Review: THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS, Michael Robotham

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1127 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere (July 11, 2017)
  • Publication Date: July 11, 2017
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English

Synopsis (Amazon)

Everyone has an idea of what their perfect life is. For Agatha, it’s Meghan Shaughnessy’s.

These two women from vastly different backgrounds have one thing in common – a dangerous secret that could destroy everything they hold dear.

Both will risk everything to hide the truth, but their worlds are about to collide in a shocking act that cannot be undone.

My Take:

Here is another cracker from Australian author Michael Robotham.

Two women, Meg and Agatha, living in suburban London, are joined by a bond of pregnancy. They will even give birth within days. But Agatha knows much more about Meg than vice versa. And they come from very different backgrounds and life experiences. They are the narrators of the story and so we often get two versions of the same events.

Initially I felt very critical of the apparent thin-ness of the “official” blurb, but then in writing this “review” I became very aware of how difficult it is to talk about the story without revealing too much. (I hope you don’t feel that I’ve told you too much as it is).

So, let me just recommend the book to you. It is a stand-alone, told through excellent character development, and with mounting suspense and plot twists as the book progresses. Underpinning everything is a commentary on modern living.

Michael Robotham remains at the top of my list of modern Aussie crime fiction authors.

My rating: 5.0

I’ve also read
SHATTER (audio)
5.0, LIFE OR DEATH Shortlisted for the 2015 CWA Gold Dagger

About the Author

Michael Robotham is a former investigative journalist whose psychological thrillers have been translated into twenty-three languages. In 2015 he won the prestigious UK Gold Dagger for his novel Life or Death, which was also shortlisted for the 2016 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel. Michael has twice won a Ned Kelly Award for Australia’s best
crime novel for Lost in 2015 and Shatter in 2008. He has also twice been shortlisted for the CWA UK Steel Dagger in 2007 for The Night Ferry and 2008 with Shatter. He lives in Sydney with his wife and three daughters.

A blessing of awards for Australian crime fiction

In the interests of full disclosure I should admit that the collective noun ‘blessing’ apparently applies to unicorns but since I’m not convinced fictional creatures should get a noun all of their own I thought I’d borrow it for my purpose. Due to life…and death…getting in the way I have been remiss in discussing all the recent awards that have come the way of Australian crime writers lately but I’m hoping the old adage “better late than never” still applies to most of life’s awkwardnesses.

LifeOrDeathRobothamAudioIn reverse order, timeline wise, we’ll start with congratulating Michael Robotham whose LIFE OR DEATH won the prestigious British Crime Writer’s Association Gold Dagger Award this week. It’s a standalone novel that starts with the premise of a young man escaping from a Texas prison on the day before he is due to be released. Driven equally by in-depth character development and a heart-stopping plot it’s easy to see why the judges were taken with this novel, even with its impressive competition. Kerrie reviewed the novel here at Fair Dinkum Crime (and though I didn’t review the novel I concur with her sentiments and can also recommend the audio version of the book beautifully narrated by John Chancer). An article in Today’s Sydney Morning Herald provides some background information on the novel and Michael’s history as a writer, including a heartfelt admission on the downside of being a ghost writer.

BigLittleLiesMoriartyNext we move to the 2015 Davitt awards for crime writing by Australian women which were announced on August 29. Best Adult Crime Novel went to Liane Moriarty for the surprise crime novel BIG LITTLE LIES. As this book is set to be a film starring ‘our’ Nicole I suspect this is not the last we’ve heard of this particular title. Other winners on the night included Ellie Marney for Best Young Adult Novel with EVERY WORD and Caroline Overington for LAST WOMAN HANGED which took out the Best Non-Fiction category. The Reader’s Choice Award (voted by members of Sisters in Crime) went to Sandi Wallace’s TELL ME WHY. And because she is one of my favourite authors ever I can’t let this occasion pass without noting the Highly Commended certificate judges gave to Sulari Gentill’s A MURDER UNMENTIONED in the Best Adult Novel category.

