Review: YOU DON’T KNOW ME, Sara Foster

Synopsis (publisher)

Who killed Lizzie Burdett?

Lizzie Burdett was eighteen when she vanished, and Noah Carruso has never forgotten her. She was his first crush, his unrequited love. She was also his brother’s girlfriend.

Tom Carruso hasn’t been home in over a decade. He left soon after Lizzie disappeared under a darkening cloud of suspicion, and now he’s back for the inquest into Lizzie’s death – intent on telling his side of the story. As the inquest looms, Noah meets Alice Pryce on  holiday. They fall for each other fast and hard, but Noah can’t bear to tell Alice his deepest fears. And Alice is equally stricken – she carries a terrible secret of her own. Is the truth worth telling if it will destroy everything?

A stunning new thriller about the burden of shame from blockbuster author Sara Foster.

My Take

Alice Pryce reminds Noah Carruso of his brother’s girlfriend Lizzie Burdett who vanished one night twelve years before. Alice is in Thailand teaching English and Noah is having a holiday before attending an inquest back in Australia called to finally resolve what happened to Lizzie.
They fall in love as if their lives depend on it. Both have secrets about what has happened to them in Australia, and Alice is planning never to return.

Noah puts off his return to Australia as long as he can, but eventually he must return to Australia for the inquest and to face his brother Tom. After Noah has left for home Alice gets a visit from the Australian High Commission which means she has to return too.

I kept wondering if this is really crime fiction, but in reality at least one crime needs to be resolved. But on another level it is a romance, but also an attempt to by the main characters to come to terms with shame and guilt.

My rating: 4.4

I’ve also read
4.3, ALL THAT IS LOST BETWEEN US

About the author
Sara Foster has written five critically acclaimed novels: Come Back to Me, Beneath the Shadows, Shallow Breath, All That is Lost Between Us and The Hidden Hours. She was born and raised in England, and moved to Australia in 2004. She lives in Perth with her husband and two children.

Find out more at:
www.sarafoster.com.au
www.facebook.com/sarafosterauthor
www.instagram.com/sarafosterauthor
www.twitter.com/sarajfoster

Review: UNDER THE MIDNIGHT SKY, Anna Romer

  • this large print edition published by Read How You Want
  • first published in Australia by Simon and Schuster 2019
  • 485 pages
  • ISBN 978-0-36932-454-2
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

Chilling secrets buried deep in wild bushland drive this thrilling new novel from bestseller Anna Romer

When an injured teenager goes missing at a remote bushland campground, local journalist Abby Bardot is determined to expose the area’s dark history. The girl bears a striking resemblance to the victims of three brutal murders that occurred twenty years ago and Abby fears the killer is still on the loose.

But the newspaper Abby works for wants to suppress the story for fear it will scare off tourists to the struggling township. Haunted by her own turbulent memories, Abby is desperate to learn the truth and enlists the help of Tom Gabriel, a reclusive crime writer. At first resentful of Abby’s intrusion, Tom’s reluctance vanishes when they discover a hidden attic room in his house that shows evidence of imprisonment from half a century before.

As Abby and Tom sift through the attic room and discover its tragic history, they become convinced it holds the key to solving the bushland murders and finding the missing girl alive.

But their quest has drawn out a killer, someone with a shocking secret who will stop at nothing to keep the truth buried.

My Take

There are many mysteries to be solved in this novel with several story lines and the stories coming from several time frames. There are secrets to be uncovered. Abby Bardot has a history that she doesn’t talk about, and there are several people who have hidden pasts. There is a man in jail for a murder he says he didn’t commit. It all makes for a great tangle.

Underneath it all Abby the journalist wants to write about the secrets of Deep Water, about the girls who’ve disappeared, those who’ve died, and those who survived.

This book makes the reader work hard as the author changes the voice of the narrator almost at whim. There is little warning that this is going to happen and the narration can swap from third person to first person between paragraphs. There are at least four main narrators and several minor ones. I guess the intent is to make the reader aware of what particular characters are thinking, but it is not a device that I particularly like. In the earlier parts of the book I found it confusing.

