Post Script: Bitter Fruits – Alice Clark-Platts

Cover - Bitter Fruits

Bitter Fruits

Alice Clark-Platts

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 978071818152

 

 

Description:

Detective Inspector Erica Martin’s first case in the university city of Durham is Emily Brabents, a first-year student, who is found dead in the river.

 

DI Martin visits Joyce College, a cradle for the country’s future elite, and finds a close-knit community full of secrets, jealousy and obsession.

 

Her search reveals a vicious online trolling culture but could Emily, from the privileged and popular crowd, have been a victim? Should the sudden confession to the murder by the student president be believed?

 

And just who is the mysterious Daniel Shepherd whose name keeps appearing in the investigation…?

 

 

My View:

A brilliant debut novel considered and intelligent this book discusses the murder of a young woman and explores the psychology of those involved and follows the trail that lead to her death. Tightly woven into the fabric of this multi faced narrative are the some very relevant contemporary social issues; identity, feminism, online bullying, abuse of trust and power and sexism.

 

This narrative steers a clear path to discovery; this is not a book that is character lead, although there are several interesting characters here and I hope to see more of DI Martin in the future; this is an expose of evilness, obsession, narcissism and control and demonstrates just how easily the inexperienced can be manipulated- in persona and online. The influence of social media on the “look at me” generation is revealing and disturbing.

 

The dual narration works particularly well and slowly you are drawn into the campus social world and the lives of the main characters. As your involvement deepens the pace picks up and a psychological war zone is entered – a battle between good and evil – between DI Martina and the villain of the peace.

 

The twist in the conclusion, when revealed, is totally unexpected and pacts an enormous punch! A great read.

Post Script: Crucifixion Creek – Barry Maitland

cover Crucifixion Creek Barry Maitland

Crucifixion Creek

Barry Maitland

St. Martin’s Press

Minotaur Books

ISBN: 9781250072146

 

Description:

A meth-addicted biker shoots a woman during a police siege. An elderly couple commit suicide on the terrace of their favorite café. An unidentified white male is stabbed to death in the street.

 

 

For Sydney homicide detective Harry Belltree, not long out of the military and a grueling tour of Afghanistan, these three deaths appear to be just another day at the office. Until, that is, he identifies the stabbing victim as his own brother-in-law Greg, and journalist Kelly Pool suggests there’s a link between the three incidents. It seems Greg and the old couple had ties to the same man, a corrupt money man with a murky past and friends in both high places and low.

 

 

Harry Belltree can’t get officially involved in Greg’s murder, but he’s not going to leave it in the hands of others. That’s when he goes off-grid to investigate the links between these deaths. That’s when things start to get dangerous.

 

 

My View:

 

I am very pleased to make the acquaintance of Barry Maitland. I want to read all of your books!

 

This is the first book written by Barry Maitland that I have read – and again I ask – why haven’t I come across your writing before Barry?

And when is the TV series/big screen movie being released?

 

This book – the first is the Harry Belltree series is written in contemporary Australia but could probably be sited almost anywhere in the modern world – issues relating to war/returned soldiers, human trafficking, drugs, gangs, bikies, methamphetamines, grief, love…crime, so much is encompassed in this read.

 

What I loved –  a very fast-moving, well written and engaging character based narrative. I loved the images of Harry dancing in the dark with his blind wife; so personal, humanity exposed.

 

I loved that the protagonist is written is all shades – grey, black, white and mixtures thereof. Harry’s day job involves working on one side of the law – however Harry is complicated; he works both sides…A great character, a relatable character. A great read!

 

 

Post Script: Time Of Death – Mark Billingham

She’s not Poppy anymore…now she’s somebody else.”

Cover Time of  Death  Mark Billingham

Time of Death

A Tom Thorne Novel

Mark Billingham

Hachette Australia

Little, Brown

ISBN: 9781408704820

 

Description:

 

The Missing

Two schoolgirls are abducted in the small, dying Warwickshire town of Polesford, driving a knife into the heart of the community where police officer Helen Weeks grew up and from which she long ago escaped. But this is a place full of secrets, where dangerous truths lie buried.

