Review: THE LOST SWIMMER, Ann Turner

Synopsis (Net Galley)

Rebecca Wilding, an archaeology professor, traces the past for a living.

But suddenly, truth and certainty are turning against her. Rebecca is accused of serious fraud, and   worse, she suspects – she knows – that her husband, Stephen, is having an affair.

Desperate to find answers, Rebecca leaves with Stephen for Greece, Italy and
Paris, where she can uncover the conspiracy against her, and hopefully win
Stephen back to her side, where he belongs. There’s too much at stake – her
love, her work, her family.

But on the idyllic Amalfi Coast, Stephen goes swimming and doesn’t come back.

In a swirling daze of panic and fear, Rebecca is dealt with fresh allegations.
And with time against her, she must uncover the dark secrets that stand between
her and Stephen, and the deceit that has chased her halfway around the world.

My Take:

Rebecca Wilding is having a tough time at Coast University, particularly with the Dean of the Arts faculty, Professor Priscilla Chiton, who seems determined to make her life hell. Priscilla used to be a friend, but now Rebecca suspects she is having an affair with her husband Stephen, Professor of Economics. Rebecca also suspects that Stephen may be dabbling on the stock market again.

Suddenly things start to go very wrong when accounting irregularities crop up and Rebecca is accused of siphoning university funds into her own accounts.

There were some heart stopping moments in this thriller, particularly when they are driving a red sports car up a narrow road on the Amalfi Coast.

Stephen’s disappearance leads to Rebecca becoming a chief suspect for his possible murder, and she goes on the run from the police, attempting to track him down in Paris, where she thinks he is meeting up with Priscilla.

A good read: a debut novel from a female Australian author.

My rating: 4.4

About the author (publisher)

Ann Turner is an award-winning screenwriter and director, avid reader, and
history lover. She is drawn to salt-sprayed coasts, luminous landscapes,
and the people who inhabit them all over the world. She is a passionate
gardener. Her films include the historical feature Celia starring
Rebecca Smart—which Time Out listed as one of the fifty greatest
directorial debuts of all time, Hammers Over The Anvil starring Russell
Crowe and Charlotte Rampling, and the psychological thriller
Irresistible starring Susan Sarandon, Sam Neill, and Emily Blunt. Ann
has lectured in film at the Victorian College of the Arts. Returning to
her first love, the written word, in her debut novel The Lost Swimmer
Ann explores themes of love, trust and the dark side of relationships.
She is currently working on her second novel, Out of the Ice, a mystery
thriller set in Antarctica. Ann was born in Adelaide and lives in

Review: TRACKING NORTH, Kerry McGinnis

  • first published by Penguin Group Australia in 2013
  • ISBN 978-1-921901-47-8
  • Available for Kindle
  • 346 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Penguin Australia)

Kelly Roberts finds refuge in the rugged and remote cattle country of northern Australia, but when tragedy strikes she is forced to find a new life for herself and her children outside of Rainsford Station.

She retreats to the family’s only asset – a freehold block of land owned jointly by her eccentric father-in-law, Quinn. In the valley at Evergreen Springs, Quinn hopes the fractured family might all come together to start over again.

Life in Queensland’s far north is wildly unpredictable, with daily challenges and the wet season, in all its wild majesty, to survive. But when twelve-year-old Rob makes the
gruesome discovery of a dead body in the valley, real peril comes far too close to home.

Tracking North is a beautiful family story about life in the stunning Gulf Country, one of the world’s most unique and fascinating places.

My Take

First of all,  this is a book on the very edge of crime fiction, on the soft edge one might say. Certainly there is a crime, and a murder, and some violence, but essentially it is a story abut a way of life in Australia, in the Far North, and a family making its way in a world that is changing rapidly.

Kerry McGinnis has obviously drawn on first hand experience of living and working in remote Queensland, and I couldn’t help wondering how a non-Australian reader would see the landscape and life style that she describes. Perhaps it will be an eye opener.

I did enjoy the book, inveterate crime fiction reader that I am, much more than I expected to, even the romance that won its way in the end. And, as the friend who recommended it to me said, there is mystery, there is the odd puzzle to be solved.

