Review: THE BONE IS POINTED, Arthur Upfield – audio book

Synopsis:  (Audible)

Arthur Upfield’s The Bone is Pointed follows Inspector Bonaparte who solves mysteries in the Australian outback. Published in the 1940’s, this story not only offers up a good  mystery but also a portrait of the aborigines and Australia in the early 20th century. Peter Hosking tackles this story with verve. He speaks with a clear Australian accent while developing the characters believably, giving each his own attributes. Meanwhile, his varied pacing makes the story easy to follow. Mystery lovers and history buffs alike will have fun with the Inspector Bonaparte Mysteries.

Jack Anderson was a big man with a foul temper, a sadist and a drunk. Five months after his horse appeared riderless, no trace of the man has surfaced and no one seems to care. But Bony is determined to follow the cold trail and smoke out some answers. 

My Take

In this tale Bony appears as a Queensland C.I.B. detective on leave, turning up at an outback station where a rouseabout has gone missing during a storm. His horse turns up at the station the morning after the storm riderless and there is no trace of Jack Anderson. No black trackers are available because the whole local tribe has gone to visit a female elder thought to be dying. By the time a tracker can be found heavy rains have obliterated Anderson’s tracks.

During the story Bony becomes ill with the “Barcoo sickness” but station owner is convinced that the bones has been pointed at him. At first Bony is determined that he will not succumb but he becomes weaker and weaker despite the attempts of the local policeman to help him.

Bony is also proud of his reputation that no case that he has tackled has ever gone unsolved, but that is because he stays on the case until the very end, despite telegrams from his superiors that he must return to the city immediately.

What impressed me was the detailed observations of Aboriginal culture and customs that the author must have recorded. He also presents both sides of the argument with regard to preserving aboriginal heritage. One station family in particular recognise the damage that contact with white people has done to the aborigines, but at the same time are a bit patronising in the way they deal with the aborigines on their station. The character who has disappeared has mistreated aboriginal stockmen, whipping one almost to death, and so is very unpopular. No-one can work out why “Old Lacey” the station owner has kept him on.

There is more than one mystery in this book, and it is good reading, despite the warning from the publisher that Arthur Upfield reflects attitudes of his time, not necessarily views we would share today.

My rating: 4.5

I’ve also read
DEATH OF A SWAGMAN
4.4, THE BARRAKEE MYSTERY
4.0, A MAN OF TWO TRIBES
4.4, THE BATTLING PROPHET
4.3, MR JELLY’S BUSINESS 
4.5, DEATH OF A LAKE 

Review: DEATH OF A LAKE, Arthur Upfield – audio book

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Features Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte(Bony), a detective of mixed European and Aboriginal heritage.
On a vast sheep station in the outback Raymond Gillen goes swimming in the lake one night and is never seen
again. Bony arrives disguised as a horsebreaker and uncovers a story of sexual tension and murder. The lake is evaporating in the intense drought, only when it is drained will the mystery be solved.

My Take

The audio book begins with the usual warning that the publisher does not ascribe to Upfield’s now politically incorrect views. However they do reflect popularly held opinions, particularly abour aborigines, in the 1950s.

The story moves a bit slowly in this tale because Lake Otway, a lake that had filled three years before because of flooding in the north, is in the process of evaporating and dying. There are wonderful descriptions of what happens as the lake gets shallower and shallower and smaller and smaller. At the same time the rabbit population blows out. The daily temperature is well over 110F and the outstation near the lake burns to the ground one night.

You can’t help but be impressed by Upfield’s detailed observations of life on Outback stations.

Bony turns up (undercover) to investigate the Ray Gillen’s disappearance and discovers that all the hands living at the outstation have, unusually, stayed on since Gillen’s disappearance, not taking holidays and so on. Something is keeping them all there.

The tension builds very well, and the narration by Peter Hosking is in a class of its own.

My rating: 4.5

I’ve also read
DEATH OF A SWAGMAN
4.4, THE BARRAKEE MYSTERY
4.0, A MAN OF TWO TRIBES
4.4, THE BATTLING PROPHET
4.3, MR JELLY’S BUSINESS 

Review: THE SUSPECT, Michael Robotham – audio book

 Synopsis (author website)

Joseph O’Loughlin appears to have the perfect life – a beautiful wife, a loving daughter and a successful career as a clinical psychologist. But nothing can be taken for granted. Even the most flawless existence is only a loose thread away from unravelling. All it takes is a murdered girl, a troubled young patient and the biggest lie of his life.

