A young adult crime fiction series, the "EVERY" books from Ellie Marney are a pitch perfect example of YA that works for young and old. Particularly t
A young adult crime fiction series, the "EVERY" books from Ellie Marney are a pitch perfect example of YA that works for young and old. Particularly the old that can still remember how complicated first love was, and the young that are experiencing the same.
Following on closely in time and events from the first book EVERY BREATH, James Mycroft is still limping from close encounters in that book, and Rachel Watts is still semi-grounded by her parents. Certainly they aren't happy about Watts spending too much up close and personal time with Mycroft, and they probably aren't wrong to be a bit concerned:
"I can say that now: my boyfriend. It took me a while to get used to the words. I'm still getting used to the way my body reacts when Mycroft and I touch: this hot flush goes right through me. My mind goes on vacation, and my breathing catches, so I'm gasping every time he does simple things - putting his arm around my shoulders, or touching his lips gently to mine, like now."
Refreshingly this relationship isn't all girlish flutterings. Rachel might be having to process the effect that Mycroft has on her physically, but she's also acutely aware that mentally, she's the stronger of the two. Mycroft's past continues to haunt him, and whether he likes to admit it or not, he needs her calming, rational presence. So she has no compunction whatsoever when it comes to getting on a plane and following him to London when he suddenly drops everything and heads that way. Now I know what many readers will be thinking. A seventeen year old girl just ups and gets on a plane? I will admit to thinking the same thing at one stage - before I realised that it's been an era or two since I was that age, and whilst in our day, acts of pushing the boundaries didn't necessarily involve stacking up the air miles, it certainly could have involved striking out on our own, no matter how much of a hissy fit our parents threw.
The investigation thread in EVERY WORD is complicated - a man dies in England in circumstances eerily similar to the death of Mycroft's own parents. A valuable Shakespeare First Folio had gone missing from his workplace, and there's no clear lead on what could have happened to it. Mycroft's ability to get involved is via the Forensic specialist Doctor that he works part-time with. Called into consult on the death in London because the dead man is Australian makes enough sense to keep the reader in the story. Mycroft accompanying him to England equally makes enough sense not to clang. And in a testament to both the pace of the story, and the strength of the writing, Rachel following afterwards also makes sense. What happens to them all in England works, as do events on their return to Australia.
Part of what makes all this work is that some of the specialised knowledge, the science used throughout the book is believable. The idea that two teenagers might escape a dire situation based on a bit of basic chemistry knowledge worked:
"He rattles the contents of an open box, angles it toward the light. 'Toilet cleaner. Two cans of air freshener. Insect spray. Toilet paper. And a bunch of bathroom cupboard knobs, with accompanying screws. ... 'If I had some foil - '. 'There's foil.' I say sharply. 'I've got foil. That kebab wrapping in the corner.'"
The great strength really of the "EVERY" series is the two central characters. Their "teenageness" feels right. Their relationship fits the bill. Their impulsiveness and their care spot on. And the reactions of their families, friends and colleagues just work.
"... Dad's on shift, but he said to say welcome home.' 'Okay,' I say slowly. 'But .... what about Mum?' Mike sighs and hunkers down to my level. 'Mum's a bit trickier.'
Perfect for any teenager's in your life, a good read for those of us older (in some cases way way older) than that, the "EVERY" series is a wonderful entry in the Australian Crime Fiction canon. The third book in the series, EVERY MOVE, will be released in March, 2015.
The final book in the James Mycroft and Rachel Watts series starts and draws much to a close on the family farm Five Mile. Deep in the Mallee / WimmerThe final book in the James Mycroft and Rachel Watts series starts and draws much to a close on the family farm Five Mile. Deep in the Mallee / Wimmera area of Victoria, first up, Rachel uses a short visit back to try to repair the mental damage that events in the middle book (EVERY WORD) inflicted. Then again the area is the setting for a very different purpose as the series concludes. It's also a chance for her brother Mike to bring his best mate Harris Derwent back to the city with them.
