Review: THE BRISBANE LINE, J. P. Powell

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • Print Length : 242 pages
  • Language: : English
  • ASIN : B086HL63Y8
  • Word Wise : Enabled
  • Publisher : Xoum (27 March 2020)
  • File Size : 1358 KB

Synopsis  (Amazon)

As WWII ravages the world and the Japanese Empire has set its sights on Australia, the Americans have come to save us. But not all soldiers are heroes and not all heroes are soldiers.

Sergeant Joe Washington, a US Military Police, loves music and photography but spends his days delving into the sordid and petty crimes committed by the thousands of American troops passing through town.

While trying to find stolen gasoline stores, he is sent to investigate the body of an American soldier found dumped in a cemetery. Suddenly Joe is up against notorious detective Frank Bischof.

Although ordered to leave the investigation alone, Joe fears that Bischof is protecting the most likely suspect while trying to pin the crime on an innocent – and intriguing – young woman, Rose. A woman who seems to walk between the parallel worlds of black market deals and Brisbane’s high society.

My Take

This novel gives readers a snapshot of life in Brisbane in a period of approximately 10 days (Friday 8 October 1943 – Sunday 17 October 1943.) Brisbane is home to thousands of American soldiers, committing the usual range of crimes found in Western society, complicated by crimes, corruption,  and conventions typical of Brisbane itself. The book is populated with real life characters as well as fictional one.

While there are a range of crimes committed, I felt that the novel is historical “faction” rather than crime fiction. Two murders have been committed, the investigation shared uncomfortably by an American MP and a detective from the Brisbane police force.

My rating: 4.4

About the Author
JP Powell is an archaeologist and historian with a passion for bringing the past to life. She has worked as a high school teacher, an academic, a National Parks officer, a museum administrator and has excavated in Jordan, Cyprus and Greece as well as leading historical archaeology projects in Australia. Her previous writing includes school textbooks, academic publications, government reports and a biography of the first person to teach archaeology in Australia (Love’s Obsession. The lives and archaeology of Jim and Eve Stewart. Wakefield Press. 2013). In 2017 she was awarded a QANZAC Fellowship by the State Library of Queensland to pursue research into, and writing of, a series of crime novels set in Brisbane during World War II. She lives outside Brisbane

Review: THIRST, L. A. Larkin

  • this edition published by Pier9 2012
  • 336 pages
  • ISBN 978-1741967890
  • source: my local library
  • author website: read an extract, see some discussion questions

Synopsis (author website)

Antarctica is the coldest, most isolated place on earth. Luke Searle, maverick glaciologist, has made it his home. But soon his survival skills will be tested to the limit by a ruthless mercenary who must win at any cost.

The white continent is under attack. The Australian team is being hunted down. Can Luke stay alive long enough to raise the alarm?

The countdown has begun. T minus 5 days, 2 hours and 53 minutes …

My take

THIRST is about climate change catastrophe. We all know about the effects of global warming and the impact on the polar caps and the glaciers in them. But what if someone decided to harvest the resources in Antarctica, like the rare minerals, and even the water?

This is a fast paced thriller, firmly based on solid research, presenting a scenario that strains the bounds of credibility at first.

Recommended.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
L.A. Larkin divides her time between writing topical thrillers and her work for one of Australia’s leading climate change consultancies.

Review: GATHERING DARK, Candice Fox

  • this edition published by Bantam 2020
  • ISBN 978-0-14-378917-8
  • 408 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Penguin Australia)

From Australia’s most exciting and original crime writer comes another electrifying thriller, set in Los Angeles, introducing a new – and decidedly unconventional – team of ‘detectives’.

A convicted killer. A gifted thief. A vicious crime boss. A disillusioned cop. Together they’re a missing girl’s only hope.

Blair Harbour, once a wealthy, respected surgeon in Los Angeles, is now an ex-con down on her luck. She’s determined to keep her nose clean to win back custody of her son.

But when her former cellmate, Sneak Lawlor, begs for help to find her missing daughter, Blair is compelled to put her new-found freedom on the line. Joined by LA’s most feared underworld figure, Ada Maverick, the crew of criminals bring outlaw tactics to the search for Dayly.

Detective Jessica Sanchez has always had a difficult relationship with the LAPD. And her inheritance of a $7 million mansion as a reward for catching a killer has just made her police enemy number one.

