Review: Unsolved Australia Lost Boys Gone Girls – Justine Ford

Unsolved Australia: Lost Boys, Gone Girls

 Justine Ford

Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781760556747

 

Description:

Can you catch a killer or find a missing person?

 

Australia is ‘the lucky country’. But not for everyone. Unsolved Australia: Lost Boys, Gone Girls tells thirteen stories of people whose luck ran out in the most mysterious of circumstances.

 

It’s a journalistic deep-dive into Australia’s dark heart by one of Australia’s premier true crime writers, Justine Ford, the acclaimed bestselling author of Unsolved Australia and The Good Cop.

 

Why are four people missing from a Western Australian doomsday cult? Who abducted and murdered beauty queen Bronwynne Richardson on pageant night? And why is a cooked chook important evidence in the outback disappearance of Paddy Moriarty?

 

Key players are interviewed, evidence laid out and suspects assessed. Never-before-published information is revealed. Can you help crack the case and solve these mysteries?

 

Hold tight as Unsolved Australia: Lost Boys, Gone Girls takes you on a chilling yet inspiring true crime rollercoaster ride where the final destination is hope.

 

My View:

I applaud the fact that Justine Ford has illuminated cases that have baffled both those left behind and the police tasked with solving these mysteries. Someone, somewhere must know something that will help solve these cases and every time someone reads about one of the mysteries here, speaks to their neighbour or work colleague or the person sitting on the train next to them about this book that they are reading, more opportunities are created to tug at peoples memories or to encourage someone to come forward with that piece of information that will make a difference to the lives of so many.  Has anyone come forward with useful information?  Have the rewards tempted anyone to speak out? I hope so.

 

I found the additional information/profiles/interviews with the behind the scenes individuals – the investigator, the criminal psychologist, the forensic anthropologist /criminologist/reporter, the investigative reporter, the investigative journalist, the former police detective ( I hope I have not missed any one out)  that interspaces the mysteries lifts and informs this collection of stories; simply fascinating. I could read more of this sort of interview.

 

There is so much sadness within these pages but there is optimism that reading this will make a difference to someone’s memory or conscience.  I do hope so.

 

 

 

Review: Imperfect – Lee Kofman

Imperfect

Lee Kofman

Affirm Press

ISBN: 9781925584813

 

Description:

BY THE TIME she was eleven and living in the Soviet Union, Lee Kofman had undergone several major operations on both a defective heart and injuries sustained in a bus accident. Her body harbours a constellation of disfiguring scars that have shaped her sense of self, her view of the world and the choices she has made. But it wasn’t until she moved to Israel and later to Australia that she began to think these markings weren’t badges of honour to flaunt but were, in fact, imperfections that needed to be concealed.

 

In a seductive mix of memoir and cultural critique, Kofman casts a questioning eye on the myths surrounding our conception of physical perfection and what it’s like to live in a body that deviates from the norm. She reveals the subtle ways we are all influenced by the bodies we inhabit, whether our differences are pronounced or noticeable only to ourselves. She talks to people of all shapes, sizes and configurations and takes a hard look at the way media and culture tell us how bodies should and shouldn’t be.

 

By turns illuminating, confronting and deeply personal, Imperfect challenges us all to consider how we exist in the world and how our bodies shape the people we become.

 

 

My View:

Imperfect is a book that is intelligently and softly written in a mix of styles that is both academic, at times interview base; a reflection of the modern socio- political scene that unselfconsciously examines our and the authors attitude to physical appearance and how that attitude shapes our perception of the world. Let’s make that more than shapes our attitude, it determines how we walk on this earth – with a weary tread or lightly…embracing the sun.

 

Lee Kofman asks many of the questions that I have been unable to eloquently voice; about judgemental attitudes that are entrenched in out psyche (be honest the first time you see/meet someone your brain starts making/noting so many things about that persons physical appearance), how we respond to that individual is largely based on that first moment of quick judgment –   friend or foe, dangerous or not…same – different,  our tribe or not….and so begins the barrage of judgements based on physical appearance… “Most primates are visually orientated and make decisions about others chiefly on what they see. Humans who lack the acuity of smell or hearing of animals, particularly rely on their eyesight to deal with the complexities of the social world. To some extent our sanity (and I would add survival) depends on our presumption to read Body Surface.” P.82

 

Lee Kofman’s Body Surface, scarred in a traffic accident and via childhood surgeries, is a constant reminder to her of her “difference”, her “otherness” and provides the framework for the discussion in the book. Brave, open, honest, this narrative will provide you with insight and stimulate yet more questions….I would love to see this conversation continue.

