Smokey the Cat
Sabine Durrant

Sixty seconds with Sabine Durrant...

Sabine Durrant is a former assistant editor of The Guardian and a former literary editor of the Sunday Times whose feature writing has appeared in numerous British national newspapers and magazines. She has been a magazine profile writer for the Sunday Telegraph and a contributor to The Guardian's family section. She is the author of several books, including Under Your Skin, Lie With Me, and Finders, Keepers. She lives in south London with her husband, the writer Giles Smith, and their three children.

RTE: Describe yourself in a sentence?

Durrant: Tall with a big nose and a slight stoop

RTE: What's the one record you'd take to a desert island?

Durrant: Mozart's Requiem, recording by Christopher Hogwood/ Academy of Ancient Music: it's what I listen to when I'm stuck. And let's face it. I'll be stuck.

RTE: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Durrant: As an only child of a single parent, all I really wanted was to be part of a big family. I've done everything I can since then to correct the balance

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August 27 2023

We're back at last and happy about it too. Since this has been a difficult summer for many, the title of the first book we're reviewing, SUN DAMAGE, by Sabine Durrant, might seem a little too relevant, but the damage is really not due to the sun but done by people under it. Meg Westley enjoyed this both for its evocation of Provence and its handy guide to the successful con.

The simply-titled PET by New Zealand author Catherine Chidgey is one of the best psychological thrillers I've read in a while. It deals with the terrible consequences of an eighth-grade teacher's manipulation of her students' desires to earn her favour and comes to a surprising and dreadful end.

Librarians are often dismissed as a harmless lot, but the two in Laura Sims' HOW MAY I HELP YOU are hardly that. One of them is a former nurse whose patients had a distressing habit of passing away, while the other, fresh out of library school, suspects her and would like to be the one to expose her. Sharon Mensing grants that there is a degree of the implausible about the whole set-up but found it greatly entertaining all the same.

There was a time when "historical thriller" evoked thoughts of a Regency bodice-ripper but those days are past. We've got three this week that examine various bits of America's relatively recent past. The first, THE LINDBERGH NANNY, by Mariah Fredericks, takes a fresh look at the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh's little son through the eyes of the baby's nanny. Jim Napier reports that "the story is woven with considerable skill, and holds the reader in its grip from start to finish." Naomi Hirahara continues her examination of the situation of Japanese-Americans during and just after World War II in EVERGREEN. Barbara Fister admired Hirahara's skill at bringing the little-remembered post-war period to life, seen though her protagonist's eyes. THE SPECTACULAR, by Fiona Davis, adds Rockefeller Center in the 1950s to the list of New York City buildings serving as crime scenes in her series. Ellen Rosewall particularly enjoyed Davis' handling of the details of the Rockettes' performances which, as a former professional herself, she found authoritative.

Set in 1914, A DISAPPEARANCE IN FIJI by Nilima Rao is also an historical, but this time the history evoked is British colonialism. The mystery involves the disappearance of an Indian indentured worker, a "coolie," a woman who has disappeared. Barbara Fister congratulates Soho for bringing us the work of authors around the world so that we can visit a time and place like this that is fascinating but whose dark history is little known.

Rebecca Nesvet was intrigued by Charles Soule's THE ENDLESS VESSEL, an ambitious speculative fiction that travels through time and space. Rebecca predicts it will be made into an epic film as it is "it is heavy on adventure, drama, vastness, and beauty," even if it is a bit light on characterization.

Sharon Mensing admits that she felt a bit disoriented at first when beginning Kris Lackey's TEN-ACRE ROCK, set as it is in a flatland Oklahoma that is populated with "unwashed hippy homesteaders, drunken petty (and not so petty) criminals, and a variety of backwoods folks," but as the book progressed she learned a lot about the area's culture and she will definitely be looking out for the next book in the series.

Gabriel Allon makes his 27th appearance in Daniel Silva's THE COLLECTOR and Anne Corey is pleased to welcome him back. This time his investigation of an art theft and a murder leads to his discovery of a Russian conspiracy that involves the threat of nuclear annihilation. After so many iterations one might have thought Gabriel would be wearing a little thin, but Anne observes that Silva knows just how to fill new readers in on his hero's past without boring his faithful fans.

THE PUZZLE AT BLACKROCK LODGE by Martin Edwards is set in Yorkshire in the 1930s, but appears to be less an historical than a 21st century take on an Agatha Christie Golden Age mystery. Lourdes Venard reports that this one has compelling characters and a fast-paced plot and it should appeal to anyone who enjoys mysteries, whether Golden Age or not. Lourdes also reviews ONE NIGHT, by Georgina Cross, a book with a familiar trope - a group of strangers trapped by a storm in an isolated house. This time, it is a family that is trapped, but not one whose members are really close to one another. And one of them may be a murderer. Lourdes suggests it might be a good choice for someone looking for a quick but entertaining read.

Finally, we come to a pair of book-centred mysteries, these two vetted by Ruth Castleberry. A TROUBLING TAIL, by Laurie Cass features librarian Minnie and her cat Eddie, mascot of the bookmobile. Once again Minnie alternates her librarian duties with her investigation of a recent murder. She keeps Eddie posted on the details of what she finds out, and Ruth enjoyed the exposition. A CRYPTIC CLUE, which launches Victoria Gilbert's new Hunter & Clewe mystery series, features a retired librarian who takes a job with a much younger book collector who needs help organizing his purchases. This time, it is the librarian, Jane Hunter, who does the investigating, employing her professional skills as Cam Clewe is wrongfully suspected of the murder. Ruth concludes that this is a compelling debut and looks forward to further entries.

Our guest this month in the 60 Seconds is Sabine Durrant and you really should not miss her answers to our not exactly probing questions

We'll be back toward the end of September with a new batch of books and hope you'll join us. In the meantime, don't hesitate to get in touch if you have something you'd like us to know.

The Editors:

Yvonne Klein

Rebecca Nesvet

P.S. If you wish to submit a book for review, please check here before contacting us. Please note that we do not review self-published books.

Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.

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Since RTE first appeared, some twelve years ago, the business of books has changed out of all recognition. Then, books were reviewed in the print media for the most part, though Amazon was encouraging readers to post their reviews of the books they read. Now, newspapers across North America have reduced or eliminated the space they allot to books and, with certain notable exceptions, only best-selling authors are likely to get noticed. As a result, electronic reviewing has become increasingly important and, due to the somewhat slippery question of online authorship, occasionally problematic.

For this reason and in view of a recent article in the NY Times detailing a reviews-for-hire enterprise, it's probably wise for RTE to reiterate its position on reviewing. While our reviewers receive galleys, ARCs, or finished copies of books for review, they are otherwise unpaid. Furthermore, they are asked to disclose any special interest they might have in a book or an author they are reviewing. No one, including the editors, receives any compensation for the work they do. All our reviewers are encouraged to express their honest opinions, whether positive or negative, about the books they are reviewing. None of our reviewers uses a pseudonym and all are who they say they are. Nor do we employ rating systems (stars, grades, "highly recommended," or the like) in the belief that our reviews deserve to be read in their entirety. Since RTE does not review self-published or digital-only releases, we are perhaps less vulnerable to offers to pay for reviews, but it seems a good idea to make our policy clear. Finally, in the years that I've been editing RTE, I have never once been approached by a press or a publicist to violate this principle in any way.

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