The Accused

When it’s splashed all over the press that family man Stephen Bates has been arrested, Helen and her partner Tom Thorne head to the flooded town to support Bates’ wife – an old school friend of Helen’s – who is living under siege with two teenage children and convinced of her husband’s innocence.

 

The Dead

As residents and media bay for Bates’ blood, a decomposing body is found. The police believe they have their murderer in custody, but one man believes otherwise. With a girl still missing, Thorne sets himself on a collision course with local police, townsfolk – and a merciless killer.

Tom Thorne returns in a chilling mystery that will keep readers guessing until the final page. Time of Death is Mark Billingham’s most timely, atmospheric thriller to date.

My View:

Billingham goes to great lengths to immerse the reader in this novel – the settings are so vivid you can imagine yourself walking down the main street of the small town of Polesford. You can sit yourself at the café or pub and look at the menu, order your pint/coffee, nod your head in a silent hello to the locals. You are sitting at the next table to Hendricks and Thorne overhearing them discuss bugs and death and missing girls. Cleverly you have become a bit player on this large stage and therefore have a vested interest in discovering the truth. Well done Mark Billingham.

I love the characters of Helen, Thorne and Hendricks and have become very comfortable with these characters, their banter, their humour, sarcasm and intelligence…the dialogue is exceptionally natural and believable and the characters develop and grow with each new novel.

The plot is complex and there are a few red herrings to keep you on your toes. There are a couple of story arcs and I particularly liked where Helen is heading (no spoilers here), the issues she brining to our attention are contemporary, dark and unfortunately prevalent in our modern society and I am pleased she has found the strength to deal with this issue. Her story may embolden others. Billingham has told us enough but not all of the details of this thread and leaves the reader wanting to know more. The issue is handled sensitively without sensationalism.

In Time of Death Mark Billingham has provided the reader with another well written, complex narrative that speaks to issues that we can all empathise with. The plot is tense, the scenarios realistic, the political environment of the workplace is familiar, the characters are finely drawn and three dimensional and feel like people you know. The ending….is almost satisfying, the original case of the missing girls is cleared up but there is more happening that reaches beyond the last page of this novel; I was disappointed when it came to the end, I wanted more!

 

Post Script: After The Crash – Michel Bussi

Lylie: Life in a glass cage…observed by all

AFter the Crash

After The Crash

Michel Bussi

Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780297871439

 

Description:

On the night of 22 December 1980, a plane crashes on the Franco-Swiss border and is engulfed in flames. 168 out of 169 passengers are killed instantly. The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. Two families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her, sparking an investigation that will last for almost two decades. Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie?

Eighteen years later, having failed to discover the truth, private detective Credule Grand-Duc plans to take his own life, but not before placing an account of his investigation in the girl’s hands. But, as he sits at his desk about to pull the trigger, he uncovers a secret that changes everything – then is killed before he can breathe a word of it to anyone…

 

 

My View:

This was a very very slow burn for me, a lot of time is taken to set the scene, provide some history and introduce the characters, however if you can force yourself to continue reading you are in for a treat!

 

A large part of the narrative is designated to trying to establish who the child is, and the methods used to determine the identity. Mystery and red herrings abound. The pace increases and before you realise it you are thoroughly engaged with this narrative.

 

This is in multiple view point narrative partly revealed by the sharing of diary entries gifted to one of the main characters who in turn shares the diary with another character. The diary is written by the investigator who plans to commit suicide when he finally concedes he cannot solve the puzzle of the crash survivor’s identity. Other characters also have an opportunity to share their views on the identity and the action taking place. One voice is particularly creepy.

 

The unreliable narrator has a wonderful time in this narrative playing with our perceptions, twisting the truth, conspiracy theories abound; the plot twists and turns and there are so many surprises and a dash of lunacy, murder, missing persons and ugly characters with ugly intentions that will keep you reading.

 

The translation is flawless thanks to the brilliant work of Sam Taylor.

 

Post Script: If She Did It aka Lacy Eye – Jessica Treadway

If She Did It

 

If She Did It aka Lacy Eye

Jessica Treadway

Sphere

Little, Brown

Hachette

ISBN: 9780751555240

 

Description:

What if you began to suspect your child of an unspeakable crime?

