Review: THE ISLAND, Adrian McKinty

  • This edition from Amazon on Kindle
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09NBGXR6L
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Hachette Australia (24 May 2022)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 363 pages

Synopsis (Amazon)

a family story unlike any you’ve read yet.

You should not have come to the island.

You should not have been speeding.

You should not have tried to hide the body.

You should not have told your children that you could keep them safe.

No one can run forever . . .

My Take

Tom has come to Australia from Seattle for a medical conference, bringing with him his new wife Heather and his two children Olivia and Owen. Heather has had a hard time getting onside with the children. After a visit to Alice Springs, they have flown to Melbourne for the conference at which Tom is the keynote speaker. The family is keen to see Australian fauna and they end up on Dutch Island just off the Melbourne coast. Tom is driving a powerful car and ends up hitting and killing a cyclist. Fearful that they will not get off the island, Heather persuades Tom to hide the body. When they are safely off the island they will report the accident to the police. Just as they are about to board the ferry, the family catches up with them..

From that point on, the action is full of suspense, sort of hold-your-breath incredible. The family on Dutch Island are feral, bent on revenge for the death of the cyclist. The family is headed by Ma who is determined that the American tourists are to pay for what they have done, but also that they are not to destroy the lifestyle that she and her family have established.

Written in New York during the pandemic, this is McKinty’s second stand-alone. There are aspects that I seriously question the credibility of, but part of me wants to accept the possibilities. An excellent read.

My Rating: 4.6

I’ve also read

FIFTY GRAND
4.6, THE COLD COLD GROUND
4.8, I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET
4.6, FALLING GLASS
4.9, IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE
4.2, BELFAST NOIR, Adrian McKinty (ed) and Stuart Neville (ed)
4.8, THE CHAIN

Review: SISTERS OF MERCY, Caroline Overington

  • This edition made available through Libby by my local library

  • Published: 1 November 2012
  • ISBN: 9781742750446
  • Imprint: Random House Australia
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 320

Synopsis (publisher)

Sisters of Mercy by Caroline Overington is the haunting crime novel story of two sisters – one has vanished, the other is behind bars…

Snow Delaney was born a generation and a world away from her sister, Agnes.

Until recently, neither even knew of the other’s existence. They came together only for the reading of their father’s will – when Snow discovered, to her horror, that she was not the sole beneficiary of his large estate.

Now Snow is in prison and Agnes is missing, disappeared in the eerie red dust that blanketed Sydney from dawn on September 23, 2009.

With no other family left, Snow turns to crime journalist Jack Fawcett, protesting her innocence in a series of defiant letters from prison. Has she been unfairly judged? Or will Jack’s own research reveal a story even more shocking than the one Snow wants to tell?

With Sisters of Mercy Caroline Overington once again proves she is one of the most exciting new novelists of recent years.

My Take

I was amazed to find, when I began structuring this review, that I had actually read this book 10 years ago (see my original review here) but I honestly had no recollection of it.

The main story is told by two main narrators. One is Snow Delaney who is in jail for cruelty to disabled children, and is suspected of having somehow disposed of her missing sister. Snow denies knowing anything about that, but in the the light of what we learn about what she has done to children in her foster care, how reliable is she as a narrator? The other narrator is Jack “Tap” Fawcett, a journalist who has been following the disappearance of Agnes Moore, and with whom Snow begins a correspondence when she is in jail. In the letters to Fawcett Snow fills in her back story and tries to convince him of her innocence. Fawcett is unequivocal in his belief that Snow has had something to with her sister’s disappearance, but how reliable a narrator is he?

(Date discrepancy

Text in the novel
says John Moore went to Oxford in 1930 at age of 20, and that he was picked
for the Melbourne Olympics in athletics in 1956. That would make him 46 then. Surely he must have been at Oxford later than that? Something like 1954? 

Agnes Moore met her husband John in Western Australia in 1958 when she was 17, and she was born in 1940. When she
disappeared in 2009 she was 69
.)

