Review: IF I TELL YOU.. I’LL HAVE TO KILL YOU, edited by Michael Robotham

Kindle edition available July 24

Australia’s best crime writers – Michael Robotham,
Kerry Greenwood, Shane Maloney, Peter Corris, Tara Moss and more – share the secrets to their success, their best- ever writing tips and their favourite ‘must reads’. An ideal guide for aspiring writers and crime
fiction fans alike.


Crime fiction is the single most popular genre in international publishing and Australia has some of the finest practitioners when it comes to walking the mean streets and nailing the bad guys.

Whether you’re a fan of crime fiction, true crime or a would-be crime writer, this collection of essays will provide laughter, understanding, insight, ideas, advice and hopefully some inspiration. Learn about Shane Maloney’s near-death experience in a freezer, Leigh Redhead’s adventures as a stripper and Tara Moss taking a polygraph test to prove her
doubters wrong.

There are stories of struggle and triumph, near misses and murderous intent, as our best crime writers lay bare their souls and reveal their secrets as never before, along with their rules for writing and reading lists.

But beware. They will have to kill you…

My Take

All royalties from this book go towards the Australian Crime Writers Association, which runs the annual Ned Kelly Awards and was established to promote crime writing and reading in Australia.

So while I read this copy from my local library, I also bought a copy for my Kindle.

Here’s a unique opportunity to find out what makes some of your favourite Aussie authors tick. The book consists of 20 very readable essays. I’ve sat through a lot of author talks at the Adelaide Writer’s Week and reading these essays reminded me of some of the more candid of those sessions. The five “must-reads” at the end of each essay give further insight and for me, reminded me that I have never read Raymond Chandler’s THE BIG SLEEP.

The Table of Contents reads a bit like a Who’s Who of successful Australian crime writers, so here is a chance of finding a new author or two, or just relaxing in the company of someone you already follow. The format was a winner for me – each essay is twelve to fifteen pages long and is followed by “My Rules” which of course vary from writer to writer, and then “Five Must Reads” with similarities from author to author.

The final essay is from Peter Lawrance and picks out some of the highlights in the history of the Ned Kelly Awards, founded in 1996. Peter is a long-time convenor and organiser of the NKs.

Well done to whoever had the idea of putting this anthology together. It should be must reading for all crime fiction courses, whether for readers or budding writers.

My rating: 4.8


Review: I HEAR THE SIRENS ON THE STREET, Adrian McKinty – audio book

  • this unabridged version available from Audible
  • Book published 2013
  • #2 in the Sean Duffy series (The Troubles Trilogy)
  • Narrated by Gerard Doyle
  • length 9 hrs 42 mins

Synopsis (Audible)

A torso in a suitcase looks like an impossible case, but Sean Duffy
isn’t easily deterred, especially when his floundering love life leaves him in need of a distraction. So with detective constables McCrabban and McBride, he goes to work identifying the victim.

The torso turns out to be all that’s left of an American tourist who once served in the
U.S. military. What was he doing in Northern Ireland in the midst of the 1982 Troubles? The trail leads to the doorstep of a beautiful, flame-haired, twenty-something widow, whose husband died at the hands of an IRA assassination team just a few months before.

Suddenly Duffy is caught between his romantic instincts, gross professional misconduct,
and powerful men he should know better than to mess with. These include British intelligence, the FBI, and local paramilitary death squads – enough to keep even the savviest detective busy. Duffy’s growing sense of self-doubt isn’t helping. But as a legendarily stubborn man, he doesn’t let that stop him from pursuing the case to its explosive conclusion.

My Take

This is the sequel to THE COLD, COLD GROUND which I reviewed last year. Set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles in 1982. When a male torso turns up in a suitcase, the suitcase turns out to have belonged to a man murdered by the IRA the previous year. The widow lives on an isolated estate and from the beginning Detective Inspector Sean Duffy can see that there are elements of her story about her husband’s murder that don’t quite jell. One thing leads to another and Sean identifies the body as that belonging to an American tourist. Even there, there is something wrong with the story.

With his passion for tying up loose ends Sean eventually follows the story even when he has been expressly warned off. This is noir crime fiction laced with Sean’s own peculiar sense of humour. There’s not just the blackness in the plot, but blackness in the setting – Northern Ireland on the brink of economic disaster, its last remaining industry whimpering to its death.

Adrian McKinty is a master story teller, the writing well polished, the characters well drawn. The dangers of living and working in Northern Ireland in the Troubles are vividly brought to life. He takes us to a time and place few of us have experienced first hand.

The narrator Gerard Doyle does an excellent job.

My rating: 4.8

See Bernadette’s review.

Review: NO SAFE PLACE by Jenny Spence

NoSafePlaceSpenceJenny20333_fNO SAFE PLACE begins with middle-aged technical writer Elly Cartwright arriving at her Melbourne home one night to be greeted by an elderly neighbour with some message or other but before Mabel can get a full sentence out she collapses. Mabel, it seems has been shot and Elly is injured too. The next day she discovers that one of the software programmers she has worked closely with has also been killed and she starts to believe the deaths have something to do with her. With the help of her colleagues and some friends Elly quickly adapts to a life of ever-changing disguises while she tries to work out who’s got it in for her.

