Everyone's entitled a holiday and for me, a summer spent with Jim Maxwell and the rest of the ABC cricket commentary team is one of my favourites. I w
Everyone's entitled a holiday and for me, a summer spent with Jim Maxwell and the rest of the ABC cricket commentary team is one of my favourites. I was very relieved to hear Jim's wonderful voice back on the radio this year, albeit somewhat limited due to his ongoing health problems, but there was this book to fill in some of the gaps as well. And you can read this with Jim's intonation in your head if you're of a mind, and probably some think, mildly batty enough.
Foreword written by the wonderful Kerry O'Keefe (When Jim began broadcasting on the ABC Radio all those decades ago the Rolling Stones were young and Rock Hudson was straight), prefaced with a note from Jim about those aforementioned health problems, this is a bit of a gentle reminisce through a life inextricably linked with Cricket. It dips into remembrance of great performances, peppered with some lovely little anecdotes. It ventures from childhood recall through to some very pointed comments about the difficulties of funding that the ABC encounters, and some occasional tempered admonishment of cricket authorities, cricketers and senior management from everywhere. In exactly the tone, manner and style that you'd expect from Maxwell. He writes as he speaks, and he writes about his life so richly enhanced by a job that he obviously loves doing, and a game that's part of his being.
Not a book for those looking for salacious gossip or reveals, or even strident opinions and massive revelations. Worth reading for the chapters on the untimely and unfortunate deaths of both Peter Roebuck and Phillip Hughes, and the legacy of Richie Benaud - if only because they all give you a real feeling for the closeness of the cricketing world, and an affirming sense, in the case of Roebuck, of Maxwell's ability to find the positive and good in everyone without applying full face blinkers.
Highly recommended if you're also a fan of the ABC's wonderful cricket coverage or just would like to know a little something about this great Australian broadcaster.
If two Ned Kelly Awards and one short-listing hasn't given you a big enough hint already, CRIMSON LAKE should absolutely confirm that Candice Fox is aIf two Ned Kelly Awards and one short-listing hasn't given you a big enough hint already, CRIMSON LAKE should absolutely confirm that Candice Fox is an Australian writer of immense ability.
Always on the darker side, Fox's books incorporate clever plots with strong characters. She has a particular ability to create unusual, unexpected partnerships, teaming up the unlikely, creating tension and unexpected affection and acceptance. It's that idea of acceptance of the fringe dweller's, of the flawed and the people who are rebuilding their lives where all her characters stand out.
None more so than Ted Conkaffey and Amanda Pharrell. CRIMSON LAKE does possibly concentrate slightly more on Conkaffey's story, weaving in Pharrell's own tragic back story more in the latter part of the book. Conkaffey was accused, and then released due to insufficient evidence, of the abduction and rape of a 13 year old girl. Pharrell was convicted and served time for the murder of a popular young teenage girl years ago. Needless to say an interesting pair for reasons that get better and better as the book goes on.
Not just intriguing, these are also a pair of believable and vividly drawn characters right from the moment they first hit the page (not just because Conkaffey rescues a poor Goose and her goslings). They both surround themselves with animals in need, they both have their peculiar quirks and traits, the both are struggling with the consequences of their circumstances. Whether or not they both feel guilty or not is very much left to the interpretation of the reader, and in Conkaffey's case, to a reporter who is pursuing him to the point of stalking.
The setting of a small north Queensland town in the far tropical north provides another closed room style scenario without belting you over the head and shoulders with it. It also provides the opportunity for Fox to explore the consequences of small communities dealing with external pressures, forces and changes that they don't ask for, and don't handle particularly well.
What brings both these people - and their pasts together, however - is a current day mystery. Pharrell runs her own private detective agency and Conkaffey is introduced to her just as a new case surfaces. A local celebrity author has gone missing, assumed dead with his wife seemingly more interested in the financial aspects of proving his death than anything else. Meanwhile a couple of local cops are doing an excellent line in bully boy behaviour that initially seems to be all about getting Conkaffey out of town, especially as Pharrell and he start to reveal some odd things about their investigation into the same case.
Fox always writes strong plots that sizzle along at a rapid rate of knots, never sacrificing character development or sense of place. In CRIMSON LAKE the lost nature of the places that Pharrell and Conkaffey find themselves in, with tropical weather, wildness, danger from lurking crocodiles and strange human behaviour, in a small town, outside the mainstream of life are the perfect foils for personal mood and situation. Conkaffey is more reflective and more tortured as you'd expect with a life destroyed by an allegation that he was never tried for - never declared guilty or innocent. Pharrell did time for the murder charge, and is brittle, fragile and decidedly eccentric.