This was an interesting read, particularly the details of how Snow “managed” the “care” of 19 disabled children. It makes you wonder how much based on fact those details are.

My rating: 4.5

I’ve also read

4.4, SISTERS OF MERCY
4.5, NO PLACE LIKE HOME
4.7, I CAME TO SAY GOODBYE
4.5, CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?
4.5, THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
4.7, THE ONES YOU TRUST

Review: THE STONING, Peter Papathanasiou

  • this edition published by Quercus 2021

  • made available by my local library
  • 315 pages
  • ISBN 978-1-52941-698-5
  • #1 of a new series?

Synopsis (publisher)

A small town in outback Australia wakes to an appalling crime.

A local schoolteacher is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion instantly falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high, between whites and the local indigenous community, between immigrants and the townies.

Still mourning the recent death of his father, Detective Sergeant George Manolis returns to his childhood hometown to investigate. Within minutes of his arrival, it’s clear that Cobb is not the same place he left. Once it thrived, but now it’s a poor and derelict dusthole, with the local police chief it deserves. And as Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism, and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his past begin to flicker to life.

Vivid, pacy and almost dangerously atmospheric, The Stoning is the first in a new series of outback noir featuring DS Manolis, himself an outsider, and a good man in a world gone to hell.

My Take

8 hours drive from the nearest big city (but which one?), Cobb is a town on the edge of nowhere. Like most small outback towns it is struggling to survive. The detention centre was meant to breathe new life into the town, and certainly it has brought money, extra people, but also a heap of problems. The detention centre is supposedly low security, with a nightly curfew, but in reality the asylum seekers who live there dare not visit the town. Life in the detention centre is little better than living in a jail; it has its own security guards, and the town police have no jurisdiction there.

When a local school teacher is found taped to a tree, stoned to death, a city detective is sent to investigate the case. He suspects he has been sent because he lived in Cobb as a child, his father lived in the previous immigration centre that had been there.

Detective Sergeant George Manolis certainly has his work cut out. The town’s police station has 3 staff, supervised by Sergeant Bill Fyfe, and they cut corners where ever they can, and Fyfe is a drunk. Manolis will find that the standards usually enforced in the city do not exist, the services he would expect are not available, and the locals have little respect for the police.

This was a fascinating read that doesn’t hesitate to point out the failings of Australia’s asylum centre system, as well as tackling the decline that has beset many Australian small outback towns.

Papathanasiou commented: “First and foremost, I wanted to write a compelling crime novel inspired by the vast Australian outback. But I also wrote The Stoning to be more than a whodunit. The plight of asylum seekers in detention is under intense scrutiny worldwide, with many countries considering the hardline Australian model. I feel the voices of Australian writers exploring this subject matter through literature may be especially resonant at this time. As the child of migrants and grandchild of refugees, it is also a topic close to my heart.” 

My rating: 4.6

Another review to read: https://damppebbles.com/tag/quercus/

About the author
Peter Papathanasiou was born in northern Greece in 1974 and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His debut book, a memoir, was published in 2019 as “Son of Mine” by Salt Publishing (UK) and “Little One” by Allen & Unwin (Australia). His debut novel, a work of crime fiction, was published in 2021 as “The Stoning” by MacLehose Press (UK) and Transit Lounge (Australia), and in 2022 by Polar Verlag (Germany). Peter’s writing has otherwise been published by The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Seattle Times, The Guardian UK, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Good Weekend, ABC and SBS. He holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from City, University of London; a Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences from The Australian National University (ANU); and a Bachelor of Laws from ANU specialising in criminal law.

 

Review: SLAUGHTER PARK, Barry Maitland

  • This edition made available through Libby by my local library
  • First published: October 2016 Text Publishing, Australia
  • Slaughter Park is the third and final book of the Belltree Trilogy.
  • Length: 368pp
  • ISBN: 9781925498905

Synopsis (author website)

Harry Belltree’s obsessive pursuit of justice has cost him everything – his job in homicide, his marriage and his newborn child. He has nothing left to lose, or so he thinks. Then his estranged wife disappears, leaving their baby daughter behind. The police think she has murdered a man. Harry thinks she’s in danger.

