26 February 2023

Review: THE BULLET THAT MISSED, Richard Osman

Synopsis (publisher)

It is an ordinary Thursday and things should finally be returning to normal.

Except trouble is never far away where the Thursday Murder Club is concerned. A decade-old cold case leads them to a local news legend and a murder with no body and no answers.

Then, a new foe pays Elizabeth a visit. Her mission? Kill . . . or be killed.

As the cold case turns white hot, Elizabeth wrestles with her conscience (and a gun), while Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim chase down clues with help from old friends and new. But can the gang solve the mystery and save Elizabeth before the murderer strikes again?

My Take

Local television compere Mike Waghorn has come to interview members of the Thursday Murder Club at Cooper's Chase for South East Tonight. It was all Joyce's idea. Mike intends his focus to be on retirement communities, he doesn't know he is meeting the Thursday Murder Club. They hope to pump him for information about a former colleague whose body has never been found. Fate seems to have stepped in when Mike himself suggests her name for their attention.

There are a number of continuing characters in this series, so it really does help to have read the earlier books.

One of the aspects that I enjoy about these geezer lit stories is the underlying gentle humour.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read

Review: WILD CARD, Simon Rowell

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • Published by Text Publishing Australia 10 Jan 2023
  • length: 304pp
  • ISBN: 9781922458728
  • #2 Zoe Mayer series 

Synopsis (publisher

One foggy morning on the banks of the Murray River, a body is found in a burnt-out area of grassland. The heavily tattooed victim, who has suffered two bullet wounds to the head, is identified as Freddie Jones, a bikie from Moama.

Detective Sergeant Zoe Mayer is on the case, alongside her trusty service dog, Harry. Although Zoe is determined to track down the murderer, she finds herself stonewalled at every turn—by Freddie’s family, his associates and even the local police. But then a second body is discovered, and soon all bets are off…

Wild Card is a gripping mystery about gang warfare and small-town corruption, featuring a crime-fighting duo like no other.

My Take

A bikie's body is found on the Echuca side of the Murray River and the location makes the case the business of the Victoria Police. The problem is that the bikie is from Moama, on the New South Wales side of the river, another jurisdiction. 

Mick Kovacks, the police sergeant in Moama, says there are no drug or bikie problems on his side of the river - he has a containment strategy that keeps his side clean. But then a second body discovered on the Echuca side looks like a revenge killing.

Zoe Mayer's team discovers that both bodies are long standing friends of Mick Kovacks, so what is going on?

We first met Zoe Mayer and her partner Charlie in THE LONG GAME  where Zoe had been injured and had just returned to work accompanied by a service dog Harry. 

Well constructed and a credible plot.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read


23 February 2023


  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • Ultimo Press, Pub Date: January 2023
  • 320pp
  • ISBN: 9781761150685 

Synopsis (publisher)

Four generations of women, four ideas about how to live… and dance!

It's 1982. The Knighton women, all living under one roof are about to be struck with dance marathon fever...

Greaty, 75, matriarch of the Knighton family. Turning down marriage proposals since 1927, backbone of her Clare Valley community. Favourite dance: The Foxtrot.
Gran, 55, on the frontline of the women’s movement with her best friend, Wilma. Never saw a picket line she didn’t like. Favourite dance: The Twist.
Lucy, 32, single mother, romantic, looking to find a man and get married – finally. Favourite dance: The Hustle.
Holly, 12, obsessed with Australia's favourite star, best friends with Barry Jones and determined to win Adelaide’s illustrious dance marathon. Favourite dance: Tap!
Greaty, fierce and fearless is creating her legacy, re-writing the rules of The Women’s Annual, a tome her own mother gifted to her as a young woman. In it, she weighs up time-honoured traditions of housekeeping, and reflects on what makes a woman’s life her own, rather than at the beck and call of society’s rules – and men.
Meanwhile, Holly, on the verge of teenhood, is finding her own feet, banking on becoming a famous dancer, until Gran and Wilma decide the marathon is the latest focus of their activism, bringing feminist values to Adelaide’s premier social event of the year…
Bring on the generational conflict that'll leave sequins on the dancefloor.

