Review: A FATAL TIDE, Steve Sailah

Synopsis (Net Galley)

A powerful novel set in Gallipoli, that’s part war-story and part mystery.

‘Amid Gallipoli’s slaughter he hunted a murderer . . .’

It is 1915 and Thomas Clare rues the day he and his best friend Snow went to war to solve the murder of his father. The only clues – a hidden wartime document and the imprint of an army boot on the victim’s face – have led the pair from the safety of Queensland to the blood-soaked hills of Gallipoli.

Now not only are Thomas’s enemies on every side – from the Turkish troops bearing down on the Anzac lines, to the cold-blooded killer in his own trench – but as far away as London and Berlin.

For, unbeknown to Thomas, the path to murder began thirteen years earlier in Africa with the execution of Breaker Morant – and a secret that could change the course of history . . .

My Take

The scope of this novel is quite ambitious: its themes include the Australian soldiers at Gallipoli in 1915; the Boer War, particularly what led up to the execution of Breaker Morant; the relationships between Aborigines and whites in Australia in the early twentieth century; as well as a closely plotted murder mystery.

The novel also falls in with a pattern emerging in Australian fiction as the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing approaches, of novels set in the First World War that wrap fictitious plots in historical fact. Real historical characters such as Major General Harry Chauvel and Lord Kitchener make an appearance.It also explores what it was like at Anzac Cove and the role that trench warfare played there even before it became the dominant feature of the Western Front.

I did find parts of the murder plot a bit far fetched, particularly the idea that the murder of his father led Thomas Clare to enlist, and indeed the reason why his father was murdered.

Nevertheless the plot holds together fairly well and the background to the main story certainly added to my understanding of the times.

There seemed to be some unresolved strings at the end which could well be the platform into a sequel.

My Rating: 4.3

About the author

Steve Sailah is a former ABC foreign correspondent in New Delhi and Washington
and the recipient of two prestigious Walkley Awards. He was a friend to several
Gallipoli veterans, and returned to the battlefields with a number of them on
the 75th anniversary of the first ANZAC landing. His ABC documentary, Stories
from Gallipoli
, was republished in April 2013.

Review: QUICK, Steve Worland

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1041 KB
  • Print Length: 340 pages
  • Publisher: e-penguin (August 27, 2014)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00L4T1UHS
  • source: publisher review copy at NetGalley

Synopsis (NetGalley)

Strap in for a breathtaking, tyre-peeling, high-octane adventure ride by the rising star of action thrillers.

Melbourne, Australia:
Round one of the Formula One World Championship. Billy Hotchkiss no longer races
a V8 Supercar, but that doesn’t mean he’s lost the need for speed. When the
young cop uncovers a diamond heist in progress he leaps into action and almost
captures the thieves single-handedly.

Lyon, France: Interpol are convinced the criminals are somehow connected to Formula One. And they think this Australian ex-race driver is just the guy to stop them.

Sent undercover with an unwilling French partner, Billy is thrust into the
glamorous world of international motor racing. But as the duo closes in on the
thieves they soon expose a far more sinister threat.

With the fate of a city and the lives of one hundred thousand people in the balance, Billy
must drive like never before to stop the worst act of terror since 9/11.

My Take

When the author contacted me about reviewing this title he didn’t know that I am an addicted Formula One couch potato. I was interested to see what sort of crime fiction novel you could set in the Formula One world.

The answer is a fast-paced sizzling thriller, with lots of mind blowing stunts, and a seemingly indestructible and multi-talented protagonist.

I guess being familiar with the names of drivers, the location of tracks etc. really fuelled my enjoyment but I also enjoyed seeing the F1 world from the inside, and I learnt a few things too.

The novel really zips along and stretches the bounds of credibility. But who cares? The pure escapism had me snickering at times. And there’s mystery too as you try to work the identity of the Three Champions that Billy Hotchkiss is tracking, as well as what they will ultimately aim to do, and why they are doing it.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Steve Worland has worked extensively in film and television in Australia
and the USA. He has written scripts for Working Title and Icon
Productions, worked in script development for James Cameron’s Lightstorm
and wrote Fox Searchlight’s ‘Bootmen’, which won five Australian Film
Institute awards.

