Review & Giveaway: Colours of Gold by Kaye Dobbie

 

Title: Colours of Gold

Author: Kaye Dobbie

Published: Harlequin MIRA April 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from July 06 to 08, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

Colours of Gold by Kaye Dobbie, also known as Sara Bennett and Lilly Sommers, is a captivating tale combining mystery, romance, history and a touch of ‘other’.

With the narrative alternating between the past and the present, Colours of Gold tells the story of a small girl found near death in a sealed barrel in the Murray River in 1867 and her connection to a present day art restorer’s discovery of a Trompe L’oeil in an old Melbourne hotel scheduled for demolition.

From the opening chapters of the historical timeline I was intrigued by the mysteries introduced by the author, namely the identity of the young girl rescued from the river, her extraordinary ability to see colours (aura) that warn her of a persons mood, misfortune or illness, and her fear of a tall man in a long dark coat that haunts her, day and night. Moving from the banks of the Murray, through the dusty streets of gold rush towns and finally to Melbourne, Dobbie deftly evokes the character and landscape of the historical period as Alice, and friend Rosey, struggle to escape their dark pasts, in hopes of creating a brighter future.

In the contemporary timeline, Annie Reuben is excited by the challenge presented by the conservation of the Trompe L’oeil found in the basement of the old Goldminer Hotel and intrigued by the people and the scenes it depicts, especially the figures of two young girls in the foreground. Despite the threat of interference by History Victoria, and a looming financial crisis, Annie is determined to solve the mystery of the painting, and find out what the sudden appearance of a man in a long dark coat means for her, and her daughter.

Well written, I thought the alternating chapters were particularly well structured, each advancing the story and merging neatly at the conclusion. Suspense is built carefully during the course of the novel, with the pace quickening as Alice and Annie get closer to solving the mysteries that concern them.

An entertaining and interesting novel, with appealing characters, I was surprised at how quickly I became invested in the story of Colours of Gold and how reluctant I was to put it down. This was a great read for me.

For your chance to WIN one of two copies of Colours of Gold CLICK HERE {open worldwide}

 

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AWW Feature & Giveaway: Also Known As Kaye Dobbie

 

I am happy to introduce you to Kaye Dobbie today. Kaye  is a multi published Australian author who has written romance for Avon, as Sara Bennett, and Australian historical books as Lilly Sommers.

Her current novel, Colours of Gold, is published by Harlequin MIRA (Australia), and is two tales in one. Firstly, a story set in 1866 about Alice a mysterious young girl found half-drowned in the Murray River, and secondly, a story set in the present day about Annie Reuben, a painting restorer, who uncovers the secrets of Alice’s life.

” The child has no name, she’s a little girl…lost and forgotten.

1867: Named by the wife of the paddle steamer captain who finds her half drowned in the Murray River, Alice must survive in a world that reviles her. Because Alice has a gift…or a curse. She can see an aura of colours around the people she meets — and those colours tell her of impending doom. With her friend Rosey, Alice runs away to the gold fields and then joins a troupe of entertainers where people pay to hear her predictions. But she can never escape her past…along with the frightening man in the dark coat who follows her wherever she goes…

Present: Annie Reuben is an art restorer in her father’s business, but times are tough. After being given a long-lost painting found in the basement of a condemned hotel, Annie becomes intrigued by the two girls who stare out at her from the ruined canvas.

Who were Alice and Rosey? And why does Annie find their lives so important? As Annie becomes caught up with finding answers from the past, she finds herself being stalked by the same frightening man in the dark coat who follows her wherever she goes…

A beautiful novel of a young girl’s life and adventures in the Australian goldfields — and how a painting revealed her story to the next generation of her family.

*****

My review of Colours of Gold can be read HERE , but first please READ ON and learn how you could WIN 1 of 2 copies of this wonderful novel.

AKA Kaye Dobbie

I seem to have been writing forever—yes, it has been a very long apprenticeship. From childhood diaries to a Last Will and Testament I drew up at the age of six, leaving my extensive doll collection divided fairly among my three brothers (I was the only girl). They still think it was hilarious.

When I was about fifteen I wrote a grand novel full of murder and mayhem and angst. The culprit turned out to be an elderly man in a wheelchair. Boy, I was clever. I bet no one guessed.