Thrillers in which an average Joe (or in this case Josephine) becomes embroiled in criminal intrigue are difficult to pull of with any sense of credibility (I’ve lost count of the number I’ve thrown at the wall) but in her début offering Jenny Spence does a decent job of it, mainly through using a nicely grounded character to propel the novel forward. While she does seem a remarkably quick thinker, in most respects Elly is perfectly normal. Being a mum she is worried that her troubles will impact on her adult daughter and she has the same gripes about work and daydreams of escape as most of us. The investigation she does, with the help of her technically minded colleagues, is within the bounds of possibility and the gang do at least involve police when they learn something serious which is a rare thing in these sorts of thrillers.

I rather liked the setting of this book too. There’s the geography: we spend time in both Sydney and Melbourne and both are recognisable, as is the friendly rivalry between the two places. But there is also the environment of Elly’s work, a small company doing one of those unseen jobs that most people don’t know exist but which many of us benefit from every day. People in fiction often seem to have much more windswept and interesting jobs than exist in real life and it’s nice to see some version of normality being displayed quite deftly.

NO SAFE PLACE is an easy but not simplistic read and is a really solid first outing from an author I’ll have on my radar from now on. The suspense was well maintained and the plot hangs together pretty well, with only a couple of minor points warranting a half-raised eyebrow. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

awwbadge_2013No Safe Place is the 12th book I’ve read and 10th I’ve reviewed for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2013.

Publisher: Allen & Unwin [2013]
ISBN/ASIN: 9781743313329
Length: 320 pages
Format: paperback
Creative Commons Licence
This work by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Davitt Awards 2013: record 61 books on longlist

The Sisters in Crime Australia have a record 61 Books in contention for the 13th Davitt Awards (2013) for the best crime books by Australian women.

Six Davitt Awards will be presented at a gala dinner on 31 August by leading New Zealand crime writer, Vanda Symon, at the Thornbury Theatre in Melbourne: Best Novel (Adult); Best Novel (Children’s and Young Adult); Best True Crime Book; Best Debut Book (any category); Readers’ Choice (as voted by the 600 members of Sisters in Crime Australia).

See more details and the longlist here.

Ned Kelly Awards: Longlists 2013

The 2013 Ned Kelly Awards longlists are now available at the newly created Australian Crime Writers Association website.

See the guidelines for the awards here.

Check the longlists for Best Fiction, First Fiction, and True Crime here.

The short list will be announced as part of the Byron Bay Writers Festival on the 2nd August.

The winners will be announced at the Awards Night that will be part of the Brisbane Writers Festival.

Review: WATCHING YOU, Michael Robotham

Synopsis (author site)

Marnie Logan often feels like she’s being watched. Nothing she can quite put her finger on – a whisper of breath on the back of her neck, or a shadow in the corner of her eye – and now her life is frozen.

Her husband Daniel has been missing for more than a year. Depressed and increasingly desperate, she seeks the help of clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin.

Joe is concerned by Marnie’s reluctance to talk about the past, but then she discovers a book packed with pictures, interviews with friends, former teachers, old flames and workmates Daniel was preparing for her birthday. It was supposed to be a celebration of her life. But it’s not the story anyone was expecting…

My Take

Another terrific read from Michael Robotham. There are bits of the plot that strain credibility but, balanced against the superb writing, they hardly matter. Rather they serve to make the reader question whether something like that could happen.

The structure of the story is interesting – two main stories unfolding side by side. I find as I write that I can’t really talk too much about the book without plot spoilers. You’ll have to take my word for it that I found WATCHING YOU a very satisfying read. Read the first chapter here.

Followers of Robotham will welcome the furtherance of the Joe O’Loughlin / Vincent Ruiz story, and I for one want the next story NOW.

My rating: 5.0

I have also reviewed



SHATTER (audio)




Watch out for IF I TELL YOU, I’LL HAVE TO KILL YOU being released in August at the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival. Edited by Michael Robotham,  (More)

Australia’s finest crime writers reveal their secrets

Find out where they bury their bodies…

Crime fiction is the single most popular genre in international publishing and Australia has some of the finest practitioners when it comes to walking the mean streets and nailing the bad guys.

Whether you’re a fan of crime fiction, true crime or a would-be crime writer, this collection of essays will provide laughter, understanding, insight, ideas, advice and hopefully some inspiration. Learn about Shane Maloney’s near-death experience in a freezer, Leigh Redhead’s adventures as a stripper and Tara Moss taking a polygraph test to prove
her doubters wrong.

There are stories of struggle and triumph, near misses and murderous intent, as our best crime writers lay bare their souls and reveal their secrets as never before, along with their rules for writing and reading lists.

But beware. They will have to kill you…

Review: DEAD CAT BOUNCE by Peter Cotton

DeadCatBouncePeterCotto20469_fFor something a little different today we’re offering you two perspectives for the price of one on DEAD CAT BOUNCE, a debut crime novel by Peter Cotton who is an Australian journalist and former media adviser to several government ministers. The book is set during the last weeks of a divisive Australian election campaign (though in yet more evidence that truth is stranger than fiction Cotton’s imagination didn’t run to a second dumped PM in a three year period) and opens with the discovery of the body of the Environment Minister dumped near a Canberra landmark.

