Review: OUT OF THE ICE, Ann Turner

  • source: e-ARC from publisher through NetGalley
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia (June 1, 2016)
  • Publication Date: June 1, 2016
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01C36E2XO

Synopsis (NetGalley)

By the bestselling author of The Lost Swimmer, a tense, eerie thriller set in the icy reaches of Antarctica

When environmental scientist Laura Alvarado is sent to a remote Antarctic island to report on an abandoned whaling station, she begins to uncover more than she could ever imagine.

Despite new life thriving in the icy wilderness, the whaling station is brimming with
awful reminders of its bloody, violent past, and Laura is disturbed by evidence of recent human interference. Rules have been broken, and the protected wildlife is behaving strangely.

On a diving expedition, Laura is separated from her colleague. She emerges into an ice cave where, through the blue shadows, she is shocked to see an anguished figure, crying for help.

But in this freezing, lonely landscape there are ghosts everywhere, and Laura begins to sense that her own eyes cannot be trusted. Is her mind playing tricks? Has she been in the ice too long?

Back at base, Laura’s questions about the whaling station go unanswered, blocked by unhelpful scientists, unused to questions from an outsider. And Laura just can’t shake what happened in the ice cave.

Piecing together a past and present of cruelty and vulnerability that can be traced all around the globe, from Norway, to Nantucket, Europe and Antarctica, Laura will stop at nothing to unearth the truth. As she sees the dark side of endeavour and human nature, she also discovers a legacy of love, hope and the meaning of family. If only Laura can find her way…

My Take

Australians have a long connection with Antarctica and a mystery novel set there is very attractive.

Highly reputed marine biologist Laura Alvarado is an expert on the Environmental Impact of humans on Antarctic wildlife particularly on penguins, whales and dolphins.  She is in Antarctica currently on an unusually long 18 month contract.

She is requested is to go to the old Norwegian whaling station at Fredelighavn, currently the subject of an Exclusion Order, to assess whether it should be opened for tourism. The station has been closed since 1957 and reports are that many of the formerly endangered species, whales and penguins etc., are flourishing. Laura is to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment. There is a British base nearby called Alliance on South Georgia Island. She will be given assistance at Alliance and will travel to Fredelighavn on a daily basis.

Laura is surprised at the level of non-cooperation she meets among the scientists at Alliance but puts it down to the top secret nature of their research.

I thought the parts of the plot set at Alliance and Fredlighavn were very well done with good character development and a rising level of suspense. The story of the Norwegian whalers who set up the village at Fredelighavn was interesting. I was less than comfortable when the plot took an extravagant direction and tracked paedophilia across the globe.

Having said that, I think the plot would make a stunning film, thought-provoking on many levels.

My Rating: 3.8

I’ve also read  4.4, THE LOST SWIMMER

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 explored themes of love, trust and the dark side of relationships.

Review: HINDSIGHT, Melanie Casey

  • first published 2013, Pantera Press
  • ISBN 978-1-921997-34-1
  • 356 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Publisher)

Cass Lehman has a terrifying ‘gift’… She sees what others can’t…

The youngest in a family of extraordinary women with supernatural talents, Cass is cursed with the  not-so-sexy gift of seeing the past… but not just any past; she sees death.
For years she’s hidden herself away in her family home. Now desperate
for a better life, she ventures into sleepy Jewel Bay, only to stumble
upon murder and mayhem and a killer at large who’s been lurking in their
midst…

Taking a chance, Cass volunteers to assist Detective Ed Dyson with
the investigation. Will Cass be able to save the latest victim… and
herself?

My take

This is the first novel in Casey’s Cass Lehman series set in Adelaide’s Fleurieu Pensinsula and Adelaide.

Cass Lehman is psychic, more precisely she has the ‘gift’ of retrocognition … the ability to spontaneously re-live the last minutes of a person’s life. She has spent nearly a decade as a recluse, living quietly with her mother and grandmother, both of whom have similar gifts. Now she has decided that she should be using her gift more productively: perhaps she can be of assistance to the police in homicide cases.

Ed Dyson’s pregnant wife Susan disappeared without trace two years ago and since then Ed has been keeping his own case files on missing women. But it takes Cass to see a pattern that he has missed.

This novel does a good job of introducing the people who will be the main characters of this series, and, while not everything is entirely plausible to me, the storyis interesting.

