Review: Fair Warning – Michael Connelly

Fair Warning

Michael Connelly

Allen & Unwin Australia

ISBN: 9781760877989

 

Description:

The hero of The Poet and The Scarecrow is back in the new thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Michael Connelly. Jack McEvoy, the journalist who never backs down, tracks a serial killer who has been operating completely under the radar–until now.

 

Veteran reporter Jack McEvoy has taken down killers before, but when a woman he had a one-night stand with is murdered in a particularly brutal way, McEvoy realizes he might be facing a criminal mind unlike any he’s ever encountered.

 

McEvoy investigates—against the warnings of the police and his own editor—and makes a shocking discovery that connects the crime to other mysterious deaths across the country. But his inquiry hits a snag when he himself becomes a suspect.

 

As he races to clear his name, McEvoy’s findings point to a serial killer working under the radar of law enforcement for years, and using personal data shared by the victims themselves to select and hunt his targets.

 

Called “the Raymond Chandler of this generation” (Associated Press), Michael Connelly once again delivers an unputdownable thriller that reveals a predator operating from the darkest corners of human nature—and one man courageous and determined enough to stand in his way.

 

 

My View:

Michael Connelly remains my all-time favourite male crime fiction writer! I don’t know how he does it, the writing is always fresh and intelligent, the themes, contemporary and plausible and so addictive.

 

The introduction is dramatic and gripping, the characters then propel the story forward. Some contemporary science and policing methods are brought into the discussion and for about 5 minutes I was convinced I knew where this story was heading and who was the culprit. I was wrong, so wrong!

 

Engaging, relevant, dynamic, character lead, crime fiction – Michael Connelly has this genre sewn up.

 

 

 

Review: The Swap – Robyn Harding

The Swap

Robyn Harding

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781760854232

 

Description:

Low Morrison is not your average teen. You could blame her hippie parents or her dreary, isolated island hometown. Whatever the reason, Low just doesn’t fit in – and neither does newcomer Freya, an ethereal beauty and once-famous social media influencer.

 

After signing up for Freya’s pottery class, Low quickly falls under her spell. Buoyed by Low’s adoration, Freya is compelled to share her darkest secrets and deepest desires. Finally, Low feels a sense of belonging … until Jamie walks through the studio door. Freya, Jamie and their husbands become fast friends, leaving Low alone once again.

 

Then one night, after a boozy dinner party, Freya suggests swapping partners. It should have been a harmless fling between consenting adults, but instead, it upends their lives.

 

And provides Low with the perfect opportunity to unleash her growing resentment.

 

My View:

Where to start? This is a read that is nuanced with so many interesting moral dilemmas, current issues (the impact of fertility/low fertility will break your heart and the big one; bullying, domestic abuse that is surprising yet somehow not…fits this character perfectly) and a cold-blooded murder that is chilling in its ease of enactment.

I guarantee this book will intrigue and give you many thoughts to consider.

 

 

 

Review: The Museum Of Desire

The Museum of Desire

(Alex Delaware #35)

Century

Penguin Random House

ISBN: 9781780899046)

 

Description:

ONE NIGHT OF HEDONISM. FOUR MURDER VICTIMS.

 

A run-down mansion nestled between Beverley Hills and the San Fernando Valley is leased out for one night to house a party big enough to herald the end of days.

 

When a limo is discovered in the grounds of the house the morning after with four dead bodies inside, a mind-bending case begins.

 

With no link between the four people in the car, and each of the victims murdered in a different way, psychologist Alex Delaware and LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis are about to begin their grisliest and most baffling case yet.

 

And as they struggle to make sense of the vicious mass slaying, they will be forced to confront a level of lust and evil for which their combined wisdom can provide no preparation.

 

 

My View:

This was an engaging, weird, quirky, dark murder mystery but the strangest things about this read are; it is the 35th book in the series and I have never read anything by the author before (my bad) he is a talented writer who writes with sharpness, intention and skill. This is the 35th book in the Alex Delaware series yet I easily read it as a standalone – more kudos to the writer. The protagonists – quirky, likable, authentic.  The crimes – gruesome, diabolical and twisted.

A great read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Strangers – C.L. Taylor

Strangers

CL Taylor

Avon:

Harper Collins Publishers

ISBN: 9780008222468

 

Description:

Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

 

Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life.

 

Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards.

 

And Alice is being stalked.

 

None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.

 

Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.

 

The million-copy bestseller returns with a gripping new novel that will keep you guessing until the end.

 

 

My View:

With multiple story lines, I love how all the different characters and their worlds collide in one tense standoff. This is a mystery that will keep you guessing whilst simultaneously reminding you that what you “see” on the outside often does not reflect the inner,  the real person – their turmoils and challenges.

