Here at Cafe thinking we’ve loved Sarah Ward’s first two novels, In Bitter Chill and A Deadly Thaw which have marked her down as one of the most promising English crime writers. The third in the series starring DC Connie Childs, A Patient Fury has just been released and we’re delighted to welcome Sarah to the Secret Library desk today. Here is her selection of three books that should be really well known but don’t get the recognition they deserve:
And Dangerous to Know by Elizabeth Daly
Daly was a New York Golden Age author whose books have only just come back into print. She wasn’t published until she was into her sixties and although the series can vary in quality, And Dangerous to Know is one of her best. A girl from a wealthy New York family goes missing and we know she’s bought some cheap clothes from department stores as a disguise before she disappears. Early in the narrative, the missing girl is unearthed, literally, in a flowerbed. The description of detective Henry Gamage spotting in the depression in the earth is absolutely chilling.
We see a wider stratum of NY society than in Daly’s other books, not only behind the facades of the brownstone buildings but also in the old houses that have been divided up into flats, the NY hotels where the rootless wealthy live in suites and the busy department stores where shoppers hustle for the latest bargain. It’s a forgotten classic.
The Wednesday Club by Kjell Westö tr. Neil Smith
The Wednesday Club was on this year’s shortlist for the Petrona Award for Scandinavian crime fiction in translation for which I’m a judge. It’s a book that I feel didn’t receive the attention it should have at the time. The novel tells the story of how a crime is triggered following the chance meeting of two people in a lawyer’s office. While the story can be seen as an individual tragedy, it also takes on larger historical dimensions as the narrative unfolds. I had no idea, for example about the civil war that took place in Finland, the legacy of which influences the events of this book which is set in Helsinki in 1938.
It’s an unusual crime story in as much that the killing doesn’t occur until towards the end of the book. However, the build up to the crime and the human dimension is beautifully explored.
The Owl Service by Alan Garner
I hesitated over this one because, for people of my generation, I suspect Alan Garner is hardly a forgotten author. I grew up in Cheshire and we studied his first novel, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, at school which involved trips out to Alderly Edge to visit the landscape of his books. I came to The Owl Service a little later and it resonates with my Welsh heritage as it takes aspects of a tale from the Mabingogion.
The basis of the story is the discovery in a house in Wales of a dinner service which, when you look closely, is decorated with the features of an owl. The myth affects the lives of three protagonists Alison and her step brother, Roger and Gwyn, the son of the former cook. There’s a wonderful cast of characters including Huw Halfbacon.
I’ve since visited Garner’s house, Toad Hall, next to Jodrell Bank and seen the original owl service plates. It’s a wonderful story which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year.
Thanks Sarah, for this intriguing mix that perhaps includes a hidden reference to Sheffield Wednesday (the Owls)? Are they dangerous to know? I have a confession: my friend Emlyn bought me The Weirdstone of Brisingamen for my eighth birthday…and it has remained on my TBR list ever since. Perhaps time to give it a re-appraisal. We’ll be covering A Patient Fury in due course right here on this site but you can get it now here…and don’t forget to come back next week when another writer names three (largely) hidden classics.