24 August 2023

Review: THE NOWHERE CHILD, Christian White

 Once again I am using my iPad to record this review so I am hoping that I will eventually be able to update this review so it looks more like my usual format.

I originally read this soon after its original publication in 2019. My earlier review can be located in this blog if you search for it. I have re-read it as part of the list of books we are tackling with my U3A Crime Fiction group. I must confess that I seem to have enjoyed it more this time around, certainly my rating is just a tad higher.

Originally I read it on my kindle as a pre-publication preview from Net Galley. This time I have read it as a hard copy from my local library. Perhaps in e-book format I read it too quickly to appreciate things that I enjoyed this time. 

This was Christian White’s debut title. The theme is an unusual one - an abducted child identified 30 years later by her older brother who has been searching for her almost all his life. The format is unusual in that there are two time frames, current time, and the time the two year old disappeared. And there are really two narrators - Kim/Sammy who was abducted, and then third party narration that tells the main story. 

True to form, I remembered clearly the first part of the book, and then I’d forgotten how the plot resolved. 

So what questions am I going to pose for my U3A readers?

  • First of all, the standard ones: did they enjoy the story? What did they like most? What least?
  • How plausible did they find the story? What questions did the author pose in his plot?
  • What parts of the plot stood out for them? Which characters?
  • Was everybody happy when Stu managed to eventually track his little sister down? Who wasn’t?
  • Does it feel like an Australian novel? Why so? Or why not? In other words, if you didn’t know the author was an Australian what clues are there to his nationality?
  • The author uses some really creepy settings. How effective were they?
  • Was Dean wise in returning to the USA? 
  • Did the ending take them by surprise? What strands of the plot had they worked out?
My rating: 4.6

22 August 2023

Review: THE JADE LILY, Kirsty Manning

 My desktop computer is not behaving tonight,  so I'm not able to use my usual review format. Hopefully I  will be able to bring this review up to date later.

Just for now I want to record that I've finished reading this book as an ebook on Libby, by a new to me author, whom I will certainly follow up.

It is mystery rather than my usual crime fiction. It spans at least 7 decades, and world events as they affected a Jewish family forced out of Austria by Hitler. They emigrated to Shanghai and finally the war caught up with them again.

The story begins with Alexandra who is returning to Australia from  London. She knows she is of German and Chinese heritage but mystery surrounds her mother's parentage. She returns to Melbourne where her grandfather is dying, taking many secrets with him.  Alexandra has won a job in Shanghai and her grandmother encourages her to take the job and to do some family history research for herself while she is there.

So this story is told mainly on two narrative stages, and eventually the reader is able to sort out the links. The story is beautifully told and we share the dilemmas each character is faced with, and the choices they made. There are many signs of extensive research by the author.

Highly recommended. 

My rating: 4.7

19 August 2023

Review: THE WOMAN IN DARKNESS, Charlie Donlea

  • this edition published by Penguin Australia 2019
  • made available by my local library
  • ISBN 978-0-14379-515-5
  • 291 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

Charlie Donlea's chilling new suspense thriller is the story of two women, separated by forty years, yet both inextricably linked by a series of horrific murders that took place in 1979.

"She wondered if the mysterious woman had chosen darkness. Or if darkness had chosen her."

As a forensic reconstructionist, Rory Moore sheds light on cold-case homicides by piecing together details others fail to see. And while cleaning out her late father’s law office, she takes a call that plunges her into a forty-year-old mystery.

In the summer of 1979, five Chicago women went missing. The predator, nicknamed The Thief, left no bodies and no clues behind - until police received a package from a mysterious woman named Angela Mitchell, which uncovered his identity. But before police could question her, Angela disappeared.

Forty years later, The Thief is about to be paroled for Angela’s murder – the only killing the DA could pin on him. But a cryptic file found in her father’s office suggests to Rory there is more to the case than anyone knew.

Soon Rory is helplessly entangled in the enigma of Angela Mitchell and what happened to her. Drawing connections between the past and present, she uncovers dark truths about the reclusive woman, her own father, and the man called The Thief.

But not even Rory is prepared for the terrifying secrets about to emerge…

My Take

When Rory Moore's father dies she is surprised to learn that for the last 40 years he has been providing services for The Thief, suspected of being a serial killer. Now The Thief is about to be paroled, 20 years early, and Rory's father was to have managed the conditions of his release. He appears to be a reformed character, but is he?

