This is going to have to be another one of those reviews that comes with a disclaimer. I love Adrian McKinty's books. Although I will admit that it'sThis is going to have to be another one of those reviews that comes with a disclaimer. I love Adrian McKinty's books. Although I will admit that it's always been the dark side, his flawed and controversial characters, and his noir stylings that I'd thought appealed particularly.
THE SUN IS GOD is none of that and yet there are glimpses. Based on elements of a true story, set in 1906 New Guinea, this is the tale of the investigation into the death of a man on a remote island in the midst of a community of nudist, back-to-nature "Cocovores". They eat only coconuts (and bananas as they grow at the top of trees and are therefore close to the Sun). They spend days sunbathing, they live in a weird sort of "Ikea-style" village of odd little pre-fab cottages, supported by local servants, and, whilst they are a small community, they make up for that with large bucket loads of odds.
Before all of that starts though, the reader is introduced to retired British military policeman Will Prior, who after serving during the Boer War ends up in the Germany colony of Herbertshöhe in the middle of the New Guinea islands. He has a loving relationship with a local woman who serves as his housekeeper, keeps himself a little distant from the mostly German ex-pat community, and is somewhat bemused to find himself pressed into investigative service in the pursuit of the truth of Max Lutzow's death.
Needless to say - oddity by the bucket loads - told in a most engaging manner. The central characters - Prior; local government representative, and fellow investigator Hauptmann Kessler and Bessie Pullen-Burry, intrepid lady traveller and reporter, shine. Glow and not just from sunburn. Somehow the oddness of the community into which they are thrust becomes endearing, and yet slightly threatening when viewed through Prior's eyes. Whilst the story is littered with eccentric characters, there are no caricatures. Even the favoured community of tipple Bayer aspirin and heroin ... well of course a bunch of people who believe in eating only Coconuts are going to have a drink like that. Of course.
Echoing much of the true story, McKinty warns at the commencement that there are some fictional characters, and some fictional elements, but in the main, the book follows the facts, as they are known. The deaths that took place on Kabakon during this period haven't been solved, although there's nothing held back in exploring or investigating the possibilities.
Whilst the subject matter, the setting, and the characters are very different from that which fans of Adrian McKinty's books could normally expect, it's what reminds you that aside from anything else, this author can write. Because it's much lighter THE SUN IS GOD is just the ticket for readers who find the darker side too much, but it also works for those of us who don't care. Especially those of us who would happily stump up to the cliché and read the author's shopping list should he be tempted to publish it.
Whatever I thought THE GIRL IN 6E was about, I can't begin to tell you how wrong I was. Having said that I'm also now considerably more educated aboutWhatever I thought THE GIRL IN 6E was about, I can't begin to tell you how wrong I was. Having said that I'm also now considerably more educated about the world of paid Internet sex services than I ever thought I wanted to be.
The story is told from the perspective of “Jessica Reilly” who performs virtual sex acts online (known as camming), for customers willing to pay $6.99 per minute. She works through agency websites, and her private site, and has an extensive clientele of return customers. Male and female. Straight and kinky. She's equipped to satisfy anyone's fantasies, from a bed and elaborate, very technical web-camera, equipment, toys and costume collection.
She's also a voluntary shut in who hasn't left her apartment in 3 years. Everything she needs is delivered – normally by UPS. The amount of effort she puts into her lifestyle is quite impressive, although from the outset the reasons are decidedly odd. Deanna Madden is quite convinced she will kill anyone she comes into close personal contact with. To the point where she supplies a neighbour with the illicit drugs he craves to lock her in every night.
The only person who gets close (and that's mostly “Leave It. Thank You” spoken through the door), is the UPS delivery man, who it has developed a bit of an obsession about meeting Deanna / Jessica. When he finally does, it's not quite what he was expecting and not just because of the camming.
But what do you do when you're voluntarily shut in, when you have the violent and high-risk sort of background that's slowly revealed, and a client who seems to be threatening something truly horrible?
Somewhere in the middle of the discomforting explicit sex acts, and the internal voice that obviously had a lot more to reveal, THE GIRL IN 6E became compulsive reading. The character of Deanna is strong, and whilst her voice is tempting, hinting almost teasing the reader, that sort of fits with her day job. It's very easy for the reader to feel some sympathy, just as it is to wonder where on earth this book was going.