EdenCandiceFoxFinally we must mention this year’s Ned Kelly Awards, winners of which were announced earlier in August. Candice Fox’s second novel EDEN took out the Best Crime Novel Award while Helen Garner’s THIS HOUSE OF GRIEF won in the Best True Crime category and QUOTA by Jock Serong was voted Best First Crime novel. We’ve been a bit remiss here at FDC in not reviewing any of these but at least two of these are buried in my mountain of unread books so I will get to them. One day.

I think that’s it for all the missed news, our belated congratulations to all.



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
SHATTER (audio)

Review: IF I TELL YOU.. I’LL HAVE TO KILL YOU, edited by Michael Robotham

Kindle edition available July 24

Australia’s best crime writers – Michael Robotham,
Kerry Greenwood, Shane Maloney, Peter Corris, Tara Moss and more – share the secrets to their success, their best- ever writing tips and their favourite ‘must reads’. An ideal guide for aspiring writers and crime
fiction fans alike.


Crime fiction is the single most popular genre in international publishing and Australia has some of the finest practitioners when it comes to walking the mean streets and nailing the bad guys.

Whether you’re a fan of crime fiction, true crime or a would-be crime writer, this collection of essays will provide laughter, understanding, insight, ideas, advice and hopefully some inspiration. Learn about Shane Maloney’s near-death experience in a freezer, Leigh Redhead’s adventures as a stripper and Tara Moss taking a polygraph test to prove her
doubters wrong.

There are stories of struggle and triumph, near misses and murderous intent, as our best crime writers lay bare their souls and reveal their secrets as never before, along with their rules for writing and reading lists.

But beware. They will have to kill you…

My Take

All royalties from this book go towards the Australian Crime Writers Association, which runs the annual Ned Kelly Awards and was established to promote crime writing and reading in Australia.

So while I read this copy from my local library, I also bought a copy for my Kindle.

Here’s a unique opportunity to find out what makes some of your favourite Aussie authors tick. The book consists of 20 very readable essays. I’ve sat through a lot of author talks at the Adelaide Writer’s Week and reading these essays reminded me of some of the more candid of those sessions. The five “must-reads” at the end of each essay give further insight and for me, reminded me that I have never read Raymond Chandler’s THE BIG SLEEP.

The Table of Contents reads a bit like a Who’s Who of successful Australian crime writers, so here is a chance of finding a new author or two, or just relaxing in the company of someone you already follow. The format was a winner for me – each essay is twelve to fifteen pages long and is followed by “My Rules” which of course vary from writer to writer, and then “Five Must Reads” with similarities from author to author.

The final essay is from Peter Lawrance and picks out some of the highlights in the history of the Ned Kelly Awards, founded in 1996. Peter is a long-time convenor and organiser of the NKs.

Well done to whoever had the idea of putting this anthology together. It should be must reading for all crime fiction courses, whether for readers or budding writers.

My rating: 4.8

Review: WATCHING YOU, Michael Robotham

Synopsis (author site)

Marnie Logan often feels like she’s being watched. Nothing she can quite put her finger on – a whisper of breath on the back of her neck, or a shadow in the corner of her eye – and now her life is frozen.

Her husband Daniel has been missing for more than a year. Depressed and increasingly desperate, she seeks the help of clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin.

Joe is concerned by Marnie’s reluctance to talk about the past, but then she discovers a book packed with pictures, interviews with friends, former teachers, old flames and workmates Daniel was preparing for her birthday. It was supposed to be a celebration of her life. But it’s not the story anyone was expecting…

My Take

Another terrific read from Michael Robotham. There are bits of the plot that strain credibility but, balanced against the superb writing, they hardly matter. Rather they serve to make the reader question whether something like that could happen.

The structure of the story is interesting – two main stories unfolding side by side. I find as I write that I can’t really talk too much about the book without plot spoilers. You’ll have to take my word for it that I found WATCHING YOU a very satisfying read. Read the first chapter here.