My rating: 4.4

I’ve also read
4.5, MISSING

Review: MURDER IN MT MARTHA by Janice Simpson

MurderInMtMarthaSimpsonMURDER IN MT MARTHA engagingly blurs the line between crime fact and crime fiction. Taking as its source material the still unsolved 1953 murder of teenager Shirley Collins, the book weaves a compelling “what if…” scenario. Simpson is not claiming to have solved the case here and has taken pains to change names and otherwise make it clear that her story is a fictional one, but using some details of the real case and other contemporary snippets gives the book a realistic feel.

The story unfolds in two parallel threads. In 1953 we meet the murderer just after he has committed his crime and is in the process of covering it up. Over the course of the novel we learn more about his exploits as well as finding out what happens to him in later life. In the present day we meet Arthur Boyle, an elderly man who is sharing his life history with Nick Szabo, a young student, for an oral history project. His reflections on his life include remembering the shocking murder of a teenage girl at Mt Martha, a crime which was so unusual then as to warrant months of coverage in the press and much speculation in the community. Together Nick and Arthur uncover his family connection to the murder.

I’m normally wary of narratives told from the killer’s point of view but this one does not glamourise or sensationalise the man or his repulsive deeds. It doesn’t even try to justify them, merely offer an account – a very believable account – of how and why he did the things he did. The modern day thread is good too, though for me slightly less engaging due to its reliance on a string of coincidences. Some parts of this element of the story felt a little too forced to me, as if the author was setting us up for future installments of a series featuring Nick Szabo though I have no idea if this is actually Simpson’s plan or not. I just felt like we were getting a lot of character elements that could only really be teased out in further books. But Nick is an interesting character and it’s hard not to like a young man who loves his grandmother so openly and affectionately.

MURDER IN MT MARTHA  is a terrific debut novel; engaging in its own right and full of promise of good things to come from Janice Simpson, whether in the same series or not. It straddles the line between true crime and crime fiction with great aplomb and will satisfy fans of both.


AWW2016This is the fifth book I’ve read and reviewed for the fifth Australian Women Writers Challenge. For more information about the challange check out my challenge progress, sign up yourself or browse the Challenge’s database of reviews.


Publisher: Hybrid Publishers [2016]
ISBN: 9781925272161
Length: 293 pages
Format: paperback

Review: SWEET ONE by Peter Docker

SweetOnePeterDocker23590_fTruth is not only stranger than fiction; it can be infinitely sadder too. The event depicted in this novel’s opening pages – in which an elderly Aboriginal man is cooked to death in the cargo hold of van while being transferred from one Western Australian town to another in police custody – is gruesome enough in the context of a work of fiction. But knowing that it is based on a real life – and death – experience that occurred in the very recent past makes the book a lot more visceral.

In the real world this incident resulted in official enquiries (because one is never enough) and a whole lot of people being shocked for a few moments before getting on with their lives. Helpless to know what to do even if they wanted to do something. Same as it ever was. In Docker’s thinly disguised version of Australia (Kalgoorlie is Baalboorlie for example) the incident results in a kind of civil war. Or what we would call a civil war if it was happening in some conveniently faraway place across an ocean or two. But one of the stories Australians like to tell about ourselves is that we don’t do that kind of thing here. We’re too laid back. We’d rather have a beer together than fight. We do mateship not war. There are entire school syllabuses devoted to this notion.

But in Docker’s Australia an Aboriginal man – an ex soldier just like the man who died in the van – starts taking revenge on the people responsible for the man’s horrendous death. Not just the two who drove the van but all the people who played a role in enabling the death. The one who thought it reasonable to imprison (rather than bail) a man just for being officially drunk. The one who decided not to get the air conditioning of the transport van fixed. And so on. He is joined by another former soldier, engaged in his own crusade, and they are aided by local Aboriginal people.

Trying to make sense of all this as it unfolds is a young female journalist. Izzy-from-the-Star as one of the locals calls her. She has been an embedded journalist in Afghanistan and wrote about another Aboriginal death at the hands of police in Palm Island. But as SWEET ONE unfolds the lines between reporting and participating blur for Izzy as she comes to know the locals and learn of her personal connection to them.