Despite all that, an intriguing story, and one that kept me guessing.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Anna Romer was born in Australia to a family of booklovers. She led a nomadic life for many years, travelling around Europe and Britain in an ancient Kombi van where she discovered a passion for history.

These days she lives in a little old cottage surrounded by bushland, writing stories about dark family secrets, rambling houses, characters haunted by the past, and settings that feature the uniquely beautiful Australian landscape. Anna’s debut bestselling novel was Thornwood House, followed by Lyrebird Hill and Beyond the Orchard. See AnnaRomer.com.au

Review: RETRIBUTION, Richard Anderson

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 428 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scribe (July 2, 2018)
  • Publication Date: July 2, 2018
  • Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07CMDDKZ3

Synopsis  (Amazon)

A rural-crime novel about finding out how to survive and surviving what you find.

In a small country town, an act of revenge causes five lives to collide. Early one Christmas morning, Graeme Sweetapple, a man down on his luck, is heading home with a truck full of stolen steers when he comes across an upended ute that has hit a tree. He is about to get involved with Luke, an environmental protestor who isn’t what he seems; a washed-up local politician, Caroline Statham, who is searching for a sense of purpose, but whose businessman husband seems to be sliding into corruption; and Carson, who is wild, bound to no one, and determined to escape her circumstances.

Into their midst comes Retribution, a legendary horse worth a fortune. Her disappearance triggers a cycle of violence and retaliation that threatens the whole community. As tensions build, they must answer one question: is true retribution ever possible — or even desirable?

My Take

“.. it was midnight on Christmas Eve, the best night of the year for stealing...

Graeme Sweetapple is driving some stolen steers back to his property late on Christmas Eve when he comes across an accident. The young people have been participating in a protest at a local picketed coal mine belonging to millionaire Bob Statham. He organises an ambulance for them, but as he leaves he is given some explosives that the young people have with them.

We also meet Luke who has been participating in the protest, but is actually working undercover for the mine’s management.
The third main character is Carson who has been working at the local supermarket, and has actually met the mine owner, whose wife is an ex-politician.
These five characters are central to the main action of the story and provide the links between the plot lines.

The author successfully brings these characters together in a couple of unlikely themes: the theft of a thoroughbred horse, and the disruption of activities at the coal mine.

This was the debut title by this author and well worth the read.

My rating: 4.3

I’ve also read BOXED

review: BOXED, Richard Anderson

  • this edition published by Scribe 2019
  • ISBN 978-1-935713-65-7
  • 275 pages
  • source: review book from publisher

Synopsis (publisher)

‘I jump back, curse in rapid fire, and then lean forward and shove the box hard, off the bench, and away from me. It thuds on the floor. Is this a nasty trick?’

Dave Martin is down on his luck: his wife has left him; his farm is a failure; his house is a mess; he has withdrawn from his community and friends; and tragedy has stolen his capacity to care. He passes the time drinking too much and buying cheap tools online, treating the delivered parcels as gifts from people who care about him.

And then boxes begin to arrive in the mail: boxes that he didn’t order, but ones that everyone around him seems to want desperately. As he tries to find out the secret of the boxes, Dave is drawn into a crazy world of red herrings and wrong turns, good guys and bad, false friends and true, violence, lust, fear, revenge, and a lot, lot more. It’s not a world he understands, but is it the only one Dave can live in?

My take

Dave Martin’s friends and neighbours all worry about him – he has had more than his fair share of knocks, lives on his own on a remote farm, and feels a bit sorry for himself. He orders machinery to be delivered through the post, generally small cheap machines, but then some boxes arrive that he hasn’t ordered. Then two of his neighbours ask him if boxes they were expecting have accidentally been delivered to him. Soon after that a neighbour is attacked.

Woven through the other sometimes quirky threads is the story of what has happened to his son James.

Richard Anderson is an astute observer of Australian rural life. His accounts of the hardships of living on the land have a ring of truth.

One of the threads of this story (No! I’m not going to tell you which
one it is, just that it is a bit macabre ) – will probably send readers
scuttling to Google to see if it is possible.