Followers of Robotham will welcome the furtherance of the Joe O’Loughlin / Vincent Ruiz story, and I for one want the next story NOW.

My rating: 5.0

I have also reviewed



SHATTER (audio)




Watch out for IF I TELL YOU, I’LL HAVE TO KILL YOU being released in August at the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival. Edited by Michael Robotham,  (More)

Australia’s finest crime writers reveal their secrets

Find out where they bury their bodies…

Crime fiction is the single most popular genre in international publishing and Australia has some of the finest practitioners when it comes to walking the mean streets and nailing the bad guys.

Whether you’re a fan of crime fiction, true crime or a would-be crime writer, this collection of essays will provide laughter, understanding, insight, ideas, advice and hopefully some inspiration. Learn about Shane Maloney’s near-death experience in a freezer, Leigh Redhead’s adventures as a stripper and Tara Moss taking a polygraph test to prove
her doubters wrong.

There are stories of struggle and triumph, near misses and murderous intent, as our best crime writers lay bare their souls and reveal their secrets as never before, along with their rules for writing and reading lists.

But beware. They will have to kill you…

Review: SAY YOU’RE SORRY by Michael Robotham

SayYoureSorryRobothamAudioSAY YOU’RE SORRY is the fifth novel to feature clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin who, at the beginning of the story, has sworn off police work and returned to his clinical practice. Of course there wouldn’t be a crime novel if that were the case for long and the device with which he is drawn back into police work is skilfully deployed. Joe is asked to ensure that the questioning of a troubled young man police think responsible for a brutal double murder and arson attack does not go too far. But Joe is unconvinced the suspect had the ability to pull of such an attack and is increasingly intrigued by the possible connection of this case to the disappearance three years earlier of two teenage girls, Piper Hadley and Natasha ‘Tash’ Barnes. Although they were unrelated to the Barneses, the couple killed in the attack which the suspect is in custody for lived at the farmhouse where Tash was living with her family when she disappeared.

This story is told from two points of view. It’s done fairly conventionally from Joe’s perspective as the investigations into both the present-day case and the re-opened case of the disappearance of Piper and Tash unfold. Joe is struggling to make sense of the disparate facts, convince police they don’t have all the answers tied up neatly with their suspect and juggle his family commitments. Separated from his wife Joe is meant to be looking after their teenage daughter Charlie during the period of this book and when he can’t give full attention to the case and his daughter things inevitably go awry. Happily Joe’s old friend, retired police detective Vincent Ruiz, can offer practical help with the case and his personal problems.

Piper Hadley’s ‘journal’ (notes scribbled in notebooks and whatever paper she can find while in captivity) provide the second, far more harrowing, point of view for the story. Readers don’t know if she is still alive but we do know she was alive for at least some time after her disappearance and that she did not run away with her best friend as police suspected at that time. She and Tash were taken by a man they call George and, over the course of the novel, we learn about the circumstances in the girl’s lives that enabled the kidnapping to take place and the grim time they’ve had since being taken. I have to acknowledge this portion of the novel is well-written, really capturing the essence of the teenage girl’s perspective, but it’s also quite confronting and, at times, hard going. I had the added bonus (?) of listening to the words being expertly read by one of my favourite voice actors, Seán Barrett, who helped make Piper’s story a truly chilling one. But even in print form I’d suggest this is not a book for the faint of heart.

I’ve found this series to be a bit of a hit or miss affair, having really liked the first two books and been progressively less intrigued by their successors. I think this is partly due to my developing more of an interest in reading about the more realistic crimes that happen when ‘normal’ people get into tight corners than in ‘serial killers making suits of human skin’ type stuff. So for me this book was a return to the earlier form I liked so much, focusing on the victims and their families and what on earth can have gone wrong to provide circumstances in which the utter disappearance of two teenagers is accepted as something they chose to do. I’m still not sure I really ‘bought’ the ending and who the perpetrator turned out to be but that almost didn’t matter as the heart of the book – Tash and Piper’s story – was very believable.

