The Gemma Woodstock Trilogy – Sarah Bailey

                                    

Sarah Bailey has written three novels in the Gemma Woodstock Series and I would highly recommend reading this trilogy, one book after the other; it is simply the best way to understand your protagonist, their dilemmas, and their growth and to appreciate the talent of this award winning writer as her writing goes from strength to strength on this journey.

 

The Dark Lake: Book #1

In a suspense thriller to rival Paula Hawkins and Tana French, a detective with secrets of her own hunts the killer of a woman who was the glamorous star of their high school.

 

Rose was lit by the sun, her beautiful face giving nothing away. Even back then, she was a mystery that I wanted to solve.

 

The lead homicide investigator in a rural town, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock is deeply unnerved when a high school classmate is found strangled, her body floating in a lake. And not just any classmate, but Rosalind Ryan, whose beauty and inscrutability exerted a magnetic pull on Smithson High School, first during Rosalind’s student years and then again when she returned to teach drama.

 

As much as Rosalind’s life was a mystery to Gemma when they were students together, her death presents even more of a puzzle. What made Rosalind quit her teaching job in Sydney and return to her hometown? Why did she live in a small, run-down apartment when her father was one of the town’s richest men? And despite her many admirers, did anyone in the town truly know her?

 

Rosalind’s enigmas frustrate and obsess Gemma, who has her own dangerous secrets—an affair with her colleague and past tragedies that may not stay in the past.

 

Into the Night: Book #2

After the shocking murder of a high-profile celebrity, Gemma Woodstock must pull back the layers of a gilded cage to discover who among the victim’s friends and family can be trusted–and who may be the killer.

 

Troubled and brilliant, Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock finds herself lost and alone after a recent move to Melbourne, broken hearted by the decisions she’s had to make. Her new workplace is a minefield and Detective Sergeant Nick Fleet, the partner she has been assigned, is uncommunicative and often hostile. When a homeless man is murdered and Gemma is put on the case, she can’t help feeling a connection with the victim and his lonely, isolated existence.

 

Then Sterling Wade, an up-and-coming actor filming his breakout performance in a closed-off city street, is murdered in the middle of an action-packed shot, and Gemma and Nick have to put aside their differences to unravel the mysteries surrounding the actor’s life and death. Who could commit such a brazen crime? Who stands to profit from it? Far too many people, and none of them can be trusted. Gemma can’t imagine a pair of victims with less in common–and yet as Gemma and Fleet soon learn, both men were keeping secrets that may have led to their deaths.

 

With riveting suspense, razor-sharp writing, and a fascinating cast of characters, INTO THE NIGHT proves Sarah Bailey is a major new talent to watch in the world of literary crime fiction.

 

Where the Dead Go: Book #3

Four years after the events of Into the Night, DS Gemma Woodstock is on the trail of a missing girl in a small coastal town.

 

‘Every bit as addictive and suspenseful as The Dark Lake . . . Sarah Bailey’s writing is both keenly insightful and wholly engrossing, weaving intriguing and multi-layered plots combined with complicated and compelling characters.’ The Booktopian

 

A fifteen-year-old girl has gone missing after a party in the middle of the night. The following morning her boyfriend is found brutally murdered in his home. Was the girl responsible for the murder, or is she also a victim of the killer? But who would want two teenagers dead?

 

The aftermath of a personal tragedy finds police detective Gemma Woodstock in the coastal town of Fairhaven with her son Ben in tow. She has begged to be part of a murder investigation so she can bury herself in work rather than taking the time to grieve and figure out how to handle the next stage of her life – she now has serious family responsibilities she can no longer avoid. But Gemma also has ghosts she must lay to rest.

 

Gemma searches for answers, while navigating her son’s grief and trying to overcome the hostility of her new colleagues. As the mystery deepens and old tensions and secrets come to light, Gemma is increasingly haunted by a similar missing person’s case she worked on not long before. A case that ended in tragedy and made her question her instincts as a cop. Can she trust herself again?

 

A riveting thriller by the author of the international bestseller The Dark Lake, winner of both the Ned Kelly Award and the Sisters in Crime Davitt Award for a debut crime novel.

 

 

My View:

This is an award winning series and I am saddened to have reached the end of the trilogy.  Gemma Woodstock is a character that fights injustices and crimes and her personal demons whilst co – parenting and I love this character’s development and am pleased that her journey is one of growth and relative success. I like the ‘warts and all’ depiction of Gemma’s life; a flawed protagonist she certainly is but not a hopeless one, she does grow, mature and accepts responsibility for her actions. It is unusual to see a woman portrayed as honestly as this – with her risk taking behaviour, her fragile state of mental health, her relationship issues, her strength; she is the most unorthodox  female protagonist I think I have come across. The honesty is refreshing.

