Monday 4 May 2015

IAF15: Indie Picks #3

The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer, by Laxmi Hariharan (Recommended by Fran Pickering)

A white-knuckle ride through the disintegrating streets of Bombay as a terrifying encounter with a molester on a train propels Ruby from her everyday commute into a battle for survival – her own and that of the city she loves. A powerful and unique voice drags you into Ruby’s world, her love/hate relationship with supercool but dangerous cop Vikram and her no-holds-barred bloody battle to the death and perhaps beyond with sinister Dr B. A dystopian fantasy with a strong heroine and a central role for Bombay, the city Ruby both loves and hates.

Wood, Talc and Mr J., by Chris Rose (Recommended by Philippa Rees)

A poetic evocation of life in Sheffield in the 70s, rich with song, and even richer in its original images of a family, welded together by factory work, loyalty, dust-ups with Mods and Rockers, and the portraits of people, secure, and indifferent to public opinion. This is memoir through the affectionate nostalgia, a coming of age tribute to what shapes vision and memory. But it is the poetic vernacular that springs the surprises; they allow dandelions to bloom between the paving stones, tossed over the shoulder prolifically and without stopping; those ‘wagged schooldays’, ‘Madame Shake ‘n’Vac’, ‘heart-splintering honesty’ and ‘prematurely ripened humbug’. Brilliant.

The Art of the Imperfect by Kate Evans (Recommended by John Lynch)

The setting is Scarborough. Dr Thelmis Greene’s murder is investigated by DS Theo Akinde who suffers from being: an outsider (he’s not even a Yorkshireman, let alone a Scarborough native; black in a predominantly white skinned and white thinking town; and gay. He isn’t short of suspects, most of whom demonstrate forms of what Yorkshire folk would call madness ranging from post-natal depression through obsession to simple, out-and-out barminess and one of the pleasures of the book is the way in which characters’ mental fragility is not spelled out from the beginning but emerges over time. The way we see character development through watching what people do is far more accomplished than is usual in a first novel. Akinde is fortunate to have the help of a local woman in threading his way through Scarborough family connections but it takes a coincidence of an unsatisfactory kind (the only weak point in the book) before he is able to identify the killer. That, though, is hardly the point; The Art of the Imperfect is an absorbing and sometimes hilarious romp through a seaside resort that still thrives as many today do not but maintains its individual character.

Social Engineer by Ian Sutherland (Recommended by Mari Howard)

This novella – a prequel to Ian Sutherland’s IT-based thriller Invasion of Privacy is a wonderfully gripping read. The story bounces along alternating between the present day and the previous week or so, revealing increasingly toe-curling aspects of the age of digital and the culture of reliance on all things info-tech. The author evidently knows his stuff, and the revelations are toe-curling.
The book is a real page-turner. I loved the crazy sudden end, even if it was frustrating: we of course need to know more...and I’ve already bought the longer novel. Even though 'crime' is not what I usually read…  

 The Golden Lynx, by CP Lesley (Recommended by Liza Perrat)

16th century Russian adventure featuring Nasan, an Islamic Tatar. Witnessing the murder of her brother by a Russian, which triggers a battle, the Tatar princess becomes the peace offering. Nasan is sent far from her homeland to marry Daniil, a relative of her brother’s killer.
Wilful and independent, Nasan refuses to play the expected role of women in this society and before long finds herself caught up in events that will decide the future of Russia.
I knew nothing about this period, and thoroughly enjoyed learning about it through the author’s vivid descriptions and intriguing exploration of the contrast of the two cultures. A compelling historical adventure, and I look forward to reading the sequel, The Winged Horse.

My Memories of a Future Life,
by Roz Morris (Recommended by Lorna Fergusson)

The title alone introduces you to the haunting appeal of this story which weaves an extraordinary vision of the future with a concert pianist’s quest, aided by a mysterious hypnotist, for the cure for her pain – pain which is preventing her from performing. The story examines the role of the artist and questions how well we can know ourselves and others. Dreams and nightmares, conveyed in high-quality writing, along with images of hallucinatory clarity, make this novel memorably atmospheric and highly unusual.

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