When an unknown young woman is found dead with multiple stab wounds – all of them self-inflicted – the police ask Joe to help them understand the crime. Are they dealing with a murder or a suicide? Reluctantly, he agrees to help and the brutalised body he views at the mortuary turns out to be someone he knows: Catherine Mary McBride, a nurse and former colleague.

At the same time, Joe is grappling with a troubled young patient, Bobby Moran, whose violent dreams are becoming more real. As Bobby’s behaviour grows increasingly erratic, Joe begins to ponder what he’s done in the past and what he might do next. Is there a link between his terrible dreams and Catherine McBride?

Caught in a complex web of deceit and obsessed by images of the slain girl, Joe embarks upon a search that takes him into the darkest recesses of the human mind. Ultimately, he will risk everything to unmask the killer and save his family..

My Take

If you follow my blog you will know that I have read this title before, much closer to the date of original publication (2004).

It is the book that introduced British psychologist Professor Joseph O’Loughlin and his creator Australian writer Michael Robotham to the crime fiction world. Now the Joseph O’Loughlin/ Vincent Ruiz series has 8 titles and Robotham has produced another 4 stand-alones. He has won many awards, been translated into a myriad of languages, and even become the basis of a German TV series. (What an irony it will be if in Australia we have to view a translated version!)

Listening to this excellent audio version, unabridged of course, has given me a new appreciation of what a startling new voice Robotham was.  The writing is crisp and tight, the plot multi-stranded, but somehow all coming together at the end.

So, if you haven’t read any of this series yet, there is no better place to start – at the beginning.
I will be downloading the unabridged version of #2 in the series: LOST (aka THE DROWNING MAN).

Rating: 5.0

I’ve also reviewed
BOMBPROOF
SHATTER #3
SHATTER (audio)
BLEED FOR ME #4
5.0, THE WRECKAGE #5
4.8, SAY YOU’RE SORRY #6
5.0, WATCHING YOU #7
4.8, IF I TELL YOU… I’LL HAVE TO KILL YOU (edit)
5.0, LIFE OR DEATH Shortlisted for the 2015 CWA Gold Dagger
4.8, CLOSE YOUR EYES
5.0, THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS   
 

Review: POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY by Adrian McKinty

It’s 1988. Sean Duffy, a rare Catholic policeman in the RUC, is being marched into the woods by three IRA gunmen and one IRA gunwoman. One of them carries a shovel. With which Sean will be asked to dig his own grave.

This is how the sixth book in this funny, sad, brilliant series opens and I nearly stopped right there. Few authors would dare to kill off their series hero and even fewer would do so at the beginning of a novel. But Adrian McKinty is just the sort of twisted bastard of an author to do it if it made for the best story and I wasn’t sure I was ready for that. But…I had to know.

As is the way of such things readers are left on tenterhooks awaiting Sean’s fate while we flashback to a few days earlier and start to learn what has led Sean to his dire situation. In a semblance of unexpected normality Sean is holidaying with his girlfriend and baby daughter at his parents’ house when he is called back to Carrikfergus to investigate a death-by-crossbow in the economically destitute Sunnylands estate. Where “…the only distractions to be had were hassling single women at the bus stop and building bonfires” and Sean can “…almost smell the stench of cheap ciggies, unwashed armpits, solvents, lighter fluid and special brew“. He is presented with a shambles of a crime scene. The body has not been cordoned off. The crowd is so close to it that their cigarette ash is falling onto it. There’s even a goat slobbering over the deceased. Forever contaminating what evidence there might have been. And Sean Duffy’s trusted sergeant John ‘Crabby’ McCrabben has been stabbed by the victim’s wife.

And so begins another adventure in the somewhat surreal life of Sean Duffy, his few friends and an increasingly large pool of enemies. I’ll say nothing more about the plot. Except that it’s a ripper. Lots of twists and turns and enough near-death experiences to have me reaching for the angina medication.

Although you could, you probably wouldn’t read this series just for the plots.

There’s their almost documentary-like observations of life during The Troubles which is done with dark humour yet a light, non-expositional touch. It’s the little things really. Like every time Sean Duffy gets into his car he checks underneath for mercury tilt bombs. Regardless of whether it’s been parked in the street outside his house overnight or he’s nicked into a shop for a minute Sean always checks. Sometimes he does it surreptitiously – pretending he dropped his lighter for example – but he always checks and readers are always told about it. Which means that instead of checking for bombs being a kind of abstract concept – as it would be if we had to infer its repetition from a single mention – we get a glimmer of what it must be like to live that kind of life.

