Review: SIX MINUTES, Petronella McGovern

  • this edition published by Allen & Unwin 2019
  • ISBN 978-1-76087-528-2
  • 424 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

How can a child disappear from under the care of four playgroup mums?

One Thursday morning, Lexie Parker dashes to the shop for biscuits, leaving Bella in the safe care of the other mums in the playgroup.

Six minutes later, Bella is gone.

Police and media descend on the tiny village of Merrigang on the edge of Canberra. Locals unite to search the dense bushland. But as the investigation continues, relationships start to fracture, online hate messages target Lexie, and the community is engulfed by fear.

Is Bella’s disappearance connected to the angry protests at Parliament House? What secrets are the parents hiding? And why does a local teacher keep a photo of Bella in his lounge room?

What happened in those six minutes and where is Bella?

The clock is ticking…

This gripping novel will keep you guessing to the very last twist.

My Take


We all know of cases of young children who have gone missing in Australia and never been found.

Lexie Parker dashes to the shop across the road from the playgroup and returns just over 6 minutes later to find that 3 year old Bella has gone missing. The other 3 mums have not noticed her absence and the other 4 children are unreliable witnesses. This is a mother’s worst nightmare and as the days roll on Lexie feels that it just reinforces what a bad mother she is.

But not everyone is telling the truth about themselves and their background and the reader is required to sift the evidence and to find out their secrets.

The local community rallies to look for Bella through the night, the police are called in, and they are not sure whether one of the parents is not to blame.

Social media is used to spread the word but this also invites the trolls to come out and point the finger at Lexie and her husband.

A really interesting read.

My rating: 4.3

About the author
Petronella McGovern is a writer and editor who grew up on a farm outside Bathurst, NSW. After working in Canberra for a number of years, she now lives on Sydney’s northern beaches with her husband and two children.

Review: THE MOTHER-IN-LAW, Sally Hepworth

Synopsis (Pan Macmillan)

Someone once told me that you have two families in your life – the one you are born into and the one you choose. Yes, you may get to choose your partner, but you don’t choose your mother-in-law. The cackling mercenaries of fate determine it all.

From the moment Lucy met Diana, she was kept at arm’s length. Diana was exquisitely polite, but Lucy knew, even after marrying Oliver, that they’d never have the closeness she’d been hoping for.

But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice, the matriarch of a loving family. Lucy had wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.

That was ten years ago. Now, Diana has been found dead, leaving a suicide note. But the autopsy reveals evidence of suffocation. And everyone in the family is hiding something…

From the bestselling author of The Family Next Door comes a new page-turner about that trickiest of relationships.

My take

Police don’t arrive on your doorstep at dinnertime unless something is wrong.

Diana’s death was not unexpected – she had after all told her family that she had breast cancer but she hadn’t seemed seriously ill, unless you counted the depression that she had suffered from after her husband Tom had died from MND two years earlier. So it is hard to understand why the police want to question her family so often.

Lucy’s relationship with her mother-in-law has not been a comfortable one. Diana believed that her family needed to work hard for what they wanted and she was likely to refuse to give them help unless it suited her. Wealthy at the end of her life, she has worked hard herself and lived through difficult times.

The novel covers the period of about 10 years leading up to her death with glimpses into the past. There are little mysteries cleverly woven into the fabric of the story and it is really not until the end that we have the full story.

This novel is certainly enough to send me looking for another by this author. This one was on the very edge of crime fiction. The crime that has been committed takes a back seat to the issues of the relationships between Diana and her friends and family members. It seems that her other books are mainly about family issues and family ties.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Sally Hepworth has lived around the world, spending extended periods
in Singapore, the UK and Canada, where she worked in event management
and human resources. She is the author of The Secrets of Midwives, The Things We Keep, The Mother’s Promise and The Family Next Door.
Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and children.

Review: THE MISSING PIECES OF SOPHIE McCARTHY, B. M. Carroll

Synopsis (publisher)

She’s the victim.
But is she so innocent?

Sophie McCarthy is known for her determination, ambition and brilliance at work. She’s tough, but only because she wants to get the best out of people.

Aidan Ryan is strong, honourable, and a family man. He’s tough too; the army requires it.

