Review: KILL SHOT, Garry Disher

  • this edition published by Text Publishing 2018
  • ISBN 9-781925-773224
  • 242 pages
  • Wyatt #9
  • source: my local library
  • for US readers: available on Kindle

Synopsis (Good Reads)

The latest gripping story in the popular Wyatt thriller series kicks off in Sydney and then unfolds on the beaches of Newcastle.

Some people just work better alone. Wyatt’s one of them. He’s been getting by on nice quiet little burglaries—one-man jobs—when he gets wind of something bigger.

A corporate crook, notorious Ponzi schemer, set to face court and certain jail time. He’s about to skip bail the old-fashioned way: on a luxury yacht with a million dollars in cash.

Wyatt thinks it sounds like something he should get into.

He’s not alone.

My Take

Most of Wyatt’s recent jobs have been brokered by a day-release prisoner named Sam Kramer. Through his daughter Kramer passes on information he has gleaned from other prison inmates.  As a result Wyatt relieves people of their valuables, mainly through burglary, passes them on to a fence, and puts a commission into an safety deposit box for Kramer, keeping the remainder for himself. Periodically Kramer’s daughter contacts him to let him know the family needs some money. It works well.

Wyatt is a cautious, yet confident man, careful to remain anonymous, leaving nothing his victims can identify him by, and watchful for signs that he has been noticed. He thinks back over what he’s done, looking for errors.

The weak link in the scheme is Kramer’s son who passes Wyatt’s name on to someone else who like to cash in on the jobs that Wyatt is doing.

There are a couple of linked stories in this novel: a Ponzi scheme operator planning to skip the country with about a million dollars, and a couple from South Australia who’ve stolen a luxury boat.
Wyatt gets information about the first from Kramer. Looks like it might be easy pickings if he can work out where the Ponzi scheme money is.

There definitely an Australian flavour to this novel. And some how you forget that Wyatt is on the wrong side of the law.

My rating: 4.7

I’ve also read (not all are Wyatt series novels)
4.7, WYATT
4.8, WHISPERING DEATH
4.7, BLOOD MOON
4.2, THE HEAT
4.5, SIGNAL LOSS
4.7, HER
4.9, UNDER THE COLD BRIGHT LIGHTS

Advertisements

Review: THE EMPTY BEACH, Peter Corris

‘The Empty Beach’ by Peter Corris

Peter Corris Cliff Hardy Banner 01

“The Empty Beach” is about private investigator Cliff Hardy’s routine investigation into a supposed drowning.  Beautiful client Marion Singer wants to find out the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of her wealthy husband John Singer.

The truth about John Singer, illegal trader and poker machine guru, is hard to find among the drug addicts, alcoholics and ashrams of Bondi Beach in Sydney.  Not to mention the hindrance of PhD rich girl Ann Winter and creepy jailer Mary Mahoud.  Hardy soon finds himself fighting for his life when his search for the truth involves some nasty venues controlled by an underworld of violent people and lead by kingpin Freddy Ward who does not appreciate his inquisitive nature.

Being an earlier novel, Hardy is ex-army, a law student dropout, insurance company investigator turned private eye who lives by a solid set of values.  And he’s seen many gruesome murders in his time.  Throughout Hardy shows understanding and tolerance of people from all walks of life, he embraces the city sprawl and the rural ethos, and doesn’t start a fight.  But he can be tough and not play nice when it comes to his own survival.  He has a habit, when in a tight situation, of jesting at the bad guy’s expense and consequently coping a beating.  This is well illustrated in the chapter where Hardy is imprisoned inside a squash court.

Crime Scene Tape 08

My suggestion is read “The Dying Trade” the first Cliff Hardy book in Peter Corris 40+ series even though a later book “The Empty Beach” was made into an Australian movie in 1985 and remains his archetypal crime story.  Based on Peter Corris 1983 novel of the same name, this movie starred Bryan Brown as Cliff Hardy and such notables as Belinda Giblin, Ray Barrett, John Wood, Joss McWilliam and Nick Tate as the ill-fated Henneberry.

While you may like to read the more current books like “Silent Kill” (above) the earlier ones are classic Australia in the 80s and 90s and my favourite is “Wet Graves”.  They have changed with the times, think internet and iPhones, and contain physical changes to Cliff Hardy at the same time they happened to the author.  For example, smoking habits or the triple bypass heart surgery Peter Corris underwent and kindly passed on to Cliff Hardy.  The relationship breakdowns do not appear to apply too much to real life.  However, the easy-going narrative speaks volumes, both men having a genuine affection for their family, the city of Sydney, and its diverse citizenry.

