review: annie hauxwell, a bitter taste

As I mentioned in my Melbourne Writers Festival post, there’s an event on tomorrow morning called Crime Through Time. One of the authors is the wonderful Annie Hauxwell, so it seems a good time to post this review from her June release A Bitter Taste.

Frequently in crime books the gritty reality of those in unfortunate circumstances is considered other: the characters used as people to bribe for information or to be killed off with little remorse. In Hauxwell’s Catherine Berlin series, she takes us into a world not every crime reader is prepared for. Berlin is a fifty-six-year-old mostly-high-functioning heroin addict, attempting somewhat to get clean with methadone to assist her physical and internal scarring, and working with little money after her career as a private investigator was ruined. Now unhappy enough to accept crappy jobs and be paid in booze, she carries on through the heat of a blistering summer until an old acquaintance turns up with a request Berlin—the root cause of her downfall—cannot bring herself to refuse: a missing daughter.

Yet another example of how excellently painted main characters and thrilling but not cheap action can plunge you directly into a world: this was a book I really hated to put down, saying “just another chapter” before bed but secretly reading eight more. With London’s grime on show, and Berlin often more at home bunking down with the homeless, trying to find the girl, than in the bright and untrustworthy world of the authorities, this was a book with enough of the originality I so require in crime reads nowadays, and one that I would recommend heartily.

A version of this review was originally published in Readings Monthly.

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