Review: Small Mercies – Richard Anderson

Small Mercies
Richard Anderson
Scribe
ISBN: 9781925849707

Description:
A husband and wife living on a severely drought-afflicted property take a brief break, only to find that their relationship is parched, too.

After enduring months of extreme drought on their modest freehold, farming couple Dimple and Ruthie face uncertain times on more than one front. Ruthie receives the news every woman dreads. Meanwhile, a wealthy landowner, Wally Oliver, appears on the local radio station, warning small farmers like Dimple and Ruthie that they are doomed, that the sooner they leave the land to large operators like him, the better. Bracing for a fight on all fronts, the couple decide to take a road trip to confront Oliver. Along the way, not only is their resolve tested, but their relationship as well.

Desperate not to dwell on the past but to face up to the future, Dimple and Ruthie make a crucial decision they soon regret. And when the storm clouds finally roll in across the land they love, there’s more than the rain to contend with.

Told with enormous heart, Small Mercies is a tender love story. It is a story of a couple who feel they must change to endure, and of the land that is as important as their presence on it.

My View:
Richard Anderson does not disappoint! What a versatile writer able to easily cross the divide of mystery /suspense (Retribution, Boxed) to evocative small-town drama set in realistic physical, economical, moral and political landscapes. This was an engaging and thought provoking read, storytelling at its best, nuanced and credible.

Anderson writes Australian outback with a clarity that comes from personal experience. “Richard Anderson is a second-generation farmer from northern New South Wales. He has been running a beef-cattle farm for twenty-five years, but has also worked as a miner and had a stint on the local council.” (GoodReads author page). The narrative feels biographical, I am sure there are elements of Richard’s own experience of life events, big and small, of farming and local politics that inform his writing. It is in the subtleties of these details of everyday life that Anderson’s writing soars. You can easily place yourself in the setting, in the emotions, in the relationships.

Against this backdrop of hardship and drought a finely drawn story of enduing love is exposed. We are privy to the self-talk and the situations, good and difficult, that all relationships face in varying degrees and we hang in there with them as they struggle to move forward in very difficult circumstances. I really like that this narrative is about mature age, long term married, likable characters, complete with wrinkles and a good dose of humanness. Anderson has taken such care in his portrayal of this couple that we feel privileged to know them and want them to thrive.

This is a timely written narrative with many contemporary social, economic, and personal issues that could be playing out live in a country or regional town near you. This is great reading. I loved it.

Post Script: The Cleanskin – Laura Bloom

The Cleanskin

The Cleanskin

Laura Bloom

The Author People

ISBN: 9781925399141

Description:

I needed someone I could trust. Someone others would trust. Someone with no criminal record. With no previous involvement. A cleanskin. Someone to come over, do the job, and go home …

Some days, even Halley can’t find the person she once was. She’s changed her name and no one – least of all her husband and son – knows of her past. No one except Aidan, who turns up one day in her small Australian town and shatters the façade she’s built so carefully.

Aidan is on a mission. But why is he still taking orders from his brother in an English jail – at the cost of his own happiness?

When Aidan forces Halley to face what she’s done, what they discover not only changes their understanding of what happened back then, it changes everything now.

Laura Bloom deftly goes to the dark heart of The Troubles to explore the lingering damage wrought by sectarian conflict on communities, families and individuals. Based on real events, The Cleanskin is a story of intense human relationships with a cast of flawed and entirely believable characters.

 

My View:

A wonderfully reflective and poignant narrative with a cast of well developed, flawed and passionate characters set in the locations of Ireland, Australia and India.  Politics, domestic and international hold centre stage, manipulation is crowned king of this drama.

 

But there is much more to this story than politics and manipulation, there are so many layers to discover; relationships, love, marriage, forgiveness, growth, innocence and trust betrayed pepper this narrative with interesting scenarios and moral dilemmas. After you finish reading what has been an intense and mysterious story (from the very first chapters you are aware that something needs to be shared, to be revealed…eventually it is …and much much more). And there is a massive twist at the end that will leave you deep in thought – you will not see this coming.

