Holiday romance: festive books


Holiday romance: festive books

Social gatherings have eaten into our books editor's reading time, but in between she lost herself in other people's complicated lives unfolding in exotic destinations.

THESE days, “holiday romance" means free and easy, footloose and lazy days of hanging out with loved ones. And more time for the great love of my life: reading. Even now that I read professionally, books have not lost their charm.

Today, I take a leaf out of Kerneels' book and briefly discuss a handful of novels that I want to recommend and not forget.

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Heaberlin appeared on my radar with Black-Eyed Susans, a psychological thriller with lyrical elements. Since then, I've read everything she has written. Vivvy Bouchet is a brilliant astrophysicist but also a clairvoyant. How does she reconcile the two worlds? When she was a child, her gift saved a boy's life. He has since married her sister but there is quite a bit of chemistry between them. She is back in her hometown to help the police investigate a cold case. She is a full-bodied character with all sorts of oddities and unprocessed issues, like all of us. A charming, diabolical talk show host — a big fan of conspiracy theories — clouds the water and does his best to discredit her. Ghosts of the past loom. This is a delightful reading experience full of passion, evil, intrigue and mystery.

Night Will Find You by Julia Heaberlin was published by Penguin and costs R360 at Exclusive Books.


Weak sequel

I have a weakness for court dramas and legal thrillers, for Grisham's candidate attorneys who work 100 hours a week and take down notes in yellow legal pads. This book is a sequel to his hit The Firm, which was also filmed. I'm not going to say much about it, other than that Grisham lost (hopefully temporarily) his mojo, or maybe he wasn't in the mood to spend time with Mitch and Abby McDeere again, 15 years after they escaped the clutches of the evil law firm in Memphis.

The Exchange by John Grisham was published by Hodder & Stoughton and costs R359 at Exclusive Books.



A gem. I smiled from start to finish. Loretta Plansky is in her seventies and her husband died recently. They were exceptionally happy together. Her 98-year-old father is a handful and her children and their partners constantly try to milk her for their get-rich schemes. She gives in most of the time because she's a sweet, generous person. Then her grandson calls late one night from jail. He has been arrested for drunk driving and urgently needs bail money. She has to transfer it to his phone. She struggles and he asks for the password for her online banking. She supplies it and the next morning her account is empty and her nest egg gone. Her grandson knows nothing about the call. She was the victim of a syndicate in Romania. Plansky does not cry over spilt milk and never sees herself as a victim. She uses her last money to fly to the village where police determined the call came from. She is going to take no prisoners.

It's an all-consuming book and Plansky is a delightful character, almost a superhero.

Miss Plansky's Revenge by Spencer Quinn was published by Bedford Square Publishers and costs R390 at Exclusive Books.


Sex pest

This is delicious domestic noir or rather company noir. Four women have worked together for the same law firm for years. When their CEO dies, their boss, Ames, is eligible for his position. But there were always rumours about the way he interacted with women — complaints that were smothered by the men in charge of the firm. The women were on the receiving end of his predatory behaviour but the world is changing and they decide enough is enough — even though the issue is slightly clouded by the fact that Sloane had an affair with Ames years ago. It's a novel about sisterhood, ambition and betrayal. A page-turner.

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker was published by Flatiron Books and costs R383 at Exclusive Books.


Brodie rules

Atkinson has been one of my favourite writers since Behind The Scenes at The Museum, Human Croquet and Emotionally Weird, among others. She later ventured into crime fiction with great success, creating the wonderful character Jackson Brodie. This is the fifth Brodie book and while it would help, you don't need to have read the previous ones. There is history though. He has retired, moved to a seaside town and works as a private detective. Old issues crop up and his past catches up with him. It's full of humour and pathos. A fascinating detective story by a dazzling writer who constantly surprises us.

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson was published by Transworld Publishers and costs R256 at Exclusive Books.



This is a literary thriller from Wales. Identical twins Ana and Nan are at a loss after their mother's death. She was a famous writer but a certain critic obsessed over her, tearing apart every book she wrote. Now the eccentric sisters, librarians, have their sights set on this critic, Eben. He wants to write a biography of their mother and they give their permission, with a hidden agenda. Their revenge mission derails spectacularly. The novel is inhabited by eccentric, lonely characters and reminds one again of the delight of reading.

Library Suicides by Fflur Dafydd was published by Hodder & Stoughton and costs R290 at Exclusive Books.



Hoffman is also one of my favourite writers, with her flair for magical realism and ample imagination. This book is like a seductive fairy tale: dark and poignant. Mia escapes the clutches of the sect she grew up in. She was rescued by a book — something forbidden in the cult — that she stole from the library and that opened her mind. It was The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, about a woman in a situation similar to hers. She feels like she knows the author, even though he lived in another century. Then she travels in time and meets him. Elements of The Little Mermaid and other fairy tales, depicted lyrically and stylishly. It made me curious about Hawthorne, of whom I had only a vague picture – someone like Edgar Allan Poe, I thought. Crows, darkness. I'm definitely going to read about him now. An inspiring book.

The Invisible Hour by Alice Hoffman was published by Simon & Schuster and costs R390 at Exclusive Books.


The novel is set in two timeframes in Karachi, Pakistan: 1964 and 2019. In 2019, Rozeema is 81. She was a physician and her family was crippled by tragedy. She suffers from intergenerational trauma. An unexpected call from an old friend vividly brings to life her past. She befriends his granddaughter and is forced to face long-suppressed issues. It's a poignant love story, full of unfulfilment and yearning, an account of friendship, loyalty and guilt. Ancient secrets rear their heads and mysteries are unravelled. I read with great pleasure and could smell the tamarind.

Under the Tamarind Tree by Nigar Alam was published by Bedford Square Publishers and costs R295 at Exclusive Books.

♦ VWB ♦

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