Review: THE WIFE AND THE WIDOW, Christian White

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1798 KB
  • Print Length: 370 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1250194377
  • Publisher: Affirm Press (September 24, 2019)
  • Publication Date: September 24, 2019
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B07XZ1P2JR

Synopsis (Amazon)

Set against the backdrop of an eerie island town in the dead of winter, The Wife and the Widow is a mystery/thriller told from two perspectives: Kate, a widow whose grief is compounded by what she learns about her dead husband’s secret life; and Abby, an island local whose world is turned upside down when she’s forced to confront the evidence that her husband is a murderer. But nothing on this island is quite as it seems, and only when these women come together can they discover the whole story about the men in their lives.

Brilliant and beguiling, The Wife and the Widow takes you to a cliff edge and asks the question: how well do we really know the people we love?

My Take

This novel is based on such a clever plot twist.

John Keddie has been away for two weeks supposedly at a palliative care conference in London. When he doesn’t arrive on a flight home to Melbourne, doesn’t answer his phone, his wife Kate reports him missing.

Then a security company reports an intruder at their holiday house on Belport Island in Bass Strait, and Kate and her father-in-law travel to the island to see whether John is there.

On the face of it this is a standard missing person/murder mystery but nothing prepares the reader for the huge plot twist that begins to puzzle about half way through the novel.

An excellent, recommended read.

My rating: 4.5

I had previously read THE NOWHERE CHILD

Review: THE ACCUSATION, Wendy James

  • this edition published by Read How You Want as a large print edition for Harper Collins 2019
  • ISBN 978-0-36930-380-6
  • 427 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

Somebody is lying.

A bizarre abduction. A body of damning evidence. A world of betrayal.

After eighteen-year-old Ellie Canning is found shivering and barely conscious on a country road, her bizarre story of kidnap and escape enthrals the nation. Who would do such a thing? And why?

Local drama teacher Suzannah Wells, once a minor celebrity, is new to town. Suddenly she’s in the spotlight again, accused of being the monster who drugged and bound a teenager in her basement. As stories about her past emerge, even those closest to her begin to doubt her innocence.

And Ellie? The media can’t get enough of her. She’s a girl-power icon, a social-media star. But is she telling the truth?

My take

Middle aged Suzannah Wells, once the star of a soapie on Australian television, has come to a small country town in Victoria to teach drama at a local high school. She has bought an old house on the edge of town, bringing with her her elderly mother Mary who has dementia. She and her mother have few friends in the town, and her mother has a carer drop in three days a week while Suzannah is at work.

But their relatively comfortable life is shattered when Ellie Canning tells the police that she has been imprisoned for three weeks in the cellar of Suzannah’s house. Suzannah can’t work out why Ellie is telling such patent lies. What does she hope to gain by it?

The story results from a number of narrative sources: Suzannah herself, transcripts from interviews held with Ellie for a documentary series, and a friend of Suzannah’s called Honor who eventually takes Ellie under her wing. The story begins in August 2018 when a local farmer finds Ellie in a derelict hut on his property, and continues into 2019.

It was only when I was talking to a friend about the plot of this book, that she told me that it was very similar to that of a book that she had recently read. I researched the name of the author that she gave me, and I found there was indeed a connection. And then confirmation came at the beginning of Part Three. And then in an Author Note at the end came indeed the final confirmation of what my Google research had implied. I realised too that there had been a quite major hint in the body of the novel, but until my friend told me of the similarity, I hadn’t realised the significance.

But I’m not going to spoil the “story” for you – rather leaving it for you to discover for yourself.

My rating: 4.5

I’ve also read
4.8, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
4.8, THE MISTAKE
4.7, THE LOST GIRLS

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: LAPSE, Sarah Thornton

  • This edition published by Text Publishing 2019
  • ISBN 9-781925-773941
  • 293 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

All it took was a lapse…a momentary lapse…to bring Clementine Jones’ world crashing down. Now she’s living like a hermit in small-town Katinga, coaching the local footy club. She’s supposed to be lying low, but here she is, with her team on the cusp of their first premiership in fifty years—and the whole bloody town counting on her, cheering her on.

So why the hell would her star player quit on the eve of the finals?

It’s a question she wishes she’d left alone. Others are starting to ask questions too—questions about her. Clem’s not the only one with a secret, and as tension builds, the dark violence just below the town’s surface threatens to erupt. Pretty soon there’ll be nowhere left for Clem to hide.

My take

This is a rare novel in Australian crime fiction: set in the Australian footy world (rural AFL) and resonating with elements footy followers are familiar with: among them an Aboriginal player who quits mid season.

Clem Jones lives on the outskirts of a small Victorian town and she has brought the local footy team from bottom last year to the brink of a premiership. Last year the team members were no-hopers and some of them still are, but she has raised their level of fitness and they walk tall in their town. Clem is very secretive about her background but the reader is given clues about where she has been.

Clancy is a vital part of her team and then he tells her he has to quit but he won’t say why. At the same time he loses his job, and Clem takes it upon herself to find out why.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and look forward to the next in the series.

My rating: 4.7

About the author

Sarah cast off the lines to her law career not long after being awarded Australian Corporate Lawyer of the Year in 2016. She now lives with her husband aboard a 43-foot sailing catamaran, exploring this most magnificent blue planet and chasing an endless summer. She took up writing novels as a way to liberate her imagination after twenty years in the structured confines of legal and corporate life. Her debut novel, Lapse, is the first of a series featuring former corporate lawyer Clementine Jones.

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

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