It's nearly impossible to "review" a book like THE STING simply because the subject matter is so horrific. The delivery, styling or methods chosen toIt's nearly impossible to "review" a book like THE STING simply because the subject matter is so horrific. The delivery, styling or methods chosen to explain the events pale into insignificance alongside the reader's desire to look away, whilst simultaneously wanting to track down some people in the justice and political systems and demand a few answers.
Why it is that somebody like this killer was given such light sentences over earlier child rapes, beatings and maimings is the one question that you cannot come away from this book without. How it was that he, and his like are allowed to walk the streets after REPEATED offences defies understanding. What the police had to do to eventually get their man is undoubtedly exemplary - but I just can't get past the idea that they had to. That here was a multiply convicted child rapist who was violent and vicious, opportunistic and without remorse and he was walking the streets. Defies. Understanding. That there were others of his ilk, also out and about, also suspects in the disappearance of Daniel Morcombe is beyond justification.
Whilst these aspects are, frankly, bloody awful, there is inspiration in this story. The determination and hard work of some great police members, despite inter-state tensions, and of course, the bravery and sheer guts of Daniel Morcombe's parents Denise and Bruce Morcombe. Let's hope that at this too late stage, the justice system honours them and Daniel's memory.
THE STING is well worth reading for those aspects, but you will have to steel yourself for some harrowing tales. Kyriacou has done a great job of just laying it on the line in those areas, and allowing the readers to experience the shock and horror. Despite that, this book is well worth reading just simply so that we all get to understand what's wrong with our justice system and hopefully agitate to get something done about it.
Dom and Donald Tolen are identical twins - in looks but not personality. Whilst Dom craves the quiet life, Donald has pushed the boundaries a lot moreDom and Donald Tolen are identical twins - in looks but not personality. Whilst Dom craves the quiet life, Donald has pushed the boundaries a lot more. But now, separated from his wife and living, as an increasingly unwelcome guest, in his brother's apartment, Donald needs to get himself sorted in a hurry. What ensues is a complicated tale of swapped identities and confusion that is going to need the reader to be paying close attention.
We've all heard tales of identical twins swapping places. Particularly when young, and in this reader's case, in school when one twin was much better at a particular subject than the other. Dom and Donald always did the same thing as kids, and when Donald convinces Dom to try it one more time in adult life, it kind of makes sense that he'd like to do it again as a joke or a bit of fun. But things are never quite that simple when you're an adult, particularly if there are sneaky plans afoot. Hence the need for reader's to be paying attention.
A psychological thriller, THE SWAP is written in a nicely flowing manner, taking the reader straight into the action, and through the stories of Dom and Donald. Structured well with current day and past revelations nicely balanced, the pace doesn't lag at all during this book. The likelihood of something going astray when Donald convinces Dom to switch places for the day is nothing compared to what actually does occur, nor the complications that continue from that event onwards. Although the "Dom" and "Donald" names do sound like the potential for confusion you are given license to get past that with most of the viewpoint remaining with Dom - the more sedate and quieter of the two twins.
There is a supporting cast dotted throughout THE SWAP but the focus is always on the twins, and Dom in particular so most of the extras fade rapidly into the background and remain somewhat one-dimensional. Many readers might find themselves hanging tightly onto the twins identities anyway - things get pretty complicated in that department pretty darn quickly.
It's an interesting idea for a debut novel - the knowing swapping of identities and the consequences from there. Combined with some insights into the differences, as well as similarities between identical twins and THE SWAP was an engaging read - not perfect by any means - but well worth the time and attention.
The Le Fanu series from author Brian Stoddart is one of those extremely elegant combinations of mystery fiction and historical lesson that also providThe Le Fanu series from author Brian Stoddart is one of those extremely elegant combinations of mystery fiction and historical lesson that also provides entertainment for readers. There's even a bit of good old fashioned romance from the male point of view. In short, there's something for all readers within these pages.
The third book, A STRAITS SETTLEMENT sees Le Fanu promoted above his desired wishes to acting Inspector-General, buried in paperwork and oddly behaving subordinate officers, increasingly desperate to resolve his ongoing faltering love affair with a local Anglo-Indian woman. It's not surprising that this reluctant bureaucrat seizes the opportunity to get back into some proper investigating work when a senior Civil Service member goes missing, and a seemingly unrelated murder occurs.