Now I’ve got that out of the way, let me say that one of the most enduring (and for me, best loved) of Australian crime fiction characters is Cliff Hardy.

Fast forward to future ‘Spoilers’ and Hardy is deregistered and operates on his own initiative but still maintains a rock-solid sense of fair play in the 21st century.  To date, Hardy’s longtime friend Frank Parker is now a retired senior police officer and married to Hilde, Hardy’s ex flatmate.  The reader watches this friendship evolve through a chain of novels and it’s just as interesting as following Hardy’s love life and family expansion.  Although he still holds a torch for his ex-wife Cyn.  And there’s cameos from characters like tattooist Primo Tomasetti with his graphic artwork and sleazy patter.

Cliff Hardy represents the kind of bloke many law-abiding citizens would like to have on their side, a blemish yet dependable man who’d share a joke or reminisce over a cold beverage.  When it comes to Aussie mystery solving, Hardy gets my vote every time.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward – copied from Gretchen’s blog Thoughts Become Words with her kind permission

Empty Beach
Beachside

review: THE BOTANIST’S DAUGHTER, Kayte Nunn

Synopsis (publisher)

Discovery. Desire. Deception. A wondrously imagined tale of two female botanists, separated by more than a century, in a race to discover a life-saving flower . . .

In Victorian England, headstrong adventuress Elizabeth takes up her late father’s quest for a rare, miraculous plant. She faces a perilous sea voyage, unforeseen dangers and treachery that threatens her entire family.

In present-day Australia, Anna finds a mysterious metal box containing a sketchbook of dazzling watercolours, a photograph inscribed ‘Spring 1886’ and a small bag of seeds. It sets her on a path far from her safe, carefully ordered life, and on a journey that will force her to face her own demons.

In this spellbinding botanical odyssey of discovery, desire and deception, Kayte Nunn has so exquisitely researched nineteenth-century Cornwall and Chile you can almost smell the fragrance of the flowers, the touch of the flora on your fingertips . . .

My Take

The novel is a romantic mystery, not my usual fare of crime fiction: written with a dual time frame, with over a century between them.

Anna is renovating a house in Paddington in Sydney, left to her by her grandmother when the builders find some intriguing objects sealed up in the wall. Anna has a gardening business, and has a “botanical” background. Intrigued by what she has found she tries to find out something about their provenance. As she reaches back in history, so the other narrative in the story reaches forward.

The second chapter takes us to Cornwall in 1886, where, at Trebithick Hall, Elizabeth’s dying father requests that she goes to Chile, to carry out a task that he had intended to do himself.

The two narratives are interlaced throughout and gradually Anna pieces together a family history that she had no idea about.

A good read.

My rating: 4.5

About the author (website)

Kayte Nunn is a former book and magazine editor, and the author of two contemporary novels, ROSE’S VINTAGE and ANGEL’S SHARE. THE BOTANIST’S DAUGHTER was Kayte’s first novel of transporting historical fiction, followed by THE FORGOTTEN LETTERS OF ESTHER DURRANT, set largely in the atmospheric Isles of Scilly.

I now live in the Northern Rivers of NSW and am also a mother to two girls. When not writing, reading or ferrying them around I can be found in the kitchen, procrasti-baking.

I love nothing more than a generous slice of warm cake, a cup of tea, a comfortable place to sit and a good book to read!

Review: PRESERVATION, Jock Serong

Synopsis (publisher)

Preservation, based on the true story of the wreck of the Sydney Cove, sees master storyteller Jock Serong turn his talents to historical narrative.

On a beach not far from the isolated settlement of Sydney in 1797, a fishing boat picks up three shipwreck survivors, distressed and terribly injured. They have walked hundreds of miles across a landscape whose features—and inhabitants—they have no way of comprehending. They have lost fourteen companions along the way. Their accounts of the ordeal are evasive.

It is Lieutenant Joshua Grayling’s task to investigate the story. He comes to realise that those fourteen deaths were contrived by one calculating mind and, as the full horror of the men’s journey emerges, he begins to wonder whether the ruthless killer poses a danger to his own family.

My take

Told by 5 main narrators, with the reader often having to determine the identity of the narrator through the content, and written as part of a PhD in Creative Writing, Jock Serong brings to life a little known episode in the early history of the colony of New South Wales.