This quietly written book is disturbing, a great character driven mystery.

 

 

Review: Elly – Maike Wetzel

Elly

Maike Wetzel

Scribe

ISBN: 9781925849165

RRP $24.99

 

Description:

A missing child is a nightmare for any family. But what happens when they come back?

 

Eleven-year-old Elly is missing. After an extensive police search she is presumed dead, and her family must learn to live with a gaping hole in their lives. Then, four years later, she reappears. But soon her parents and sister are plagued by doubts. Is this stranger really the same little girl who went missing? And if not, who is she?

 

Elly is a gripping tale of grief, longing, and doubt, which takes every parent’s greatest fear and lets it play out to an emotionally powerful, memorable climax. It is a literary novel with all the best qualities of a thriller.

 

 

My View:

Sparsely written, staccato in style – a story of loss, grief, desperation and the longing for completeness, of family.

This is a quick yet powerful read; there is a darkness buried deep in our soul that is slowly pared back, revealed by the knife of grief and longing.  The sister and her desire to “claim”, reinvent a new sister, the family unit in its desperate need to believe that the “returned” child is their own, that child’s need for the comfort and completeness of “family”.

 

An extraordinary and unsettling read.

 

PS – the cover is perfect – subtle yet evocative.

Review: Please See Us – Caitlin Mullen

Please See Us

Caitlin Mullen

Gallery Books

Simon and Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781982152581

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

 In this sophisticated, suspenseful debut reminiscent of Laura Lippman and Chloe Benjamin, two young women become unlikely friends during one fateful summer in Atlantic City as mysterious disappearances hit dangerously close to home.

 

Summer has come to Atlantic City but the boardwalk is empty of tourists, the casino lights have dimmed, and two Jane Does are laid out in the marshland behind the Sunset Motel, just west of town. Only one person even knows they’re there.

 

Meanwhile, Clara, a young boardwalk psychic, struggles to attract clients for the tarot readings that pay her rent. When she begins to experience very real and disturbing visions, she suspects they could be related to the recent cases of women gone missing in town. When Clara meets Lily, an ex-Soho art gallery girl who is working at a desolate casino spa and reeling from a personal tragedy, she thinks Lily may be able to help her. But Lily has her own demons to face. If they can put the pieces together in time, they may save another lost girl—so long as their efforts don’t attract perilous attention first. Can they break the ill-fated cycle, or will they join the other victims?

 

Evocative, eerie, and compelling, Please See Us is a fast-paced psychological thriller that explores the intersection of womanhood, power, and violence.

 

My View:

 “I shuffled the deck and the cards stuck together in the humidity…

 The card I drew was the Moon. The card for women. The card meant mystery, confusion, even insanity. But it could also mean knowing, intuition, or a sign that you needed to face what scared you the most…I also needed to believe that magic and meaning sometimes reached into our world. Or else there was just my life – the high school diploma I would never get, the shop, the mangy feral cats, the mother who never wrote anymore, Des coming home from a shift at the club with her pupils huge and glassy, rubbing at her nose.” (p35)

 

This is such a powerful bittersweet read that in its guise of a powerful, suspenseful, murder mystery sheds light on the insidious power of  addiction, of the role of women in society – the  judgement and expectations of “good” women and the “the other kind”,  the business of selling women’s’ bodies…using women bodies for self-gratification, a throw away commodity;

“There’s this flier someone was passing around at the club. One of the other girls gave it to me. A business opportunity.”

   “Okay…”

“Well, it’s this service, right? Where rich men are looking for to…take care of young, attractive women.”

“What do you mean, take care of?”

“Pay you to let them take them out on dates. Buy you nice things, take you out to good dinners”.

“They pay you to let them buy you stuff? Come on Des, that’s not all they’re paying for.” I had lived here my whole life; I’d seen how this kind of thing worked. Young women, in short dresses, getting into the back seats of strangers’ cars, disappearing into the night. In this town of people who wanted to win and drink and take? No way an opportunity for generosity was what they were paying for.” (p30,31)

 

This is such a powerful read and an outstanding murder/mystery.  Aside from the potent discussion about women’s role in society, the male gaze, addiction, women in poverty, mental health and post -natal depression, this is an intoxicating narrative that gives voice to the victims, to the dead. I loved how we got to know the victims before the path they trod led to their death.  The victims were seen for the potential they briefly held, for the innocents they once were, for the daughters, mothers, school kids, friends, family they had been before they became victims.

 

And this is Caitlin Mullen’s debut novel!!! What an exhilarating read. I cannot wait to read more from this author. I predict awards, lots of awards.