Steve also wrote the action-comedy telemovie ‘Hard Knox’, the bible and episodes of the television series ‘Big Sky’ and the Saturn award-winning ‘Farscape’. The family film ‘Paper Planes’, which he co-wrote, will be released worldwide in 2015. His novelisation of the screenplay will be released at the same time.

He is the author of the action-adventure novels ‘Velocity’, ‘Combustion’ and ‘Quick’ and is currently writing his fourth book.

More awards news in Aussie crime writing

InTheMorningIllBeGoneMcKintyAdrian McKinty’s IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE was announced last night as the winner of this year’s Ned Kelly Award for best Australian crime novel. It is a brilliant novel about which I have previously banged on at some length so all I will say at this point is congratulations to Adrian. While I am sure it is enjoyable to win any award, I imagine it is all the sweeter when you know you have triumphed in a seriously strong field.

Head over to the Australian Crime Writers Association site to read the judges’ comments and see who won in the other categories last night, then read Adrian’s thoughts about his win. After you’ve done that make your way to your favourite purveyor of literature and snag copies of IN THE MORNING and all the other shortlisted titles to your shopping basket. It’s an excellent collection of contemporary Australian crime writing.

  • Garry Disher, BITTER WASH ROAD (a whistleblower cop’s punishment is duty in rural South Australia where corruption looks like allowing the murderer(s) of a young girl to walk free)
  • Kathryn Fox, FATAL IMPACT (a local forensic procedural that outshines many of its international competition)
  • PM Newton, BEAMS FALLING (if The Wire were a book and set in Australia it would be this one; a more harrowing depiction of modern policing you are unlikely to read)
  • Stephen Orr, ONE BOY MISSING (a missing child in small-town South Australia fails to generate the usual media frenzy but does attract the attention of one jaded but doggedly determined cop)
  • Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH (as above…a PI tale without alcoholics set in exotic Thailand’s recent past which is fast, funny and thought-provoking)

Awards news in Aussie crime writing

While I was busy being knocked flat by a killer virus (OK it didn’t actually kill me, I just wished it would for a while) in the past few weeks both our major awards for crime writing announced their shortlists and one of them has even announced its winner. So, a belated congratulations to all the nominees.

Davitt Award for best crime novel by an Australian woman

◾Honey Brown, DARK HORSE (a compelling suspense novel with a genuinely surprise ending)
◾Ilsa Evans, NEFARIOUS DOINGS (a funny light-hearted tale about the mysteries beneath the surface of small-town Australia)
◾Annie Hauxwell, A BITTER TASTE (a dark tale of desperation set amidst modern London’s underclass)
◾Katherine Howell, WEB OF DECEIT (a classic procedural which keeps a frenetic pace while managing to depict the real impact of crime on all who are touched by it)
◾Hannah Kent, BURIAL RITES (a haunting work which the author calls speculative historical biography about the last woman hanged in Iceland)
◾Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH (a PI tale without alcoholics set in exotic Thailand’s recent past which is fast, funny and thought-provoking)

DarkHorseBrownHoney21306_fThough I’m not quite convinced Burial Rights really belongs in the crime genre, this is an exceptionally strong field showing the depth and diversity of Aussie women’s crime writing. The winner of this award (announced last weekend) was Honey Brown’s DARK HORSE and it is a superb novel so congratulations to Ms Brown but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you rush out and procure all six novels. For pictures of the awards night and information about winners in the other categories head over to the Sisters in Crime website.

