Review: THE LOST GIRLS by Wendy James

TheLostGirlsJamesWendy21952_fThe first book of Wendy James’ I’d heard of was 2012′s THE MISTAKE and the fact it came with a Women’s Weekly Great Read sticker on its cover guaranteed I would never read it. Whatever their intent, to me those stickers say “here’s a book you know is inferior because we do not anticipate any man ever reading it“. But I was participating in the inaugural Australian Women Writers Challenge that year and promised myself I would read outside my comfort zone a little so picked up a copy and prepared to be underwhelmed. It’s a measure of James’ skill and creativity that the book ended up on my list of favourites for the year, prompted me to seek out her earlier publications and ensured I eagerly anticipated her next release. Which brings us to THE LOST GIRLS, James’ latest tale about the secrets people keep and the lies we tell ourselves just to get by. The latest of her books to get under my skin.

Set in the northern beachside suburbs of Sydney its central figure is Angie who in 1978 is 14 and staying with her cousins Mick and Jane during the summer holidays. Jane hero-worships her older cousin, Mick is besotted in a different way and everyone else seems to be at least a little awe of her. Angie is all too aware of the ripples she causes but her violent death has consequences for those left behind that last much longer than her short life.

In the present day Jane is a middle-aged mum on the verge of closing down the family business when their daughter meets a journalist interested in talking to the family members of murder victims. Via a series of interviews with the journalist and some flashbacks we learn about the events leading up to Angie’s death and its immediate aftermath from multiple perspectives including Jane’s, Mick’s and their mum’s. This gives the books one of its interesting slants by demonstrating how elastic the concept of truth can be when everyone has a different take on events and conversations.

This is not a novel of psychotic killers and genius detectives but one of average people going about their lives. We’ve all known an Angie (or perhaps you were one), or been desperate to be someone else, or reeled from the sudden collapse of a relationship or situation we’d thought impenetrable, The crimes (it is not a spoiler to let on there is more than one), the events surrounding them and their lingering aftermath are all easily imagined. These are people you’ve known, situations you’ve been in, decisions you could easily have been forced to make yourself and it is this ordinariness that got under my skin. Unlike most crime writers James doesn’t allow readers the luxury of believing that awful things happen elsewhere. Far away. She wants you to know they can just as easily rip your own world apart.


awwbadge_2014This is the sixth novel I’ve read and reviewed for this year’s Australian Women Writers Challenge. Check out my challenge progress and/or sign up yourself

Publisher: Penguin [2014]
ISBN: 9781921901058
Length: 270 pages
Format: paperback
Creative Commons Licence
This work by http://fairdinkumcrime.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Review: BLOOD SECRET, Jaye Ford

Synopsis (publisher)

Nothing ever happens in Haven Bay, which is why Rennie Carter – a woman who has been on the run for most of her life – stayed there longer than she
should.

However, that illusion of security is broken one night
when Max Tully, the man she loves and the reason she stayed, vanishes
without trace.

Rennie, though, is the only person who believes
Max is in danger. The police are looking in the wrong places, and Max’s friends and his business partner keep hinting at another, darker side to
him.

But Rennie Carter understands about double lives – after all, that’s not even her real name …

And she has a secret too – a big, relentless and violent one that she’s
terrified has found her again … and the man she loves.

My Take

This is the third novel written by Jaye Ford that I’ve read and I have enjoyed them all. Each has taken a realistic scenario, if a little embroidered to hype up the tension, and put them in an Australian setting that I can relate to.

The structure remains interesting as Rennie puts together the circumstances of Max’s disappearance and then fits them into various scenarios, discarding them one by one. The ultimate solution is the one she really doesn’t want to believe. The story is layered. The further we read the more layers are peeled back and we learn of both Rennie’s and Max’s back stories.

Throw in too Max’s fourteen year old son who has run away from his mother who has gone for a holiday to Cairns. Hayden decides not to go with her and turns up just after his father has disappeared. He and Rennie have to work hard to get on.

So, a very readable book. My rating: 4.5

My other reviews
4.4, BEYOND FEAR
4.5, SCARED YET?

Review: DEATH BY BEAUTY, Gabrielle Lord

  • Hachette Australia
  • ISBN 9780733627309
  • $32.99
  • Paperback – C Format
  • September 2012
  • 400 pages

Synopsis (Publisher)

Australia’s queen of crime fiction, Gabrielle Lord, is back with a chilling new novel. A ‘vampire’ is stalking the
streets, attacking beautiful young women; some are murdered days later,
others aren’t touched again. Gemma Lincoln, PI,  begins to see a pattern – but can she convince the authorities to take action before another life is lost?