The sense of place and time in this series is absolutely pitch perfect - using as always something from the time as an element of the crime - in this case highly suspect indentured labour recruitment, people smuggling and antiquities theft. Always though, the ongoing question of British rule in India and the bubbling pressure for independence forms the backdrop, with elements of the struggle between colonial thinking and posturing and the reality of day to day life for the people cleverly incorporated. Le Fanu is the point of difference in the Colonial powers, and in the day to day society, with the manner in which he runs his household, his love affairs and his interactions with the locals. Even his food choices are not what the Colonial powers would approve of.
The manner in which Stoddart writes these books is pitch perfect. The historical elements, the factual tidbits, are built into the narrative in a way that lets the reader learn a lot and experience what it must have been like in that part of the world at that time. The mystery elements remain to the forefront and the personal bits and pieces are dotted throughout creating a character with depth. Le Fanu is not just a totally believable character he's nicely vulnerable, complicated and extremely easy to connect with. A series that really hasn't put a foot wrong, A STRAITS SETTLEMENT pushes the story of Le Fanu, his life and his future forward, setting up some major changes for the next book. Really looking forward to that.
In a particularly poignant touch, all round good guy and saver of the world Alex Morgan shows an unsurprising side in RANGER with his care and concernIn a particularly poignant touch, all round good guy and saver of the world Alex Morgan shows an unsurprising side in RANGER with his care and concern for a returned vet who needs help.
This novella sees Morgan returning from rescue duties, to be immediately redirected to the US where returned vet and friend, John Nash has asked for his help. Without hesitating Morgan dives into the task without the normal INTREPID backing, and in the full understanding that his old army buddy might be struggling, but he will have a compelling story to tell.
It's interesting how much action has been combined into a novella, that is full of compassion and understanding as well. There's a message here about the way that returned vets are treated, as well as one about power and influence. Fast paced, as you'd expect, full of action and suspense, that's not the point of RANGER and it doesn't overwhelm. This is an exposé on the treatment of returning vets, and an equally important dig at the mindless, trash-culture obsession of modern day society. And it works really well on all levels.
Allen has always had a compelling and realistic action hero in Alex Morgan. In this novella he's added a level of compassion and support to the already very human character that he's created, and he's doing that for some very good reasons.
In 2015 Author Chris Allen was appointed the inaugural ambassador for the charity Veterans Off the Streets Australia (VOTSA). A not for profit organisation and charity, reliant on donations from the public, business and industry to facilitate their work in assisting veterans and ex-service personnel in finding crisis, temporary and permanent accommodation; to actively find and assist families who are looking for accommodation related assistance; and provide a concierge service for related areas to at risk personnel and their families. RANGER features a homeless, forsaken war hero as a way of highlighting the real situation that VOTSA and their associated groups worldwide are attempting to resolve. Donation links are included at the end of the book:
What a little gem AMPLIFY turned out to be. A debut novel from journalist Mark Hollands, introducing musical impresario Billy Lime and his world of seWhat a little gem AMPLIFY turned out to be. A debut novel from journalist Mark Hollands, introducing musical impresario Billy Lime and his world of sex, drugs and rock and roll.
So much potential for cliché so very nicely dodged here. The women are not all sex objects or madder than meat-axe fans, the rock and roll is slightly on the older and might not be quite up to it any more side, the muso's an interesting combination of old and wise, and still living the dream types. Then there's the daring deeds of Lime himself liberally laced with martial arts, some aches and pains, and a hefty dose of clever humour.
The plot is cleverly interwoven into the corporate music world and takes advantage of a tax investigation of highly suspect intent, an international rock tour, a well known identity in Lime, and some decidedly Bolshie female managers of his various businesses to pull everybody and everything into the mix nicely. The characters are all strong, with nuance in unexpected places, and no daft lapses into fem-jep, or any other annoyances. There are a few lowlights that you're just going to have to accept as part of the rough and tumble of biker gang / jail / threatening behaviour all of which made sense in the context - if not purely in terms of justice.