When these two strangers are brought together in a devastating incident, Sophie’s life is left in ruins. Her family wants to see Aidan pay for what he did.

Aidan’s prepared to sacrifice everything – including his marriage and his child – to fix the mess he’s made.

But some things can’t be fixed, and Sophie is not at all what she first appeared . . .

My Take

More a novel of mystery than crime fiction, although there are crimes: physical violence, bullying, and abduction. If I had to pick an element that I think the novel is about: it is about pain, and the effects of stress, the sort of stress created by our modern society.

Aidan and Chloe’s happy family life comes to an abrupt end the day that he swerves out into the traffic without looking and smashes into Sophie McCarthy’s oncoming car. Aiden and Chloe are not significantly injured but Sophie has horrific injuries. Aiden’s feelings of guilt don’t allow him to move on, and his stress leads to the break up of his family.

In another way this story is about the impact of something like a car crash on both sides: the person who causes it, and the person who suffers it.

We hear the story from a multitude of narrators, and sometimes see an event from numerous points of view. This seems to make it all the more mesmerising.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Ber Carroll was born in Blarney, a small village in Ireland. The third child of six, reading was her favourite pastime (and still is!). Ber moved to Sydney in 1995 and spent her early career working in finance. Her work colleagues were speechless when she revealed that she had written a novel that was soon to be published. Ber now writes full time and is the author of eight novels, including Once Lost, Worlds Apart and Less Than Perfect. The Missing Pieces of Sophie McCarthy is her first book published under the name B M Carroll.

Review: LAPSE, Sarah Thornton

  • This edition published by Text Publishing 2019
  • ISBN 9-781925-773941
  • 293 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

All it took was a lapse…a momentary lapse…to bring Clementine Jones’ world crashing down. Now she’s living like a hermit in small-town Katinga, coaching the local footy club. She’s supposed to be lying low, but here she is, with her team on the cusp of their first premiership in fifty years—and the whole bloody town counting on her, cheering her on.

So why the hell would her star player quit on the eve of the finals?

It’s a question she wishes she’d left alone. Others are starting to ask questions too—questions about her. Clem’s not the only one with a secret, and as tension builds, the dark violence just below the town’s surface threatens to erupt. Pretty soon there’ll be nowhere left for Clem to hide.

My take

This is a rare novel in Australian crime fiction: set in the Australian footy world (rural AFL) and resonating with elements footy followers are familiar with: among them an Aboriginal player who quits mid season.

Clem Jones lives on the outskirts of a small Victorian town and she has brought the local footy team from bottom last year to the brink of a premiership. Last year the team members were no-hopers and some of them still are, but she has raised their level of fitness and they walk tall in their town. Clem is very secretive about her background but the reader is given clues about where she has been.

Clancy is a vital part of her team and then he tells her he has to quit but he won’t say why. At the same time he loses his job, and Clem takes it upon herself to find out why.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and look forward to the next in the series.

My rating: 4.7

About the author

Sarah cast off the lines to her law career not long after being awarded Australian Corporate Lawyer of the Year in 2016. She now lives with her husband aboard a 43-foot sailing catamaran, exploring this most magnificent blue planet and chasing an endless summer. She took up writing novels as a way to liberate her imagination after twenty years in the structured confines of legal and corporate life. Her debut novel, Lapse, is the first of a series featuring former corporate lawyer Clementine Jones.

Review: SILVER, Chris Hammer

  • format: kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1958 KB
  • Print Length: 444 pages
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin (October 1, 2019)
  • Publication Date: October 1, 2019
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07TNHDYBG

Synopsis (Amazon)

For half a lifetime, journalist Martin Scarsden has run from his past. But now there is no escaping.

He’d vowed never to return to his hometown, Port Silver, and its traumatic memories. But now his new partner, Mandy Blonde, has inherited an old house in the seaside town and Martin knows their chance of a new life together won’t come again.

Martin arrives to find his best friend from school days has been brutally murdered, and Mandy is the chief suspect. With the police curiously reluctant to pursue other suspects, Martin goes searching for the killer. And finds the past waiting for him.

He’s making little progress when a terrible new crime starts to reveal the truth. The media descend on Port Silver, attracted by a story that has it all: sex, drugs, celebrity and religion. Once again, Martin finds himself in the front line of reporting.

