30 April 2020

Review: TRUE WEST, David Whish Wilson

  • format: e-book source through my local library (Libby)
  • ISBN     9781925815702 (Paperback)
  • Publisher     Fremantle Press
  • Publication Year     2019
  • Pages     264
Synopsis (publisher)

Western Australia, 1988. After betraying the Knights bikie gang, 17-year-old Lee Southern flees to the city with nothing left to lose.

Working as a rogue tow truck driver in Perth, he is captured by right-wing extremists whose combination of seduction and blackmail keeps him on the wrong side of the law and under their control.

As the true nature of what drives his captors unfolds, Lee becomes an unwilling participant in a breathtakingly ambitious plot – and a cold-blooded crime that will show just how much he, and everyone else, still has to lose.

My Take

Lee Southern has fled north west Western Australia after the disappearance of his father, the first president of the Knights bikie gang. Lee believes that the new Knights president has killed his father Jack Southern, and as a parting gesture Lee has burnt their latest plantation. So he is fully expecting the Knights to come after him.

The reader is introduced to a tough world that he/she is probably not familiar with: violent, racist, drug-taking, extremist. Lee imagines he will be able to earn money as a tow truck driver and does not realise the monopoly that a local group has on the trade. His involvement eventually leads to him being used in various "jobs" which give the gang a further hold over him. In addition Lee has contacted Emma, his girlfriend from Geraldton and this eventually puts her in jeopardy.

After the gang helps Lee locate his father the action ramps up even further.
The publisher's page contains a pdf for book clubs.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
David Whish-Wilson was born in Newcastle, NSW, but grew up in Singapore, Victoria and WA. He left Australia aged eighteen to live for a decade in Europe, Africa and Asia. He is the author of The Summons, The Coves and three crime novels in the Frank Swann series: Line of Sight, Zero at the Bone and Old Scores. His non-fiction book, Perth, part of the NewSouth Books city series, was shortlisted for a WA Premier’s Book Award. David lives in Fremantle and coordinates the creative writing program at Curtin University.

27 April 2020

Review: THE SHIFTING LANDSCAPE, Katherine Kovacic

  • this edition published by echo publishing 2020
  • ISBN 978-1-76069-644-4
  • 276 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #3 in the Alex Clayton series
Synopsis (publisher)

Art dealer Alex Clayton travels to Victoria’s Western District to value the McMillan family’s collection. At their historic sheep station, she finds an important and previously unknown colonial painting – and a family fraught with tension. There are arguments about the future of the property and its place in an ancient and highly significant indigenous landscape.

When the family patriarch dies under mysterious circumstances and the painting is stolen, Alex decides to leave; then a toddler disappears and Alex’s faithful dog Hogarth goes missing. With fears rising for the safety of both child and hound, Alex and her best friend John, who has been drawn into the mystery, join searchers scouring the countryside. But her attempts to unravel the McMillan family secrets have put Alex in danger, and she’s not the only one.

Will the killer claim another victim? Or will the landscape reveal its mysteries to Alex in time?

My take

Alex Clayton is contacted by Alasdair McMillan and asked to come to stay at the family property Kinloch in Victoria's Western District to value paintings that the family has accumulated over the years. In storage, among paintings damaged by a fire decades earlier, she finds one which will need restoration. She invites her friend conservator John Porter to join her at Kinloch the next day.

Dinner that night is a very tense affair as the family try to work out why Alex has been called in to asses the paintings. When Mac storms out at the end of the meal, it is the last time Alex will see him alive.

Events move quickly. Before John arrives next day Alasdair McMillan is dead, and the family is beginning to bicker over who will inherit what, in particular the very valuable painting that hangs in the sitting room. The police are called in, and the contents of Mac's will are revealed, triggering a rapid series of events.

An assured piece of writing which I thoroughly enjoyed. Circumstances have led to me reading #3 in the series before getting my hands on #2, which I'm sure I'll regret.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

26 April 2020

Review: SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, Craig Sisterson

aka The Pocket Essential Guide to the Crime Fiction, Film and TV of Australia and New Zealand Kindle Edition
  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • paperback available for pre-order but publication delayed due to Covid-19 pandemic
  • File Size: 2334 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oldcastle Books (23 April 2020)
  • Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B08166XDLZ
Synopsis (Amazon)

Australian and New Zealand crime and thriller writing - collectively referred to as Southern Cross Crime - is booming globally, with antipodean authors regularly featuring on awards and bestseller lists, such as Eleanor Catton's Booker Prize winning The Luminaries and Jane Harper's big commercial hit, The Dry, winner of the CWA Gold Dagger Award.