 

Review: A Conspiracy of Bones- Kathy Reichs

A Conspiracy of Bones

Temperance Brennan #19

Kathy Reichs

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781760853983

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

#1 New York Times bestselling author Kathy Reichs returns with a new riveting novel featuring her vastly popular character forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, who must use all her tradecraft to discover the identity of a faceless corpse, its connection to a decade-old missing child case, and why the dead man had her cell phone number.

 

It’s sweltering in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Temperance Brennan, still recovering from neurosurgery following an aneurysm, is battling nightmares, migraines, and what she thinks might be hallucinations when she receives a series of mysterious text messages, each containing a new picture of a corpse that is missing its face and hands. Immediately, she’s anxious to know who the dead man is, and why the images were sent to her.

 

An identified corpse soon turns up, only partly answering her questions.

 

To win answers to the others, including the man’s identity, she must go rogue, working mostly outside the system. That’s because Tempe’s new boss holds a fierce grudge against her and is determined to keep her out of the case. Tempe bulls forward anyway, even as she begins questioning her instincts. But the clues she discovers are disturbing and confusing. Was the faceless man a spy? A trafficker? A target for assassination by the government? And why was he carrying the name of a child missing for almost a decade?

 

With help from a number of law enforcement associates including her Montreal beau Andrew Ryan and the always-ready-with-a-smart-quip, ex-homicide investigator Skinny Slidell, and utilizing new cutting-edge forensic methods, Tempe draws closer to the astonishing truth.

 

But the more she uncovers, the darker and more twisted the picture becomes…

 

 

My View:

Welcome back Kathy Reichs, it has been a while since we last spoke but I do understand the reason why (and so will you after you finished reading this book). Actually, I think I enjoyed this book even more so because of “the break” between reads and because it has been a long time since I watched the Bones Tv series ( we gave away our TV a few years ago now ) and it was good to read the book and not have visions of the characters of Bones in my head.

 

This read was a little different to the previous eighteen books in this series (what an accomplishment), here Tempe is working on her own (with Skinny Sidell – whom is a valuable ally and important character in this book) after being ousted from her role as coroner.  Tenacious and a with her usual desire to give voice to the victims of murder, she sets out on her quest to discover the identity of a mystery corpse.

 

Twisty, engaging and with a surprising revelation (no spoilers here), you will enjoy this read.

 

 

 

Review: The Familiar Dark – Amy Engel

The Familiar Dark

Amy Engel

Hodder & Stoughton

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9781529368086

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

From the bestselling author of The Roanoke Girls comes a new novel with the same incredible atmosphere, strong sense of place and dark heart. The Familiar Dark will blow you away.

 

In a small town beset by poverty in the Missouri Ozarks two 12-year-old girls are found dead in the park. Their throats have been cut.

 

Eve Taggert’s daughter was one of them. Desperate with grief, she takes it upon herself to find out the truth about what happened to her little girl.

 

Eve is no stranger to the dark side of life – having been raised by a hard-edged mother whose parenting lessons she tried hard not to mimic. But with her daughter gone, Eve has no reason to stay soft. And she is going to need her mother’s cruel brand of strength if she’s going to face the truth about her daughter’s death.

 

 

My View:

Dark. Gritty. Poignant. So, so, sad.

2020 has been a fabulous year for all things crime fiction.  Each new read I finish I think “This is the best crime fiction read of the year”, and then I start the next book and I am blown away with how good that next book is. This book is another contender for Crime Fiction Book of the Year.

 

Dark and startling – you will not believe where this book takes you. I think there are a coup0el of points that make this read outstanding; the characters, particularly the protagonist Eve Taggert, is someone you just really want to see come out of this terrible situation well, I have so much empathy for this character and I guess many others will too.  The settings transport to you to small town America where Eve scratches out a living the best she can. And the social commentary, there is much written here about the objectification of women, women as possessions… and a savage a brutal crime with a jaw dropping conclusion.   Read this quick read, only 236 pages, perfect to read in one sitting.

 

I will leave you to contemplate on this quote from the book:

“That mouth one more thing I buried when Junie was born. Wanting to teach her a better way to approach the world.  One that wouldn’t leave her judged as poor white trash and not much else. But now I wonder if maybe a mouth like I used to have might have helped save her. Maybe she’d have been more likely to scream. To tell someone to go fuck themselves. To fight back. Or maybe it would have only have made the knife move faster. Truth is, there is no good way to navigate being female in this world. If you speak out, say no, stand your ground, you’re a bitch and a harpy, and whatever happens to you is your own fault. You had it coming. But if you smile, say yes, survive on politeness, you’re weak and desperate. An easy mark. Prey in a world full of predators. There are no risk-free options for women, no choices that don’t come back to smack us in the face. Junie hadn’t learnt that yet. But she would have, eventually. We all do, one way of the other. “ (pps 142,143 – Eve contemplating if she should have made her daughter tougher, less easy to be murdered… )

 

 

 

 

 

Some Very Personal Insights – Fleur McDonald

Recently I read the new release from author Fleur McDonald – Red Dirt Country (review to follow soon) – if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading this author before you are in for a real treat. This series is The Voice in Australian Outback Crime Fiction; wonderful characters, settings to transport you to “other” worlds, crimes to be solved, all peppered with a subtle insights of the society her characters live in.