Kerrie reviewed SAY YOU’RE SORRY earlier this year and our occasional guest reviewer Josh has also taken a look at this book

Publisher: Hachette Digital [2012]
ASIN: B009I237OC
Length: 12 hours 4 minutes
Format: audio book (mp3)
Source: I bought it
Creative Commons Licence
This work by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Review: SAY YOU’RE SORRY, Michael Robotham

Synopsis (from Publisher)

The chilling new psychological thriller – a truly gripping read from one of the most brilliant crime authors of today

My name is Piper Hadley and I went missing on the last Saturday of the summer holidays three years ago.

When Piper and her friend Tash disappeared, there was a huge police
search, but they were never found. Now Tash, reaching breaking point at
the abuse their captor has inflicted on them, has escaped, promising to
come back for Piper.

Clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin and his stalwart companion,
ex-cop Vincent Ruiz, force the police to re-open the case after Joe is
called in to assess the possible killer of a couple in their own home
and finds a connection to the missing girls. But they are racing against
time to save Piper from someone with an evil, calculating and twisted

My Take

The Bingham Girls, Piper Hadley and Tash McBain, are 15 years old when they go missing.  They have been best friends for years but Tash is a troubled adolescent and has been told not to return to school. Every one assumes that the girls have gone off to London as they said they would, or at least that’s what Tash said.

Months pass and the search is scaled back. They have gone without trace. The bad things are forgotten and both families paint their daughters in glowing colours.

Three years later and a body is found frozen in a lake and DCI Drury calls in Joe O’Loughlin to investigate a case where a husband and wife have been killed and burnt in a fire at the farmhouse where Tash McBain used to live. A suspect is in custody, a troubled young man who can hear voices and
claims that he saw a girl that night being chased by a snowman. Drury hopes that Joe, by going over the Bingham Girls case from the very beginning, may pick up on clues the original team missed.

For Joe this is a particularly sensitive case because when they disappeared the girls were the same age that his own daughter Charlie is now. Both Piper and Tash had problems at home, separated or unhappy parents, and you can feel the author exploring the issues that surround female adolescence.

The structure of the novel appears to be straightforward but is very clever. Piper Hadley likes writing, but she runs out of paper so there are excerpts from her “mental” journal interposed between chapters describing the findings and events in the investigation that Joe and Vincent Ruiz are carrying out.

As always, a very readable novel, with some heart stopping moments. #8 in the O’Loughlin/Ruiz series. This duo complement each other so well.

My rating: 4.8

Other reviews of Robotham titles





Check if Michael Robotham is touring near you. He will also be at MWF and at Bouchercon in Cleveland later in the year.

The most impressive Australian crime fiction in 2011

It’s list making time of year so here at Fair Dinkum HQ we’ve each made a list of the five Australian crime fiction titles that impressed us most this year. Not all are 2011 publications and some have yet to be released beyond our shores but this mixture of new titles by favourite authors and outstanding debuts is a cracker of a collection if I do say so myself.

Kerrie speaking here…

I’ve only read 16 Australian titles this year, and am already formulating New Years Eve resolutions that I will do better in 2012. Nevertheless the problem in picking my top reads is that so many of them were so good and it was difficult to draw a cut off line. Not all of the titles were 2011 publications either.

So here are my top 5.

My top pick was THE WRECKAGE by Michael
Robotham, published in 2011, in which our old friend Vincent Ruiz teams up with a new character, investigative journalist Luca Terracini. THE WRECKAGE is a contemporary thriller set against the background of both the world financial crisis and the attempts to build Iraq in the face of both greed and terrorism. It reflects both Robotham’s meticulous research, and his ability to create great fictional characters. He describes the main characters in a way that makes you really care about what happens to them.

I really can’t choose between the other four, so the order in which they appear is not preferential.