Hailing from two sparsely populated nations on the far edge of the former Empire - neighbours that are siblings in spirit, vastly different in landscape - Australian and New Zealand crime writers offer readers a blend of exotic and familiar, seasoned by distinctive senses of place, outlook, and humour, and roots that trace to the earliest days of our genre.

Southern Cross Crime is the first comprehensive guide to modern crime writing from "Down Under". From coastal cities to the outback, leading critic Craig Sisterson showcases key titles from over 250 storytellers, plus screen dramas ranging from Mystery Road to Top of the Lake. Fascinating insights are added through in-depth interviews with some of the prime suspects who paved the way or instigated the global boom, including Michael Robotham, Paul Cleave, Emma Viskic, Paul Thomas, Candice Fox, and Garry Disher.

My Take

This is an essential purchase for crime fiction readers especially in Australia and New Zealand, but also those world-wide who enjoy "antipodean noir".
It is an authoritative guide to what to read. Craig has focused on the 'modern era' choosing the establishment of the Australian Crime Writers Association and the inaugural Ned Kelly awards in 1996 as the starting point. He has attempted to survey "more than 300 Australian and New Zealand crime writers.... and endeavoured to be as inclusive and wide ranging as possible. You will find bestsellers, award winners, hidden gems, lesser known authors, and fresh voices."

My own reading of New Zealand crime fiction has slackened in recent years, so I began with paper and pen, making note of titles to hunt down. I found that I have more or less kept up with Australian crime fiction, but also that I have missed on quite a few gems, and there was confirmation that my reading of New Zealand crime fiction hasn't even been the tip of the iceberg. I now have a list that will keep me busy for many years.

This book is a wonderful achievement, not only giving readers tips on a wide variety of titles to look for, interviews with prominent achievers, but also, in the Appendix, arranged from most recent to first years, the Ned Kelly Award winners, the Ngaio Marsh Award winners,and the Davitt Award Winners.

My rating: 5.0

About the author
Craig Sisterson is a features writer and crime fiction expert from New Zealand who writes for newspapers and magazines in several countries. In recent years he's interviewed hundreds of crime writers and talked about the genre on national radio, top podcasts, and onstage at festivals on three continents. He's been a judge of the McIlvanney Prize and Ned Kelly Awards, and is founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards and co-founder of Rotorua Noir.

24 April 2020

Review: RETRIBUTION, Richard Anderson

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 428 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scribe (July 2, 2018)
  • Publication Date: July 2, 2018
  • Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
  • Language: English
Synopsis  (Amazon)

A rural-crime novel about finding out how to survive and surviving what you find.

In a small country town, an act of revenge causes five lives to collide. Early one Christmas morning, Graeme Sweetapple, a man down on his luck, is heading home with a truck full of stolen steers when he comes across an upended ute that has hit a tree. He is about to get involved with Luke, an environmental protestor who isn’t what he seems; a washed-up local politician, Caroline Statham, who is searching for a sense of purpose, but whose businessman husband seems to be sliding into corruption; and Carson, who is wild, bound to no one, and determined to escape her circumstances.

Into their midst comes Retribution, a legendary horse worth a fortune. Her disappearance triggers a cycle of violence and retaliation that threatens the whole community. As tensions build, they must answer one question: is true retribution ever possible — or even desirable?

My Take

".. it was midnight on Christmas Eve, the best night of the year for stealing..."

Graeme Sweetapple is driving some stolen steers back to his property late on Christmas Eve when he comes across an accident. The young people have been participating in a protest at a local picketed coal mine belonging to millionaire Bob Statham. He organises an ambulance for them, but as he leaves he is given some explosives that the young people have with them.

We also meet Luke who has been participating in the protest, but is actually working undercover for the mine's management.
The third main character is Carson who has been working at the local supermarket, and has actually met the mine owner, whose wife is an ex-politician.
These five characters are central to the main action of the story and provide the links between the plot lines.

The author successfully brings these characters together in a couple of unlikely themes: the theft of a thoroughbred horse, and the disruption of activities at the coal mine.

This was the debut title by this author and well worth the read.

My rating: 4.3

I've also read BOXED

20 April 2020

Review: THE BEEKEEPER, Stewart Giles

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1097 KB
  • Print Length: 245 pages
  • Publisher: Joffe Books (18 May 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B072FKXNC8
  • #1 in the Harriet Taylor series
Synopsis (Amazon)

A shocking discovery starts a trail of mayhem on the Cornish coast.

