30 November 2017

Review: OCTOBER IS THE COLDEST MONTH, Christopher Carlsson

  • this edition a review copy from Scribe Publications 2016
  • translated from Swedish by Rachel Willson-Aroyles
  • ISBN 978-1-925322-21-7
  • 181 pages
Synopsis (Publisher)

Vega Gillberg is 16 years old when the police come knocking on the door looking for her older brother, Jakob.

Vega hasn’t heard from him in days, but she has to find him before the police do. Jakob was involved in a terrible crime. What no one knows is that Vega was there, too.

In the rural Swedish community where the Gillbergs live, life is tough, the people are even tougher, and old feuds never die. As Vega sets out to find her brother, she must survive a series of threatening encounters in a deadly landscape. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s dealing with the longing she feels for a boy that she has sworn to forget, and the mixed-up feelings she has for her brother’s best friend.

During a damp, raw week in October, the door to the adult world swings open, and Vega realises that once she has crossed the threshold there is no turning back.

My take

Several incidents in this novel ensure that the innocence of Vega's childhood has gone forever. She has had a tough childhood anyway but the going from now one threatens to be even tougher. She lives with her mother who works in a bar at night, her uncle Dan sells moonshine, assisted by her brother Jakob who has left home.

Her brother becomes an accessory to a crime that puts the police on his trail, and Vega needs to know what actually happened and why.

I found this a complex and rather bleak novel. In the end I kept thinking that the future for Vega cannot be good. The book blurb says it is the author's first for young adult readers, and there are certainly some provoking "coming of age" elements.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Christoffer Carlsson was born in 1986 and raised in Halmstad, on the west coast of Sweden. He has a PhD in criminology, and is a university lecturer in the subject. He began writing at a very young age and has, since his debut at twenty-three, written five novels in the crime genre. October is the Coldest Month is his first book for young adults. In 2013, he became the youngest author ever to have won the award for Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year, which he was awarded for the first book in the celebrated Leo Junker series, The Invisible Man from Salem .

27 November 2017

Review: AN IRON ROSE, Peter Temple

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 641 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Text Publishing (April 26, 2012)
  • Publication Date: April 26, 2012
  • first published 1998
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007CAJX2C
Synopsis  (Amazon)

The classic thriller by the five-time winner of the Ned Kelly Award. Introduction by Les Carlyon.

When Mac Faraday's best friend is found hanging, the assumption is suicide. But Mac is far from convinced, and he's a man who knows not to accept things at face value.

A regular at the local pub, a mainstay of the footy team, Mac is living the quiet life of a country blacksmith - a life connected to a place, connected to its people.

But Mac carries a burden of fear and vigilance from his old life.
And as this past of secrets, corruption, abuse and murder begins to close in, he must turn to long-forgotten resources to hang on to everything he holds dear, including his own life.

'When men in police uniforms came to execute me on the roadside, beside dark fields, it was a definite sign that my new life was over.' A regular at the local pub, a mainstay of the footy team, Mac Faraday is a man with a past living the quiet life of a country blacksmith. But when his best friend Ned Lowey is found hanged, Mac - who has learned the hard way never to accept things at face value - isn't convinced he committed suicide and starts asking questions. Why did Ned keep press cuttings about the skeleton of a girl found in an old mine shaft? What was he doing at Kinross Hall, the local detention centre for juvenile girls? Who was the beaten girl found naked beside a lonely road? As Mac's search for answers pushes deeper into the past, it resurrects the terrifying spectre of what he calls his 'old life', forcing him to turn to long-discarded skills not only to discover why his best friend died, but also to save his own life.

My Take

AN IRON ROSE was Peter Temple's second novel, a stand alone that followed BAD DEBTS which was his first in the Jack Irish series. I thought that there were many similarities between Jack Irish and Mac Faraday.

Faraday is a former Federal policeman who was forced to resign and start a new life after a drugs job went horribly wrong. He never understood how things went so badly and always blamed himself, his own lack of concentration and intuition. Since leaving the police force he has managed to lead a private life, but when his neighbour and friend Ned dies he decides to call in some favours. He is not satisfied with the verdict of suicide for Ned's death. His actions alert those who believe he knows too much to where he is and sets the ball rolling.