It’s been ten years since Jessica arrested Blair for the cold-blooded murder of her neighbour. So when Jessica opens the door to the disgraced doctor and her friends early one morning she expects abuse, maybe even violence.

What comes instead is a plea for help.

My Take

A cleverly constructed story but not really my cup of tea. Candice Fox has certainly written a novel whose very grittiness will appeal to an American audience. It brings a number of very quirky, in some cases alarmingly evil, characters together.

Blair Harbour, once a popular paediatrician, has certainly paid an unjust penalty for her unthinking act of attempting to rescue a neighbour from domestic violence. For detective Jessica Sanchez it had been an open and shut case: Harbour was obviously unhinged and lying, but now Sanchez has to face the fact that she didn’t work hard enough to get the story right.

And now Sanchez herself is the victim of an innocent act: a grateful father leaves her his million-dollar mansion, driving a wedge between herself and other cops in the LAPD.

Blair’s former cellmate comes to her for help in locating her missing daughter. Blair and Sneak need help, and Blair decides to call a favour in. But Ada Maverick does nothing for free.

My rating: 4.3

I’ve also read
5.0, HADES 
4.3, EDEN
4.6, CRIMSON LAKE  (#1)
4.7 REDEMPTION POINT (#2) 
4.5, GONE BY MIDNIGHT (#3) 

Review: WHEN SHE WAS GOOD, Michael Robotham

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 651 KB
  • Print Length: 380 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (July 28, 2020)
  • Publication Date: July 28, 2020
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07ZLTMRC6
  • Read an excerpt
  • #2 in the Cyrus Haven series
  • Interview with the author

Synopsis (Amazon)

She has secrets.

Six years ago, Evie Cormac was found hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a brutal murder. But nobody has ever discovered her real name or where she came from, because everybody who tries ends up dead.

He needs answers.

Forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven believes the truth will set Evie free. Ignoring her warnings, he begins to dig into her past, only to disturb a hornet’s nest of corrupt and powerful people, who have been waiting to find Evie – the final witness to their crimes. Unbeknownst to him, Cyrus is leading them straight to Evie. The truth will not set her free. It will get them killed.

From internationally bestselling, award-winning author Michael Robotham, this is the second explosive novel featuring the gifted criminal psychologist Cyrus Haven, introduced in GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL.

My Take

You really need to read the first in this series (GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL) before reading this one.
Cyrus Haven is convinced that if he can work out who Evie Cormac really is, then they can work out who it was that treated her so badly. He teams with Sacha Hopewell, the ex-police woman who discovered where Evie was hiding 6 years before.

The novel is set in 2020, in a world where Covid-19 does not exist, mainly because it was written and dispatched to the printers before the virus hit us. (Chapter 1 where Cyrus tracks Sacha down is set in May 2020). Cyrus believes there were things not put in the police reports 6 years before that will help him give Evie her real name, although it is obvious that Evie knows who she is. He thinks these are details Sacha can help him with. Initially Sacha is reluctant to get involved, but inevitably she does.

Robotham uses mainly the two voices: Cyrus and Evie to progress the novel and the search for the truth. Evie has turned into a feisty character and is living in a correctional centre, ostensibly to protect her, but outside there are people who are trying to work out where she is, and eventually one of them does.

A good read.

My rating: 4.8

I’ve also read
BOMBPROOF
SHATTER #3
SHATTER (audio)
BLEED FOR ME #4
5.0, THE WRECKAGE #5
4.8, SAY YOU’RE SORRY #6
5.0, WATCHING YOU #7
4.8, IF I TELL YOU… I’LL HAVE TO KILL YOU (edit)
5.0, LIFE OR DEATH Shortlisted for the 2015 CWA Gold Dagger
4.8, CLOSE YOUR EYES
5.0, THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS
5.0, THE SUSPECT #1 (audio)
4.8, LOST #2 (audio)
5.0, THE OTHER WIFE

4.8, GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL  

Awards
The Crime Writer’s Association Gold Dagger (won) LIFE OR DEATH 2015 (shortlisted) SAY YOU’RE SORRY 2013.
The Australian Book Industry Association ABIA General Fiction Award 2018 for THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS
The Ned Kelly Award for Best Novel (won 2005 and 2008) LOST and SHATTER.
The Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Best Novel (shortlisted) 2016 LIFE OR DEATH (shortlisted) 2019 GOOD GIRL BAD GIRL)
The Crime Writer’s Association Steel Dagger (shortlisted) THE NIGHT FERRY and SHATTER. 