Engaging, compelling, and inventive with really strong story telling, THE GIRL IN 6E has been revised and reworked from the original, self-published version “On Me, In Me, Dead Beneath Me”.
Sulari Gentill has never pulled her punches when it comes to putting Rowly Sinclair in a spot of peril, and it turns out that she's even prepared to dSulari Gentill has never pulled her punches when it comes to putting Rowly Sinclair in a spot of peril, and it turns out that she's even prepared to do that retrospectively. In the process she makes the idea of being a scion of this particular landed gentry family a rather sobering prospect. In the first book Sinclair's uncle (he of the same name) was murdered, and now, in A MURDER UNMENTIONED, it turns out that Sinclair's father had suffered the same fate.
A family secret long kept is not just that Sinclair senior was murdered, the possible involvement of the teenage Rowly and his older brother's intervention has been under the radar as well.
In all of these books, Rowland Sinclair has been a reluctant hero. With hindsight, his reluctance to also follow the family script makes perfect sense now, so much so that you have to wonder if Gentill's been planning this personal arc all along.
A MURDER UNMENTIONED follows the discovery of a gun, that triggers a reinvestigation, that ultimately casts light into some dark corners of the Sinclair family. It's not just Rowly's reluctance that starts to make sense. Wilfred's protectiveness, and their mother's mental decline also clearly have some basis in past events. These revelations come to light for the reader, as they do for Rowly's band of supporters – they of the “leap in and defend, help, protect regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of the threat”.
Part of the outcome of all of these revelations is a strengthening of relationships. The friendship between Rowly, Edna, Milton and Clyde; the affection and regard between brothers Wilfred and Rowly (which has always been there despite the rather stiff and stilted manner of expression). Finally there is acceptance of their mother's situation and a sharing of the load. There's also some fracturing of relationships, as desired romances aren't, and others turn out to be utterly disastrous.
Told, as always, with a light hand, great sympathy and a sense of humour, A MURDER UNMENTIONED sits in its timeframe as snug as a hand in a finely crafted suede glove. Somehow Gentill is able to take the reader into the timeframe in which the books are set, and in this case, back into the past further, and make you feel like it was written then. The joy of new flight, the fascination of elaborate sports cars, the isolation of the squatter lifestyle combined with the frisson of recognition that comes with real characters being incorporated seamlessly into the fictional all contribute to the enjoyment.
What holds the reader to this series is that sense of an entire world, and the bringing to life of history, combined with strong plots, and wonderful characters that you're given full permission to like. The humour is perfect, the situations believable, and the clues to solving the mystery are there for anyone who wants to play along. The only warning is that you probably shouldn't start with this novel – you need to meet Rowly long before you find out about the past. You'll see so much more in this book if you do, and besides there is so much wonderful reading in the entire series.
A thriller set in what's becoming the familiar territory of Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan's status as a nuclear nation plays into the action in KILLA thriller set in what's becoming the familiar territory of Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan's status as a nuclear nation plays into the action in KILL ZONE.
The idea of nuclear devices the size of briefcases going missing isn't a new one in thriller world, and to be frank I've no idea if it's realistic or not, but it certainly feels that way. The idea that the powers that be are 50% of the problem for the poor on the ground investigator is also not a new idea, but the idea that a deputy director of the CIA would be playing political games in a time of heightened terror alerts is certainly a new spin on things.
But really, the ultimate idea of a thriller of this type is that reality or not probably shouldn't come into it - it's all a matter of whether the reader is swept up into the scenario and pulled into the story. With all the black ops, double crossing, treason, nefarious goings on, special forces and a hefty dose of seemingly invincible protagonist, it definitely works in KILL ZONE. But the point that really works is the idea that the secret services are as fond of secret ops against each as they are against any "enemy".
Character development in KILL ZONE is also not bad given it's an action based thriller, and the pace is really good. KILL ZONE has action aplenty and enough tension and protagonist jeopardy to keep any fan of thrillers on the edge of their seat.