My rating: 4.3

About the author

Kerry McGinnis was born in Adelaide and at the age of twelve took up a
life of droving with her father and four siblings. The family travelled
extensively across the Northern Territory and Queensland before settling
on a station in the Gulf Country. Kerry has worked as a shepherd,
droving hand, gardener and stock-camp and station cook on the family
property Bowthorn, north-west of Mt Isa. She is the author of two
volumes of memoir, Pieces of Blue and Heart Country, and the bestselling novels The Waddi Tree, Wildhorse Creek and Mallee Sky. Kerry now lives in Bundaberg.

Review: DARK HORSE, Honey Brown

  • first published Penguin Group 2013
  • ISBN 978-1-921901-53-9
  • 274 pages
  • source: Mt TBR
  • Available on Amazon for Kindle

Synopsis (Penguin Australia)

It’s Christmas morning on the edge of the rugged Mortimer Ranges. Sarah Barnard saddles Tansy, her black mare. She is heading for the bush, escaping the reality of her broken marriage and her bankrupted
trail-riding business.

Sarah seeks solace in the ranges. When a flash flood traps her on Devil Mountain, she heads to higher ground, taking shelter in Hangman’s Hut.

She settles in to wait out Christmas.

A man, a lone bushwalker, arrives. Heath is charming, capable, handsome.
But his story doesn’t ring true. Why is he deep in the wilderness
without any gear? Where is his vehicle? What’s driving his resistance
towards rescue? The closer they become the more her suspicions grow.

But to get off Devil Mountain alive, Sarah must engage in this secretive stranger’s dangerous game of intimacy.

My Take

The narrative is told from Sarah Barnard’s point of view and so the reader shares Sarah’s anxiety when a stranger comes out of the wild weather at the Hangman’s Hut. The weather worsens and they are stranded on Devil Mountain for seven days between Christmas and New Year. There are things about Heath that don’t seem to ring true, and although she and Heath become very intimate, Sarah feels he is not who he says he is. But then how much of her own story does Sarah tell?

Mid-story there is a twist that I really didn’t see coming. Excellent psychological suspense.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Honey Brown lives in country Victoria with her husband and two children. She is the author of four books: Red Queen, The Good Daughter, After the Darkness and Dark Horse. Red Queen was published to critical acclaim in 2009 and won an Aurealis Award, and The Good Daughter was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award and shortlisted for the Barbara Jefferis Award in 2011. After the Darkness was selected for the Women’s Weekly Great Read and for Get Reading 2012’s 50 Books You Can’t Put Down campaign. Her fifth novel, Through the Cracks, was published in 2014.

Review: MEDEA’S CURSE, Anne Buist

  • first published by Text Publishing Melbourne 2015
  • ISBN 9-781922-182647
  • 366 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

Forensic psychiatrist Natalie King works with victims and perpetrators of violent crime. Women with a history of abuse, mainly. She rides a Ducati a size too big and wears a tank top a size too small. Likes men but doesn’t want to keep one. And really needs to stay on her medication.Now she’s being stalked. Anonymous notes, threats, strangers loitering outside her house.

A hostile former patient? Or someone connected with a current case?
Georgia Latimer—charged with killing her three children. Travis
Hardy—deadbeat father of another murdered child, with a second daughter
now missing. Maybe the harrassment has something to do with Crown
Prosecutor Liam O’Shea—drop-dead sexy, married and trouble in all kinds
of ways.

Natalie doesn’t know. Question is, will she find out before it’s too late?

Anne Buist, herself a leading perinatal psychiatrist, has created an
edge-of-the-seat mystery with a hot new heroine—backed up by a lifetime
of experience with troubled minds.

My Take

At first I found the characters and events of this story hard to get sorted. Natalie King leads a complex and busy life working on cases where mothers have been accused, even convicted, of murdering their children. It is all made more complex by her own bipolarism, supposedly kept under control by medication, if she remembers to take it. What happens when she doesn’t is frightening to say the least. Natalie reports regularly to her supervisor Declan who attempts to provide therapy and controls to keep her focussed, but he can only work with what she tells him, or guess at what she is hiding from him.

Things become more complicated though when it appears that at least one of the fathers of the dead or missing children may be connected to a pedophile ring. Most of what Natalie knows is told to her in confidence and she struggles to know what she can pass on to the police without endangering her clients, to say nothing of endangering herself.

Throughout my reading of this novel I could not get out of my head MOTHERS WHO MURDER by Xanthe Mallett, a true crime book that I read last year. MOTHERS WHO MURDER looks at a number of Australian cases where the author feels there has been the possibility of a miscarriage of justice. I feel that this book and MEDEA’S CURSE have the same starting point in the real world, with the latter fictionalising a response from real events.