And there are the characters. Duffy is 38 now and feeling every year of it with his newly diagnosed asthma and the effects of years of smoking, drinking and taking the odd recreational drug. He is still able to laugh at some of the chaos but his intermittent depression at the senselessness surrounding them all is still, understandably, there. Though of course he feels and behaves differently with the inclusion of Beth and Emma in his life. Beth is a welcome addition and her depiction seems very realistic as she struggles to stick by the man she loves while he – and their little family – is subject to very, very real danger. Duffy’s two staunchest allies, the aforementioned Crabby and DC Lawson, prove once again what real friends they truly are. It’s really quite a lovely depiction of male friendship; and not the kind involving stupid levels of drunkenness and womanising that is depicted in much of popular culture.

I could go on quite a bit more but if you are not yet convinced it’s probably a lost cause. I will just say that if you like the sound of a book in which the chaos of real life plays more of a role than neat endings and conventional justice then this one is for you. That it has gallows humour, wholly understandable musical snobbery, more than a single traitor and a very fast car is all to the good. If you want the ultimate experience then invite Gerard Doyle into your ears to tell you the story.


Publisher: Blackstone Audio, 2015
Narrator: Gerard Doyle
ASIN: B06X9Z9LDT
Length: 9 hours 49 minutes
Format: audio book (mp3)
Source of review copy: I bought it

Review: THE BATTLING PROPHET, Arthur Upfield – audio book

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte is on leave, staying with an old friend near Adelaide. Ben Wickham, a meteorologist whose uncannily accurate weather forecasts had helped farmers all over Australia, lived
nearby. Ben died after a three-week drinking binge and a doctor certified death as due to delirium tremens – but Bony’s host insists that whatever Ben died of it wasn’t alcohol…

From Audible

Ben Wickham, a famous meteorologist whose uncannily accurate forecasts have helped famers and graziers all over Australia, has died after a three-week drinking bout.

The doctor certifies that his death was cause by heart failure due to alcoholic poisoning.
But Ben’s neighbour and drinking partner, John Luton, is convinced his
friends didn’t die from too much gin. He manages to lure Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte to his riverside cottage near the South Australian coast, on an unofficial visit for a spot of fishing.

Bony, thinking at first he’s on holiday and paying a casual visit, is intrigued and decides to investigate.

My Take

Weather forecasts are extraordinarily important in the driest continent in the world. Farmers and graziers base their activities on them, but if drought is forecast then they will not re-stock their land, nor will they harrow in preparation for seeding. So lots of people stand to lose income if farming activities don’t occur.

Ben Wickham tried to interest the Australian government in purchasing his weather predictions in advance and, when they rejected him, then approached overseas governments. Since Wickham died lots of people, not all Australian in origin, have become very interested in finding his will, and the books in which he wrote his predictions for future weather. They are all convinced that his best mate John Luton is hiding something. After Luton takes a beating from some outsider Bony realises that some major steps have to be taken. But someone higher up in government wants Bony off the scene and he is peremptorily recalled Queensland, and even escorted to the South Australian border.

A story with quite a bit of outback humour as well as some serious thought. There are some very quirky characters and the author has tried give us some idea of their colloquial language.

Of particular interest to me is that so many of the Bony stories have a link to South Australia. This one appears to be set somewhere near the River Murray. Ironically the year of publication, 1956, is also the year of the flooding of the Murray, in contrast with the drought conditions of the novel.My rating: 4.4

I’ve also read
DEATH OF A SWAGMAN
4.4, THE BARRAKEE MYSTERY
4.0, A MAN OF TWO TRIBES 

Review: MAN OF TWO TRIBES, Arthur Upfield – audio book

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

With two camels and a dog, Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte sets off across southern Australia’s Nullarbor Plain in search of a missing
woman. He finds much more than he bargained for. Set in some of the most mysterious and unforgiving territory in the world – the Australian
desert – Man of Two Tribes is vintage Upfield.

From Audible:

Myra Thomas, accused of murdering her philandering husband, is foundnot guilty by a sympathetic jury. But while travelling from Adelaide toPerth on the Transcontinental Railway express, she mysteriously disappears during the overnight journey across the vast, featureless desert.
Detective-Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte takes the case and
sets off to search for her over the flat wasteland of the Nullabor
Plain. At first it seems that the harsh environment will give him no clues, but Bony soon finds more than he bargained for? landing himself in a bigger mystery, and a fight for survival…

My TakeThe Woomera Rocket Range, a collaborative effort between a number of International groups including the British and Australia, began immediately after World War II in 1946, with a joint project running until 1960. It is located in north-west South Australia, about 500 km north west of Adelaide. British nuclear tests at Maralinga, a series of seven nuclear tests were conducted within the Woomera area between 1955 and 1963. More recently, the Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre, a detention centre,  opened nearby in 1999 and operated until 2003.