When severed limbs are found dangling from the branches of trees in a suburban park, Harry’s former colleagues are pulled off Jenny’s case. It’s up to Harry to track his missing wife down on his own.

And to lay bare, at last, the extraordinary conspiracy that led to his parents’ murder.

Slaughter Park is the third and final book of the Belltree Trilogy.

My Take

SLAUGHTER PARK takes up where ASH ISLAND left off.

Harry’s wife has regained her sight and given birth to a baby daughter and when he visits her in hospital Jenny tells him he must go, leave them. She is frightened that the forces that have been following them will continue to pursue them and destroy them all. Harry takes Jenny at her word and he disappears and she hears nothing of him.

However when Jenny disappears nearly a year later, her sister uses the journalist Kelly Pool to find him and he comes back to Sydney to find her. Bodies have turned up in Slater Park, nicknamed Slaughter Park by the media, and the police are looking for Jenny, believing she has murdered a man.

Once again this is a novel about police corruption, political corruption, the domination of one family, and the death, years before, of Harry’s parents. The threads that began with CRUCIFIXION CREEK are eventually resolved, some of them in a surprising twist.

I recommend the series to you. 

My rating: 4.5

I’ve also read

BRIGHT AIR
mini reviews

4.7, DARK MIRROR – #10
4.8, CHELSEA MANSIONS – #11
4.7, THE RAVEN’S EYE –  #12
4.7, CRUCIFIXION CREEK

4.6, CRUCIFIXION CREEK
5.0, THE PROMISED LAND 

4.6, ASH ISLAND

Review: ASH ISLAND, Barry Maitland

  •  this edition made available on Libby through SA Libraries

  • Text publication date: 3 October 2016
  • ISBN: 9781925355444
  • #2 Belltree Trilogy

Synopsis (publisher)

Detective Sergeant Harry Belltree has a new posting. Away from Sydney, where he was nearly killed by a corrupt colleague and is now an embarrassment. Off to a quiet life in Newcastle.

Or maybe not so quiet. A body’s been dug up on Ash Island. It may not be the only one.

Harry’s got unfinished business in the area, too. The car crash that killed his parents and blinded his wife Jenny happened not far from Newcastle – and Harry knows it was no accident.

But the other unfinished business is Jenny’s longed-for pregnancy. Which means that now, when Harry’s investigation starts to get dangerous, the stakes are higher than ever.

My Take

It took some time for Harry to recover from the injuries he received at the end of  CRUCIFIXION CREEK and now there is unfinished business. The other person who has taken some time to recover is Kelly Pool, the journalist now working at the Times.  

Harry has been posted to Newcastle doing ordinary police work rather than Homicide. But his reputation has preceded him and the underworld from Sydney knows where he has gone. Also Newcastle Police suspect Harry has been sent there to see if they handled the death of his parents properly, and treat him cautiously.

And so in many ways the action of ASH ISLAND connects seamlessly with the earlier novel, and Harry finds himself investigating some of the same people as before. There are new people and new cases too as well as the connecting threads. That is why you, dear reader, need to read these novels in order.

And at the end of this novel, there is a hook to get you into the third in the trilogy.

My rating: 4.6

I’ve also read

BRIGHT AIR
mini reviews

4.7, DARK MIRROR – #10
4.8, CHELSEA MANSIONS – #11
4.7, THE RAVEN’S EYE –  #12
4.7, CRUCIFIXION CREEK

4.6, CRUCIFIXION CREEK
5.0, THE PROMISED LAND 

 

Review: CRUCIFIXION CREEK, Barry Maitland

  •  this edition on Kindle (Amazon)

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00LZ1U6IY
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Text Publishing; UK ed. edition (September 23, 2015)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 260 pages 
  • #1 in the Belltree trilogy

Synopsis (Amazon)

Homicide detective Harry Belltree wouldn’t usually be looking too hard at an elderly couple’s suicide pact. Especially now, when his brother-in-law Greg has just been stabbed to death. But it seems Greg and the old couple had ties to the same man, a bent moneylender with friends in high places – and low.

