Review: WIN, LOSE OR DRAW, Peter Corris

  • published January 2017, Allen & Unwin Australia
  • #42 in the Cliff Hardy series
  • source: my local library
  • format: e-pub
  • ISBN:
    9781760294786

 Synopsis (Allen & Unwin Australia)

 

A missing teenager, drugs, yachts, the sex trade and  a cold trail that leads from Sydney to Norfolk Island, Byron Bay and Coolangatta.
Can Cliff Hardy find out what’s really going on?
Will one man’s loss be Hardy’s gain? 

‘I’d read about it in the papers, heard the radio reports and seen the TV coverage and then
forgotten about it, the way you do with news stories.’

A missing girl, drugs, yachts, the sex trade and a cold trail that leads from
Sydney to Norfolk Island, Byron Bay and Coolangatta.

The police suspect the father, Gerard Fonteyn OA, a wealthy businessman. But he’s
hired Cliff to find her, given him unlimited expenses and posted a $250,000 reward for information.

Finally there’s a break – an unconfirmed sighting of Juliana Fonteyn, alive and well. But as usual, nothing is straightforward. Various other players are in the game – and Cliff doesn’t know the rules, or even what the game might be. He’s determined to find out, and as the bodies mount up the danger to himself and to Juliana increases.

My Take
When Juliana Fonteyn disappears she is an underage teenager. By the time her father hires Cliff Hardy to find her the case is already 18 months old, and other investigators have tried to find her and failed. In her father’s estimation they have largely been concerned with how much they will be paid. In Cliff Hardy he hopes he has found someone who really cares. And there is new evidence that Juliana is still alive – a photograph taken on Norfolk Island.
Even so the investigation doesn’t go smoothly and after fruitless weeks Hardy tells Gerard Fonteyn that he is giving up. And then there is yet another breakthrough.
This relatively easy read reflects the fact that the Australian author is most accomplished. This is #42 in a very popular series, although I have read very few of them before. Something I can see I should remedy in 2017.
My rating: 4.4
I’ve also read
About the author
Award winning Australian author Peter Corris has been writing his best selling Cliff Hardy detective stories for nearly 40 years. He’s written many other books, including a very successful ‘as-told-to’ autobiography of Fred Hollows, and a collection of short stories  about golf.

Review: THE DRY, Jane Harper

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 3534 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Australia (May 31, 2016)
  • Publication Date: May 31, 2016
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01B40JHRQ

Synopsis  (Amazon)

WHO REALLY KILLED THE HADLER FAMILY?Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well …

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is
loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds are reopened. For Falk
and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret … A secret Falk thought long-buried … A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface …

Winner of the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript

My Take

Drought in Australia takes its toll in many ways and many believe that Luke Hadler has just snapped under the pressure. When Aaron Falk comes to the town for the funerals, he intends to get away as quickly as possible. But Luke’s parents ask him to try to work out what triggered the murder/suicides, and then Falk meets a local policeman who is having a hard job accepting that Luke Hadler killed his family.

Aaron Falk and his father left the rural Victorian country town after the death of one of Aaron’s friends. The final verdict was that Ellie had actually committed suicide, filling her shoes and pockets with stones, and drowning herself in a local swimming hole. Aaron and his father were questioned in connection with her death and then hounded out of town by Ellie’s father. Now, twenty years on, the old rumours resurface and many townspeople treat Aaron with hostility and suspicion.

This is a really well constructed novel, with a number of credible red herrings, and then a final solution that really comes out of left field.

A good read.

My rating: 4.7

About the author:

Jane Harper has worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in
Australia and the UK. She lives in Melbourne and writes for the Herald Sun, among other publications. Winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, The Dry is her first novel with rights sold to over twenty territories.

Review: AN ISOLATED INCIDENT, Emily Maguire

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1161 KB
  • Print Length: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Picador Australia (March 22, 2016)
  • Publication Date: March 22, 2016
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B01AKXZOS4
  • Author website

Synopsis  (Amazon)

When 25-year-old Bella Michaels is brutally murdered in the small town of Strathdee, the community is stunned and a media storm descends.

Unwillingly thrust into the eye of that storm is Bella’s beloved older sister, Chris, a barmaid at the local pub, whose apparent easygoing nature conceals hard-won wisdom and the kind of street-smarts only experience can bring.