 

I highly recommend this series.

 

 

 

Review: The Inn – James Patterson and Candice Fox

The Inn

James Patterson and Candice Fox

Penguin Random House

Century Australia

ISBN: 9780143794516

Description:

A gripping stand-alone novel from the world’s bestselling thriller writer.

Ex-Boston homicide detective Billy Robinson has retreated to a quiet life on the New England coast. Struggling to cope following the death of his beloved wife, he must now run the inn that Siobhan took care of so well.

The inn’s quirky residents help keep Billy on solid ground as he grieves, and the group soon become an unconventional family. But this small town is in the grips of a growing opioid epidemic, and when a young resident gets hooked into the crisis, Billy knows he must act to save the people in the inn that he has grown to care so much about.

With his secretive past in Boston catching up to him, can Billy survive long enough to save the town – and its beloved inn – from ruin?

 

My View:

I had a little Stepehndrugs King déjà vu moment when I started reading this, perhaps it was the setting that evoked this random memory?  The waterfront, the old run down building that is the Inn?  A horror story of sorts, this however, is where the resemblance ends.

I have mixed feelings about this read. The first time I picked this up I was not engrossed or engaged with the narrative…I put the book down and started reading again the next day…something changed! The tension, the dilemmas, the characters living in the Inn grabbed a hold of me and didn’t let me lose until I finished reading.  What a change! I wish I could articulate the reason for the change- perhaps pace? Perhaps it’s the connection with the “good guys” and their struggle?

A great collaboration. A solid read. I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

Sneak Peek – Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street- Felicita Sala

 

Scribble asked Felicita what inspired her to write this beautiful book?

 

‘This book is a homage to all the people who have shared their food with me and who have instilled in me a love of food: My mother, my neighbours, my friends, people I’ve met on my travels. 

 

The inspiration for the individual recipes and characters came from a variety of sources, but mainly this: the memory of migrating to Australia as a seven year old kid, and those first experiences with different foods and people of different backgrounds. I grew up in Italy in the 80s, which was a very homologous culture of Italian people eating Italian food. From Italy are my earliest memories of big tables full of people eating together.

And then I came Australia.

I remember the first time our Vietnamese neighbours came over with spring rolls, and the first time I tasted an Indian curry at a friend’s house. It was a revelation. The same aspect of sharing applies to every corner of the world.

Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street is a book about the act of feeding others, of being fed, of sharing what made us from the places that made us. 

The recipes are mostly old classics, not my own, that I adapted slightly. These are the things I cook for my family, or that are simple and comforting to make and eat with children.’

 

 

 

Review: Asylum – Jack Adams

Asylum

Delaney & Murphy #1

Jack Adams

Atlas Productions

ISBN: 9780994182203

 

Description:

Something happened here. Behind these walls, in these rooms, on the grounds, at the river. The inmate sketched it all – fine lines. See there, in the negative space, the truth in the pencil strokes. Then he was gone.

Joe was their friend; the man they spoke to through the wire fence of the Lunatic Asylum, and 10-year-old best friends, Nathan Walker and Adam Murphy, knew he wasn’t insane. Then, one day, Joe was gone. Now hitting their thirties—jobs and divorces in their wake—ex-cop, current P.I. Nate and psychiatrist Adam decide to share office space and a receptionist. That’s when the letter arrives advising them that they have received ‘Expectations’. A quaint, old-fashioned bequest delivered by a solicitor which amounts to an inheritance for two boys – left by Joseph O’Connell, a missing-believed-deceased former patient at the River Park Lunatic Asylum.

 

My View:

This is a fantastic debut by Australian author Jack Adams, characters are well developed and empathetic, issued are presented in shades of grey, the locations are rich in detail and very visual. I particularly like how this narrative gives voice to the experience of the disenfranchised, those with illness/mental illness in the community and highlights the huge impact that non-judgemental friendship can have on an individual.  And then there is the mystery.

 

A mystery recounted by reflections of two time periods, the not so long ago past and the current times, this is an enlightening read.

 

I cannot wait to see what Jack Adams writes next – it’s hard to believe this book is his debut, it is written with such skill.

 

 

Guest Review: The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle – Sophie Green

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle

Sophie Green

Hachette AU

ISBN: 9780733641169

 

Description:

It’s the summer of 1982. The Man from Snowy River is a box office hit and Paul Hogan is on the TV.

