Review: Starting From Now – Fleur MacDonald

Starting From Now

Fleur McDonald

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760529284

 

Description:

A suspenseful novel of rural life and real country issues from our genuine Voice of the Outback, author of the bestselling Where the River Runs

 

When twenty-five-year-old journalist, Zara Ellison receives her mother’s ominous text message, Call me when you can, Zara knows it’s not good news.

 

Two weeks later, Zara has left her much-loved city life to relocate to Barker, the sleepy country town in which she grew up. For Zara, family comes first.

 

But she needs to work too, and the town’s police force is a rural journalist’s best source of information. Meeting Detective Dave Burrows and Dave’s second-in-charge, Senior Constable Jack Higgins, is a priority.

 

Amid her family’s troubles, and reporting on farming accidents and violently clashing activists, Zara is shocked to witness Jack Higgins in a role she’d never have believed. How could he possibly justify this? And what was she going to do about it?

 

Wrapped in the love of family, friendship, crime and mystery, Starting From Now is another compelling novel from the authentic voice of Fleur McDonald.

 

 

My View:

Fleur McDonald has an authentic country voice that she uses to share her experiences and knowledge of life in small country towns, farming and life in general. This narrative had a couple of standout plot threads – activism and social media – looking deeper, reflecting on “snapshots” on social media and media manipulation and the family in crisis.

 

I was particularly touched by the family scenes that dealt with family crisis (no spoilers here); the scenes were realistic, emotive and evocated memoires that transported me to a difficult period in our lives. This was unexpected but very well written. I felt part of this family, dealing with their issues.

 

 

This book packs a mighty punch, cleverly weaving many plot threads together to bring about an informative, insightful and satisfying read.

 

 

 

Post Script: Wimmera – Mark Brandi

Powerful, evocative, once you read you cannot unread.

 

Wimmera

Wimmera

Mark Brandi

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733638459

 

Description:

In the long, hot summer of 1989, Ben and Fab are best friends.

 

Growing up in a small country town, they spend their days playing cricket, yabbying in local dams, wanting a pair of Nike Air Maxes and not talking about how Fab’s dad hits him or how the sudden death of Ben’s next-door neighbour unsettled him. Almost teenagers, they already know some things are better left unsaid.

 

Then a newcomer arrived in the Wimmera. Fab reckoned he was a secret agent and he and Ben staked him out. Up close, the man’s shoulders were wide and the veins in his arms stuck out, blue and green. His hands were enormous, red and knotty. He looked strong. Maybe even stronger than Fab’s dad. Neither realised the shadow this man would cast over both their lives.

 

Twenty years later, Fab is still stuck in town, going nowhere but hoping for somewhere better. Then a body is found in the river, and Fab can’t ignore the past any more.

 

Wimmera is the 2016 Winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger (UK).

 

 

My View:

Powerful, evocative, once you read you cannot unread.

 

I guess you can say I am intuitive, I can read people (mostly) or maybe read moods is a better explanation – a survivor’s skill, an empathetic skill. I notice things, things that can make me feel uncomfortable, little things, an attitude, a facial expression, often  something intangible, a prickling of the skin… a niggling feeling that something isn’t right, a warning, a take care or get out of here kind of thing. Reading this book I was on high alert, all my intuitive cells were screaming – NO!!! Get out.

 

My intuition was not wrong.

 

The prologue sets the scene for a very intense read. A discarded wheelie bin, lid screwed down tight. The imagination starts to process many scenarios…none of them good.

 

The tension continues to build, by page seventy I was pretty sure what was going on or about to. I put the book down and had a little break. A few days later I picked up the book and continued. With subtle hints, oh so subtle, this authors says so much – this is such powerful writing!

 

Powerful, dark, intense, painfully exquisite writing. Less is more.  Once you read you cannot unread. Brilliant!

 

 

 

 

Post Script: Web of Deceit – Katherine Howell

Picture

Web of Deceit

Katherine Howell

Pan Macmillan Australia

ISBN: 9781742610306

Description:

When paramedics Jane and Alex encounter a man refusing to get out of his crashed car with bystanders saying he deliberately drove into a pole, it looks like a cry for help. His claim that someone is out to get him adds to their thinking that he is delusional.

Later that day he is found dead under a train in what might be a suicide, but Jane is no longer so sure: she remembers the terror in his eyes.

Detective Ella Marconi shares Jane’s doubts, which are only compounded when the case becomes increasingly tangled. The victim’s boss tries to commit suicide when being questioned, a witness flees their attempt to interview her and a woman is beaten unconscious in front of Jane’s house.

Ella is at a loss to know how all these clues add up and then a shocking turn of events puts even more people in danger…

My View:

I like Australian crime writers who write clever, well structured, intricate plots with well developed and empathetic protagonists and I am now a fan of Katherine Howell – why haven’t I heard this name before in Australian Literature? I will certainly be adding her to my list of authors to seek out.

Web of Deceit is a story told from two points of view – from the perspectives of a female detective – Ella Marconi and paramedics Alex and Jane working in metropolitan Sydney. What appear to be two competing story lines in fact are revealed to be one – a complicated and involved story of lies and deceit, of fear and retribution; on the surface the waters appear calm and innocuous but there is lots happening under the water.  Treachery is everywhere – it is not reserved for the “street” or the criminal underworld; it is in the workplace, which has become a time management, penny pinching environment where outcomes and not people matter (haven’t we all worked for places/people like this at some point?), where the climb up the greasy pole is the utmost importance – to some – but not to Ella, Alex and Jane. Treachery is in the home – where relationships are tested and deceit – by omission or by lie effect all.   Howell cleverly demonstrates that life is complicated, relationships are tricky and need effort and mostly, we are all just trying to do our best, the emphasis on mostly.

This narrative is complex with well written; an enthralling sequence of events, of coincidences (or are they?) and of consequences that culminate in one moment of terror.  The main characters are appealing, likable,  I loved the city street-scapes, the reality of lives – the familiar and the fly on the wall observations of others work and routines.  Howell presents a story of intrigue that is guaranteed to have you staying up late so as to finish this book.