A story about family, the changing lives of women in the 20th century, and the joy of fulfilling one's purpose and dreams, The Knighton Women’s Compendium is the heartwarming read of this summer.

My Take

This was a lovely read set in South Australia's mid-north near Clare, nearly 40 years ago. 

Holly is 12, soon to be a teenager, living in an all-female household, with her great grandmother, her grandmother, and her mother. The four generations get on remarkably well, but life is about to change. Holly is changing herself into a young woman, but she doesn't realise that her household is about to change too. Her mother is being courted by two local men, one of whom is married.  If she marries, Lucy will move out of the family home. What will happen to Holly then?

A dance marathon in Adelaide brings things to a head.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read 4.4, THE FAMILY STRING

18 February 2023

Review: MURDER IN WILLIAMSTOWN, Kerry Greenwood

  • This edition in large print from my local library
  • ISBN:9781760879327
  • Publisher:Allen & Unwin
  • Pub Date:01 Nov 2022
  • Page Extent:296
  • #22 in the Phryne Fisher series

Synopsis (Publisher)

Accustomed to both murder and dalliance, Australia's favourite detective, the inimitable Miss Fisher, returns in a case that will test her courage and judgement to the full.
When the redoubtable Miss Phryne Fisher receives threatening letters at her home, she enlists her unflappable apprentice Tinker to investigate. But as the harassment of Phryne threatens to spin out of control, her lover Lin Chung is also targeted.

Meanwhile, Dot begins to fear that her fiancé, newly promoted Sergeant Hugh Collins, has gone cold on their wedding. And Phryne's clever daughters Ruth and Jane begin their own investigation into suspiciously dwindling funds when they are sent to help at the Blind Institute.

None of this is quite enough to prevent Phryne from accepting an invitation to a magnificent party at the house of the mysterious Hong. When the party is interrupted by shocking tragedy, Phryne gathers all of her unerring brilliance to track down the miscreants.

With some unlikely assistance, Phryne is in a race against time to save a pair of young lovers from disgrace and death.

My Take

The first title in this series was COCAINE BLUES published in 1989. 33 years on, Kerry Greenwood has published #22. Most of the books are set in the late 1920s, and this one appears to be just before the Depression of 1929.

It features most of the usual cast of characters although her adoptive daughters are now old enough to be undertaking small investigations of their own. This story also features Tinker, a boy whom Phryne has also adopted.

I enjoyed this book as much as I remember enjoying earlier titles and Phryne has lost none of her talents and allure. 

My rating: 4.5

I've also read

4.3, DEAD MAN'S CHEST -#18

4.5, A QUESTION OF DEATH - anthology of short stories set in 1928 

17 February 2023

Review: SILVER TEARS, Camilla Lackberg

  • this edition made available through my local library
  • published by Harper Collins Publishers 2021
  • sequel to THE GILDED CAGE
  • ISBN 978-0-00-828379-7
  • 322 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

One woman…
Faye Adelheim seems to have it all. The head of a global business, she lives in a beautiful villa in Italy with her daughter. But in reality, her life is far from perfect.

One man…
Faye’s ex-husband went to prison for murder. And now, he has escaped, with one thing on his mind. Revenge.

One fight for survival…
Faye will do anything to keep her family safe. But this will be the toughest battle of her life. And not everyone will live to tell the tale. 

My Take

This novel is the sequel to THE GILDED CAGE in which Faye Adelheim freed herself from her manipulative husband, and set up her company Revenge. The narrative of SILVER TEARS fills in some of the gaps in the earlier novel, and completes the story. You could probably treat SILVER TEARS as a stand-alone novel because the author does her best to summarise little strands of the earlier novel, but I think you are best to read them in order, as a pair.

My rating reflects some of the credibility problems that I had with the story line.