 

A fascinating read.

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Next for J.M.Green I asked?

J.M. ( Jenny )Green is the fabulous author of the Stella Hardy trilogy.  Good Money, Too Easy and the final in the series ( and my favourite of the set) Shoot Through.

 

I rated all 3 books 5 stars – I loved Stella Hardy – her self depreciating, sometimes black humour, her maturity, her socio – political awareness, her ability to see things in shades of grey…her complicated life…there is so much to love about this character, so it is understandable that when I finished reading Shoot Through, I wanted to know what next to expect from J.M. Green – so I asked her 🙂

 

After Stella Hardy – what happens now?

J.M. Green

“With the publication of SHOOT THROUGH, Stella Hardy has had her third and final outing. The ‘social worker-detective’ idea has generated some unusual story lines, and placed her in some dangerous, not to mention absurd, situations. Hardboiled crime as dark whimsy rather than gritty reality. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed testing the limits of credulity. And I confess in this series I have been knowingly but gently subversive to the crime genre, but please believe me when I say it has been reverential. I hope to be forgiven.

 

My next project is a shift away from crime. There’s a new novel in the works. It’s in the early stages and might not amount to anything so I won’t say much more.

 

As well as juggling that work, I’m studying screenwriting, which is a fantastic stretch for me creatively. Film and TV writing, as taught in the course, is highly structured.

 

Until now, novel writing for me has been an intuitive process. I know where the narrative is going, but I allow for surprises in the writing process – a kind of simultaneous write and plot method, seeing where the narrative drive goes. I sometimes need to backtrack but that’s okay, there’s such a lot of rewriting involved anyway. Also, with fiction the interior voices of characters makes the work is less reliant on conflict to drive the narrative.

 

In screenwriting plot character, theme are all worked out before a single creative word is written. These facets are gone over and over, so that when writing the actual script begins, all the creative energy goes into the language and the smaller details. Using a theme as a guide, every scene is conceived and drawn as integral in the overall story. Anything that doesn’t support the narrative is out. What remains is plotted in terms of conflict, obstacles and argument. If there’s conflict there’s no drama. It’s a sort of mantra.

 

This thorough and planned approach to storytelling has been a revelation and something I will use regardless of whether I continue writing fiction or try my hand at the screen.”

 

Thanks Jenny – looking forward to reading script or novel or both soon – no pressure here 🙂

 

 

Review: Shoot Through – J M Green

Shoot Through

J M Green

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781925713848

 

Description:

Stella Hardy, the wisecracking social worker, is back to tackle crooked private contractors, an exotic cattle scam, and a delicious Mushroom Jalfrezi.

 

All Stella Hardy wants is a romantic country getaway with her artist boyfriend, Brophy. Instead, she must head to the Athol Goldwater Agricultural Prison (aka Arsehole Bogwater) to visit her jailbird brother, Ben, and sort out some ‘urgent’ family paperwork. But Stella has barely set foot in the prison when a prisoner, Joe Phelan, is found dead.

 

Before she knows it, Stella finds herself tasked, against her will, with investigating Joe’s suspicious death away from the eyes of police, including her best friend, Detective Phuong Nguyen. Her old nemesis Minister for Justice Marcus Pugh is pressuring her from above to save his election-year bacon, and Joe’s old friend and former gang member, Percy Brash, is providing a much more chilling form of pressure from below, promising to reduce her to mush and bone fragments if she doesn’t give him the name of Joe’s killer, and soon.

 

As the clock counts down, Stella becomes embroiled in a story of corruption, conspiracy, and high-tech cattle-wrangling, all while trying to manage her brother’s pregnant girlfriend, Loretta, get to the bottom of Brophy’s increasingly strange behaviour, and evade the murderous intentions of a shadowy mercenary. And then things get really crazy. It’s Stella’s last hurrah, and she’s going out with a bang.

 

My View:

This is most definitely on my list of Best Reads of 2019.