While you're busily engaged in deciding whether or not it's okay to like two such seemingly dodgy characters; or if the author's son is as guilty as hell about something; his wife's up to anything at all; or the local cops are simply idiots; suddenly you'll find a lot of plot points merge together neatly into a completely coherent, tidy set of extremely satisfactory resolutions. Except for those that aren't and you really are going to want to know where Conkaffey and Pharrell go next.
Many years ago there was a specialist bookshop tucked away in Auburn Road, Hawthorn run by a crime fiction expert and massive enabler (I think his namMany years ago there was a specialist bookshop tucked away in Auburn Road, Hawthorn run by a crime fiction expert and massive enabler (I think his name was Malcolm Campbell). He was one of those real-life people that made me thankful I'd made the trek from the bush to the big city, and Peter Corris was another. Sure I probably would have eventually found his books, but arriving in the city, finding that shop, and eventually being introduced to Cliff Hardy, kind of reinforced at that time it had been a good move all round.
From the opening book in the Cliff Hardy series, here was something that was familiar, and yet slightly different about them. They are, as further study eventually revealed, straight out of the lone-wolf, private eye rule book, and yet quintessentially Australian. They are also very Sydney - with the mean streets that Hardy lived on never that far from the Harbour, yet there is something in the quick-fire delivery, and the quiet determination that reeks of the laconic Australian character. Put a hat on him, push it back on his head and roll up his sleeves and Hardy could have been a man from the bush. Stick him in a Ford, hand him a glass of wine, and have him haunt a few coffee shops and bars and he was city through and through. Part of the appeal of Cliff Hardy is that he has always been as hard to pin down - age / background / look and feel, as he has been instantly recognisable.
But forty-two books later, Cliff is flagging a little, but game as always, and Peter Corris has pulled the plug, battling a few health problems of his own. So reading WIN, LOSE OR DRAW is one of those jarring moments no matter how you look at it. It's the last ever book of a series that's become as part of all fans January's as has a food hangover or the Test Cricket. It's certainly always been my Boxing Day Test tradition - flat out on a couch, test on in the background, Cliff Hardy book in hand. Glass of white wine beside me.
It also appears that the decision to call it quits on the series happened after the book had been written - so there's no maudlin fare-the-well's, no tying up of any long-standing questions (not that there really are that many, expect maybe how bloody old is Cliff really!). What we have in WIN, LOSE OR DRAW is classic Hardy, hired by a wealthy businessman, Gerard Fonteyn, to find his teenage daughter. Julianna has been missing for over a year and despite a number of other granted half-hearted attempts there's never been a hint that she's dead or alive. Initially Hardy is inclined to agree with this assessment, but a photograph that eventually comes to light is just enough for him to get out, kick some rocks and see what crawls out.
A nicely complicated plot is elegantly executed with plenty of opportunity for even a slightly cricket distracted reader to keep up, but as always at the heart of these books is the tough-guy, lone-wolf, rough-around-the-edges, good-bloke Cliff Hardy. Even exiting this way, on a high, solving the unsolvable, never looking back, never saying goodbye, no regrets, no apologies, kind of makes sense. It won't make fans feel any better come next January, but then there are 42 of these books that you can always re-read. That's a lot of January's.
Do a quick search on any of the book reading community websites and you're going to find a large number of novels called "Dead in The Water", adding tDo a quick search on any of the book reading community websites and you're going to find a large number of novels called "Dead in The Water", adding to the feeling that there's something nicely tongue in cheek about the title of Tania Chandler's second novel also being the title of a crime novel within the story. That sort of echo is loosely reflected in elements of the internal novel and the troubled life of central character Brigitte and her husband in the ... main novel for want of a better description.
Brigitte and her policeman husband Aidan were introduced to readers in Chandler's debut novel PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME HERE. If you'd offered odds on them being part of an ongoing series it's doubtful you'd have gotten many takers, and yet, here they are, working incredibly well in this second outing.
With multi-layered connections between Brigitte and the author of the internal novel, the slight echoes of storylines between the internal and main novels are also reflected when the body of a well known celebrity chef is found. Brigitte is peripherally involved as part of the day job, eventually more closely intertwined as she appears to be in danger as well. Meanwhile Aidan is off being paranoid and erratic about a whole lot of things, meaning that DEAD IN THE WATER is part character study, part exploration of the pressures of marrying a cop and part thriller. There are obvious lines to be drawn here about PTSD into the bargain - with both partners not having really dealt with events from the earlier book.