Anne Buist writes with an authority and confidence that makes the reader sure that these things do happen, even if they rarely surface in my world. This makes for a gritty and noir novel, not for the faint hearted.

My rating: 4.7

About the author

Professor Anne Buist is the Chair of Women’s Mental Health at the University of
Melbourne and has over 25 years clinical and research experience in
perinatal psychiatry. She works with Protective Services and the legal
system in cases of abuse,kidnapping, infanticide and murder. Medea’s Curse is her first mainstream psychological thriller.

Review: HADES, Candice Fox

Synopsis (Random House Australia)

A dark, compelling and original thriller that will have you spellbound from its atmospheric opening pages to its shocking climax.

Hades Archer surrounds himself with the things others leave behind. Their
trash becomes the twisted sculptures that line his junkyard. The bodies
they want disposed of become his problem – for a fee.

Then one night a man arrives on his doorstep, clutching a small bundle that he wants ‘lost’. And Hades makes a decision that will change everything…

Twenty years later, homicide detective Frank Bennett feels like the luckiest man on the force when he meets his new partner, the dark and beautiful Eden Archer. But there’s something strange about Eden and her brother, Eric. Something he can’t quite put his finger on.

At first, as they race to catch a very different kind of serial killer, his partner’s sharp instincts come in handy. But soon Frank’s wondering if she’s as dangerous as the man they hunt. –

My Take

This is a cleverly layered novel, superbly written, that flits between the past and the present, between the serial killer case the Sydney based police are currently focussing on, and Eden Archer’s story.

Eden Archer and her brother have a secondary agenda, one which Hades, their adoptive father, has trained them for all their life. Those who get in the way, those who want to know too much and to get too close, are putting their own lives on the line.

My rating: 5.0

About the author
(from Random House Australia)

Candice Fox is the middle child of a large, eccentric family from
Sydney’s western suburbs composed of half-, adopted and pseudo siblings.
The daughter of a parole officer and an enthusiastic foster-carer,
Candice spent her childhood listening around corners to tales of
violence, madness and evil as her father relayed his work stories to her
mother and older brothers.

As a cynical and trouble-making
teenager, her crime and gothic fiction writing was an escape from the
calamity of her home life. She was constantly in trouble for reading
Anne Rice in church and scaring her friends with tales from Australia’s
wealth of true crime writers.

Bankstown born and bred, she failed to conform to military life in a brief stint as an officer in the Royal Australian Navy at age eighteen. At twenty, she turned her hand to academia, and taught high school through two undergraduate and two postgraduate degrees. Candice lectures in writing at the University of Notre Dame, Sydney, while undertaking a PhD in literary censorship and terrorism.

Hades is her first novel, and won the Ned Kelly Award for best debut in 2014. Eden, its sequel, is published in December.

See another review at AustCrime.

Review: WEB OF DECEIT, Katherine Howell

  • first published by Pan Macmillan Australia 2013
  • #6 in the Ella Marconi series
  • ISBN 978-1-7426-1030-6
  • source: my TBR

Synopsis (Pan Macmillan Australia)

When paramedics Jane and Alex encounter a man refusing to get out of his crashed car with bystanders saying he deliberately drove into a pole, it looks like a desperate cry for help. His frantic claim that
someone is out to get him adds to their thinking that he is delusional.

Later that day he is found dead under a train in what might be a
suicide, but Jane is no longer so sure: she remembers the raw terror in
his eyes.

Detective Ella Marconi shares Jane’s doubts, which are only compounded
when the case becomes increasingly tangled. The victim’s boss tries to
commit suicide when being questioned, a witness flees their attempt to
interview her, and then to confuse matters further, a woman is beaten
unconscious in front of Jane’s house and Alex’s daughter goes missing.

Ella is at a loss to know how all these clues add up, and feels the
investigation is being held back by her budget-focused boss. Then, just
when she thinks she’s closing in on the right person, a shocking turn of
events puts more people in danger and might just see the killer slip
through her hands.

My Take

WEB OF DECEIT follows the same structure as Howell’s earlier novels in the series: police investigations running in parallel with paramedics whose callout allows the reader to see another side of a victim. The result is four strong characters who are dedicated to the work that they are doing. But they all have more personal relationships on their minds as well, and I think that is what makes them seem so real. None of us operates in a vacuum. Our personal lives impinge on our work and vice versa.