Yet the demands of deadlines and his desire to clear Mandy are not enough: the past is ever present.

My Take

Set in a fictional seaside town on the New South Wales northern coast, this novel seems to have a bit of everything. An undeveloped coastal retreat with a number of people with big ideas on how to make money, a swami taking advantage of the secludedness, others who enjoy the backwater nature of their home town. It starts with a murder and then follows with something even worse.

The plot has a number of complex threads and the book is definitely a sequel to the first Martin Scarsden novel, SCRUBLANDS for which the author recently won a CWA Dagger. However I felt my reading of SILVER was hampered by the fact that I seem to have forgotten some of the lesser threads of SCRUBLANDS. So, if you are wondering if you can read SILVER as a stand-alone, then the answer is probably no.

But Chris Hammer is obviously a writer to follow. The setting has a strong Australian flavour, and the main character Martin Scarsden is nicely flawed.

And will there be a sequel to SILVER? I’m not sure, unless Martin Scarsden becomes involved in an entirely new case. In this novel we learnt a lot about his past, his relationship with Mandy Blonde definitely went through some rocky times, so where now?

My rating: 4.4

I’ve also read
4.7, SCRUBLANDS

Review: THE AUTUMN MURDERS, Robert Gott

  • this edition published by Scribe Publications 2019
  • ISBN 978-1-925713-46-6
  • 263 pages
  • source: review copy from publisher

Synopsis (Scribe Publications)

The series that began with The Holiday Murders and The Port Fairy Murders now continues with The Autumn Murders …

In the autumn of 1944, George Starling prepares to exact revenge on the person he hates most in the world (and Starling has a long list of people he hates), Detective Joe Sable of the Melbourne Homicide division. Driven by his dark passion for Nazism, Starling is going to make sure that nothing and no one will stand in his way and survive.

Homicide is in turmoil. Riven by internal divisions and disrupted by the war, it has become a dangerous place for Joe to work. Constable Helen Lord, suspended from her position in Homicide, and battling grief, is also in Starling’s sights. Knowing that Inspector Titus Lambert can’t protect them from Starling’s ruthless aim, Helen and Joe decide to set their own trap. But when the trap is sprung, who will be caught in it?

The Autumn Murders is a stylish, historical whodunit, written with wit and insight into the dark corners where the worst of us hides.

My take

This is the third book in a series, and I had read only the second.

The setting is Melbourne 1944. Detective Joe Sable of the Melbourne Homicide division is a Jew and has already paid a penalty for that status in a severe beating at the hands of George Starling and an arson attack on his flat. News of how Hitler is treating Jews in Europe is filtering into Australia but the average citizen finds it very hard to believe.

Although there is a shortage of good detectives there is little belief that women can make good police officers or detectives and already Constable Helen Lord has been suspended from Homicide. Most of the men staffing Homicide are hardly the cream of the crop although Inspector Titus Lambert is a good policeman and a good administrator.

Recognising talent in Joe Sable, Lambert has promoted him to Sergeant causing resentment among other detectives.

And now a prominent Melbourne business man, Peter Lillee is dead, apparently murdered.

For those who haven’t read the earlier two books in the series, the author has provided helpful plot summaries to bring you up to scratch. Be sure to read them.

I thought this book took a little while to get going but then I thoroughly enjoyed it. It brought home to me many effects of the war on Australian society.

My rating: 4.5

I’ve also read
4.4, THE PORT FAIRY MURDERS

Review: THE SCHOLAR, Dervla McTiernan

  • this edition published by Harper Collins 2019
  • ISBN 978-14607-5422-1
  • 360 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

Being brilliant has never been this dangerous …

When Dr Emma Sweeney stumbles across the victim of a hit and run outside Galway University late one evening, she calls her partner, Detective Cormac Reilly, bringing him first to the scene of a murder that would otherwise never have been assigned to him. A security card in the dead woman’s pocket identifies her as Carline Darcy, a gifted student and heir apparent to Irish pharmaceutical giant Darcy Therapeutics. The multi-billion-dollar company, founded by her grandfather, has a finger in every pie, from sponsoring university research facilities to funding political parties to philanthropy – it has funded Emma’s own ground-breaking research. The enquiry into Carline’s death promises to be high profile and high pressure.

