For your reading delectation, I present these book pairings:
Both of these books at set in France in 1940, just after the Nazi invasion in June. Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française is looks at different characters affected by the sudden coming of war, based on what happened to the author. Jo Baker’s A Country Road, A Tree, is also based on an author’s life. It tells Samuel Beckett’s wartime story as though he was a character in one of his own sparely written existentialist works. The fact that these books are based on real history makes them especially gripping reading.
These books might have been written just for me. They both explore the tension between the law and justice. The main characters in these novels are criminals. In The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, the eponymous character is on death row for murder, but there’s some question about whether she’s actually guilty. There’s a similar question about the protagonist in The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau. Both characters end up punished for what they were accused of, and they both have criminal deeds in their background, but we are asked to ponder whether it’s just to be punished for the wrong crime.
I think of these books as opposite sides of the same coin. They have similar crimes at their heart: a man is murdered and there are a bunch of suspects, all with good motives for killing the man. There are also trains. While we learn who-done-it in Murder on the Orient Express, we never do in Somebody at the Door. Both novels are masterful explorations of the classic mystery. The murder itself is complex. Every clue might be genuine or a red herring. But the difference in the solutions (or the lack of solutions) makes one wonder about what might send someone over the edge to commit murder.