How far would you go to look young and beautiful?

A young woman is attacked, she claims, by a vampire . Two more are found dead and hideously disfigured. A journalist goes missing after visiting Sapphire Springs Spa. And it’s up to Gemma Lincoln, PI, to find out what is going on.

In her first week back on the job after maternity leave, finding a balance between investigating brutal crimes, caring for baby Rafi and making time for herself and Mike is all too much. Something has to give, but not while a third woman s life is in danger.

As she moves closer to tying the crimes together, Rafi disappears.
Facing a mother’s worst nightmare, Gemma discovers what she is prepared to do to save her son.

My Take

Other Australian female authors in the past, Kerry Greenwood and Jennifer Rowe to name a couple, have set their murder mysteries around a beauty farm. So what Gabrielle Lord is doing in a sense is giving it a modern take – treatments implementing DNA and modern surgery techniques.

Add too a couple of extra elements – beautiful girls being drugged by a vampire – their memories ensuring no-one will believe them, thinking they are drug-induced; and a young woman returning to work with a young child to care for.

Gemma Lincoln has this idea that she will be able to slowly re-immerse herself in her investigative work, but the nature of her job, and Gemma’s own character, ensure that a slow resumption is just not an option. Young mothers reading DEATH BY BEAUTY will find themselves wishing that they had all the backup resources that Gemma has. Add to that the fact that Gemma is living with a man who is not the baby’s father, and things become complicated.

Gabrielle Lord has been occupying her time with writing YA thrillers and this is the first Gemma Lincoln novel for 5 years. It shows that Lord has not lost the touch and kept up with the times. I didn’t like Gemma Lincoln any the more for it – but that is probably just the way she strikes me.

The story is a chilling one about how much money there is in the industry of helping women retain their beauty and even making them look 10 years younger.

My rating: 4.4

I’ve reviewed
BABY DID A BAD BAD THING
DEATH DELIGHTS (Jack McCain)
DIRTY WEEKEND (Jack McCain)

Gemma Lincoln series (Fantastic Fiction)

1. Feeding the Demons (1999)
2. Baby Did a Bad Thing (2002)
3. Spiking the Girl (2004)
4. Shattered (2007)
5. Death By Beauty (2012)

Review: FATAL IMPACT, Kathryn Fox

  • published by Pan Macmillan Australia 2014
  • ISBN 978-1-74261-232-4
  • 389 pages
  • review copy supplied by publisher
  • #7 in the Anya Crichton series

Synopsis (Publisher)

When a girl’s dead body is found in a toy box, forensic physician and pathologist Anya Crichton joins the police hunt in her home state of
Tasmania for the child’s missing mother and sister.

Staying with her increasingly erratic mother, Dr Jocelyn Reynolds, Anya fears the long shadow of her  sister Miriam’s disappearance has finally driven her mother past the brink of sanity. But Anya soon discovers that Jocelyn is keeping a deadly secret.

When tests conclude a virulent strain of food poisoning was responsible for the child’s death, the outbreak begins to spread. Anya pairs up with Internal Affairs detective Oliver Parke to unravel the sinister connections between the fatal epidemic, a covered-up study, the shady deals of a multinational corporation and the alleged murder of a local
scientist. Anya has strayed into a high-stakes game so dangerous the players will kill to keep it quiet. With time running short, Anya must uncover the truth before she is silenced – permanently.

My take

I’ve long been a fan of Kathryn Fox’s work, and this novel did not disappoint me. As always Kathryn has combined interesting issues, excellent research, and a well plotted mystery that makes the pages just fly past. Although the character of Dr. Anya Crichton has now been developed over a span of seven novels, there is nothing to stop a reader from beginning with this one.

The setting of the novel is Tasmania with the issues of genetic modification of stock and products and foreign ownership of Australian land and industries running strongly in the background. Anya initially goes to Tasmania to give an address at a conference and then intends to pay a quick visit to her mother who lives near Launceston. She first of all gets caught up with the disappearance of a mother and her child, and then her father’s wife becomes critically ill. Her visit to her mother is extended when she finds her mother is not well, and then her mother’s neighbour dies.There is lots going on and the writing is fast paced.

