A Bitter Taste (Annie Hauxwell, Michael Joseph)
Catherine Berlin, a private investigator with a heroin addiction, is battling the unseasonal heat of London as well as physical scars from an earlier investigation. She is also grappling with the realisation that her career is at its lowest ebb, her only active case being the surveillance of a shopkeeper’s wife. Into this atmosphere comes Sonja Kvist, a fellow addict and woman from Catherine’s past, who is desperately seeking help to find her 10-year-old daughter Princess. Catherine reluctantly begins the search for Princess and soon finds herself ensnared in a world of desperate addicts, corrupt police, informers and, eventually, the National Crime Commission in the character of Snowe, a man perfectly happy to view Catherine as collateral damage. This is UKborn, Australia-based author Anne Hauxwell’s second Catherine Berlin novel, following In her Blood, but it can easily be read as a standalone book. Hauxwell’s characters are desperate people and the environment she has created is unrelentingly bleak, yet I found myself caring about Catherine and impressed by the narrative. This book will appeal to general crime readers, and I would recommend it to fans of Jeffrey Deaver and Gabrielle Lord’s earlier books.
Mary Dalmau is general manager of Reader’s Feast Bookstore in Melbourne and convenor of the annual Crime & Justice festival