The focus in the opening pages of the story is a woman, recently acquitted of murder, who has disappeared without trace from the East-West railway travelling from Adelaide to Western Australia. There is some indication that she may have connections with international espionage and Bony is sent out on an undercover mission to see if he can locate her.

There are various Aboriginal legends associated with the Australian outback but here Upfield tells one about a monster, maybe a version of the Rainbow Snake, supposedly occupying the underground limestone caverns of the Nullarbor Plain which the train line traverses. This has the effect of both deterring aboriginal trackers from looking too closely for the missing woman, and also provides an explanation of any strange noises heard at night.

Bony of course is the “man of two tribes”, being a half-caste aborigine, but his Queensland tribe has little in common with the Aboriginal people living on the Nullarbor, apart from the markings on his body that show he is a warrior of some note. At the same time he is a very articulate person, highly qualified with a university degree, and a reputation for never failing to successfully conclude a case.

An interesting story but I did feel that it stretched the bounds of credibility. Basing the story around the Nullarbor Plain and Woomera does show how in touch with current events Upfield was. At the time of publication 1956, 8 years before his death, he was 66 years old and there would be another 8 Bony novels.

My rating: 4.0

I’ve also read
DEATH OF A SWAGMAN
4.4, THE BARRAKEE MYSTERY

Review: FATAL LIAISON, Vicki Tyley

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

Synopsis (Publisher)

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

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

My Take

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

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

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

My rating: 4.4

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

About the author

From her website

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

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

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

Review: FALLING GLASS by Adrian McKinty

  • from Audible.com
  • stand-alone novel published in 2011
  • Narrated by: Gerard Doyle
  • Length: 9 hrs and 37 mins 
  • Format: Unabridged audio

Synopsis (Audible.com)

Richard Coulter is a man who has everything. His beautiful new wife is pregnant, his upstart airline is undercutting the competition and moving from strength to strength, his diversification into the casino business in Macau has been successful, and his fabulous Art Deco house on an Irish cliff top has just been featured in Architectural Digest. 

But then, for some reason, his ex-wife Rachel doesn’t keep her side of the custody agreement and vanishes off the face of the earth with Richard’s two daughters. Richard hires Killian, a formidable ex-enforcer for the IRA, to track her down before Rachel, a recovering drug addict, harms herself or the girls.

My Take

This makes very good listening.

Killian comes out of retirement to find Richard Coulter’s wife – the money on offer is far too good. Half a million dollars seems a lot of money for dealing with a custody case. At first Rachel Coulter alone knows why her ex-husband is having her hunted down. There’s a lot more at stake than two little girls.

The tension rises as Coulter pours more resources into the hunt. Killian realises that he himself is being tracked.

This is a difficult book to review without revealing too much of the story and so I’m not going to tell you much more. Despite his background as an IRA enforcer Killian comes over as a likeable character, but his willingness to be ruthless also comes in handy. The story is based mainly in Ireland.

My rating: 4.6

I’ve also reviewed

FIFTY GRAND
4.6, THE COLD COLD GROUND
4.8, I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET

Review: DEGREES OF CONNECTION, Jon Cleary

  • book published in 2003 by Harper Collins
  • #20 in the Scobie Malone series (the last)
  • audio version narrated by Brian Hewlett, and published by Sundowner Productions in 2003
  • length: approx 8 hrs 30 mins
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Fantastic Fiction)

Marilyn Hyx, loyal private secretary to Natalie Shipwood, the dynamo behind the Orlando Development Company, is found murdered in her home.
Is it simply coincidence that she had in her possession some very sensitive Orlando documents? This is a Scobie Malone mystery, set in the world of shady financial deals and desperate dreams.

My Take

A year or two has passed since the events covered in WINTER CHILL which I read last year.

It is now 2001 and Scobie Malone as been promoted from inspector to superintendent, while Russ Clements is now head of Homicide. Malone’s son, Tom, seems to have impregnated a girlfriend who is subsequently murdered and his daughter Maureen is an ABC journalist covering the Securities Commission investigation into Orlando. Both Scobie and Russ are having trouble in adjusting to their new roles and responsibilities.