A publisher impressed by my dramatic flair suggested I try Mills and Boon, but it took me a while to come to grips with the happy ending. Once I did though, I embraced it whole-heartedly. At this time I was an at-home Mum, and those five romance books I wrote fitted into my chaotic lifestyle, as well as being the perfect learning experience for an aspiring writer. There isn’t a formula, in case you’re wondering. The happy ending is obligatory, but other than that you just need to focus on the main couple, and you can write them into whatever settings, situations or conflicts that appeal to you.

Later I wrote five books for various Australian publishers under the name Lilly Sommers. The publishers kept changing because 1) my editor moved to another publishing house and I followed her (reminder not to do that ever again) and 2) the industry was in flux and publishing houses were downsizing. The novels were mostly historical, but one of them had some ghostly elements and there was a novella about time travel in convict era Tasmania. I learned a lot during these years and I always felt privileged to be an Australian writing about Australia. It was one of the reasons I longed to publish another Australian-set novel.

For the last ten or so years I’ve been Sara Bennett, writing romance for Avon in the USA. Firstly Medieval books, with hunky knights and feisty ladies, and then moving on to the Victorian era, in particular a series about the daughters of an infamous courtesan. It has been a lot of fun but it came to a natural end. However I am planning to self-publish under my Sara Bennett name, when I have a moment. Romance is very life affirming and I love the happy endings.

Right now I’m writing under my own name, Kaye Dobbie. Colours of Gold is my first book with Harlequin MIRA (Australia). If I’ve been completing an apprenticeship, then I feel as if this book is the culmination of all those years of learning to be a writer. I haven’t finished, of course I haven’t. The growing and learning goes on.

And, finally, you ask, does Colours of Gold have a happy ending? Well, yes, it does, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few tears along the way.

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Courtesy of Kaye Dobbie

I have 2 editions of

Colours of Gold

to giveaway

1 x print edition for Australian residents only

1 x electronic edition for international (outside of Australia) residents  only

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Review: Currawong Manor by Josephine Pennicott

 

Title: Currawong Manor

Author: Josephine Pennicott

Read an exclusive excerpt posted earlier at Book’d Out

Published: Pan Macmillan June 2014

Status: Read from June 09 to 11, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

An atmospheric novel of mystery, drama and tragedy, Currawong Manor has a similar tone and premise to author Josephine Pennicott’s previous novel, Poet’s Cottage.

Photographer Elizabeth Thorrington has always been eager to learn more about her grandfather, Rupert Partridge, a well known, controversial artist who mysteriously vanished in 1945 on the same day his beloved daughter, Shalimar, and wife Doris, met their tragic deaths. Invited by the current owners of Currawong Manor, the Partridge’s former estate, to collaborate on a book about her grandfather’s life and art, Elizabeth is excited by the opportunity to meet with one of Rupert’s notorious muses, Ginger Flower, and Dolly Shaw, the daughter of the Partridge’s housekeeper, once Shalimar’s playmate. Elizabeth is convinced these women know what happened on that fateful day and hopes they will share the secrets they have kept for more than half a century… but perhaps some mysteries are best left unsolved.

The narrative moves between the past and the present as Elizabeth, along with true crime writer, and former muso, Nick Cash begin to piece together the history of the manor and its former residents, aided by Ginger’s recall of her time at Currawong Manor as one of Rupert’s three life models, known as the ‘Flowers’. Slowly Pennicott unravels an intriguing story of love, art, scandal and betrayal that reveals the truth of the tragedy that befell the Partridge family.

The writing is evocative, with lyrical phrasing creating a haunting, oppressive atmosphere. Set in Mt Bellbird, a small village in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, there are definite gothic overtones to this novel. The grand, partially restored Currawong Manor looms from the bush, surrounded by barely tamed gardens and bordered by the forbidding Owlbone Woods, in which something unseen lurks.

An impressively crafted literary story, Currawong Manor is an absorbing and dramatic tale.

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Review: Present Darkness by Malla Nunn

Title: Present Darkness {Detective Emmanuel Cooper #4}

Author: Malla Nunn

Published: Atria/Emily Bestler Books June 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read on June 07, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy Netgalley/Atria}

My Thoughts:

Present Darkness is the fourth superb instalment in Malla Nunn’s Detective Emmanuel Cooper series. This unique crime series, set during the 1950’s in apartheid ruled South Africa, has become one of my favourites, and Present Darkness is Nunn’s best yet.