Ned Kelly Award for best crime novel by an Australian writer

The winners of the 2014 awards will be announced this coming Saturday as part of the Brisbane Writers’ Festival. The shortlisted books in the best novel category are

  • Garry Disher, BITTER WASH ROAD (a whistleblower cop’s punishment is duty in rural South Australia where corruption looks like allowing the murderer(s) of a young girl to walk free)
  • Kathryn Fox, FATAL IMPACT (a local forensic procedural that outshines many of its international competition)
  • Adrian McKinty, IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE (a darkly funny locked-room mystery set against the backdrop of Northern Ireland’s troubles)
  • PM Newton, BEAMS FALLING (if The Wire were a book and set in Australia it would be this one; a more harrowing depiction of modern policing you are unlikely to read)
  • Stephen Orr, ONE BOY MISSING (a missing child in small-town South Australia fails to generate the usual media frenzy but does attract the attention of one jaded but doggedly determined cop)
  • Angela Savage, THE DYING BEACH (as above…a PI tale without alcoholics set in exotic Thailand’s recent past which is fast, funny and thought-provoking)

I didn’t manage to write reviews of all this list either (note to self: must try harder) but again this is a terrific lot of books and I have no hesitation in recommending them all. For judges comments about the shortlist and information on the nominees in the other Ned Kelly Awards categories head over to the Australian Crime Writers Association website

For once I have read all the books on both the ‘best novel’ shortlists for the country’s major crime writing awards and find myself able to sincerely recommend each and every book. Yay for Aussie crime writers.

Review: IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE, Adrian McKinty

  • first published in 2014
  • This edition published by Serpent’s Tail 2014
  • ISBN 978-1846688201
  • 326 pages
  • #3 in the Sean Duffy Trilogy
  • borrowed from my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

The third book in the Sean Duffy thriller series. A spectacular escape and a man-hunt that could change the future of a nation – and lay one man’s past to rest.

Sean Duffy’s got nothing. And when you’ve got
nothing to lose, you have everything to gain. So when MI5 come knocking, Sean knows exactly what they want, and what he’ll want in return, but he hasn’t got the first idea how to get it.Of course he’s heard about the spectacular escape of IRA man Dermot McCann from Her Majesty’s Maze prison. And he knew, with chilly certainty, that their paths would
cross.

But finding Dermot leads Sean to an old locked room mystery, and into the kind of danger where you can lose as easily as winning. From old betrayals and ancient history to 1984’s most infamous crime, Sean tries not to fall behind in the race to annihilation. Can he outrun the most skilled terrorist the IRA ever created? And will the past catch him first?

My Take

This story focusses on events in 1983 and 1984: first of all the breakout of a number of IRA terrorists from the Maze prison and then the subsequent IRA bombings of 1984.

And along the way, under the guise of investigating cold cases, Sean Duffy begins to investigate the accidental death of Lizzie Fitzpatrick. This is a locked room mystery, but the coroner had not been satisfied that the death was accidental and returned an open verdict. Mary Fitzpatrick has always been convinced it was murder but no one could envisage how it happened. But why was Lizzie changing a light bulb in the dark, balancing precariously on the bar?

The locked room mystery adds an extra filip to this story. In his teens Sean Duffy had been at school with Dermot McCann, and had known the Fitzpatrick family. I also liked the way McKinty has definitely established a setting and time frame.

Sean Duffy will do almost anything to regain his place in CID but how much is he controlling his destiny?

This probably is the best of the Sean Duffy trilogy, but only by a hair’s whisker.

My rating: 4.9

I’ve also reviewed

FIFTY GRAND
4.6, THE COLD COLD GROUND – Sean Duffy #1
4.8, I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET – Sean Duffy #2
4.6, FALLING GLASS

About the author

Adrian McKinty was born and grew up in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland.
He studied politics and philosophy at Oxford University and then
emigrated to New York in 1993. He lived in Harlem for seven years
working at various jobs, with various degrees of legality, and in 2000
he moved to Denver, Colorado to become a high school English teacher.

In
2008 he emigrated again this time to Melbourne, Australia with his wife and kids. Adrian’s first crime novel, Dead I Well May Be, was shortlisted for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award. The sequel to that book, The Dead Yard, was picked as one of the 10 best books of the year by Booklist and won the Audie Award for best crime fiction novel.

The first book in the Sean Duffy series, The Cold Cold Ground, won the 2013 Spinetingler Award for best novel. The second Sean Duffy book, I Hear The Sirens In The Street was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award.