GOOD GIRL BAD GIRL has been shortlisted for the UK Gold Dagger.
The winners of the 2020 Daggers will be announced at an awards ceremony, due to take place on 22 October.

Review: INHERITANCE OF SECRETS, Sonya Bates

  • read as an e-book through Libby, source: my local library
  • Shortlisted in Harper Collins Australia Banjo Prize 2018 for an unpublished manuscript
  • ISBN: 9781460757857
  • ISBN 10: 1460757858
  • On Sale: 20/04/2020
  • Pages: 432

Synopsis (publisher)

A brutal murder. A wartime promise. A quest for the truth.

Heather Morris meets Jane Harper in a gripping, page-turning mystery.

No matter how far you run, the past will always find you.

Juliet’s elderly grandparents are killed in their Adelaide home. Who would commit such a heinous crime – and why? The only clue is her grandfather Karl’s missing signet ring.

When Juliet’s estranged sister, Lily, returns in fear for her life, Juliet suspects something far more sinister than a simple break-in gone wrong. Before Juliet can get any answers, Lily vanishes once more.

Juliet only knew Karl Weiss as a loving grandfather, a German soldier who emigrated to Australia to build a new life. What was he hiding that could have led to his murder? While attempting to find out, Juliet uncovers some disturbing secrets from WWII that will put both her and her sister’s lives in danger …

Gripping. Tense. Mysterious. Inheritance of Secrets links the crimes of the present to the secrets of the past and asks how far would you go to keep a promise?

My Take

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel, partly because it is set in my home town, but also partly because I am so familiar with the historical events it is connected with. The end of World War II started a whole new chapter in Australian history, but our fascination with television programmes and films about the war clearly show us that it is still very much part of our psyche.

In the Acknowledgements and then the Reading Group Notes at the back of the book, the author gives us an insight into what led her to write this particular story.

The author has done a particularly good job with the mysteries woven into the story, and there is that little frisson that we the readers know just a little more than Juliet the main character does.

Recommended.

My rating: 4.7

About the author
Sonya Bates is a Canadian writer who has made South Australia her home since 1997. She studied linguistics at the University of Victoria before obtaining a masters degree in speech-language pathology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. Having worked with children with communication difficulties for over twenty-five years, she now enjoys sharing her knowledge with speech pathology students as a part-time clinical educator. When her two daughters were young, she started writing for children and has published several children’s books. Her debut adult novel, Inheritance of Secrets, was shortlisted as an unpublished manuscript in the inaugural Banjo Prize in 2018.

Review: WHO WE WERE, B.M. Carroll

  • this edition published in Great Britain by Viper 2020
  • ISBN 9-781788-164184
  • 319 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Amazon)

A KILLER TWENTY-YEAR REUNION.
AND YOU’RE INVITED…

Twenty years after they went their separate ways, friends and enemies are coming together for their school reunion. Katy, who is desperate to show that she’s no longer the shy wallflower. Annabel, who ruled the school until a spectacular fall from grace. Zach, popular and cruel, but who says he’s a changed man. And Robbie, always the victim, who never stood a chance.

As the reunion nears, a terrible event that binds the group together will resurface. Because someone is still holding a grudge, and will stop at nothing to reveal their darkest secrets…

My Take

As Katy organises the 20 year re-union, members of the central group are targeted by someone who seems to hate them all. And it seems that possibly the person has been in their homes, stalking them, taking things, leaving messages. Very scary.

So the mystery part of it puts it squarely in the category of crime fiction.
Katy is organising the event and updating the year book that they all contributed to in 2000. She asks each of the people she contacts to update their details, and then “the stalker” begins to make their own malicious contributions, with details that makes them think it is one of their small group.

We see events through the eyes of a number of characters.
Very well written. Engrossing.

My Rating: 4.5

I have also read
4.5, THE MISSING PIECES OF SOPHIE McCARTHY

Review: CALL ME EVIE, J. P. Pomare

  • this large print edition published by Hachette Australia 2018
  • ISBN 9-781525-299040
  • 467 pages
  • source: my local library
  • WINNER OF THE NGAIO MARSH AWARD BEST FIRST NOVEL 2019
    SHORTLISTED FOR THE ABIA MATT RICHELL AWARD 2020
    SHORTLISTED FOR THE NGAIO MARSH AWARD BEST NOVEL 2019
    LONGLISTED FOR THE NED KELLY AWARD BEST FIRST FICTION 2019
    LONGLISTED FOR THE ABIA GENERAL FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD 2020

Synopsis (publisher)

DON’T TRUST HIM. IT WASN’T ME. IT COULDN’T HAVE BEEN ME.

