Review: The Widow of Walcha – Emma Partridge

The Widow of Walcha: A True Crime Story of Love, Lies and a Murder In A small Country Town

Emma Partridge

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781760859428

Description:

The Widow of Walcha is a shocking true story about death, love and lies in the small NSW town of Walcha.
 
All farmer Mathew Dunbar ever wanted was to find love and have a family of his own. That’s why, just months after meeting Natasha Darcy, the much-loved grazier didn’t hesitate to sign over his multi-million-dollar estate to her.
 
When Mathew died in an apparent suicide soon afterwards, in a stranger-than-fiction twist, Natasha’s estranged husband – who she was once charged with trying to kill – was the first paramedic on the scene after the murder.
 
Journalist and author Emma Partridge travelled to the cool and misty town of Walcha in the Northern Tablelands of NSW in the months after Mathew Dunbar’s death, drawn by the town’s collective worry that Natasha was going to get away with murder. Partridge spent months researching the case, interviewing Mathew’s friends, family and Natasha herself in an attempt to uncover her sickening web of lies and crimes.
 
The Widow of Walcha is about one of the most extraordinary criminal trials in Australia’s history and reveals Natasha’s sickening crimes against those she claimed to love, fuelled by her obsession with money.
 

My View:

This story is so bizarre it reads like … a black comedy… how incredulous this is, how unbelievable the actions are in this read … I just cannot believe this actually happened, yet it did and one person is dead and a few more escaped by good luck. I shake my head as I read…how did this happen? How did this woman get away with so much before this last terrible act landed her in gaol? How does her husband (at the time the book was written, they were still married, that I do not get at all) whom she attempted to murder (setting the house on fire whilst he was in it) stay shtum? How? I just cant believe it.

Yet this is true. Follow the stories of her previous relationships, the earlier police charges, her first time in gaol, her next targets….read on as the clues are unraveled. Sit in court and hear evidence and then once the verdict has been delivered read on about the information that wasnt allowed to be shared in court, the other stories of “near misses”. I continue to shake my head in disbelief. What an incredible, true story.

I wish we could hear the Widow’s story ( I guess we do through the evidence and transcripts and interviews) but as she has not accepted responsibility I guess we will never know what was going through her mind,.. intriguing.

Big screen here this comes 🙂

Review: I Am A Killer -Danny Tipping & Ned Parker

I Am a A Killer

Danny Tipping & Ned Parker

Pan Macmillan

ISBN: 9781529065176

Description:

What goes through the mind of a killer when they commit murder? Based on the massively successful Netflix documentary series of the same name, this book features ten of the most compelling cases from the first two series and is full of exclusive never-seen-before material.

The authors, Ned Parker and Danny Tipping secured exceptional access to high-security prisons across America. The majority of the killers will die in prison – either by serving their sentence of life without parole or they are on Death Row, waiting to be executed. In each of the cases the inmate speaks openly about themselves and reflects on their life and their crimes. To gain a complete picture of the impact of the murders the authors spoke to both the families of both the perpetrators and the victims, and those in law enforcement who were involved in the case, leaving it up to the reader to make up their own mind about the killers and their crimes.

The book draws on handwritten letters from the inmates and full transcripts of the interviews to tell each story, and features exclusive material including personal pictures, crime scene images, and original police and court documents, this is a fascinating and detailed look at some of America’s most gripping murder cases.

My View:

This was a fascinating read. It did not glorify the crimes or those who committed them it merely reflected on circumstances, spoke to a few people involved in the situations to try and share a balanced view of the prisoner and life before and after they committed murder, on the what if’s ( or maybe that was what I added in my own head as I read), spoke of the legal systems; its complexity, it’s regional variances, it’s failings.

The book ( the lives of most in this book) is a sad reflection on how society has failed so many. Pick it up, read it and make your own conclusion. I would like to think that most in this book will get a second chance to have all their stories heard and then be judged accordingly.

I hope that those who determine where our taxes are spent read this book and realise money spent on drug rehabilitation programs ,on education for all, on domestic violence shelters and support, on child welfare, is money well spent. Think long term results or consequences, it’s your choice.