There's lots of laugh out loud moments along the way - with plenty of in jokes to be found in Billy Lime's name, his choice of car colour and his business activities. AMPLIFY is tightly paced, with no extraneous information along the way and the character development and background is built elegantly into the overall pace and fun of the thing.
Slightly from the more manic, light-hearted side of crime fiction, despite the seriousness of the scenario's played out, there's an awful lot to like about AMPLIFY. Certainly enough to be on the lookout for a follow-up.
Facts wrapped up in fictional narrative, THE AMAZING MRS LIVESEY tells quite the tale of the life and times of Miss Ethel Swindells (aka Mrs Carter, MFacts wrapped up in fictional narrative, THE AMAZING MRS LIVESEY tells quite the tale of the life and times of Miss Ethel Swindells (aka Mrs Carter, Mrs Taylor, Mrs Smith, Mrs Ward, Mrs Lee, Mrs Spurgess, Mrs Giblett, Mrs Hourn, Mrs Anderson, Mrs Baker, Mrs Thompson, Gloria Grey, Mrs Gardiner, Nurse Florence Anderson, Miss Hordern, Mrs Ann Derson, Miss Turner, Lady Betty Balfour, Miss Harvey, Mrs Coradine, Mrs Livesey and a lot more to boot).
In a combination of fake and real marriages and a truly breathtaking amount of front, Mrs Livesey (let's settle on that one as does the author of this novel) had quite a life as you can tell from the book blurb. Whether or not you agree with the assertion there that she was "quite a gal" will depend totally on how you feel about the way that she conducted that life.
Told in a style that takes the facts known about Ethel Livesey wrapping them in a fictional tale for storytelling purposes, author Freda Marnie Nicholls sets out the tale of a most extraordinary life - itself such a combination of fact and fiction it's hard to keep the elements straight in your own head. Certainly what seems to be true is that Mrs Livesey was a confidence trickster of highest ability. She lied, scammed, cheated and faked her way through life clawing money, goods, influence and people along the way. There's little that can be said necessarily about her motives as there's very little that was said by Livesey herself. Except in some vague attempts later in life to defend herself or redraw her reputation - bizarrely as some sort of victim herself.
The style of the book is conversational, chatty and because of the level of fictional imagining around Livesey's activities, almost light-hearted in places. It certainly feels like Livesey is getting a sympathetic telling of her story here, which is going to either engage or enrage readers. All of which predicated by your own reactions to Mrs Ethel Livesey. Was she just a bit of a rogue, pressing on with her life in the only way she felt open to her? Or was she an unrepentant crook, charlatan and dare we suggest an absolute spoilt brat with a sense of entitlement that is positively breathtaking? You'd have to think that the multitude of her victims weren't enamoured of her in the end - the trail of theft, fraud, scamming and chaos she left in her wake must have been devastating for many people already living on the edge of survival. She certainly seemed able to pick her victims - from the easily manipulated, through to the easily flattered, to some sad and lonely individuals who fell under her influence.
THE AMAZING MRS LIVESEY is one of those books that's likely to engender very visceral reactions - partially due to the storytelling method as opposed to an exploration of just the facts. It's also going to come down to reader's reactions to the central character. For the very little it's worth - this reader ended up with a healthy dislike of the damn woman. Spoilt, entitled, vicious and grasping, no matter how lightly you wrap the package, she seems like an all round nasty piece of work.
It is particularly gratifying to see a recent increase in historical crime fiction with capable and independent female central characters, with good wIt is particularly gratifying to see a recent increase in historical crime fiction with capable and independent female central characters, with good working relationships with the men who support them. Not only does this give authors the opportunity to expand on the period in which they are setting their books, it's also providing an increasing glimpse into the ridiculous limitations and restrictions placed on women in the past.
In TAKEN AT NIGHT, author Christa A. Ludlow has a central protagonist who is working as a photographer in 1900's Sydney. A difficult time to start a new business because of the increasing worry of bubonic plague, and a difficult time for women in general in the never-ending struggle for firstly equal rights, and then recognition for their work and professionalism. Paired with Detective Fergus Blair, Spencer finds herself drawn into the investigation of a passenger gone missing from a quarantined ship, whilst simultaneously pondering the efforts of another photographer who seems to be lurking amongst the children of the slums of Sydney.