There was a point in the Melbourne Underworld Wars that things just got too complicated for anybody but the most assiduous follower to keep up with. TThere was a point in the Melbourne Underworld Wars that things just got too complicated for anybody but the most assiduous follower to keep up with. The connections between the crooks, the cops, and all the permutations thereof were enough to make you hope somebody was keeping some sort of map. Fortunately it seems that Liam Houlihan was, and he's used it to weave some threads through the entire mess that are both surprising and decidedly sobering.
Using a clever metaphor for the reader to engage with, you are pulled instantly into a story that would be quite a thriller ride. If it wasn't true. As it is true the layers of connection are startling; and the level of game playing and the sheer number of fingers in pies is troubling to say the least. The amount of back room deals, obfuscation, setups and sheer silly buggers being played is amazing - even for a time in the State that you already knew had been littered with some seriously dodgy goings on.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN MELBOURNE is written in a lively, engaging style. It is true crime that tells a tale, readable and very easy to follow, yet detailed enough to give you a real feel for the players, and the games being played. This doesn't, however, lessen the loss of life, or the carnage left in the wake. It draws the connections between things that this reader had previously never considered, from the street, to the Underworld, through the police force and right into Spring Street. Frankly the games that were played at that level left the Underworld players looking like amateurs.
Whilst there's been a lot of books written about the various players from the Underworld side of the equation, this is the first that this reader can remember that takes that further. ONCE UPON A TIME IN MELBOURNE gives the reader a map of the connections, it lays out a sequence of events that seem to clarify much, and in the process it takes a good hard look at many a lot higher up in the food chain than you'd hope.
The combination of cars and girls makes absolute sense to me. Include them in a series of noir styled, dark and pointed short stories, and CARS &The combination of cars and girls makes absolute sense to me. Include them in a series of noir styled, dark and pointed short stories, and CARS & GIRLS from the Pankhurst Collective was both unexpected and an absolute pleasure to read.
Whilst the central theme of cars and girls carries through each of the stories in the collection, they are a varied bunch, in setting, style and resolution. The exciting thing though is that no punches are pulled. This is a dark and frequently violent collection, full of explicit sex and gun battles putting the central female characters in the sorts of roles normally allocated to men. And doing it seamlessly.
Given that each story has it's own particular flavour and style, there are some aspects (other than the darkness and the violence) that hold throughout. Each story is fast-paced, strong, gritty and in your face. That's not to say that anything is particularly gratuitous, it's finely balanced noir. There's tension and pace in most of them, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing, although to be fair, the first story, 500, is of a slightly less frenetic pace, and perhaps a little more predictable than what's to come.
The collection is made up of 500 by Zoë Spencer, Road Runner by Tee Tyson, Barracuda by Madeline Harvey and Crown Victoria by Evangeline Jennings.
CARS & GIRLS definitely isn't a book for fans of traditional women protagonists. You get the distinct feeling the only use that any of these women would have for a teapot couldn't be discussed in polite society. It is, however, one for readers interested in something different, smart, stylish, and undeniably very clever.
From the moment that Billy Hotchkiss hits Hell Corner on the opening lap of the Bathurst 1000 you can tell he's a man on a mission. That's likely to eFrom the moment that Billy Hotchkiss hits Hell Corner on the opening lap of the Bathurst 1000 you can tell he's a man on a mission. That's likely to end up pear-shaped as everyone knows that "The Mountain" is an unforgiving beast. And sure enough, he throws the Commodore at Frosty Winterbottom's Falcon around Griffiths Bend and onwards, through The Cutting and up to Craig Lowndes' Falcon. Past Reid Park, over the metal grate and onto Sulman Park, McPhillamy Park, and over Skyline. Billy chases Lowndes down on the principle that first past the post, opening lap is worth the risk. From the moment they hit The Dipper and into Forest Elbow there's a sinking feeling of inevitability, down Conrod and into The Chase, trying to outbreak a driver like Lowndes is a tricky proposition. Too tricky in this instance as Billy plants the thing in the kitty litter side on. Side on means no sliding, it means digging in, it means flipping, a lot, and it means Billy's a passenger. Which ends badly.
QUICK opens with a sequence from Bathurst that will make this (and most) revheads sit up and pay attention. Whilst this is a book set in the fast paced world of V8 and F1 racing, it's ultimately a high paced, slightly lunatic, bigger than big plot thriller that will work for readers who aren't car racing fans as well - this is definitely an action junkie's good day out.