 

When Dawn introduces her family to her new boyfriend, Rud, they hide their unsettled feelings because they’re glad that Dawn, always an awkward child, seems to have finally blossomed.

 

Then Dawn’s parents are savagely beaten in their own bed, and though Hanna survives, Rud stands trial for Joe’s murder. Claiming her boyfriend’s innocence, Dawn initially estranges herself from everyone she knows, but when Rud wins an appeal, Dawn returns home saying she wants to support her mother.

 

Hanna knows that if she could only remember the details of that traumatic night, she could ensure her husband’s murderer remains in jail. But Hanna hadn’t realised that those memories may cause her to question everything she thought she knew about her daughter…

 

My View:

A great premise and hook– did she (in this case the daughter) or didn’t she, if she did what does that say about my life? The title sets the tone of foreboding, as you read, in your mind you are already starting to question the narrators ( mother/Hanna’s) perception of the brutal events that happened three years earlier, events her mind has protected her from remembering. As you read further and Hanna starts to question her vague memories, you say to Hanna, “Listen to your instincts” but you are also complicit in your willingness to believe that in this loving relationship – and Hanna really loves her family, Dawn must be innocent, that there must be an explanation for the incidents that are starting to seem a little strange or do not quite add up. Eventually the reader is provided with enough evidence to challenge the narrators view but the story does not end there…now we want to know why. And the tension increases as we realise the imminent danger that Hanna is in.

 

The beauty of this read is how the tension just keeps ratcheting up. The characters stand out- for their ordinariness and perhaps, for their oddness too – for their beliefs that stifle, control and place pressure on the individuals of the family. But the family is not made up of brutes or monsters – the parents are loving and want the best for their children (don’t we all?), they are not abusive to each other or to their children but they are rigid in their beliefs . The children…almost ordinary but with hints that something is not quite right with Dawn. It is the hints that keep you turning the pages…

 

In all a great evocative and page tuning read with a very satisfying ending.

 

PS this book has also been released as Lacy Eye – a title that I could not understand the meaning of until I read the book – Lacy Eye- this family’s euphemism for hearing what you want to hear….

Post Script: No Name Lane – Howard Linskey

Great Twist!

No Name Lane

No Name Lane

Howard Linskey

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 9780718181543

 

Description:

The hunt for a serial killer unearths an unsolved cold case from over sixty years ago.

 

Young girls are being abducted and murdered in the North-East. Out of favour Detective Constable Ian Bradshaw struggles to find any leads – and fears that the only thing this investigation will unravel is himself.

 

Journalist Tom Carney is suspended by his London tabloid and returns to his home village in County Durham. Helen Norton is the reporter who replaced Tom on the local newspaper. Together, they are drawn into a case that will change their lives forever.

 

When a body is found, it’s not the latest victim but a decades-old corpse. Secrets buried for years are waiting to be found, while in the present-day an unstoppable killer continues to evade justice…

 

 

My View:

A very engaging and compelling story of murders -past and present, secrets and the huge burden that guilt imposes on our lives and mental health. I liked that this book was more than just a murder mystery; there were interesting characters and relationships – work and personal, that we might all be able to relate to. Ethical behaviour was also spotlighted. There was also plenty of local history and commentary on the social mores of the time of the older murder and a glimpse of how the past can and does effect the present.

 

This narrative presents a few interesting scenarios – the main investigators in this instance are the journalists, more so than the police. They have the energy, they are not bound/restricted by the same protocols as the police and they have a connection with the community which gives them opportunity to discover more about those concerned with the crimes – past and present. I liked the factor of redemption that played a vital role in this narrative.

 

 

And the twist at the end in unique and surprising- I did not see this coming!

Post Script: The Port Fairy Murders – Robert Gott

Outstanding!

The Port Fairy Murders

The Port Fairy Murders

Robert Gott

Scribe

ISBN: 9781925106459

 

Description:

The Port Fairy Murders is the sequel to The Holiday Murders, a political and historical crime novel set in 1943 featuring the newly formed Homicide department of Victoria Police.

