Marianne Delacourt's Blog
September 29, 2016
Fairlie and Jenna are best friends – they always have been. Lately, they haven’t been in contact with each other as much as usual, but Fairlie reasons that they’re lives are hectic. She’s a nurse and keeps sporadic hours. Jenna has been busy, first with a new husband and then with a baby. The excuses that Jenna comes up with may be thin, but Fairlie doesn’t think that anything will come between them permanently. As children they lived one hundred and fourteen steps apart; as adults they studied nursing together, lived together and even worked together, after all.
So when Jenna kills herself, Fairlie is devastated. It’s too late to save her best friend, but Fairlie can do the next best thing; find out why Jenna took her own life. She has no idea of the secrets that will come tumbling forth if she digs too deep.
Like I Can Love has been described as a domestic noir/crime novel. The categorisation is apt. the novel is dark and psychological – more of a mystery than a thriller. The outcome – Jenna’s suicide – is already known. Like I Can Love is about finding out, how and why the situation escalated to that conclusion. The novel is told from three perspectives. A past perspective is Jenna’s, the present is Fairlie’s, and Jenna’s mother’s letters to her daughter make up a third. The interconnected stories work well in keeping the plot tight and the pace steady.
Like I Can Love is a deeply disturbing look at how toxic relationships can become without anyone realising it. It digs into the patterns that abusive partners engage in to systematically strip previously confident women of first their safety nets, and then their sense of self. If it weren’t for the breaks into other perspectives, this would be a stifling read. As it stands, it’s an important element in the discussion of domestic abuse without being too graphic or dark.
One of the major themes to the novel is that no one truly knows anyone else. To an extent, that no one even knows themselves. Jenna, Fairlie, and Jenna’s mother, Evelyn, are all complex and layered characters. Each of them is flawed – some more deeply than others – but for all that, they are engaging and it’s wonderful to spend time with them. The fact that, as readers, we see them more clearly than they see each other or themselves is proof of Lock’s adroit writing.
Well written and gripping from beginning to end, Like I Can Love is a thoroughly satisfying read. It explores the psychology behind domestic abuse through compelling and relatable characters and in the context of a riveting story.
Like I Can Love – Kim Lock
Pan Macmillan (April 2016)
September 20, 2016
September 18, 2016
Reviewed by Jamie Marriage
Primal. A word that encapsulates so many things. Art, hunger, violence, desire. A word that perfectly sums up Maria Lewis’ debut novel Who’s Afraid: a werewolf tale far darker and more real than most.
Tommi Grayson is an artist, student, curator, martial arts enthusiast, and viciously independent woman has lived her whole life with the story of a father she never knew, who assaulted her mother and caused them to flee a life in New Zealand to the distant shores of Scotland. After the sudden tragic death of her mother, Tommi is compelled to track down this man who has for more than two decades been such a mystery. Leaving Scotland, her friends, and her eccentric artist lifestyle behind to find her father (if just to see his face once before she returns) Tommi is all too quickly drawn into a world not only unfamiliar, but also truly inhuman.
When a perilous encounter with a family she didn’t know existed drops Tommi into a true wolves den of horror, she is forced to become that beast that has waited within her for so long. Only when she learns to embrace what she really is will Tommi be safe. And with the enigmatic Lorcan to watch over her things will either get better, or plunge them all into disaster.
While of course stemming from an extensive lore of supernatural mythology, Who’s Afraid stands proudly on its own four paws: with complicated characters who are individually engaging and fascinating as a collective, a fast paced narrative that doesn’t skip a beat, and a level of cynical realism that truly sums up the age in which it is written. Who’s Afraid is the kind of supernatural fiction that sweeps the board clear of imitators with a bloodied claw, and howls its dominance for all to hear.
Writing wise this is a fantastic book. The prose is detailed but far from dry. It’s dark and gritty like the best of noir, and ingrained with strong lines of realism to stop it from becoming just another trope. Lewis’ voice is strong and proud on the page, telling a tale that wants to be fierce; yearns to strut and fight and howl; but is not afraid to be frail when the time comes; to show character that is not just bold but… oh so human.