In Katherine Howell‘s COLD JUSTICE, published in 2010, paramedic Georgie Riley and Detective Ella Marconi are travelling similar paths, returning to work after traumatic incidents that resulted in hospitalisation and being off work for some months.  Katherine Howell has used a formula similar to the one she used successfully in both THE DARKEST HOUR, and her debut novel FRANTIC: parallel plots that advance in tandem, each generating their own sense of suspense. The link between the two plots is Detective Ella Marconi. Again the paramedic characters are new, while Marconi provides the common thread from one novel to the next.

WHISPERING DEATH, published in 2011, affirms that Garry Disher is a master storyteller, a tight and consummate plotter, a writer who could sit on any international podium along with richer and more famous crime fiction writers. This is #6 in Disher’s Hal Challis series, firmly bedded in the 21st century, and reflecting on the problems of maintaining a strong police force, chasing rapists, armed robbers, and home invaders, in the face of diminishing funding and stretched resources.

Set in post-war Australia, this time post World War Two, with a policeman returning to work in a world that will never be the same, THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL by Geoffrey McGeachin, published in 2011, reminded me a lot of the Charles Todd series. Like Ian Rutledge in that series Charlie Berlin was in the police force before the war. Although the police force was an exempt trade he volunteered for service and was posted to the RAF in Britain. He took off on 30 missions over Germany, but, in his words, landed only 29 of them and ended up in a P.O.W. camp. For me, Geoff McGeachin has hit on a winner with this new series and I hope we see more of Charlie Berlin. It appealed to me on several fronts – historical, crime fiction, Australia.

My final choice is FINAL CUT by debut West Australian author Alan Carter, also published in 2011.  What makes this novel remarkable is the way the author ambitiously forwards two plot strands in tandem. It took a bit of getting used to at first. There is little to tell the reader that you’ve changed from one plot to another, just a change of characters. Often, but not always, the plots are basically at the same point, like the interviewing of a suspect.

But there’s much more than that to keep the reader involved. There are prior links between some of the characters which are gradually teased out for us. There are genuine murder mysteries with lots of attendant red herrings. There’s a good feel for the climate in Western Australia, both physical and economic. And there is some excellent characterisation.

And now it’s Bernadette’s turn

So far I’ve managed to read 35 books by Australian crime writers this year. I’m about half way through another one which is enjoyable but I already know it’s not quite good enough to nudge any of these off the list so I don’t feel too concerned about finalising the list a few days before the end of the year.

Y.A. Erskine’s debut novel THE BROTHERHOOD absolutely blew me away. Partly this is because I had no expectations when I opened the front cover (I knew nothing about the book other than it was written by an Aussie woman) but mostly it’s because it’s bloody brilliant. A Tasmanian policeman is shot while on duty and the events of the day are recounted from different points of view – his rookie partner, the Police Commissioner, his estranged wife, the culprit etc – who each get a single chapter from which a whole picture of the leadup to and ramifications of the shooting emerges. I loved everything about this book – the structure, the flawed but believable people, the way the story kept surprising me, the themes that Erskine explored. This book is vying with one other title for the very top spot on my favourite books of the year (Aussie or otherwise) and my only complaint is that is hasn’t gotten the wide attention it so richly deserves.

Like Kerrie I’m not going to list the rest in order of preference, they’re all worth your attention.

Kathryn Fox‘s DEATH MASK was one of the first books I read this year and it ended up being the book I voted for in the reader’s choice category of this year’s Davitt Awards. It starts out simply enough with a young woman testing positive for a sexually transmitted disease that she cannot understand how she contracted given her sexual history and so she assumes there has been some mistake at the clinic. The story’s dark turn reveals the betrayal that led to her contracting the disease which in turn prompts the protagonist of the series, Dr Anya Crichton, to study the psychology of male sporting teams. It’s a topical storyline but tackled intelligently and without the moralising, quick-fix answers that mainstream media devotes to the subject and it reminded me that the best crime fiction always examines some aspect of our society or collective behaviour in addition to telling a jolly good yarn.