Alice Green is a beekeeper in the small Cornish village of Polgarrow. She lives with her pet jackdaw in a beautiful cottage not far from the sea. One evening, Alice finds something strange under the hollyhock bush in her garden. The gruesome discovery will change everyone’s lives. And then Alice’s best friend Milly disappears . . .

Detective Harriet Taylor has just transferred to the area from Edinburgh. As she investigates a series of shocking crimes, she grows close to the old beekeeper and is determined to bring the criminals to justice. But who is really what they seem and who can she trust?

A crime mystery with a touch of black humour. You’ll enjoy this fast-paced and dark unearthing of the secrets of a sleepy Cornish village.

My Take

I was tempted to classify this easy read as a cozy, although there are 3 rather ghastly murders: 3 elderly people who were part of a wedding party 40 years earlier are murdered within a week. The beekeeper Alice Green is the only one left standing.

When the local police can't solve the first murder in good time a "crack" team of outsiders with a rather pompous DI at the helm move in and come to a conclusion in double quick time. But even as they are celebrating Harriet Taylor proves them wrong.

This is the first in a series so readers can get in at the beginning of Harriet's career.

My rating: 4.3

About the author
Stewart Giles appears to be a British author with a couple of well established series available mainly in Kindle (Amazon Australia) for $0 

17 April 2020

Review: IN THE CLEARING, J. P. Pomare

Synopsis (publisher)


Amy has only ever known life in the Clearing. She knows what's expected of her. She knows what to do to please her elders, and how to make sure the community remains happy and calm. That is, until a new young girl joins the group. She isn't fitting in; she doesn't want to stay. What happens next will turn life as Amy knows it on its head.

Freya has gone to great lengths to feel like a 'normal person'. In fact, if you saw her go about her day with her young son, you'd think she was an everyday mum. That is, until a young girl goes missing and someone from her past, someone she hasn't seen for a very long time, arrives in town.

As secrets of the past bubble up to the surface, this small town's dark underbelly will be exposed and lives will be destroyed.

My Take

The story opens with an extract from Amy's journal which ends with an intriguing phrase PROTECT THE QUEEN. (My brain immediately prompted the idea of a queen bee.)

Part One (GOOD GIRL, KEEP GOING!) opens with Freya and another intriguing phrase: Four days to go. Freya learns from the news that a child has been abducted. We learn that Freya learnt to behave by watching others. That she has a guard dog and that her suspicions are aroused by some young people camping on her land.

The story continues to evolve with Freya and Amy alternating as the narrators. We learn that Amy lives in a community called The Clearing. That Freya is a yoga teacher with a young son called Billy and that they live in rural Victoria.

This is a novel where clues are being dropped all the time. On the surface Freya is "normal" with an elderly mother in an aged care complex, and a brother travelling in Bali. Freya had some sort of trauma in the past when she "lost" another child.

So, have I told you enough to whet your appetite? There are some very clever constructs in this novel and a rather surprising twist in the plot towards the end. But I am not going to reveal them to you here.
If you must, read on - there is a clue about one of them below the next paragraph.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
J. P. Pomare was raised on a horse farm in rural New Zealand where he lived until he was eighteen before deciding to travel. After years abroad, including a twelve months living in North America, he settled in Melbourne, Australia and has lived there since.

His debut novel CALL ME EVIE was released to critical acclaim and won the 2019 Ngaio Marsh Award for best first novel. IN THE CLEARING is his second novel.

Link: The Family
Quotation at the front of the book
I love children. Anne Hamilton-Byrne

16 April 2020

Review: BOXED, Richard Anderson

  • this edition published by Scribe 2019
  • ISBN 978-1-935713-65-7
  • 275 pages
  • source: review book from publisher
Synopsis (publisher)

‘I jump back, curse in rapid fire, and then lean forward and shove the box hard, off the bench, and away from me. It thuds on the floor. Is this a nasty trick?’

Dave Martin is down on his luck: his wife has left him; his farm is a failure; his house is a mess; he has withdrawn from his community and friends; and tragedy has stolen his capacity to care. He passes the time drinking too much and buying cheap tools online, treating the delivered parcels as gifts from people who care about him.

And then boxes begin to arrive in the mail: boxes that he didn’t order, but ones that everyone around him seems to want desperately. As he tries to find out the secret of the boxes, Dave is drawn into a crazy world of red herrings and wrong turns, good guys and bad, false friends and true, violence, lust, fear, revenge, and a lot, lot more. It’s not a world he understands, but is it the only one Dave can live in?