Harry can’t get officially involved in Greg’s murder, but he suspects a link with two other mysterious deaths: his parents’. And when he goes off-grid to investigate, that’s when things start to get dangerous

Set in Sydney, this dark, morally ambiguous and adrenaline-charged new series is a triumphant change of direction for Barry Maitland.

My Take

My main reason for re-reading this title is that I have decided to read the two remaining novels in the trilogy, and couldn’t trust my memory of the first novel.

The author says in his Afterword that “Harry Belltree is an entirely fictitious character and his activities in no way represent the real behaviors of the New South Wales police.” However it does show corruption and self-serving among police, politicians, and bikie gangs. There is a horrendous level of violence, and Harry Belltree, ex-soldier who served in Afghanistan, is really a loose cannon. His wife, blinded in the car crash that killed his parents, has become an IT expert who can break into security systems, wipe CCTV records, and disable alarm systems. 

A good novel that fairly gallops along.

My rating: 4.6

My earlier review

I’ve also read

BRIGHT AIR
mini reviews

4.7, DARK MIRROR – #10
4.8, CHELSEA MANSIONS – #11
4.7, THE RAVEN’S EYE –  #12
4.7, CRUCIFIXION CREEK
5.0, THE PROMISED LAND 

Review: CANTICLE CREEK Adrian Hyland

  •  this edition published by Ultimo Press 2021

  • ISBN 978-176115003-6
  • 342 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

Two bodies. One long hot summer. A town that will never be the same.

When Adam Lawson’s wrecked car is found a kilometre from Daisy Baker’s body, the whole town assumes it’s an open and shut case. But Jesse Redpath isn’t from Canticle Creek. Where she comes from, the truth often hides in plain sight, but only if you know where to look. When Jesse starts to ask awkward questions, she uncovers a town full of contradictions and a cast of characters with dark pasts, secrets to hide and even more to lose.

As the temperature soars, and the ground bakes, the wilderness surrounding Canticle Creek becomes a powderkeg waiting to explode. All it needs is one spark.

A twisty crime thriller set in small town Australia perfect for readers of The Dry and Scrublands.

My take

It is over 10 years since I have read anything by Adrian Hyland and CANTICLE CREEK demonstrates that he still has the touch.

Jesse Redpath is a Northern Territory outback cop. She is the officer in charge of the station at Kulara. One of the local boys Adam Lawson has gone off the tails a bit and Jesse has put in a word for him with the local magistrate and has set him up with a job at the roadhouse, and boarding with her artist father. Despite getting on well with Jesse’s father Ben, Adam takes off for the south and ends up going to Melbourne. The next Jesse hears is that he has been killed in a road crash near Canticle Creek after killing his girlfriend. This doesn’t sound like the Adam that Jesse and her father knew.

Ben Redpath is a highly regarded artist.  He has been invited to Melbourne to participate in a joint art exhibition and Jesse decides to accompany him and to go to Canticle Creek to satisfy herself that everything had been done to investigate Adam’s death.

This was a very believable book. I really like the new character Jesse Redpath, who always seems to ask those extra questions. Here also is a writer who seems to have a special connection to “country” which he acknowledges himself at the end of the book.

My rating: 4.5

I’ve also read 5.0, GUNSHOT ROAD

Review: CROCODILE TEARS, Alan Carter

  • This edition published by Fremantle Press 2021

  • ISBN 9781925816570
  • 333 pages
  • #5 Cato Kwong series 

Synopsis (publisher

Detective Philip ‘Cato’ Kwong is investigating the death of a retiree found hacked to pieces in his suburban Perth home. The trail leads to Timor-Leste, with its recent blood-soaked history. There, he reunites with an old frenemy, the spook Rory Driscoll who, in Cato’s experience, has always occupied a hazy moral terrain.