My rating: 4.8

I’ve also reviewed

BLOOD BORN
4.6, DEATH MASK
COLD GRAVE

My mini-review for MALICIOUS INTENT – my rating 4.7

Dr. Anya Crichton has recently struck out to work on her own as a freelance
forensic pathologist.

Work is a bit hard to find but she is gaining a reputation as a credible courtroom authority. She is not without friends in the police, the New South Wales State Forensic Institute, and
among the criminal barristers. Something about the apparent suicide of Clare Matthews doesn’t sit quite right: the fact that, a nun, she disappeared shortly before she was due to take her vows, that she suicided by jumping off the Gap, that she was 6 weeks pregnant, and that she had strange fibres in her lungs. And now another case with similarities crops up: Fatima Deab overdoses on heroine after being missing for some days and her lungs contain the same fibres.
Debut publication by Australian author. It is obvious to the reader that Kathryn Fox has a lot to say, lots of issues that she wants to make us aware of, and sometimes this novel takes on a bit of a didactic tone. But the plotting is so good, the tension so well built that by the end I could forgive her anything! 

About the author:
Kathryn Fox is  a medical practitioner with a special interest in forensic medicine. She has worked as a family physician, medical journalist and freelance writer. Her debut novel received international acclaim and won the 2005 Davitt award for best crime novel. This is her seventh novel following Malicious Intent, Without Consent, Skin and Bone, Blood Born, Death Mask and Cold Grave.

Review: DRIVE BY, Michael Duffy

  • Format: Kindle (Amazon)

  • File Size: 657 KB
  • Print Length: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin (July 24, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E4A839M

Synopsis (Amazon)

‘If The Godfather was set in Sydney today, it would be about the
Lebs. But brothers, lots of brothers. Fathers don’t matter anymore.’
Detective Inspector Brian Harris

John Habib is the mechanic son of a Muslim Lebanese-Australian crime family in Sydney’s Western suburbs. His oldest brother is in a maximum security prison, his middle
brother is becoming increasingly fundamentalist, and his younger brother Rafi is on trial for a murder he swears he didn’t commit. John has no reason to disbelieve Rafi but there are things going on in the family that he just doesn’t understand. Why has his brother taken control of the family away from their father? Are the police really trying to set up Rafi? And what is the compelling evidence they say will put him away?
John sets out to prove Rafi’s innocence in the face of his predatory older brothers and some Lebanese-hating cops.

Bec Ralston is a good detective who doesn’t know why she’s been ordered to attend Rafi’s trial. She was previously thrown off the investigation for voicing the opinion that Rafi might be innocent. As the court case goes badly wrong, she finds herself torn between her loyalty to the senior police she respects and the truth.

My Take

To be honest, this was not an easy read for me. It is a little outside the fringes of the genre that I usually read, and felt alarmingly close to the style of true crime, which is not surprising considering the author’s background (see the note about the author below).

I struggled first of all with the three time frames that the action bounced between. The more I read though, the better this got, and I was more easily able to identify the time frame and location. The narrative voice was a little easier to handle, although there are mainly three narrators: Bec Ralston, the part Aboriginal detective constable; John (Jabber) Habib who seems to be the only “honest” person in the Habib family; and Karen Mabey the Crown Prosecutor.

I did struggle with back story and with trying to piece together what had preceded Rafiq Habib’s trial. Working out why Bec Ralston has been attached to this trial after initially being removed from the investigative team was another challenge. And then about three quarters of the way through, a bombshell drops which challenges all you think you have learnt to that point. Looking back on the novel now though, it seems that almost nothing can be taken at face value, and almost nobody is what they purport to be. And the problem is that almost everybody takes on the role of unreliable narrator. The problem is compounded by the huge amount of detailed information that the reader must try to absorb.

But I am mindful that if you are a reader of true crime or enjoy Australian noir crime fiction, then you will probably like DRIVE BY.

My rating: 4.4

About the author

Michael Duffy is a former court and crime reporter for several
newspapers in Sydney Australia whose work led to the true crime books
Call Me Cruel and Bad, the story behind the television series
Underbelly: Badness.

He now writes crime novels, the first two being THE TOWER and THE SIMPLE DEATH. Drawing on his work as a journalist and radio presenter, his novels embrace contemporary themes such as globalisation and voluntary euthanasia.

DRIVE BY, about the war on drugs, was published in 2013. It introduced part-Aboriginal detective Bec Ralston.