This was a very good read and made me very aware of the fact that there are a number of Peter Temple novels that I have not caught up with.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

More about Peter Temple
In 2007 Australian crime fiction writer Peter Temple was the first Australian author to win the UK Crime Writer's Association Duncan Lawrie Dagger award - popularly known as the Gold Dagger - for his novel THE BROKEN SHORE, published 2005.

Mini Reviews (written before I began this blog)
I began 2006 and 2007 in a similar fashion when I gave Temple's THE BROKEN SHORE a rating of 5 at the beginning of each year. Here are my mini reviews:

Joe Cashin was different once. He moved easily then; was surer and less thoughtful. But there are consequences when you've come so close to dying. For Cashin, they included a posting away from the world of Homicide to the quiet place on the coast where he grew up. Now all he has to do is play the country cop and walk the dogs. And sometimes think about how he was before. Then prominent local Charles Bourgoyne is bashed and left for dead. Everything seems to point to three boys from the nearby Aboriginal community; everyone seems to want it to. But Cashin is unconvinced. And as tragedy unfolds relentlessly into tragedy, he finds himself holding onto something that might be better let go.

(re-read) Joe Cashin was once a hot shot homicide detective in Melbourne. But he went with his gut feeling once too often and a young policeman ended up dead and Joe himself was left in critical condition. Now he has been sent to his home town, where nothing ever happens, to be in charge of a small police station, so that he can work while recuperating. A prominent local is bashed and left for dead in what appears to be a burglary gone wrong. All the signs point to local aboriginal youths and the town is only too ready to assume they are responsible. Bringing them in results in tragedy and Joe is suspended, but that doesn't mean he stops working. 2005 Ned Kelly Award winner.

Peter Temple books

Jack Irish
1. Bad Debts (1996)
2. Black Tide (2000)
3. Dead Point (2000)
4. White Dog (2003)

Broken Shore
1. The Broken Shore (2005)
2. Truth (2008)

An Iron Rose (1998)
Shooting Star (1999)
In the Evil Day (2002) 

26 November 2017

Review: A MAN'S HEAD, Georges Simenon - audio book

  • source: audible.com
  • Maigret #5
  • translated by , Frank Wynne
  • Narrated by: Gareth Armstrong
  • Length: 3 hrs and 43 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Release date: 07-25-14
  • Language: English 
  • originally published 1931
Synopsis (audible.com)

Slowly the Czech was becoming animated, but in a muted way, so typical of the man. Maigret now noticed his hands, which were long, surprisingly white, and dotted with freckles. They seemed to reach out and take part in the conversation. 'Let's be clear that it's not your professionalism which I question. If you understand nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, it's because from the very start you've been working with facts which had been falsified.'
Set in the in the atmospheric and squalid streets of Paris, Maigret sets out to prove the innocence of a man condemned to death for a brutal murder. In another one of Maigret's unconventional and audacious plans, he arranges the escape of the condemned man in an attempt to prove his theory. The presumed murderer goes on the run across Paris and its suburbs, dropping misleading clues along the way and leading Maigret into the labyrinthine twists of the mystery. Maigret is in for more than he bargained for, as he encounters rich American expatriates, dangerous foreigners and their hidden motives. 

My Take

Maigret puts his career on the line when he arranges the escape from prison of a convicted murderer on the night before his execution. The prisoner has been not able to tell the authorities anything other than protest his innocence. Maigret is hoping he will lead them to the real murderer.

But it is one thing finding the possible murderer and quite another to get him to confess, or to discover why the murder was committed.

My rating: 4.2

I've also reviewed
4.4, MAIGRET & the MAN on the BOULEVARD
4.3, LOCK NO 1. Maigret #18

Review: WIMMERA, Mark Brandi

  • this edition published 2017 by Hachette Australia
  • ISBN 978-0-7336-3845-9
  • 262 pages
  • source: my local library
  • winner of a variety of awards including 2016 CWA Debut Dagger (UK)
Synopsis (publisher)

In the long, hot summer of 1989, Ben and Fab are best friends.

