Weekend Cooking: The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook by Liz Harfull

wkendcooking

I’ve decided to make the Weekend Cooking meme, hosted by Beth Fish Reads  a regular monthly post at Book’d Out. Cooking is something I enjoy and I have been making more of an effort again lately, so I am looking forward to sharing some of my culinary adventures.

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The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook  is much more than just a compilation of prize winning recipes and cooking tips, it is also a wonderful collection of heart-warming personal stories laced with Australian agricultural show nostalgia.

Agricultural shows have been a staple of Australian society for 200 years and around 580 are held across the country each year in cities, regional towns and small rural communities. While the noisy battle for first place in events like sheep shearing and wood chopping draws the crowds to the main show ring, an equally fierce but quieter competition is being fought in the grounds pavilions where cakes, biscuits, slices, pastries, jams and relishes are laid out on trestle tables being judged on strict criteria in relation to appearance, consistency in shape, size and colour, taste and smell.

Within the pages of The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook you can find award winning recipes for entries such as Eileen’s Apple Jelly, Charlie’s Rosella Cake and Rod’s Bloody Hot Tomato Sauce as well as classics like scones, pikelets and sausage rolls, teamed with the personal stories of their maker and the histories of the shows they compete in.

This recipe book is as much a pleasure to read as to cook from. The only disappointing element is the lack of photographs showing the winning recipes, though the pages are illustrated with reproductions of show ephemera, winners portraits and scenes from past and present shows.

I’m too slapdash a cook to ever enter in a show competition where the standards are close to perfection but I’m looking forward to trying several of the recipes in The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook.

One of the categories in show competition is ‘Slices’ so I thought I would share my favourite recipe.

 

Vanilla Slice

Photo Credit http://beatricechristiana.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/vanilla-slice-or-an-easy-type-of-millefeuille/

Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
  • 300ml milk
  • 600ml thickened cream
  • 2 packets vanilla instant pudding
  • 1/4 cup pure icing sugar, to sift over the pastry

Method:

Preheat oven to 210°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Bake pastry sheets for 10-15 minutes or until puffed and just golden. When you remove them from the oven, place a tray on top of the sheets to make them flat and leave to cool.

Line a slice tin with baking paper and set aside.

In a bowl, using a mixer, add the milk, cream and pudding mix together and combine until thick.

Cut one pastry sheet to fit the base of the slice tin and place in the tin.

Pour the custard mixture into the slice tin and smooth out evenly.

Cut the second sheet of pastry and place on top.

Refrigerate until chilled through (about 3 hours) and sprinkle with sifted icing sugar before serving. Remove from tin and slice into squares or rectangles using a serated knife.

 

The Australian Blue Ribbon Cookbook by Liz Harfull is available to purchase from:

 

 

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Review & Giveaway: The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off by Carolyn Brown

 

Title: The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off

Author: Carolyn Brown

Published: Sourcebooks April 2014

Status: Read from April 02 to 04, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Across the street from Miss Clawdy’s Cafe (featured in The Blue-Ribbon Jalapeno Society Jubilee) in Cadillac, Texas you will find ‘Bless My Bloomers’, a custom ‘under-britches’ store owned by cousins Carlene, Alma Grace and Patrice the southern heroines of Carolyn Brown’s latest novel, The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off.

The story kicks off when Carlene Lovelle discovers a lacy red pair of panties in her husband’s briefcase, the same pair Carlene sold the week before to a size 4 twenty-something planning a weekend away in Vegas with her ‘sugar daddy’. Furious, Carlene confronts her cheating husband, Lenny, and his mistress, at his car dealership, where she stomps all over a showroom Corvette before installing her self in one the bedrooms above Bless My Bloomers. Carlene’s extended family rally around her, with Patrice willing to poison him, her mother offering to shoot him and Josie dispensing wise advice, though pious Alma Grace can’t help but pray fervently for a reconciliation before she loses her position on the church committee, branded sinful by association.
When it becomes clear that Lenny has no plans to repent for his despicable behaviour, Carlene decides the best way to punish him is to deprive him of the thing he loves most – first place in the town’s annual chili cook-off.

Scandal, sniping and sly acts of revenge ensue, seasoned generously with hilarity, as everyone takes sides in the battle for top honours in the cook-off. The cousins and their mother’s (aka the Fannin sisters) are united in their desire to produce the prize winning recipe and dethrone ‘King’ Lenny and they discover they have plenty of support from the women of Cadillac.

