Review: BLOOD RIVER, Tony Cavanaugh

  • Format: Kindle Edition (Amazon)
  • File Size: 951 KB
  • Print Length: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Australia; Digital original edition (23 April 2019)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group (AU)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07KPKB63Q

Synopsis  (Amazon)

Brisbane 1999. It’s hot. Stormy. Dangerous. The waters of the Brisbane River are rising.
The rains won’t stop. People’s nerves are on edge. And then…
A body is found.
And then another.
And another.
A string of seemingly ritualized but gruesome murders. All the victims are men. Affluent. Guys with nice houses, wives and kids at private schools. All have had their throats cut.
Tabloid headlines shout, THE VAMPIRE KILLER STRIKES AGAIN!

Detective Sergeant Lara Ocean knows the look. The ‘my-life-will-never-be-the-same-again look’. She’s seen it too many times on too many faces. Telling a wife her husband won’t be coming home. Ever again. Telling her the brutal way he was murdered. That’s a look you never get used to.

Telling a mother you need her daughter to come to the station for questioning. That’s another look she doesn’t want to see again.

And looking into the eyes of a killer, yet doubting you’ve got it right. That’s the worst look of all – the one you see in the mirror. Get it right, you’re a hero and the city is a safer place. Get it wrong and you destroy a life. And a killer remains free. Twenty years down the track, Lara Ocean will know the truth.

My take

I thought this was such a cleverly constructed novel with themes that resonated in the Australian setting: Queensland weather, rise of the Brisbane river and flooding of the city, corruption in the Queensland police force, corruption in government, the glass ceiling both for women and for women of mixed race.

A culture of corruption leads to the decision to look for a quick resolution and conviction in the Vampire Slayer case. The story begins on the eve of 2YK, with 3 seemingly ritualised killings of middle-aged men, and the tracking down of the killer on the basis of what other teenagers and her teacher said about her. The culprit is quickly brought to trial, and sentenced to life amid public jubilation.

The plot directions often took me by surprise. I certainly hadn’t expected the plot to cover 20 years, nor had I expected Billy Waterson to become essentially a “reformed” character. I thought it got under the skin of the main characters, and it kept my interest throughout.

My rating: 4.8

I have previously read
4.3, PROMISE, Tony Cavanaugh

Review: DARKNESS FOR LIGHT, Emma Viskic

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 4347 KB
  • Print Length: 213 pages
  • Publisher: Echo (2 December 2019)
  • Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0821FDXFL
  • #3 in the Caleb Zilic series

Synopsis  (Amazon)

The third thrilling instalment in the award-winning Caleb Zelic series. After a lifetime of bad decisions troubled PI Caleb Zelic is finally making good ones. He’s in therapy, reconnecting with the Deaf community, and reconciling with his beloved wife.

But he can’t escape his past.

A violent confrontation forces Caleb back into contact with his double-crossing partner, Frankie. When her niece is kidnapped, Frankie and Caleb must work together to save the child’s life. But their efforts will risk everything, including their own lives.

My Take

This must have been just a bit too noir for my tastes, but I just found it a bit of a slog.

I don’t actually warm to the central character Caleb Zelic, nor to many of the central characters he works with.

There is a lot of background material where I feel I have missed out on the full story, and that was actually how I felt when I read the previous title in the series.

The rating I gave it reflects the way I felt about the book, but others readers may well rate it more highly.

My Rating: 4.2

I’ve already  read
4.3, RESURRECTION BAY
4.3, AND FIRE CAME DOWN
 

Review: GONE BY MIDNIGHT, Candice Fox

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 925 KB
  • Print Length: 353 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Australia (January 22, 2019)
  • Publication Date: January 22, 2019
  • Sold by: RH AU
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07GVNBG51
  • #3 in the Crimson Lake series

Synopsis  (Amazon)

Crimson Lake is where bad people come to disappear – and where eight-year-old boys vanish into thin air . . .

On the fifth floor of the White Caps Hotel, four young friends are left alone while their parents dine downstairs. But when Sara Farrow checks on the children at midnight, her son is missing. The boys swear they stayed in their room, and CCTV confirms Richie has not left the building. Despite a thorough search, no trace of the child is found.

Distrustful of the police, Sara turns to Crimson Lake’s unlikeliest private investigators: disgraced cop Ted Conkaffey and convicted killer Amanda Pharrell. This case just the sort of twisted puzzle that gets Amanda’s blood pumping.