If there is a focus in this novel it is greed and how Australia fared during the financial collapse of the early 21st century. There are references to the New York Twin Towers tragedy and the rise of terrorism as a global fear factor. There’s also a sub-theme of families, loyalties, and friendship.

We really enjoyed the Australian ambience and cricket lovers will enjoy the likening of interrogation techniques to changing the bowling.

Brian Hewlett does a brilliant job of the narration.

DEGREES OF CONNECTION demonstrates what a master writer Jon Cleary was. It won the 2004 Ned Kelly Award for Best Novel. It was not only Cleary’s last Scobie Malone title but also his last crime fiction.  He declared he was getting “stale” and that he nothing more to write about.

Jon Cleary, well known outside this genre as the writer of THE SUNDOWNERS, was the winner of the inaugural Lifetime Contribution Ned Kelly Award in 1996.

DEGREES OF CONNECTION was so enjoyable that I am very regretful that I have read only two in the series. They are very faithful to their Australian (New South Wales) setting, refer to contemporary events, and are characterised by their empathetic portrayal of Malone, Clements and their families.

My rating: 4.7

Review: WINTER CHILL, Jon Cleary

  • originally published 1995
  • audio book published by Chivers 2011
  • playing time 9 hours 40 mins
  • Narrator Christian Rodska
  • ISBN 978-1-4458-1306-6
  • source: my local library

Synopsis (Audible.com)

It is 3.30 a.m. The Sydney monorail performs its endless circuit like a
pale metal caterpillar – all for the benefit of one dead passenger.

Elsewhere in the city’s bleak midwinter, Darling Harbour buzzes to the
sound of 1,000 American lawyers attending an international conference.
And that means 1,000 opinions as to who killed their president. Two
bodies later, and the more Scobie Malone fillets the heart of the city’s
legal profession, the more he cuts into an intrigue of international
proportions….

My Take

#12 in Jon Cleary’s Scobie Malone series, CID police procedurals set in Sydney, that reflect current events such as the building of the Sydney Opera House and the holding of the Sydney Olympics.

Against the background of  an international conference for lawyers being held in Sydney, an American lawyer who turns out to have been born in Australia is killed. His body is discovered on the monorail and then the security guard who discovered the body is murdered.

There’s quite a bit of human interest in the story too. Scobie Malone has two teenage children and his wife discovers she has breast cancer. Scobie Malone is a principled detective who believes in thorough investigative techniques.

A good story made even better by the excellent narration of Christian Rodska.Quite an intricate plot.

My rating: 4.6

In 2004 Cleary (1917-2010) won a Ned Kelly Award for best novel for the last of the Scobie Malone books DEGREES OF CONNECTION. He also won an Edgar Award for Best Novel in 1975 for a non Malone novel PETER’S PENCE.

Jon Cleary was probably better known for the fact that he wrote THE SUNDOWNERS.

Wikipedia has a good listing of the Scobie Malone books with single sentence plot outlines.

    Cleary once stated that, “There’s more than a bit of me in Scobie. We both come from fighting Irish stock, we’re both from Erskineville, the wrong side of the tracks, and both of us slugged our way up.” Malone was a Catholic family man with rigid principles who mostly worked in Sydney, although his adventures occasionally took him overseas.
    Other regular characters in the series included:
  • Malone’s Dutch wife Lisa, who he first met working as Sir James Quentin’s secretary in The High Commissioner. She was based on Cleary’s wife Joy.
  • Malone’s partner Sergeant Russ Clements, who eventually became head of Homicide.
  • Inspector Leeds, Malone’s superior.
  • His father Con and mother Brigid (based on Cleary’s parents).
  • His children Tom and Maureen (based on Cleary’s grandchildren).

Scobie Malone (Fantastic Fiction)

1. The High Commissioner (1966)

2. Helga’s Web (1970)

3. Ransom (1973)

4. Dragons at the Party (1987)

5. Now and Then, Amen (1988)

6. Babylon South (1989)

7. Murder Song (1990)

8. Pride’s Harvest (1991)

9. Dark Summer (1991)

10. Bleak Spring (1993)

11. Autumn Maze (1994)

12. Winter Chill (1995)

13. A Different Turf (1996)

14. Endpeace (1997)

15. Five Ring Circus (1998)

16. Dilemma (1999)

17. The Bear Pit (2000)

18. Yesterday’s Shadow (2001)

19. The Easy Sin (2002)

20. Degrees of Connection (2005)

Sadly I have only one or two of this series, and that really is something I should correct.