My rating: 4.4

I've also read


14 February 2023

Review: THE FAMILY STRING, Denise Picton

  • this edition published in 2022 by Ultimo Press
  • supplied by my local library
  • ISBN 978-1765115066-1
  • 325 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

A darkly funny and poignant coming of age story by an extraordinary new voice

Meet Dorcas, a spirited 12-year-old struggling to contain her irrepressible humour and naughty streak in a family of Christadelphians in 1960s Adelaide. She is her mother’s least favourite child and always at the bottom of the order on the family’s string of beads that she and her younger siblings Ruthy and Caleb reorder according to their mother’s ever-changing moods.

Dorcas, an aspiring vet, dreams of having a dog, or failing that, a guinea pig named Thruppence. Ruthy wants to attend writing school, and Caleb wants to play footy with the local team. But Christadelphians aren’t allowed to be ‘of the world’ and when their older brother Daniel is exiled to door knock and spread the good word in New South Wales after being caught making out with Esther Dawlish at youth camp, each try their hardest to suppress their dreams for a bigger life. But for a girl like Dorcas, dreams have a habit of surfacing at the most inopportune moments, and as she strives to be the daughter her mother desires, a chain of mishaps lead to a tragedy no one could have foreseen.

This is a superb coming of age story that explores a fraught mother-daughter dynamic, and the secrets adults keep from their children. It is about resilience, and the loves that sustain us when our most essential bonds are tested, and how to find the way back through hope and forgiveness.  

My Take

For my blog readers - this is not my usual crime fiction.

What struck me about this novel was that it is set in Rostrevor, very close to where I live now, and in the 1960s when Dorcas was 12 and I was in my late teens. The Adelaide that is depicted was very similar to the one that I knew even though I was a country girl, and not Christadelphian. However in the 1960s I was very Church-connected and so Dorcas's religious world was familiar to me.

Dorcas's mother obviously had mental health problems, partly because she had left Scotland come to Australia at a young age, she was home-sick, but also because she had three such disparate children. Her husband worked long hours and she got little chance to get out of the home because she didn't, and she resented that. Her social life was confined mainly to Church on Sundays and church events. She had converted to being a Christadelphian and other church members were very critical of how she dressed and how she behaved. In addition, her older son had been sent away because of how he had behaved at a church camp, and because he wanted to have a worldly career. As well as that, he younger son had serious health problems.

Dorcas was on the tip of becoming a teenager, could put her foot in her mouth very easily and her mother seemed to blame her for all the misadventures that befell the family. In addition Dorcas saw herself as the cause of most of the family's problems.

There was a lot of empathy from the author, and I enjoyed the book a lot. There were some extremely well drawn characters, and it easily took me back into the 1960s.

My rating: 4.4

About the Author

Following the establishment of a career leading human services, Denise Picton retrained in business and established a management consulting firm that has worked across Australia and Asia for over thirty years. In her twenties she published short fiction in literary journals, and returned to writing to begin work on a series of novels in her fifties. This is her debut novel.

11 February 2023

Review: THE LOST MAN, Jane Harper

  • this edition published in 2019 by Pan Macmillan Australia
  • supplied by my local library
  • first published 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-76078-106-4
  • 362 pages
  • Reading Guide
  • my earlier review (2018)
Synopsis (publisher)

The man lay still in the centre of a dusty grave under a monstrous sky.

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland.

They are at the stockman's grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last chance for their middle brother, Cameron.

The Bright family's quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn't, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects...

For readers who loved The Dry and Force of Nature, Jane Harper has once again created a powerful story of suspense, set against a dazzling landscape.

Jane Harper Awards
My Take
This year I am leading a Crime Fiction Reading group at my local U3A. The local library is supplying our books on a monthly basis, and virtually all of them are recent Australian crime fiction.
I was really pleased to find that our first read is Jane Harper's THE LOST MAN which I have actually read before, soon after it was published. 
Jane Harper came to the notice of readers with her first novel THE DRY, and THE LOST MAN was her third.

This novel raises so many themes associated with its Australian setting: what it is like living in the Outback, remote locations, what it is like living hundreds or even thousands of miles from towns and cities, as well as more "modern" themes like abuse and domestic violence, the importance of being part of a community, broken marriages,

The story has a number of small mysteries embedded, the answers to which are gradually revealed.