Review: FATAL LIAISON, Vicki Tyley

  • Length:
    8 hrs and 33 mins
  • Format: Unabridged
  • Release date May 2014, from Crossroad Press

Synopsis (Publisher)

The lives of two strangers, Greg Jenkins and Megan Brighton, become inextricably entangled when they each sign up for a dinner dating agency. Greg’s reason for joining has nothing to do with looking for love. His recently divorced sister, Sam, has disappeared and Greg is convinced that Dinner for Twelve, or at least one of its clients, may be responsible.

Neither is Megan looking for love. Although single, she only joined at her best friend Brenda De Luca’s insistence. When a client of the dating agency is murdered, suspicion falls on several of the members. Then Megan’s friend Brenda disappears without trace, and
Megan and Greg join forces. Will they find Sam and Brenda? Or are they about to step into the same inescapable snare?

My Take

The dating agency Dinner for Twelve looks innocuous enough, but it certainly attracts its share of oddball characters. Its clients though don’t expect murder to be on the menu, but one of the guests at the first dinner that Brenda, Megan, and Greg attends disappears and is then found dead.

Greg Jenkins employs a rather comic private investigator to assist him in the search for his missing sister. And when her friend Brenda disappears he and Megan become a sleuthing “item”.  Greg is pretty sure he knows which of the other Dinner for Twelve clients is guilty, and is exultant when the police detain this person to assist in their enquiries, but bewildered when he is released.

This is a story with many twists and turns, with one that I didn’t expect right at the end.

My rating: 4.4

I’ve also reviewed 4.3, THIN BLOOD – an Amazon 2010 Customer Favorite

About the author

From her website

Mid 2002, I quit my high-pressure management job and moved with my husband
to a farm about ninety minutes north-east of Melbourne to write fulltime. Since then,
I’ve written five (six if you count my first one, now banished to the bottom drawer
never to see the light again) standalone contemporary murder mysteries.

Outside of writing and reading, my main interests are design and photography. I like to laugh, drink coffee, spend time alone, spend time in company, and get close to nature. I
dislike crowds, hospitals and offal.

I write fast-paced mystery and suspense novels in contemporary Australian settings. All my books are quick, easy reads with no gratuitous sex or violence – the type of books I enjoy as a reader. However, my characters occasionally swear.

Review: THE LOST GIRLS, Wendy James

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 956 KB
  • Print Length: 268 pages
  • Publisher: e-penguin (February 26, 2014)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00H8ARVG6

Synopsis (Amazon)

From the bestselling author of The Mistake comes a hauntingly powerful story about families and secrets and the dark shadows cast by the past.

Curl Curl, Sydney, January 1978.

Angie’s a looker. Or she’s going to be. She’s only fourteen, but already, heads turn wherever she goes. Male heads, mainly . . .

Jane worships her older cousin Angie. She spends her summer vying for Angie’s attention. Then Angie is murdered. Jane and her family are shattered. They withdraw into themselves, casting a veil of silence over Angie’s death.

Thirty years later, a journalist arrives with questions about the tragic event. Jane is relieved to finally talk about her adored cousin. And so is her family. But whose version of Angie’s
story – whose version of Angie herself – is the real one? And can past wrongs ever be made right?

The shocking truth of Angie’s last days will force Jane to question everything she once believed. Because nothing – not the past or even the present – is as she once imagined.

My Take

A cleverly written book, told mainly from the point of view of Jane, who was just twelve when Angie died. Jane’s story is told partly in first person, particularly from an observer’s point of view, and partly through the interviewing of Jane and other family members by Erin, a journalist wanting to make a radio documentary. Of course, at twelve, there are aspects of real life that Jane really doesn’t understand, but now, thirty years on she can bring a more adult perspective to her teenage memories.

The focus of the story is who killed Angie and why, and also the impact of her death on the immediate members of Jane’s family. What Jane did not understand at the time of Angie’s death is that there were big secrets.

I managed to get part of the “real” story worked out easily enough but the final piece slotted in only a few pages from the end.