As Cormac investigates, evidence mounts that the death is linked to a Darcy laboratory and, increasingly, to Emma herself. Cormac is sure she couldn’t be involved, but as his running of the case comes under scrutiny from the department and his colleagues, he is forced to question his own objectivity. Could his loyalty to Emma have led him to overlook evidence? Has it made him a liability?

My take

This novel leaps from one complexity to another.

Detective Cormac Reilly has spent the last year on the back burner, investigating cold cases at least 30 years old and now his boss has just decided to allow him to take on the Henderson case, where a manipulative husband planned to kill his wife and children. He is not sure why Murphy has allowed him to take over the case, maybe so he can trip over his own shoe laces.

So the hit and run death outside Galway University is not at first his case, but eventually there is a reshuffle of case loads and it comes to him.

The first discovery is that the person whom they think the victim is, is very much alive and so the body needs to be identified. Even though she is carrying Carline Darcy’s swipe pass, Carline says she does on know her. There is some doubt about whether Cormac should be investigating this case because his girlfriend discovered the body. But Emma is cleared of involvement although some in the investigating team insist on referring to her as “the suspect”.

Cormac is not really sure of who in his team will not undermine him, and loyalties become very important as the case progresses.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.8

I’ve also read
4.8, THE RUIN

Review: THE CHAIN, Adrian McKinty

  • this edition published by Hachette Australia 2019
  • ISBN 978-0-7336-4251-7
  • 357 pages
  • source: review copy from publisher

Synopsis (publisher)

VICTIM. KIDNAPPER. CRIMINAL. YOU WILL BECOME EACH ONE.

The morning starts like any other. Rachel Klein drops her daughter, Kylie, at the bus stop and heads into her day. But then a phone call changes everything. A woman has Kylie bound and gagged in her back seat, and the only way Rachel will ever see her again is if she pays a ransom – and kidnaps another child. The caller is a mother herself, whose son has also been abducted, and if Rachel doesn’t do exactly as she’s told, both children will die. Rachel is now part of a terrifying scheme – The Chain.

The rules are simple: find the money, find your victim, and then commit a horrible act you’d have thought yourself incapable of just 24 hours ago. Rachel is an ordinary woman, but over the coming days she will be pushed beyond ordinary limits to save her daughter. What the anonymous masterminds behind The Chain know is that parents will do anything for their children. But what they don’t know is that they may have met their match.

Can Rachel be the one person to finally break The Chain?

#DONTBREAKTHECHAIN

My Take

We all remember those chain letters from childhood.  My parents always told us to burn them, not to do whatever they are asked you to do. I always had a little bit of fear about what retribution might be wreaked on me if I broke the chain. And surely the people who sent me the letter were my friends and could be trusted?

The first half of the book deals with Rachel’s case. All she knows for sure is that someone has taken her daughter Kylie from the bus stop. There is a ransom to be paid and then Rachel has to kidnap someone-else’s child and Kylie will not be released until the ransom for that child has been paid. There are rules about who Rachel can contact, the ransom has to be paid into a bit-coin account, and the whole process might take at least 4 or 5 days. And if things don’t happen to schedule then the ransom might be raised. Once Rachel has completed paying the ransom then she must seach for another victim. Meantime she is occasionally contacted by people who have been earlier links in the chain, to reassure her that she will get Kylie back if she plays by the rules.

People in the Chain are linked together by their need to keep their own children alive. The person who has taken Kylie is still waiting for her son to be returned, and that won’t happen until Rachel completes both steps in the process: paid the ransom, and kidnapped a child herself.

Once she has Kylie back then Rachel begins to think about who the monsters are started the Chain.

An engrossing read, a real page turner, but very noir. It may not be your cup of tea.
The book has the reader asking questions of yourself.

