Surely we've all got one of those authors. The author whose books languish on the To Be Read pile, even though you always enjoy them immensely when at...moreSurely we've all got one of those authors. The author whose books languish on the To Be Read pile, even though you always enjoy them immensely when attention lurches into activity and you spy them sitting there. Even though they can, frequently, frighten the life out of you.
Paddy Richardson is one those authors for me, and in the past, she has frightened the life out of me, although I'm pleased to say that this time CROSS FINGER's didn't languish because of my fractured attention span, and whilst she certainly made me sit up and pay attention, this book wasn't flat out scary, rather a sobering experience.
In the early 1980's the Springbok Rugby tours in New Zealand and Australia caused considerable outrage. Even for a dedicated ignorer of football of all types, it was hard to miss the vehemence and passion with which fans of Rugby and people opposed to the tour took to their positions. Equally so in New Zealand it seems, where there were pitched battles in the streets, injuries and bad feeling that lingers to this day.
This book concentrates heavily on the character of Thorne. Everything is seen through her eyes, within her understanding. She goes about her role as a journalist with a dogged, almost fanatical dedication. Enough to make the idea that mysterious noises in her house of a night, strange phone calls and creepy photos being texted to her would obviously be something she'd put to one side, ignore whilst chasing a lead down - mostly in people's memories. The story of the tour protests is told through her "interviews" with a number of participants - protesters and cops, and it's the clues and observations in those accounts that lead her to the violent murder of the young man, onto his lover, his associates and eventually to her identifying the previously unknown "Lambs". That the Lambs, the protests, dodgy or over zealous cops all collide made sense, even though it's obvious from the start that they are going to. Her ex-boyfriend, the stalker and her new love also made sense, although the coyness with which the new boyfriend is revealed is probably something more for romance lovers.
It's strange to think of the 1980's now within a historical timeframe, but that's exactly what it comes across as in CROSS FINGERS. Historical in terms of the events, and particularly in terms of attitudes. Particularly sobering to realise that mindless anti-homosexuality laws still existed then. Although there is a small part of me that comes away from this book hoping the passion that sprung from the anti-Apartheid protesters still exists.
CROSS FINGERS is from the more thoughtful end of the thriller, investigative spectrum. Looking backwards into history might take away the immediacy of a threat (although that's compensated for by the current day stalker thread), but it does give this author a chance to look at history - and provide a timely reminder that sometimes you have to stand and fight for what you believe in.
From the author of Once Were Warriors, FREDERICK'S COAT is equally as surprising, challenging, moving and profoundly affecting. It's also particularly...moreFrom the author of Once Were Warriors, FREDERICK'S COAT is equally as surprising, challenging, moving and profoundly affecting. It's also particularly unusual in that it looks past the crime, the investigation and jail time to a life that is being rebuilt.
Johno comes from a long line of single fathers. So it's no particular surprise that his release from jail after a long sentence doesn't lead to happy ever after in his personal life. Despite trying, it's not long before his wife packs up and leaves him, taking their daughter with her. This leaves Johno responsible for the care of their son Danny. Johno vows to go straight, to set a good example, to be different from his own father and grandfather. That's not to say that anything they did was cruel, or exploitative. In their own way, this is a family of caring and loving men. Lifetime criminals who did their best, it's that habitual criminal aspect that Johno is determined to avoid for Danny.
From the very start, as soon as Johno comes out of jail, it's obvious that Danny's very different. It's not just his artistic ability, there's something else. His social skills aren't good, he's instantly the target of bullies in school, he simply doesn't fit in. Johno takes each of the challenges that Danny throws at him and does the very best he can. He also works hard, builds a business, makes a lot of money, stays as straight as he possibly can, cares for Danny, encourages his artistic interests, is proud of his son. Along the way he helps out old friends, and eventually finds love of his own. All the while Danny's behaviour becomes more odd, and stretches Johno's understanding further. Although nobody could possibly predict the outcome when Danny befriends a homeless man. All Johno can do at that stage is stand by and watch the car crashing - or does he fall back on old connections from his criminal past?
FREDERICK'S COAT is an unusual crime novel in that it's exploring long term consequences. It does that in a particularly moving and sobering way. There's so much here about the struggle to change your destiny, the difficulties in handling the temptations that we all brush up against every day, and the ease with which wrong decisions can be made. It's also most definitely a story about love. There's real love between these generations of men, and there is a stoic acceptance of failings, foibles and faults.
There's also a touch of steel displayed. Johno is a man who is determined to get in front of his background, to make a change in his life. He's quiet about it, not flashy and not prone to emotional outbursts but there's something about him, in particular, that was so real, so raw and so beautifully drawn that it's almost impossible to get to the end of this book without a tear in the eye.
