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.