As one of the city-living, latte sipping southerners that various characters take pot-shots at throughout the SWEET ONE, I cannot really comment on this book’s authenticity with respect to the events it describes. Although they are taking place in the state next to mine they could just as easily be on Mars for all I know of the world being depicted. But I can attest to the sense of helplessness that underpins it. We’ve Brought Them Home, and Closed The Gap and said sorry and  had more than one Royal Commission into some aspect of Indigenous life – and death. And still we can bake an Aboriginal man to death in the back of a van in the name of law and order. In the 21st century.

Unlike all the official reports that governments have been issuing for decades – earnest and well-meaning though they may be – SWEET ONE grabs the reader’s attention on page one and doesn’t let up until the final word. Not just via the mounting body count (though it is constant and violent) but also in conveying how grim the situation is. For everyone. Black and white. Young and old. Male and Female. Police and civilian. It is (pardon my language) a fucking mess.

As well as telling a helluva yarn Docker writes beautifully. It’s almost like poetry at times. But not your grandmother’s poetry. Imagine the poetry that Mel Gibson’s character from the first Mad Max movie might have written between road races. Sharp and quick and brutal. And gorgeous.

It seems odd to say I loved this book but I did. Despite the fact it is confronting as all hell and does nothing to improve my sense of helplessness and guilt. But I have to believe that things can get better if we tell real stories about ourselves.Or at least I know things won’t get better unless we do tell real stories about ourselves. Even if it hurts. Like all great art SWEET ONE entertains, even nourishes in its way. But it also informs and makes you think. And squirm. As it should.


Publisher: Fremantle Press [2014]
ISBN: 9781922089755
Length: 316 pages
Format: paperback

Review: ALL THE BIRDS, SINGING, Evie Wyld

  • first published by Jonathan Cape 2013
  • this edition published by Random House Australia (Vintage) 2014
  • ISBN 978-1-74275-730-8
  • 229 pages
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (publisher)

Winner of the 2014 Miles Franklin Award

Who or what is watching Jake Whyte from the woods?

Jake Whyte is the sole resident of an old farmhouse on an unnamed island, a place of ceaseless rains and battering winds. It’s just her, her untamed companion, Dog, and a flock of sheep. Which is how she wanted it to be.
But something is coming for the sheep – every few nights it picks one off, leaves it in rags.

It could be anything. There are foxes in the woods, a strange boy and a strange man, rumours of an obscure, formidable beast. And there is Jake’s unknown past, perhaps breaking into the present, a story hidden thousands of miles away and years ago,
in a landscape of different colour and sound, a story held in the scars that stripe her back.

Set between Australia and a remote English island, All the Birds, Singing is the story of one how one woman’s present comes from a terrible past.
It is the second novel from the award-winning author of After the Fire, A Still Small Voice.

My take

Strictly speaking Evie Wyld is not an Australian author, but she grew up in Australia, this novel has been published by Random House Australia, and part of the story is set in Australia. It is probably not really crime fiction, although crimes have been committed.

When Jake Whyte was a teenager in a remote Australian town she made a terrible mistake. That’s the reason she is now living on a remote English island about as far away from Australia as she can get. It is almost like voluntary exile, paying for something she can’t forget.

There are two stories in this novel and Jake is the joining point. The fascinating aspect is the way the novel is structured, but I’m going leave that for you to discover for yourself. The interleaving of the two stories is skilfully done, but the author does make the reader work hard, at least initially. The Australian part of the story is vivid and believable, while at the same time the remote English setting feels very authentic.

I can see why it won Australia’s prestigious Miles Franklin Award in 2014.
Check the judges’ notes here.

My rating: 4.9

About the author

Evie Wyld grew up in Australia and the UK. She now runs Review, a small independent bookshop in London. Her first novel, After the Fire, A Still Small Voice, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and a Betty Trask Award. In 2011 she was listed as one of the Culture Show’s Best New British Novelists. She was also shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. In 2013 she was listed as one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists. Evie’s second novel, All the Birds, Singing, was published in 2013. It was longlisted for the 2014 Stella Prize and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, and shortlisted for the Costa Novel Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. She is the winner of the 2013 Encore Award, the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize and the 2014 Miles Franklin Award.