Australian-born, Scotland-living Helen Fitzgerald‘s THE DONOR tackles the simple but hideous premise of what a single father is to do when his twin daughters both develop a genetically inherited kidney disease. Perhaps a life of crime wouldn’t be everyone’s choice but hapless Will Marion seems somewhat short of options to save the daughters he loves. The book is both darkly funny and almost unbearably sad but not remotely maudlin which is, I think, a remarkable achievement. The father in this story is a wonderful creation: the type of person you want to slap for being so inept one minute but the next moment you want to wrap him in a giant bear hug for trying so hard.

Sulari Gentill‘s A DECLINE IN PROPHETS is the second novel set in 1930’s Australia to feature world-wandering dilettante Rowland ‘Rowly’ Sinclair and I adored it. Rowly and his friends start the book on board a cruise liner where a grim murder occurs and by the time all the players are in Australia things look very rocky for poor Rowly who unwilling caught up in an odd spiritual movement and may end up being considered an unsuitable role model for the young members of his conservative family. Whenever I talk about this book or its predecessor (something I do as often as I can) I break out in a wide grin as there is something quite joyous about the amusing, life-embracing characters that inhabit Gentill’s world, which is full of sumptuous details of the period. But there is sadness in Rowly’s life too and it’s this juxtaposition with his fun-loving ways that provides the spark of something special to the book. I am lucky enough to have an advanced copy of the third book in the series awaiting my perusal in early January and I am already grinning at the prospect. This book also wins my award for best cover of the year.

LINE OF SIGHT by David Whish-Wilson is another superb debut, this time set in Perth in Western Australia. It is a fictionalised account of the real life murder of a local brothel owner in the 1970’s and focuses on the struggle by one good cop to uncover the truth about the crime which appears to have been perpetrated by his fellow officers. What impressed me most about this book was its perfect capturing of the time and place (it really does feel like another country which is not surprising as the state has flirted with secession more than once). The characters stand out too, especially the man who was charged with heading up a Royal Commission into the case and who slowly came to realise that he’d been set up to find nothing at all. It was a somewhat brutal but entirely credible characterisation and I have thought about Justice Partridge many times since finishing the book.

Did you read any Aussie crime fiction that impressed you in 2011? Do share.

THE WRECKAGE, Michael Robotham

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 762 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Digital (May 5, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004WJRT4K
  • Source: an ARC e-copy supplied by the publishers Mulholland Books to

Product Description (Amazon)

In London, ex-cop Vincent Ruiz rescues a young woman from a violent boyfriend but wakes next morning to find that he’s been set up and robbed. As he tracks down the thieves, he discovers the boyfriend’s tortured body and learns that powerful men are looking for the girl. What did Holly Knight steal that is so important to them?
Meanwhile in Baghdad, the bank robbery capital of the world, billions of dollars in reconstruction funds has gone missing and Pulitzer prize-winning Journalist Luca Terracini is trying to ‘follow the money’. The dangerous trail will lead him to London where he teams up with Vincent Ruiz and together they investigate the disappearance of an international banker and a mysterious ‘black hole’ in the bank’s accounts.

My take

THE WRECKAGE introduces a new character, investigative journalist Luca Terracini. In Baghdad Luca teams up with UN auditor Daniela Gardner. Someone is blowing up banks, the 18th so far for the year. Consignments of US dollars worth billions have disappeared.

In London our old friend Vincent Ruiz is mugged by a girl he took pity on in a bar. He wakes to find some of his things are gone – an iPod, his camera, his police medal, his passport, and some jewellery intended for his daughter Claire who is getting married on Saturday. His determination to locate the girl and retrieve his belongings has unexpected consequences that prove for us just how few degrees of separation there really are in modern Western society.

THE WRECKAGE is a contemporary thriller set against the background of both the world financial crisis and the attempts to build Iraq in the face of both greed and terrorism. It reflects both Robotham’s meticulous research, and his ability to create great fictional characters. He describes the main characters in a way that makesd you really care about what happens to them.

