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

Advertisements

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.

Review: THE NOWHERE CHILD, Christian White

  • this edition an ARC from NetGalley
  • Available from Amazon for Kindle
  • File Size: 1646 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Affirm Press (June 26, 2018)
  • Publication Date: June 26, 2018
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07DCPW9GL

Synopsis (Amazon for Kindle)

‘Her name is Sammy Went. This photo was taken on her second birthday. Three days later she was gone.’

On a break between teaching photography classes in Melbourne, Kim Leamy is approached by a stranger investigating the disappearance of a little girl from her Kentucky home twenty-eight years earlier. He believes Kim is that girl.

At first she brushes it off, but when Kim scratches the surface of her family history in Australia, questions arise that aren’t easily answered. To find the truth, she must travel to Sammy’s home of Manson, Kentucky, and into a dark past. As the mystery of Sammy’s disappearance unravels and the town’s secrets are revealed, this superb novel builds towards an electrifying climax.

Inspired by Gillian Flynn’s frenetic suspense and Stephen King’s masterful world-building, The Nowhere Child is a combustible tale of trauma, cult, conspiracy and memory. It is the remarkable debut of Christian White, an exhilarating new Australian talent.

My Take

I’ve had this book sitting on my Kindle for some months now, courtesy NetGalley, and now it has been chosen by our book group for our monthly read.

Kim Leamy is approached by someone who has been searching for his lost sister for years. He has scanned thousands of online images looking for similarities to an artist’s impression of what his sister would look like nearly three decades after her disappearance. But he is American and Kim has a hard job thinking that the woman who brought her up would have been a kidnapper.

However he tells her that a DNA test he has had taken by a Melbourne lab says there is a 98.5% probability that she is is sister. When she approaches her father it is obvious to Kim that there is some truth in what the American is telling her, that her father knows, and she decides to go to America to find out the truth for herself.

A well constructed interesting story, with good mystery elements.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
Christian White is an internationally bestselling and award-winning Australian author and screenwriter. His debut novel, The Nowhere Child, won the 2017 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. He is currently in development with Matchbox Pictures on a new television series which he co-created, inspired by his script One Year Later, winner of the 2013 Australian Writers Guild ‘Think Inside The Box’ competition. His films have been shown at film festivals around the world. He lives in Melbourne with his wife and their greyhound.

Review: ILLUSION OF DEATH, Brian Kavanagh

Synopsis (publisher)

Power. Envy. Greed. Lies. All surround amateur sleuths Belinda Lawrence and Hazel Whitby in this maze of personalities.

An invitation to a private screening at a film group involves them in more than the cinematic arts.

Murder and the search for a long-lost film, involve them in more hair-raising adventures as they begin to investigate each member of the group, all of whom could be potential murderers.

Belinda’s skills are tested as she faces the greatest danger in her sleuthing life.

My Take

In the previous 5 novels of the series Australian Belinda Lawrence has been overseas, mainly in England. In title #6 author Brian Kavanagh has brought Belinda and her friend Hazel Whitby home to Melbourne.

Belinda visits the ACMI ( Australian Centre for the Moving Image) at Federation Square in Melbourne. She is standing in a display area waiting for Hazel who is out shopping when she is recognised by a former school friend. Bridie invites Belinda and Hazel to join her at a private screening of a pre-digital film being held by a small film society at the suburban home of a retired projectionist. Bridie is teaching film studies at the school that she and Belinda attended, and the film screenings are held weekly. Against Hazel’s better judgement Belinda accepts the invitation.
Just as the screening of the film gets underway the group is interrupted by a member who bursts in to announce that the host, “Old Max” has been murdered.

Together with all the others present that night Belinda and Hazel become murder suspects, and they decide to conduct their own investigation of each of the members of the society, to find out why “old Max” was murdered, rather appropriately with a film splicing tool, and who the murderer is.