Hotchkiss goes from being a badly injured ex-touring car racer, to a cop with a tendency to leap first, and ask questions later. Which obviously gets him into trouble, but also into Interpol and from there into the F1 world. It hasn't taken long for authorities to figure out that a series of seriously big (value and style) robberies are occurring when the F1 circus comes to town. Hotchkiss has two things going for his involvement in the investigation - his freakish driving ability, and that tendency to leap first and hard into any situation. In this investigation he's paired up with a Frenchman, and it would be fair to say there's a bit of a communication gap - which is the source of a lot of humour. Hotchkiss has a typical, dry, laid back Australian way about him and much of that is lost on the Frenchman. As are the Frenchman's own strengths, which Hotchkiss takes too long to notice.
As with most thrillers of this nature the action's the thing. Hotchkiss is a jack of all trades - he can drive fast, fly planes, leap tall buildings and turn his hand to a bit of sneaky stuff. He's fearless, matchless, and a bit of a freak - able to absorb all sorts of physical punishment there's no stopping this bloke when he's on a trail.
The plot here is not the deepest, or the most believable, or even the scariest in the world. Whilst the culmination "crime" is a ripper of an idea, the motivation... well it's probably best to not pay a lot of attention to that. Stay with the ride, and forget the thinking stuff. QUICK's an action-packed, made for the big-screen thriller that works on the page as well. Although you get the distinct feeling that with the budget to pay for the bash and crash (and some considered casting), this would be a screen-based thriller guaranteed to please.
Looking back at the public persona of Mark 'Chopper' Read, so much of what Adam Shand discusses in THE REAL CHOPPER was there for the seeing. Can't heLooking back at the public persona of Mark 'Chopper' Read, so much of what Adam Shand discusses in THE REAL CHOPPER was there for the seeing. Can't help but give you a sneaking sense of admiration for Read's skill as a myth maker, given how unlikely many of his alleged transgressions actually were.
Read has always been an interesting prospect. Somebody with enough gangster profile to titillate and amuse some sectors of the community, he was renowned as a walking underworld quotation for the media. A thorn in the side of the underworld he claimed to be a big pin in, he was a criminal, a self-confessed police informer, and a man gifted with the ability to spin a great yarn. One of his greatest skills seems to have been remembering the tales of others, and then reinventing them to build his own persona. It also seems that he was no fool, and sadly somebody who should have had other options. Definitely, the success of his books, and the building of the myth, seems to be in direct contrast to his (and their) reception in the world of publishing, law enforcement and the Underworld. Nobody could ever deny his ability to craft a living from the myth that's for sure, even though his ability to hang onto money was considerably less successful.
THE REAL CHOPPER goes right back to the start - his life as a child with a distant and cold mother and an oddly "involved" father, a lot of strange things happened in Read's childhood and teenage years. From being put into a care home as a young child, through to being committed by his mother, and onto his teenage years rampaging around Croydon and environs there's something inevitable about his path from Juvenile Detention to jail. Whilst the crimes he was jailed for seem strangely minor compared to the things he claimed to have done, Chopper was fond of confessing, as he was making daft choices in jail, making sure his time was extended or done in the hardest possible manner. It's hard to decide what Chopper ultimately achieved in life. The build up as a major player in the Underworld might have fed his need for his 15 minutes of fame, but the collateral damage is high. Maybe in some circles, he died as the ultimate gangster player, but he still died. Youngish, ill, and still trying to shore up the story / the myth - with a hint of regret.
Shand's book reads like it has been carefully constructed - part investigation, part analysis it avoids overt conclusion drawing or over-blowing the story. Nor is it an apology or a justification. There's even some rather wry observations of the author's own past behaviour where Chopper was concerned, and there's a distinction drawn between Mark Brandon Read and, for want of a better description, the "Brand Chopper".
More than just a book for "fans" of Chopper, or for those who may have enjoyed the Chopper books that were around a few years ago (although people who read and enjoyed those would do well to have a look at this). THE REAL CHOPPER actually has a lot to say about the making of celebrity, and myths and legends. It's a particularly salutary tale when you look at what passes for a lot of "popular culture" these days.