Resourceful, multilingual, and hard as nails, Rory has been Canberra’s go-to guy when things get sticky in the Asia-Pacific. Now Rory wants out. But first he’s needed to chaperone a motley group of whistleblowers with a price on their heads. And there’s one on his, too.

Part espionage thriller, part police procedural, Crocodile Tears shows powerful forces, at home and abroad, determined to keep their secrets buried. At any cost.

My Take

Cato Kwong is has moved to of Perth’s Major Crimes Unit ( I have to admit that I haven’t read the last two novels in the series), he is married, and has a small child. He is recently wounded while on duty, and close to burn-out. His wife Sharon works with the airport police, and they lead busy and demanding lives. Something’s got to give.

This is a novel that keeps you on your toes, with two narrative streams: one for Cato, and one for Rory Driscoll, ex-spook, who is introduced in a prologue with an incident 14 years earlier.

In Perth a retiree is found dead, multiple slash wounds, missing an ear. He is an ex-cop and Cato is convinced the missing ear is a clue. This murder is followed with that of an ex-teacher, eyes gouged out. What connects these two?

Meanwhile a passenger, apparently Timorese by birth, has a meltdown on a plane landing at Perth airport, and comes to Cato’s wife’s attention.

So, a complex plot, made more complex by the introduction of Rory Driscoll, former spook, aboriginal. His ex-employer, nick named Aunty, Canberra intelligence mandarin, wants Driscoll to make sure three whistle blowers are able to report to a meeting of a committee from the Hague in Darwin in three weeks time. Their names are on a hit list and so is Rory’s. Timor-Leste appears to connect the other three, but Driscoll can’t think what has put his name on the list.

I think I suffered a little from the fact that I had not read books #3 and #4 in the series, although CROCODILE TEARS works pretty well as a stand-alone. Plenty to think about. Quality Australian writing.

My rating: 4.6

I’ve also read

Alan Carter – Awards

Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel (Winner 2018)
Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction (Winner 2011)
UK Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award (Shortlisted 2010)

Review: WILD PLACE, Christian White

Synopsis (publisher)

In the summer of 1989, a local teen goes missing from the idyllic Australian suburb of Camp Hill. As rumours of Satanic rituals swirl, schoolteacher Tom Witter becomes convinced he holds the key to the disappearance. When the police won’t listen, he takes matters into his own hands with the help of the missing girl’s father and a local neighbourhood watch group.

But as dark secrets are revealed and consequences to past actions are faced, Tom learns that the only way out of the darkness is to walk deeper into it. Wild Place peels back the layers of suburbia, exposing what’s hidden underneath – guilt, desperation, violence – and attempts to answer the question: why do good people do bad things?

My Take

In an Author’s Note at the end the author tells us that his plot style is to “take one crime trope,  add a strange and interesting thing that intrigues me, blend and pour over ice….. Wild Place is a Rear Window-style mystery. The special ingredient: “Satanic Panic – a wave of hysteria and moral outrage that swept the world in the 1980s and 90s.” ”

A few weeks before Christmas 1989 teenager Tracie Reed goes missing. As the end of the year approaches she is still missing and the suburb of Camp Hill puts its community under a microscope. Neighbourhood Watch in particular has created a vigilante mindset, and one teenager in particular is viewed with great suspicion. And there are many who have things to hide.

Camp Hill is an Australian suburb on the Mornington Peninsular in Victoria. I had to remind myself a number of times of the Australian setting because I felt at times there was a North American vibe to it.

As the blurb says, the central theme is why good people do bad things. I was amazed at how this plot finalised, because I didn’t have the “bad person” pegged at all, nor their motivation. 

Fascinating. In the long run, several good people do bad things. But which do you think is the worst? This would make a good book for a group discussion if you are looking for one.

My rating: 4.6

I’ve also read

4.4, THE NOWHERE CHILD
4.5, THE WIFE AND THE WIDOW