The Sydney Cove has come from India via a route that takes her around the western most tip of the continent, down the western side of Van Diemen’s Land, and then up the eastern coast of the island, only to be wrecked in what would become known as Bass Strait. The boat has a valuable cargo of rum and tea which are stored on Preservation Island when the crew takes to the long boat only to be wrecked again on the southern coast of New South Wales.  (A lovely set of maps has been provided to orientate the reader)

Those from the wrecked long boat, 17 of them, begin the walk to Sydney Harbour, over 500 miles to the north, but only 3 arrive. One of the Europeans keeps a journal but it is obvious from the re-telling of the tale once they reach Sydney Harbour that each of the survivors has seen the events very differently.

An interesting story, graphically told.

My rating: 4.8

I’ve also read
5.0, THE RULES OF BACKYARD CRICKET
5.0, ON THE JAVA RIDGE

Review: THE ONES YOU TRUST, Caroline Overington

Synopsis (publisher)

Emma Cardwell, celebrity mum and host of top-rating morning TV show Cuppa, seems to have it all: fame, money and a gorgeous family. But when her little girl disappears from day-care – captured on CCTV footage at a nearby shopping centre leaving with someone Emma has never seen before – her world is turned upside down.

As the minutes tick by, and pressure mounts, every part of Emma’s life comes under examination. Is this a kidnapping, the work of a crazed stalker, or an obsessed fan? Is
somebody out for revenge or is this something closer to home?

And there is the aching question: how much do we really know about those who
care for our children . . . and about the people we love?

My Take

When Emma arrives home after a long day she finds that her husband has forgotten to collect their young daughter from child care. But it is now 8 pm so where is Fox? Why hasn’t anybody from the child care centre contacted her?

The police are called in and despite their best efforts to keep the news low key the television station that Emma works for takes over the management of the publicity. Fox’s disappearance turns out to be a publicity bonanza as PJ, Emma’s colleague on the morning show, head up a live presentation that focusses on Fox’s recovery.

The book has the reader guessing who has been responsible for the kidnapping, perhaps even Emma herself, and the story twists and turns almost unpredictably. I certainly didn’t forsee the final explanation.

The story takes an almost cynical look at what goes on in the television industry to keep programmes alive, presenters attractive and popular, and fresh stories coming.

My rating: 4.7

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

Review: DEAD HEAT, Peter Cotton

  • this edition published by Scribe Publications 2018
  • #2 in the Darren Glass series
  • source: review copy from publisher
  • ISBN 978-1-923713-42-8
  • 299 pages

Synopsis (publisher)

Detective Darren Glass is back, and the stakes are higher than ever.

When the battered body of a young Aboriginal woman washes up onto a beach at Jervis Bay, Australian Federal Police Detective Darren Glass is brought in from Canberra to investigate. Glass quickly ties the murder to the disappearance of a sailor from the nearby naval base, and is forced to partner up with a senior intelligence officer from the Royal Australian Navy.

Together they follow the trail of evidence to the red heart of Australia, where a confrontation with outlaw bikies and Aboriginal activists proves deadly. As the body count mounts and foreign links emerge, the conspiracy at the heart of the case becomes a threat to Australia’s national security, as well as regional peace.

My take

This thriller can hold its head up on the international stage. Cotton spins a plausible tale, with Australia the object of fine balance in international politics and under threat from its neighbours.

A dead body on territory theoretically under the jurisdiction of the Australian Federal Police sparks an investigation. The AFP detective Darren Glass finds that he is not actually in control, and will be shadowed by someone appointed by the Navy. In the background is the story of his girlfriend Jean a journalist who has disappeared in upheavals in Indonesia.

A second theme is the underlying resentment that Aboriginal activists are harbouring against the white domination.

This novel brings together current themes in the Australian psyche.

My rating: 4.6

I’ve also reviewed 4.8, DEAD CAT BOUNCE

About the author

Review: TRULY MADLY GUILTY, Liane Moriarty

Synopsis (Pan Macmillan Australia)

What’s meant to be a relaxed backyard barbeque splits apart a group of friends who can’t change what they did and didn’t do that sunny afternoon.

Marriage, sex, parenthood and friendship: Liane
Moriarty takes these elements of our lives and shows us how guilt can expose the fault lines in any relationship, and it is not until we appreciate the fragility of life that we can truly value what we have.