Le French Book have released some excellent French crime fiction, translated into English, of which THE 7TH WOMAN by Frédérique Molay is already an inLe French Book have released some excellent French crime fiction, translated into English, of which THE 7TH WOMAN by Frédérique Molay is already an international bestseller. As the blurb puts it "Winner of France's prestigious Prix du Quai des Orfèvres prize for best crime fiction, named Best Crime Fiction Novel of the Year, and already an international bestseller with over 150,000 copies sold."
A police procedural built around Chief of Police Nico Sirsky, there is a serial killer stalking and killing women in a macabre and vicious manner. The connection between these woman is obscure, and seems to be pointing towards some highly specialised knowledge. Right into the heart of Sirsky's family. The pressure is further ramped up because this killer is leaving messages that indicate he's going to kill 7 women in 7 days. And it's up to Sirsky to catch him.
Despite the serial killer storyline having been done to death, there's aspects here that help lift it - the personal grudge of killer against cop isn't that surprising, although the pathways into making this a very personal investigation are unusual. The new love under threat aspect again isn't that new, but the complication of the ex-wife and the teenage son make for something a little different. The character of Sirsky is your classic divorced, lonely, suddenly smitten older man, who is balancing a complicated relationship with his ex-wife and teenage son. His attraction to a new love interest is touching and nicely balanced, even with some obvious threats and implications.
This is now sounding like there wasn't a lot to like about THE 7TH WOMAN which is very far from the truth. Around the predictable elements, this was a strong character study, and a solid procedural with a really involving and interesting supporting cast, and a very strong, central investigator of the rumpled, slightly lost type. For anybody interested in crime fiction from other locales, then the Paris Homicide series would be well worth looking for. THE 7TH WOMAN is the first book, followed by CROSSING THE LINE and, due for release in 2015, THE CITY OF BLOOD.
Using a title like CLAUSTROPHOBIA obviously sets certain expectations for readers, which luckily, in this outing are uncomfortably well imagined. TherUsing a title like CLAUSTROPHOBIA obviously sets certain expectations for readers, which luckily, in this outing are uncomfortably well imagined. There's something incredibly claustrophobic about everything to do with this book. The enclosed, world that the two main characters Pen and her husband Derrick occupy. From their home life, working together at the same school, even when Pen finally breaks away to another job, albeit for reasons that Derrick doesn't know. It's not just circumstances though. Of course, with Pen as the main narrator of the book there is an inward focus, but even with that there's something locked down, controlled yet bubbling about everything that places the the reader in a claustrophobic, uncomfortable, almost voyeuristic position.
There's also something incredibly compelling about CLAUSTROPHOBIA. Not necessarily likeable, these characters are mesmerising. Right from the beginning when the book starts out in such a restrained manner, to the ending that came out of nowhere, in one hell of a rush, it's one of those stories that just gets in. That stays in your mind, becomes hard to put down while reading, and hard to forget afterwards. Partially it's the way that Pen steps out from the shadows of her husband, and over-bearing mother, and her motivation for doing that which gets in. Partially it's the unexpected path her steps lead her down. Mostly it's the idea that the reader is closely following a momentous occasion in the life of a woman who, with increasing confidence, for better or worse, takes control of her own life.
The geography of Perth plays into this feeling of movement, of separation - somewhere between Pen and Derrick's quiet, uneventful life in the Perth Hills and the brash city with its University Campus and night life, Pen changes. Not just her perception of her own life, but her sense of ability, of empowerment. And about then in the book you know that definitely somebody, somewhere is going to get hurt. Who that is, how it happens and who does what is a mystery right up until that out of nowhere ending. And at that point, as a reader you're likely to be just a little bit torn. Whether you liked Pen up until that point, whether you had any sympathy, or even found her compelling, suddenly there's a moral dilemma you're going to have to do a bit of thinking about. Which is exactly what a psychological thriller of this kind should do.
Many frequent readers of crime fiction (and I count myself in both these numbers) are over the mad serial killer sub-genre. This could make the openinMany frequent readers of crime fiction (and I count myself in both these numbers) are over the mad serial killer sub-genre. This could make the opening monologue of BROKEN MONSTERS something that makes you put down the book and step away. Whilst the subject matter remains confrontational, often times surreal and vaguely supernatural, there are other aspects worth considering.