My rating: 4.8

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)

About the author
Adrian McKinty was born and grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland during the Troubles of the 1970s and 1980s. His father was a boilermaker and ship’s engineer and his mother a secretary. Adrian went to Oxford University on a full scholarship to study philosophy before emigrating to the United States to become a high school English teacher. His debut crime novel Dead I Well May Be was shortlisted for the 2004 Dagger Award and was optioned by Universal Pictures. His books have won the Edgar Award, the Ned Kelly Award, the Anthony Award, the Barry Award and have been translated into over 20 languages. Adrian is a reviewer and critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Irish Times and The Guardian. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

Review: 55, James Delargy

  • this edition published by Simon and Schuster UK 2019
  • ISBN: 978-14-7118-463-5
  • 423 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

There were 54 victims before this. Who is number 55? A thriller with a killer hook, and an ending that will make you gasp!

Wilbrook in Western Australia is a sleepy, remote town that sits on the edge of miles and miles of unexplored wilderness. It is home to Police Sergeant Chandler Jenkins, who is proud to run the town’s small police station, a place used to dealing with domestic disputes and noise complaints.

All that changes on a scorching day when an injured man stumbles into Chandler’s station. He’s covered in dried blood. His name is Gabriel. He tells Chandler what he remembers.
He was drugged and driven to a cabin in the mountains and tied up in iron chains. The man who took him was called Heath. Heath told Gabriel he was going to be number 55. His 55th victim.

Heath is a serial killer.

As a manhunt is launched, a man who says he is Heath walks into the same station. He tells Chandler he was taken by a man named Gabriel. Gabriel told Heath he was going to be victim 55.

Gabriel is the serial killer.

Two suspects. Two identical stories. Which one is the truth?

James Delargy has written one of the most exciting debuts of 2019. He masterfully paints the picture of a remote Western Australian town and its people, swallowed whole by the hunt for a serial killer.

My Take

Two stories are told in tandem. One from the present and one from ten years ago.

In the story from ten years ago a young man is missing in the bush and two very new policemen are heading the search party in the rough country near Wilbrook.

Now, ten years on, one of the policemen is the Sergeant at the Wilbrook station when a an injured man arrives, claiming to have been captured and imprisoned by a serial killer. Two days later another man turns up with the same story.

The second policeman is now the Inspector at the Port Headland station and he and his officers turn up to take on the investigation at Wilbrook. There is a lot of animosity between the two, largely stemming from their experiences ten years before.

This novel reads as if the author is Australian and I was surprised to realise that he is not.

I have included the review here because of the setting.
A good read.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
James Delargy was born and raised in Ireland and lived in South Africa, Australia and Scotland, before ending up in semi-rural England where he now lives. He incorporates this diverse knowledge of towns, cities, landscape and culture picked up on his travels into his writing. 55 is his first novel.

Review: GOOD GIRL BAD GIRL, Michael Robotham

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 746 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (July 23, 2019)
  • Publication Date: July 23, 2019
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07NLDBCD4

Synopsis (Amazon)

The girl with no past.

Six years ago, Evie Cormac was discovered, filthy and half-starved, hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a shocking crime. Now approaching adulthood, Evie is damaged, self-destructive and has never revealed her true identity.

The boy who survived.

Forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven, a man haunted by his own past, is investigating the death of champion figure-skater Jodie Sheehan. When Cyrus is called upon to assess Evie, she threatens to disrupt the case and destroy his ordered life. Because Evie has a unique and dangerous gift – she knows when someone is lying. And nobody is telling the truth.

My take

We seem to have waited a while for another offering by Robotham but I don’t think readers will be disappointed.

Robotham has moved away from the Joe O’Loughlin series and it remains to be revealed whether this is the beginning of a new series.

The new novel is set in Nottingham.
The body of young Jodie Sheehan has been found murdered. Jodie was a figure skater apparently headed for the Olympics. Cyrus Haven attempts to profile the sort of person involved in Jodie’s death. The police quickly come up with a suspect, but things don’t quite jell for Cyrus. Cyrus asks question about Jodie which others have been reluctant to ask.

The second major plot line is the story of Angel Face, the little girl found six years earlier hiding in a house with the dead body of a man who had been tortured. She has refused to tell the police her real name or her age, but now she claims to be nearly 18, and that she should be released from institution she is living in. Cyrus is asked to assess her for potential release.

The plot lines progress together, each adding to the other, with new sub-plots giving the whole novel depth. And then the major lines cross each other.

A really good read full of twists and turns. Even half-way through I really couldn’t tell where we were headed.

My rating: 4.8

I have 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