The cast of quirky characters thrive on gossip and grudges tempered by fierce loyalties and unconditional love. Carlene, Patrice and Alma Grace are very different from one another but bound (and sometimes strangled) by the tightest of family ties following the example set by the cousins indomitable mother’s: Sugar, Gigi and Tansy. I couldn’t help but love them all for their smarts, sass, quick wit and crazy.

A lively, warm-hearted story of family, love, feuds and food, The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off had me laughing out loud and cheering for The Red-Hot Bloomers in their bid to win that trophy.

For an exclusive excerpt, a delicious recipe  and details on how you can win two great prize packs

click HERE for the Blog Tour post published earlier today.

To Purchase The Red-Hot Chili Cook-Off:

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Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl

Author: Rainbow Rowell

Published: Macmillan Au April 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from March 30 to April 01, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

“Why do we write fiction?” Professor Piper asked.
Cath looked down at her notebook.

To disappear.”

Cather is comfortable escaping into the realm of anonymous fanfic where she can be free of her crippling social anxiety, and always know what to say and do. College is nothing but uncomfortable, and it is all she can do, while struggling with the separation from her twin sister, Wren, and her father, to make it to her classes. But gradually, Cath is forced out of her comfort zone, encouraged by her roommate Reagan and the irrepressible Levi, in this charming contemporary novel by Rainbow Rowell.

I wavered between wanting to shake or hug Cath a lot of the time. Though I thought her sweetly shy and endearingly awkward, smart and often funny, her naivety sometimes stretched credulity. There were things I could relate to though, like this;

“In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t google.) Like, where does the line start? What food can you take? Where are you supposed to stand, then where are you supposed to sit? Where do you go when you’re done, why is everyone watching you?” (on why Cath avoids the dining hall)

I remember that anxiety when I first went to university and having to force myself to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. Cath really struggles with the changes college forces on her and it’s a slow, sometimes frustrating, transformation but I think Rowell handles it realistically and thankfully she has Reagan to look out for her;

“Cath rolled her eyes and looked at Reagan. “Do you really want me asking you stupid questions?”
“If they’re about food, water, air or shelter – yes. Jesus, Cath, I’m your roommate.”

Reagan is the perfect roommate for Cath – often absent allowing her the time on her own she craves but doesn’t hesitate to call Cath out on her ‘crazy’, in a blunt but non-judgmental way.

I loved the relationship between Cath and Levi, so much awkward cuteness. Their romance is sweet, moving from acquaintance to friendship to lovers without feeling rushed or forced. And even though he screws up quite badly at one point, Levi with his goofy, ever-present smile, is just so appealing.

I really wasn’t a fan of the fan fiction excerpts, the whole Simon Snow/Harry Potter thing made me feel a little uncomfortable. And I have to admit I don’t really get the whole fan fiction scene anyway, though I know it is huge and I respect Cath’s passion for it. The plagiarism debate that takes place between Cath and her professor seemed disingenuous, I found it hard to believe, no matter her private opinion, that Cath would have thought her fanfic be acceptable for an assignment specifically asking for an original story.

The scenes I particularly enjoyed included those where Cath was reading aloud to Levi, her Emergency Kanye Dance Party (though Kanye… ugh) and her and Reagan’s cafeteria observations (a friend and I used to do that too).

Unusually for YA/NA fiction, Cath’s family has an important role in this story. Cath’s identical twin, Wren, (get it? Cather..Wren) is also a freshman but unlike her sister Wren is eager to establish her independence and reinvent herself in their new environment, which means leaving Cath behind. The dynamics between the sisters is realistic I think, with its mix of love and resentment, complicated particularly by their oppositional feelings about their absent mother. The girls father, who is bipolar, is very much present through the book through phone calls, messages and trips home.

Fangirl isn’t perfect, but it is a sweet, funny and moving coming of age novel. I’d certainly recommend it for young adults on the cusp of graduation and those struggling with the transition to college, but it is also a charming read in it’s own right for anyone who remembers stepping nervously into the college dining hall for the first time.

Fangirl is available to purchase from

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Review: Tracking North by Kerry McGinnis


Title: Tracking North

Author: Kerry McGinnis

Published: Penguin Au March 2014

Read an Extract

Status: Read from March 27 to 29, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Tracking North, Kerry McGinnis’s fourth novel, is an engaging story of family and second chances set in the stunning Gulf country.