As Chris is plunged into despair and searches for answers, reasons, explanation – anything – that could make even the smallest sense of Bella’s death, her ex-husband, friends and neighbours do their best to support her. But as the days tick by with no arrest,
Chris’s suspicion of those around her grows.

An Isolated Incident is a psychological thriller about everyday violence, the media’s
obsession with pretty dead girls, the grip of grief and the myth of closure, and the difficulties of knowing the difference between a ghost and a memory, between a monster and a man.

My Take

AN ISOLATED INCIDENT is not really about the investigation into the horrific death of Bella Michaels, although that happens in the background for nearly three months with few suspects. It is not really even about Bella herself although we are looking over her shoulder as investigative reporter May Norman tries to understand who Bella was and what might have caused her violent end.

Through the eyes of Chris Rogers, Bella’s older half sister, and May Norman we uncover the nature of the town of Strathdee, a truck stop half way between Sydney and Melbourne. After the first flush of media activity caused by the discovery of Bella’s body the reporters depart but May stays on. She feels that there is more of a story to be had if she can interview a few more residents and then focus on Chris.

The novel has its focus in uncovering the sort of town Strathdee is, the violence that seems to underpin most relationships, the impact of Bella’s death on Chris and also on those who barely knew her, and on May’s own relationships.

There’s plenty to think about in this novel, plenty to talk about in a book group if you are part of one, but be warned, you may find the scenarios and language confronting.

My rating: 4.8

Read another review

About the author
Emily Maguire is the author of the novels An Isolated IncidentFishing for Tigers, Smoke in the Room, The Gospel According to Luke and the international bestseller Taming the Beast. She was named as a Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist of the Year in 2010 and again in 2013. She is the recipient of the 2011 NSW Writer’s Fellowship.

Her non-fiction book Princesses and Pornstars: Sex + Power + Identity
(2008) is an examination of how the treatment of young women as fragile
and in need of protection can be as objectifying and damaging to them
as pornography and raunch culture. A Young Adult version of this book
titled Your Skirt’s Too Short: Sex, Power, Choice was published in 2010.
Emily’s articles and essays on sex, feminism, culture and literature have been published widely including in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Observer and The Age.

Review: A FATAL TIDE, Steve Sailah

Synopsis (Net Galley)

A powerful novel set in Gallipoli, that’s part war-story and part mystery.

‘Amid Gallipoli’s slaughter he hunted a murderer . . .’

It is 1915 and Thomas Clare rues the day he and his best friend Snow went to war to solve the murder of his father. The only clues – a hidden wartime document and the imprint of an army boot on the victim’s face – have led the pair from the safety of Queensland to the blood-soaked hills of Gallipoli.

Now not only are Thomas’s enemies on every side – from the Turkish troops bearing down on the Anzac lines, to the cold-blooded killer in his own trench – but as far away as London and Berlin.

For, unbeknown to Thomas, the path to murder began thirteen years earlier in Africa with the execution of Breaker Morant – and a secret that could change the course of history . . .

My Take

The scope of this novel is quite ambitious: its themes include the Australian soldiers at Gallipoli in 1915; the Boer War, particularly what led up to the execution of Breaker Morant; the relationships between Aborigines and whites in Australia in the early twentieth century; as well as a closely plotted murder mystery.

The novel also falls in with a pattern emerging in Australian fiction as the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing approaches, of novels set in the First World War that wrap fictitious plots in historical fact. Real historical characters such as Major General Harry Chauvel and Lord Kitchener make an appearance.It also explores what it was like at Anzac Cove and the role that trench warfare played there even before it became the dominant feature of the Western Front.

I did find parts of the murder plot a bit far fetched, particularly the idea that the murder of his father led Thomas Clare to enlist, and indeed the reason why his father was murdered.

Nevertheless the plot holds together fairly well and the background to the main story certainly added to my understanding of the times.

There seemed to be some unresolved strings at the end which could well be the platform into a sequel.

My Rating: 4.3

About the author

Steve Sailah is a former ABC foreign correspondent in New Delhi and Washington
and the recipient of two prestigious Walkley Awards. He was a friend to several
Gallipoli veterans, and returned to the battlefields with a number of them on
the 75th anniversary of the first ANZAC landing. His ABC documentary, Stories
from Gallipoli
, was republished in April 2013.

