Post Script: The Lost Girls – Wendy James

The Lost Girls

The Lost Girls

Wendy James

Michael Joseph

Penguin Books

ISBN: 9781921901058

 

Description:

From the bestselling author of The Mistake comes a hauntingly powerful story about families and secrets and the dark shadows cast by the past.

Curl Curl, Sydney, January 1978.

Angie’s a looker. Or she’s going to be. She’s only fourteen, but already, heads turn wherever she goes. Male heads, mainly . . .

Jane worships her older cousin Angie. She spends her summer vying for Angie’s attention. Then Angie is murdered. Jane and her family are shattered. They withdraw into themselves, casting a veil of silence over Angie’s death.

Thirty years later, a journalist arrives with questions about the tragic event. Jane is relieved to finally talk about her adored cousin. And so is her family. But whose version of Angie’s story – whose version of Angie herself – is the real one? And can past wrongs ever be made right?

The shocking truth of Angie’s last days will force Jane to question everything she once believed. Because nothing – not the past or even the present – is as she once imagined.

My View:

What an incredible talent this author has that she can take you back thirty odd years, to a time of innocence, to a time of discovery, a time of burgeoning sexual awakening that is the adolescent in the ‘70s.    With a stroke of a pen we are in that small country town, it is school holidays, we are watching TV; Sounds Unlimited, The Road Runner, Elvis re runs… going to the corner shop for mum and dad, happy to spend the change on lollies, listening to the radio, buying records of our favourite artists with Christmas money/pocket money, following our best friend and older cousin around, happy to be on the periphery of her golden aura.

But Angie is not content with hanging round with her younger cousin. She wants more; more admiration, more excitement, more experiences.  Life suddenly changes when Angie goes missing. Her death haunts her family for the next thirty odd years. Innocence is buried with Angie at the cemetery. Life is never the same.

This is a complex narrative that straddles the two time frames with ease – the settings and the stories of the past, 1978, the year Angie died and the present 2010 when the family are forced to relive, remember and recount the days surrounding the disappearance and the discovery of Angie’s dead body a few days later.  This is a story about memories, about families, about relationships, about how death and separation affects us and about the burden of secrets and lies that emotionally cripple a family until the truth is revealed. And a huge reveal it is.

James teases out the story using interviews, transcripts, multiple perspectives and recollections/memories – great devices to reveal the bigger picture.  Wendy James creates characters that are warm, that are flawed, that are passionate, that are real; I can recognise people I know in her characters. James asks the question – how far would you go to protect the ones you love?

Brilliant settings, engaging characters, a murder and a thirty year old mystery and wonderful storytelling this book has it all. 

Post Script: Beams Falling – P M Newton

Portrait of Post-Traumatic Stress in an authentic police setting…and so many other things.

Beams Falling

P.M. Newton

Penguin Books Australia

Viking

ISBN: 9780670074525

Description:

On the inside, Detective Nhu ‘Ned’ Kelly is a mess. Stitched up after being shot, her brain’s taking even longer to heal than her body. On the outside, though, she’s perfect, at least as far as the top brass are concerned. Cabramatta is riding high on the new ‘Asian crime wave’, a nightmare of heroin, home invasions, and hits of all kinds, and the cops need a way into the world of teenaged dealers and assassins.

They think Ned’s Vietnamese heritage is the right fit but nothing in Cabra can be taken at face value. Ned doesn’t speak the language and the ra choi – the lawless kids who have ‘gone out to play’ – are just running rings around her. The next blow could come from anywhere, or anyone. And beyond the headlines and hysteria, Ned is itching to make a play for the kingpin, the person behind it all with the money and the plan and the power.

Beams Falling is the brilliantly compelling and gritty second novel by the rising star of Australian crime writing. A portrait of our recent past, it’s also a compulsive and utterly authentic insight into the way both cops and criminals work

My View:

Firstly I was very impressed with the authentic  voice of this police procedural  and the harrowing accuracy of PTSD as it is presented in this narrative;  life constantly on alert, hyper vigilant, hyper alert, anxious, breathless, paranoia…panic. I could feel this disorder blossoming in my mind and chest as I read on, the descriptions so real.