For Ted, the case couldn’t have come at a worse time. Two years ago a false accusation robbed him of his career, his reputation and most importantly his family. But now Lillian, the daughter he barely knows, is coming to stay in his ramshackle cottage by the lake.

Ted must dredge up the area’s worst characters to find a missing boy. And the kind of danger he uncovers could well put his own child in deadly peril .

My Take

Set in Cairns. An 8 year old boy goes missing from the fifth floor of a hotel. He has been in the company of friends while his mother dines with their parents downstairs.

The mother asks Ted Conkaffey to investigate her son’s disappearance. The local police are opposed as his partner Amanda Pharrel was responsible for the death of one of their colleagues in their last case.

Days pass and the boy is not found until Ted and Amanada uncover the shocking truth.

Good reading but it would probably help if you had read the two previous books in the series.

My rating: 4.5

I’ve also read
5.0, HADES 
4.3, EDEN
4.6, CRIMSON LAKE  (#1)
4.7 REDEMPTION POINT (#2)

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: THE LOST MAN, Jane Harper

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 574 KB
    Print Length: 352 pages
    Publisher: Macmillan Australia (October 23, 2018)
    Publication Date: October 23, 2018
    Sold by: Macmillan
    Language: English
    ASIN: B07CST7DYT
  • author website

Synopsis (Amazon)

The man lay still in the centre of a dusty grave under a monstrous sky.

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last chance for their middle brother, Cameron.

The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

For readers who loved The Dry and Force of Nature, Jane Harper has once again created a powerful story of suspense, set against a dazzling landscape.

My take

Here really is an Australian author to keep your eye on.

In this novel she has captured so well the harshness of the Australian outback. The challenges of life on an outback station. The way that in a small community where everyone knows everything, some small incident, that might get lost in the city, damages reputations and blights life for decades. The way that genetics and the harsh environment create character traits that are passed on from one generation to another.

It is a book with lots of little mysteries, because in this fractured family no-one really says what they think, because they are afraid. Why is Nathan Bright living in isolation on a small hopeless holding which is never going to amount to anything? Why hasn’t he spoken to his younger brothers for over six months? Did someone kill Cameron or did he die of natural causes? Why is his car 9 km away from his body?

This is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.
It is a stand-alone so you don’t have to read her earlier books, but I guarantee you will look for them.

My rating: 5.0

I’ve also read
4.7, THE DRY
5.0, FORCE OF NATURE

About the author (author website)

Jane Harper is the author of international bestsellers The Dry, Force of Nature and The Lost Man. Her books are published in more than 35 territories worldwide.

Jane has won numerous top awards including the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year, the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year and the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year. Film rights for The Dry  have been acquired by Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea.

Jane was born in Manchester in the UK, and moved to Australia with her family at age eight. She spent six years in Boronia, Victoria, and during that time gained Australian citizenship.

Returning to the UK with her family as a teenager, she lived in Hampshire before studying English and History at the University of Kent in Canterbury.On graduating, she completed a journalism entry qualification and got her first reporting job as a trainee on the Darlington & Stockton Times in County Durham.Jane worked for several years as a senior news journalist for the Hull Daily Mail, before moving back to Australia in 2008.

She worked first on the Geelong Advertiser, and in 2011 took up a role with the Herald Sun in Melbourne.

In 2014, Jane submitted a short story which was one of 12 chosen for the Big Issue’s annual Fiction Edition.That inspired her to pursue creative writing more seriously, breaking through with The Dry at the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards in 2015.

Jane lives in St Kilda with her husband and daughter.

Review: REDEMPTION POINT, Candice Fox

  • this edition published in Bantam 2018
  • ISBN 978-0-14378-188-2
  • 410 pages
  • Author website

Synopsis (Author website)

When former police detective Ted Conkaffey was wrongly accused of abducting 13-year-old Claire Bingley, he hoped the Queensland rainforest town of Crimson Lake would be a good place to disappear. But nowhere is safe from Claire’s devastated father.

Dale Bingley has a brutal revenge plan all worked out – and if Ted doesn’t help find the real abductor, he’ll be its first casualty.

