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

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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

Review: THE DAY THE LIES BEGAN, Kylie Kaden

  • NB Book not released until August 19, 2019 – available for pre-order
  • source: Netgalley
  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2208 KB
  • Print Length: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Pantera Press (August 19, 2019)
  • Publication Date: August 19, 2019
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07SMBVNDB

Synopsis  (Amazon)

‘It seemed simple at first – folding one lie over the next. She had become expert at feathering over the cracks to ensure her life appeared the same. But inside, it didn’t feel fixed.’

It happened the day of the Moon Festival. It could have been left behind, they all could have moved on with their lives. But secrets have a habit of rising to the surface, especially in small towns.

Two couples, four ironclad friendships, the perfect coastal holiday town. With salt-stung houses perched like lifeguards overlooking the shore, Lago Point is the scene of postcards, not crime scenes. Wife and mother Abbi, town cop Blake, schoolteacher Hannah and local doctor Will are caught in their own tangled webs of deceit.

When the truth washes in to their beachside community, so do the judgements: victim, or vigilante, who will forgive, who will betray? Not all relationships survive. Nor do all residents.

My take

Abbi and foster brother Blake have a secret that dominates the first half of this book. We are not sure what it is – several alternatives are on offer – but it is something they shouldn’t have done, something that will devastate those close to them, and something that will destroy them both if it becomes known. But they both doubt their ability to keep it hidden.

It turns out that even though they didn’t know it these families have lived with lies and secrets all their lives. Once Abbi and Blake’s big secret is “out” nothing is the same.

The structure of the novel is quite confusing at the beginning and then intriguing as the setting swaps between the present and the day and night of the Moon Festival.

My rating: 4.4

About the author:
Since being plucked from the Random House slushpile, Brisbane writer Kylie Kaden is now an internationally published author of women’s fiction (when she’s not wrangling her sticky brood of boys). Kylie followed her breakthrough debut Losing Kate, with another critically acclaimed suspenseful read, Missing You, in 2015.

Review: RIVER OF SALT, Dave Warner

  • this book published by Fremantle Press 2019
  • ISBN 9-781925-591569
  • 246 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Publisher)

1961, Philadelphia. After having to give up his brother to save his own life, hitman Blake Saunders flees the Mob and seeks refuge on the other side of the world. Two years later he has been reborn in a tiny coastal Australian town. The ghosts of the past still haunt him, but otherwise Coral Shoals is paradise. Blake surfs, and plays guitar in his own bar, the Surf Shack.

But then the body of a young woman is found at a local motel, and evidence links her to the Surf Shack. When Blake’s friend is arrested, and the local sergeant doesn’t want to know, it becomes clear to Blake – who knows a thing or two about murder – that the only way to protect his paradise is to find the killer.

My Take

Blake Saunders fled to Australia, deserting his older brother Jimmy, a fact that is still raw in his mind.
He is forever alert to the fact that the Mob he escaped might still track him down and so he watches strangers with suspicion.

The novel is set in 1963, in coastal New South Wales where Blake has set up a bar which feeds off the surf culture of the remote town it is set in. He is on good terms with the local police sergeant, and they look after each other.

The quiet is disrupted when a murder takes place and city police move in to put everyone under a microscope. Blake is none too keen to have his own background investigated. At the same time two men appear, operating a “protection” racket, providing insurance against injury and arson attacks. Blake knows exactly what they are offering. The local police sergeant is not able to help much, but Blake knows he can handle this problem himself.

This was a good read, an engaging plot.

This is the first novel I have read by Dave Warner, but I’m sure it won’t be the last.

My rating: 4.7

About the author
Dave Warner is an author, musician and screenwriter. His first novel City of Light won the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award for Fiction, and Before it Breaks (2015) the Ned Kelly Award for best Australian crime fiction. His latest novel Clear to the Horizon features the lead characters from both these books. Dave Warner originally came to national prominence with his gold album Mug’s Game, and his band Dave Warner’s from the Suburbs. In 2017 he released his tenth album When. He has been named a Western Australian State Living Treasure and has been inducted into the WAMi Rock’n’Roll of Renown.
Awards
Ned Kelly Award for Best Crime Fiction (Longlisted 2018)
International DUBLIN Literary Award 2019 (Longlisted 2018)
Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction (Winner 2016)
Western Australian Premier’s Book Award (Co-winner 1996)

Review: THE BANK TELLER, Roger Monk

  • this edition published by Horizon Publishing Group 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-922238-74-0
  • 361 pages
  • #3 in “Bank” series
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Amazon)

A top executive dies suddenly.
An accident?
A murder?
An inside job?
Hundreds of suited suspects in one city office.
Detective Sergeant Brian Shaw is recalled from Yorke Peninsula.
From sleepy country town to throbbing city throngs,
clashing personalities, old scores to be settled, frustrated ambitions, jealousies, and something new:  female tellers.
A hotbed of suspicions from managing director to tea lady.
And who started the rumour that one of the tellers may be involved?
Why?  Who?
Know why and you may know who!

My Take

This is #3 in the series based in Adelaide around 1950, focussed around Detective Brian Shaw. A real treat for South Australian readers in particular, but really for all who reflect on how things have changed in the last seven decades.