Bernadette’s thoughts are in green. I’m a politics junkie from way back and don’t consider my weekend complete without Sunday morning Insiders viewing. My crime fiction tastes lean towards procedurals and whydunnits.

Josh’s thoughts are in red. As my twitter handle suggests (@OzNoir) my genre of choice is noir which tends to lead me down the dark and shadowy back alleys of crime fiction. DEAD CAT BOUNCE was something a little different, something outside my comfort zone which still alluded to that slithering underside of crime enough to satisfy my curiosity. Not a consummate reader of police procedurals, I saw enough in the premise to warrant a look-in, and I’m glad I did.

What was your immediate reaction to the premise of the novel?
I salivated at the prospect of a book which combines two of my favourite things: crime fiction and dead politicians.

I saw satire, murder, and an Aussie setting – enough to interest me. I like books that don’t take themselves too seriously and the premise of DEAD CAT BOUNCE certainly leaned towards it being more tongue-in-cheek than hardnosed police procedural.

The central character in Dead Cat Bounce is young-ish Detective Darren Glass. Did you like him? Hate him? Find him compelling?

I liked the fact that Darren is not in the ‘so psychologically damaged it’s hard to get out of bed’ mould of crime fiction investigator and is basically a well-adjusted, fully functional human being with awesome MacGyver-like skills. The blunders he makes during the case (e.g. letting something important slip to a political blogger during an interview) give him credibility. Perversely though I did not find him terribly compelling…I never felt any lingering worry about what was happening to him when I had to put the book down as I do sometimes with characters who get under my skin. This makes me wonder if I actually do prefer the psychologically damaged characters after all.

I liked Glass more than I thought I would. His stumbling, blundering detective style, while not endearing, was a quality that made him more human than a traditional Detective (a generalisation I know). He came across as someone who lets his emotions lead him – thankfully this premise serves a purpose throughout the course of the novel and doesn’t become all-consuming in dictating his every action. I found his personal and professional life blurred the lines to the extent I had trouble distinguishing the two – not a bad thing, I wouldn’t say I found him compelling but was a little something there that other procedurals I’ve read didn’t have.

Did the story maintain your interest? Keep you guessing? Keep you awake at night? What bits did you like most?
Even for me there was a lot of procedural minutiae in the first third of this book. The Minister who was killed had been at a public function prior to her kidnapping and so police have to establish who was there, what everyone did and who they spoke to, who left early and so on. This seemed to drag on a little for me but I suspect people who don’t read as many police procedurals as I do wouldn’t notice or be bothered by this. The pace improved after this though as the action level ramped up. I did think one part of the resolution was telegraphed a little early on but there were enough more well hidden elements to keep me satisfied.

I thought it took a while to get to the good stuff. When thrust into action, Glass and the accompanying characters really took on a life of their own. The murder mystery didn’t keep me awake at night but I did spend the odd minute here and there pondering the person behind it. One thing that stuck out was how well rounded the plot was, I thought Peter Cotton came full circle with his plot devices and characterisation to perfection.

Was the Australian political setting well done?
Absolutely. Everything from the investigative problems caused by one of the key players being the country’s Prime Minister – a legitimately hard to access person – to the sometimes dangerously symbiotic relationship between the Canberra press gallery and their subjects seemed to be spot on. For the politics junkie there is much frivolity to be had in trying to work out which real-world people Cotton’s fictional politicians, journalists and bloggers represent.

A little hard for me to comment on this one as I don’t tend to get involved in politics – I’ll default to Bernadette’s take on this one.

Was there something you particularly liked about DEAD CAT BOUNCE?
The main narrative is broken up with extracts from a blog and TV newsbreaks. These were well done and really added to the authentic sensibility.

I didn’t pick a definitive suspect until relatively late in proceedings – in a murder mystery setting that always scores points. I also liked the blog/newsbreaks to keep the narrative fresh.

Was there anything you really didn’t take to about the book?
I shouldn’t criticise someone for not delivering something they never promised but, for me, the book would have been better with a dash of humour. I often struggle to take politics – and politicians – as seriously as they take themselves and I have an idea that most Australians feel the same way. But this could be me projecting my personal view of the world outwards in a way that is totally wrong.

More satire. I think Peter Cotton touched upon it; more so in a subtle manner than by using blatant overtones.

Who would you recommend the book to?
I suspect the book’s ideal reader is someone who doesn’t read a lot of police procedurals but is reasonably interested in Australian politics. But even if that doesn’t quite describe you I’d think most readers would enjoy this tale.

People who enjoy crime fiction within the Australian setting. While a police procedural it doesn’t feel as typecast as the genre suggests by virtue of its subject matter and lead character in Detective Glass. I think readers who come into this looking for a good time will feel satisfied.

In a nutshell that’s two lots of thumbs up from two readers whose tastes are not generally all that similar, proving the book offers something for everyone. Enjoy.