Growing up in a small country town, they spend their days playing cricket, yabbying in local dams, wanting a pair of Nike Air Maxes and not talking about how Fab's dad hits him or how the sudden death of Ben's next-door neighbour unsettled him. Almost teenagers, they already know some things are better left unsaid.

Then a newcomer arrived in the Wimmera. Fab reckoned he was a secret agent and he and Ben staked him out. Up close, the man's shoulders were wide and the veins in his arms stuck out, blue and green. His hands were enormous, red and knotty. He looked strong. Maybe even stronger than Fab's dad. Neither realised the shadow this man would cast over both their lives.

Twenty years later, Fab is still stuck in town, going nowhere but hoping for somewhere better. Then a body is found in the river, and Fab can't ignore the past any more.

My take

This novel depicts life in a small town in Victoria at the end of the 1980s very well. Ben and Fab are at primary school, best mates, and then a man moves into the house next door to Ben's family. He seems to monopolise such a lot of Ben's time and he makes Fab uncomfortable.

And then primary school finishes and Ben goes off to secondary school in a different town and the boys hardly see each other. Twenty years later Fab still lives with his mother and his life generally seems to have reached an all time low.

Part One of the novel is told in Ben's young voice while Part Two is told by the adult Fab.  It is a clever technique. The reader wonders what it was that estranged the boys from each other. In Part Three we put together the secret they have been keeping for twenty years.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Mark Brandi has been published, broadcast and shortlisted in journals and competitions both locally and overseas. Originally from Marche, growing up Italian in a rural Victorian town influences much of his work. Mark graduated from a criminal justice degree and his career includes roles as a policy advisor and project officer in the Department of Justice, before changing direction and deciding to write. Mark's writing has appeared in THE GUARDIAN, THE AGE, the BIG ISSUE, and is often broadcast on Radio National. He is the winner of the 2016 UK Crime Writers' Association Debut Dagger for his first novel, WIMMERA, which he developed during two residential fellowships at Varuna.

25 November 2017

Review: DYING TO LIVE, Michael Stanley

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 794 KB
  • Print Length: 300 pages
  • Publisher: ORENDA BOOKS (May 2, 2017)
  • Publication Date: May 2, 2017
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B06ZYLGV42
  • #6 in the Inspector Kubu series
Synopsis (Amazon)

When the body of a Bushman is discovered near the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the death is written off as an accident. But all is not as it seems. An autopsy reveals that, although he's clearly very old, his internal organs are puzzlingly young. What's more, an old bullet is lodged in one of his muscles ... but where is the entry wound? When the body is stolen from the morgue and a local witch doctor is reported missing, Detective 'Kubu' Bengu gets involved. But did the witch doctor take the body to use as part of a ritual? Or was it the American anthropologist who'd befriended the old Bushman?

As Kubu and his brilliant young colleague, Detective Samantha Khama, follow the twisting trail through a confusion of rhino-horn smugglers, foreign gangsters and drugs manufacturers, the wider and more dangerous the case seems to grow. A fresh, new slice of 'Sunshine Noir', Dying to Live is a classic tale of greed, corruption and ruthless thuggery, set in one of the world's most beautiful landscapes, and featuring one of crime fiction's most endearing and humane detectives.

My take

As you can see from the list below, I have followed the development of thise series from the very beginning, and enjoyed Kubu's growth as a detective.

As the average life span in the Western world increases, and our financial advisers carefully measure our pension plans against our life expectancy, it is interesting to note that there are some ethnic groups such as the Bushmen of the Kalahari where lifestyle and bush medicines ensure longevity. The body of the Bushman found in the Kalahari Game Reserve presents a puzzle: an unmistakeably old body containing surprisingly youthful looking organs. Nor has he, it seems, died of natural causes.

Kubu finds that there are others missing too, and investigation shows that perhaps all the cases are related.

If you are a follower of Precious Ramotswe you will have seen one side of the justice system in Botswana. It is interesting that in the Kubu novels the setting is also Botswana, and the two series often share locations. It is like having a coin with two different sides. However the Kubu novels are definitely not cozies, and yet both sets of novels refer to the current problems of this small African nation. And I enjoy both!