Designated as Young Adult fiction, the "Every" series has always handled the ongoing romantic interest of these two teenagers (James and Rachel) well. The attraction, the slip into innocent relationship and the fractious nature of pairing up when there's a lot else going on in your life is part of the strength of these books. And logically the reader must know they are getting older, and therefore innocence will move aside. Their relationship must either move to the next level, or disintegrate. Which means a possible rival, or at least the presence of another boy / man is going to cause tension. And it does.
Given it's also the final book in the series, as expected, there is a lot of rounding up of the strays. The mysterious Mr Wild - he of the physical threat to Watts and Mycroft must be revealed, the cops must solve a few puzzles, Rachel's unspoken war with her mother over the trip to London in book 2 must be ironed out one way or the other, and everything needs to be ticked off before the end of the book. Which means that some of the plot twists aren't exactly going to be twists. Amongst many other things, it came as no surprise that there would be a bit of other boy temptation and some weakening of what are, after all, teenage knees and dare we say a bit of mild stretching of your definition of faithfulness. To be fair though, the play-out of the major threat, of drawing your quarry to the quarry (which this reader found funny), was pretty dramatic and the sort of action that you'd hope for.
As a standalone book EVERY MOVE won't work - this is a book for followers of the series, although I wouldn't be surprised if there's a few of those a bit disgruntled at the end of this one. Drawing to an end so many elements must be a tricky prospect for an author. It's not enough that there's a bit of mystery left to be sorted, but there's the issue of taking the relationship between the main characters up a notch. It goes somewhere that feels age-appropriate yet somehow a bit of a let down for some of us (maybe it's our fond longing or remembrance of young love's first bloom, and that sense of innocence).
Whilst things are closed off, this book does feel a lot more like it's addressing the romantic, rather than the mysterious. It feels like a lot less Sherlock and a lot more Twilight (or so I'm told - never read any of them) if you like. Which was mildly disappointing for this reader, what with a life-long preference for mystery reading over romance. It does feel like one of the major revelations - the identity of the threatening Mr Wild - lands in the middle of so much teenage angst that it feels flat and surprisingly unsurprising. Then everybody gets distracted by the play out of the love interest. But then things do have a habit of changing. People change. Times change. Teenagers grow up and tastes in reading subject matters change. Having said that, this reader won't be surprised if EVERY MOVE has some very mixed reactions. The strength of this series is not in the individual books however but the series as a whole. As crime fiction for Young Adults, these books are about a lot of things - teenage attraction, love, friendship, boundary stretching and family angst.
Bill Hosking is well known in legal circles, probably less outside of them, but his many years of experience, and sheer number of cases that he appear
Bill Hosking is well known in legal circles, probably less outside of them, but his many years of experience, and sheer number of cases that he appeared in - mostly as defence counsel, is a telling testimony about this man's standing, and understanding, of the law.
JUSTICE DENIED is a look back through Hosking's career as a criminal barrister - defending rogues and crooks through to the seemingly indefensible. Using a very low-key, formal style of story-telling, he outlines many of the tools of the trade of a criminal barrister, and the efforts undertaken to ensure that everyone - even the worst of the worst, get a fair trial. It seems too easy for many to forget that fair trial, competent defence and the right for anybody to be considered innocent until proven guilty might be an uncomfortable reality, but it's a necessary fundamental of law-abiding society.
The cases he's describing range between those that demonstrate points of law, those that talk to court-craft and the nature of barrister appearance. There's also some lighter-hearted moments, including the story of the blind bank-robber referred to in the blurb. On the other hand, Hosking appeared as defence counsel for one of the (now proven) Anita Cobby killers. As he puts it 'Everyone in the car that dreadful night had a passport to doom'. He doesn't at any stage shy away from the circumstances of Ms Cobby's death, but is careful to be reserved about the details. He's also very carefully explaining the principles of justice and has some extremely valid points to make.