Meanwhile, in a dark roadside hovel called the Barking Frog Inn, the bodies of two young bartenders lie on the beer-sodden floor. It’s Detective Inspector Pip Sweeney’s first homicide investigation – complicated by the arrival of private detective Amanda Pharrell to
‘assist’ on the case. Amanda’s conviction for murder a decade ago has left her with some odd behavioural traits, top-to-toe tatts – and a keen eye for killers . . .

For Ted and Amanda, the hunt for the truth will draw them into a violent dance with evil. Redemption is certainly on the cards – but it may well cost them their lives . . .

My take

This is a sequel to the earlier book CRIMSON LAKE when Ted Conkaffey and Amanda Pharrell first joined in partnership, so I would really recommend reading the two books in order.

Ted is still determined to track down the man who abducted Claire Bingley and so caused Ted’s dismissal from the police force, his marriage break up, and his estrangement from his small daughter.  But media interest in Ted’s story is still high and he is approached to appear on an Australia -wide television show, ostensibly to give his side of the story. A podcast is keeping Justice for Ted alive as its central theme.

Ted and Amanda are asked to work with local police and the inexperienced DI Sweeney to work out who murdered the bartenders at the Barking Frog Inn.

There are several “voices” telling the story in this novel – Ted’s, Amanda’s, Pip Sweeney’s, and a diary which has been begun as a therapy journal. The identity of the writer does not become obvious until the novel is well underway.

My rating: 4.7

I’ve also read
5.0, HADES 
4.3, EDEN
4.6, CRIMSON LAKE

Review: THE BONE IS POINTED, Arthur Upfield – audio book

Synopsis:  (Audible)

Arthur Upfield’s The Bone is Pointed follows Inspector Bonaparte who solves mysteries in the Australian outback. Published in the 1940’s, this story not only offers up a good  mystery but also a portrait of the aborigines and Australia in the early 20th century. Peter Hosking tackles this story with verve. He speaks with a clear Australian accent while developing the characters believably, giving each his own attributes. Meanwhile, his varied pacing makes the story easy to follow. Mystery lovers and history buffs alike will have fun with the Inspector Bonaparte Mysteries.

Jack Anderson was a big man with a foul temper, a sadist and a drunk. Five months after his horse appeared riderless, no trace of the man has surfaced and no one seems to care. But Bony is determined to follow the cold trail and smoke out some answers. 

My Take

In this tale Bony appears as a Queensland C.I.B. detective on leave, turning up at an outback station where a rouseabout has gone missing during a storm. His horse turns up at the station the morning after the storm riderless and there is no trace of Jack Anderson. No black trackers are available because the whole local tribe has gone to visit a female elder thought to be dying. By the time a tracker can be found heavy rains have obliterated Anderson’s tracks.

During the story Bony becomes ill with the “Barcoo sickness” but station owner is convinced that the bones has been pointed at him. At first Bony is determined that he will not succumb but he becomes weaker and weaker despite the attempts of the local policeman to help him.

Bony is also proud of his reputation that no case that he has tackled has ever gone unsolved, but that is because he stays on the case until the very end, despite telegrams from his superiors that he must return to the city immediately.

What impressed me was the detailed observations of Aboriginal culture and customs that the author must have recorded. He also presents both sides of the argument with regard to preserving aboriginal heritage. One station family in particular recognise the damage that contact with white people has done to the aborigines, but at the same time are a bit patronising in the way they deal with the aborigines on their station. The character who has disappeared has mistreated aboriginal stockmen, whipping one almost to death, and so is very unpopular. No-one can work out why “Old Lacey” the station owner has kept him on.

There is more than one mystery in this book, and it is good reading, despite the warning from the publisher that Arthur Upfield reflects attitudes of his time, not necessarily views we would share today.

My rating: 4.5

I’ve also read
DEATH OF A SWAGMAN
4.4, THE BARRAKEE MYSTERY
4.0, A MAN OF TWO TRIBES
4.4, THE BATTLING PROPHET
4.3, MR JELLY’S BUSINESS 
4.5, DEATH OF A LAKE 

Review: CRIMSON LAKE, Candice Fox

  • this edition published by Penguin Random House Australia 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-14-378190-5
  • 389 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (author website)

12.46: Thirteen-year-old Claire Bingley stands alone at a bus stop
12.47: Ted Conkaffey parks his car beside her
12.52: The girl is missing . . .