With the careful use of flashback and memory recall, Chandler has written a second novel that could be read without the benefit of the first in the series. Both books are, however, essentially studies of past trauma, and the effect that has on characters present and future behaviour. Because of that, reading them both would considerably enhance the reader's sense of connection, and frustration with both partners in this complicated and complex personal web.
Whilst you'd definitely call these character study novels, that's not to imply that plot, or even sense of place take a secondary seat. The use of the internal novel is an interesting device, cleverly employed, avoiding pitfalls and potential clichés. Using the setting of a sheltered little island community, disconnected from the mainland, isolated and vaguely disconcerting works without screaming closed room at you. Even when approaching them as character studies, these are not always likeable people. They fail, recover, act bravely and idiotically, they frustrate and annoy. They are also unexpectedly sympathetic and always extremely real.
All in all DEAD IN THE WATER is an interesting second novel, and anyone taking bets on a third featuring these characters would probably shorten the odds at a rapid rate of knots after reading it.
Anybody who knows about this series will be aware that this novella has been a gift from the author to fans, a little taste of the ongoing series, asAnybody who knows about this series will be aware that this novella has been a gift from the author to fans, a little taste of the ongoing series, as a thank you, and a filler in a bit of a gap between novels. It has the added benefit of fleshing out the back-story of Rowland Sinclair and his band of compatriots - Edna, Clyde and Milton.
It should be astounding that even within the size restrictions of a novella, Gentill has managed to provide that back-story, build in a murder, set up a bit of romantic tension, and give a feel for the societal tensions at the time, but really it's not. Gentill is nothing if not a consummate story teller, and her Rowland Sinclair series is about as pitch perfect as you could want.
A review, therefore, in novella form that breaks quite a few of the self-imposed rules. There really doesn't need to be any careful analysis of the whys and wherefores of this series. It deserves a wide readership because it's very good. By all means, read this novella at any point in your catch up of the entire series of books - but whatever you do make sure you read this series. It's glorious.
SCARED TO DEATH is the first in a new series from author Rachel Amphlett. It's a switch from the earlier espionage styled Dan Taylor novels, to a poliSCARED TO DEATH is the first in a new series from author Rachel Amphlett. It's a switch from the earlier espionage styled Dan Taylor novels, to a police procedural featuring Detective Kay Hunter.
From the opening scenes with parents Yvonne and Tony racing to provide the ransom money and recover their daughter Melanie, through to the police investigation that follows, there's plenty of intrigue and pace built into SCARED TO DEATH. It is a novel structured in form of police procedural precisely, building a great team around a really strong, central character, looking at the pitfalls, slog and highs of crime investigation. This is a crime that seems to be a kidnapping that's gone horribly wrong, but Hunter always feels there was something not right about the whole scenario. A very odd cause of death is one thing, the way that the ransom was collected is another, and then a second strange death, seems to Hunter to be designed to deflect further investigation setting her up on a collison course with her bosses, and a very nasty killer.
An interesting touch, there's an idea here about the need to keep investigating even if things seem very clear cut. The concept of making darn sure that the seemingly obvious is correct is something that has been reflected in some historical true crime analysis that's been around recently, and it's explored well in this particular novel. Doing it from the point of view of one dedicated, almost obsessive cop has resonance as well - giving readers plenty of ways of connecting with Hunter, especially as she's also got more than a few skeletons in the cupboard.
Given this is the first in a new series, the balance between character and team setup, and creating a fully fleshed out story as well, is nicely done. The plot is tight and clever, the action fast paced and there are enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. The scenario is complicated without being complex, and even allowing for some aspects from the darker side of crime fiction, it's not overly confrontational or uncomfortable reading.
SCARED TO DEATH is really well written, delivering a plot from the darker side, with a strong female character who is flawed enough to be believable and strong enough to have potential to carry this series forward. There's a good supporting cast of characters and a strong sense of good, old-fashioned, police procedural - investigation, evidence gathering and a touch of intuition.