He was convicted of killing his wife but no body has ever been found, and it is only his wife's investigations that link Thomas Mitchell to the other deaths. 

Rory is drawn into investigating what happened to Angela Miller, and her research reveals some surprises.

This novel leads down some surprising paths: a very engaging read.

This certainly won't be the last book I read by this author.

(BTW I was surprised to find that the author is male)

My rating: 4.6

About the author

Charlie Donlea is a USA Today bestselling author who has been praised as a 'bold new writer…on his way to becoming a major figure in the world of suspense' (Publishers Weekly). He was born and raised in Chicago, where he continues to live with his wife and two young children. He is the author of Summit Lake, The Girl Who Was Taken, Don't Believe It, The Woman in Darkness (published elsewhere as Some Choose Darkness) and The Suicide House.

18 August 2023


  • This title available through Amazon on Kindle
  • WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries Book 8
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0C5FD1P1Z
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Four Tails Publishing Ltd. (July 24, 2023)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 309 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)


The women of the WISE Enquiries Agency should be enjoying the early summer with their loved ones, but find themselves facing a truly baffling case: a mysterious figure has been spotted in Anwen-by-Wye, heralding tragedy. Nerves in the village are frayed, and the skills of all four of our private investigators are needed to work out what’s going on – aided by Althea, dowager duchess of Chellingworth, of course.

When death strikes far too close to home for our beloved enquiry agents the stakes are raised in what has become a fatal game of cat and mouse…revealing dark secrets hidden by a person everybody thought they knew.

Meanwhile, Mavis finds an investigation into a suspicious nurse to be something of a threat to her own health and wellbeing, and the duke and duchess are busy organizing projects designed to help revitalize the Chellingworth Estate, though their proposals aren’t viewed favorably by all. Also - snatching time as a couple when they can - Annie and Tudor are considering their future, as are Christine and Alexander…though in different ways, and with some surprising outcomes.

The eighth book in this series presents the WISE women with challenges of both a professional and personal nature they’ve never faced before; join them to find out how they fare.

My Take

If you are new to this series, then make sure you start from the beginning so that you get plot and cast development.

The Chellingworth Estate has big plans for the village of Anwen-by-Wye. Meanwhile the WISE women take on a number of cases, both paid and unpaid, some interesting scenarios.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read


Review: THE LONG WEEKEND, Judy Nunn

  • This edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • Published: 1 November 2022
  • ISBN: 9780143778370
  • Imprint: William Heinemann Australia
  • Pages: 304

Synopsis (publisher)

Six short stories from Australia’s master storyteller Judy Nunn.

The Long Weekend 
Eve, Jet, Mel and Danielle are looking forward – if a little nervously - to their upcoming digital detox. No phones, no laptops – just a quiet weekend in a remote mountain shack. What could go wrong?

The Wardrobe
When journalist Nancy buys a rundown terrace house she knows nothing about the previous owner - until a discovery in an old wardrobe reveals the lives, loves and losses in the world of Emily Roper.

The Otto Bin Empire: Clive's Story
To the homeless men and women who gather near the docks, the newly arrived Clive cuts an enigmatic figure. ‘I’m just a bloke going through a period of adjustment,’ he tells himself, ‘I’ll be back on my feet soon . . .’

As she celebrates her sixty-fifth birthday, actor turned film producer Jackie looks back on her seven decades – and all the many changes in her life. Not least the most recent and most surprising one of all . . .

The House on Hill Street
It was such a respectable address - the perfect home for Professor Jameson and his family. But the neighbours are becoming concerned. Eileen Jameson and the boys haven't been seen for quite some time...

Just South of Rome
On her way to England, actor Jane Prescott makes a quick stopover in Italy. When she stumbles upon the Hotel Visconti, a grand eighteenth-century villa, she has no idea that it will change her life.

My Take

These stories are very different, mostly almost novellas, a couple of them could be classified as crime fiction, their plots a little macabre. At the end of each story the author describes what led her to write the story. In some cases, a scenario that has stuck in the author's mind for a long time.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Judy Nunn’s career has been long, illustrious and multifaceted. After combining her internationally successful acting career with scriptwriting for television and radio, Judy decided in the 90s to turn her hand to prose.