The historical aspects of this novel are absolutely fascinating. The difference between current day The Rocks in Sydney and what it was in the 1900's is described well, with a real sense of the deprivation and desperation in the area. Because the central character of Spencer is a woman attempting to make her own way in business, connected to but not necessarily involved with the Suffragette cause, the politics is overt and the author's viewpoint on the position of women in that time obvious (understandably). Having said that, there's a tendency sometimes to hammer that point home a little too much, losing the momentum of the investigative / crime elements along the way.
The pairing of Spencer and Blair fits well, is unforced and seems to be preparing the basis for a good investigative team. Whilst there's nothing known about a potential followup, there's enough in TAKEN AT NIGHT, to think they both deserve another outing.
THE LONG WEEKEND is the debut, self-published crime fiction novel from Victorian based author Terry R. Barca. Set in inner Melbourne, using the beautiTHE LONG WEEKEND is the debut, self-published crime fiction novel from Victorian based author Terry R. Barca. Set in inner Melbourne, using the beautiful Windsor Hotel as a backdrop for most of the action, it features recently retired / newly married Sam and his wife Scarlett on a relaxing long weekend. It's not long before their idyllic time is interrupted by a high profile murder which takes place not that far from where they are.
A quick review of the blurb to this book will give potential readers a very good feeling for the style of the novel overall. What shines through is the author's love of his characters, and his desire to spin a good yarn, but the style sometimes doesn't serve that love as well as it could. A tendency for long, drawn out sentences is very prominent as is the use of a lot of information dumps and sidetracks and byways along the main thread of the murder. It does make THE LONG WEEKEND read very much like an early draft that needs paring, cleaning, tightening, focus and work. With that effort, it could be an interesting interpretation of a latter day Tommy and Tuppence style novel.
MURDER IN MT MARTHA is a fictional story, inspired by an unsolved 1953 real-life murder in the Mornington Peninsula suburb of Mt Martha. Author JaniceMURDER IN MT MARTHA is a fictional story, inspired by an unsolved 1953 real-life murder in the Mornington Peninsula suburb of Mt Martha. Author Janice Simpson combines the real facts with a range of unconnected contemporary elements to weave a potential solution and create her fictional version of "what if...".
Sixty years after the murder of 14 year old Beverly Middleton, Nick Szabo is working on his thesis about defectors from the Hungarian water polo team during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. During interviews with retiree Arthur Boyle, and a bit of a coincidence his connection to the murder appears. The narrative moves from 2013, back to 1953 as the events leading up to, and after, the murder are revealed, and then investigated by Szabo with Boyle's help. The strength in these elements of the story is the way that Boyle is forced to think back over his life, to his childhood and the truth about what he saw and heard then.
Combine these memories with a 1953 version of events, as seen from a murder's viewpoint and there's some stark differences. The matter-of-fact, non-sensationalised but chilling account of a very nasty human being, contrasted rather nicely by the relationship that builds between Boyle and Szabo. Unfortunately the sidelines into the Hungarian background of Szabo and his family, as touching as they may be, are disconnected from the main thread and contribute little to the narrative progression. Sticking with the main viewpoint, with the murderer, his behaviour and the things that Boyle saw and heard as a young boy, but has only started to understand now he is an old man are cleverly imagined. The difference in past perspective and current conclusion is marked and really well done.
Aside from the times where Szabo's family connections muddy the water, there is a good level of pace and momentum in MURDER IN MT MARTHA. The imaginings of what happened to that young girl 60 years before, and the detail with which they are relayed is telling and really engaging. The current day investigation revolving around an old man, his memories and Szabo's investigative techniques are an unusual approach which is handled reasonably well - although there is a hefty number of coincidences involved.
Overall MURDER IN MT MARTHA is a debut which shows some promise - especially in it's central character. Hopefully there are further adventures planned for Nick Szabo, he's certainly the sort of character that would be worth following.