My rating: 4.6

I've also read
4.5, DETECTIVE KUBU INVESTIGATES: a collection of short stories

20 November 2017

Review: A NECESSARY EVIL, Abir Mukherjee

  • format: kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2122 KB
  • Print Length: 380 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1911215132
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (June 1, 2017)
  • Publication Date: June 1, 2017
  • Sold by: PRH UK
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01K6RP0MO
Synopsis (Amazon)

India, 1920. Captain Wyndham and Sergeant Banerjee of the Calcutta Police Force investigate the dramatic assassination of a Maharajah's son.

The fabulously wealthy kingdom of Sambalpore is home to tigers, elephants, diamond mines and the beautiful Palace of the Sun. But when the heir to the throne is assassinated in the presence of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant 'Surrender-Not' Banerjee, they discover a kingdom riven with suppressed conflict. Prince Adhir was a moderniser whose attitudes - and romantic relationship - may have upset the more religious elements of his country, while his brother – now in line to the throne – appears to be a feckless playboy.

As Wyndham and Banerjee desperately try to unravel the mystery behind the assassination, they become entangled in a dangerous world where those in power live by their own rules and those who cross their paths pay with their lives. They must find a murderer, before the murderer finds them…

My Take

Not much time has elapsed since the first book of this series. In the background is the unrest generated by the Indian independence movement. To assuage the growing clamour for Home Rule, the British government in India has come up with the idea of an Indian House of Lords called the Chamber of Princes. All the native princes are being invited to join, and it is important that the wealthiest did so. The Maharajah of Sambalpore, even though the state is amongst the smallest, is billed as among the wealthiest princes. His eldest son Crown Prince Adhir went to school with Sergeant Banerjee and has requested a meeting with him in Calcutta. Adhir is against joining the Chamber of Princes. He has also received some threatening letters, which ironically he can't read as they are in local script. On their way back to their hotel the prince is assassinated.

Having set the scene in Calcutta in 1920, the novel really makes very little use of the political turmoil of the time. Instead Wyndham and Banerjee become embroiled in local politics in Sambalpore, chasing down the person behind the prince's assassination.

The novel provides an interesting depiction of the contrast between the old way of life and the new. The Maharajah and his court behave as if there is no threat to their way of life or their social status. In some ways the novel is a police procedural but Wyndham and Banerjee tread a fine line between what the British Raj wants to do, and what it can achieve without upseting local protocols.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read 4.4, A RISING MAN

16 November 2017

Review: MURDER IN LITTLE SHENDON, A. H. Richardson

  • this edition published in 2015 by Serano Press USA
  • ISBN 978-1515283973
  • 248 pages
  • source: copy provided the publisher
Synopsis (provided by publisher)

The Hazlitt/Brandon series of murder mystery novels follows a pair of clever, colorful and charismatic sleuths - Sir Victor Hazlitt and Beresford Brandon – as they scratch their heads searching for clues to figure out whodunit.

The first book in the series, Murder in Little Shendon, is a thriller murder mystery which takes place in a quaint little village in England after World War Two.

Picture, if you will, a picturesque village called Little Shendon, suddenly caught up in dealing with a murder of one of its citizens — not a particularly well-liked one at that. Which makes it all the more intriguing because the list of suspects becomes very long. This tantalizing tale unfolds with twists and turns to find out whodunit to Mr. Bartholomew Fynche, the murdered shopkeeper.

Fear grips the community as the investigation slowly progresses. Everyone is interviewed; everyone is suspect! From his housekeeper to Lady Armstrong and her household staff. Or could it be the shy librarian new in town? Or the defiant retired army major and his ladyfriend, the post mistress? Or perhaps the weird sisters who live on the edge of town? Then there is the couple who own the local inn and pub, along with the two Americans who are staying there? Even the vicar and his wife fall under the gloom of suspicion.

Uncertainty, wariness, and terror reign as neighbors watch neighbors to discover the evil that permeates their upturned lives. No one feels safe in this charming little village. Who is the murderer? And why was this strange uncivil man dispatched in such a seemingly civil community?