Kelly Roberts’ life is turned upside down when she suddenly finds herself widowed with two children. Forced to leave the station that had been her family’s home, Kelly dreads the idea of moving into town, or in with her mother who disapproved of her marriage, so when her father-in-law, Quinn, offers them a place at nearby Evergreen Springs she accepts his invitation as a temporary arrangement. But the longer she stays, the harder it is to contemplate leaving…

Set in the spectacular Gulf Country, which ranges across the northern borders of Queensland and the Northern Territory to the Gulf of Carpentaria, it’s clear the author has an intimate understanding of life in the remote regions of outback Australia, particularly its challenges in relation to the everyday tasks that urban dwellers take for granted. Grocery shopping and collecting the mail entails hours of driving over rutted, dirt roads, electricity is provided by temperamental and noisy generators, the children rely on the School of the Air for education or must be sent away and for weeks every year the Wet Season limits their access to the world beyond their doorstep. I really enjoyed this glimpse into a life so different from mine and its challenges and joys.

Though I admired Kelly’s strength and resourcefulness, there were times when I found her a little priggish, especially in relation to her father in law, Quinn and his ambitions. I felt for her though as she struggled with her son’s growing independence, her guilt over the final moments she spent with her husband and her fears for the future. I loved Quinn unreservedly, a hard working, wise old bushie with a huge heart and a few tricks up sleeve.

Though the focus of Tracking North is on family, McGinnis introduces suspense into the story when Twice stumbles upon a dead body and clandestine airstrip on the border of Evergreen Springs. There is also a low key romance that the author develops between Kelly and police sergeant Frank Watson.

Tracking North is a well written, lovely contemporary novel that I really enjoyed and I hope to read more by McGinnis soon.

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Review: Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman

 

Title: Be Safe I Love You

Author: Cara Hoffman

Published: Simon & Schuster April 2014

Status: Read from March 27 to 28, 2014 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Be Safe I Love You is a moving story of a young female soldier’s homecoming after service in Iraq. Lauren Clay enlisted in the army after her high school graduation in order to provide financial security for her younger brother and depressive father. After five years of service her commitment is finished and she has returned home to Watertown, NJ, fresh from a nine month tour in Afghanistan.

With compassion and sensitivity, Hoffman exposes the struggle many returning soldiers face in reconnecting with the people and places they left behind. Family and friends are sure Lauren just needs some time to readjust to civilian life and the inevitable changes that have happened in her absence, but it soon becomes obvious to the reader that Lauren is suffering from the more severe symptoms of PTSD as she begins to experience black outs and hallucinations.

Amongst the confusion and anger Lauren is experiencing she develops twin obsessions, to toughen up her thirteen year old brother, determined to ensure he experiences the world without the buffer of a computer screen, and to meet up with a soldier she served with and follow through on their plans to work together at the Hebron oilfields. The tension arises as Lauren struggles to keep her grip on reality, and under the guise of a visit to their mother, heads for Canada with an unsuspecting Danny in tow.

Of the entire novel what really struck me was Lauren’s thoughts about her service in Iraq …”officially women weren’t in combat. They just support. It was the same f** job as every soldier she served with, but with the added downgrade in title and pay.” In Be Safe I Love You, Hoffman honours the female experience of war, something rarely explored in fiction despite more women having been killed in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq than in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined.

Be Safe I Love You is a thoughtful and thought provoking story, and though the conclusion is a little too neat and easy, I think it is a novel well worth your time.

Available to Purchase From

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Review: Iron Junction by Charlotte Nash

 

Title: Iron Junction

Author: Charlotte Nash

Published: Hachette Au March 2014

Status: Read from March 17 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A contemporary rural fiction novel, Iron Junction is Charlotte Nash’s engaging second book, loosely linked to her 2013 debut, Ryders Ridge.

Fleeing a failed engagement and the censure of her family, Doctor Beth Harding accepts a locum position in a small mining town thousands of kilometers from her home in suburban Sydney. Her first week in the clinic, serving the local community and mine workers, runs smoothly but after Beth foolishly gets stuck in the middle of nowhere exploring the surrounding desert, and the mine boss starts interfering in her clinical decisions, she begins to second guess her decision to spend six weeks in Western Australia’s remote Pilbara region. Perhaps she had made the wrong choice to escape Sydney, and Richard? But leaving would mean admitting defeat… and giving up on the chance of something new with engineer, Will Walker.