See also the author’s website.

Review: SILENT KILL by Peter Corris

SilentKillCorrisSILENT KILL is only the third of the 39 published Cliff Hardy novels I can recall reading so I’m by no means an expert on the series but after three books I can recognise some patterns.

Cliff Hardy, a Sydney-based private eye, will get involved in a case that appears simple but will turn out not to be. Check. Here Hardy is asked to play bodyguard to Rory O’Hara, a political celebrity about to start a tour that has an evangelical quality to its agenda. But the campaign comes to an end almost before it begins when one of the team is kidnapped then murdered. Later Hardy is hired by the victim’s family to investigate the murder and which ultimately leads him to the shadowy world of espionage.

Cliff will get beaten up or severely injured at least once, struggle not to drink too much and have what is probably an above average amount of sex for the average fifty-something single (ish) bloke. Check.  Cliff’s sort of girlfriend disappears to the US at the beginning of SILENT KILL but it’s not long before Cliff is smitten by Rory O’Hara’s assistant. The not drinking too much and the violence inflicted upon him are of the run-of-the mill variety here.

The story will be peppered with lots of wry, bitingly accurate observations. Check. My favourite one for this book occurs when two of O’Hara’s team are discussing the campaign’s media strategy

‘…[I'm] working on TV. We’re competing with a few local stories’

‘Like what?’ Pen said

‘Drive-by shooting and a footballer’s groin injury…’

If I’d been drinking coffee at the exact moment of reading that passage I’d probably have had to replace the library’s copy of the book after spurting my drink all over the pages. Footballers’ groins are indeed treated as serious news in this country.

I’m too late to the game to be a die-hard fan of the Cliff Hardy novels and the stories do all tend to blur into one fairly quickly after reading them. But I do enjoy the reading of each one. I like the humour and the fact the length of each release hasn’t grown exponentially. I particularly like that even though he’s clearly following a formula Corris doesn’t ‘phone it in’. The cleverness and social commentary that people have remarked on from the earliest days of the series are still there, and though he might be a bit older and slower Cliff does not behave in outlandishly unlikely ways.

Speaking from experience you can start the Cliff Hardy series pretty much anywhere so SILENT KILL is as good a place as any. It’s refreshingly brief, excitingly plotted and has many moments of enjoyable humour.


Publisher: Allen & Unwin [2014]
ISBN: 9781743316375
Length: 254 pages
Format: paperback
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Review: GETTING WARMER, Alan Carter

My co-host Kerrie is currently sailing the oceans on long cruise from the US to Australia so I will post all her reviews of all the Aussie crime fiction she manages to consume while on her trip

  • GettingWarmerCarterkindle edition
  • published 2013, Fremantle Press
  • ISBN 9781922089205

Synopsis (Fremantle Press)

Cato Kwong is back. Back in Boom Town and back on a real case – the unsolved mystery of a missing fifteen-year-old girl.

But it’s midsummer in the city of millionaires and it’s not just the heat that stinks. A pig corpse, peppered with nails, is uncovered in a shallow grave and a body, with its throat cut, turns up in the local nightclub.

As a series of blunders by Cato’s colleague brings the squad under intense scrutiny, Cato’s own sympathy for a suspect threatens to derail his case and his career.

My Take

The “hook” in this novel is a Prologue describing a conversation between a serial killer and a female Psychology student who has a lot to learn about listening.

Cato Kwong has returned to Fremantle from the “stock squad”, but he knows it would be easy to put a foot wrong and be sent bush again. The novel opens with Cato accompanying a police squad and a murderer, presumably the one in the Prologue, to a desiccated lake, looking for a body. Gordon Francis Wellard is already serving a sentence for murder: they are looking for the body of a previous victim.

Corruption is rife in the police force particularly amongst detectives who are looking for the information that will give them the edge in a case. Deals done with criminals are often long lasting, and even the cleanest cops can find themselves doing something they know they shouldn’t.

This is #2 in Carter’s Cato Kwong series and he has fleshed out more background for Cato, and I think the novel is written in a grittier style. The new setting in Fremantle brings with it new characters, some of whom Cato has apparently worked with before, some he knows by reputation. Current social issues surface, such as territorial wars between bikie gangs, and Vietnamese protection gangs.

Cato’s family circumstances play a greater role too, and put the dangers of the sort of police work he does into greater perspective.

Carter’s first novel PRIME CUT won him a Ned Kelly Award for best first novel, and GETTING WARMER affirms that he is a writer to watch.