Meet Evie, a young woman held captive by a man named Jim in the isolated New Zealand beach town of Maketu. Jim says he’s hiding Evie to protect her, that she did something terrible back home in Melbourne.

In a house that creaks against the wind, Evie begins to piece together her fractured memories of the events that led her here.

Jim says he’s keeping her safe. Evie’s not sure she can trust Jim, but can she trust her own memories?

My Take

This novel is written in two time frames, before and after. There are also two narrators. Which is the reliable one? We see things mainly from Evie’s eyes and tend to trust her, but is that right? Is Jim really the untrustworthy, unreliable one?

Evie is not her real name, Jim is her uncle. or is he?

Early on, we piece together that they have come from Melbourne as a result of a traumatic event, that they are “on the run”, that people are looking for them, that it is possibly her fault.

This was an incredible debut novel, one that will keep you trying to piece together what has really happened.

At the end of the novel interesting questions are provided for discussion in book groups.

My rating: 4.8

I’ve also read
4.6, IN THE CLEARING 

Review: YOU DON’T KNOW ME, Sara Foster

Synopsis (publisher)

Who killed Lizzie Burdett?

Lizzie Burdett was eighteen when she vanished, and Noah Carruso has never forgotten her. She was his first crush, his unrequited love. She was also his brother’s girlfriend.

Tom Carruso hasn’t been home in over a decade. He left soon after Lizzie disappeared under a darkening cloud of suspicion, and now he’s back for the inquest into Lizzie’s death – intent on telling his side of the story. As the inquest looms, Noah meets Alice Pryce on  holiday. They fall for each other fast and hard, but Noah can’t bear to tell Alice his deepest fears. And Alice is equally stricken – she carries a terrible secret of her own. Is the truth worth telling if it will destroy everything?

A stunning new thriller about the burden of shame from blockbuster author Sara Foster.

My Take

Alice Pryce reminds Noah Carruso of his brother’s girlfriend Lizzie Burdett who vanished one night twelve years before. Alice is in Thailand teaching English and Noah is having a holiday before attending an inquest back in Australia called to finally resolve what happened to Lizzie.
They fall in love as if their lives depend on it. Both have secrets about what has happened to them in Australia, and Alice is planning never to return.

Noah puts off his return to Australia as long as he can, but eventually he must return to Australia for the inquest and to face his brother Tom. After Noah has left for home Alice gets a visit from the Australian High Commission which means she has to return too.

I kept wondering if this is really crime fiction, but in reality at least one crime needs to be resolved. But on another level it is a romance, but also an attempt to by the main characters to come to terms with shame and guilt.

My rating: 4.4

I’ve also read
4.3, ALL THAT IS LOST BETWEEN US

About the author
Sara Foster has written five critically acclaimed novels: Come Back to Me, Beneath the Shadows, Shallow Breath, All That is Lost Between Us and The Hidden Hours. She was born and raised in England, and moved to Australia in 2004. She lives in Perth with her husband and two children.

Find out more at:
www.sarafoster.com.au
www.facebook.com/sarafosterauthor
www.instagram.com/sarafosterauthor
www.twitter.com/sarajfoster

Review: UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SKY, Anna Romer

  • this large print edition published by Read How You Want
  • first published in Australia by Simon and Schuster 2019
  • 485 pages
  • ISBN 978-0-36932-454-2
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

Chilling secrets buried deep in wild bushland drive this thrilling new novel from bestseller Anna Romer

When an injured teenager goes missing at a remote bushland campground, local journalist Abby Bardot is determined to expose the area’s dark history. The girl bears a striking resemblance to the victims of three brutal murders that occurred twenty years ago and Abby fears the killer is still on the loose.

But the newspaper Abby works for wants to suppress the story for fear it will scare off tourists to the struggling township. Haunted by her own turbulent memories, Abby is desperate to learn the truth and enlists the help of Tom Gabriel, a reclusive crime writer. At first resentful of Abby’s intrusion, Tom’s reluctance vanishes when they discover a hidden attic room in his house that shows evidence of imprisonment from half a century before.