 

The department has been struggling to counter little known fascist groups, particularly an organisation called Australia First that has been festering in Australia since before the war. And now there’s an extra problem: the bitter divide between Catholics and Protestants, which is especially raw in small rural communities.

 

The homicide team, which once again includes Detective Joe Sable and Constable Helen Lord, is trying to track down a dangerous man named George Starling. At the same time they are called to investigate a double murder in the fishing village of Port fairy. It seems straightforward – they have a signed confession – but it soon becomes apparent that nothing about the incident is as it seems.

 

Written with great verve and insight, The Port Fairy Murders is a superb psychological study, as well as a riveting historical whodunit.

 

My View:

Outstanding!

 

An Open Letter to Robert Gott

 

Dear Mt Gott (or may I call you Robert?)

 

I am writing to complain about your latest book, The Port Fairy Murders. I recently (last night) read this novel and was engaged, enchanted, invested and so involved in this narrative that when I read to the end of page 282 and then there was no more I was bereft! Surely there must be more? What will happen to Joe Stable next? Does poor Tom recover? What about Helen? She will be devastated by that phone call. And then there are the relationships stalled and unfulfilled. And did I mention the villains? There are villains to be caught and murders to be solved.

 

If you need inspiration I can send you many pictures of coastal towns in South Australia (courtesy of our recent holiday) that will send your fingers flying across the keyboard. Do you need help with research – I have some spare time, I can do. Come on Robert, where is the next episode?

 

Your loyal fan

 

Carol

 

Post Script: The Holiday Murders- Robert Gott

Powerful, brutal, captivating and charming. And did I mention well written??

The Holiday Murders: Robert Gott- Scribe.

The Holiday Murders: Robert Gott- Scribe.

The Holiday Murders

Robert Gott

Scribe

ISBN: 9781922070258

Description:

ON CHRISTAMS EVE, 1943

The newly founded but undermanned Homicide division of the Melbourne Police force is called to investigate the vicious double murder of a father and son. When Military Intelligence becomes involved, Homicides Inspector Titus Lambert must unravel the personal from the political.

If only the killings had stopped at two. The police are desperate to come to grips with an extraordinary and disquieting upsurge of violence. For Constable Helen Lord, it is an opportunity to make her mark in a male-dominated world where she is patronised as a novelty. For Detective Joe Sable, the investigation forces a reassessment of his indifference to his Jewish heritage. Racing against the clock, the police uncover simmering tensions among secretive local Nazi sympathisers as a psychopathic fascist usurper makes his move.

 

 

 An Open Letter to Robert Gott

 

Dear Mr Gott

I am ashamed to say I knew nothing about you as an author until after I read the schedule of the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival (May 2015) where I noticed your name against a session titled “A Season to Die For.” This session sparked my interest and I decided to research your work and consequently decided to try and read a few of your books to see if I liked your narratives and style before committing to the session. I am committed! What a brilliant writer you are. Why haven’t I come across your name before?

I have just finished reading The Holiday Murders, it is two o’clock in the morning and I should be going back to bed…I am really tempted to start the next book in this series, The Port Fairy Murders…what a dilemma…sleep V reading….in the end I decided I had better try and get some sleep- I knew if I started this next book I would still be reading at sunrise or however long it took me to finish reading this book.

What did I love about The Holiday Murders I hear you asking? Everything! Characterisations, interesting plot touching on the changing role of women’s place in society, politics, prejudice, Nazism, history, bullying, power over, murder, co dependence in a violent kind of way … …and I was alerted to so much domestic and international history/politics that I wasn’t even aware of in Australia at that time (coincidently this also was referred to in a recent read by Peter Carey – Amnesia: re migration/White Australia policy) funny how thing resonate…as a baby boomer, I mostly was unaware of these issues…times were changing before I became aware.

So back to the book; great writing, engaging characters, authentic settings,enlightening social commentary and an amazing twist at the end and did I mention that as you know from the start who did it – you spend the rest of the book trying to figure out why; intriguing. Bring on the next in this series – I can’t wait.