My Rating: 4.7

Review: THE SCENT OF MURDER by Felicity Young

TheScentOfMurderYoungYou know that a fictional character has really gotten under your skin when horrid things that happen to them keep you awake late into the night. So it is with Dr Dorothy ‘Dody’ McCleland, the autopsy surgeon who has appeared now in three of Felicity Young’s historical mysteries set just after the official end of the Edwardian era in England and whose latest escapades made me worried and wakeful several nights this week.

In THE SCENT OF MURDER Dody is playing chaperone for her younger sister Florence who has followed her new beau, Tristram, to the country home of his uncle, Sir Desmond Fitzgibbon. Tristram, a budding archaeologist, discovers a skeleton on his uncle’s property and asks Dody to determine the age of the bones. It is when she pronounces the bones belong to someone recently deceased and insists on informing the local police of her suspicions of foul play that things become truly dangerous for Dody and some of her housemates.

One of the (many) things I adore about Dody is that she is a very practical feminist. While her sister and the radical suffragette group to which she belongs have been busy waging their version of a political war, Dody has gotten on with forging the life and career she wants, and though the compromises she’s had to make are frustrating they’re undoubtedly realistic and give her character a more credible sensibility than some of her fictional colleagues (e.g. Ariana Franklin’s medieval medical woman Adelia Aguilar). In this novel Dody is subjected to a particularly horrendous incident in addition to the usual patronising behaviour and misogyny she encounters but Young resisted the urge to be heavy-handed with the sensitive subject matter which, for me, makes it all the more believable (hence the lost sleep).

Young’s lightness of touch is also evident in her storytelling. It is entirely possible to wholeheartedly enjoy the book simply as a historical whodunit with the requisite amount of adventure and lush period detail. The book does explore social and political themes, including but not only the general treatment of women at this time in history, but these never take on the feel of a lecture as happens with some novels.

Because the whole series takes place at a time when English suffragettes were at their most active one thing that connects each instalment is the exploration of how the disenfranchised are treated by society. Here that theme takes a different turn when action eventually leads to a local workhouse where the best that the impoverished children forced to live there can hope for is to be treated with shabby indifference but far more likely is a harsher form of abuse. Many of the adults involved the management of the workhouse behave as if it is their right to perform such abuse, a scenario not that dissimilar from what must have been the circumstances for decades in many of the institutions currently the subject of a Royal Commission in my own country. Reading a book with this subject matter at the same time as I’m reading daily news headlines about similar abuses of power which have occurred during my lifetime gave this book an immediacy not often present in historical novels.

There are yet more delights in this novel including another strong appearance by Chief Inspector (and Dody’s love-interest) Matthew Pike, a chance to see some more of Dody and Florence’s unorthodox family and an unusual séance but I’m going to stop droning on and simply urge you to track down a copy of THE SCENT OF MURDER (and its two predecessors). Immediately if not sooner.


I’ve also reviewed the first two books in this series A DISSECTION OF MURDER and ANTIDOTE TO DEATH

awwbadge_2014This is the fourth novel I’ve read and reviewed for this year’s Australian Women Writers Challenge. Check out my challenge progress and/or sign up yourself


Publisher: Harper Collins [2014]
ISBN: 9780732298029
Length: 320 pages
Format: paperback
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This work by http://fairdinkumcrime.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Review: DESERVING DEATH by Katherine Howell

Dear judgemental waitress who served me a few days ago,

I suppose you thought the fact that I sat at one of your café’s tables to read a good portion of this book gave you the right to criticise my choice of reading material. But I did buy two large coffees and a sandwich, and for all but a few minutes I was your only customer. So I’m not sure you earned the right to offer that snarky “Why waste your time with that junk when there are so many proper books to read?” as you cleared my table. On top of which, you’ve no bloody clue what you’re talking about.

DeservingDeathHowellKatherine Howell’s latest novel, DESERVING DEATH, is as proper a novel as you could hope to read. In unravelling the story behind the murder of two Sydney paramedics it explores a myriad of social issues with a sensitivity that most authors could only dream of. Added to that it’s a ripper yarn. And the whole package is delivered in a delightfully concise 300 pages.