We all know the story of the rise and decline of Detroit – from economic power-house to basket-case in a very short period of time. The resulting population decline left decaying buildings and a society going the same way. That community turning to artistic and counter-culture movements as a way of invigorating the place makes enormous sense and the sense of reality and immediacy with which Beukes brings that setting, and those people into this storyline is strong, and utterly believable.
The depravity of the killer's actions, and the sheer madness of his reasoning and behaviour is somehow reflected by the environment. Society goes mad and loses it's compass along with some of the more vulnerable individuals in it. Not to say that there's any apology for Clayton Broom, this reads more as an exploration of breakdown, damage, extremities.
Needless to say it makes for uncomfortable and confrontational reading. The violence is explicit, the methods of killing shocking, and the ramp up of tension palpable. Written with no holds barred, Beukes manages to avoid glorifying any of it, whilst portraying the weirdness.
That sense of damage and struggle is evident in just about everybody in this book. No-one has had an easy path to their present circumstances in Detroit, and whilst there are some good people – each of them has baggage. A situation they are dealing with. Something they are trying to make the best of. As a central character, Detective Gabi Versado, amongst a lot of other heavy lifting is single mother to a teenage daughter. Despite a pretty good relationship, albeit one that's fraught with the difficulties of mothers and teenage daughters, teenagers will be teenagers. Which these days, has online implications. The portrayals of daughter Layla and her friend Caz are strong, and the idea that two young girls would set out to “catfish” some lowlifes on the internet particularly poignant to be reading about in October 2014. Especially when revelations about Caz's own cyber-bullying experience come to light.
All of this is delivered with the extra component of “ruin porn” and an alternative view of the online world, in the character of Jonno. Attempting to leverage an online presence into an influential journalistic voice, Jonno and his girlfriend lose their way, their perspective and a lot more to boot.
Taking on the mad, extreme serial killer motif and placing that in a society that is struggling doesn't excuse the behaviour, but it does attempt to provide some context, and some reasons. Weaving in some salient points about the perils of online presence, BROKEN MONSTERS might not be the easiest read in the world, but it is less of a serial killer expose and a lot more about about damage and society on the extremes.
Written with incredible pace and verve, BANGKOK COWBOY combines a very good plot with a couple of great central characters. Army veteran and PI MasonWritten with incredible pace and verve, BANGKOK COWBOY combines a very good plot with a couple of great central characters. Army veteran and PI Mason is in Thailand, disappearing after a bad war experience and an imploded marriage. In a series of elegantly incorporated thought bubbles, Mason's backstory is filled in well, including how he came to be in a business partnership and close friendship with Dixie. A Thai ladyboy, Dixie is a strong, brave, and gorgeous character, working with Mason and as a highly sought after personal escort. An unlikely friendship maybe, but well done, with a real sense of affection and concern for each other. They work as a pairing, as unlikely as it might seem.
The plot of the novel centres around the disappearance of a friend of Mason's - Nat West has been working as an accountant for a notorious gangster nightclub owner. She's gone missing along with a hard drive full of information that Raymond Long is very keen to get back. As are his mob bosses, right back to his Canadian roots.
There's quite a bit more to BANGKOK COWBOY than your standard thriller, mostly based on the lifestyle of Mason and his friends, and Dixie's contacts. Their connections and respect for each other adds a different dimension to the novel, although not at the expense of everything you'd normally expect. There's action aplenty, and some cunning outwitting of the bad guys by both Dixie and Mason. Perhaps less convincing is a bit of voluntary jeopardy at points where some resolutions were required - all of which were just a bit too daft on the part of the characters to be totally believable, although the action built into them does make it all a lot more palatable.
Minor quibbles apart, there was a lot to like about BANGKOK COWBOY, and a lot to look forward to in the next Mason and Dixie outing. Hopefully soon.