With personality to spare and an animalistic energy all of its own, this book prowls the midnight world and asks Who’s Afraid of the big bad wolf?
September 14, 2016
With Christmas coming around again, Bel and I had the chance to attend the Hachette Roadshow and check out their biggest upcoming titles. The night did not disappoint. Hachette displayed so many recent crime titles from debut and established authors that penning my summer reading list is going to be painstaking.
From the usual suspects, we have a new Rebus book from Ian Rankin. Rather be the Devil takes readers to a forty year old cold case that still preys on Rebus’s mind.
John Grisham’s particular brand of court-room crime is back too, with new stand-alone novel, The Whistler. A whistle-blower has indicted a judge of involvement in an organised crime scheme that has left at least two people dead. This is going to be judicial misconduct investigator Lacy Stoltz’s toughest case yet.
Anthony Horowitz also has a new stand-alone. Magpie Murders is a tribute to classic crime writers like Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. As a writer who has masterfully authored three novels set in Sherlock Holmes’s world, no one knows better how to pull a tribute like this off. Magpie Murders is probably the most intriguing sounding book in Hachette’s 2016 Roadshow line-up – but I think it’s the type of book that needs to be read rather than explained.
The latest novel from Stephenie Meyer will also be a thriller. The Chemist follows an ex-agent who has been targeted by her former US governmental employers. After her only way out fails, she realises that she is going to have to stop running and start fighting if she has any hope of surviving.
With Christmas and holidays just around the corner, Hachette has something for all the crime lovers out there.
August 17, 2016
Reviewed by Stephen Dedman
Robert Crais is the multi-award winning author of the Elvis Cole novels and a few other thrillers, and a former writer for Hill Street Blues, The Twilight Zone, LA Law, Miami Vice, The Equalizer, Earth 2 and other shows. He’s also one of Lee Child’s favourite crime writers, and the back cover blurb aptly describes him as “the master of the intelligent action thriller” (please don’t let the Dan Brown recommendation deter you.) The Promise is his sixteenth Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novel, and second Scott and Maggie novel.
The novel begins with a hook reminiscent (and worthy) of Breaking Bad: Rollins, a chemist who specialises in illegal drugs, has tested a sample of a new plastic explosive offered by a mysterious woman who calls herself Amy. Amy has offered to sell 400 pounds of the stuff, but stipulated that she must meet the buyer first. Rollins has a sample ready to collect, but his contact has sent a gang member to pick it up, and the thug has been identified by cops and chased to Rollins’ lab. Rollins kills the gang-banger and runs.
Meanwhile, private investigator Elvis Cole has been hired by another mysterious woman to find Amy Breslyn, a chemical engineer accused of embezzling funds from their employer, a munitions manufacturer. He’s sent to the last known address of an ex-boyfriend of Breslyn’s – the rental house Rollins is using as a lab.
LAPD K9 officer Scott James and Maggie, a retired Army-trained bomb sniffer dog, are sent to the back door of the house as Rollins escapes from the front. Maggie detects the scent of explosives, Cole runs after Rollins but is unable to catch him, the bomb squad is called, and Cole is treated as a suspect. Not wanting to name his secretive client, he lies about his reason for going to the house; finding himself under surveillance, he calls in his partner, ex-mercenary Joe Pike, to run interference for him.
The deeper Cole digs, the more disturbing the case becomes. Breslyn, the chemist, had a son killed by terrorist in Nigeria, but is apparently eager to sell explosives to al Qaeda. Scott survives an attempt to booby-trap his car thanks to Maggie’s nose for explosives, and, despite being ordered not to contact Cole, decides to help him untangle the mess of lies to try to avert a tragedy – or a disaster.