 

Mysterious, poignant, reflective, honest…well written, engaging, intelligent and thought provoking. Make sure you read this book!

Post Script: Where The Trees Were – Inga Simpson

Where The Trees Were

Where the Trees Were

Inga Simpson

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733634536

 

Description:

A beautiful new novel about the innocence of childhood and the scars that stay with you for life, from the award winning author of MR WIGG and NEST.

 

‘All in?’ Kieran pulled me up, and the others followed. We gathered around the bigger tree. No one asked Matty – he just reached up and put his right hand on the trunk with ours.

 

Kieran cleared his throat. ‘We swear, on these trees, to always be friends. To protect each other – and this place.’

 

Finding those carved trees forged a bond between Jay and her four childhood friends and opened their eyes to a wider world. But their attempt to protect the grove ends in disaster, and that one day on the river changes their lives forever.

 

Seventeen years later, Jay finally has her chance to make amends. But at what cost? Not every wrong can be put right, but sometimes looking the other way is no longer an option.

 

 

 

My View:

Another great read from Inga Simpson – her passion for nature and her wonderful ability to transport the reader to any location she chooses to write about is to be commended.  And Inga Simpson artfully captures the innocence of childhood perfectly! Children accept everyone, it is not till later they learn to discriminate by gender, race, by socio economic borders, by ability…

 

Whilst at first glance this narrative seems to be quite simple, straight forward; a coming of age story with a thread that deals with remorse and justice, look a little closer, listen to the words, there is much more to be heard here.

 

The dual time zones (childhood 1980’s and current 2000’s) allows Simpson to explore such issues as the conservation/preservation of art and cultural objects/return of significant cultural artefacts to original owners, Indigenous rights, Land Rights, drugs in sport, the difficulties facing Australian farmers today, facing country towns, Australian foreign affairs and terrorism, illegal fishing …There is so much in this book!  Yet it doesn’t feel cramped or that lessons are being given, all these elements form the miasma of issues that cloak our day to day modern Australian lives; they inform, or are ignored or give meaning to our individual lives.

 

This is an exceptional book that can be read on many levels; a coming of age story of the children in this book, the coming of age of Australia.

 

 

 

Post Script: Your Heart Is A Muscle The Size Of A Fist – Sunil Yapa

The Heart Is A Muscle The Size Of A Fist

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist

Sunil Yapa

Hachette Australia

Little, Brown

ISBN: 9781408707401

 

Description:

A heart-stopping debut about protest and riot . . .

 

  1. Victor, homeless after a family tragedy, finds himself pounding the streets of Seattle with little meaning or purpose. He is the estranged son of the police chief of the city, and today his father is in charge of one of the largest protests in the history of Western democracy.

 

But in a matter of hours reality will become a nightmare. Hordes of protesters – from all sections of society – will test the patience of the city’s police force, and lives will be altered forever: two armed police officers will struggle to keep calm amid the threat of violence; a protester with a murderous past will make an unforgivable mistake; and a delegate from Sri Lanka will do whatever it takes to make it through the crowd to a meeting – a meeting that could dramatically change the fate of his country. In amongst the fray, Victor and his father are heading for a collision too.

 

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, set during the World Trade Organization protests, is a deeply charged novel showcasing a distinct and exciting new literary voice.

 

 

My View:

This is not a book for the faint hearted or for those who feel deeply. I feel too deeply, I don’t think this was a book for me. Several times I started reading this and then the extreme, up close, in your face level of violence made me stop. Violence committed by a few, whose individual actions spurred “pack rage,” and more senseless violence (and this is by the “peacekeepers, the trained professional upholders of the law) against a peaceful, (to a point) sea of protestors. To me this was about rage buried deep, personal rage and alienation finally given an opportunity to be spewed out on the streets as violence against the unarmed. Damaged individuals in control, who vets our peacekeepers? Who take responsibility?