"The Honest Conman" (aka Nicholas J Johnson) used to do a warning segment on scams and frauds on ABC Local Radio, but it was a pleasant surprise to fi"The Honest Conman" (aka Nicholas J Johnson) used to do a warning segment on scams and frauds on ABC Local Radio, but it was a pleasant surprise to find he'd written a heist / scam novel. Needless to say his debut novel, CHASING THE ACE, reads like the author knows a lot about the subject matter.
Think a dual handed TV's Hustle style scenario in which Joel, a young man with no purpose in life, hooks up with Richard, an older man, experienced in the fine art of scams and swindles. What Joel doesn't realise is that the man he's adopted as his mentor and working partner is sick of the whole thing. Being taken under Richard's wing might turn out to be the break that Joel wanted, or it could turn out to be a disaster. Nobody's going to know until the end of the novel (and maybe not even then).
Reading somewhere between a good fun heist novel and a salutory warning manual, CHASING THE ACE is utterly believable. It's also quite touching, with both of these characters being flawed, a little bit sad and lonely. Granted Joel does eventually get a girlfriend, although his attitude about her needs some adjustment (it's downright off).
It's not just about these two characters though. Joel has a family and a difficult relationship with a mother who's not been backward in getting her hands on compensation money that's really Joel's. He's got more respect for his stepfather and stepsister, although the family situation overall is tricky. Richard has friends, and a long history of being mentored and mentoring another young man. There's history about him that's revealed (mostly via third parties) along the way. Luckily, despite a slightly strained relationship, Joel has found out enough about Richard to be there when the going gets tough, but the final twist and turns are less expected.
Now having compared CHASING THE ACE to Hustle, it's only fair to warn potential readers that there's nothing glamorous about most of the scams pulled here. It's all a bit tawdry really, but keep an eye out for the twist in the tail of a few of them. There are actually a lot of twists and turns here, all ending up with an obvious intent to carry on the story of a scam merchant.
You'd be almost tempted to get people to read CHASING THE ACE if only as a warning about the sorts of scams and tricks being perpetrated in the real world. Doesn't hurt that it's an entertaining read along the way.
Set in the heat, dust and community of the South Australian Mallee there is much that is visceral in ONE BOY MISSING. From the opening in which a younSet in the heat, dust and community of the South Australian Mallee there is much that is visceral in ONE BOY MISSING. From the opening in which a young, vulnerable boy desperately tries to avoid a pursuer, to the character of DS Bart Moy who is back in Guilderton, possibly because his elderly father needs help, but mostly because he's running away from his past. He's lost and damaged, and there really doesn't seem to be much reason for him to be in the town that hasn't had a Detective presence for years.
Until the inexplicable report of a kidnapping or abduction of a young boy, even though no child from the area is missing. It looks like it might be quickly resolved when a boy of about the right age is discovered camping out, and stealing from local shopkeepers to eat. Aged around eight or nine, he initially refuses to speak, and when he does, enough details are drip fed to provide more questions than answers.
ONE BOY MISSING is a slow reveal book. Everybody has something to hide, and lots to fear. The story of Moy's own past, and the breakdown of his marriage after the death of his young son builds, as does young Patrick's own story. The triggers that convince Patrick to trust, share and talk are built cautiously and carefully, in no small part due to mutual pain. The connection between the young Patrick and the irascible old man, Moy's father, is part of the strength here - Patrick's desire to reach out and George's need to let go, accept his age and infirmity which he can't do so easily with Moy. There are also secrets everywhere - in Moy's own family, in Patrick's past, in the crimes that have been committed.
The relationship between these three males is both the focus and strength of this book. It's touching, moving, worrying and informative. There's a real sense of truth and honesty about the difficulties between father and son, son and lost boy, men in general, men who make mistakes, lives that go off the rails and the way that they try to heal themselves. There's also a realness to the character of George in particular, which was frequently moving - an old man, the farm lost years ago, a wife dead years ago, a son that's moved on, age, infirmity and isolation looming.
There is crime at the centre of this story, as the impetus for Patrick to be running wild, as the reason for Moy to be searching for an answer. But that crime is less important than the evolving relationships. Most definitely a character study, ONE BOY MISSING weaves the past and present into mistakes and good deeds. It also has a few points to make about the good and bad of rural communities.