I discovered the Elvis Cole novels in the early 90s; the first, The Monkey’s Raincoat, is extremely good, but it was the second, Stalking the Angel, that had me completely hooked. Cole, a former US Army Ranger who mysteriously never seems to age (he was 35 in The Monkey’s Raincoat) is a P.I. who follows his conscience in the tradition of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe. Like Marlowe or John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, he’s also an entertaining and insightful first-person narrator; unfortunately, the large cast and complicated plot of The Promise means that large chunks of the novel are told in third person with some head-hopping (we even see some scenes from Maggie’s perspective), and while this helps create suspense and helps the reader keep track of the frequent plot twists and changing aliases, some of the transitions are rather jarring.
I can heartily recommend Crais’s Cole and Pike novels, and if you become hooked on the series as I did (I suggest you start at the beginning), you’ll enjoy The Promise. Promise.
Stephen Dedman is a writer, book reviewer, and tutor. He’s previously been an actor, a manuscript assessor, an academic and legal WPO, an editorial assistant for Australian Physicist magazine, an experimental subject, and a used dinosaur parts salesman.
August 3, 2016
Reviewed by Damian Magee
The Insanity of Murder is the fourth book in the Dr Dody McCleland series written by a Western Australian author, Felicity Young. It is published only as an e-book from Harper Collins. Dody first appeared in A Dissection of Murder and this was followed by Antidote to Murder and The Scent of Murder. All these are also available as paperbacks. The series is set in the Edwardian period, at the height of the suffragette movement. Dody is England’s first female autopsy surgeon, in a very patriarchal society. She finds herself helping Chief Inspector Pike to solve various crimes, whether he wants her to or not.
This fourth mystery begins with Dody’s sister, Florence, a fully fledged suffragette planting a bomb at the Necropolis Railway Station with one of her compatriots. The plan goes wrong almost immediately when a night watchman arrives. With no time to disarm the bomb and escape the nightwatchman, Florence knocks him out and they drag him away before the bomb explodes. The police and Dody arrive in the aftermath, to find the unconscious nightwatchman, and also body parts of an unidentified woman. In the ensuing hunt for those responsible for a bang much bigger and with much more serious consequences than planned, a witness comes forward. Lady Mary Heathridge identifies the dead woman, which leads Dody & Pike into the world of upper class rest homes for women, and many twists to the plot thereon.
The characters in Felicity Young’s book are very well drawn; when I read the first novel A Dissection of Murder, I felt a real connection to Dody, her sister Florence, and Chief Inspector Pike. I found their voices well defined and I’m always happy to dive into Dody’s world with each book.
Dody and her sister come from a bohemian family who are part of the Fabian Society, modelled quite closely on Felicity Young’s great grandparents. Both these woman strike out in a man’s world to prove that they are equal to men, Dody as a doctor, and her sister Florence joining the suffragette movement, firstly peacefully, then taken to the extreme. Chief Inspector Pike is a man of his times, but he loves Dody and has a teenage daughter Violet, and slowly his opinions change.
Dody is loosely based on Felicity’s grandmother, one of a handful of female graduates of Trinity College, Dublin. Read the notes at the end of the book for further information. With each book in the series, Felicity shows the changes in the suffragette movement, and the responses from the government in trying to curtail it. This book deals with a major incident for the suffragette movement that took place at Ascot Racecourse.
The Insanity of Murder is currently available for AU$0.99, on Amazon.au. It was published on 1st August 2015.
July 14, 2016
Reviewed by Sarah Todman: “A fast-paced thriller I devoured”
Investigative journalist Olivia Wolfe always gets the story and she’s not afraid to put herself in danger to do it. We learn this within the first few pages of the new L.A. Larkin thriller Devour. From here, the pace is set for a spine-chilling read full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing right to the end.
Think Antarctica, where two teams of scientists – one British and one Russian – are battling the elements and each other to be the first to discover new life in underground lakes that have been sealed beneath ice sheets for millions of years. The Brits are looking like they might hit the jackpot first. Then the team’s chief drilling engineer is found dead in the snow. Was it murder?
Newspaper editor Moz Cohen smells a story. One he has every confidence his best investigative reporter Olivia Wolfe will crack.