Review: QUICK, Steve Worland

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 1041 KB
  • Print Length: 340 pages
  • Publisher: e-penguin (August 27, 2014)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00L4T1UHS
  • source: publisher review copy at NetGalley

Synopsis (NetGalley)

Strap in for a breathtaking, tyre-peeling, high-octane adventure ride by the rising star of action thrillers.

Melbourne, Australia:
Round one of the Formula One World Championship. Billy Hotchkiss no longer races
a V8 Supercar, but that doesn’t mean he’s lost the need for speed. When the
young cop uncovers a diamond heist in progress he leaps into action and almost
captures the thieves single-handedly.

Lyon, France: Interpol are convinced the criminals are somehow connected to Formula One. And they think this Australian ex-race driver is just the guy to stop them.

Sent undercover with an unwilling French partner, Billy is thrust into the
glamorous world of international motor racing. But as the duo closes in on the
thieves they soon expose a far more sinister threat.

With the fate of a city and the lives of one hundred thousand people in the balance, Billy
must drive like never before to stop the worst act of terror since 9/11.

My Take

When the author contacted me about reviewing this title he didn’t know that I am an addicted Formula One couch potato. I was interested to see what sort of crime fiction novel you could set in the Formula One world.

The answer is a fast-paced sizzling thriller, with lots of mind blowing stunts, and a seemingly indestructible and multi-talented protagonist.

I guess being familiar with the names of drivers, the location of tracks etc. really fuelled my enjoyment but I also enjoyed seeing the F1 world from the inside, and I learnt a few things too.

The novel really zips along and stretches the bounds of credibility. But who cares? The pure escapism had me snickering at times. And there’s mystery too as you try to work the identity of the Three Champions that Billy Hotchkiss is tracking, as well as what they will ultimately aim to do, and why they are doing it.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Steve Worland has worked extensively in film and television in Australia
and the USA. He has written scripts for Working Title and Icon
Productions, worked in script development for James Cameron’s Lightstorm
and wrote Fox Searchlight’s ‘Bootmen’, which won five Australian Film
Institute awards.

Steve also wrote the action-comedy telemovie ‘Hard Knox’, the bible and episodes of the television series ‘Big Sky’ and the Saturn award-winning ‘Farscape’. The family film ‘Paper Planes’, which he co-wrote, will be released worldwide in 2015. His novelisation of the screenplay will be released at the same time.

He is the author of the action-adventure novels ‘Velocity’, ‘Combustion’ and ‘Quick’ and is currently writing his fourth book.

Review: THE LOST GIRLS, Wendy James

  • format: Kindle (Amazon)
  • File Size: 956 KB
  • Print Length: 268 pages
  • Publisher: e-penguin (February 26, 2014)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00H8ARVG6

Synopsis (Amazon)

From the bestselling author of The Mistake comes a hauntingly powerful story about families and secrets and the dark shadows cast by the past.

Curl Curl, Sydney, January 1978.

Angie’s a looker. Or she’s going to be. She’s only fourteen, but already, heads turn wherever she goes. Male heads, mainly . . .

Jane worships her older cousin Angie. She spends her summer vying for Angie’s attention. Then Angie is murdered. Jane and her family are shattered. They withdraw into themselves, casting a veil of silence over Angie’s death.

Thirty years later, a journalist arrives with questions about the tragic event. Jane is relieved to finally talk about her adored cousin. And so is her family. But whose version of Angie’s
story – whose version of Angie herself – is the real one? And can past wrongs ever be made right?

The shocking truth of Angie’s last days will force Jane to question everything she once believed. Because nothing – not the past or even the present – is as she once imagined.

My Take

A cleverly written book, told mainly from the point of view of Jane, who was just twelve when Angie died. Jane’s story is told partly in first person, particularly from an observer’s point of view, and partly through the interviewing of Jane and other family members by Erin, a journalist wanting to make a radio documentary. Of course, at twelve, there are aspects of real life that Jane really doesn’t understand, but now, thirty years on she can bring a more adult perspective to her teenage memories.

The focus of the story is who killed Angie and why, and also the impact of her death on the immediate members of Jane’s family. What Jane did not understand at the time of Angie’s death is that there were big secrets.

I managed to get part of the “real” story worked out easily enough but the final piece slotted in only a few pages from the end.