Awards
2014 University of Queensland Fiction Book Award – (Shortlisted);
2014 European Union Prize for Literature – (Winner);
2014 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards – (Shortlisted);
2014 Miles Franklin Award – (Winner);
2014 Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize – (Winner);
2014 Encore Award – (Winner);

Review: GHOST GIRLS by Cath Ferla

GhostGirlsFerlaGHOST GIRLS is not a novel to read on an empty stomach. Its forays into the Asian restaurants and noodle bars of Sydney – their tastes and smells all evocatively described – will have your mouth-watering too much to concentrate. That’s the upside of the book’s authentic sensibility. The downside of that realism is that the reader can’t pretend the novel’s depiction of abused and exploited foreign students isn’t something going on right under our noses.My office is in the midst of several campuses teeming with foreign students and the best restaurants nearby are those which serve this clientele so as soon as I’d started reading GHOST GIRLS I couldn’t help but look at these kids (I’m old, to me they are all kids) with the worry that something like the book’s events could be happening to some of them.

Our journey into the world is via Sophie Sandilands: a young teacher of English to foreign students. She is the daughter of an Australian PI, now dead, and his Chinese wife who disappeared without trace many years ago. And that isn’t the only tragedy in Sophie’s background. So when one of her students commits suicide and some students are revealed not to be who they purport to be Sophie feels obligated to find out more.

What she uncovers is horrific. Not so much in a bloody way (though there is a little of that) but more in a “this kind of stuff could be going on next door and I wouldn’t know about it” way. Many of the students are under pressure from home to perform at almost impossible levels yet they struggle to make enough to live on doing the kinds of jobs available to them. Some of them make unwise if more lucrative choices and some have even that – the choice – taken out of their hands. It is confronting and heart-breaking all at the same time.

Sophie is a nuanced character who I enjoyed getting to know – not least because her love for good food and nice tea offered some much needed relief from the necessarily sombre narrative. She is tenacious and caring and if she sometimes does things that put her in jeopardy her reasoning is always sound within the context of her personal story. Other characters are equally well drawn, though not all are as delightful. The people who exploit the students only do so because of demand. And the man who represents that demand here – a middle-aged husband and father to a young girl who all-too slowly comes to realise the kind of ripple effect his base desires have – is awkwardly credible too. Perhaps because I’d already started looking at the students I see every day with fresh eyes I couldn’t help but also look at the men around me with the same new awareness. Which of you is like him?

As with all the best crime fiction GHOST GIRLS is first a ripping yarn and its exploration of modern life does nothing to undermine that. It’s lack of easy answers to the complex issues it explores is fitting: there aren’t easy answers to be had. I am impressed that this is a debut novel for Cath Ferla – it seems too assured both thematically and stylistically for that – and can’t wait to see what she delivers next.


AWW2016This is the fourth book I’ve read and reviewed for the fifth Australian Women Writers Challenge. For more information about the challenge check out my challenge progress, sign up yourself or browse the Challenge’s database of reviews.


Publisher: Echo [2016]
ISBN: 9781760401177
Length: 280 pages
Format: paperback

Review: DARKEST PLACE, Jaye Ford

  • source: Random House Australia via NetGalley
  • Available for Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1122 KB
  • Print Length: 346 pages
  • Publisher: RHA eBooks Adult (February 1, 2016)
  • Publication Date: January 27, 2016
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B017J5899W

Synopsis (NetGalley)

An adrenaline-pumping suspense novel from the author of BEYOND FEAR.
What if a stranger is watching you sleep – and no one believes you?

Carly Townsend is starting over after a decade of tragedy and pain. In a new town and a new apartment she’s determined to leave the memories and failures of her past behind.

However that dream is shattered in the dead of night when she is woken by the shadow of a man next to her bed, silently watching her. And it happens week after week.Yet there is no way an intruder could have entered the apartment. It’s on the fourth floor, the doors are locked and there is no evidence that anyone has been inside.

With the police doubting her story, and her psychologist suggesting it’s all just a dream, Carly is on her own. And being alone isn’t so appealing when you’re scared to go to sleep .

My Take:

Australian author Jaye Ford certainly knows how to write a good thriller.

Carly Townsend moves across the country to Newcastle, NSW, to start a new life. For the last decade she has been living with the fact that she killed her three best friends. Her new apartment is on the 4th floor of a renovated warehouse. All modern. But the first thing she learns is that there is a sad story about the girl who used to own her apartment.

Carly herself is pretty fragile, the result of two failed marriages, three miscarriages, and the death of her three friends.  She thinks she has lost the outgoing personailty she once had, and wonders if she can find it again.