There is an almost cinematographic quality to the structure of this novel – each of the characters is introduced at the beginning with a sort of spotlight approach, almost as if they are on stage, and the spotlight moves from one to the other, capturing them in a moment of time.

Underlying the plot is a pioneering film/multimedia work produced by the Australian Salvation Army Soldiers of the Cross, and first screened in Melbourne in 1900. The National Film and Sound Archive has elements of the work in their archives but no full film is known to exist.

Very readable.

My rating: 4.2

I’ve also read

4.2, BLOODY HAM
4.3, A CANTERBURY CRIME
4.3, A WICKED DESIGN
4.3, MURDER ON THE ISLAND

About the author
Brian Kavanagh lives in Melbourne, the capital of the State of Victoria, in Australia. Brian is an an accredited life member of the Australian Film Editors Guild & a member of the Australian Society of Authors. He has many years experience in the Australian Film Industry in areas of production, direction, editing and writing.

His editing credits include THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH, ODD ANGRY SHOT, THE DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND, LONG WEEKEND, SEX IS A FOUR-LETTER WORD and the recent comedy, DAGS.

He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Australian Screen Editors Guild and is an accredited member. An Australian Film Institute award for Best Editing for FROG DREAMING (USA title THE QUEST).

His first feature film which he produced and directed, A CITY’S CHILD, won an AFI award for actress Monica Maughan and was screened at the London Film Festival as well as Edinburgh, Montreal, Chicago and Adelaide, where it won the Gold Southern Cross Advertiser Award for Best Australian Film.

Review: QUOTA, Jock Serong – audio book

  • audio book – source my local library
  •  Narrated by: Simon Harvey
  • Length: 7 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 09-01-16
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Wavesound Audio
  • Read it on Google Books

Synopsis (Audible)

Charlie Jardim has just trashed his legal career in a spectacular courtroom meltdown, and his girlfriend has finally left him. So when a colleague slings him a prosecution brief for the remote coastal town of Dauphin, Charlie reluctantly agrees to go.

The case is murder. The victim was involved in illegal abalone trading and even more illegal drug trafficking. And the witnesses aren’t talking. As Dauphin closes ranks around him, Charlie finds his interest in the law powerfully reignited.

My Take

HIS HONOUR: Mr Jardim, withdraw that comment immediately.

MR JARDIM: Your Honour, I’m not withdrawing it because it’s got nothing to do with the merits of this case, just as your small-minded treatment of my client has got nothing to do with the merits of the case. I mean, could you have cocked this thing up any worse? Bloody helpless kid and you know she’s back out on the street now. You’re known throughout the state as a heartless old prick and a drunk, and seeing I’ve gone this far, your daughter-in-law’s appointment to the court is widely viewed as a grubby political payoff. Today’s pretty much the lowest I’ve seen you stoop but it’s been a rich field of excrem—

HIS HONOUR: Senior, will you have Mr Jardim removed?

QUOTA takes an unusual case, the murder of an abalone fisherman who is also dabbling in drug distribution.

Charlie Jardim is trying to put together a case to prosecute the victim’s murderers. The account given of events by the victim’s brother just does not hang together so Jardim travels to a small seaside Victorian town to see if he can get people to talk.

On the way to Dauphin he hits a kangaroo and wrecks his car. He is easily identified as a city man, and outsider, and before long every knows the Prosecutor is in town. Only the pub owner will talk to him.

Eventually he befriends the victim’s brother and gets a different version of what occurred, and more importantly, gets him to agree to replace the original statement that the police have on record. But this is just the start of the plot.

There is a strong Australian flavour to this recording reinforced both by the language particularly the dialogue, but also by the narrator’s voice. There are superb descriptions of the Victorian countryside, of the heat, of the declining nature of the town, of the way things are ruled by one family, and the way others have to take drastic measures to survive.