As Abby and Tom sift through the attic room and discover its tragic history, they become convinced it holds the key to solving the bushland murders and finding the missing girl alive.

But their quest has drawn out a killer, someone with a shocking secret who will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

My Take

There are many mysteries to be solved in this novel with several story lines and the stories coming from several time frames. There are secrets to be uncovered. Abby Bardot has a history that she doesn’t talk about, and there are several people who have hidden pasts. There is a man in jail for a murder he says he didn’t commit. It all makes for a great tangle.

Underneath it all Abby the journalist wants to write about the secrets of Deep Water, about the girls who’ve disappeared, those who’ve died, and those who survived.

This book makes the reader work hard as the author changes the voice of the narrator almost at whim. There is little warning that this is going to happen and the narration can swap from third person to first person between paragraphs. There are at least four main narrators and several minor ones. I guess the intent is to make the reader aware of what particular characters are thinking, but it is not a device that I particularly like. In the earlier parts of the book I found it confusing.

Despite all that, an intriguing story, and one that kept me guessing.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Anna Romer was born in Australia to a family of booklovers. She led a nomadic life for many years, travelling around Europe and Britain in an ancient Kombi van where she discovered a passion for history.

These days she lives in a little old cottage surrounded by bushland, writing stories about dark family secrets, rambling houses, characters haunted by the past, and settings that feature the uniquely beautiful Australian landscape. Anna’s debut bestselling novel was Thornwood House, followed by Lyrebird Hill and Beyond the Orchard. See AnnaRomer.com.au

Review: THE GREAT DIVIDE, L.J.M. Owen

  • this edition published by Echo Publishing 2019
  • ISBN 978-1-76068-582-9
  • 295 pages
  • source: review book from publisher

Synopsis (Allen & Unwin)

A city detective hunts a killer through a fog of lies in small town Tasmania.
Twisted Secrets. Hidden Victims. Monstrous Crimes.

In the rural Tasmanian town of Dunton, the body of a former headmistress of a children’s home is discovered, revealing a tortured life and death.

Detective Jake Hunter, newly arrived, searches for her killer among past residents of the home. He unearths pain, secrets and broken adults. Pushing aside memories of his own treacherous past, Jake focuses all his energy on the investigation. Why are some of the children untraceable? What caused such damage among the survivors?

The identity of her murderer seems hidden from Jake by Dunton’s fog of prejudice and lies, until he is forced to confront not only the town’s history but his own nature…

My Take

Detective Jake Hunter has the dual disadvantages of being a city boy, and of being from the mainland. He senses, as he begins the investigation into the murder of Ava O’Brien, that the local residents of Dunton have a lot they could tell him, but they are not going to.

The story begins with the disappearance of a 10 year old boy from a local camping ground. When he  is found he tells Jake Hunter that he saw a monster. This is Jake’s first case in Dunton and not at all what he was expecting. He is saddled with a local counsellor representing victims of crime, who just happens to be the daughter of his new station head, Aiden Kelly.

When he eventually comes across the body of Ava O’Brien in a derelict orchard, he finds that she has horrific injuries including genital mutilation. He learns that she was in charge of the local home for “bad girls” and that there are at least two girls who used to live there who have been adopted by locals.

Eventually Jake solves the crime, but the story is grisly, almost unbelievable, of corruption and exploitation all centred on the girls home that Ava O’Brien ran.

This novel represents a change of direction for Australian author L.J.M. Owen, and presumably the start of a new series. Jake Hunter has come to Tasmania to make a new start, to leave behind in Melbourne a life that just became too complicated. He was looking forward to a new, quiet, role as a country copper, but that isn’t what he got.

My rating: 4.4

I’ve also read
4.4, OLMEC OBITUARY

About the author
Dr L.J.M. Owen has degrees in archaeology, forensic science and librarianship. She speaks five languages and has travelled extensively through Europe and Asia. L.J. was inspired to write the Dr Pimms series by the neglected women’s stories she discovered between the cracks of popular archaeology. Three books in this series have been published by Echo Publishing. L.J.’s new novel, The Great Divide, introduces a new story world and characters. L.J. is also the Festival Director of the Terror Australis Readers and Writers Festival, a celebration of literature and literacy in southern Tasmania, and divides her time between Canberra and southern Tasmania.