It is a few days before Christmas, 1953 and Cooper is fast losing patience with his colleagues in the Johannesburg major crimes squad. While the temporary transfer from Durban allows him to see Davida and their baby daughter Rebekah every day, he is wary of his boss, Lieutenant Walter Mason who seems far to interested in what Cooper does in his off time. Called to a vicious beating of a white couple, a high school principal and a secretary at the office of land management, Cooper is surprised when their teenage daughter blames Aaron Shabalala, the youngest son of his best friend and Zulu Detective Constable Samuel Shabalala, for the brutal attack. From the first things don’t seem to add up, but Mason isn’t interested in Cooper’s doubts and insists the girls identification closes the case. Cooper, who owes Shabalala his life, can’t let it rest though and with the help of Dr. Daniel Zweigman, he begins an investigation of his own.

Cooper’s inquiry leads him from the violent slum in which he was raised to a dusty farm on the outskirts of Pretoria. He encounters thieves, corrupt cops, pimps, murderers and an abducted prostitute in his drive to prove Aaron Shabalala’s innocence. Full of twists and turns, complicated by Cooper’s need to avoid alerting Mason to his unsanctioned investigation and his desire to protect his family, the plot is fast-paced and tension filled. Cooper, as always, follows the evidence wherever it leads him, no matter the threat or danger, ably assisted by Shabalala and Zweigman.

As I’ve written before, the cultural framework of the novel is what really sets this series apart from other crime fiction I have read. Apartheid affects every facet of life for South Africans, and Nunn doesn’t shy away from exposing the appalling inequalities of the period. Having experienced life on both sides of the colour line, Cooper is more aware of the arbitrary injustice based on skin colour than most and refuses to let apartheid compromise his job or his personal life. In 1953, Cooper’s relationship with Davida, a mixed race woman, is illegal and he is conscious that she, and their daughter, is a vulnerability his enemies could easily exploit.

As with Nunn’s last book, Silent Valley (published in the US as Blessed Are the Dead), I read Present Darkness in single sitting. Skilfully crafted with an intriguing plot and superb characterisation, Malla Nunn’s Detective Emmanuel Cooper series should be on everybody’s reading list.

 

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Review: The Blue Mile by Kim Kelly

Title: The Blue Mile

Author: Kim Kelly

Published: Pan Macmillan May 2014

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Status: Read from May 29 to June 01, 2014 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The expanse of the glittering Sydney Harbour, known as The Blue Mile, is not all that separates Eoghan (Yo) O’Keenan and Olivia Greene. An unskilled Irish labourer escaping a poverty stricken, abusive home with his young sister in tow and the daughter of a Viscount and talented costumière making her name in Sydney society, seem an unlikely couple but a chance encounter in the Royal Botanical Gardens forges an unconventional and turbulent romance. Set against a period of great celebration and Depression, Kim Kelly’s The Blue Mile is an engaging story of life and love.

Beginning in late 1929, the story of The Blue Mile unfolds through the alternate first person perspectives of Eoghan and Olivia.

Though The Blue Mile is definitely a love story, it is very low key. Olivia and Eoghan’s attraction to each other is immediate and mutual, but the couple spend hardly any time alone together over the course of the novel. With the lack of emotional intimacy between the pair I found didn’t really feel their connection even though I believed in the issues that divided them, including their differences in class, wealth and faith.

What I really loved about this story was the historical background to the novel, which is well integrated into the story. Set during the latter construction period of the Sydney Harbour Bridge I was fascinated by Yo’s experience as a rivet catcher. The building of the ‘Coathanger’ was an extraordinary feat, taking 1,400 men, six million hand driven rivets and 53,000 tonnes of steel to build the the world’s largest steel arch bridge over a period of eight years (1924-1932).
The period was also a time of social unrest in New South Wales due to high levels of unemployment as a result of Britain calling in war loans, and political scandal, when the Premier, Jack Lang, was dismissed from government by the governor-general for his ‘socialist’ leanings. The economic and political fluctuations of the state have an impact on both Olivia and Yo, though in different ways.