My rating: 4.7

I’ve also reviewed
4.8, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
4.8, THE MISTAKE

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
BOMBPROOF
SHATTER
SHATTER (audio)
BLEED FOR ME
5.0, THE WRECKAGE
4.8, SAY YOU’RE SORRY
5.0, WATCHING YOU
4.8, IF I TELL YOU… I’LL HAVE TO KILL YOU (edit)

Review: ST KILDA BLUES, Geoffrey McGeachin

Synopsis (Publisher)

Melbourne’s first serial killer is at work and only one man can stop him.

It’s 1967, the summer of love, and in swinging Melbourne Detective Sergeant Charlie Berlin has been hauled out of exile in the Fraud Squad to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl, the daughter of a powerful and politically connected property developer. As Berlin’s inquiries uncover more missing girls he gets an uneasy feeling he may be dealing with the city’s first serial killer.

Berlin’s investigation leads him through inner-city discothèques, hip photographic studios, the emerging drug culture and into the seedy back streets of St Kilda. The investigation also brings up ghosts of Berlin’s past, disturbing memories of the casual murder of a young woman he witnessed in dying days of WW11.

As in war, some victories come at a terrible cost and Berlin will have to face an awful truth and endure an unimaginable loss before his investigation is over.

ST KILDA BLUES is the third novel in the Charlie Berlin series. Both previous novels, THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL and BLACKWATTLE CREEK, won the Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction in 2011 and 2013 respectively.

My Take

There is such an assured hand behind these crime fiction novels from Australian author Geoffrey McGeachin. There are plenty of historical details to place this novel in 1967, and to anchor it firmly in Melbourne. 

It is twenty years since the first novel in the series and Charlie’s son Peter has gone into the army, and his daughter Sarah has gone to Israel to learn more of her Jewish past. Charlie’s wife Rebecca has become a well known photographer with her own studio in the CBD. There’s plenty in the novel to fill in the details of what has happened in the Berlin family in that twenty years.

While there are those who recognise Detective
Sergeant Charlie Berlin’s value to the Victorian Police force, there are
also those who would love to see him fall flat on his face.

It appears that nine teenage girls have gone have gone missing in Melbourne in the last year. When number 3 was reported Charlie was taken off the case and sidetracked to the Fraud squad. Now somebody has decided that he should take over the investigation again, but on the quiet. The State Premier is Sir Henry Bolte, his own position on a knife edge, and he wants all stops pulled out. Only one of the girls who have gone missing has turned and she was found dead on the shores of the Albert Lake. An observant copper gives Charlie and his offsider Bob Roberts their first clue. 

There is a side story that surfaces in the first half of the novel about a boy who was sent to Australia from the UK shortly after the Second World War, as part of a child emigration scheme. He arrives in Adelaide and is then taken north to a mission station. This is an interesting plot line because the treatment of such children has been the focus of recent investigations, worldwide, into the way children were treated in orphanages. In Australia the investigation has provoked a Royal Commission into Child Abuse.

So there is plenty in this novel for the reader to think about. The historical validity owes a lot to meticulous research, while the principal characters come through loud and clear. There’s also a distinctively Australian flavour to the novel.

My rating: 4.9

I’ve also reviewed

4.4, D-E-D DEAD!
4.8, THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL
4.9, BLACKWATER CREEK 

Review: PRESENT DARKNESS, Malla Nunn

  • US publication date June 3, 2014
  • Publisher Atria/Emily Bestler Books
  • ISBN 9781451616965
  • review copy made available through publisher via Net Galley
  • #4 in the Detective Emmanuel Cooper series

Synopsis (publisher)

Five days before Christmas (1953), Detective Sergeant Emmanuel Cooper sits at
his desk at the Johannesburg major crimes squad, ready for his holiday in Mozambique. A call comes in: a respectable white couple has been assaulted and left for dead in their bedroom. The couple’s teenage daughter identifies the attacker as Aaron Shabalala— the youngest son of Zulu Detective Constable Samuel Shabalala—Cooper’s best friend and a
man to whom he owes his life.

The Detective Branch isn’t interested in evidence that might contradict their star witness’s story, especially so close to the holidays. Determined to ensure justice for Aaron, Cooper, Shabalala, and their trusted friend Dr. Daniel Zweigman hunt for the truth. Their investigation uncovers a violent world of Sophiatown gangs, thieves, and corrupt government officials who will do anything to keep their dark world intact.