New Release: The Heron’s Cry – Ann Cleeves

The Heron’s Cry (Two Rivers #2)

Ann Cleeves

Macmillan

ISBN: 9781509889679

RRP $32.99

Description:

Ann Cleeves—New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of the Vera and Shetland series, both of which are hit TV shows—returns with the extraordinary follow-up to The Long Call, in the Two Rivers series, soon to be a major TV series too.

North Devon is enjoying a rare hot summer with tourists flocking to its coastline. Detective Matthew Venn is called out to a rural crime scene at the home of a group of artists. What he finds is an elaborately staged murder – Dr. Nigel Yeo has been fatally stabbed with a shard of one of his glassblower daughter’s broken vases.

Dr. Yeo seems an unlikely murder victim. He’s a good man, a public servant, beloved by his daughter. Matthew is unnerved, though, to find that she is a close friend of Jonathan, his husband.

Then another body is found – killed in a similar way. Matthew soon finds himself treading carefully through the lies that fester at the heart of his community and a case that is dangerously close to home.

My View:

Sit back and take an armchair vacation to the seaside towns of Ann Cleeves latest book in the Two River series.  This is another solid read from the critically acclaimed Ann Cleeves and I can visualise this as a TV series – this read is made for tv (in my opinion); with characters you can almost reach out and touch, settings that will take you away from your own loungeroom on a journey to the English countryside/seaside towns that Cleeves writes so well.  If I had to sum up this book in two words I would say “Midsomer Murders”; it has characters whose journey you will be keen to follow, towns, settings you will come to know and satisfying resolutions. This is a series you will be keen to follow.

Review: The Paris Affair – Pip Drysdale

The Paris Affair

Pip Drysdale

Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 9781760854331

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

She thinks love can kill you. It turns out she might be right.

Meet Harper Brown…

Occupation: Arts journalist

Dream job: Hard-hitting news reporter

Location: Paris

Loves: True crime podcasts, art galleries, coffee, whiskey

Does not love: fake people, toxic positivity, being told how to live her life by smug workmates who have no life (that’s you, Stan), her narcissistic ex

Favourite book: 1984

Favourite artist: Noah X. Sometimes.

Favourite painting: Klimt’s Schubert at the Piano

Special skills: breaking out of car boots, picking locks and escaping relationships.

Superpower: She can lose any guy in three minutes flat. Ask her how.

Secret: She’s hot on the trail of a murderer – and the scoop of a lifetime.

 

That’s if the killer doesn’t catch her first.

 

My View:

I loved this sassy, modern, exciting, captivating mystery. Set in Paris, this read makes you feels like you are in the city, at the art gallery, in the office, walking along the streets…the settings are brilliant. And the characters are just as well written. Visit the office and recognise some of the character traits Drysdale has instilled in Harper’s colleagues, you will recognise them.  Examine the friendships, the relationships are credible and some familiar.

Flawed yet resilient and strong, the protagonist Harper Brown is gutsy and likeable in a sometimes cringeworthy way. But you will like her. And a bonus – she has a great knowledge of art (or if not, she certainly talks the talk) 😊. And Noah X is …worth reading about.

The murders/mystery elements will keep you guessing.  There are so many well-placed red herrings you will not guess who did.

 

A great read.

 

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: 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.

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman ( aka Everything You Want Me to Be ) Mindy Mejia

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman (aka Everything You Want Me to Be)

Mindy Mejia

Hachette Australia

Quercus

ISBN: 9781784295936

 

Description:

Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to her death.

 

High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.

 

Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?

 

My View:

This narrative is so much more than a whodunit, it has so much more to offer than a psychological thriller, indeed it offers the reader so much more of life you will be rendered emotionally spent at the end of this work of crime fiction/ life lit/YA/murder mash up. WOW!

Powerful, credible and engaging…this is a fabulous read that will have you staying up late to finish the last page. And then you will be bereft!

 

I was astounded by the amazing insight that teen Hattie has about her life and the meaning of her existence and how she was able to verbalise her identity crisis – we all at some stage of our life ponder who we are and what we are doing with our life, what a great basis for a crime novel, what a way to connect with an audience.  Hattie ponders her existence, her role, her identity, the big WHY’s and the honest answer she eventually provides herself is life changing or more accurately life ending.   So much irony here.

 

Credit must be given to this author for creating such a loathsome manipulative character who somehow we cannot help but empathise with, as we do with all the main characters. The three, first person perspectives work effectively to flesh out the story and to bring out the honesty, humanness and great sadness that completes this narrative.  This is the thinking person’s murder mystery.   WOW WOW WOW- this is a great read.