 

Fleur writes with authenticity. After reading this, her third book in the Detective Dave Burrows series I was motivated to look up Fleur’s website https://www.fleurmcdonald.com/  to learn a little more about her motivation for her writing. Her bio states: “Fleur McDonald has lived and worked on farms for much of her life. After growing up in the small town of Orroroo in South Australia, she became a jillaroo before spending twenty years farming 8000 acres, east of Esperance, WA. Fleur likes to write about strong women overcoming adversity, drawing inspiration from her own experiences in rural Australia… Fleur McDonald is a highly sought after guest speaker. Fleur not only is available to present on the topic of writing, but also across areas she is most passionate about. This includes country life, autism, domestic violence and her non for profit organisation “Breaking the Silence” which tailors Domestic Violence services across Australia.”

I reached out to Fleur and asked her about her interest in Domestic Violence ( a theme that recurs in her novels – sometimes subtly, sometimes loudly).

I was surprised by the honesty of Fleur’s response. Speaking up, speaking out is, in my opinion, essential to breaking the silence of Domestic Violence.  Please listen to Fleur’s response and check out her website.

https://www.fleurmcdonald.com/tag/domestic-violence/

Fleur’s Response:

My involvement in domestic violence came from having lived experience. I understand the fear, shame and self-hatred that comes from living in a house where this occurs. As I understand what it does to the children who are under the same roof.

Domestic and Family violence is very different in country areas, which is something I wanted to highlight, along with the fact that all DFV isn’t physical. There are many parts (emotional, financial, mental and so on) which leave bruises on your soul, rather than your body. That’s where Breaking the Silence got its name.

Breaking the Silence is a not for Profit organisation and website which acts as a directory of all DFV services involved in your town. At the moment, we are only in Esperance and Albany, but by June 2020 we will have another eight towns in Western Australia. By October 2020, we will be offering counselling services either online or by phone.

I started this organisation with my own money and later, as I wanted to expand into other towns, lobbied the federal Government for funding. Minister Hunt saw the benefit in Breaking the Silence and gave an grant which will enable us to get all of Western Australia online and start the counselling services. We intend to branch out into other states in during this time.

The current COVIS-19 crisis will see a rise in DFV rates, there can be no doubt. I wish we were further down the track with the counselling services, than we are, but we are working as quickly as we can to get these services up and running.

 

Thank you Fleur. 

 

Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline – Western Australia
The Women’s Domestic Violence Helpline is a state wide 24 hour service. This service provides support and counselling for women experiencing family and domestic violence. This includes phone counselling, information and advice, referral to local advocacy and support services, liaison with police if necessary and support in escaping situations of family and domestic violence. The service can refer women to safe accommodation if required. A telephone based interpreting service is available if required.
Telephone (08) 9223 1188   Free call 1800 007 339
In an emergency – if someone is in immediate danger – call the police on 000 now.

Review: Fifty Fifty – Steve Cavanagh

Fifty Fifty
Steve Cavanagh
Orion Books
Hachette Australia
ISBN: 9781409185857
RRP $32.99

 

Description:
Two sisters on trial for murder. Both accuse each other.

Who do YOU believe?

Alexandra Avellino has just found her father’s mutilated body, and needs the police right away. She believes her sister killed him, and that she is still in the house with a knife.

Sofia Avellino has just found her father’s mutilated body and needs the police right away. She believes her sister, Alexandra did it, and that she is still in the house, locked in the bathroom.

Both women are to go on trial at the same time. A joint trial in front of one jury.

But one of these women is lying. One of them is a murderer. Sitting in a jail cell, about to go on trial with her sister for murder, you might think that this is the last place she expected to be.

You’d be wrong.

My View:
This read left me gobsmacked! What a perfect read.

This is Steve Cavanagh at his very best – and his best is GREAT! This was an unbelievably good read: it will astound you, confuse you and mesmerise you. This read will have you on the edge of your chair, holding your breath, jaws locked as you try and decipher the dual stories of pain and tragedy that end in revenge and bloodshed- so much blood.

Sharp, clever and tension packed. This really was a thrilling read. And no, I didn’t guess/work out who the killer was. I doubt you will either.