It is a pair of female paramedics, Carly Martens and Tessa Kimball, who are called to an address they know in the first few pages of DESERVING DEATH. Sadly they discover the body of a colleague and friend who has been brutally murdered in a similar fashion to another paramedic killed a month earlier. Detective Ella Marconi and her partner Murray Shakespeare, familiar to series regulars, are assigned to the case. Carly, deeply troubled by her friend’s death, seems determined to play a role in the investigation too. In classic whodunit style there are several false leads followed before the culprit is revealed.

While the plot is probably enough to keep most readers well and truly gripped DESERVING DEATH does offer a lot more. I was particularly struck by variety of topical human relationship issues the book explored. We see, for example, the complex mix of emotions experienced by Carly and her girlfriend, one of whom is fearful of her family’s reaction to the news she is gay while the other tries to cope with the fact that her part in her girlfriend’s life is a secret. Tessa’s life meanwhile offers an unexpectedly tear-inducing heartache as she struggles to deal with her alcoholic mother – so mentally and physically broken that even as she’s lying in a pool of her own urine she alternates between beseeching and castigating her daughter in her desperate attempts to gain access to more alcohol. Tessa’s behaviour in response to this onslaught might not always be admirable but it is completely realistic and very engaging (in a ‘good grief my problems aren’t that bad after all’ kind of way). And most series fans will, I’m sure, be as thrilled as I was I’m sure to learn that Ella’s love life has taken a turn for the better here but the couple struggle to maintain a healthy relationship when family baggage threatens to drive a wedge between them.

And so, judgemental waitress, while I don’t think I should have to justify my reading choices to you or anyone else, I think you should know that your mother was right – you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (I’ve no clue how else you could have developed your ill-informed opinion). DESERVING DEATH is a book anyone would be lucky to read. At least one of its myriad relationship issues would be relevant to most readers, its depiction of the life and work of paramedics and police officers is insightful and it is a bloody good yarn.

That passes all my benchmarks for a proper book and you should keep your ill-informed opinions to yourself.

Kind regards,

A happy reader and former customer

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

awwbadge_2014This is the third book I’ve read as part of my participation in this year’s Australian Women Writers Challenge. It’s not too late for you to join us.

I’ve reviewed all but the first published of Katherine Howell’s previous novels

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Publisher Pan Macmillan Australia [2014]
ISBN 9781742613666
Length 303 pages
Format paperback
Book Series #7 in the Ella Marconi series

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Review: THE DYING BEACH, Angela Savage

My co-host Kerrie is currently sailing the oceans on long cruise from the US to Australia so I will post all her reviews of all the Aussie crime fiction she manages to consume while on her trip

  • TheDyingBeachSavageMFormat: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 417 KB
  • Print Length: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Text Publishing (June 26, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CGKQR3G

Synopsis (Amazon)

A new case for expat private investigator Jayne Keeney.

As Jayne and Rajiv holiday in Krabi, Jayne can’t stop her mind straying to thoughts of the future: a successful business, perhaps even a honeymoon. Who would have thought she could be so content?
But then their tour guide’s body is found floating in the shallows and no one can explain the marks around her neck.

Jayne and Rajiv are pulled into a case that the police have already decided isn’t one: a case that will pull at the seams of their fledgling relationships and lead Jayne into grave danger.

Angela Savage is a Melbourne-based crime writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. Her first novel, Behind the Night Bazaar, won the 2004 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. She is a winner of the Scarlett Stiletto Award and has twice been shortlisted for Ned Kelly awards.

My Take

Jayne and Rajiv’s newly formed partnership of Keeney and Patel, private investigators, is severely tested when they agree to investigate the suspicious death of their tour guide. Jayne is really too used to making decisions without reference to others. Rajiv on the other hand believes Jayne is far too impulsive and doesn’t take into account the costs of the time she spends investigating. Jayne is only too willing to admit that she has made almost no profit as a private investigator so far.

The novel is set against economic and social issues besetting modern Thailand, particularly foreign and Thai businessmen trying to make quick profits without due consideration of the environmental impacts of their schemes. Villagers too are losing traditional rights when incomers seize on land that appears to belong to no-one. Others are worried by Thai locals becoming so heavily reliant on tourist income, and by the almost automatic degradation of the local way of life.

I was impressed in this novel by the author’s empathetic depiction of village life and of Thai customs, of the responsibility felt by village elders, as well as the detailed explanation of the social and economic issues surrounding the murders. Angela Savage takes us a little away from the beaten track, out of Bangkok, to areas that have tourist potential, but where change/modernisation will come at a price.

My rating: 4.5