Six minutes – that’s all it took to ruin Detective Ted Conkaffey’s life. Accused but not convicted of Claire’s abduction, he escapes north, to the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake.

Amanda Pharrell knows what it’s like to be public enemy number one.
Maybe it’s her murderous past that makes her so good as a private investigator, tracking lost souls in the wilderness. Her latest target, missing author Jake Scully, has a life more shrouded in secrets than her own – so she enlists help from the one person in town more hated than she is: Ted.

But the residents of Crimson Lake are watching the pair’s every move.
And for Ted, a man already at breaking point, this town is offering no place to hide . . .

My Take

Amanda Pharrell and Ten Conkaffey must surely rate among the oddest detective duo ever created. Amanda is a convicted killer while Ted is an ex-detective, accused of  child abduction, but not convicted. Importantly, not acquitted either. He has spent 8 months on remand, then released without conviction, leaving a broken marriage, trying to find anonymity in far North Queensland.

Amanda is running a detective agency and both she and Ted have been pointed towards each other. Her current case is that of a missing, almost certainly dead, writer. Amanda is being employed by Stella, Jake Scully’s wife. She primarily wants evidence that Jake is dead so that she can claim his life insurance and get on with her life.

Once Ted teams up with Amanda he becomes an object of interest for the locals and in particular two local policemen who try to make things as unpleasant as possible for him. Journalists and local media make plenty of the new detective partnership and local hoons visit Ted’s house regularly.

A very gritty book, full of North Queensland steaminess and danger.  Several mysteries to be solved. Good reading.

My rating: 4.6

I’ve also read
5.0, HADES 
4.3, EDEN

About the author

Candice Fox is the middle child of a large, eccentric family from
Sydney’s western suburbs composed of half-, adopted and pseudo siblings.
The daughter of a prison parole officer and an enthusiastic
foster-carer, Candice spent many of her early Christmases travelling to a
Sydney correctional facility in the family minibus to knock on prison
cell windows, run around the razor-wired yard and eat fruitcake prepared
by inmates. While her mother and stepfather developed an ever-growing
mob of Sydney’s most disadvantaged children throughout her later youth,
entertainment had to be cheap. She spent her school holidays exploring
free, open spaces – farms, bushland and cemeteries.

As a cynical and trouble-making teenager, her crime and gothic fiction writing was an escape from the calamity of her home life.

Bankstown born and bred, she failed to conform to military life in a
brief stint as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy at age eighteen.
At twenty, she turned her hand to academia, and taught high school
through two undergraduate and two postgraduate degrees. In 2015, she
began collaborating with best selling author James Patterson on a series
of books featuring Detective Harriet ‘Harry’ Blue.
Candice’s books Hades, Eden and Fall are published with Random House Australia and are in multiple translations. Hades and Eden both won Ned Kelly Awards presented by the Australian Crime Writers Association.

Review: THE TWISTED KNOT by J.M. Peace

Having been very impressed with J.M. Peace’s debut novel A TIME TO RUN, I approached THE TWISTED KNOT with that mixture of anticipation and worry that always surrounds second books. Happily, the worry was misplaced.

Somewhat paradoxically one of the things that I enjoyed most about this book is that it is not all that similar to its predecessor. The author’s talent is still on show and the central character from the first, police constable Sammi Willis, is also at the heart of this one but there is never any signs of this becoming the first in a line of clones that can often, understandably but annoyingly, follow a successful debut. This is different in pacing, the kind of story it tells and in its overall sensibility. It’s still very, very good though; no worrying necessary.

Here Sammi is still recovering from the events depicted in the first novel. Physically she’s OK but not quite mentally ready to return to full duties yet so she’s working on the front counter of the police station in the rural Queensland town of Angel’s Crossing. Which is where she first learns that townspeople are angry. A man accused of being a pedophile in the town some years ago is apparently ‘at it’ again. He was not convicted last time and locals are determined that this time there will be justice, even if they have to deliver it themselves. All Sammi and her colleagues have to go on is unsubstantiated rumours, no victim has come forward. And Sammi’s superior officers make themselves scarce rather than face the angry mob that confronts Sammi. What are they hiding?