“From the poppy palaces of Afghanistan and Antarctica ’ s forbidding wind-swept ice sheets, to a top-secret military base in the Nevada desert, Wolfe ’ s journey will ultimately lead her to a man who would obliterate civilisation. She must make an impossible choice: save a life – or prevent an unspeakable horror.”
British-Australian author Larkin’s writing has been likened to high-adrenaline thriller experts Michael Crichton and Matthew Reilly. Her books have been nominated for various crime fiction awards and her previous novel Thirst, was described by one reviewer as ‘The best Antarctic thriller since Ice Station’. Authenticity certainly rings true as we are transported to the bleak setting of an ice station. Larkin has herself spent time in the Antarctic and the story of Devour was inspired by a British expedition to the region in 2012. Devour is the first book in the Olivia Wolfe series.If book one is any indication then intrepid reporter Olivia will have no trouble establishing a following. Our protagonist is worldly and tough but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some vulnerability lurking beneath the surface. She is layered and that’s why, as we turn the final page of Devour, it feels like our journey with this character has only just begun.
Devour has suspense and intrigue in spades. For much of the book, the identity of not one but two characters is concealed from the reader. So we are invited into the minds of both without knowing even as much as their physical characteristics. The puzzle is at times almost too much to bear. As the identities are finally revealed we learn that at least one of the characters will be circling Olivia for some time yet.
Bring on book two.
July 4, 2016
Reviewed by Joelene Pynnonen
Virgillo Labasta, the second in command to the world’s biggest drug cartel has been assassinated in a laneway in Melbourne. Journalist, Victor Cavalier, is sent in to get the story behind the seemingly professional shooting. He’s been covering the drug cartels in his articles for years.
Unbeknown to his paper, he has also been gathering intel on them – and anyone else he runs into on international jobs – for the Australian Secret Services. And, considering that Labasta is second to the notorious Leonardo Mendez – the man Cavalier suspects might be behind the disappearance of his daughter – this is a case that Cavalier intends to follow up on.
Following the cartel leads him to Thailand where a civil coup is in progress and shady plots are being set in motion behind the scenes. Cavalier has befriended Jacinta, a woman on the Thai police force with inside information that could be useful, but given the country’s political climate, trust isn’t something that he can be generous with.
Most readers know Roland Perry as a renowned military writer. His background in historic and military works shines through in Honourable Assassin. Perry has evidently done the research. His ability to weave his knowledge of world politics, local and international police and armed forces, and international crime syndicates into a compelling thriller is astounding.
The major characters work well with the atmosphere of the novel, but Cavalier could have been pushed further. He is a man out – not only for revenge for the death of his daughter some years prior – but for justice. It’s clear how skilled he is at what he does – whether it’s reporting or armed combat. His morals are equally distinct. Despite all of these things being admirable parts of his personality, he never comes through very clearly on the page. We find out more about him through other people discussing him than from travelling through this novel with him.
Jacinta is a bit more comprehensible. Though she’s meant to be mysterious from the start, her reasoning and actions are relatable. She and Cavalier work well together, having similar morals, motivations and the ability to keep secrets.
The setting is fresh, adding depth and interest to the novel. Though Honourable Assassin is focused on police corruption and the drug trade, there are some interesting sub-plots related to the setting. Belief systems and local cultural interests play a part in creating a vivid Thai environment.
For those who like a political thriller with a bit of a twist, this is one you’ll want to pick up.
Honourable Assassin – Roland Perry
Allen & Unwin (November 18, 2015)
July 2, 2016
Clare Campbell has worked hard to create distance between herself and her troubled family. But when she receives news of her parents’ murder, she’s forced to return to the quiet town of Clarkeston, Maine, to arrange their funeral and take legal guardianship of her unpredictable and mentally ill brother, Wes.