Just days before I read this novel I actually had dinner at The Rag and and Famish, a North Sydney pub mentioned several times in the story, with some fellow book bloggers, and that connection gave me a little thrill each time. Though I liked the protagonists of The Blue Mile, it was the period detail and the physical setting that appealed to me the most.

 

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Review: St Kilda Blues by Geoffrey McGeachin

 

Title: St Kilda Blues { Detective Charlie Berlin #3}

Author: Geoffrey McGeachin

Published: Viking: Penguin May 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from May 26 to 28, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

In St Kilda Blues, by award winning author Geoffrey McGeachin, ex-World War II bomber pilot and POW, Victorian police detective Charlie Berlin, is unceremoniously yanked from exile in the fraud squad to run a covert investigation into the disappearance of a teenage girl. Under pressure from shadowy top brass and the girl’s well connected father, Charlie, along with his one time protege Bob Roberts, finds himself on the trail of a serial killer.

The third installment of this intelligent and entertaining police procedural series offers superb characterisation, an intriguing investigation and interesting insight into the pathology of a sociopath with a secondary narrative that reveals the chilling evolution of the killer Charlie is hunting.

Unusually McGeachin chooses to leap ahead a decade in each installment of this series. Set in 1967, McGeachin creates a authentic sense of time and place in St Kilda Blues as Melbourne is buffeted by the winds of change wrought by the era of ‘free love’ and the Vietnam War.

Charlie has changed little in the last ten years, retaining his strong sense of justice and dedication to his job. Still frustrated with the politics and corruption in the force, his focus is on finding the missing girl, no matter the consequences for his career. He is impatient with the inequities of justice that allowed the killer to torture and murder nine young women, the self serving politicians suddenly demanding results, and the ineptitude of the official investigators.

Berlin does find himself distracted though by the resemblance of the teen’s father to an SS officer he witnessed murder a young woman during his time as a POW. For Berlin, the memories of his wartime experiences are never far from his mind. In addition, Charlie is worried about his wayward son, Peter, serving in the army and his adored daughter, Sarah, spending a year on a philanthropic mission in Israel.

Though St Kilda Blues works as a stand alone, the nuances of Charlie’s character are cumulative and the experience of reading this novel is richer if you first read The Diggers Rest Hotel and Blackwattle Creek.

St Kilda Blues is a fine example of Australian crime fiction that combines outstanding character with accomplished storytelling, and I recommend it, and the entire series, without hesitation.

 

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Review: Chasing Shadows by Leila Yusaf Chung

 

Title: Chasing Shadows

Author: Leila Yusaf Chung

Published: Vintage: Random House May 2014

Status: Read from May 16 to 21, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Moving from post-war Poland to the birth of the State of Israel, through the years of Beirut’s civil war and the first days of Iran’s revolution, Chasing Shadows shares the tumultuous fates of Abu Fadi, his wife Keira and their children, Taheya, Fadi, Ajamia and Miriam in this uncommon debut by Leila Yusaf Chung.

The narrative is largely divided between the third person viewpoint of Abu Fadi, and Ajamia’s, written in the first, with brief chapters exposing the perceptions of the other family members, shifting in time and place.

Abu Fadi’s story begins with his desertion of his identity, and barren wife, in Poland to make a new life in Palestine. After converting to Islam he takes a bride, teenage beauty Keira, who bears him four living children as the family is shunted from Palestine to Syria and finally re-settled in a Lebanon refuge camp.
Ajamia is six when her mother disappears, presumed by Ajamia to be dead, and she and her siblings are farmed out to an orphanage, rejoining their father only once their primary education has finished. After high school she attends nursing college, but soon after her graduation the Lebanese civil war erupts and Ajamia escapes to France. Her time in the country is brief, after she is misled by a persistent suitor and finds herself in the midst of the Iranian revolution, she is returned to Beirut only to find her family has disappeared in the chaos. Twenty years later, Ajamia is the single mother of a daughter Marianne, longing to find her missing family, and solve the mystery of her mother’s fate.

Loss is the major theme of this novel – loss of homeland, of family, of culture, and of identity. However for Ajamia it is the loss of her mother, Keira, that defines her. Though the Middle East conflicts disrupt and displace Abu Fadi’s family they are still forced to face the ordinary moments of living.

I didn’t always find it easy to follow the narrative of Chasing Shadows but I found it to be an interesting and thought provoking examination of history, culture and family.