Romance is a significant element of the plot but the individual emotional development of Beth and Will receives equal emphasis. Both protagonists struggle with self doubt stemming from strained family relations as well as external pressures related to their work at Iron Junction. Their budding relationship is additionally hampered by Beth having just escaped a relationship where she traded her autonomy for acceptance and Will is haunted by a tragedy in his past that has made him believe he is not a worthy of a committed relationship. It is a lot for the pair to negotiate and Nash does well to bring them together in a realistic manner.

Rural and medical romance are regarded as two sub genres of contemporary romance yet Nash successfully blends the two in Iron Junction. The reader is privy to Beth’s consultations with her patients, revealing the types of injuries common to mine workers but the most important subplot explores the limitations of regional medicine by introducing an Aboriginal woman suffering from a serious lung disease as a result of untreated childhood pneumonia. A liaison officer with a talent for photography, Caitlin Murray’s health crisis results in one of the book’s most dramatic moments.

Combining romance and drama in a vivid Australian landscape, I found Iron Junction to be an enjoyable read and I look forward to the next novel from Charlotte Nash.

Iron Junction is available to purchase from

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Review: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Title: Shotgun Lovesongs

Author: Nickolas Butler

Published: Thomas Dunne Books March 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 04 to 06, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Set in rural Wisconsin, Shotgun Lovesongs tells the story of four men, and one woman, renegotiating the meaning of friendship, love and home.

Five characters share the narrative in alternating chapters. Hank – who inherited his father’s farm, Beth – Hank’s wife, Lee – an international music artist, Kip – a successful broker and Ronny -an injured rodeo star. These people speak and we think that we know them, who they are and what they dream of, but each are capable of surprising us as the story unfolds.

I have read few books that feature male friendship, and it was something that I really enjoyed about Shotgun Lovesongs. The bonds this group formed in childhood remain intact through a decade of physical separation and sporadic contact, but when they reunite in Little Wing they learn none of them are the boys they once were and their relationships with each other are now complicated by the men they have become.

The community of Little Wing in rural Wisconsin is vividly portrayed. I could easily imagine Kip’s mill looming over the town, the car park full of battered pick-ups, weathered men leaning on the bar in the VWF hall and tractors traversing the the open farmland.

While tempers may flare, the conflict in Shotgun Lovesongs is largely personal and the drama is subdued. The pace of the story is measured and thoughtful, emphasising emotion over action. I found the writing and dialogue to be simple and honest yet descriptive and affecting.

Shotgun Lovesongs is an understated yet heartfelt novel, an ode to friendship, to love and to family. It is a story about finding your way home, where ever that may be.

* I learned after finishing Shotgun Lovesongs that the novel is loosely based on the life of Bon Iver, a folksy rock singer, whom I had never heard of. A quick browse on Youtube revealed some really beautiful music and lyrics but I’m not a fan of his voice at all, I much prefer the covers by Adele {I Can’t Make You Love Me} and Birdy {Skinny Love} for example, but play the clip below to sample his music.

Available to Purchase From

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Review & Giveaway: Tiddas by Anita Heiss

Title: Tiddas

Author: Anita Heiss

Published: Simon and Schuster AU March 2014

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from March 03 to 05, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Tiddas is Anita Heiss’s fifth novel, an engaging story of friendship, life, love and five strong women.

The tiddas (sisters) are lifelong friends having grown up together in Mudgee. Now approaching midlife, each lives in and around Brisbane providing each other with support, love and friendship. Over a period of a year we are witness to their lives, their relationships with one another, and with themselves and with others, as they each journey towards a personal epiphany about what they value in each other and themselves.

These are women we can likely relate to in one way or another, smart, savvy, socially aware, they are varyingly wives, mothers, daughters, cousins, in law’s and of course tiddas. Each of the friends are distinct characters, struggling with their own issues,  Xanthe is crushed by her inability to fall pregnant, her obsession placing strain on her marriage and her friendships. Izzy, on the verge of becoming Australia’s ‘Oprah’ and who has never expressed a desire for a child, is horrified to discover she is unexpectedly pregnant. Veronica’s self esteem has crumbled in the wake of her husband’s desertion for a younger woman and Ellen, who has always been content to play the field, is questioning her aversion to commitment. Finally best selling author, Nadine is drinking far too much, alienating her tiddas and her extraordinarily patient husband with drunken tirades she barely remembers the next morning. They variously evoke admiration, sympathy and laughter and I thought their personal journeys, and their sisterhood, to be portrayed realistically.