My take

Dave Martin's friends and neighbours all worry about him - he has had more than his fair share of knocks, lives on his own on a remote farm, and feels a bit sorry for himself. He orders machinery to be delivered through the post, generally small cheap machines, but then some boxes arrive that he hasn't ordered. Then two of his neighbours ask him if boxes they were expecting have accidentally been delivered to him. Soon after that a neighbour is attacked.

Woven through the other sometimes quirky threads is the story of what has happened to his son James.

Richard Anderson is an astute observer of Australian rural life. His accounts of the hardships of living on the land have a ring of truth.

One of the threads of this story (No! I'm not going to tell you which one it is, just that it is a bit macabre ) - will probably send readers scuttling to Google to see if it is possible.

This is the second of Anderson's crime novels, and I will certainly be reading the first.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Richard Anderson is a second-generation farmer from northern New South Wales. He has been running a beef-cattle farm for twenty-five years, but has also worked as a miner and had a stint on the local council. Richard is the author of two rural-crime novels, Retribution and Boxed, both published by Scribe. He lives with his wife, four dogs, and a cat.

13 April 2020

Review: THE GOOD TURN, Dervla McTiernan

  • format : e-book, Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1014 KB
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (March 1, 2020)
  • Publication Date: February 24, 2020
  • Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Language: English
  • #3 in the Cormac Reilly series

Police corruption, an investigation that ends in tragedy and the mystery of a little girl's silence - three unconnected events that will prove to be linked by one small town.

While Detective Cormac Reilly faces enemies at work and trouble in his personal life, Garda Peter Fisher is relocated out of Galway with the threat of prosecution hanging over his head. But even that is not as terrible as having to work for his overbearing father, the local copper for the pretty seaside town of Roundstone.

For some, like Anna and her young daughter Tilly, Roundstone is a refuge from trauma. But even this village on the edge of the sea isn't far enough to escape from the shadows of evil men.

Setting: north west Ireland

My Take

Very readable - slips down like silk.

Cormac Reilly has certainly upset Sergeant Brian Murphy. A crisis comes when a little girl is snatched from the streets and Murphy refuses to give Reilly any officers to help him look for her, because something big is going down on the wharfs. Reilly goes out to interview the parents and back at the station there is a skeleton crew left. Peter Fisher gets a tip off about the car involved in the abduction, and, unable to contact Cormac, follows the tip on his own initiative. The end result is dire and Peter is banished to his father's station north of Galway.

For most of this novel, it looks as if Cormac Reilly has sunk his own boat, and taken Peter Fisher with him.

There are some interesting threads in this novel, mainly centering around police corruption, but also some murders that Peter Fisher uncovers. Some very well drawn characters too.

If you haven't met this series then it is not too late to get started. Do read them in order!

My rating: 4.8

I've also read

10 April 2020

Review: THE PORTRAIT OF MOLLY DEAN, Katherine Kovacic

  • this edition published by echo (Bonnier Publishing Australia) 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-76040-978-4
  • 273 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #1 in the Alex Clayton & John Porter series

An unsolved murder comes to light after almost seventy years…

In 1999, art dealer Alex Clayton stumbles across a lost portrait of Molly Dean, an artist’s muse brutally slain in Melbourne in 1930. Alex buys the painting and sets out to uncover more details, but finds there are strange inconsistencies: Molly’s mother seemed unconcerned by her daughter’s violent death, the main suspect was never brought to trial despite compelling evidence, and vital records are missing.

Alex enlists the help of her close friend, art conservator John Porter, and together they sift through the clues and deceptions that swirl around the last days of Molly Dean.

My Take

The author tells us in notes at the back of the book that "The events in this novel are based on the 1930 murder of Mary 'Molly' Winifred Dean... While Alex Clayton and her contemporaries were all entirely fictitious, most of Molly's close associates were real people."

So I guess you would label this as "faction" - a true crime, a real setting, but many fictitious characters, and action, and an imagined resolution.

I initially found the book slow reading - I attributed that to a style that made you want to ensure that you understood everything. We knew from the very beginning that Molly had been murdered.

The action comes in two time frames: 1999 when Alex Clayton buys a painting and decides to find out more about the subject Molly Dean; and 1930 before Molly died. The text switches back and forth as we weigh the evidence that Alex gives us.

Here is chance to get in on the ground floor of a new Australian series with an intriguing pair of investigators. Two more titles have been published to date, and I shall certainly be following them up.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Katherine Kovacic is a former veterinarian turned art historian who works with a wide variety of museums, galleries and historic houses. She lives in Melbourne with a Borzoi and a Scottish Deerhound. The Portrait of Molly Dean was her debut novel and the first Alex Clayton art mystery.