Regardless of whether you believe (as this reader does) that FREDERICK'S COAT is a psychological thriller, an exploration of background, upbringing and influence, it is definitely an outstanding analysis of consequences.
Regardless of how you want to classify it, FREDERICK'S COAT is different. Beautiful, moving and a difficult book to read, it was an absolute privilege to do so.
The sequel to Robert Schofield's debut, Heist, is here at last. MARBLE BAR picks up the life, and trials of mining engineer and extremely reluctant he...moreThe sequel to Robert Schofield's debut, Heist, is here at last. MARBLE BAR picks up the life, and trials of mining engineer and extremely reluctant hero Gareth Ford a year or so after he was framed for the multi-million dollar Gwardar Gold Mine heist. Then he narrowly escaped the murderous intent of an international gang of thieves, the close attention of dodgy Gold Squad officers, pursuit by some very determined bikies and the betrayal of his wife Dianne. Now life has almost stablised. Ford and his young daughter are in Newman, Ford working in the iron ore mine, trying to be a good single parent, balancing all the competing priorities. Until his past, that international gang of thieves and their enemies, his wife, and DC Rose Kavanagh all come crashing back into view.
Heist incorporated a lot of vaguely lunatic action, turning Ford into a bit of a reluctant super-hero along the way, but in MARBLE BAR that's been pared back. Perhaps because Ford is somehow more measured, possibly more risk adverse. Which fits with a man who has suddenly come face to face with his wife's betrayal, and his responsibility to their daughter. He's also conflicted for a fair part of this book - on the one hand trying to be fair to Dianne and his daughter, and on the other unsure about his increasing attraction to Kavanagh. To say nothing of this tendency for lunatic baddies to show up on his doorstep with monotonous regularity.
It's not all business as usual however, and the setting of Marble Bar adds to a general feeling of craziness - right down to the stand-off at High Moon, Marble Bar style - a scene which just has to raise a smile. Some of the lesser characters bought into this story are really strong, and very apt. The threat imposed by a very large Maori gentleman, with an aversion to guns and his umbrella toting Chinese offsider has just enough of the unlikely about it to make it all too feasible. The setting also gives Schofield a chance to draw some beautiful word pictures about the heat, the dryness, the oddity of the place, the people and the situation he and Kavanagh find themselves in. Kavanagh is also a strong character in this book, showing a bit of the human side, still a dab hand with a gun when required.
Despite some back story, and enough context to give readers an idea of the background, MARBLE BAR does step right back into the action and the fallout from the Gwardar Gold robbery. Because that's a complicated scenario in its own right, and things get even more complicated in this follow-up, it's does feel like it would be better if you read both books in sequence. Given what a ripper of a debut Heist was, that's a real opportunity.
MARBLE BAR is a slightly different kettle of fish from the first book, but in it's own way, that bodes well. There's only so much you can wring from one robbery after all, and Ford and Kavanagh have a lot of living left to do. What they do in a follow up book - well that's something we're keenly waiting for now.
Having never heard of the Wiki Coffin series before, THE BECKONING ICE was an opportunity to read some historical crime fiction from New Zealand that...moreHaving never heard of the Wiki Coffin series before, THE BECKONING ICE was an opportunity to read some historical crime fiction from New Zealand that doesn't come along all that often. Part Maori, part American, Wiki is on board the United States Exploring Expedition when a very odd murder is reported.
Reading this book it becomes very obvious that this is an area of history and naval events that the author knows a lot about. The book starts out in a very strong way with the sighting of a possible murder victim, and events that transpire once it is reported to the Expeditionary fleet. After such a strong commencement, the story does get a little less focused, with Wiki transferred between ships in the Fleet, and eventually, another suspect death and that investigation.
Along the way there is much racism encountered, an arrangement undertaken with another Maori crew member, and encounters with a group of sealers bent on discovery of a secret they believe Wiki's investigation has unearthed.
Reader's of historical crime fiction will be used to being launched into times or places that are nothing like our present. THE BECKONING ICE, and the whole of this series it seems, takes that even further in employing such an unusual setting, time, point in history and central character. It is a lot to take in first time out, and as a result you might find yourself involved in some fairly heavy lifting getting everything lined up and understood. There are also some points where, it seems by design, plot and advancement are subsumed by character and sense of place / time. Which will make this a perfect read for some, and not for others.
Having come to the series fresh at book 5, the detail did slightly overwhelm and the various character back-stories, and interplay and politics get very complicated. It seemed to be suggesting that it could be a series that's better to start at the beginning.
Having said that, it's certainly a most unusual scenario, and definitely should be on the radar of fans of historical crime fiction.