 

This narrative was not cleansing or healing. It is politics – domestic and international, at its grimy worst, exposed. For me the back story of the father/son relationship was not strong enough to uplift the overall voice of violence. The character, the Sri Lankan delegate, did show some realistic optimism – when his eyes were opened he could finally see the power he and the other smaller nations united, did hold.

 

I am gratefully to be appraised of a time, a situation that had till now had somehow escaped my attention. The distance between my world and these lives on the page has been narrowed, thank you. However I cannot do anything but shake my head in disbelief at the savage way we treat our fellow human beings. This is not a book for me…but it is powerfully, almost savagely written and these words and feelings will stay with me a while yet. An emotional and powerful debut.

 

 

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: Once Upon A Time In Melbourne – Liam Houlihan

 

Once Upon a Time in Melbourne

Liam Houlihan

Melbourne University Publishing

MUP

ISBN: 9780522862331

 

Description:

Dirty Cops, Lying Politicians, Vampire Gigolos . . . An Unbelievable True Story

Once upon a time in Melbourne there was a gigolo who thought he was a vampire. He bit the tongue off a prostitute and was then murdered in broad daylight on a suburban street. His execution, top brass believed, was organised by police. The aftershocks of this killing—and the murder of a state witness and his wife inside their fortress

home—rocked the police force and the Parliament, vanquished one government and brought the next to its knees.

This is the story of police corruption for years swept under the carpet to avoid a Royal Commission. It is the story of a police force politicised to the point of paralysis and a witness protection program that buries its mistakes. It involves a policeman still free and living in a very big house, a drug baron who survived the gangland war only to be murdered in the state’s most secure jail, and battles royale within a police force comprised of thousands of pistol-packing members.

This is the story of Melbourne around the first decade of the new millennium: its lawmen, villains and politicians. It is a bizarre, tawdry, unbelievable tale. But every word of it happened.

 

Liam Houlihan is an award-winning journalist and former lawyer. He has reported from New York, Washington DC, from Sri Lanka after the tsunami, and Singapore for underworld figure Mick Gatto’s pursuit of missing Opes Prime money. He was the Sunday Herald Sun’s crime reporter for five years from 2007 until 2011 during the rise and fall of police chiefs Christine Nixon and Simon Overland. He is currently a News Editor at the Herald Sun. This is his fourth book.

 

 

My View:

Liam Houlihan writes a narrative that for the uninitiated in Melbourne politics, crime and corruption seems quite bizarre and utterly mind boggling – how could such events take place? I can appreciate now why a TV drama series based on these actions was such a huge success – whilst the TV series had an element of romanticism (is that the correct description – criminals often portrayed in a romantic light; affable, charming, rich… living a decadent lifestyle with a honour code of their own) the crooks in this tale are neither romantic or charming; they were greedy, arrogant, egotistical and thoroughly unlikeable – and sadly most but not all of these criminals were corrupt government officials and serving police officers. I could not read this tale without continually shaking my head in disbelief. This is a case where fact is stranger than fiction.

 

I found the style of presenting these accounts to be a little confusing at times, maybe it was my own lack of understanding of the events that made it difficult for me to piece this puzzle together though it did come together in the end. Aside from the almost unbelievable revelations the narrative exposed, a tale I found incredible, I loved the language of this book; a colloquial, no nonsense approach, I can see the author smiling as he wrote this. I will share a few gems with you; “…Brumby got out the mats and did his backflip. It was no ordinary backflip. It was a triple-pike-half in-half-out-with-full-twist-backflip- through gritted teeth.” Later Houlihan describes a detective on the stand as “…a bulky man with a touch of the latter day Elvis about him.” These descriptions make perfect sense to meJ and there are so many more gems like this to be found in this otherwise serious read. This book is a revelation, I don’t think I will ever look at a politician or a cop in the same way again.