Her first three novels, The Glitter Game, Centre Stage and Araluen, set respectively in the worlds of television, theatre and film, became instant bestsellers, and the rest is history, quite literally in fact. She has since developed a love of writing Australian historically-based fiction and her fame as a novelist has spread rapidly throughout Europe where she has been published in English, German, French, Dutch, Czech and Spanish.

Her subsequent bestsellers, Kal, Beneath the Southern Cross, Territory, Pacific, Heritage, Floodtide, Maralinga, Tiger Men, Elianne, Spirits of the Ghan, Sanctuary, Khaki Town and Showtime! confirmed Judy’s position as one of Australia’s leading fiction writers. She has now sold over one million books in Australia alone.

In 2015 Judy was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her "significant service to the performing arts as a scriptwriter and actor of stage and screen, and to literature as an author". 

12 August 2023

Review: DIRT TOWN, Hayley Scrivenor

Synopsis (Publisher)

My best friend wore her name, Esther, like a queen wearing her crown at a jaunty angle. We were twelve years old when she went missing.

On a sweltering Friday afternoon in Durton, best friends Ronnie and Esther leave school together. Esther never makes it home.

Ronnie's going to find her, she has a plan. Lewis will help. Their friend can't be gone, Ronnie won't believe it.

Detective Sergeant Sarah Michaels can believe it. She has seen what people are capable of. She knows more than anyone how, in a moment of weakness, a person can be driven to do something they never thought possible.

Lewis can believe it too. But he can't reveal what he saw that afternoon at the creek without exposing his own secret.

Five days later, Esther's buried body is discovered.

What do we owe the girl who isn't there?

Character-rich and propulsive, with a breathtakingly original use of voice and revolving points of view, Dirt Town delves under the surface, where no one can hide. With emotional depth and sensitivity, this stunning debut shows us how much each person matters in a community that is at once falling apart and coming together.

Esther will always be a Dirt Town child, as we are its children, still.

My Take

There is a lot going on in this book, very complex plotting, more than just a missing child. Very carefully layered story, overlapping (and challenging) time frames. Lots of secrets too, and things that the "town" knows, but that the investigating police don't necessarily. Even the police investigators have their own secrets.

The narrative is told through several points of view, and so taking notice at the beginning of each chapter of the date and identity of the narrator is important right from the beginning to the reader's understanding and appreciation. The multi-dimensional structure of the book is demanding of the reader. It is a book that requires a high level of concentration.

Highly recommended!

My rating: 4.7



About the author

Hayley Scrivenor is a former Director of Wollongong Writers Festival. Originally from a small country town, Hayley now lives and writes on Dharawal country and has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wollongong on the south coast of New South Wales. Dirt Town is her first novel. An earlier version of the book was shortlisted for the Penguin Literary Prize and won the Kill Your Darlings Unpublished Manuscript Award.


  • This edition available as an e-book on Kindle (Amazon)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0C95MGQKC
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Grey Cells Press (August 1, 2023)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 305 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

    A woman finds out that Pilates class can be very dangerous.
    A man wakes up in a hospital bed, nearly dead from poison, and with no memory of how he got there.
    An Uber ride turns into a tragic last trip.
    A conflict between a professor and his student turns deadly.
    A woman on the run finds out that her past is catching up with her.
    A winning lottery ticket turns out to be anything but lucky.

These and more suspenseful flash fiction crime stories show that murder can happen anywhere: at home, at work, at school, at the gym, and even during the holiday season. No place is really safe, and no-one can really be trusted.  

My Take

I have been reading Margot Kinberg's flash fiction for years now. I belong to Margot's mailing list and she sends ne book reviews and the occasional flash fiction.

This latest publication is a collection of 70 of her flash fiction stories, "all of them stories of crime, mostly murder." Most of these I hadn't read before, and despite Margot's recommendations that I should "feel free to dip in and out", I have read them all in the last 2 or 3 days. Delicious!

Do learn more about Margot here and subscribe to her newsletter/blog.

Margot is also the author of several novel, also available on Kindle. see the list below.