The only time that he does veer slightly from the reasoned and careful approach taken throughout the book is in one statement made in reference to the "Never to be released" sentencing of the Cobby killers (I quote as much as feasible to hopefully provide sufficient context):
"No one had expected this bombshell. Not even the hardline Crown Prosecutor had asked for it. The judge then added more gratuitous, emotive remarks designed to influence authorities long into the future. As the law then stood, it was wrong for the judge to do so. It would be misleading to suggest this directive by the respected judge was greeted with anything other than overwhelming community approval. But that is not the test. Calm judgement is.
Then came a sombre The Sun newspaper front-page headline, JAILED FOREVER. The article quoted the vastly experienced Justice Maxwell's statement that this crime ranked with the worst he had encountered in his forty years with the law. Sadly, this was undoubtedly true. On reflection, there is perhaps little value in seeking to classify murders. Each has one awful feature in common: a valuable, innocent life has been needlessly and irrevocably taken. Except in cases of domestic violence, there are seldom any mitigating factors."
Needless to say that last sentence rocked much of my perception about how this book had proceeded until that point. JUSTICE DENIED had been so measured, so careful and so considerate of all involved in all cases and was careful to place credit where credit was due towards other members of the legal profession. Yet, in one sentence there appears the suggestion that there could be mitigating factors in domestic violence - over and above those in any other "class" of murder. Try as this reader might to analyse that in the light of the "calm judgement" that Hosking insists is required under the law, it doesn't jell. Why the insistence that domestic violence is somehow different from any other form of violence? Perhaps that statement provides a crystal-clear glimpse into the thinking that has contributed to huge failings in our country's response to domestic violence.
Whilst this reader won't pretend that the passage referred to above didn't detract considerably from what, up until then, had been a most interesting book to read, JUSTICE DENIED does have it's upsides in the explanation of the role of criminal defence, the way that the court system works, and the nature of trial by judge and/or jury as a cornerstone of our justice system. ...more
DEAD AGAIN is the second novel in the Georgie Harvey and John Franklin series. Harvey is a Melbourne based journalist and Franklin a Daylesford basedDEAD AGAIN is the second novel in the Georgie Harvey and John Franklin series. Harvey is a Melbourne based journalist and Franklin a Daylesford based cop, and whilst it's not absolutely necessary that you've read the first book - TELL ME WHY, it would help a lot to understand why there is a connection between these two characters, and ultimately the two main locations in this book. Set around a fictionalised fire storm called in this book Red Victoria, a potential article about a small town in recovery becomes a private quest for Harvey to track down a man believed killed in the fire, who she thinks has gone into hiding.
In order to provide some context for some of the reactions outlined in this review, readers of the first book TELL ME WHY may or may not remember a single line reference to a shooting in Natte Yallock. We remember the day that shooting happened very clearly, a few ks from our property's back fence, involving members of a family we know - many of whom we didn't know the fate of for quite a while. A complicated and heartbreaking scenario, our community lost two members of that well known and respected local family, and those remaining deal with the senseless loss on a daily basis. It has always been hard to dismiss the feeling that they deserve better than a throw-away line in a book without context and lacking accuracy. If the discomfort caused by such a short, sharp appropriation of a distressing real life event in our lives was any indication I'm really not sure how the concentration of this book is going to be received in areas so profoundly affected by recent wildfire events in Victoria.
That's not to say that fictionalising real life isn't something that happens every day, and post Black Saturday there have been books and articles, written often by authors from the areas affected, sometimes by outsiders. They have been, in the main done with great sensitivity and awareness that this trauma is all too real and ongoing for many people and communities.