Newton has a brilliant way with words- her descriptions of settings so accurate you can smell the markets, the dirty back streets, and the decay… the incense burning. Her dialogues flow easily and comfortably, the camaraderie of the Job clearly evident.

Detective Nhu “Ned” Kelly is a wonderful female protagonist – she is complex, likable, stressed, determined and compassionate and she is good at her job – just a little messed up with “head noises” at the moment but she will work through that. I loved the inclusion of the Buddhist nun who plays a small yet important role in this narrative and that of Detective Joe  “Nug” Ng.  Other characters along the way are well developed, not always likeable, not always what you expect.

The narrative itself is complex- so many issues are woven in this web of deceit, crime and recovery. They are subtly painted into the picture, you do not feel you are being lectured but this novel does make you think; about war, about detention centres, about family, about gangs, drugs, abuse, ethnic violence, and home invasions to name just a few issues. After I finished reading this I could not sleep for hours – not because I was fearful but because I was thinking.  Not everything is black and white, right or wrong,  not everyone is either guilty or innocent; so many shades of grey. There are so many individual circumstances to be considered. I could never be a cop; I think the lines are too blurry for me.

All in all this was a great Australian narrative, full of Sydney settings – dirty and clean – you see it all. Great characters, personal dilemmas, ethical challenges and a complex plot that reaches out to you and says “look at the bigger picture whilst acknowledging the impact on the individual.” The author has used a brilliant reference for this title in a story told by Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon; it is poignant and such an accurate reflection on life (no spoilers here). A great read!

PS

I loved the inclusion of the dog in the therapist room.

Some background on P M Newton:

 P.M. Newton is a Sydney based crime writer.

The Old School, featuring Detective Nhu “Ned” Kelly, published by Penguin in 2010 is her first novel.

Short biographical details can be found at Penguin.

Random details include a 13 year career in the NSW Police, the majority of which was spent as a Detective. Over the years I worked a variety of criminal investigation roles, from being one of many in an office of suburban Ds to the lone D in country NSW, taking in attachments to a variety of specialist squads along the way.  From the outside, being a D looks glamorous, up close it involves a lot more paperwork than any one imagines, and eventually, for me, it started to resemble “Groundhog Day”. I’ve often described it as a job where  you are constantly meeting people for the first time on the worst day of their lives – and quite often those people see you as being the cause of it.

So, I jumped ship and decided to see if there was a happier way to live. My journeys since have seen me in Mali, West Africa, listening to and writing about the music that pours out of that stretch of the Sahel. I was lucky enough to have my words and photographs published on CD liner notes by Sterns African Music label and in a travel magazine. Then there were a few years in India, studying Buddhist philosophy and teaching English to Tibetan refugees, and some very naughty little monks. It was whilst living in India that the character of Nhu “Ned” Kelly, first made her appearance in my head then eventually into notebooks and finally into The Old School.

Post Script: The Train Rider – Tony Cavanaugh

The Train Rider

Tony Cavanaugh

Hachette Australia

Hodder Australia

ISBN: 9780733630675

Description:

One man pushed Darian Richards to the edge. The man he couldn’t catch. The Train Rider.

As Victoria’s top homicide investigator, Darian Richards spent years catching killers. The crimes of passion, of anger, of revenge … they were easy. It was the monsters who were hard.

Someone was taking girls. At first he’d keep them a week then give them back. Darian warned that wouldn’t last. It didn’t. From then on, their bodies were never found. Girls kept disappearing. All they had in common was the fact they’d last been seen on a train.

The ever-rising list of the vanished broke Darian. Forced him to walk away. Now, retired, watching the Noosa River flow by, the nightmares had finally stopped. Darian was never going back.

Then three girls go missing from Queensland trains. Darian knows that the killer is playing him. He has a choice to make. But when the decision means a girl will die, there is no choice. He has to stop this man once and for all. Forever.

My View:

In this the 3rd novel in the Darian Richards series we learn a lot more about the person who is Darian – haunted by a murderer he could not catch, his present now embroiled in the residue  of  that  evil  that has followed him to his retirement by the river.  The same killer strikes again and this time it is personal, Darian is his target.  This is a great psychological thriller, the killer calmly plays a “catch me if you can” game with Darian, the stakes are high – the lives of innocent young girls and his relationship with Rose are at risk.