Three of the women, Izzy, Xanthe and Ellen are Aboriginal and their cultural heritage plays a large part in the novel. I did sometimes feel a little overwhelmed by Heiss’s socio-political agenda, the emphasis on Aboriginal issues is integrated in some contexts, such as the women’s book club discussions and the way in which the women related to their family and their mob, but I thought it came across as intrusive, even preachy, in some instances.

Tiddas is a slight departure from Anita Heiss’s chicklit backlist, including Manhattan Dreaming and Avoiding Mr Right, that each focused on a twenty something single woman searching for love. I personally appreciate the maturity of the characters, and their conflicts, in Tiddas.

An engaging, warm and amiable novel this is a lovely novel. I enjoyed spending time with the Tiddas, just as I do with my own friends.

I published a Q&A with Anita Heiss earlier today, CLICK HERE to read it!

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GIVEAWAY

Thanks to Simon and Schuster Australia

I have 1 print edition of

Tiddas

to giveaway

**Open to Australian residents only**

Please leave a comment on this post and then

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

Entries Close March 16th, 2014

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AWW Feature & Giveaway: Q & A with Anita Heiss

anita

Dr Anita Heiss is the author of non-fiction, historical fiction, commercial women’s fiction, poetry, social commentary and travel articles. She is a regular guest at writers’ festivals and travels internationally performing her work and lecturing on Indigenous literature. She is an Indigenous Literacy Day Ambassador and a proud member of the Wiradjuri nation of central NSW. Anita is a role model for the National Aboriginal Sporting Chance Academy and an Advocate for the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence. She is an Adjunct Professor with Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, UTS and currently divides her time between writing, public speaking, MCing, and being a ‘creative disruptor’. Anita was a finalist in the 2012 Human Rights Awards and the 2013 Australian of the Year Awards. She lives in Sydney.

I am excited to introduce Anita’s new novel, Tiddas, today.

This is a story about what it means to be a friend… Five women, best friends for decades, meet once a month to talk about books … and life, love and the jagged bits in between. Dissecting each other’s lives seems the most natural thing in the world – and honesty, no matter how brutal, is something they treasure. Best friends tell each other everything, don’t they? But each woman carries a complex secret and one weekend, without warning, everything comes unstuck.

My review of Tiddas can be read HERE.. meanwhile Anita was kind enough to answer a few questions I had for her.  Read on…

Q: What does the title, Tiddas, of your new novel mean, or reference?
Anita: Tiddas is a term of endearment in the Aboriginal community for a female friend, sista or even daughter. It became a household word in Australia during the decade 1990 – 2000 thanks to the all-girl folk band The Tiddas made up of Lou Bennett (Yorta Yorta), Amy Saunders (Gunditjmara) and Sally Dastey (non-Indigenous). Lou Bennett is currently one of the Black Arm Band.
So the term has had national currency for sometime, and it is a word that encompasses everything that is good about and the strength in female relationships, which is something I want to promote in my novel. I call my friends – black and white – tidda. I know of women who call their daughters tidda, or tid for short.

Q: What was the first element of inspiration for the story?

Anita: I was in Mudgee doing an event for Manhattan Dreaming in 2010 and a conversation with a woman there Kerry Barling, inspired to do a story with characters from the town. Then, after travelling to Brisbane quite a bit doing school visits, that city got under my skin and into me head and heart, and I married the two settings, and then came the storyline.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of writing Tiddas?

Anita: It was the first time I had five protagonists in one book. So the challenge was making sure they each had equal coverage, their stories were all told with the same depth and detail and that in some way they all evolved and grew through their individual journeys.

Q: Do you have a favourite character?

Anita: I think I might lean towards Ellen more than the others. She is straight down the line, tries to be funny, is the least needy, and yet we see her vulnerabilities as well. And she’s fit and runs her own business. In fact, I’d like to be a little more like Ellen!

Q: You are one of the few fiction authors who write about the lives of contemporary Koori women, do you feel any pressure to represent them, or their issues, in a particular way?

Anita: I don’t feel any pressure really. I simply write what I know, what I’m interested in, and what I think Australian audiences would benefit from and enjoy reading. I don’t really censor myself, and fiction is also a good place to write all the things Anita Heiss wouldn’t necessarily say herself in the public domain – where there may be more pressure to take a certain line.