Here is a well plotted novel written by an accomplished and established Australian author, the first to win two Davitt awards.

I have two novels in this series to catch up on: DESERVING DEATH published in 2014, and TELL THE TRUTH due out Feb 2015. I am looking forward to reading both of them!

My rating: 4.7

I’ve also reviewed

5.0, FRANTIC – #1 (mini review) – 2007

4.6, THE DARKEST HOUR – #2 – 2008

4.8, COLD JUSTICE – #3 -2010

4.8, VIOLENT EXPOSURE -#4 – 2010

4.8, SILENT FEAR -#5 – 2012

Review: MASTERMIND, Helen Goltz

  • source: review copy from author
  • this edition published by Atlas Productions 2014
  • ISBN 978-0-9807532-0-2
  • 420 pages
  • #1 in the Mitchell Parker series

Synopsis (author website)

You are playing a game online; masterminding the perfect crime. Or at least you think it’s a game. A seemingly normal web site inviting game players to mastermind the perfect crime is the façade for billionaire Lawrence Hackett’s real-life game of Mastermind—an invitation-only competition for a select few to see who can perform the perfect heist and win an enormous bounty.

Special Agent Mitchell Parker and his team learn the magnitude of the international crime ring just in time. Washington, London, Paris … the clock is on. If you love it when a plan comes together, hold on tight, because nothing is about to go right! Available from Atlas Productions and Amazon
My Take

Contestants in Mastermind must plan and carry out the perfect crime. A prize pool of five million pounds will be divided among the Mastermind entrants who succeed. Entry is by invitation and only six entries will be selected to play. Each Mastermind act is allocated a supervisor and must take place in the month of November. Each Mastermind crime has to be unique, a crime that has never been carried out before. There have been two rounds of Mastermind in the past, and five crimes have been successful. The stakes are high, but the profits for the brains behind it are high as well.

Mitchell Parker’s team from the FBI’s Trans national Crimes Unit uncovers something suspicious during a routine surveillance of university activities, an extended booking of a high level science lab, and the rollercoaster ride of the novel begins there. The story is a thriller, a times a real page turner, a mix of ambitious plot lines and personal interest stories.

Helen Goltz is a new-to-me Australian author although she now has two books in this series published, and another one due out soon. I thought there were signs that MASTERMIND is a debut title, a few wavery plot lines, and some questions that at the end I had no answer to, but in general it is a good read.

Goltz also is the author of a number of other titles. See her website for more details.

My rating: 4.3

Review: ANTIDOTE TO MURDER, Felicity Young

  • first published by Harper Collins 2013
  • ISBN 978-0-7322-9369-7
  • 325 pages
  • #2 in the Dody McLeland series
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

Set in Edwardian London, this fantastic mystery series features Britain’s first female autopsy surgeon.

When an act of compassion misfires, autopsy surgeon Dr Dody McCleland must fight not only for her
career, but also for her life. The body of a scullery maid is discovered in her room. When it emerges that she had recently begged Dody to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, the coroner recommends Dody be tried for criminal abortion causing death. Meanwhile, the one man who might be able to help her, Chief Inspector Matthew Pike, is nowhere to be found.

After another woman’s body is discovered bearing all the hallmarks of
the same crime, Dody suspects that a rogue doctor is on the loose. Amid
the turbulence of Edwardian London with its mix of strikes,
suffragettes, German spies, exotic dancers and an illicit drug trade,
Dody must unmask the killer before more girls are butchered and her own
life ends on the gallows.

My take

Australian crime fiction author Felicity Young does a good job with a historical setting, giving her novel a feeling of authenticity, at the same time presenting the problems which women faced in the medical profession in the early 20th century.

Set in London in 1911, when conducting an abortion is a criminal offence, and encouraging women to practice birth control is also illegal, Dody assists the famous Sir Bernard Spilsbury in autopsies. But even with the great man’s patronage, she treads a very thin line as she advises women towards better contol of their child bearing.

Dody faces not only public opposition to women like her breaking into the professions, but also opposition among males already working there. And treachery comes from an unexpected place, almost resulting in her death.

My rating: 4.5

I’ve also reviewed




4.7, A DISSECTION OF MURDER -#1 in the Dody McLeland series

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.