Robotham seems to have begun using a crisper, more immediate, style of narrative that mostly uses the present tense. It gives a cinematic impression of events happening as you watch.

This is a great read, both for those who have been waiting for the next in this fractallated series featuring retired London detective Vincent Ruiz and clinical psychologist Professor Joe O’Loughlin, and for those new to Robotham’s work.

My rating: 5.0

See Michael Robotham’s site and download the first chapter.
Review by Bernadette

Reviews of other Robotham titles
SHATTER (audio)

THE WRECKAGE, Michael Robotham

Australian and UK cover

Although it features a couple of characters familiar to readers of his earlier novels, Michael Robotham’s seventh book is something of a departure from its predecessors; more political in content and also more of an international thriller. In Baghdad we meet Luca Terracini an American journalist investigating a series of bank robberies that no one else seems terribly interested in, despite the enormous sums of money involved and the sheer number of robberies. Meanwhile in London when retired policeman Vincent Ruiz witnesses a young girl being hit by her boyfriend he plays the good Samaritan; a decision he regrets when one of his most precious keepsakes goes missing. At the same time the wife of an English bank executive reports her husband missing. In a complex but thoroughly riveting plot these disparate stories eventually intertwine in an all-too credible tale of corruption on a grand scale and the lengths people will go to hide it.

The story unfolds in short chapters alternating between the two locations where we learn more details about the people and events going on and, if you’re anything like me, try to work out where the connections are going to be. Although this is definitely a plot-driven thriller, the depth of the story comes in part from the large and interesting cast of characters. Luca, atypically, lives outside the protective ‘Green Zone’ in Baghdad and seems determined to be a different kind of journalist than the fly-in/fly-out type the locals are used to and I was soon drawn into wanting to know what would make someone behave so recklessly. Of course being this kind of character he has the scope to introduce us to a far wider range of people than we might otherwise meet and these people, American contractors, locals, UN workers etc all provide what feels like real insight into the situation in Iraq, the good and bad, without the book getting bogged down in any particular particular political stance.

In London there are another group of interesting people to meet. Robotham’s fans will be familiar with Vincent Ruiz but the good thing about these books is that they are only very loosely related so there’s no requirement to have read the earlier novels. Vincent is getting ready for his daughter’s wedding when his plans are interrupted by his good Samaritan act and in trying to retrieve the stolen keepsake he wants to pass on to his daughter he meets Holly.  She is someone who has been forced to develop the traits and skills required to survive when life treats you very unkindly, but she brings out the protector in Vincent despite her treatment of him. Elizabeth North, the woman whose husband has gone missing, is in some ways the polar opposite of Holly, having had a privileged life until the present moment and she has to learn to be tougher to find out what has happened to her husband and to protect her son and unborn baby. I found her a particularly credible and compelling character.

US cover

THE WRECKAGE is a very current book, delving into such issues as the current state of play in Iraq so many years after the war began, the fallout from the global financial crisis on the world’s banking institutions, and the bizarre combination of hard slog and good luck required to gather intelligence about terrorists and their evil plans in these uncertain times. While the story is certainly fast-paced and full of action and suspense, Robotham has managed to stay clear of sensationalism, providing a more thoughtful and thought-provoking book than the average thriller.

THE WRECKAGE was released in Australia on April 28 and is due for release in the UK on June 9 and the US on June 16.

Other reviews of Michael Robotham’s books here at Fair Dinkum are THE NIGHT FERRY, SHATTER and BLEED FOR ME and you might also want to check out Michael’s responses to the Fair Dinkum Baker’s Dozen Author Interview.

My rating: 4/5 stars
Author website:
Publisher: Mullholland Books [2011]
ISBN: 9780316126403 (US version)
Length: 435 pages
Format: Uncorrected proof
Source: Provided to Fair Dinkum Crime for honest review