There's a sense of place as well, and a very realistic portrayal of a town, on the edge of a farming community struggling against the weather and the downturn in farming conditions. There is a cast of supporting characters - the casserole provider and curtain twitcher, new and old cops, hermits and eccentrics. For those that know those sorts of small Mallee towns it feels right, and the idea that a young boy, and his family might be in the area, and yet not known about, is stark and discomforting.
The pace also seems to reflect the place, and the characters. Laconic and unpressured Moy is prepared to give Patrick the time and space to settle, to relax. And the dialogue is pitch perfect. It's such a joy to read something where every word, every exchange is right. It works to read, and it works if you say it out loud. Cannot emphasis enough what a joy that was.
Not your traditional crime novel, ONE BOY MISSING is engaging, moving and sometimes discomforting. Love it when something like this comes along and breaks a few rules.
The second Lexie Rogers book from ex-cop Karen M Davis, it's interesting to note that we've now got a couple of female ex-cops from similar areas writThe second Lexie Rogers book from ex-cop Karen M Davis, it's interesting to note that we've now got a couple of female ex-cops from similar areas writing police procedural style books, although to this reader's eye, completely different sensibilities.
Given that this is the second book, it's worth mentioning that you might be best to start at the very beginning with these two. A lot of the back story of Rogers and her rather complicated personal life is going to need that fill in, despite a bit of catch up in DEADLY OBSESSION.
Part of the reason for that recommendation is that this is a series that concentrates heavily on the personal. Rogers is a determined and conscientious cop that battles over, through and around a lot of baggage. An ex-husband, old friends, an off-again relationship with a colleague, the death of his sister that precipitated that split, the death of her own brother years ago, a flirty current colleague, a good friendship with her working partner Sommers and well... there's a lot of personal here. I was reminded (and not in a good way) of another police procedural series, out of England, where the personal has packed the procedural elements into a suitcase and lost them in baggage control. It's hard to park the sneaking concern that we might be heading for that self-same lost baggage office with this series.
Which would be a pity, as the procedural elements here are pretty good, although to be fair the villain of the piece stood out like the proverial dog's appendage - and the why got wound up in even more personal baggage. Rogers and Sommers are, though, a good pairing of cops, dedicated and talented. The team that they work with is good, and there are some characters there that could stand a little more time in the limelight.
Perhaps one more for fans of romantic suspense than this reader, I'm not giving up on Lexie Rogers. I just hope for her sake that she chooses to pack away the overwhelming personal angst and get on with the job.
ONLY THE DEAD is the third Sean Devereaux novel from NZ author Ben Sanders, but only the second I've read. Back in 2012, reading the second book, BY AONLY THE DEAD is the third Sean Devereaux novel from NZ author Ben Sanders, but only the second I've read. Back in 2012, reading the second book, BY ANY MEANS, it was obvious then that Sanders is an author who likes to work with pace, and complexity. The plots in both these books are built on swirling / shifting sands, making sure that the reader is never exactly sure of anything. Add to that a strong reliance on a noir style, taking a central protagonist, putting them through all sorts of physical challenges, and keeping them dancing that line between good and bad, right and wrong.
Building on many of the basic elements from the earlier books, Devereaux plays a lone hand for most of the action, although he does have a good relationship with ex-cop John Hale, working PI in Auckland and good backstop. Particularly as Devereaux spends much of this book on the outer - sidelined, under suspicion, suspended. In this book he also has a rather shaky romantic relationship lurking around in the background, but that's more about a how to guide on screwing up your personal life.
In the earlier book the music, the popular culture references, and a tendency to lose the basic stylings detracted markedly from the plot, getting things bogged down often. That's been sorted out in ONLY THE DEAD, with the asides and around abouts less distracting and built into the action more naturally and seamlessly. That noir, pared down, choppy style is much more consistent, albeit heavy-handed, but combined with the types of characters, and the action it works. Well enough to make it perfectly acceptable that a place like Auckland would have a dark side, that there's violence and dodgy cops barely under the surface, and that a working PI would be meaningfully occupied.
If you've not read any of the earlier books, ONLY THE DEAD would still work. It is definitely the book where this series starts to make it's mark. Although you do have to feel a bit sorry for tourist authorities in these sorts of locations. There's enough realism here to make you wonder what they're not telling you about "the City of Sails".