 My take

Australian author Malla Nunn continues to write very credible stories in the Emmanuel Cooper series, full of atmosphere. A white school principal and his wife who invite coloured students to their home for meals are attacked one night after dinner. Their shocked daughter identifies the two students who were at dinner that night as the culprits. One has an unshakeable alibi but the other one, the son of Cooper’s best friend, refuses to say where he was.

Parallel with this investigation is Cooper’s uncomfortable relationship with the sergeant at the Johannesburg Detective Branch. Running in the background, chapter by chapter, is also the story of a prostitute who has been taken prisoner and is being held on a remote farm.

Cooper’s own relationship with Davida, the mixed race mother of his baby daughter Rebekah, reflects the knife edge that is South African apartheid. Exposure would mean the loss of his job and probably imprisonment. 

An excellent read.  My rating: 4.8.

I’ve already reviewed

Review: FATAL IMPACT, Kathryn Fox

  • published by Pan Macmillan Australia 2014
  • ISBN 978-1-74261-232-4
  • 389 pages
  • review copy supplied by publisher
  • #7 in the Anya Crichton series

Synopsis (Publisher)

When a girl’s dead body is found in a toy box, forensic physician and pathologist Anya Crichton joins the police hunt in her home state of
Tasmania for the child’s missing mother and sister.

Staying with her increasingly erratic mother, Dr Jocelyn Reynolds, Anya fears the long shadow of her  sister Miriam’s disappearance has finally driven her mother past the brink of sanity. But Anya soon discovers that Jocelyn is keeping a deadly secret.

When tests conclude a virulent strain of food poisoning was responsible for the child’s death, the outbreak begins to spread. Anya pairs up with Internal Affairs detective Oliver Parke to unravel the sinister connections between the fatal epidemic, a covered-up study, the shady deals of a multinational corporation and the alleged murder of a local
scientist. Anya has strayed into a high-stakes game so dangerous the players will kill to keep it quiet. With time running short, Anya must uncover the truth before she is silenced – permanently.

My take

I’ve long been a fan of Kathryn Fox’s work, and this novel did not disappoint me. As always Kathryn has combined interesting issues, excellent research, and a well plotted mystery that makes the pages just fly past. Although the character of Dr. Anya Crichton has now been developed over a span of seven novels, there is nothing to stop a reader from beginning with this one.

The setting of the novel is Tasmania with the issues of genetic modification of stock and products and foreign ownership of Australian land and industries running strongly in the background. Anya initially goes to Tasmania to give an address at a conference and then intends to pay a quick visit to her mother who lives near Launceston. She first of all gets caught up with the disappearance of a mother and her child, and then her father’s wife becomes critically ill. Her visit to her mother is extended when she finds her mother is not well, and then her mother’s neighbour dies.There is lots going on and the writing is fast paced.

My rating: 4.8

I’ve also reviewed

BLOOD BORN
4.6, DEATH MASK
COLD GRAVE

My mini-review for MALICIOUS INTENT – my rating 4.7

Dr. Anya Crichton has recently struck out to work on her own as a freelance
forensic pathologist.

Work is a bit hard to find but she is gaining a reputation as a credible courtroom authority. She is not without friends in the police, the New South Wales State Forensic Institute, and
among the criminal barristers. Something about the apparent suicide of Clare Matthews doesn’t sit quite right: the fact that, a nun, she disappeared shortly before she was due to take her vows, that she suicided by jumping off the Gap, that she was 6 weeks pregnant, and that she had strange fibres in her lungs. And now another case with similarities crops up: Fatima Deab overdoses on heroine after being missing for some days and her lungs contain the same fibres.
Debut publication by Australian author. It is obvious to the reader that Kathryn Fox has a lot to say, lots of issues that she wants to make us aware of, and sometimes this novel takes on a bit of a didactic tone. But the plotting is so good, the tension so well built that by the end I could forgive her anything! 

About the author:
Kathryn Fox is  a medical practitioner with a special interest in forensic medicine. She has worked as a family physician, medical journalist and freelance writer. Her debut novel received international acclaim and won the 2005 Davitt award for best crime novel. This is her seventh novel following Malicious Intent, Without Consent, Skin and Bone, Blood Born, Death Mask and Cold Grave.