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Review: The Scent of Murder by Felicity Young

 

Title: The Scent of Murder { Dr Dody McCleland #3}

Author: Felicity Young

Published: Harper Collins Australia March 2014

Status: Read from May 08 to 09, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy Harper Collins}

My Thoughts:

The Scent of Murder is the third remarkable installment in Felicity Young’s historical mystery series featuring Dr Dody McCleland, autopsy surgeon. It follows The Dissection of Murder and Antidote to Murder, both five star reads, which impressed me with their rich historical setting, superb characterisation and intriguing plots.

When, in The Scent of Murder, a human skeleton is discovered buried in a stream bed in the grounds of Fitzgibbon Hall the guests, present for a four day house party, speculate the bones could be thousands of years old. Dody, reluctantly chaperoning her younger sister Florence and her new beau, Tristam, volunteers to examine the remains, glad of the excuse to forgo participation in the fox hunt and avoid their lecherous host, Tristam’s uncle, Sir Desmond. With careful analysis, Dody concludes the bones have lain hidden for no more than ten years and the skeleton is that of a young female murdered by gunshot. Evidence found with the body suggests the girl was a resident of the local poorhouse but no one seems interested in identifying her, or hunting for her killer, so Dody calls on the help of her paramour, Chief Detective Inspector Matthew Pike of Scotland Yard. Together their investigation uncovers a conspiracy of greed, ghostly visions, and a predator who will stop at nothing to protect his deviant secrets.

The pace of this mystery is perhaps a little more sedate that previous installments but lacks none of the clever and well crafted plotting I have come to expect from Felicity Young. The ‘cold case’ is the catalyst for unveiling a cache of secrets in the small hamlet of Piltdown, including murder, corruption, profiteering and perversion. Both Dody and Pike face challenges in their investigation, the local constabulary and magistrate, whose pockets are lined by Sir Desmond Fitzgibbon, resent Pike’s presence and are largely uncooperative and Dody is distracted by a frightening attack on her person, Tristam’s injury and an outbreak of Scarlet Fever at the neighbouring workhouse.

The novels in this series always reflect the female experience of the social and political milieu at the turn of the century and The Scent of Murder is no exception. In this instance, Young explores the sexual exploitation and abuse of women and children, vulnerable to the desires of those who wield power of them, unable to complain knowing they are likely to disbelieved and probably found at fault. This is particularly true for the girls of the Piltdown Workhouse who are at the mercy of the sadistic Matron and Master in the Scent of Murder, but no woman is immune. When Dody is brutally attacked by Sir Desmond he taunts her with the knowledge that reporting the incident would undoubtedly ruin her reputation and career, while his would remain unscathed.

A fascinating forensic element of Dody and Pike’s investigation is Pike’s attempt to use the fledgling science of ballistics to identify the gun that fired the fatal shot, and subsequently its owner. It is an interesting process requiring the co-operation of a dentist and blacksmith, and not that different in technique to the method used today.

The Scent of Murder, like its predecessors, offers vivid historical detail, compelling characters and an absorbing story. The Dr Dody McCleland Mysteries are an excellent historical crime series, certainly one of my favourites, and I’m eagerly looking forward to its continuation with The Insanity of Murder in 2015.

To learn more about Felicity Young and for your chance to win a copy of The Scent of Murder, click here to read my Q&A with the author.

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AWW Feature & Giveaway: The Scent of Murder with Felicity Young

I am thrilled to introduce you to Felicity Young today. Born in Germany, Felicity  attended boarding school in the UK while her parents travelled the world with the British army, until her family settled in Western Australia in 1976. Felicity became a nurse, married young and raised three children while completing  an Arts degree (English lit) at UWA, over a period of ten years. In 1990, Felicity and her family moved to a small farm 40 kilometers NE of Perth where she established a Suffolk sheep stud, reared orphan kangaroos and embarked upon a life of crime writing.

Her first novel, a stand alone novel, A Certain Malice, was published in 2005. In 2007 An Easeful Death launched a contemporary crime series featuring Detective Sergeant Stevie Hooper. Books two and three of the series, Harum Scarum and Takeout, were published in 2008 and 2010 respectively, by Fremantle Press.