Q: How do you hope readers feel on finishing Tiddas?

Anita: I hope they feel they have connected with at least one the characters and that they have been moved emotionally in some way. I hope they are glad they spent some time the five women also and that they recognise the strength and value in their own friendships.

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

Anita: Okay, this is so hard so I’ve chosen three I’ve read and loved in the last six months.

Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko
Red Dirt Talking by Jacqueline Wright
Liar Bird by Lisa Walker

Q: What is your preference?
•    Coffee, Tea or other?  Water
•    Beach, Pool or River? Beach
•    Slacks, Jeans or Leggings?  Leggings
•    Butterfly, Tiger or Giraffe? Butterfly
•    Swings, Slide or Roundabout? Roundabout

tiddas comp

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GIVEAWAY

Thanks to Simon and Schuster Australia

I have 1 print edition of

Tiddas

to giveaway

**Open to Australian residents only**

Please leave a comment on this post and then

CLICK HERE TO ENTER

Entries Close March 16th, 2013

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Review: The Train Rider by Tony Cavanaugh

Title: The Train Rider {Darien Richards Crime Files #3}

Author: Tony Cavanaugh

Published: Hachette Australia February 2014

Status: Read from February 17 to 18, 2014 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

In preparation for the release of The Train Rider, I finally had the excuse I needed to read Promise and Dead Girl Sing. I devoured both crime thrillers in a single day and eagerly began the third installment from Tony Cavanaugh featuring ex homicide detective Darian Richards.

Darian Richards was once Melbourne’s top homicide cop but he walked away at the pinnacle of his career, retiring to the Queensland coast. It wasn’t the bullet to the head that broke him, but his inability to capture the man dubbed The Train Rider.

The first eight cases attributed the monster involved teenage girls abducted just after alighting a train, found days, sometimes weeks, later wandering the streets, dressed in the tattered clothes of the victim before them. They had been raped and tortured, but they were alive. But the ninth victim was never found, neither was the tenth, or the eleventh, or the twelfth…

In Promise and Dead Girl Sing, Darian reluctantly chose to come out of retirement, on his own terms, in order to stop a serial killer and a human trafficker respectively. In The Train Rider, young girls begin disappearing from the rail system. Richard’s nemesis is in town and he wants to resume the cat and mouse game the pair began in Melbourne.

Darian is a paragon of machismo – brave, strong, smart and desirable with just enough pathos to invoke admiring, rather than pitying, sympathy. He is the man you would want on the case if your daughter went missing, cruising around town in his bright red 1964 Studebaker Champion Coupe with his rare Beretta 92 tucked into his belt, ably assisted by computer genius Isosceles. I probably shouldn’t find him as appealing as I do, as in essence he is a vigilante, and yet I couldn’t help but like him.

Cavanaugh presents a cynical view of policing where ego and politics makes a mockery of service. Corruption is rife, misogyny is rampant and law and justice rarely coincide. I know I should condemn Darian’s penchant for operating well outside the law but frankly, sometimes the end justifies the means.

This series is characterised by chilling villains who prey on teenage girls. As a mother of two beautiful daughters I sometimes found it difficult to read the explicit torture visited on the victims. The ease with which the Train Rider is able to operate and elude police is terrifying and his end game is horrifying. I desperately wanted him, and those that enabled him, erased.

One flaw with the series is the depiction of the female characters, uniformly beautiful, bright and sensual. Rose, Darian’s regular ‘escort’ turned girlfriend, is at least a decade younger than him, and looks even younger, ‘Glamourcop’ Maria uses her cleavage to dazzle Isosceles and the victims are all lithe and lissom young girls. In The Train Rider even the aged wife/lover/partner complicit in the killer’s crimes is named Eve and insists she was once ‘hot’.

By The Train Rider I was finding Maria a somewhat irritating character. Not only because of the repeated references to her looks but also because of her self righteousness. I do understand her moral and ethical struggle between Richard’s particular brand of justice and her policing ideals, I just found I didn’t much care after a while. The potential is there though to develop Maria into a strong and interesting character and I hope the author does.

The Train Rider is a gritty, dark and engrossing thriller. I had thought perhaps that this may have been the conclusion to Cavanaugh’s series but it seems likely, given the ending, that we can expect more from books featuring Darian Richards. I hope so.

Available to Purchase From

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