She begins a business course at a local TAFE and is lucky to be befriended by twenty year old with big ideas. Carly hasn’t slept well for years but then she is woken in the early morning by a hooded man. She reports the home invasion to the police but by the third time they have had enough of her wasting their time.

Jaye Ford ceratinly knows which of our “fear” buttons to press.

My rating: 4.6

I’ve also read

4.4, BEYOND FEAR
4.5, SCARED YET?
4.5, BLOOD SECRET
4.7, ALREADY DEAD

Review: DEADLY DIPLOMACY by Jean Harrod

DeadlyDiplomacyHarrodWhere she has followed the dictum to ‘write what you know’ Harrod’s efforts in DEADLY DIPLOMACY are successful. Her many years in the diplomatic service lends authenticity to the book’s depiction of British diplomat Jessica Turner’s efforts to support the sister of a British women who is murdered in Queensland. The victim was involved with a Very Important international trade deal so as well as trying to alleviate the fears of the victim’s paranoid sister Turner must liaise with harried local police and juggle strained high level relationships between private and public organisations. When allegations of corruption and the death of a Federal politician form part of this narrative’s mix, things really do get interesting for Turner and, by extension, the reader.

Other elements of the novel were, for me, less successful. The most significant of these was the high body count and violence which turned what could have been a thoughtful story into a bloodbath of the type that doesn’t interest me terribly much. I was surprised to see the Sydney Morning Herald describe the book as a ‘light mystery’ given the number of brutal killings, including a completely pointless (story wise) graphic murder of a teenage girl. The fact that these crimes are being committed by one of the ‘crazed chap who loves killing‘ type of characters makes it worse for me. I accept that nature (or nurture?) throws up one of these nutters every now and then in the real world but not nearly as often as this kind of thriller would have me believe. And regardless of their epidemiological likelihood they are boring. A person who kills because he (or she) likes to kill offers little of interest to a reader looking for character development and motivation.

The writing itself is also awkward at times. This is a plot driven book with lots of dialogue to move things along and quite a bit of that dialogue doesn’t ring true. It’s fair enough that Jessica Tuner and the victim’s sister – both English women who have only been in Australia a short time – are not attuned to local speech patterns and terminology but the rest of the characters are meant to be locals. I can’t imagine too many Australians wouldn’t twig early on that this is a book written by an outsider (and one with a different take on social class than most Aussies) but I suppose no one else will know or care. I see that the author’s second book takes Jessica Turner to a different setting and I imagine I won’t know enough about that place to be able to tell if the dialogue is equally out of place so perhaps this really doesn’t matter much in the big scheme of things.

The story itself rips along and engages the reader in wanting to learn the reasons for its events and whether or not the victim’s diary will reveal enough secrets to warrant the killing spree its existence has caused. With the violence level dialed down a couple of notches I could easily be persuaded to check back with Jessica Turner and the world of international diplomacy which does seem like fertile ground for great yarns.


Publisher: York Authors Coffee Shop [2015]
ISBN: 9780992997137
Length: 329 pages
Format: paperback
Creative Commons Licence
This work by http://fairdinkumcrime.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

 

Review: MISSING, Melanie Casey

  • first published in 2016 by Pantera Press Australia
  • source: review copy from publisher
  • ISBN 978-1-921997-53-2
  • 374 pages
  • #3 in Cass Lehmann series
  • Also available for Kindle from Amazon

Synopsis (publisher)

On any night, 1 person in 200 is homeless …

Someone is targeting Adelaide’s homeless. Men are disappearing off the streets, and body parts are turning up in a local dump.

Still haunted by her last run-in with a serial killer, Cass Lehman is trying hard to focus on the future. That’s not easy when she has the ‘gift’ of retrocognition … the ability to spontaneously re-live the last minutes of a person’s life.

Cass and Detective Ed Dyson are now trying to make a normal home together, but when she gets entangled in Ed’s latest case things are far from normal.

A twisted tale of love, desperation and murder … When the psychic meets the psychotic, who will come out unscathed?

My take

Another novel set in Adelaide! The city is recognisable and this novel clings to the reputation that strange and gruesome murders occur in this “City of Churches”.

I’m not quite sure how I have missed seeing earlier novels by this author. So I really read this as a stand alone and it worked quite well. There was enough back story for me to be able to make sense of what had happened in the past, and in previous stories.