In 2012, The Dissection of Murder (retitled in the US as The Anatomy of Death) launched a new crime series in which, against the backdrop of the suffragette movement in turn of the century Britain, Felicity Young introduces Dr Dody McCleland, the first female autopsy surgeon.

 Antidote To Murder followed, published in 2013, with Dody framed for the death of a scullery maid, who was the victim of a botched criminal abortion, by unscrupulous colleagues and ambitious misogynists. With Dr Benard Spillsbury away and Chief Inspector Pike missing, Dody is forced to face her accusers alone while trying to unmask the real culprit butchering desperate young women.

The Scent of Murder, is the third intriguing mystery, released just last month.

“‘If a black dog appears along the old corpse way, the route a funeral procession takes to the churchyard, it is thought to be escorting the dead soul to the afterlife. A black dog sighting without a funeral procession, however, is supposed to foreshadow death.’

For Doctor Dody McCleland, the unearthing of an ancient skeleton in a dry riverbed is a welcome break from the monotony of chaperoning her younger sister at a country house near the isolated hamlet of Piltdown. But when she begins her analysis of the bones, Britain’s first female autopsy surgeon discovers they are much more recent – and they are the result of murder. With Chief Inspector Matthew Pike’s help Dody begins to investigate. Soon she finds herself pitted against ugly traditionalism, exploitation, spectral dogs, a ghostly hunt and a series of events that not only threaten her belief in scientific rationalism, but threaten her life itself.”

My review of The Scent of Murder can be viewed HERE, but first please avail yourself of the opportunity to learn more about Felicity Young, her work, and enter to win a print copy of The Scent of Murder!

Q&A with Felicity Young

Q: What crime is forensic pathologist, Dody McCleland faced with in The Scent of Murder?

Felicity: The story revolves around an old skeleton found in a stream bed, so I guess you could say that Dody and Pike are investigating a ‘cold case.’

Q: Did you ever have the opportunity to meet your grandmother, on whom the character of Dody McCleland is based?

Felicity: Alas no, she died when I was a baby. But since starting the Dody books, I did gain access to her numerous notes and scribbles. You can see a sample of them on my webpage, http://www.felicityyoung.com. I think you will see what a terrific help these were to me when I was dreaming up ‘my’ Dody’s back story.

Q: Why did you choose to set the series in Edwardian times?

Felicity: I’ve always been a bit of a history buff and the Edwardian period is definitely my favourite. Here are just a few reasons why:

It’s close enough to my own time to have been in the living memory of elderly people I knew when I was a child. This factor has always made the period seem particularly alive to me.

It’s also a fascinating period of transition between our own time and the distant past, which makes it a great setting for a crime author to play around in. For example, if I want someone to get away, they can escape by automobile, but if I want them to get caught they can be travelling by handsome cab. Very few houses had telephones, so often my heroes have to get themselves out of trouble rather than relying on ‘back up’. And of course no DNA or computers — just old fashioned, character based detective work – bliss!

I also enjoy the diverse range of the research, from early medicine, to the suffragettes to the history of the English police.

I love writing the more formalized style of speech of the upper classes and the ‘slang’ of the lower, as well as the quaint expressions and sayings of the time. For example, did you know that the word ‘hello’ as a greeting was not used in Edwardian England? The closest word to this at the time was ‘hullo’ as in ‘hullo, what have we here?’

And of course, the enormous social, political and international tension of the Edwardian period provides me with a never-ending supply of plots.

Last, but by no means least, I adore the fashions.

Q: What is the most surprising or interesting piece of information you discovered when researching The Scent of Murder?

Felicity: This book probably hasn’t required as much research as the other two, but I was interested to learn how they used to estimate the age of bones pre carbon dating. It was also fun reading the folk tales of the area in which the story is based.

Q: You write both contemporary and historical crime fiction, is one easier, or faster to write than the other?

I always wanted to write historical fiction, but worried I would find the research too overwhelming. This is why I decided to cut my teeth on contemporary crime fiction first. Funnily enough, now I have done both, I think I find historical the easier (but not faster, I’m a slow writer and both take ages) of the two. With the historical, I don’t have to worry about cutting edge technological developments or the worming out of procedural information from the modern police. Provided I know where to look, most of the facts are at my fingertips. And of course, my historical mysteries will never date!

Q: What are you working on now, or what can we expect next?

