You’re going to want to clear some reading time before you open the covers of Steph Broadribb’s Deep Down Dead because once you crack it – and the whoYou’re going to want to clear some reading time before you open the covers of Steph Broadribb’s Deep Down Dead because once you crack it – and the whole can of worms inside – open, you are not going to want to put it down until you know that bounty hunter Lori Anderson has her man. And a hot bath, a cold drink, and a whole lot of downtime – although I’m not convinced Lori knows what that is. But even if she doesn’t, you’ll no doubt need all of those once you finish reading Deep Down Dead.
I really like how Steph Broadribb weaves in the backstory of Lori’s past while setting up the story that unravels in Deep Down Dead. I got a real sense of where Lori had come from, what she’d left behind in that past life and what she’s still carrying with her. You see how JT came into her life, how much he changed it and her, and get a real sense that there is unfinished business between them.
Left without a sitter, this single mum is forced into taking her daughter on the job with her. Lori’s frequent use of the terms Momma, sweetie and sweetheart irritated me while reading but you can forgive these in light of the situation and mounting pressures. Taking your kid to work rarely works out that well for either parent or child but here it is, unsurprisingly, an unmitigated disaster, ramping up the time-sensitive sense of danger that accompanies the child exploitation case in which Lori quickly finds herself embroiled.
Even if you’ve caught yourself thinking that there was something creepy about theme parks and the characters in costume who roam them, that’ll be nothing to how you feel about them after reading Deep Down Dead. The sugar-coated sickly front for far more evil goings-on behind the painted props and crumbling scenery is sinister and disturbing, something Steph Broadribb cleverly highlights by having Lori chase down a lead in the midst of bustling daytime crowds in a busy Winter Wonderland theme park: the distance between innocence and evil is as insubstantial as the fake candy cladding of park attractions.
It’s hard to believe that Deep Down Dead is Steph Broadribb’s debut novel; it’s a slick, fast-moving race against time with a whip-smart sassy female bounty hunter at its heart. Lori Anderson’s a very immediate character which is good because she won’t hang around long enough for you to warm to her, and she probably doesn’t care that much whether you do or not. She’s constantly on the move, her mind racing as much as your heart will be, and you’ll need to keep up with her as she heads off on what should be a simple collect and deliver job but which doesn’t turn out to anywhere near as straightforward, careering off into a high octane road trip around the south-eastern states of America. It’s a cracking start to what promises to be an interesting and lively series with a terrifically ballsy heroine. Just remember to breathe when Lori does – or, at the very least, when you close the book for the final time....more
Ali Land’s debut novel Good Me, Bad Me has as its narrator a distinctive female voice, one that grabbed this reader from the very beginning as she telAli Land’s debut novel Good Me, Bad Me has as its narrator a distinctive female voice, one that grabbed this reader from the very beginning as she tells her story of escape and survival. This is a perspective which is fast becoming a trend going by my recent reads: victim lit or, perhaps more appropriately, survivor lit. I have a feeling that this is one book that’ll spark debate and it is ripe for wide-ranging, and heated, book group discussions. If you have the stomach for its subject matter.
Where Good Me, Bad Me works best for me is where Annie/Milly tells us about what it was like living with her mother and the new life she has with her foster family while she waits to testify at the upcoming trial. Her voice demands that we listen to her and it’s fascinating to hear about her coping mechanisms while adjusting to a new home, a new (albeit temporary) family, a new school at which she’s bullied, the tentative moves she takes towards making friends, preparing for and having sessions with her foster father/counsellor and giving testimony during the trial. It’s interesting to see which battles she picks to fight and when she decides to bide her time and save her strength. Her reasoning of her current situation and past and the mental manoeuvres she undertakes to function and keep her mother’s voice at bay were interesting and, of course, you’re never entirely sure how much to trust her or her version of people or events.
I have to admit that I was less convinced by the fact that she’s homed with a specialist trauma psychologist, Mike, who doubles as her counsellor, and his family. I could understand that her case warrants someone with his skill-set because of the severity of the trauma she’s been through, but I still didn’t believe that she’d necessarily be placed with him. And that’s before we see that his family might not be the best environment for her in this delicate transitional period. It’s easy to say that teachers, and by the same token counsellors and social workers, can sometimes be the worst people at seeing what’s going on in their own lives, despite being able to spot the signs in the classroom or consulting room, but I struggled at times to accept that this was where Annie/Milly had ended up and that Mike is so blind to what’s going on, although obviously it made her situation and the story all the more compelling and involved as a result. But she is fighting on all sides with very little help or support: the sessions she has with Mike seemed pretty superficial to me and she had very little external contact or help, except for Joan, who accompanies her into court but is otherwise little present, and her art teacher, whose behaviour seems flighty at best and erratic or irresponsible at worst.
Good Me, Bad Me is a book you’ll want to talk about. I know I do. And there’s a great deal to talk about here: why a female serial killer is a less common but more unnerving prospect; how someone in a position of trust and/or in a caring profession can abuse that position; how we can prevent or protect children (and their parents) from becoming victims; where victims survive alive but damaged, whether that damage is lasting and irreversible, and how that manifests itself; the effects of a child’s separation from its parent(s), and vice versa; the bonds between mother and child, and especially the push and pull between mother and daughter; family loyalties and the betrayal of those; the search for a surrogate family and all the competing considerations that decide what is in the best interests of the child; the public front a family puts up and the difference between that and how it functions behind closed doors, and how that can sometimes mean a child is moved from the frying pan into the fire, or vice versa, as perhaps happens here; old school bullying and its younger sibling, cyber bullying; the whole nature versus nurture debate, whether we are a product of our upbringing or inherit traits from one or both parents, and if we can forge our own way in life or make better choices than our parents, once independent of that influence; and the battle between good and bad, or right and wrong, in everyone and how we justify or rationalise our choices.