  • Long-listed for Indie Book Awards 2017.
  • Short-listed for ABIA General Fiction Book of the Year 2017.

My Take

My first reaction is that this is not crime fiction, but there is plenty of mystery, puzzles that the reader wants to solve.

There are 3 couples at the backyard barbeque, 3 children from two of the families and a childless couple. The scope of the book then extends to a grumpy next door neighbour and the parents of two of the couples. The first mystery is what happened at the barbeque, what caused it, and also what preceded it.  This mystery results in plenty of tension. So I’m not going to tell you what happened at the barbeque – that would spoil the story for you. One of the characters is going around giving talks about her experience at the barbeque, but what happened?

The second focus of the book is definitely relationships, things people say and do not say, things people do. Some of these relationships have been built on over decades, and perspectives on their nature vary from character to character.

The result is, from my point of view, a very long book, and perhaps at times I was guilty of speed reading, but as you can see from my rating, I did enjoy it.

My Rating: 4.5

I’ve also read
4.6, THE HUSBAND’S SECRET
4.8, BIG LITTLE LIES

Review: THE DARK LAKE, Sarah Bailey

  • this edition first published 2017 by Allen & Unwin Australia
  • ISBN 978-1-76029-589-9
  • 429 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Allen & Unwin Australia)

A hot summer. A shocking murder. A town of secrets, waiting to explode. A brooding, suspenseful and explosive debut that will grip you from the first page to the last.

There were a few minutes when I was alone with her in the autopsy room. I felt wild. Absent. Before I could stop myself I was leaning close to her, telling her everything. The words draining out of me as she lay there. Her long damp hair hanging off the back of the steel
table. Glassy eyes fixed blindly on the ceiling. She was still so beautiful, even in death.

Our secrets circled madly around the bright white room that morning. Rocking back and forth on my heels as I stood next to her, I knew how far in I was again, how comprehensively her death could undo me. I looked at Rosalind Ryan properly for the last
time before breathing deeply, readying myself, letting her pull me back into her world, and I sank down, further and further, until I was completely, utterly under.

A beautiful young teacher has been murdered, her body found in the lake, strewn with red roses. Local policewoman Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock pushes to be assigned to the case, concealing the fact that she knew the murdered woman in high school years before.

But that’s not all Gemma’s trying to hide.
As the investigation digs deeper into the victim’s past, other secrets threaten to come to light, secrets that were supposed to remain buried. The lake holds the key to solving the murder, but it also has the power to drag Gemma down into its dark depths.

The Dark Lake is an addictive crime thriller, a mesmerising account of one woman’s descent into deceit and madness, and a stunning debut that is already causing a stir around the world.

My Take

Gemma Woodstock is a Detective Sergeant in the town she grew up in.  Rosalind Ryan has recently returned to Smithson to teach in the high school she once attended. When she is murdered shortly after a performance of Romeo and Juliet at the school, Gemma’s boss questioned whether there was a conflict of interest in her being involved in the investigation. But she assures him that there is no question about that – her special knowledge of the town and its people will be invaluable. She and Rosalind were in the same class but that was all.

Gemma obviously believes that being involved in the investigation will give her an edge in solving the murder, as well as keeping elements of her own past hidden. There is at least one big secret that she doesn’t want anybody to know.

The author uses a time frame device to reveal snippets of the past, generally labelled “Then”, alongside carefully dated chapters (together with times) to encapsulate the present. I am never sure when we have carefully labelled time episodes whether I have got the timeline right in my mind. I find myself hoping the author hasn’t played a trick on me, put something out of sequence.

Her relationship with the deceased is not the only thing that Gemma is trying to hide, but I’ll let you find the rest out for yourself.

A good read from a new Aussie writer that I will have to watch out for.

My rating: 4.7

About the author
Sarah Bailey is a Melbourne based writer with a background in advertising and communications. She has two young children and currently works as a director of creative projects company Mr Smith. Over the past five years she has written a number of short stories and opinion pieces. The Dark Lake is her first novel.