A murder mystery that will keep you reading until you learn the details, uncovered by Police Inspector Stanley Burgess and his two amateur detectives, Sir Victor Hazlitt and Beresford Brandon. The three sift methodically through the Alibis and life stories of the suspects until they uncover…

You are challenged to discover the culprit before the last few pages. And no fair looking ahead — it’s the journey that proves the most enticing.

My Take

Murdered antiquarian/shopkeeper Bartholomew Fynche had many enemies and almost no friends. He had dealt many a local resident a nasty blow in the past and many of them were in his shop the morning before his death, there to remind him of what he owed them. By the time they came back in the afternoon someone had beaten them to it. He was dead.

Although this novel follows an almost classic formula - make a list of possible suspects and then eliminate them one by one - this novel is unusual in that it has three detectives, two of them amateurs, working together and independently, and then at the end, when they are sure of their ground, a Poirot-style denouement.

At the beginning there are almost no clues to the identity of the murderer, but then the murderer slips up when he murders a second person who had seen something that she couldn't explain.

In the end I too thought I knew who the murderer was, although there were several good red herrings.

This is the first in the Hazlitt/Brandon series: there are already two more: ACT ONE, SCENE ONE - MURDER, and MURDER AT SERENITY FARM

All 3 books are available for Kindle.

My rating: 4.3

About the author

A.H. Richardson was born in London England and is the daughter of famous pianist and composer Clive Richardson. She studied drama and acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She was an actress, a musician, a painter and sculptor, and now an Author.

In addition to the Hazlitt Brandon series, she is also the author of a series of children’s chapter books, the Jorie series, which includes Jorie and the Magic Stones, Jorie and the Gold Key, and Jorie and the River of Fire.

A.H. Richardson lives happily in East Tennessee, her adopted state, and has three sons, three grandchildren, and two pugs. She speaks four languages and loves to do voiceovers. She plans on writing many more books and hopes to delight her readers further with her British twist, which all her books have.

Readers can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

To learn more, go to https://ahrichardson.com/

12 November 2017


  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 390 KB
  • Print Length: 160 pages
  • Publisher: The Bartram Partnership (July 3, 2017)
  • Publication Date: July 3, 2017
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • #2 of The Morning, Noon and Night Trilogy
Synopsis (Amazon)

Welcome to Brighton, England - where they do like to murder beside the seaside…

Don't you just hate it when you go on a foreign trip - and then someone tries to kill you?

Ace crime reporter Colin Crampton thinks he's wrapped up a story that began with a robbery and ended with a murder. He's filed his copy. Job done.

But that was before he hit on a new clue - which takes him on a foreign trip and into more danger than he's ever known.

Before long, Colin discovers his hunt for the truth has dumped him right into the middle of a conspiracy he could never have foreseen.

As he battles to find a way out of danger, he meets a stripper with a pet python, a clumsy assassin who kills the wrong people, and a slot machine salesman with less luck than his punters.

If you enjoy books by authors like Janet Evanovich, M C Beaton and Simon Brett, you'll soon be hooked by the mix of murder, mystery and mirth in this second book in the Colin Crampton Morning Noon & Night trilogy. Come and join the fun…

My Take

This novella is the second in a trilogy, so you really must read the first for it to make any sense at all. As with the first, this is a fairly light fluffy cozy with a murder or two thrown in.

Reporter Colin Crampton's search for the identity of local criminal leads him to the Big Apple, and more unlikely events.

Just a bit of fun, light reading.

My rating: 4.1

I've already read

9 November 2017

Review: A TALENT FOR MURDER, Andrew Wilson

  • This edition published by Simon & Schuster 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-4711-4822-4
  • 403 Pages
  • Source: my local library
Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

`I wouldn't scream if I were you. Unless you want the whole world to learn about your husband and his mistress.' 

Agatha Christie, in London to visit her literary agent, boards a train, preoccupied and flustered in the knowledge that her husband Archie is having an affair. She feels a light touch on her back, causing her to lose her balance, then a sense of someone pulling her to safety from the rush of the incoming train.

So begins a terrifying sequence of events. Her rescuer is no guardian angel; rather, he is a blackmailer of the most insidious, manipulative kind. Agatha must use every ounce of her cleverness and resourcefulness to thwart an adversary determined to exploit her genius for murder to kill on his behalf.