PROHIBITED ZONE by Alastair Sarre was published by Wakefield Press in 2011 with the follow-up, ECSTASY LAKE, out early in 2016. If, like me, somehow yPROHIBITED ZONE by Alastair Sarre was published by Wakefield Press in 2011 with the follow-up, ECSTASY LAKE, out early in 2016. If, like me, somehow you missed the first book then you really should rectify that as soon as possible. It is a stellar debut filled with great characters, a really good and interesting plot and comes with a quintessentially Australian feel to it - in the setting and the language.
Blurbed as a "thriller in the desert", PROHIBITED ZONE is centred, as referenced to by the title, in the area around the Woomera Detention Centre in South Australia. With sojourns to Adelaide as well, somehow this novel retains that sense of the bush all the way through it - regardless of where the characters are situated. Probably because the central character - former Australian rules football player, mining engineer Steve West is a beautifully realised example of an outback bloke. It makes such sense that this laid back, somewhat private man somehow gets himself embroiled in the search for (and the hiding of) a declared terrorist and his younger friend. On the other side of the coin, Kara is well pitched as a deeply committed activist trying very hard to do what she believes is the right thing, with an absolutely take no prisoner's attitude barely concealing somebody paddling darn hard to keep their head above some very murky waters.
These two combining to move Saira Abdiani out of the way of the detention centre guards looking for her, and a bunch of assorted goons and heavies attached to them, makes perfect sense, as does the friends, family and cohorts who step in to assist along the way. The desire to have Saira out and able to tell her story about mistreatment and the gross injustice of the detention system also makes perfect sense, and works as an impetus for Kara, even though Steve's motivation becomes somewhat more personal. The pace of the getaway of Saira, and their fast stepping to keep out of the hands of the pursuer's is really well done - there's not a lot of time to contemplate or take a breath in PROHIBITED ZONE. Which is kind of a pity in many ways as there is much that is sobering quietly built into this tale - revealed as part of the overall action, dropped into the middle of the whirlpool, designed to make you read on for a while then suddenly go ... what the?
A lot of fun to read, PROHIBITED ZONE was one of those books that this reader just could not put down. Afterwards, with hindsight there are also a lot of points being particularly well made. Which makes this one of those crime fiction books that's important - fun, believable, great characters with a sting in the tail to boot.
Set within the hipster world of inner Melbourne lane-ways, cafes and bright young things, JINX is the debut crime fiction novel from local musician anSet within the hipster world of inner Melbourne lane-ways, cafes and bright young things, JINX is the debut crime fiction novel from local musician and writer Hugh McGinlay. A light-hearted, comedic styled novel, JINX introduces ex-police investigator, now accidental amateur detective, raconteur and milliner Catherine Kint and the world that she occupies in what seems to be intended as the first book in a series.
On the escapist side of crime fiction - there's something nicely engaging about Kint, what with the complicated background, the inner-city lifestyle, the hats and the best mate barman - to say nothing of the gin obsession and a handy IT virtuoso on the side to assist with a spot of Google type sleuthing. Written with a light touch, and a tendency to wax lyrical, part of what could lead a reader to assume that this is the start of a series is that there is a lot of time spent setting up friendships, and characters in JINX.
Set in and around Sydney Road Brunswick, the sense of place is elaborated with a lot of hipster lifestyle elements, combined with voodoo, occult and witchcraft. Which seemed to make a lot of sense to somebody who hasn't spent much time in that area in the last decade or so. Certainly the proximity of all the suspects, and the investigators, and the way that the main roads are intersected with laneways, and littered with cafe's, pubs and hidey holes felt real to an outsider.
Relying considerably on character, the plot in JINX isn't badly served by the eccentricity of everyone, and there's a strong sense of them belonging in their place and time. It might be the over-stating of some of these lifestyle components could irk some readers, but this isn't supposed to be high tension thrills and spills, nor is it trying to be dark or considered. JINX comes across as aiming to be entertaining, and it certainly works as a bit of light-hearted escapism. Even if the idea of the inner-Melbourne, hipster lifestyle is enough to make you want to head out into a paddock and thank the universe for space, dirt bikes instead of mopeds, and the gin-enthusiasts at the local pub.