I am interested in hearing what my group generally thinks of what seems to be the final resolution of the mystery. 

The novel is essentially a stand-alone so if you haven't read it yet, it comes highly recommended. Check also the Readers' Guide (after you've read the novel)

My rating: 5.0

I've also read

9 February 2023

Review: THE NEXT GIRL, Pip Drysdale

Synopsis (publisher

A bad day at work. A drunken night. A rogue Instagram follow. That’s all it takes to ruin a life …

The question is, whose life will be ruined? When Billie wakes up in a strange guy’s bed, her first thought is: what happened last night? She can't even remember meeting him. And how the hell did she get to Coney Island?

Then reality bites and the memories flood in – the reason she was in that bar, drinking to start with: today she's going to get fired. Because yesterday her law firm lost a big case: Samuel Grange v Jane Delaney. And it looked like it was her fault.

It wasn't. Yet now Samuel Grange is free to drive off into the sunset in his stupid Porsche and do it all again to another woman. And all Billie can think is: What about the next girl? And the one after that? But there is nothing she can do to stop him.

Unless ... She could expose the truth about him on her own. Then everyone would see what he was really like. And he wouldn't be able to do it again.

The problem is, the only way to protect the next girl is to become the next girl. And, well, that could be a little risky ... even deadly.

My Take

My second search for a book for my weekend book group to read. I wonder what they will make of this one?

Wilhelmina (Billie) Spencer-Tate wants to work as a para-legal in New York, but now she has lost her job. For Billie is not what she seems.

In fact she is a one-person vigilante. She uses her job to identify, select, and then target men who abuse and gaslight women. She attempts to "bring them to justice". She uses her considerable high-tech skills to reveal their true profiles on social media. It is dangerous work because if she is caught she could be prosecuted, imprisoned, or even worse.  She has had successes, but she has also had her failures.

It all started when her mother committed suicide...

This is an incredibly complex, multi-stranded, novel, and I'm sure that occasionally I literally lost the plot, but that was my fault rather than the author's. But something just keeps you reading, because you really want Billie to succeed.

My rating: 4.2

About the author

Pip Drysdale is a bestselling author, musician, and actor. She grew up in Africa, Canada, and Australia, became an adult in New York and London, and lives on a steady diet of coffee, dreams, and literature. Her debut novel, The Sunday Girl, was a bestseller and has been published in five countries. The Strangers We Know, her follow up, also a bestseller in Australia, is being developed for television. Connect with Pip at PipDrysdale.com or on Facebook and Instagram @PipDrysdale.

5 February 2023

Review: HEADLAND, John Byrnes

  • This edition published in 2023 by Allen & Unwin
  • ISBN 978-1-76106-761-7
  • 289 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

A coastal town is evacuated after record floods. Three young police officers are left behind. With a killer.
'Following in the footsteps of Jane Harper and Chris Hammer . . . Byrnes does a fantastic job of turning the relentless downpour into a constant threat. This thriller is a pacy and compelling debut.' - Books+Publishing

The small beachside town of Gloster is on the edge of disaster. After constant rain, floodwaters are rising fast.

Detective Constable Craig Watson, exiled to Gloster from Sydney, is a young man with a damaged past and an uncertain future.

Constables Ellie Cameron and Larissa Brookes are young women struggling to show their worth as police officers under a misogynistic sergeant.

The drowning town holds a secret that someone is prepared to murder for, and as the floodwaters cut Gloster off from the world the three young police officers begin to understand that it's not just them left stranded. Somewhere out there in the floodwaters is a killer. And he needs them dead.

Taut, compelling and visceral, John Byrnes' Headland announces a major new voice in Australian crime fiction.

My Take

My turn to choose 2 books for our "friends" book group which meets monthly and reads crime fiction. On the surface, HEADLAND fits the bill: recently published, Australian noir crime fiction, and  an author we haven't read before. In addition Target has low cost copies, and the local library system has a couple.