My Take

In the past I have written about what I call "coat-tails" books, those that attach themselves to the success of others. I think this is one such book. To be honest, I wouldn't have read it if it wasn't for the reference to Agatha Christie in the blurb. And yet the allure is very strong. I'm not sure there is even a grain of truth in its explanation of what happened to Agatha Christie in those days in which she disappeared in 1926. And yet the book is very persuasive.

This novel opens with an "Editor's Note", from someone called John Davison. He tells readers that the novel is the result of an agreement between himself and Mrs Christie.

When I first mentioned the idea of this book to her, she was understandably reluctant. However, she agreed to be interviewed on condition that the resulting volume should not be published until at least forty years after her death. I too served my solicitors with notice to the same effect.

So here is the first of the puzzles this novel, mainly using Agatha Christie as narrator. It is indeed 41 years since the death of Agatha Christie.

This work of fiction presents a story of what caused her disappearance in 1926. The author says that he tried to "make sure the facts surrounding Agatha's disappearance in 1926 were as accurate as possible." He has even included real characters from the time, including Archie Christie, and the police detective William Kenward.

So, read it for yourself, and judge how successful you think it is in presenting a plausible story.

The final chapter in the book is the first chapter of A DIFFERENT KIND OF EVIL, Andrew Wilson's next Agatha Christie adventure.

My rating: 4.4

Find out more about The Agatha Christie Reading Challenge

Here is a list of Agatha Christie novels, and Agatha Christie related books, that I have read.

5 November 2017

Review: THE GHOST, Robert Harris - audio book

Synopsis (Publisher's summary)

The moment I heard how McAra died I should have walked away. I can see that now...

The narrator of Robert Harris's gripping new novel is a professional ghostwriter - cynical, mercenary, and with a nice line in deadpan humour. Accustomed to working with fading rock stars and minor celebrities, he jumps at the chance to ghost the memoirs of Britain's former prime minister, especially as it means flying to the American resort of Martha's Vineyard in the middle of winter and finishing the book in the seclusion of a luxurious house.

But it doesn't take him long to realise he has made a terrible mistake. His predecessor on the project died in circumstances that were distinctly suspicious, and the ex-prime minister turns out to be a man with secrets in his past that are returning to haunt him - secrets with the power to kill.

My Take

I've probably missed all the political implications of  this contemporary thriller (see more), but it certainly is a good read. We never find out who the ghost writer is, but he finds out that his predecessor has recently died, and that he must work on the manuscript in the house where his subject, a recently unseated British prime minister, is staying. Not only that, but the timeline for completing the work is incredibly short.  

The ghost writer realises that this is yet another boring autobiography. There is no personal interest to hook the reader and he feels that he will need to cull much of the existing text and find something new as the opening hook. In his quest to be thorough he discovers that much of the text written by his predecessor is not true at all. And then an international news item brings the "hook".

The text is superbly narrated by Michael Jayston.

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

Review: BARKING DOGS, Rebekah Clarkson

  • this edition published 2017 by Affirm Press
  • ISBN 978-925475-49-4
  • 230 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (Affirm Press)

Everybody thinks they know this story. But do they? If you took a bird’s-eye view of any sprawling Australian regional town, you’d see ordinary Australians living on their ordinary suburban blocks. Get closer. Peer through a window.

In the town of Mount Barker, you might see Nathan Hearle obsessively recording the bark of a neighbourhood dog, or the Wheeler family sitting down for a meal and trying to come to terms with a shocking discovery. You might hear tales of fathers and their wayward sons, of widows who can’t forgive themselves, of children longed for and lost, of thwarted lust and of pure love. Within the shadows is an unspeakable crime.

Rebekah Clarkson has created a compelling, slow-burning portrait of a town in the midst of major change as it makes the painful transformation from rural idyll to aspirational suburbia. What looked like redemption is now profound loss. What seemed spiteful can now be forgiven. A novel in stories, Barking Dogs is an assured debut from one of Australia’s most respected storytellers.