Readers are required to suspend their disbelief in paranormal powers because Cass Lehman’s matrilinear line all have “powers” of a sort. Cass has apparently used hers in the past to assist the police. The experiences are draining ones for her, and sometimes occur unpredictably.

This is a fairly grisly tale, with a number of bags of body parts being found in a dump at McLaren Vale, the wine growing district south of Adelaide. The evidence begins to point strongly to one person as the perpetrator but it is still up to Cass and Ed to prove the case.

A good read, with some fine bits of suspense.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Melanie Casey was born and lives in South Australia with her two young children and her husband (who didn’t know he was marrying a writer when he walked down the aisle).

After studying English Literature and Classical Studies, Melanie shifted to Law, and now works in government.

A chance meeting with a highschool English teacher in the supermarket made Melanie realise that she should be doing what she’d always loved, writing! Another period of study, this time at the Professional Writing School of Adelaide’s College of the Arts ensued, helping Melanie acquire the skills she needed to put her plan into action.

Hindsight is her debut novel, the first in a crime trilogy featuring Cass Lehman and Detective Ed Dyson. The second in the series, Craven, was released in 2014. The third installment, Missing, was released in 2016.

Review: OLMEC OBITUARY, L.J.M. Owen

Synopsis (Publisher)

Yearning for her former life as an archaeologist, Australian librarian Dr. Elizabeth Pimms is struggling with a job she doesn’t want, a family she both loves and resents, and enforced separation from her boyfriend.

A royal Olmec cemetery is discovered deep in the Mexican jungle, containing the earliest writing in all the Americas. Dr. Pimms is elated to join the team investigating these Aztec ancestors. Triumph is short-lived, however, as Elizabeth’s position on the team is threatened by a volatile excavation director, contradictory evidence, and hostile
colleagues. With everything working against her, will Dr Pimms find the cause of death for a 3,000-year-old athlete and those buried with her?

With the archaeological intrigue of Elizabeth Peters, forensic insight of Kathy Reichs, and comfort of a cosy mystery, Olmec Obituary is the first novel in a fascinating new series: Dr Pimms, Intermillennial Sleuth. Really cold cases.

My Take

Her father’s unexpected and untimely death means that Dr Elizabeth Pimms, forensic archaeologist and Egyptologist, has to abandon work she is doing in Egypt to return to her family in Canberra and take work as a librarian, so that she can provide financial support for her brother and sister and extended family.

She is approached to do some voluntary weekend work in Canberra working on the bones of 17 skeletons retrieved from an Olmec cave in Mexico. Her work is to be unpaid because the supervisor says basically that she needs to prove herself before he will consider remuneration. Elizabeth finds this difficult to understand because he has already obviously spent considerable funds on the work in Mexico. He and she have a falling out however on the first day when Elizabeth challenges some of the conclusions he wants to publish about the remains.

The reader is given background story to the events which have resulted in the burial of the bodies. These are details that Elizabeth has no way of knowing because there are no written records relating to this site. I am not sure about the wisdom of this as a plot structure.

Elizabeth has a personal mystery to unravel related to the death of her mother in a car crash nearly a decade earlier. She has to admit that she has been wrong in her assumptions about what caused the crash. But jumping to the wrong conclusions seems to be pretty par for the course for Elizabeth.

There is a lot going on in this book but my enjoyment of it was not helped by the fact that I didn’t particularly warm to Elizabeth herself. I thought I found some inconsistencies in the background details about Elizabeth: later in the book the family celebrates her 26th birthday, but in the Prologue we are told “after twenty years of yearning, planning and dedicated study she was finally here… a skilled archaeologist and knowledgeable Egyptologist”. I found it difficult to juggle her expertise against her age, and would have been more comfortable if she had just been a few years older.

Nevertheless, it is always interesting to find a new female Australian author, with a very different scenario, leading me into a world I am not really familiar with.

A second book in the series is promised: MAYAN MENDACITY. Elements of the story from OLMEC OBITUARY are left unresolved, so this should help link the two.

My rating: 4.4

About the author
L.J.M. Owen drew extensively on her education and experience when
developing the novel. Relevant qualifications include an undergraduate
degree in archaeology and a PhD in palaeogenetics from ANU, and a
graduate diploma in library management from Curtin University. See more information on her website.