The best books that give an unexpected twist to a familiar situation

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up on farms, and have experienced the undercurrents that exist in small villages, which is why I like crime novels with rural settings. I worked as a couple counsellor for a while, which taught me that no fictional character can quite equal the real quirks and inconsistencies of real people—but I love those books which get close. Charles Dickens probably does it best! In my own novels I try to achieve something approaching this, in characters who break away from stereotypes and behave unpredictably. I like to think I manage to be witty sometimes, tooI really love humour, especially when it’s wordplay or subtly ironic.


I wrote...

A Cotswold Killing

By Rebecca Tope,

Book cover of A Cotswold Killing

What is my book about?

This is the first title in the Thea Osborne Cotswolds series. It is set in Duntisbourne Abbots, a small village in the Cotswolds. Thea and her faithful spaniel are house-sitting in an area they don’t know at all. On the first night she is woken by a scream, and the next day finds a body in the garden. Being of an inquisitive disposition and finding the job rather boring, she sets out to conduct her own amateur investigation into who committed the murder. More by accident than skill she proves of great value to the policeand finds herself falling for the main detective on the case. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Half Broken Things

Rebecca Tope Why did I love this book?

This book caught my attention because it involves a house-sitter, just as my series does. But Morag’s story could not be more different. It depicts a terrible sequence of events arising from an innocent house-sitting assignment and a growing love for the place, which I as a reader very much shared. The house itself becomes both the setting and the main threat to the well-being of the ‘half-broken’ characters. The story is hauntingly compelling, the characters deeply likeable, and the writing a real delight. This has been one of my great favourites ever since I first read it.

By Morag Joss,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Half Broken Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A gripping tale of psychological suspense perfect for the readership of Minette Walters and Ruth Rendell, Half Broken Things is a novel that peers into the lives of three dangerously lost people…and the ominous haven they find when they find each other.

Jean is a house sitter at the end of a dreary career. Steph is nine months pregnant and on the run. And Michael is a thief. Through a mixture of deceit, good luck, and misfortune, these three damaged loners have come together at a secluded country home called Walden Manor. Now all three have found what they needed…


Book cover of The Dry

Rebecca Tope Why did I love this book?

Set in Australia, the story opens with a dead man lying in the desert heat. The quest to discover who he is, and what happened to him provide a most satisfying read, involving family feuds and community tensions. I can’t think of another book where I was so desperate to learn what had led to the man’s death—the back story, the reasons and the truth of the various family relationships. The central character is endearing and the slow realisations that dawn on the reader are handled with great skill. I have been to Northern and Western Australia a number of times, so could visualise the setting very well. I am fascinated by the lives of those living in such a hostile environment.

By Jane Harper,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Dry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'One of the most stunning debuts I've ever read...Read it!' David Baldacci

'Packed with sneaky moves and teasing possibilities that keep the reader guessing...The Dry is a breathless page-turner' Janet Maslin, New York Times

THE SIMON MAYO RADIO 2 BOOK CLUB CHOICE
AUSTRALIA INDIE BOOK OF THE YEAR 2017
AUSTRALIA INDIE DEBUT OF THE YEAR 2017

WHO REALLY KILLED THE HADLER FAMILY?

I just can't understand how someone like him could do something like that.

Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, it hasn't rained in small country town Kiewarra for two years. Tensions in the community…


Book cover of Still Life

Rebecca Tope Why did I love this book?

Set in Canada, this book features my favourite police detective of them all—Armand Gamache. This is the first of a series, and I liked it the best of them all. Gamache is utterly lovable, and even years after reading the book I can still enjoy thinking about him. Again, a small community is shaken by the violent death of one of its residents. There is a subtle thread of morality and ‘right behaviour’ throughout, which adds another dimension to the story, along with a touch of gentle humour. It is one of the most ‘ feel-good’ novels I can remember.

By Louise Penny,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Still Life as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In Still Life, bestselling author Louise Penny introduces Monsieur L'Inspecteur Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec, a modern Poirot who anchors this beloved traditional mystery series.

Winner of the New Blood Dagger, Arthur Ellis, Barry, Anthony, and Dilys awards.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain…


Book cover of A Grave Talent

Rebecca Tope Why did I love this book?

Another murder mystery set in a small peaceful communitythis time near San Francisco. It is the first featuring Kate Martinelli as the detective, who is new to the job. I found the characters totally credible and appealing, and the theme of portrait painting as a way of revealing the depths of someone’s personality was powerfully well done. It stayed with me long after I finished, and is wonderfully original. Laurie R. King is very prolific, and I find the quality of her work quite variable. But when she’s good, she’s fantastic.

By Laurie R. King,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Grave Talent as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

THE EDGAR AWARD-WINNING NOVEL
THE FIRST KATE MARTINELLI MYSTERY

In Laurie R. King's Grave Talent, the unthinkable has happened in a small community outside of San Francisco. A series of shocking murders has occurred, the victims far too innocent and defenseless. For lesbian Detective Kate Martinelli, just promoted to Homicide and paired with a seasoned cop who's less than thrilled to be handed a green partner, it's a difficult case that just keeps getting harder.

Then the police receive what appears to be a case-breaking lead: it seems that one of the residents of this odd colony is Vaun Adams,…


Book cover of The Girls

Rebecca Tope Why did I love this book?

Two young women set up a gift shop in a quiet rural village and deal with any threats to their security in their own outrageous fashion. This is hilarious and utterly original. A short marvellous romp, where nothing is off limits. The basic storyline resembles that of my book with a very different but equally delightful treatment. John Bowen wrote several brilliant novels, and I love them all. I think it’s a great shame that he is almost forgotten, when his stories are so enjoyable. He breaks rules, can be very shocking, and always surprising, with delicious twists and turns.

By John Bowen,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Girls as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Janet Hallas and Susan Burt, who run a gift shop in a village in England's agricultural Midlands, experience a chain of events encompassing the joys of parenthood, the contentment of country life--and a dead body in the septic tank


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Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

By Felice Picano,

Book cover of Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

Felice Picano Author Of Six Strange Stories and an Essay on H.P. Lovecraft

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author

Felice's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Bold, funny, and shockingly honest, Ambidextrous is like no other memoir of 1950s urban childhood.

Picano appears to his parents and siblings to be a happy, cheerful eleven-year-old possessed of the remarkable talent of being able to draw beautifully and write fluently with either hand. But then he runs into the mindless bigotry of a middle school teacher who insists that left-handedness is "wrong," and his idyllic world falls apart.

He uncovers the insatiable appetites of a trio of neighboring sisters, falls for another boy with a glue-sniffing habit, and discovers the hidden world of adult desire and hypocrisy. Picano…

Ambidextrous: The Secret Lives of Children

By Felice Picano,

What is this book about?

Bold, funny, and shockingly honest, Ambidextrous is like no other memoir of 1950s urban childhood. Picano appears to his parents and siblings to be a happy, cheerful eleven-year-old, possessed of the remarkable talent of being able to draw beautifully and write fluently with either hand. But then he runs into the mindless bigotry of a middle school teacher who insists that left-handedness is "wrong," and his idyllic world falls apart. He uncovers the insatiable appetites of a trio of neighboring sisters, falls for another boy with a glue-sniffing habit, and discovers the hidden world of adult desire and hypocrisy. Picano…


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