My rating: 4.6

I've also read

6 August 2023

Review: DEAD MAN'S GRAVE, Neil Lancaster

  • this edition made available as an e-book on Libby by my local library
  • ISBN 10: 0008527733
  • Imprint: HQ Fiction GB
  • On Sale: 13/04/2022
  • Pages: 400
  • #1 in the DS Max Craigie Scottish Crime series

Synopsis (publisher)

This grave can never be opened.
The head of Scotland’s most powerful crime family is brutally murdered, his body dumped inside an ancient grave in a remote cemetery.
This murder can never be forgotten.
Detectives Max Craigie and Janie Calder arrive at the scene, a small town where everyone has secrets to hide. They soon realise this murder is part of a blood feud between two Scottish families that stretches back to the 1800s. One thing’s for certain: it might be the latest killing, but it won’t be the last…
This killer can never be caught.
As the body count rises, the investigation uncovers large-scale corruption at the heart of the Scottish Police Service. Now Max and Janie must turn against their closest colleagues – to solve a case that could cost them far more than just their lives…

My Take

Max Craigie has recently arrived in Scotland from London after the shooting of a suspect. He is teamed up with Janie Calder, unpopular because she has been accelerated through the force and is thought to be  a bit "odd". Initially they are trying to track down the elderly head of a crime family who has gone missing and they eventually discover his body in a grave in a remote northern cemetery. 

They actually have no difficulty in discovering who murdered the old man, but the reason he gives seems a bit fanciful. It seems there is a blood feud going back two centuries. The old man's son has succeeded his father as the head of the family, and is most unwilling to let matters rest.

The blurbs on this book from well known crime writers praise this as a novel that tells us how police departments work. It is certainly thorough and detailed. Max Craigie comes over as a bit of a rogue cop, but, in his own words, he has come into the police force to wear a "white" hat and he wants to stamp out corruption wherever it exists, And it seems there is plenty to be found in the Scottish Police Service.

There is another book in the series, THE BLOOD TIDE, which I will try.

My rating: 4.7

About the author

NEIL LANCASTER is the No. 1 digital bestselling author of both the Tom Novak and Max Craigie series. His first Craigie novel, Dead Man’s Grave, was longlisted for the 2021 McIlvanney Prize for Best Scottish Crime Book of the Year. The second Craigie novel, The Blood Tide, topped several ebook and audio charts. It was also longlisted for the 2022 McIlvanney Prize and shortlisted for Best New Series at the Dead Good Reader Awards.

Neil served as a military policeman and worked for the Metropolitan Police as a detective, investigating serious crimes in the capital and beyond. As a covert policing specialist, he used all manner of techniques to investigate and disrupt major crime and criminals. He now lives in the Scottish Highlands, writes crime and thriller novels and works as a broadcaster and commentator on true crime documentaries. He is an expert on two Sky Crime TV series, Meet, Marry, Murder and Made for Murder.
Twitter: www.twitter.com/@neillancaster66 

Review: THE JANES, Louisa Luna

  • This edition published 2020 by Text Publishing Company Australia
  • provided by my local library
  • ISBN 9781922268496
  • 356 pages
  • #2 in the Alice Vega series

Synopsis (publisher)

‘Men pretty much have a triangle. Sex, drugs, money,’ she said, drawing a triangle in the air with her finger. ‘Every man who commits a criminal act does it in service to one or more of those three things…Most men, actually, do everything because of them.’

On the outskirts of San Diego, the bodies of two young women are discovered. They are Jane Does: no names, no IDs, no families looking for them. Fearing a human trafficking ring, the police and FBI ask Alice Vega to help find out who the Janes were—and find the other missing women.

Alice Vega has a mind like a steel trap. Along with her partner Cap, she will stop at nothing to find the Janes before it is too late.

Louisa Luna is writing new, smart, insightful, relevant classics of crime fiction. Vega and Cap rightfully join the pantheon of the most memorable partnerships in crime fiction.

My Take

This is the second title in the Alice Vega series.

As a result of the first case that she solved in TWO GIRLS DOWN private investigator Alice Vega is contacted by local San Diego police and the FBI for help in identifying the bodies of two young women. Vega collaborates with the Medical Examiner to reconstruct the deaths of these two young women. She contacts ex-cop Max Caplan to work with her on the case. 

Independently young women who are part of a human trafficking ring have heard of Alice Vega and are hoping she may help them to escape their captors.

Vega has her own methods of getting people to talk, and she gradually builds a picture of what is going on. At each page you do wonder what she is going to do next, and there are many surprises which in their turn they help to build suspense and tension. Vega also has her own resources in getting background information. She and Max Caplan complement each other nicely.

A series worth tackling.

My rating: 4.5

I've also read


Blog Widget by LinkWithin