up off the shelf, because look at that cover! What is it with all books set in Africa having the same look, whether romance or mystery?! It’s always a silhouette of a tree against the sky, probably with a sunset, maybe a giraffe. Come on, publishers, up your game.

Cover of African SkiesCover of In Search of AfricaCover of Into the Lion's DenCover of Ivory

I’m not usually much of a crime reader — I definitely veer towards the Dorothy Sayers end of the crime spectrum — but after reading a review of Malla Nunn’s first novel, A Beautiful Place to Die, I was intrigued enough to give it a try. A Beautiful Place to Die kicks off a series of four books (so far), all featuring detective Emmanuel Cooper and all set in 1950s apartheid South Africa.

As has happened to me before, and as could probably be guessed from the title, I’ve fallen in love with the setting. The descriptions of the landscape are so evocative, the tension between such a beautiful country and its ugly laws so captivating, I couldn’t put it down. Even a murder investigation is influenced by apartheid laws in so many ways — Cooper is challenged by his superiors when he investigates white suspects, as upholding the institution of racism is deemed more important than bringing a killer to justice. As might be expected there is a lot of violence simmering beneath the surface.

If you enjoy your crime with a bit of armchair travel and racial politics, this is the book for you! Or if you prefer funny stories about dysfunctional families like The One Plus One, please tell me your favourites in the comments. I’ll need something a bit lighter when I finish Blessed Are the Dead!