The novel is a delightful mix of fact and fiction. During the second World War women were allowed to take on the role of tellers in various banks and some were so good at it that they remained in place after the men returned from the services.The fictional Great Southern Bank has branches not only in South Australia but in most of the eastern states. It’s Managers and tellers have been moved around from city to country and vice versa and many are fiercely loyal to the bank.

Like many of its competitors the GSB has been looking for that investment that will give it “the edge” and, as a result, now has a problem that, so far, only its Board is aware of.

A beautifully written, quite complex, story which starts with a murder when the General Manager, Staff, is literally booted down the grand marble staircase and dies as a consequence.

Detective Brian Shaw, who has had dealings with the GSB in the past, is brought back to Adelaide from Yorke Peninsular to solve the puzzle.  And within days there is a second murder.

A highly recommended read.

My rating: 4.7

I also recommend
4.8, THE BANK INSPECTOR #1
4.8, THE BANK MANAGER #2

Review: ALL OUR SECRETS, Jennifer Lane

Synopsis (publisher)

A girl called Gracie.

A small town called Coongahoola with the dark Bagooli River running through it.

The Bleeders — hundreds of ‘Believers’ who set up on the banks of the river, who start to buy up the town and win souls.

The River Children
— born in the aftermath of the infamous River Picnic. They begin to go missing, one after another.

Gracie Barrett is the naively savvy spokesperson for her chaotic family (promiscuous dad, angry mum, twins Lucky and Grub, Elijah the River Child and fervent, prayerful Grandma Bett), for the kids who are taken, for the lurking fear that locks down the town and puts everyone under suspicion.

Gracie is funny and kind, bullied and anguished, and her life spirals out of control when she discovers she knows what no one else does: who is responsible for the missing children.

Coongahoola is where hope and fear collide, where tender adolescence is confronted by death, where kindness is a glimmer of light in the dark.

My Take

Gracie Barrett, the central figure in this novel, reminded me a lot of Scout Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird. In fact at one stage Gracie is reading the book. In some senses Gracie has a wisdom beyond her years, and in other ways she is naive in her acceptance of what is happening in the adult world. There is a deceptive complexity to this plot.

The first mystery to solve is what actually happened on the night of the River Picnic. And then, as the River Children born in its aftermath, begin to go missing and are then are discovered murdered, what is the thread that connects them? Why are these murders happening, what has triggered them after 8 years?

The town of Coongahoola is divided with the arrival of Saint Bede and his followers, and the followers become easy scapegoats to blame for the murders. Gracie is particularly affected when he mother and father breakup, her mother leaves home, and is then chosen by Saint Bede to be his 4th wife. Through all Grandma Bett provides much needed stability, but still the murders happen.

And then Gracie unwittingly identifies the murderer.

Have you ever wondered what would have happened if Boo Radley had been bad?

My rating: 4.5

In 1995, doubled over under the enormous weight of her backpack (lugging a 10kg laptop among other things), Jennifer Lane left Australia to satisfy her curiosity about the rest of the world – and to fulfil her dream of writing a novel. Twenty-two years, one husband and two daughters later, her mum has finally given up asking when she’s coming home.

For two decades now, Jennifer has lived in Wellington, New Zealand with the aforementioned family. She was a winner of New Zealand Book Month’s Six Pack 2 writing competition in 2007 and her short stories have appeared in publications on both sides of the Tasman, including Southerly and Island.

It took a little longer than she planned, but ALL OUR SECRETS is her first novel.

Her website and blog are at: jenniferlane.co.nz

Review: THE MARRIAGE CLUB, Kate Legge

  • this edition published in 2009 by Penguin Australia
  • ISBN 978-0-670-07298-9
  • 292 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Penguin Australia)

On Monday, Leith Kremmer’s book-club friends meet in her lounge room, catch up on each other’s lives, and indulge in her elegant champagne supper. Upstairs, Leith’s husband George practises his golf swing. The next morning Leith is dead, under suspicious circumstances.

One week later, George, a family-court judge, has delved into his marriage – including Leith’s long-held secrets, and his own – in a desperate attempt to comprehend her death. And Leith’s friends, in examining their own marriages, have emerged far from unscathed. Was Leith the charming ally they thought they knew? And do they really know their own partners?

The Marriage Club takes place over the course of one tumultuous week. As everyone begins to tease out the truth, they are finally able to let down their guards and be their real selves. If only they could have done so earlier . . .
‘A novel of secrets and lies, [where] illusions are shattered in the most fascinating way.’

My Take

We are not at all sure that a crime has been committed. Certainly a death has occurred.

Leith Kremmer’s friends meeting at their monthly book club think she is very chipper. She even has champagne for them, but none suspect the secrets she has kept. In a way they have all kept secrets and Leith’s death has a domino effect. The police begin an investigation, interviewing both the members of the book club and their husbands. Leith’s mobile phone hints at the tip of an iceberg.

Marriages aren’t always what they seem, and sometimes it doesn’t take much for them shred.

An excellent read, with the answer to that final question held to the very end.

My rating: 4.8

About the author
Kate Legge writes for The Weekend Australian Magazine. She has covered politics and social affairs in Australia and America. She has published two novels: The Unexpected Elements of Love (long listed for the Miles Franklin Award) and The Marriage Club.