My rating: 4.7

I’ve also reviewed
4.8, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
4.8, THE MISTAKE

Review: THE CARTOGRAPHER, Peter Twohig

  • first published in Australia by Harper Collins Publishers 2012
  • ISBN 978-0-7322-9316-1
  • source: library book
  • 386 pages

Synopsis (author site)

An eleven-year-old boy witnesses a violent crime. Just one year before, he looked on helplessly as his identical twin died  violently. His
determination that he himself is the link changes his life.

The Cartographer is a captivating novel about a tragic figure in a dark place. The nameless child who tells the story handles the terrors of his life by adopting the strengths of fictional pop culture characters he admires, drawing on comics, radio and television dramas, and movies, finally recreating himself as a superhero who saves himself by mapping,
and who attempts to redeem himself by giving up his persona so that another may live again.

His only mentors are a professional standover man, his shady grandfather, and an incongruous neighbourhood couple who intervene in an oddly coincidental way.

In the dark, dangerous lanes and underground drains of grimy 1959 Melbourne, The Cartographer is a story bristling with outrageous wit and irony about an innocent who refuses to give in, a story peopled with a richness of shifty, dodgy and downright malicious bastards, mixed with a modicum of pseudo-aunts, astonishing super heroes, and a few
coincidentally loving characters, some of whom are found in the most unlikely places.

http://browseinside.harpercollins.com.au/index.aspx?isbn13=9780732293161

My Take

This novel came highly recommended by  a friend whose judgement I trust, but perhaps it is just an indication of how widely our tastes diverge, that I can’t share her enthusiasm.

I think I lost my way about halfway through the book after our narrator, 11 years old and often unreliable, survived yet another “adventure” in the name of mapping a safer world. I lost sight of what this book was about, what mystery I should be helping to solve. It was probably all there, just not plainly enough for me. There are some delightfully humorous passages, but I sometimes also doubted the authenticity of the narrator’s voice. Juvenile narration is difficult to do at the best of times, but I felt our unnamed hero had too much latitude for his age.

I think there were connecting threads between various incidents in the story but the author made me work too hard to cobble them together. Perhaps at times I am a lazy reader…

My rating: 3.5

Check another review

Review: LIFE OR DEATH, Michael Robotham

Synopsis (Net Galley)

Why would a man escape from prison the day before he’s due to be released?Audie Palmer has spent a decade in prison for an armed robbery in which four people died, including two of the gang. Seven million dollars has never been recovered and everybody believes that Audie knows where the money is.

For ten years he has been beaten, stabbed, throttled and threatened almost daily by prison guards, inmates and criminal gangs, who all want to answer this same question, but suddenly Audie vanishes, the day before he’s due to be released.

Everybody wants to find Audie, but he’s not running. Instead he’s trying to save a life . . . and not just his own.

My Take

Australian author Michael Robotham, already acclaimed both in Australia and internationally, takes a different direction in this novel: not the next in his Ruiz and O’Loughlin series set in Britain, but a stand-alone set in Texas. For me it shows another step, a necessary one, for Robotham in his development as a novelist. And one that I think will be popular with American readers.

Audie Palmer is a survivor – first of all from a gunshot that shattered his cranium, and then a decade where every other inmate in the prison seemed to want to be the one who killed Audie Palmer. As the day for his release looms Audie knows he is not going to make it to freedom alive.

The story is told from Audie’s point of view, but in the third person, and we gradually piece together Audie’s life before the armed robbery, and then his part in the robbery. We understand what has kept him going for a decade and why he escapes the day before his release date. But will he survive on the run as he tries to put the record straight?

There is a cinematographic quality to this story and I would not be surprised to find it optioned for a film.

LIFE OR DEATH puts Robotham right up there with modern crime fiction writers. It is a tightly plotted thriller with a roller coaster of suspense. It has made it  into my top 5 reads for this year.

My rating: 5.0

I’ve also reviewed
BOMBPROOF
SHATTER
SHATTER (audio)
BLEED FOR ME
5.0, THE WRECKAGE
4.8, SAY YOU’RE SORRY
5.0, WATCHING YOU
4.8, IF I TELL YOU… I’LL HAVE TO KILL YOU (edit)

Review: IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE by Adrian McKinty

InTheMorningIllBeGoneMcKintyIN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE completes what is surely one of crime fiction’s best trilogies*. Collectively the set has used an assortment of routine crimes and their investigation as an avenue into the crazy, mixed-up world that was Northern Ireland’s Troubles; offering the kind of insider perspective on everyday life that non-fiction can never quite manage. And while the first two books were both outstanding, IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE is…perfect.