My rating: 4.6

I’ve also reviewed
5.0, THE RULES OF BACKYARD CRICKET
5.0, ON THE JAVA RIDGE
4.8, PRESERVATION

QUOTA is Serong’s first novel and didn’t get the same attention and recognition that his later novels have. I think taht is possibly because his voice is so different to other Australian crime fiction writers.
He was a practising lawyer when he published QUOTA

Review: INTO THE NIGHT, Sarah Bailey

Synopsis (publisher)

Sarah Bailey’s acclaimed debut novel The Dark Lake was a bestseller around the world and Bailey’s taut and suspenseful storytelling earned her fitting comparisons with Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins.

Into the Night is her stunning new crime novel featuring the troubled and brilliant Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock. This time Gemma finds herself lost and alone in the city, broken-hearted by the decisions she’s had to make. Her new workplace is a minefield and the partner she has been assigned is uncommunicative and often hostile. When a homeless man is murdered and Gemma is put on the case, she can’t help feeling a connection with the victim and the lonely and isolated life he led despite being in the middle of a bustling city.

Then a movie star is killed in bizarre circumstances on the set of a major film shoot, and Gemma and her partner Detective Sergeant Nick Fleet have to put aside their differences to unravel the mysteries surrounding the actor’s life and death. Who could commit such a brazen crime and who stands to profit from it? Far too many people, she soon discovers – and none of them can be trusted. But it’s when Gemma realises that she also can’t trust the people closest to her that her world starts closing in…

My Take

DS Gemma Woodstock has decided in a sense to put her career before her family. Leaving her young  son with his father, Gemma has moved to Melbourne to straighten her life out and to put her career back on track.

This is a far from standard Australian police procedural becoming extremely complex when a popular young tv star is murdered during the shoot for a zombie movie filmed in Spring St. Melbourne. There is literally a cast of thousands, and although they have the film footage it is very difficult to see exactly when Sterling Wade was stabbed and exactly who stabbed him.

This is Gemma’s second case in her new posting. The first was the murder of a homeless man, also stabbed, in a laneway.The pathologist’s report suggests that the two murders are surprisingly similar but the investigating team can’t connect the two victims.

The action moves at a good pace, and the stresses in Gemma’s new life are well described.

My rating: 4.5

I’ve also read
4.7, THE DARK LAKE

Review: MURDER IN MURLOO, Brigid George

  • format: kindle (Amazon)
  • Series: Dusty Kent Mysteries (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (March 25, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781508739258
  • ISBN-13: 978-1508739258
  • ASIN: 1508739250

Synopsis (Amazon)

When a popular young woman is strangled in her home in the seaside village of Murloo, the residents are sure an itinerant surfer who disappeared after the murder is the killer. However, one year later the surfer is still missing and the killer’s identity remains a mystery.

The victim’s family call in investigative journalist Dusty Kent who has an impeccable record in solving the cold cases she writes about. Dusty’s determination to investigate unresolved crime is fuelled by a personal connection through her own family tragedy.

However, this case tests Dusty to the limit and she despairs of ever catching the callous killer who seems to be lurking nearby and yet…A gripping mystery imbued with the ambience of Australia—from the mysterious wood carving found with the body, the captivating characters of a small town, to the coastal splendour of the Southern Ocean.

Murder in Murloo is a classic who-dun-it introducing Dusty Kent written by JB Rowley and published under the pseudonym Brigid George.

My Take

Journalist Dusty Kent is investigating the unsolved murder of Gabby Peters one year after the event, telling everyone she is writing a book. Together with recent arrival from Ireland Sean O’Kelly who is a super “online” hacker and sleuth, she interviews the entire town, trying to find out where everybody was when Gabby was killed.  The method produces an overwhelming amount of information including some which the residents did not reveal to the police at the time when they were first interviewed.
The local police warn Dusty off, telling her she is stirring up trouble, muddying their own investigation. But Dusty has a contact in the police force who she talks to from time to time.