This is an engaging story with a voice that I found to be less intimidating than that of the villain in Promise, but don’t be misled the crimes committed by The Train Rider are as gruesome and as worrying as those in Promise but we are not privy to as much of the antagonist thoughts and so are spared some of the horror. This may make this easier reading for some.

A first rate psychological thriller, I look forward to the next chapter in this series.

Post Script: Eugenia A True Story of Adversity, Tragedy, Crime and Courage – Mark Tedeschi QC

Eugenia: A True Story of Adversity, Tragedy, Crime and Courage

Eugenia

Mark Tedeschi

Simon &Schuster Australia

A CBS Company

ISBN: 9781922052315

 

Description:

Eugenia Falleni was a woman, who in 1920 was charged with the murder of her wife.

She had lived in Australia for twenty-two years as a man and during that time married twice. Three years after the mysterious disappearance of Annie, her first wife, Eugenia was arrested and charged with her murder. This is the story of one of the most extraordinary criminal trials in legal history anywhere in the world. The book traces Eugenia’s history: from her early years in New Zealand, to her brutal treatment aboard a merchant ship and then her life in Sydney, living as Harry Crawford – exploring how Harry managed to convince two wives that he was a man, culminating with Annie’s’ death, the police investigation, Harry’s second marriage to Lizzie, and then arrest for Annie’s murder three years after she had disappeared.

This book is true crime, true grit and truly gripping. It Includes; a tragic main character who believed she was a man trapped in the body of a woman, sexual deception in the dark, an allegation of murder, an over exuberant police investigation, an erudite judge, a determined prosecutor, an overwhelmed defender, a Press gone feral, a public clamouring or blood – a mix that inevitably led to a miscarriage of justice.

My View:

An act of true crime that is as bizarre as any work of fiction I have read, this book is compelling yet moving reading. This is the first time I have felt sympathy for the accused, for the circumstances she lived in, for the social mores that restricted her life choices that ultimately lead to her prison sentence; a sentence that hindsight allows  us to see as unjust and undeserving and as Mark Tedeschi states, all the circumstances that conspired against her “inevitably led to a miscarriage of justice.”

This is a very well researched and presented case; Tedeschi writes with grace and without prejudice, stating facts, as Tedeschi reveals on page 313 when asked if he thinks was Eugenia guilty he responds, “My answer is always the same; that is the wrong question. The right question is: Was there sufficient evidence to justify her conviction for murder…If her trial was held today, I am quite convinced that she would either be acquitted outright or, at most, convicted of manslaughter.”

This case makes fascinating reading – a trial by media, a trial for the crime of being other. I would like to think that as a society we have made significant progress is how we accept otherness, but largely I am ashamed to say I think that we are all too quick to judge by appearances and today’s modern media and specifically social media, hold so much power in how we interpret the world around us. Power it doesn’t deserve.

 

 

Post Script: Silent Kill – Peter Corris

Silent Kill

Silent Kill

Peter Corris

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781743316375

 

Description:

Politics, murder and sex push Hardy to the limit.

When Cliff Hardy signs on as a bodyguard for charismatic populist Rory O’Hara, who is about to embark on a campaign of social and political renewal, it looks like a tricky job – O’Hara has enemies. A murder and a kidnapping cause the campaign to fall apart.

Hired to investigate the murder, Hardy uncovers hidden agendas among O’Hara’s staff as well as powerful political and commercial forces at work. His investigation takes him from the pubs and brothels of Sydney to the heart of power in Canberra and the outskirts of Darwin. There he teams up with a resourceful Indigenous private detective and forms an uneasy alliance with the beautiful Penelope Marinos, formerly O’Hara’s PA.

A rogue intelligence agent becomes his target and Hardy stumbles upon a terrible secret that draws them into a violent – and disturbing – confrontation.

My View:

For those of you who like your crime read in the “hard boiled” style this is for you; this narrative provides intrigue, political manipulation, a protagonist who is basically the stereo typical detective action hero. Cliff hardy is a tough guy with principles; he fights for his beliefs, he protects and tries to save/get  the “girl”, he drinks a little, plays pool and is not a push over. Cliff Hardy is battle toughened.