With many Australian states impacted by flooding, the setting feels very topical: a small New South Wales coastal village about to be evacuated because of rising floods. In addition, flood mitigation works supposedly spent over the previous five years have not solved the town's problems, money appearing to have been siphoned off into private building projects and expensive cars.

Craig Watson's posting to the town is a last-ditch effort to keep him in the police force. He is addicted to prescription drugs, and really not an impressive character. He is the replacement for a cop who was even less desirable, and the station boss works only a fraction of each day, spending most of his time in the pub.

So, the book has the making of an interesting story, but I'm not sure how far the rest of my group will get. The blurb says it is "visceral" - there are short sections of explicit sexual description - important for understanding how far Craig Watson has fallen and why - kindly published in italics so you can leap over them if you really want to. We are given Watson's back story episodically, but I really didn't develop any empathy for him. 

So I've come away from this book in two minds, but it may well work as a thriller for male readers.

My rating: 3.5

About the author
Born in Sydney, John moved to Mid North Coast of New South Wales with his wife and three children in 2012. He has a broad range of life experience having spent time in the Australian Army, worked fishing trawlers out of Darwin, worked bars and doors in pubs and clubs all over Australia, and somehow ended up with an Economics Degree. He started writing in 2015 and has a fascination with the darker aspects of the human condition; the addicted, the malevolent, the scarred. He cheers for the outsider, the slacker, the contrarian, the non-conformist.

When he is not writing or pondering the darkness within men's souls he works part-time in financial services.

Review: THE COUPLE AT NUMBER 9, Claire Douglas

  • This book available from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09KRXJZQ1
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harper Paperbacks (August 2, 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 398 pages
  • Page numbers source ISBN ‏ : ‎ 0063246325

Synopsis (Amazon

The internationally bestselling author of Do Not Disturb and Just Like the Other Girls delivers a heart-pounding psychological thriller about a couple who inherit what seems to be their dream home, until they make a horrifying discovery—and the danger begins.

The Victims . . .

When pregnant Saffron Cutler moves into 9 Skelton Place with boyfriend Tom and sets about renovations, the last thing she expects is builders uncovering human remains. The remains of two bodies, in fact.

The Investigation . . .

Forensics indicate the bodies have been buried at least thirty years. Saffy has nothing to worry about—until the police launch a murder inquiry and ask to speak to the cottage’s former owner. Her grandmother, Rose.

The Witness . . .

Rose is in a nursing home and Alzheimer’s means her memory is increasingly confused. She can’t help the police, but its’ clear she remembers something.

The Killer . . .

As Rose’s fragmented memories resurface, and the police dig ever deeper, Saffy fears she and the cottage are being watched.

The Truth . . .

What happened thirty years ago? Why did no one miss the victims? What part did her grandmother play? And is Saffy now in danger? 

My Take

When builders excavating for an addition to the cottage at Number 9 Skelton Place discover two bodies buried at least 30 years earlier Saffy is convinced that her grandmother, the previous owner of the house will know nothing about them. But it becomes obvious that Rose, now in a nursing home, and suffering from Alzheimer's, does know something.

The narrative is told by several voices, among them Rose herself. 

The reader is told at the beginning of each chapter who the narrator is, but their voices are also strong and clear. The reader is invited to piece together what happened a little over 30 years earlier when Rose first came to the village with her daughter Lolly and took a lodger.

Saffy, the current owner of the cottage, is Lolly's daughter and has inherited the cottage from her grandmother Rose. She is determined to prove that Rose has nothing to do with the bodies.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.6

About the author
Claire Douglas is the award winning author of seven stand alone thrillers, THE SISTERS, LOCAL GIRL MISSING, LAST SEEN ALIVE, DO NOT DISTURB, THEN SHE VANISHES, JUST LIKE THE OTHER GIRLS and her most recent, THE COUPLE AT NO. 9, which is a number one Amazon bestseller and reached number three on the Sunday Times bestsellers list. Her books have sold over 500,000 copies in the UK and have been translated into twenty languages.

You can find Claire on Twitter at @DougieClaire, Instagram as clairedouglasauthor, or visit her Facebook page clairedouglasauthor


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