In a seaside suburb of NSW, housewife Theresa Howard takes up swimming. She wants to get fit; she also wants a few precious minutes to herself. So at sunrise each day she strikes out past the waves.

From the same beach, the widowed Marie swims. With her husband gone, bathing is the one constant in her new life.

After finding herself in a desperate situation, 26-year-old Leanne only has herself to rely on. She became a nurse to help others, even as she resists help herself.

Elaine has recently moved from England. Far from home without her adult sons, her closest friend is a gin bottle.

In the waters of Shelly Bay, these four women find each other. They will survive shark sightings, bluebottle stings and heartbreak; they will laugh so hard they swallow water, and they will plunge their tears into the ocean’s salt. They will find solace and companionship in their friendship circle, and learn that love takes many forms.

 

Brenda’s Review:

By the ocean in the suburb of Shelly Bay in NSW, four women lived their lives. They didn’t know one another, but soon they would. Theresa, mother of two young children, a husband who never helped around the house and her Nonna all lived in one house; Elaine, originally from England where her two adult sons still resided moved to Shelly Bay with her Australian surgeon husband, James. Marie, widowed for the past five years had a quiet, lonely existence while Leanne kept her past locked away, working as a nurse in the local hospital.

Marie swam every day, whatever the season and when Theresa started her early morning swimming – to have some time for herself – she and Marie soon swam together. Elaine was the third to venture to the ocean and when Leanne, having recently learned to swim in the local pool, braved the water the group became four. Gradually the four different women became friends, shared secrets and heartache, were there for one another. Their friendship was the one constant in their lives; the ocean their solace.

After loving Aussie author Sophie Green’s The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club, I was really looking forward to The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle and it didn’t disappoint. A wonderful, heartfelt, feel-good, wrap-you-in-a-hug story, there is sadness, loss, happiness, love – but most of all friendship. Set in Australia, it begins in the summer of 1982, giving us the insights into four people’s lives over a period of two years. An absolute delight, The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle is one I highly recommend and I’m looking forward to seeing what Ms Green comes up with next. 5 stars.

With thanks to Hachette AU for my uncorrected proof ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Bowraville – Dan Box

Bowraville

Dan Box

Penguin Random House Australia

Viking

ISBN: 9780143784395

 

Description:

A true crime story cannot often be believed, at least at the beginning. In Bowraville, all three of the victims were Aboriginal. All three were killed within five months, between 1990 and 1991. The same white man was linked to each, but nobody was convicted.

More than two decades later, homicide detective Gary Jubelin contacted Dan Box, asking him to pursue this serial killing. At that time, few others in the justice system seemed to know – or care – about the murders in Bowraville. Dan spoke to the families of the victims, Colleen Walker-Craig, Evelyn Greenup and Clinton Speedy-Duroux, as well as the lawyers, police officers and even the suspect involved in what had happened. His investigation, as well as the families’ own determined campaigning, forced the authorities to reconsider the killings. This account asks painful questions about what ‘justice’ means and how it is delivered, as well as describing Dan’s own shifting, uncomfortable realisation that he was a reporter who crossed the line.

 

Praise for the Bowraville podcast:

 

‘It is a gripping true crime tale and an essay on racism; a challenge to the lies Australia tells itself about its treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people told through the voices of three Aboriginal families who have been indisputably let down … The podcast has galvanised the public in a way that two decades of print and television reporting on the Bowraville murders have not.’ The Guardian

 

‘A masterful example of crime reporting which forensically details the worst of human nature, inexplicably compounded by the gross negligence of the only people who could provide justice. It’s stirred thousands, including the prime suspect, to re-engage with the case after trusting the journalist to take them to dark places.’ Walkley judges’ comments

 

‘Outstanding.’ Leigh Sales

 

‘Moving, brilliant.’ Annabel Crabb

 

‘If you haven’t listened to Bowraville by Dan Box, then you should.’ David Campbell

 

 

My View:

I wholeheartedly agree with the comments that the Walkey judges made about the reporting of the Bowraville murders.  What more could I add?

 

That I was/am haunted by the stories here – the institutionalised and individual racism like none I have come across in Australia before now, my despair at the cycle of violence and alcoholism that has been normalised in some of the communities spoken of here and I feel the frustration of all those involved in trying to find justice for the two young people and the child victim in Bowraville and I thank Barry Toohey (p.214) for his outstanding explanation of “Chronic collective grief” that makes sense of so much of the pain evidenced in this read.

 

This is an outstanding read. All Australians would benefit from reading this book.