Maybe it's the nature of the beast in Wallace's central character Georgie Harvey but it was hard for this reader to avoid the feeling that sensitivity isn't a particularly strong point - Harvey is designed to be more of a terrier styled personality after all. Certainly the inclusion of a couple of elderly locals with whom she interacts a lot in the earlier part of the book felt like they were designed to give her more of an opportunity to empathise, explore the realities of life and the outcomes of such a devastating fire storm, but still there was much that jolted. Maybe it's because the early part of the book is extremely slow to get moving, and the focus is heavily on the researched details that the feeling of appropriation becomes overwhelming. Possible flaws or "outsider" viewpoints become more heightened, and therefore more jarring. Maybe it's simply that I can still feel the disquiet that the reference to Natte Yallock caused. Ultimately there's a lot of tells in the portrayal of Bullock that make it really easy to identify in real life, and the real cause of the fire in that location is completely altered for the purposes of supporting the plot of the missing man in DEAD AGAIN (something that made this reader profoundly uncomfortable).
The action back in Daylesford is considerably more deftly handled, with the sorts of day to day operations in a town like Daylesford realistically portrayed - and handled by a great cop character in John Franklin. His interaction with his local community really works, and with the way that the place has changed, the idea that there could be the odd person in the area that goes somewhat under the radar not necessarily requiring a heap of suspension of disbelief. The romantic entanglements between the two main characters is what tips this series more into the category that I heard mentioned some time ago of "crimance".
By way of disclaimer, TELL ME WHY was published by Clan Destine Press, for whom I was a minor non-editorial minion at the time, and had a sneak peek at an early draft of the initial manuscript. There was potential there, and it was guided into a publication that went on to win a Sisters in Crime Australia Reader's Choice Award. DEAD AGAIN is a different kettle of fish - it's a brave undertaking, taking a raw, real life scenario and fictionalising it. Perhaps the issue for this reader is that the fictionalising didn't go far enough, or the license to appropriate, while many communities are still recovering, wasn't as obvious as it should have been. Either way, DEAD AGAIN is one of those books that may just hinge on whether or not you're as comfortable with the overt use of this particular real-life loss, pain and grief in a fictional setting.
Based on a true story, set in the Victorian Goldfields in the 1860's, THE UNFORTUNATE VICTIM is part fiction, part reminder that life in those days, pBased on a true story, set in the Victorian Goldfields in the 1860's, THE UNFORTUNATE VICTIM is part fiction, part reminder that life in those days, particularly for women, was not easy, pleasant or fair. When the body of young newly-wed Maggie Stuart is found in the home she shares with her much older husband it's all to easy to forget that young is around 17 years old, older husband means arranged / quickly married off for reasons that become apparent, and with family is often the least safe place you can be.
The dreadful circumstances in which Maggie has grown up, married, and died are carefully laid in this novel, avoiding the more gruesome details without glossing over the reality too heavily. The town of Daylesford in those days was a wild, frontier like place full of blow-in's and more established locals, with some downright nasty goings on. When the body of young Maggie is discovered, local police aren't particularly short of dodgy characters to consider - from her violent and particularly nasty stepfather, through to the co-owner of the local brothel, to say nothing of the mysterious tramp hanging around the area.
Flagged as an "Otto Berliner investigates ..." novel you'd be forgiven for wondering how much investigating he plans to do when his first appearance is well into the story, and for a rather short time into the bargain. For all his initial absence (he returns eventually to save the day with the able assistance of a concerned local), he's a promising character. A police detective about to leave the force for private detecting mostly due to frustration with the questionable methods and ham-fisted behaviour of many colleagues, Berliner is a cerebral, almost Poirot styled character. Doing his initial detecting on the case of the suspect tried for the murder of Maggie Stuart by way of letters and newspaper reports, with a third party doing some local enquiring for him has a distinct Christie ring about it - although the brutality of the world that Berliner occupies is nowhere near the drawing room niceties of her more traditional settings.
The unusual styling of THE UNFORTUNATE VICTIM will undoubtedly throw some readers slightly. The idea that the hero of the day is very slow to arrive, and the sheer volume of the courtroom proceedings towards the centre of the book may be slightly off-putting. It's an unusual way to introduce a new character for whom, presumably there are plans for more stories, but if you stick with it you are given plenty of glimpses of who Otto Berliner is and where he's likely to be heading.