Dusty’s methodology also has the effect of giving the reader a bewildering amount of data to sift through.
The setting is close to a surfing beach on the southern coast of Victoria.
In classic Poirot style Dusty holds a gathering where she reveals the murderer, and other surprising facts come to light too.

An interesting start to what is now a series of 4 novels, in which O’Kelly appears to act as Dusty’s Watson, recording the cases in his diary.

I read this book on my Kindle but now can’t find the Kindle version on Amazon.com.

My rating: 4.0

About the author

Brigid George is the pseudonym of JB Rowley; author of Amazon #1 Bestsellers ‘Whisper My Secret’ and ‘Mother of Ten’. JB also writes children’s stories such as ‘Wilhelmina Woylie’ and writes the Dusty Kent Murder Mystery series (starting with ‘Murder in Murloo’) under the pen name Brigid George.

Review: SCRUBLANDS, Chris Hammer

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 2387 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin (July 25, 2018)
  • Publication Date: July 25, 2018
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B079Z1VHZL

Synopsis (Amazon)

In an isolated (Australian) country town brought to its knees by endless drought, a charismatic and  dedicated young priest calmly opens fire on his congregation, killing five parishioners before being shot dead himself.

A year later, troubled journalist Martin Scarsden arrives in Riversend to write a feature on the anniversary of the tragedy. But the stories he hears from the locals about the priest and incidents leading up to the shooting don’t fit with the accepted version of events his own newspaper reported in an award-winning investigation. Martin can’t ignore his doubts, nor the urgings of some locals to unearth the real reason behind the priest’s deadly rampage.

Just as Martin believes he is making headway, a shocking new development rocks the town, which becomes the biggest story in Australia. The media descends on Riversend and Martin is now the one in the spotlight. His reasons for investigating the shooting have suddenly become very personal.

Wrestling with his own demons, Martin finds himself risking everything to discover a truth that becomes darker and more complex with every twist. But there are powerful forces determined to stop him, and he has no idea how far they will go to make sure the town’s secrets stay buried.

My Take:

This novel surprised me with the complexity of the plot.  It weaves a number of contemporary threads into the narrative. Some of these are revealed only as Martin Scarsend begins to investigate the ongoing impact of the tragic events that took place in Riversend nearly a year earlier.

Scarsend himself is “damaged goods” but his boss has sent him to write a human interest story which will perhaps help him get over the trauma he has suffered. Nothing prepares him for the heat of the drought stricken town and for the fact that no-one can tell him why the priest shot five locals.

My rating: 4.7

About the author

Christopher Hammer lives in Australia and has been a journalist for over twenty-five years. He has been an international correspondent, the chief political correspondent for The Bulletin, and a senior political journalist for The Age.

Review: BALLAD FOR A MAD GIRL, Vikki Wakefield

  • this edition published by Text Publishing 2017
  • 309 pages
  • ISBN 9781925355291
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

Everyone knows seventeen-year-old Grace Foley is a bit mad. She’s a prankster and a risk-taker, and she’s not afraid of anything—except losing. As part of the long-running feud between two local schools in Swanston, Grace accepts a challenge to walk the pipe. That night she experiences something she can’t explain.

The funny girl isn’t laughing anymore. She’s haunted by voices and visions—but nobody believes a girl who cries wolf.

As she’s drawn deeper into a twenty-year-old mystery surrounding missing girl Hannah Holt, the thin veil between this world and the next begins to slip. She can no longer tell what’s real or imagined—all she knows is the ghosts of Swanston, including that of her own mother, are restless. It seems one of them has granted her an extraordinary gift at a terrible price.

Everything about her is changing—her body, her thoughts, even her actions seem to belong to a stranger. Grace is losing herself, and her friends don’t understand. Is she moving closer to the truth? Or is she heading for madness?

My Take

Grace Foley believes that a girl, Hannah Holt, who disappeared 23 years ago has contacted her and wants her to solve the mystery of her disappearance. Grace’s own mother, killed as she was crossing a road two years ago, was in Hannah’s class at school so Grace feels a connection.