While Clare struggles to come to grips with the death of her parents, a terrifying pathogen outbreak overtakes the town. She is all too familiar with the resulting symptoms, which resemble those of her brother’s schizophrenia: hallucinations, paranoia, and bizarre, even violent, behavior. Before long, the government steps in—and one agent takes a special interest in Wes. Clare must make a horrifying decision: save her brother or save the world.
Paperback, 299 pages
Published January 19th 2016 by Thomas & Mercer
Clare moved across the country as soon as she was old enough, to get physically and mentally away from her family. Her brother Wes suffered from schizophrenia and it had always taken up most of her parents time. Running away frees her from the burden of family and the pain of her past. So when she gets the news that her parents have been murdered and her brother is being released from the hospital, she hopes the trip home will be a short stint to tie up loose ends.
The trip home is anything but quick. A rash of people in the town are exhibiting psychotic behaviour and Clare’s trip to the hospital for her brother turns out to be a nightmare. After the funeral, Wes lays a guilt trip on her, begging her to move back home. The pressure only builds when the hospital staff come looking for Wes, insisting he was never supposed to be released. But Wes will do anything not to go back there.
Clare goes on the run with Wes, which turns out to be more difficult than she imagined, since the town has just been quarantined. The story turns into a cat and mouse chase. During their travels, Clare and Wes must also face their past and Claire has to deal with the hard realisation, that she can’t hide from her past.
Claire and Wes don’t spend much time sitting still and the during the times they do, there is always commotion happening around them. The death of their parents kind of falls to the wayside as this story focuses more on the outbreak of psychoses and the thrill of the chase. Hiding in town brings its own terror, as all of the town people are going crazy and anybody they come across could kill them. They travel mostly through farmland and even in underground tunnels.
I’m always drawn to a good psychiatric hospital story. The psychoses outbreak brings in an apocalyptic feel to this story that really adds to the suspense and thrill. Clare also goes through a journey of self discovery when Wes forces her to deal with her past and figure out what she wants for her future. I enjoyed this story and felt it was unique in the way it presented the outbreak and the cure.
June 29, 2016
Reviewed by Sarah Todman
Sharp shooter gets me right in the heart
OK, so I’ve decided Tara Sharp is my new BFF.
The straight talking, aura reading heroine of Marianne Delacourt’s Sharp Shooter is a total hoot to spend time with.
Broke but always resourceful, insightful but equal parts impetuous, and with a knack for landing herself in hilariously awkward, if not dangerous situations, Tara’s hands down the quirkiest crime solver I’ve come across.
Between jobs and back living in the converted garage of her parents Perth home, this 20-something decides the veritable paint catalogue of colours she’s noticed hovering over people her whole life might hold the key to a new and lucrative career.
Under the tutelage of a kooky aura reading sensei named Mr Hara, Tara embarks on Tara Sharp enterprises, hanging out her shingle to offer struggling souls help with social skills (‘learn to read those around you in four weeks’) and kinesics (communication analysis and relationship dynamics 101).
It ain’t long, however, before her newly unleashed paranormal talents lead Tara direct to drama, drama, drama.
Think Perth’s local crime boss and an underworld ‘situation’ that has our heroine running for her life.
Pick this book up and I pretty much guarantee that, like me, you won’t want to put it down.
You’ll fly through its pages laughing out loud at Tara’s antics and growing increasingly fond of the classic cast of characters Delacourt has assembled to join her on this journey.
Your stomach may at some junctures even give way to the odd grumble. Tara, a former high school basketball star, is the kind of cool chick who actually eats you see.
Her trotting out a 5 km run only to head straight to the corner shop following it and down two full bags of Clinkers (best Aussie confectionary ever!) had me sniggering and wishing for my own bag of Clinkers to crunch through as I turned to the next page.
The Perth setting for this rollicking ride is a highlight too. An Australian city with so much to offer, it really is a key character in this tale. As Tara herself says: “My city is a woman with so many moods and angles: dazzling, conceited, sheltered, and sometimes downright stuffy.”
Sharp Shooter closes with the promise of more hi-jinks in the next instalment of this four book Tara Sharp series.
I for one can’t wait to see what Tara does next.