A Bitter Taste by Annie Hauxwell

In crime fiction, the downtrodden are frequently used as asides – bribed for information or killed off with little remorse. Annie Hauxwell’s A Bitter Taste takes us into their world, one that not every crime reader might be prepared for.

Catherine Berlin is a 56-year-old mostly high-functioning heroin addict. She’s trying to get clean with methadone to heal 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 that Berlin cannot bring herself to refuse: a missing daughter.

A Bitter Taste is yet another example of how excellently painted characters and thrilling action that doesn’t resort to cheap tricks can plunge you directly into a world. I hated putting this one down, often saying ‘just another chapter’ before bed and then secretly reading eight more.

London’s grime is on show and Berlin is often more at home bunking down with the homeless than in the bright and untrustworthy world of the authorities. This book has enough to differentiate itself to make it a stand-out in the genre.

Fiona Hardy puts together Dead Write for the Readings Monthly.