Grace has never fully got over her mother’s death. Other teenagers suggest that Grace’s mother committed suicide by deliberately walking into the path of the truck. Grace’s father then gave up their farm and they moved into town. Things have never seemed right for Grace ever since.

This is a challenging YA crime fiction novel as Grace kicks against her life. Set in a fictional Australian rural town (Victoria I think). Compelling reading.

My rating: 4.3

About the author
Vikki Wakefield’s first YA novel, All I Ever Wanted, won the 2012 Adelaide Festival Literary Award for YA Fiction, as did her second novel, Friday Brown, in 2014. Friday Brown
was also an Honour Book at the Children’s Book Council of Australia, in
2013, and was shortlisted for the prestigious Prime Minister’s Awards.
Vikki’s third novel, Inbetween Days, was Highly Commended in the
2016 Barbara Jefferis Award, was a 2016 CBCA Honour Book and was
shortlisted for the 2016 Prime Minister’s Awards. Vikki lives in the
Adelaide foothills with her family.

Review: UNDER THE COLD BRIGHT LIGHTS by Garry Disher

Garry Disher’s latest novel is a standalone story (at least for now) set against the backdrop of greater Melbourne, occasionally stretching as far as Geelong. UNDER THE COLD BRIGHT LIGHTS opens in a small town on the urban fringe. A dangerous snake has hidden itself under an old, unused concrete slab in the backyard of a young family’s home. When the slab is dug up as part of snake catching efforts a skeleton is found. We meet the book’s central character, Alan Auhl, when the cold case squad he works with is called in. At first they must identify the person, not easy due to the house’s history as a rental home, before moving on to discovering what led to their death and burial. The process the team has to go through is well depicted, giving a good sense of how painstaking it must be to investigate cases from even the relatively recent past.

Several other strands play out alongside the story’s main plotline. Auhl is contacted for news each year by the daughters of a man killed some years ago whose murderer has never been caught. Then there’s the tangled case of the doctor who alerts the police that his wife might be a murderer. Auhl is skeptical because he believes the doctor has killed two of his previous wives but was clever enough to get away with it. And we haven’t even gotten to Auhl’s personal life yet. He lives in the big old house he inherited from his parents and rents rooms out to a mismatched collection of waifs and strays. These include Neve Fanning and her daughter Pia who are trying to escape the clutches of Neve’s abusive ex husband who has the money and connections to use the legal system to his advantage.

These days picking up a new police procedurals is a bit risky as the trend for damaged central characters can make for repetitive reading. But Disher is a true master of his craft so manages to make Auhl stand out from the pack without using tired tropes such as the almost ubiquitous addiction. That doesn’t mean he’s all sweetness and light though. His nickname in the office is Retread because he’s returned from retirement and is the oldest person in the team by quite some years. I can attest personally to the authenticity with which the complexities of being an ‘older worker’ in a workforce entranced by youth is depicted. His marriage is…awkward to say the least and at one point he crosses a behavioural line that will surely haunt him but all this just makes for an interesting character that doesn’t feel like a rehashing of all those who have come before him.

And the story itself is a ripper. Disher juggles all the threads expertly and maintains just the right levels of suspense and heart. Readers aren’t led to believe that strange cold cases can be solved in a moment but nor are we bored to tears by too much detail. There is a good mix of the personal and professional too with Auhl’s home life offering lots of interest.

It doesn’t really come as a surprise that Garry Disher has produced another fantastic book but when someone is as consistently good as Disher it can be easy to take them for granted. UNDER THE COLD BRIGHT LIGHTS could easily be the start of a new series but stands equally well as a single novel, and is highly recommended for fans of top notch procedurals. It’s fast paced, sparsely written and genuinely surprising.


Publisher: Text Publishing, 2017
ISBN: 9781925498882
Length: 285 pages
Format: paperback
Source of review copy: Borrowed from a friend