“After all, how much trouble could a convent full of nuns be?” Cesare Aldo, an officer of Florence’s criminal court, is at first dismissive in his approach to the women of Santa Maria Magdalena. However, he soon realises they are varied, complex, and far from compliant. The victim’s body is cold but swamped in still-wet blood, there has been a theft of vestments, one of the nuns appears to have stigmata, and one in the convent might be a murderer.
Auckland in the time of Covid, and the lockdowns have made work even more precarious than usual for Vishal and Kavita. Vishal has been driving taxis since he lost his marketing job a few years back, he works evening-into-night shifts so he can be with their two young children, Aarani and Bhavan, while Kavita works as an accounts clerk. Ashwin, their friend of many years, is an engineer in a company riding the boom of post-earthquake building assessments, but he is not fulfilled in his job, due to systemic, casual, racism
Carmel is approaching her 40th birthday. She is noticing the odd wrinkle, and she occasionally feels unattractive. She is torn between her job at the Grand Palais - and her relationship with Rita, the madam – and the possibility of going into a legitimate business and a romantic relationship, with Istvan, the barman and handyman at the brothel. But a gruesome murder, threatening phone calls, a wayward nephew, and a minx who seems intent on supplanting her, give Carmel plenty of other things to worry about.
Set in a future where the inhabitants of Earth have ventured out into the universe and formed diplomatic ties with a number of alien races, this series see the members of Squad 312, the misfits of the Aurora Legion, pitted against an evil that has been slumbering through the centuries, awaiting the right moment to bloom and take over the universe.
Emily Kirkland never felt close to her father, Dr Felix Kirkland. So, when his neighbour calls her from Aotearoa to say her father is struggling on his own and can she return to help, she thinks it would be “easier to talk to him when he’s dead.” However, as she has no pressing commitments in London, she decides to give her father three weeks. As her time with him stretches out, she learns things about him, and the disappearance of the neighbour’s daughter Leah, that leads to her “becoming very, very afraid of the truth”.
Marshall Grade is living in New York, passing his time solving really hard Jackson Pollock jigsaw puzzles, when an old buddy from his Brooklyn South, NYPD days, Ray Vialoux, asks to meet him. Ray is deep in gambling debt, and his family are being threatened. Grade knows “Data has a gravity. There’d be a point where he’d learned too much, and couldn’t just walk away from the problem.”
Paul is at a writers’ retreat in 2019, writing pieces in response to prompts, pieces from his life, from the stories he used to tell his daughter. Paul remembers episodes from 2011, in reverse chronological order, it is the year he got to know Anise, the woman he would marry. In no particular year, Paul is disoriented: “Was memory loss expected? Maybe you have forgotten you expected it, or will expect it.” He can’t remember his name. He has a photograph of Anise and his young daughter, whose name also escapes him.
A woman is waiting at Auckland International Airport for her parents to arrive. She thinks of them impatiently: “Dad off on his walks, and Mum busy with her cousins, her friends, her legions of family.” Adam is on an island somewhere in the Pacific, desperate to get home - his younger daughter, Naomi, is very sick, and he longs to be with her, but things keep obstructing his departure. Eve looks back on her life and her relationships. She is the daughter of a missionary to Samoa who never went back to England. Eve never wanted, and still doesn’t want, to leave the place of her birth, but she determines she must help Adam leave her island – her paradise.
It is a good winter for Olga. She has befriended Lara, and is spending most days helping her look after her daughter Sophie, and Sophie’s son Michael. Sophie is experiencing post-natal depression and finding it hard to care for her son, and she is still mourning the death of her husband. Lara has left her part-time job, so she and Olga spend most days in a routine of caring for Lara’s family. Olga has found her soul mate: “We’re both roll-up-your-sleeves-and-make-a-pot-of-tea kind of people.”