This is the second of Anderson’s crime novels, and I will certainly be reading the first.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Richard Anderson is a second-generation farmer from northern New South Wales. He has been running a beef-cattle farm for twenty-five years, but has also worked as a miner and had a stint on the local council. Richard is the author of two rural-crime novels, Retribution and Boxed, both published by Scribe. He lives with his wife, four dogs, and a cat.

Review: NINE PERFECT STRANGERS, Liane Moriarty

  • Originally published: 18 September 2018
  • Source: Libby e-book App, through my local library

Synopsis

The retreat at health and wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total transformation. Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages.

Watching over them is the resort’s director, a woman on a mission to reinvigorate their tired minds and bodies.

These nine perfect strangers have no idea what is about to hit them.

With her wit, compassion and uncanny understanding of human behaviour, Liane Moriarty explores the depth of connection that can be formed when people are thrown together in… unconventional circumstances.

My take

My first Libby book – I read it on my android phone (the screen is a bit small) and my iPad (the screen is a bit big. Borrowing and returning were painless, and the app “synced” on the two devices. But you are at the mercy of the battery life of your devices and my iPad is not good. I may have to buy a smaller one just for ebooks, but then I can get the books free as against buying them for my Kindle.

Nine strangers embark on a retreat at Tranquillam House, in the Australian countryside, about 2 hours from Sydney.

In the first half of the book we learn why the various individuals are there and what they hope to get out of the 10 day retreat. We learn also about the people who are running the business.
All seems to be going well until we learn that Masha, who is the CEO of the retreat has been lacing their smoothies with LSD and ecstasy and then it appears that she is just a little mad and even dangerous.

My rating: 4.5

I’ve also read
4.6, THE HUSBAND’S SECRET
4.8, BIG LITTLE LIES
4.5, TRULY, MADLY GUILTY

Review: THE LOST GIRLS, Jennifer Spence

  • this edition published by Simon & Schuster 2019
  • ISBN 978-9-2579-137-2
  • 338 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

A haunting tale of love and loss that will make you think twice

What would you do if you had the chance to change a pivotal moment from your past?

How far would you go to save someone you loved?

These are just two of the fateful choices a woman is forced to grapple with in this highly original and hauntingly evocative detective story of love and loss.

At the core of the enigmatic Stella’s story, past and present, is a mystery she is compelled to solve, a beautiful young woman who went missing fifty years ago – and a tragedy much closer to home she must try to prevent.

As Stella unravels the dark secrets of her family’s past and her own, it becomes clear that everyone remembers the past differently and the small choices we make every day can change our future irrevocably.

My take

This is one of those books that presents a problem for the reviewer. The blurb on the back cover gives the reader no clue about the strategy the author adopts to tell Stella’s story, and I’m not going to outline it either.

There are two lost girls, and the story swings between two main time frames: 1997 and 2017, in a very creative scenario.

One review called the format “the butterfly effect”, another called it “unsettling”, which it. It strains your sense of credibility. And is it crime fiction – oh yes!

When I was 100 pages in, I really wondered whether I wanted to continue reading, but I’m glad that I did. I can’t even remember who recommended the book to me, but thank you.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Jennifer Spence has worked as an English teacher, a scriptwriter of soap operas and a technical writer. She is the author of three children’s books and a crime novel. She lives in Sydney.

Review: DEAD MAN SWITCH, Tara Moss

Synopsis (publisher)

She’s a woman in a man’s world …

Sydney, 1946. Billie Walker is living life on her own terms. World War II has left her bereaved, her photojournalist husband missing and presumed dead. Determined not to rely on any man for her future, she re-opens her late father’s detective agency.

Billie’s bread and butter is tailing cheating spouses – it’s easy, pays the bills and she has a knack for it. But her latest case, the disappearance of a young man, is not proving straightforward …

Soon Billie is up to her stylish collar in bad men, and not just the unfaithful kind – these are the murdering kind. Smugglers. Players. Gangsters. Billie and her loyal assistant must pit their wits against Sydney’s ruthless underworld and find the young man before it’s too late.