In all I found this to be a well written narrative though the characters were a little stereotyped and out dated and the action didn’t really excite until the final chapters. A quick read with a somewhat satisfying end.

Post Script: Close Up – Kate Forster

A great story that brought a tear to my eyes.

Close Up, Kate Forster

Close Up

Kate Forster

Michael Joseph

Penguin Books

ISBN: 9781921901638

 

Description:

A racy, romantic, escapist story filled with glamour and heart and set in the movie world of Hollywood, by the author of Seduction and The Perfect Location.

In Hollywood, not everyone is ready for their close up, especially when it exposes the secrets of past …

Zoe Greene manages the careers of Hollywood’s biggest stars. She’ll do anything to help them – and herself – get ahead.

Actress Maggie Hall has been America’s sweetheart for nearly twenty years. And she’s about to learn that there are two things in life you just can’t fight: growing older and falling in love.

Dylan Mercer – young, beautiful and defiant – has run away from New York to try her luck in Hollywood. She’s not after fame and fortune, though. Dylan’s on a quest to find her birth mother.

All three women are swept up in the search for the actress who will score the role of a lifetime. But ambition and desire can bring out the worst in people. And in a town built on illusions, believing you can escape your past might just be the biggest illusion of all.

My View:

They say you should never judge a book by its cover – and how true this proved to be.  Something about the cover just made me think in stereo types; of trashy romance novels. But this book was anything but a trashy romance – this was a skilfully written narrative filled with interesting well fleshed out characters, it has some interesting plot twists and turns, great settings  painted in vivid colours, a bit of romance and a great story about female friendship.  I have had such a friendship – a friend from my first days of high school – Darlene if you are reading this – it is time we picked up the phone, it has been too long. J

This narrative talked to me about my work life – no I don’t work in Hollywood but I do work in film and TV in Australia – and it is not a glamorous business. It is cruel, mostly thankless and competitive. The playing field is not even.  These elements it shares with Hollywood.But enough of that – you will discover all and more when you read this book for yourself.

In all, a very well written story, engaging characters, strong female protagonists, a great story of enduring friendship and lessons about love and the scenes with the dog (no spoilers here) brought a tear to my eye.  Kate Forster is a great Australian writer.

Post Script: Broken – Vanessa skye

Violence, sex addiction, relationship problems, office politics and crime – this book has it all!

Broken

Vanessa Skye

The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House

ISBN: 9781612132129

 

 

Description:

A mother is murdered in an apparent robbery.

A young woman is raped and beaten in a home invasion.

Chicago Detective Alicia “Berg” Raymond doesn’t believe in random crime and is certain both cases are more than they seem—but can she trust her instincts, or is she too distracted by the feelings she has for former partner and new boss? For Berg, the need for justice burns deep and fills the emptiness where therapy and relationships fall short.

She’s certain the husband knows more than he’s willing to admit, but the trap to catch the killer is the loophole that sets him free.

The rapist is caught and sent to prison, but when Berg gets closer to the family devastated by his depravity, their behaviour doesn’t add up.

As Berg fights to prevent another murder, she crosses the line between hero and villain—and there’s no turning back.

** Vanessa Skye is a journalist and public relations executive from Sydney, Australia, who has always loved a good story. Enthralled with examining the motivations behind people’s actions, Vanessa realized what she really wanted to do in life was combine her love of words with her fascination for human behaviour. Inspired by a recurring dream, Vanessa wrote her crime fiction debut, The Enemy Inside.

My View:

I think my appreciation of the characters and the back story would have been enhanced if I had read the earlier book, The Enemy Inside. There are many references to this earlier work and without this background I think it took me a little while to engage with this narrative. I struggled along piecing together the existing relationships, past misdemeanours and the serious and abusive history of Berg’s childhood and the horrendous events that took place at her workplace before this new chapter in her life begins. I had a lot to catch up on.

However once caught up I found this to be a fast paced, action packed police procedural with plenty to keep me interested. The plot twisted and turned and I feared for the inevitable as Berg’s life  spun out of control and began to disintegrate before my eyes. I must warn the potential reader; this story comes with a lot of graphic sex, explicit language and violence. It is not for the faint hearted.