It’s difficult to talk about the many fine attributes of this book without spoiling its plot but I will say the story is a ripper. It’s not the same kind of intense, frightening story the first book told but it’s equally compelling and suspenseful. Here there are layers of secrets being kept by many locals and the way these are revealed keeps readers guessing right to the end. There’s more complexity here too because it’s not quite so clear in depicting who is and who isn’t doing the right thing. Because there’s what’s legal and then there’s what’s right and they’re not always the same thing. At least not for some of the residents of Angel’s Crossing. It’s quite thought-provoking at times in the way it makes the reader contemplate what they might do when faced with some of the scenarios depicted in the book.

Peace is a serving police officer (using a pseudonym) so it’s not surprising that the way the various aspects of police work and ‘the life’ are shown have a real ring of authenticity to them. The different types of personality attracted to the work are on show as are the variety of elements of the job. Although they do exist it’s not all car chases and shoot outs and Peace does well in showing the whole job without slowing the book down or making it dull. She also does well at showing the limitations of the legal system and the frustrations that result for both officers and the public.

The character development is well done too. Sammi’s struggles to overcome the mental issues which arose after she was chased by a serial killer are problematic but no so debilitating they threaten to destroy her. It must be a difficult balance to achieve in trying to depict such a thing sensitively and realistically. There are a few hurdles in her personal life too but these are also shown in a believable, balanced way. The townspeople who are impacted by the possible resurgence of the pedophile activity are also well drawn. Their anger and desire to take matters into their own hands are entirely credible.

All in all then another terrific read from J.M. Peace. I am especially pleased when authors try new things and take some risks with their storytelling. Even if it doesn’t always work I’d rather this than a clone any day. But, in this instance at least, Peace’s change of pace and tone work very well, leaving me keen to see what she does next.


aww2017-badgeThis is the 5th book I’ve read and reviewed for the sixth 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: Pan Macmillian, 2016
ISBN: 9781743538678
Length: 303 pages
Format: paperback
Source of review copy: I bought it

Review: CRIMSON LAKE by Candice Fox

I’m not sure if it’s a standalone novel or the start of a new series but either way Candice Fox’s CRIMSON LAKE is determined to be memorable. Every one of its 389 pages is packed with people committing crimes, investigating crimes or trying to prove their own innocence of crimes they’ve been accused of.

Most of the story is told from Ted Conkaffey’s point of view. When we meet him Ted is living a kind of half-life after having spent 8 months on remand for the rape and attempted murder of a young girl. His case was dropped for lack of evidence not because there is any other viable suspect and the charges can be reactivated at any time. Just about everyone – including Ted’s former colleagues in the police force, his ex wife and the general public – believe him guilty despite his consistent claims of innocence. So Ted has made his way to far north Queensland and gone to ground. Crimson Lake is the sort of place where people can and do hide from their pasts. But even this place may not be up to the task of hiding from determined vigilantes (some of whom wear a uniform) a man the whole world thinks of as a guilty-but-not-convicted paedophile.

Ted is put in contact with Amanda Pharrell, the region’s lone private investigator. Amanda is afraid of cars, loves to speak in rhymes and spent 10 years in prison for the murder of a fellow teenager. She is investigating the disappearance of celebrated local author Jack Scully who, it seems, may have been taken by a crocodile. His wife wants proof that he’s really dead and that he didn’t commit suicide.

The pair form a friendship of sorts as they look into the author’s deranged fans and secret life for clues to his disappearance. The two outsiders develop a genuine, if prickly, care for each other but their interactions are charged with too much dark humour to stray into mushy territory. Which is all for the best in my opinion and this relationship is one of the book’s strengths. Other characters – good guys and bad ones – are also well drawn.

Although very complicated (seriously I’ve only skimmed a portion of the book’s happenings here) the disparate strands of storyline are not difficult to follow and for those who like their crime fiction packed with action and surprising twists look no further. The book stretched the bounds of credibility at times for me as so many elements of what happened to Ted, Amanda and Jack were the result of the kinds of extremes of human behaviour that I struggled to believe would all coalesce around such a small group of people in such a small place. But the book is an old-fashioned romp of a tale about people I had grown to care about and I will freely admit to staying up way past my bedtime to find out how CRIMSON LAKE was all going to end. Next-day drowsiness is the sign of a superior reading experience.


aww2017-badgeThis is the 3rd book I’ve read and reviewed for the sixth 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: Penguin [2017]
ISBN: 9780143781905
Length: 389 pages
Format: paperback
Source of review copy: Borrowed from the library