My Take

This book is an anthology of connected short stories written over half a decade or so. Not only are they connected with some characters appearing in or referred to in more than one story, they nearly all focus on the Adelaide hills town of Mt Barker, currently undergoing incredible change with an influx of new residents, in a myriad of new housing "estates".

The book does not qualify in my mind as crime fiction, although there are plenty of mysteries to be unravelled, and certainly a crime or two committed. Between them the stories explore a range of contemporary issues: the pressures of modern living on young families, the onset of dementia, the effects of death from cancer on a family, barking dogs. Older folk, long time residents, live cheek by jowl with newly arrived families with younger children.

The stories were of particular interest to me because it is an area we travel through every weekend. We have friends who've moved from suburban Adelaide into one of the new Mt. Barker estates. Over the years we have seen farmland sold, cleared, scoured and subdivided into new estates with improbable names. These stories remind the reader that not every rainbow leads to a pot of gold.

The publisher refers to this anthology as a "novel in stories", but I beg to differ. It is as if somehow a "novel" brings higher acclamation. These stories are well crafted and cleverly written. But they don't have a completeness, or denouement, that a novel tries to achieve. In a sense too there is plenty of room left for further stories.

Just one thing extra I could have wished for - a table of contents at the beginning listing the stories by title.

My rating: 4.4

About the author:

Rebekah Clarkson’s award-winning fiction has been published widely, most recently in Best Australian Stories, Australian Book Review and Something Special, Something Rare: Outstanding Short Stories by Australian Women (Black Inc.).
Her stories have been recognised in major awards in Australia and overseas, including the ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize and Glimmer Train’s Fiction Open. She has a BA in Aboriginal Studies and a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide, where she also teaches. She has taught Fiction Writing at the University of Texas in Austin.

2 November 2017

Review: HER, Garry Disher

  • this edition published by hachette Australia 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-7336-3854-1
  • 209 pages
  • source: my local library
Synopsis (hachette Australia)

 Beautifully and powerfully written, this is a look at the darker side of Australia's past - and particularly the status of girls and women in our society - that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

Out in that country the sun smeared the sky and nothing ever altered, except that one day a scrap man came by . . . 

HER name is scarcely known or remembered. All in all, she is worth less than the nine shillings and sixpence counted into her father's hand.

She bides her time. She does her work.

Way back in the corner of her mind is a thought she is almost too frightened to shine a light on: one day she will run away.

A dark and unsettling tale from the turn of the twentieth century by a master of Australian literature.

My Take

I should first of all make it clear that this is a historical novel rather than crime fiction, although crimes are committed. My impression is that the intended audience is young adult although the writing style is sophisticated and quite demanding.

The time period is 1913 - early 1920s, the setting rural Victoria. Life is hard and a family with too many children and not enough food sells a three year old girl to the scrap man for nine shillings and sixpence. The scrap man's family consists of Wife, Big Girl and now there is You. The little girl never really knows what her real name is. Years later she sees a boy newly enlisted, who she thinks might be her brother.

Big Girl and You do not go to school - the scrap man hides Big Girl and passes You off as feeble-minded. The scrap man travels the country side hawking items his women folk have made at home out of flour bags, torn sheets, fencing wire, and scrap metal. It depicts an Australia that most of us have never known, of life when the horse was central to transport, of life on the road.

I think this is a novel guaranteed to make an impression on readers, teaching about a period that most would have no idea about. This the way to learn history.

In the final pages are some group reading notes, with discussion questions and suggestions for further reading.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read
4.7, WYATT

What I read in November 2017

October 2017
I 'discovered' a number of new-to-me authors this month (**) and reacquainted myself with some favourites.