If you are interested in reading something more by Sarah Bailey I have found on Google books what appears to be a set of short stories titles THIS IS HOME

Save

Review: GOODWOOD by Holly Throsby

Although the specific, eponymous town of Holly Throsby’s debut novel GOODWOOD does not exist in reality, her depiction of small town Australian life oozes the kind of authenticity that can only derive from genuine affection for its real world counterparts. In part the book is a coming of age story and in part a crime one, but mostly it is a story of place. A sad, beautiful and whimsical character study of Goodwood. A town that was peaceful and carefree before. Before teenager Rosie White said goodnight to her parents and was never seen again. And before, only a week later, the much-loved local butcher seemingly drowned while out fishing, though without a body his fate was as uncertain as Rosie’s. Jean Brown, a year younger than Rosie and narrator of the town’s story tells as that her home is irrevocably changed by these events

At school, the normal feeling of things had stopped and the unease had set in. The news of Rosie White was everywhere. It had travelled down the telephone lines and across dinner tables onto the pages of the Gather Region Advocate. It had taken up residence in the minds of students and teachers. It sat in the silence between sentences; in the things that people did not say. Goodwood had never been visited by such collective worry, and we were not familiar with the burden of the unknown.

Given that Throsby is better known as an award winning singer-songwriter it ought not to be surprising that GOODWOOD has a poetic, often lyrical quality to its writing. The repetition of certain phrases or images for example serves a functional purpose in helping get across that there is a kind of rhythm to the town’s life, but it also reminded me of the way a chorus works in music. Overall the writing is quite simple I suppose but I would take issue with those who have labelled it simplistic. To me it felt like Throsby had chosen the right language and tone for this particular story. Language laden with artifice or dense phrases would have been all wrong. And the book is very, very readable. I devoured it in a couple of sittings.

The dedicated fan of traditional crime fiction might be disappointed with GOODWOOD’s lack of procedural elements. Or even its lack of obvious crime given that whether or not anything criminal has taken place is unclear until the very end of the book. But what the book does have is a very careful unpicking of the big and small secrets that people keep. Even people in small towns where everyone knows everything about everyone. Throsby shows what superhuman effort can be needed to tell. Whether it was Jean screwing up the courage to tell the town’s policeman what she had found in the clearing, or permanently frightened Doe Murray who had to try 26 times before she summoned the will to leave her house and make her own report to the same policeman these portraits were outstandingly done. And there is suspense here, partly because the book isn’t following any well-worn path so the seasoned reader’s assumptions about who’s probably done what to whom are likely to be off-base.

Having been underwhelmed recently by crime novels written by people famous in other fields, I didn’t really have huge expectations for GOODWOOD but I was pleasantly surprised by its thoughtful and authentic feel. Its depiction of the town’s mysteries being solved in large part through waiting for people’s secrets to come bubbling to the surface has a real ring of truth to it. As does the picture of the town as a whole – both before and after the disappearances. Top reading indeed.


aww2017-badgeThis is the 11th book I’ve read and reviewed for the 2017 Australian Women Writers Challenge. For more information about the challenge check out my challenge progresssign up yourself or browse the Challenge’s database of reviews.


Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN: 9781760293734
Length: 378 pages
Format: paperback
Source of review copy: I bought it

Review: BIG LITTLE LIES, Liane Moriarty

Synopsis (Pan Macmillan Australia)

The internationally bestselling author turns her unique gaze on the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves every day and what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.

‘I guess it started with the mothers.’
‘It was all just a terrible misunderstanding.’
‘I’ll tell you exactly why it happened.’

Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. A parent is dead. Was it murder, a tragic accident… or something else entirely?

Big Little Lies is a funny, heartbreaking, challenging story of ex-husbands and second wives, new friendships, old betrayals and and schoolyard politics.

‘Let me be clear. This is not a circus. This is a murder investigation.’

Winner of the ABIA General Fiction Book of the Year

My Take

When your child goes off to kindy, it isn’t just him or her that joins a new world. The parent(s) join a new world too, populated by novices like themselves, and also by other parents who have confidence that has come from experience generated by older children. And most are unprepared for the rivalry that will be generated as children are classified and their performance compared with that of others. It is a world of stresses, complicated by the fact that most families are hiding things they don’t necessarily want to share.

But nothing that I experienced back in those kindy days led to the death of one of the other parents. This novel is full though of very believable scenarios and I enjoyed every minute of it. The natural audience for this book is probably women who have “been there”, and I guarantee that it will stir memories.

A certain amount of tension is created by the fact that for most of the novel the reader does not know who is going to die, and why. Is the person who caused the death going to escape detection? After the death no-one wants to talk.

Liane Moriarty is an Australian author to watch,

My rating: 4.8

I’ve also read
4.6, THE HUSBAND’S SECRET

Novels to look for (list from Fantastic Fiction)