SHADOW OF THE ROCK
Thomas Mogford, Bloomsbury, $29.99
The successful detective novel depends on the interplay between the setting, crime and characters. Here the background is unusual, for Mogford writes of Gibraltar and Tangier. A Sephardic Jew is accused of murdering an heiress in Morocco. He flees to the Rock and an old lawyer friend, Spike. Old forms of corruption meet new technologies, but misogyny still reigns. A new, intriguing voice, but the setting is so intense, it's overpowering.
Neal Stephenson, Atlantic, $32.99
Stephenson the novelist's forte is technology and its history. Here he sidesteps into shorter form, collecting several stories, essays and interviews. They range typically widely. Arsebestos is about the physical dangers of sitting. Elsewhere, he takes a geek's tour of the world, following fibre-optic cables. He shines when connecting the techie dots. His novels can be interminable, so these small bites are attractive, quickly consumed.
NORWEGIAN BY NIGHT
Derek B. Miller, Scribe, $32.95
Miller's debut novel takes some unlikely ingredients that, when thrown together, work. Sheldon Horowitz is 82, an ex-marine, proudly Jewish-American. He relocates to Norway for family. An act of violence reawakens his fighting skills and his conscience. Suddenly he is on the run in a foreign land, with a small child in tow. He is also at the stage of early dementia. Add some Kosovar villains and a dogged detective, and the novel becomes utterly compelling.
BOOK THAT CHANGED ME: Helene Young
SNUGGLEPOT AND CUDDLEPIE
If a gardener can be made and not born, then Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are responsible for my green thumb. May Gibbs' whimsical stories were the start of my love affair with the Australian bush. The Banksia men may have sent me skittering away from shadows, but they also made me look closely at the natural world.
Helene Young is an Australian commercial airline pilot and award-winning author of the romantic suspense novels Wings of Fear and Shattered Sky. Her latest book is Burning Lies (Michael Joseph, $29.95).