 

PS

Did I mention up until know I thought I didn’t like historical crime fiction?? I am converted.

 

Kind regards and looking forward to hearing you speak at the Margaret River Reader Writer Festival.

 

Carol

Post Script: The Zig Zag Girl – Elly Griffiths

A delight to read!

The Zig Zag Girl

The Zig Zag Girl

Elly Griffiths

Quercus Books

Quercus

ISBN: 9781848669857

 

 

Description:

Brighton, 1950. When the body of a girl is found, cut into three, Detective Inspector Edgar Stephens is reminded of a magic trick, the Zig Zag Girl. The inventor of the trick, Max Mephisto, is an old friend of Edgar’s. They served together in the war as part of a shadowy unit called the Magic Men. Max is still on the circuit, touring seaside towns in the company of ventriloquists, sword-swallowers and dancing girls. Changing times mean that variety is not what it once was, yet Max is reluctant to leave this world to help Edgar investigate. But when the dead girl turns out to be known to him, Max changes his mind. Another death, another magic trick: Edgar and Max become convinced that the answer to the murders lies in their army days. When Edgar receives a letter warning of another ‘trick’, the Wolf Trap, he knows that they are all in the killer’s sights…

 

My View:

What an amazing read! Great plot, intriguing back story of spies and a top secret unit – The Magic Men, great characters, settling that are authentic and very visual – I can see with my minds eye the old theatres, the piers, the tired B & B’s… the cars, the houses, the variety acts, …and the magic tricks!!! Elly Griffiths writes in a style that is just so easy to read; it is sincere, visual, authentic and intelligent and flows so easily, reads so naturally…you can feel the delight the author takes in writing this novel. This was just so relaxing to read…so engaging, it took no effort on my part to fully engage with this narrative and just enjoy the words on the page as the story was revealed, as pieces of this jig saw puzzle slowly came together and made sense of the bigger picture. What a delight!

 

PS I am pleased to hear there is another book in this series on the way.

Post Script: Too Much Hapiness – Alice Munro

Moving, astute with a subtleness that belies the expert analysis of the human condition.

Too Much Happiness

Too Much Happiness

Alice Munro

Vintage

Random House

ISBN: 9780099524298

 

Description:

Ten superb new stories by one of our most beloved and admired writers—the winner of the 2009 Man Booker International Prize.

 

In the first story a young wife and mother receives release from the unbearable pain of losing her three children from a most surprising source. In another, a young woman, in the aftermath of an unusual and humiliating seduction, reacts in a clever if less-than-admirable fashion. Other stories uncover the “deep-holes” in a marriage, the unsuspected cruelty of children, and how a boy’s disfigured face provides both the good things in his life and the bad. And in the long title story, we accompany Sophia Kovalevsky—a late-nineteenth-century Russian émigré and mathematician—on a winter journey that takes her from the Riviera, where she visits her lover, to Paris, Germany, and, Denmark, where she has a fateful meeting with a local doctor, and finally to Sweden, where she teaches at the only university in Europe willing to employ a female mathematician.

 

With clarity and ease, Alice Munro once again renders complex, difficult events and emotions into stories that shed light on the unpredictable ways in which men and women accommodate and often transcend what happens in their lives.

 

Too Much Happiness is a compelling, provocative—even daring—collection.

 

My View:

These short stories will do many things; they will move you, they will make you think and re think your own assumptions and beliefs and in some you will find optimism and some you will find human failings subtly revealed in what at first appears to be a simple recounting of events or life’s history. These short stories will surprise you.

In particular I thought the first story, Dimensions was a powerful and emotive read with a bleakness that tugged at my heart. I did however think that the villain in the piece was let off too lightly by this author – an insanity verdict to my mind excused the behaviour; the crime was inexcusable. I did however enjoy the ending, the small ray of optimism that shone through.

Something that did indeed surprise me was Child’s Play, what a revelation! (No spoilers here, you need to buy the book).

Alice Munro writes with an ease and a simplicity that belies the deep psychological understanding she has of the human condition; of the foibles and failings that make us human. These short stories will make you think, will open your eyes.