6 April 2020

Review: RIGHT BEHIND YOU, Rachel Abbott

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2389 KB
  • Print Length: 409 pages
  • Publisher: Black Dot Publishing Ltd (January 16, 2020)
  • Publication Date: January 16, 2020
  • Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B082SWCGG5
  • #9 in the DI Tom Douglas series
Synopsis (Amazon)

Some doors should not be opened.
Some can never be closed.

Jo Palmer’s peaceful and happy life is about to end.

Ash – the man she loves – will be arrested by the police.
Millie – her precious daughter – will be taken from her.

She will lose her friends.
She will doubt her sanity.

Someone is stealing everything Jo loves, and will stop at nothing.

But right now, Jo is laughing in her kitchen, eating dinner with her family, suspecting nothing.

It’s raining outside.

There’s a knock at the door. They are here.

My take

A police procedural/thriller set in Manchester, the characters are vivid, and the underlying plot believable.

Like most of the books in the series, this book can be read as a stand-alone, although there are threads that connect the book to earlier titles, mainly to do with the personal life of Tom Douglas. If you are new to the series, this one will send you looking for earlier titles.

My rating: 4.7

I've also read

3 April 2020

Review: PEACE, Garry Disher

  • format - e-book - Libby (Overdrive)
  • Publisher: The Text Publishing Company
  • ISBN: 9781922268150
  • Publication Date: 04/11/2019
  • Pages: 336
  • source: my local library
  • #3 in the Hirsch series
Synopsis (Dymocks)

Constable Paul Hirschhausen runs a one-cop station in the dry farming country south of the Flinders Ranges. He’s still new in town but the community work—welfare checks and working bees—is starting to pay off. Now Christmas is here and, apart from a grass fire, two boys stealing a ute and Brenda Flann entering the front bar of the pub without exiting her car, Hirsch’s life has been peaceful.

Until he’s called to a strange, vicious incident in Kitchener Street. And Sydney police ask him to look in on a family living outside town on a forgotten back road.

Suddenly, it doesn’t look like a season of goodwill at all.

My Take

Garry Disher introduced us to Constable Paul Hirschhausen in BITTER WASH ROAD and he makes a welcome return in PEACE.

Hirsch has settled well into life in the mid-north South Australian town of Tiverton. He has a girlfriend, a local school teacher, and has worked hard to become part of the local community. Christmas is coming up and he is judging the town's Christmas lights competition, and putting on the Santa suit to give out gifts to the local kids. He works hard keeping tabs on local problems, but there are some who feel he doesn't pay them enough attention.

I loved the description of small town politics. It all felt so real, and the description of the setting is superb.

When a mother accidentally locks her child in her car, and a video posted by a local goes viral, things change rapidly. NSW police arrive in the town and things look very different.

This is #2 in the Hirschhausen series and I strongly suggest you read BITTER WASH ROAD - Hirsch ( - aka HELL TO PAY) first. See Amazon

My rating : 5.0

I've also read
4.7, WYATT
4.7, HER
5.0, BITTER WASH ROAD - Hirsch #1 - aka HELL TO PAY

Another review you might enjoy

1 April 2020

What I read in March 2020

Travel and self-isolation have contributed to a bumper reading month, with lots of very good reads.
  1. 4.5, DAY OF THE DEAD, Nicci French
  2. 4.5, EVEN DOGS IN THE WILD, Ian Rankin
  3. 4.7, DEATH IS NOW MY NEIGHBOUR, Colin Dexter - audio book  
  4. 4.5, THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ, Heather Morris - not crime fiction 
  5. 4.5, NINE PERFECT STRANGERS, Liane Moriarty - Australian author 
  6. 4.5, MR NOBODY, Catherine Steadman
  7. 4.3, CHICKEN FEED, Minette Walters
  8. 4.5, THE WIFE AND THE WIDOW, Christian White - Australian  
  9. 4.5, THEIR LITTLE SECRET, Mark Billingham
  10. 4.6. THE LONG CALL, Ann Cleeves
  11. 4.5, GONE BY MIDNIGHT, Candice Fox - Australian 
  12. 4.4, THE AU PAIR, Emma Rous  
  13. 4.4, A MATTER OF MOTIVE, Margot Kinberg
  14. 4.2, DARKNESS FOR LIGHT, Emma Viskic - Australian 
  15. 4.8, BLOOD RIVER, Tony Cavanaugh - Australian 
See what others have read in the last month

Pick of the Month March 2020

Crime Fiction Pick of the Month 2020
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 March 2020, 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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