My take

Here we have what appears to be the beginning of a new series, a female investigator in Sydney, and ex-soldier as her associate, and a historical setting to boot.

Billie is asked to look for a young 17 year old man, who disappears after visiting a Sydney night club to talk to a well known wealthy auctioneer.

The novel opens with a Prologue which appears to be an account of what has happened to the young man.

As befits the first novel in a series readers are given a lot of background about Billie and Sam, her associate, and the background material continues throughout the novel. The year is 1946 and Australia is beginning to recover from the aftermath of World War II, but there is a lot of opposition to Billie taking on what is seen as men’s work.

A well told tale with strong adherence to historical setting if not strictly factual.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

She is a mother, a wife and a dual Canadian/Australian citizen, and currently resides with her family in Vancouver, BC.
Moss is an outspoken advocate for human rights and the rights of women and children, has been a UNICEF Australia Goodwill Ambassador since 2007 and since 2013 has been UNICEF Australia’s National Ambassador for Child Survival, and has visited Australian hospitals, maternity wards, refuges and schools as well as Syrian refugee camps in her UNICEF role. In 2014 she was recognised for Outstanding Advocacy for her blog Manus Island: An insider’s report, which helped to break information to the public about the events surrounding the alleged murder of Reza Barati inside the Australian-run Manus Island Immigration Detention Centre.

In 2015 Moss received an Edna Ryan Award for her significant contribution to feminist debate, speaking out for women and children and inspiring others to challenge the status quo, and in 2017 she was recognised as one of the Global Top 50 Diversity Figures in Public Life, for using her position in public life to make a positive impact in diversity, alongside Malala Yousufzai, Angelina Jolie, His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet and more.

Review: THE VAN APFEL GIRLS ARE GONE, Felicity McLean

Synopsis (publisher)

Part mystery, part coming of age story, The Van Apfel Girls are Gone is set in a distant suburb on the encroaching bushland, over the long hot summer of 1992. It’s the summer of the school’s Showstopper concert. The summer Tikka never forgot. The summer the Van Apfel sisters disappeared. Blackly comic, sharply observed and wonderfully endearing.

‘We lost all three girls that summer. Let them slip away like the words of some half-remembered song and when one came back, she wasn’t the one we were trying to recall to begin with.’

Tikka Molloy was eleven and one-sixth years old during the long hot summer of 1992 – the summer the Van Apfel sisters disappeared. Hannah, beautiful Cordelia and Ruth vanished during the night of the school’s Showstopper concert at the amphitheatre by the river, surrounded by encroaching bushland.

Now, years later, Tikka has returned home to try and make sense of the summer that shaped her, and the girls that she never forgot.

Blackly comic, sharply observed and wonderfully endearing, this is Picnic at Hanging Rock for a new generation, a haunting coming-of-age story with a shimmering, unexplained mystery at its heart.

My Take

Twenty years on, Tikka Molloy has always been haunted by the disappearance of the Van Apfel sisters. Were there things that she and her older sister should have told the investigating police at the time?

There is a strong Australian setting to this novel – not just the commentary in the background
of the Lindy Chamberlain case, but the heat, the bushland, and the flavour of the description. I thought there was also a touch of Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird), of things observed but not necessarily understood. And the story leaves us with more questions, the opportunity to write our own ending, to come to our own conclusions.

An excellent read.

My rating: 4.8

About the author
Felicity McLean is a writer and a journalist.  Her writing has appeared in The Good Weekend, the Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun, the Big Issue and more. She has written fiction and non-fiction books and has been published by HarperCollins Publishers, Allen & Unwin and Black Inc. Her latest book, Body Lengths, was co-written with Olympian Leisel Jones. It won the 2016 Australian Book Industry Awards ‘Reader’s Choice’ for Small Publisher Adult Book of the Year, and it was Apple iBook’s ‘Best Biography of 2015′. As a ghostwriter she has collaborated with celebrities, sports stars, business leaders and others.This is her first novel.

Felicity will be sharing the stage with Michael Robotham at Adelaide Writers’ Week 2020.

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: 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