Even if you've only had a very fleeting interest in the goings on of one of Australia's most (in)famous cops, then ROGER ROGERSON is going to be an exEven if you've only had a very fleeting interest in the goings on of one of Australia's most (in)famous cops, then ROGER ROGERSON is going to be an extremely intriguing read. Whilst it's the story of the man, and the myth that developed around him, it's also an important reminder of how that sort of myth building can skew law, order and society behaviour. For all the "bit of a rogue / hail fellow well met" persona that Rogerson built around himself, he shouldn't be a bit of a celebrity, or a figure of gentle affection for anybody and this book shows you exactly why.
McNab provides valuable insight into Rogerson's background, and that of his fellow-accused Glen McNamara, as an insider who knew all about them from his own days in the NSW Police Force, to contacts within the force and in the general community, and as an observer of the force from the point of a view of a journalist for many years. This is not just the story of the murder trial, it provides past and present angles that reader's may not necessarily have been given the opportunity to consider before. Particularly that of the Internal Affairs department, on whose desks various allegations against Rogerson have appeared over the years.
McNab is definitely no fan of Rogerson - and not just because he was directly threatened by the man when his first book on Rogerson (DODGER) was released. But he's not alone there, and the external persona that Rogerson was fond of portraying - the twinkle in the eye, the smiling, hearty bloke / one of the people façade is something that quite a few people had seen through a long time ago, alas with not quite enough evidence to be able to prove many of the allegations made. It also feels very much like McNab is scrupulously fair with his retelling of facts, and sometimes understandably acerbic in his observations. There was never any doubt in this readers mind about which was which.
The book ROGER ROGERSON also answered a heap of questions that were in this reader's mind when the charge of murder was first announced. It was hard to believe that somebody as wily and cunning as Rogerson would have been so easily caught out in such a murder. It was even harder to believe that McNamara - who spent years styling himself as a crusading ex-cop, committed to exposing paedophilia, virulently anti-drugs was somehow involved in a drug deal gone wrong. Stories of his researching a book seemed thin to say the least, but the gobsmacking bit was his hero-worship of Rogerson and the ease with which they seemed to have been identified as potential suspects in this crime. It seems that Rogerson might have been a handful in his day, but technology and conceit combined to make the untouchable very vulnerable.
This is a book that provides a lot of valuable and telling insights. Into corruption and how easily it can become entrenched. How backgrounds and stories can be built by individuals, and conflated by others for their own ends (there's a piece of political expediency here that should not have come as a particular surprise, but was still nonetheless startling). It's also a telling take on "celebrity crime" - criminals who are urban legends, or in this case, a corrupt and very dodgy cop who built himself into an urban legend, allowing everybody to conveniently ignore the damage and carnage left in his wake.
KILLING LOVE is one of the most profoundly personal stories that you're going to come across in True Crime reading. It's a story of incredible loss, sKILLING LOVE is one of the most profoundly personal stories that you're going to come across in True Crime reading. It's a story of incredible loss, starting out with the suicide death of Rebecca Poulson's brother, and then the murder of her father and much loved niece and nephew by her brother-in-law, the children's father.
Poulson has written her life onto the pages of this book, her reactions and her struggles with so many needless deaths. It's fraught, difficult and extremely emotional reading as she looks deep inside herself and what, in particular, the murders have done to her. It's extremely personal and very much focused inward and because of that it's part discomforting and part uplifting. It also definitely steps into unforgettable territory.
The discomforting aspects are confronting for the reader. Poulson has obviously used a lot of this book as a cathartic personal experience, a step on the journey to making sure that her brother-in-law did not destroy her. It's also so very personal that there's sometimes a feeling of disconnect from the experience of others in her family - her mother and her sister, the mother of the murdered children are there, but sometimes feel peripheral to the story. After finishing the book, and a considerable period of reflection, it seems that Poulson purposely hasn't set out to tell their stories for whatever reason. In that context, the self-involved feeling makes sense, as does the need for catharsis. The need to get the story out there, and give readers a real taste for the pain, anguish and confusion that suicide can leave behind; and the unfathomable damage of such vicious domestic violence are palpable.
On the uplifting side she does work her way through to her own future, and her brother-in-law hasn't destroyed them all. Those left behind do survive, and put together a life, and Poulson's work now with raising domestic violence awareness is both brave and generous.
KILLING LOVE is therefore not light reading, and for this reader, not a book that I would ever, by any stretch of the imagination, be comfortable to sum up in terms of enjoyable or likeable or not. It doesn't really come down to whether or not this is a well-written book, or a well-told story. It's not about analysis of the crime or the outcomes, or wide ranging impacts. It's one woman's experience and I'm grateful for her courage in sharing it.