 

Stella Hardy is a protagonist I have embraced since the first book, Good Money (not literally but if I met her creator I would give her a big hugJ and thank her for creating this wonderful character and series). I love Stella’s sardonic, wise cracking demeanour, her depth of understanding of the Australian socio-political scene, her honest observations, her complicated life…even her age. It is refreshing to find a protagonists that is so grounded, mature and relatable.

 

Corruption, crime, mystery and romance… this book has it all. In a year of fabulous 5 star releases J M Green can hold her head high.

 

Stella Hardy I miss you already.

 

 

 

Review: The Chain – Adrian McKinty

 

The Chain

Adrian McKinty

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733642517

 

Description:

You just dropped off your child at the bus stop.

A panicked stranger calls your phone.

Your child has been kidnapped.

The stranger then explains that their child has also been kidnapped, by a completely different stranger.

The only way to get your child back is to kidnap another child – within 24 hours.

Your child will be released only when the next victim’s parents kidnap yet another child.

And most importantly, the stranger explains, if you don’t kidnap a child, or if the next parents don’t kidnap a child, your child will be murdered.

 

You are now part of The Chain.

 

My View:

It’s been a long time since I have been filled with such dread and apprehension when reading; McKinty’s realistic protagonists inspire empathy and solidarity, the decisions they are forced to make leave you quaking in dread. There is no heavy handed, gratuitous accounts of violence yet the simple horror of the situation is enough to make the bravest reader cringe in fear.

From the very first page you will be captivated, hi jacked by the compulsive narrative, considering the “what if’s” and placing yourself in the margins of the page, experiencing firsthand the smell of fear that emanates from within. There was a point where I felt I could not read on, I could think of no way out, I had no hope for the characters I quickly had bonded with. I sat for a while and considered turning the page. Nervous apprehension powered me on, I needed to know what came next.

It was not what I thought….phew….I could continue reading (no spoilers here).

 

McKinty is a masterful storyteller who has crafted a book that will mesmerise and keep you enthralled until the very last page. Impressive, addictive reading, you really will be glued to the pages. This is the book that everyone will be talking about. Read The Chain and join the conversation.

 

Review: Wakenhyrst – Michelle Paver

Wakenhyrst

Michelle Paver

Harper Collins Australia

Head of Zeus

ISBN: 9781789540604

 

Description:

By the bestselling author of Dark Matter and Thin Air, an outstanding new piece of story-telling, a tale of mystery and imagination laced with terror. It is a masterwork in the modern gothic tradition that ranges from Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker to Neil Gaiman and Sarah Perry.

 

“Something has been let loose…”

 

In Edwardian Suffolk, a manor house stands alone in a lost corner of the Fens: a glinting wilderness of water whose whispering reeds guard ancient secrets. Maud is a lonely child growing up without a mother, ruled by her repressive father.

 

When he finds a painted medieval devil in a graveyard, unhallowed forces are awakened.

 

Maud’s battle has begun. She must survive a world haunted by witchcraft, the age-old legends of her beloved fen – and the even more nightmarish demons of her father’s past.

 

Spanning five centuries, Wakenhyrst is a darkly gothic thriller about murderous obsession and one girl’s longing to fly free.

 

 

My View:

Creepy gothic suspense where madness reigns supreme.

Wakenhyrst is a gothic feminist tale (is that such a genre or just the mantle I read this book with?) that oozes a chilling miasma of menace and madness. Superstition, religion and misogyny rule and life for a sensitive and intelligent female child is harsh, restrictive and lonely.

 

This character driven narrative offers an antagonist you easily abhor (the father Edmund Stearne) and Maud (the daughter) is the protagonist that you admire, empathise with and cheer on… Megalomania is Edmund Stearne – he is a tyrant, superstitious, self-obsessed, a sex manic, controlling and vile and ugly  – his beliefs, though extreme ( I hope) mirrored those of a society that held women in contempt and treated as (not very valuable) possessions. This was a very interesting study of attitudes and superstitions of the time.

 

The fens provide an eerie backdrop to the repressive madness that ruled Wake’s End. However I was expecting more, I felt the horror element lacked vitality. Creepy, eerie, repressive and yet fascinating sums up my emotional response to this narrative.

 

PS Loved the cover art.