 

PS I prefer the Australian tittle i.e The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman – says it all really  🙂

Post Script: Killer Look – Linda Fairstein

First Rate!

Killer Look

Killer Look

Linda Fairstein

Hachette Australia

Little, Brown

ISBN:  9780751560381

 

Description:

New York Times bestselling author Linda Fairstein delivers a heart-pounding thriller that explores the dark secrets of New York City’s Garment District—and centering on its infamous Fashion Week—in her eighteenth Alexandra Cooper novel.

 

New York City is known for its glamour, and nowhere is this more apparent than in its fashion scene. Sharing the pedestal with Paris, Milan, and London as fashion capital of the world, New York continually astounds with its creativity, daring, and innovations in the name of beauty. Yet high fashion means high stakes, as Alex Cooper quickly discovers when a murder rocks New York City’s Fashion Week. Along with Detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, Alex must reveal the grime beneath the glitz to expose the culprit—unless a wolf in model’s clothing gets to them first.

 

 

My View:

First Rate!

Fast paced, exciting…great character development, locations that you can visualise, a splash of romance; real relationships are portrayed- not light or fluffy or bodice ripping – as in honest and solid. Add a touch of history and a twisty narrative with a hint of something specular happening in the next book. I really enjoyed this read, in fact I really enjoy this series- it is another for you to add to your Must Read Author list.

 

 

 

Post Script: An Isolated Incident – Emily Maguire

This one will get your attention! 

An Isolated Incident

An Isolated Incident

Emily Maguire

Pan Macmillan Australia

Picador

ISBN: 9781743538579

 

Description:

When 25-year-old Bella Michaels is brutally murdered in the small town of Strathdee, the community is stunned and a media storm descends.

 

Unwillingly thrust into the eye of that storm is Bella’s beloved older sister, Chris, a barmaid at the local pub, whose apparent easygoing nature conceals hard-won wisdom and the kind of street-smarts only experience can bring.

 

As Chris is plunged into despair and searches for answers, reasons, explanation – anything – that could make even the smallest sense of Bella’s death, her ex-husband, friends and neighbours do their best to support her. But as the days tick by with no arrest, Chris’s suspicion of those around her grows.

 

An Isolated Incident is a psychological thriller about everyday violence, the media’s obsession with pretty dead girls, the grip of grief and the myth of closure, and the difficulties of knowing the difference between a ghost and a memory, between a monster and a man.

 

PRAISE FOR EMILY MAGUIRE

 

“At the heart of … Emily Maguire’s work lies an urgent need to pull away at the interconnecting threads of morality, society and human relationships.” Sydney Morning Herald

 

“what you get, along with a sharp mind and a keenness to investigate cultural confusions, is an engaging ability to put the vitality of the story first.” Weekend Australian

 

My View: This one piqued my interest as you may well notice.

 

Shoot this one straight to the top of my list of “Best Reads of the Year”. Brilliant, masterfully written.

 

Raw, tough, agonizingly truthful… the male gaze is reflected in a mirror back to us.  These reflections are a constant in our (women’s) everyday life, look around you will recognise it too! Misogyny, discrimination, entitlement, double values, violence or threats of violence, intimidation, judgments – the worthy/unworthy, beautiful/other…  Women’s everyday experiences, decisions, choices are under scrutiny of the male gaze – women are judged on whether they wear makeup or not, clothes can be fashionable/slutty, friendliness mistaken for availability as a sexual toy, she discounts you – she is a tease, she is self-assured – she is a “ball breaker”… how can a woman win? How does a woman tell the good guys from the bad when they all wear the same disguise?

 

I think it is the “entitlement” that bothers me the most in this book (and in life). A woman walks down a street alone– she is cat called, whistled at, judged, sexualised. There is a lot of social media chatter about the unsolicited attention men thrust on women at the moment, which if she ignores quickly turns to insults and rage.  (If I had more time I would write you an essay on these type of behaviours) There is a great example of this in the novel. The ugliness and ordinariness of entitlement goes like this; (May is jogging, alone, in suburbia);

‘Hey what you running for, sweet girl?’

May’s pace didn’t alter, her head remained high, her gaze trained at six feet ahead. She was used to running in the inner city, where dick heads calling from cars were background noise.