The outcome of the trial and the way in which her new home life works out don’t come as a massive surprise but I’d still recommend reading Good Me, Bad Me for Annie/Millie’s voice and her thoughts and behaviour as a survivor, the mental gymnastics she has to play in her new life with all the fresh challenges that brings, and the promising new author behind it all that is Ali Land.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. ...more
Full of the atmosphere of its small-town Australian setting, where there’s been no rain for the past two years, and the detail of small town life, witFull of the atmosphere of its small-town Australian setting, where there’s been no rain for the past two years, and the detail of small town life, with all the claustrophobic relationships, petty jealousies, gossip and mob rule which that entails, The Dry is as all-consuming as the drought which threatens to destroy the town and people’s livelihoods. Aaron Falk’s return to his childhood hometown disturbs not only his own fragile equilibrium, when he reluctantly turns up at the funeral of his childhood best friend and half-recognises faces from that time, but also that of the townspeople. Both are further shaken when he’s persuaded to stay on for a few days to help look into the deaths. Alongside fresh doubt and accusing looks, old animosities and suspicions resurface, cleverly wrapping the recent deaths in the mystery of one that is decades old. Whether that helps or hinders Falk’s investigation, and that of the local policeman, Raco, I’ll leave to you to discover but it makes The Dry all the more satisfying that it has not one, but two cases, for the detectives and, more importantly, the reader to solve.
It’s a rare book these days where I don’t know who did it (and sometimes why) long before those investigating come to the same conclusion but The Dry is one such book, and that’s all credit to Jane Harper’s wonderful writing and on point pacing. She keeps the story moving through the inexorable heat of this drought-stricken township, so well that this reader swears she could taste the dust and dryness at times, while Harper sprinkles each new piece of the puzzle throughout The Dry like the first tentative drops of its much longed-for rain.
The Dry is a formidable first novel and one that sparked my interest right from its opening lines and held it all the way to the end; it scorches and flares with life and heat in a way you hope the dry bush around Kiewarra never does. An atmospheric novel of mystery and suspense, that licks along at a cracking pace, this is the debut of an Australian writer to watch but, above all, to read and savour. Not to be missed....more
Sirens is a new voice in urban noir and a book that’s set in Manchester rather than London, for a welcome change. I suspect even if you know ManchesteSirens is a new voice in urban noir and a book that’s set in Manchester rather than London, for a welcome change. I suspect even if you know Manchester well, and I don’t at all, it won’t be the Manchester that features in this debut novel from Joseph Knox. At least, I hope it isn’t. For while there are bars and a penthouse apartment in Sirens, the majority of its action and characters all exist in the shadows, the dark underbelly of partying and clubbing.
When Sirens opens, Aidan Waits is back on the force but working the graveyard shift: taken back into the fold but kept at a distance, and still not trusted by his colleagues. And the fact that he’s not your typical hero, but someone who is not only flawed but more ambiguous that that, is one of the reasons I enjoyed reading this book so much. You’re never quite sure where you are with him: is he working for the police, or the drug lord whose inner circle he’s trying to be admitted to, or the politician who asks him for a favour, or himself, or trying to cater to all those interests in his own way? How will he keep juggling those competing demands without getting himself into even hotter water than he’s already in: disgraced and an outcast, he doesn’t seem to have many friends left in the force, and a boss who’s losing patience with him.Which side of the law is he, and will he stay there? Add into the mix his attempts to do right by one young girl and his obvious attraction to another, and he’d have his hands full sober. But this guy isn’t, and he’s dabbling (rather heavily) in a heady cocktail of drink and drugs.
You can feel Aidan Waits losing his identity, wonder if he really is or if that’s for show, to add credibility to his role as disgraced policeman turning to a more profitable life; you can see how easy it is for someone playing a role to become that person: the lines between being undercover and his new lifestyle blur for the character as much for the reader and I had a hard time distinguishing between what Aidan was doing as part of an investigation, what he felt he had to do, and where he was being dragged under by the word he now inhabits. It’s unsettling reading the book, as I felt as much drawn into the world of Sirens as Aidan is himself, and that world is as unstable as some of the drugs it deals in. It’s hard to see a way out for him (or anyone else) that doesn’t mean a bad end. This uncertainty and gritty realism all add to the tension which kept me reading long after I should have turned out the light.
The world of Sirens is a continually shifting place, one where you won’t ever know who to trust, who to believe, or where loyalties really lie. It’s a criminal underworld where, despite being the Sirens of the title, girls are dispensable and interchangeable, useful couriers and companions, and where even if you’re a man, you’ll have to scramble hard to keep any kind of foothold. The world of Sirens is dark and nebulous, helping you realise and perhaps also understand how people can be subsumed by it. All of which makes Sirens a compelling and claustrophobic read, which will have you in a chokehold from beginning to end....more