My pick of the moth is Michael's Robotham's LOST, this time as an audio book, but if you are looking for a hard copy then I recommend THE SEAGULL by Ann Cleeves
  1. 4.5, RATHER BE THE DEVIL, Ian Rankin
  2. 4.3, AND FIRE CAME DOWN, Emma Viskic
  3. 4.4, TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, Ann Cleeves 
  4. 4.6, SOMETIMES I LIE, Alice Feeney **
  5. 4.4, THE BEEKEEPER, Stewart Giles **
  6. 4.8, LOST, Michael Robotham - audio book 
  7. 4.5, HE SAID, SHE SAID, Erin Kelly **
  8. 4.7, THE SEAGULL, Ann Cleeves 
  9. 4.3, MURDER IN THE MORNING EDITION, Peter Bartram **
 See what others have chosen for their Pick of the Month

Review: THE DARK LAKE, Sarah Bailey

  • this edition first published 2017 by Allen & Unwin Australia
  • ISBN 978-1-76029-589-9
  • 429 pages
  • source: my local library 
Synopsis (Allen & Unwin Australia)

A hot summer. A shocking murder. A town of secrets, waiting to explode. A brooding, suspenseful and explosive debut that will grip you from the first page to the last. 

There were a few minutes when I was alone with her in the autopsy room. I felt wild. Absent. Before I could stop myself I was leaning close to her, telling her everything. The words draining out of me as she lay there. Her long damp hair hanging off the back of the steel table. Glassy eyes fixed blindly on the ceiling. She was still so beautiful, even in death.

Our secrets circled madly around the bright white room that morning. Rocking back and forth on my heels as I stood next to her, I knew how far in I was again, how comprehensively her death could undo me. I looked at Rosalind Ryan properly for the last time before breathing deeply, readying myself, letting her pull me back into her world, and I sank down, further and further, until I was completely, utterly under.

A beautiful young teacher has been murdered, her body found in the lake, strewn with red roses. Local policewoman Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock pushes to be assigned to the case, concealing the fact that she knew the murdered woman in high school years before.

But that's not all Gemma's trying to hide. As the investigation digs deeper into the victim's past, other secrets threaten to come to light, secrets that were supposed to remain buried. The lake holds the key to solving the murder, but it also has the power to drag Gemma down into its dark depths.

The Dark Lake is an addictive crime thriller, a mesmerising account of one woman's descent into deceit and madness, and a stunning debut that is already causing a stir around the world.

My Take

Gemma Woodstock is a Detective Sergeant in the town she grew up in.  Rosalind Ryan has recently returned to Smithson to teach in the high school she once attended. When she is murdered shortly after a performance of Romeo and Juliet at the school, Gemma's boss questioned whether there was a conflict of interest in her being involved in the investigation. But she assures him that there is no question about that - her special knowledge of the town and its people will be invaluable. She and Rosalind were in the same class but that was all.

Gemma obviously believes that being involved in the investigation will give her an edge in solving the murder, as well as keeping elements of her own past hidden. There is at least one big secret that she doesn't want anybody to know.

The author uses a time frame device to reveal snippets of the past, generally labelled "Then", alongside carefully dated chapters (together with times) to encapsulate the present. I am never sure when we have carefully labelled time episodes whether I have got the timeline right in my mind. I find myself hoping the author hasn't played a trick on me, put something out of sequence.

Her relationship with the deceased is not the only thing that Gemma is trying to hide, but I'll let you find the rest out for yourself.

A good read from a new Aussie writer that I will have to watch out for.

My rating: 4.7

About the author
Sarah Bailey is a Melbourne based writer with a background in advertising and communications. She has two young children and currently works as a director of creative projects company Mr Smith. Over the past five years she has written a number of short stories and opinion pieces. The Dark Lake is her first novel.

If you are interested in reading something more by Sarah Bailey I have found on Google books what appears to be a set of short stories titles THIS IS HOME

1 November 2017

Pick of the Month - October 2017

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2017
Many crime fiction bloggers write a summary post at the end of each month listing what they've read, and some, like me, even go as far as naming their pick of the month.

This meme is an attempt to aggregate those summary posts.
It is an invitation to you to write your own summary post for October 2017, identify your crime fiction best read of the month, and add your post's URL to the Mr Linky below.
If Mr Linky does not appear for you, leave the URL in a comment and I will add it myself.

You can list all the books you've read in the past month on your post, even if some of them are not crime fiction, but I'd like you to nominate your crime fiction pick of the month.

That will be what you will list in Mr Linky too -
ROSEANNA, Maj Sjowall & Per Wahloo - MiP (or Kerrie)

You are welcome to use the image on your post and it would be great if you could link your post back to this post on MYSTERIES in PARADISE.


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