The preoccupation for Scandinavian crime fiction of many readers is sometimes questioned. One response is to get people to read Karin Fossum's Inspect...moreThe preoccupation for Scandinavian crime fiction of many readers is sometimes questioned. One response is to get people to read Karin Fossum's Inspector Konrad Sejer series. Within the one series, Fossum is able to shift the perspective, analyse the reasons why, explore the outcomes and long-term effects of crime, and play with accepted perceptions of clear cut resolutions. In THE MURDER OF HARRIET KROHN, whilst still part of the Sejer series, she's tipped the perspective completely - this is not a whodunnit, or even necessarily a whydunnit, but a how do you live with what you've just done.
There's absolutely no doubt from the opening set up of this book who Charlo Torp is, what a self-inflicted mess he's made of his life, and what his solution to the problem is. It's quite a chilling portrayal. The matter-of-fact way in which Torp sets out to murder Harriet Krohn and his initial reactions post the crime.
It would be an easy thing to have him remain ambivalent, self-justifying. Comfortable that his decision is what was required to sort out his own life and his relationship with his daughter. Certainly post his crime, and as a result of the money and possessions he steals, his life takes a turn for the better. He's able to reconnect with his daughter, he can provide her with the one thing she longs for more than anything else. But somewhere in the middle of all that happy ever after there's something more than just the pressure he's feeling from Inspector Sejer's investigation.
The investigation does take a back seat in this book, but fans of crime fiction that's all about the "chase" would be doing themselves a disservice by missing THE MURDER HARRIET KROHN. This is a carefully laid out, conservatively presented, seeringly understated, big dose of what goes around, comes around. The frightening thing is how blithely ignorant Torp is of what's happening, how his choices impact other people, and what he could have done differently. Until it's way too late.
Melbourne in the late 1980s, and journalist Peter Clancy is working for The Truth. Which, for those of us who were around in those days, in that place...moreMelbourne in the late 1980s, and journalist Peter Clancy is working for The Truth. Which, for those of us who were around in those days, in that place, conjures up a very clear vision. Booze, coffee, dodgy goings on and journalism from the... well extreme-tabloid end of the scale.
After being "promoted" to the Crime Beat and provided with the mandatory police scanner, Clancy is launched into Melbourne's seedy side, way back before mobile phones and the internet made keeping track of everyone and everything part of everybody's daily routine. THORNYDEVILS builds a strong sense of the time and place without bashing the reader over the head with the details. That's helped by the nice touches of dry, wry humour - it's very Australian - and a bit of whinging about the weather - it's very Melbourne.
The plot is complex without being complicated. It feels right that an investigative journalist would stumble into this scenario. It feels right that he'd be hanging around with drag-queens and barking mad cameramen. It feels right that he'd be drinking in The Tote. It even feels right that two mates from Queensland have to get out of that state and hide out at Clancy's - just in time to leap into the action.
There is a fair bit of action built into THORNYDEVILS as well. Nicely punctuated by a Triumph Stag that may, or may not cooperate, a bit of organised crime shenanigans and some nice lurking presences that never tip into caricature.
Mostly though, for this reader, the characters in this book appealed. Clancy feels like a good old fashioned journo - nothing flash, sadly alone, looking for love in some rather odd places. THORNYDEVILS is the second book in the Peter Clancy series - following on from HOMECOUNTRY. Worth a look, if for no other reason, than to remember the days of The Truth, pre-mobile phones, pre-Internet, when a drink in the pub on the way home every night was how you kept up with the gossip.
It's always interesting to see what might get a writer's thinking process started, and from the MM Rochford's bio it seems it's a love of reading crim...moreIt's always interesting to see what might get a writer's thinking process started, and from the MM Rochford's bio it seems it's a love of reading crime and thrillers, and opera. Knowing that, the victim in this debut novel makes sense. It's also good to see an author having a go at a PI in Australia, with ex-cop Louise Keller called into this case by the victim's widow.
There were some nice details built into the story - yellow roses, a local boy made good come back to town, and a long list of possible suspects, albeit with a touch of the closed room about the small town setting. Keller is a good central detective, questioning, doubtful, competent and somewhat accidental without being overtly irritating. The victim was perhaps a little stereotypical and whilst the central plot fell into place reasonably well there are some by-roads and wanderings along the way that were predictable, and overly wordy. There's also a couple of problems that are all too common with debut books. That feeling of the kitchen sink, along with all its contents, being deployed, minutely described to the point where some readers might feel that they couldn't be trusted with the hints. Plus a tendency to over-formalise dialogue so that it's not realistic or convincing.
Hopefully in follow up books that slightly overwritten feeling can be eliminated and the dialogue pared back which will greatly improve the pace and the overall feeling of reality of the story. Keller, on the other hand, is a protagonist that shows promise. Particularly as we need more good Australian PI stories.