Parting shot

by Catherine Robertson / 23 July, 2015
Catherine Robertson reviews the latest contemporary fiction.
CandaceBushnell
Candace Bushnell: smart and funny. Photo/Thinkstock


Young Nick and his older neighbour go hunting on his father’s rural property. One of them fatally shoots an illegal cannabis grower, but neither believes he’s the culprit – or won’t admit it. A LINE OF SIGHT (Escalator Press, $30), by Adrienne Jansen, is described as a whodunnit, but it’s really more of a study of how such a shooting not only affects the people involved but also ripples out into the community. The low-key, slow-burn pace is perfect for showing that bonds between people can be uneasily balanced at the best of times, and Jansen is skilled at delivering character insight in subtle but satisfying ways.

The final novel in Graeme Lay’s trilogy, JAMES COOK’S LOST WORLD (4th Estate, $36.99), describes the explorer’s last voyage, a covert mission to discover if the fabled passage from the North Pacific to the North Atlantic actually exists. Cook is 47, and in accepting the challenge, breaks the promise he made to his pregnant wife that his sea days were over. Lay uses facts and fiction to authentically and movingly recreate the journey. Cook, his wife and the other characters come alive, as do the places they visit and the hard life of a sailor. We know the story ends badly, but the trip there is well worth it.

Teenage Poppy is growing up in Gaialands, a strait-laced commune. Enter Shakti, who brings with her flagrant sexuality and New Age divination. Shakti makes predictions that are convincing enough to persuade Poppy to follow her boyfriend to London, and put up with his increasingly destructive rock-star habits because that, surely, is her destiny. Bianca Zander’s THE PREDICTIONS (Blackfriars, $29.99) zips along at such a pace that the latter half especially feels a little rushed. But brisk economy is part of Zander’s confident style, and better that than drawn-out, flabby prose.

KILLING MONICA (Little Brown, $34.99) author Candace Bushnell also wrote Sex and the City. Which could explain why this book reads a lot like a therapy session. Narrator PJ Wallis’s fictional creation, Monica, has brought her fame, hot guys and moolah. But now she’s trapped: her publishers refuse to let her write anything else, and when her personal life starts to implode, it seems the only way out is to destroy her creation, and possibly herself. Bushnell’s no Proust and the plot twists in part three are bananas, but she knows Hollywood/New York society and she’s smart and funny. Do it. You know you want to.

If you’ve been suffering from a surfeit of World War I novels, you might still want to find room for this one. The McCosh sisters live between two sets of brothers. The boys all see action, one as a pilot, the rest in the trenches, while the girls volunteer for war work. But it’s after the war that the real work of building lives begins for the women, and those boys – now men – who survived. THE DUST THAT FALLS FROM DREAMS (Harvill Secker, $38) is Louis de Bernières in his light-touch, eccentrically British mode. While a mite sickly at times, it’s full of terrific, fresh details and delightful characters. Top hole.

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