Felicity: I’m working on the 4th Dody McCleland book, The Insanity of Murder. You can probably guess what that’s about.

Q: Can you please share three of your favourite novels by Australian women writers?

Felicity: The first that come to mind are three talented WA authors who’s novels have not had the publicity they deserve.

Elemental by Amanda Curtin (my favourite book of last year), The Hapshepsut Trilogy by Patricia L. O’Neill (Ancient Egyptian saga at its best), and The Bookshop of Jacaranda Street by Marlish Glorie (fabulous, quirky and set in Perth).

Q: What is your preference?

Felicity: (Is this some kind of Myers-Briggs test?!)

Coffee/Tea or other? Coffee in AM, tea in PM (de caff where possible) — who’s buying?
Beach/Pool or River? Beach, but only for a short time, thank you. I’m too much of a restless soul to enjoy lolling around for long. A quick play in the waves and a body surf or two will do just fine.
Slacks/Jeans or Leggings? Tracky pants and PJ bottoms at home, but when I’m out of the house I might lever myself into a pair of jeans.
Butterfly/Tiger or Giraffe? I love them all, but my heart aches for tigers.
Swings/Slide or Roundabout? Swinging, then flying off and landing on a soft pile of sand. Ah, those were the days…

 

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I have 1 print edition of

The Scent of Murder by Felicity Young

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Review: Ronan’s Echo by Joanne Van Os

 

Title: Ronan’s Echo

Author: Joanne Van Os

Published: Macmillan Australia March 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from May 05 to 08, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

In 1916, twin brothers Denny and Connor Ronan are eager to prove themselves in the theatre of war, and at eighteen find themselves in the front line trenches in Fromelles, France, having left behind the flame haired beauty Bridie O’Malley, they both love. Sadly, only one survives the horrors of war and returns home to the arms of his beloved, but he is not the same man who left.
Nearly a century later, forensic anthropologist Catriona Kelso’s curiosity is roused when she learns her next assignment will be the exhumation and identification of the hundreds of World War 1 soldiers buried en masse on the French battleground, and that her great grandfather’s twin brother may be among them. Excited by the possibility, Cat begins to ask questions about her family, but uncovers more than one long buried secret.

A poignant tale of war, love and family secrets, Ronans Echo is a wonderful story from Australian author Joanne Van Os. Set largely in Manly, New South Wales, the narrative shifts between the present and the past, revealing the tragic legacy of war that blights the lives of four generations.

Dual timelines are often tricky for authors to negotiate but Van Os does so masterfully, developing two equally interesting storylines that converge to tell the tale of the descendants of the Ronan brothers. The wartime experiences of the returned Ronan brother at the Battle of Fromelles, echos through the family tree, sparking a legacy of violence after the symptoms of PTSD overwhelm him. Though the twist to the story of the Ronan twins is heavily foreshadowed, it takes little away from the intrigue of the novel, or its heartfelt sentiment.

The scenes that depict the Ronan brothers experience of war are particularly heartbreaking. The battle at Fromelles is believed to have led to the greatest loss of life by a single division in 24 hours during the entire First World War with over 5,500 Australians killed or wounded. Until recent years, 1,335 Australian soldiers remained ‘missing’ from the Fromelles battle, having no known grave but thanks to the efforts of a retired history teacher, the remains of 452 soldiers were discovered, identified and re-interred with full military honours. This is the project Cat lends her expertise to, and where she discovers a twist in her family history.

Cat knows few details of her lineage when she begins to ask her elderly Aunt Hattie and mother, Fiona, questions about the family’s past nearly a century later. She is shocked to learn of the tragedies that ended the lives of her great grandfather and his twin, and how these secrets have affected her own life, particularly in regards to her strained relationship with her mother, and her own aversion to commitment. For Cat, unraveling the mystery of her ancestry answers questions she didn’t realise she had.

A moving exploration of the legacy of war and family secrets, Ronan’s Echo is a well crafted and eloquent novel. I found it to be an absorbing and thought provoking story which I’d recommend to readers of both historical and contemporary fiction.

*Statistics sourced from the Australian War Memorial website

Ronan’s Echo is Available to Purchase from

Macmillan Australia I boomerang-books_long I Booktopia I via Booko

Amazon AU I Amazon US

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