‘Aww, just a question. Why you running? Sweet arse like that, don’t wanna go running it away.’

She kept moving, taking the next left, focussing her mind on retracing her route, determining whether to loop back at the next corner or go another few blocks. She realises only two or three cars had passed since she’d left the main road, tried to picture  the town map, figure out  a more direct route back to her hotel.

 

A car turned from the opposite corner, came towards her, headlights on high beam, then no headlights at all. May’s vision flickered and swam. She noticed how dark it was, how few houses there were on this street…

‘Come on girl. Stop for a second. Just a second.’

The car was right behind her, engine revving, keeping pace.” (p. 49)

 

Sounds all too familiar to me.

 

 

Domestic violence is another behaviour is succinctly showcased in this novel –   I love you, love you, love you… until you hurt me…or those around me…I love you but not the violence … “he’s a good bloke”( is he?) … until he isn’t. “He is a good bloke” (really?) …until he is provoked. Where is the responsibility? Vision is blinded when it comes to violence against women…he is a good bloke …he couldn’t possibly…

 

I think this is a book that will polarise. Those who tune out the politics will read a work of crime fiction, an intriguing and moving narrative of crime fiction. Those who absorb the depth of this writing will read a crime narrative set in a world of male entitlement, gender inequality, violence…a feminist’s tale.

 

Absolutely loved it!

 

 

Post Script: All These Perfect Strangers -Aoife Clifford

Things don’t go wrong in an instant. There isn’t one single moment when the world suddenly splits in two. Rather, it begins with a minute crack, and then another and another, until they join together, getting bigger and wider and all the time you keep fooling yourself that this can still be fixed. That you can fill them in and everything will return to normal.” p.130

All These Perfect Strangers

All These Perfect Strangers
Aoife Clifford
Simon & Schuster Australia
ISBN: 9781925310726

 

Description:
You don’t have to believe in ghosts for the dead to haunt you.

You don’t have to be a murderer to be guilty.

Within six months of Pen Sheppard starting university, three of her new friends are dead. Only Pen knows the reason why.

College life had seemed like a wonderland of sex, drugs and maybe even love. The perfect place to run away from your past and reinvent yourself. But Pen never can run far enough and when friendships are betrayed, her secrets are revealed. The consequences are deadly.

‘This is about three deaths. Actually more, if you go back far enough. I say deaths, but perhaps all of them were murders. It’s a grey area. Murder, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So let’s just call them deaths and say I was involved. This story could be told a hundred different ways.’

 

‘This is a novel of disquieting intimacy and controlled suspense, Aoife Clifford deftly tightening the screws until we share the narrator’s sense of emotional and physical confinement and the unremitting grip of the past.’ – Garry Disher, author of Bitter Wash Road.

 

My View:
Things don’t go wrong in an instant. There isn’t one single moment when the world suddenly splits in two. Rather, it begins with a minute crack, and then another and another, until they join together, getting bigger and wider and all the time you keep fooling yourself that this can still be fixed. That you can fill them in and everything will return to normal.” p.130

These statements sum up this book perfectly; as tiny cracks make themselves known flaws appear in personalities, in personal histories, in retelling of events. I really like the device of the diary to tell parts of the dual timeline stories. The trouble is Pen Sheppard is such an unreliable narrator that we never quite know if we are being shown the truth or a version of the truth, Aoife Clifford has baited her hook well, as a reader we just want to know what the mystery is in Pen’s home town, we are hooked.

The narrative rolls on, more dead bodies are found, the plot twists and turns and we understand a little more about why Pen acts the way she does, how trust is an issue, why she thinks her truth is dangerous. And dangerous it is! There were a few surprises that I didn’t see coming.

However I felt the ending let me and Aoife Clifford down. I won’t share any spoilers but will say that the ending left so much unsaid, so many loose ends, and so much history that needed righting (and writing). Maybe it is a sign of my investment in the book but I wanted more from this ending – justice was not served, so many details needed revealing to the police, so much information the reader had needed to be shared. I don’t like being left hanging. Maybe a novella is in the pipeline that will tidy the ending up?

Regardless of my dissatisfaction with the ending of this book it is a good debut, Aoife Clifford is an author to look out for.

 

****Interview with writer here: https://radio.abc.net.au/programitem/pgwE7PN3d6?play=true