As the book opens series hero, Sean Duffy, has been expelled from the police, ostensibly for running someone over with his police vehicle but really because of the many feathers he has ruffled and lines he has crossed in the events depicted in earlier instalments. Just as he is contemplating a move to Spain, where his police pension might stretch a little further and the weather will definitely be sunnier, he gets an offer he can’t refuse. His old school mate and IRA leader Dermot McCann is one of the prisoners who escaped from the Maze prison on one horrendous night and Special Branch wonder if Duffy’s personal connection might enable him to uncover information about McCann’s whereabouts and current plans.

I think my favourite of the many lovable things about this novel is its intricately clever plot that includes a romping, old-fashioned locked-room mystery. I’ll admit to being wary at the first sign of this classic trope because many modern attempts go horribly awry through thinking this an easy plot element to achieve. But McKinty has not succumbed to the lure of the paranormal nor unfairly hidden some snippet of information from the reader and the fact his characters are aware of the infamy of the type of puzzle they’re trying to solve somehow makes it seem all the more legitimate. Being a huge fan of the locked-room story I’d have been happy enough with this alone, but the plot holds much more including an ending that inserts Duffy very credibly into one of the period’s most dramatic real events. Said ending is wickedly unforgettable but not over-the-top and this is such a rare thing in crime novels these days it must be applauded.

Escaped violent prisoners, girls dead too young, injustice in myriad forms and the ever-present worry there might be a bomb under one’s car shouldn’t make ripe ground for laughter but there is a wry humour pervading this novel; lifting the depressing sensibility it might (surely would?) otherwise have. But despite this, or perhaps because of it, the reader is rarely in any doubt that serious business is at hand. This perfect balance between seriousness and humour is evidenced by the novel’s opening sentences

“The beeper began to whine at 4.27pm on Wednesday, 25 September 1983. It was repeating a shrill C sharp at four-second intervals which meant – for those of us who had bothered to read the manual – that it was a Class 1 emergency. This was a general alert being sent to every off-duty policeman, police reservist and soldier in Northern Ireland. There were only five Class 1 emergencies and three of them were a Soviet nuclear strike, a Soviet invasion and what the civil servants who’d written the manual had nonchalantly called ‘an extra-terrestrial trespass’.”

InTheMorningIllBeGoneAudioPossibly even more important than offering a ripper yarn with an undercurrent of humour is the undoubted insight the novel offers into this turbulent time and place. There are banalities and absurdities; terror and dullness; the personal and the political are irretrievably and dangerously intertwined; right and wrong are everywhere: jumbled, often indistinguishable. The problem with most of the non-fiction I’ve read on this topic is that it tries to make sense of it all whereas McKinty seems to have realised the futility of that and just depicted what was: a surreal and often nonsensical morass of humanity at its worst. And best.

I could go on some more but if I haven’t already convinced you to give this one a go then there’s no hope for you. From its Tom Waits’ borrowed title to the very last word of chapter 32 IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE is a treat. It offers everything I look for in a novel: lovably imperfect characters, an enveloping sense of its time and place, emotional highs and lows and some of the best laughs you’ll find between two covers. I recommend it to everyone: crime fan or not. And if you happen to be a lover of audio books do yourself a favour and grab the Gerard Doyle narration.


*there are rumours of a fourth Sean Duffy book in the works but, for now at least, this is a complete set.

My review of this book’s predecessors IN THE COLD COLD GROUND and I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET


Publisher: Print – Serpent’s Tail [2014]; Audio – Blackstone Audio [2014]
ISBN Print version: 9781846688201 ASIN Audio version: B00HWH90XM
Length: 326 pages / 9 hrs 51 minutes
Format: paperback / mp3
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This work by http://fairdinkumcrime.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.