Six Degrees of Separation: Sanditon to Northanger Abbey

 

This month Six Degrees of Separation begins with Sanditon, Jane Austen’s unfinished novel. It has been published posthumously both incomplete, and has been ‘completed’ by several different authors over the years.

My thoughts immediately jumped to another author whose work was continued after his death, and coincidentally shares a surname with several of the characters in Sanditon –Robert B. Parker. Parker is best known for his popular series featuring Spenser, an ex-boxer, ex-state cop turned private eye, in Boston, Massachusetts. I read quite a few books in the series in my pre-blogging days.

Ace Atkins is the author who finished Parker’s incomplete novel, and has continued the Spenser series since 2011. I’m also a fan of Atkins contemporary western series featuring Quinn Colson, a former ranger turned Sheriff in rural Mississippi.

And because I just finished it, I feel compelled to link to Emma Viskic’s series featuring Caleb Zelic, a deaf security consultant. Book number three is Darkness for Light, and one of the characters with a major role in the plot is named Quinn.

I may as well stay with the genre and link to Present Darkness by Malla Nunn. It’s the fourth book in her excellent series set during the 1950’s in apartheid ruled South Africa, featuring Detective Emmanuel Cooper.

South Africa is also the setting for T.M. Clark’s newest release, Cry of the Firebird. A crime thriller which sees WHO consultant Dr Lily Winters caught up web of corruption, greed, and revenge.

Val McDermid is an international best seller of crime fiction, but you may not be aware that she has also written an updated take on Austen’s classic novel, Northanger Abbey. Opinion is divided on its success, but it neatly brings me full circle for this month’s chain.

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Join in by posting your own six degrees chain on your blog and adding the link in the Linky section (or comments) of each month’s post at booksaremyfavouriteandbest. If you don’t have a blog, you can share your chain in the comments section. You can also check out links to posts on Twitter using the hashtag #6Degrees

Review: Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

 

Title: Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love

Author: Dani Shapiro

Published: January 15th 2019, Alfred A. Knopf

Status: Read November 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

In the Spring of 2016, fifty-four year old bestselling author and teacher Dani Shapiro, casually agreed to submit her DNA for testing through Ancestry.com, in support of her husband’s new found interest in genealogy. Dani is shocked when the results arrive and she learns that her late beloved father, could not possibly have been her biological father.

For Dani this is a particularly stunning blow, her identity has always been very closely tied to her paternal Ashkenazi Jew heritage (a subject she has explored extensively in her previous memoirs). As both her parents are deceased, her father as a result of a car accident when Dani was in her early twenties, and her mother in about 2001, Dani can’t ask them to explain.

Inheritance relates Dani’s journey as she pieces together fragments of information to determine why it is that her father is not her biological father, and who it may be. It’s a difficult process, both emotionally, as she struggles to come to terms with all of what she learns, and what it means to her, and practically, given so much time had passed.

I found Dani’s story to be compelling, her situation may not be unique, but her experience is intensely personal, and she is honest about its impact on her. I did find the lack of objectivity frustrating at times, though it’s not my place to judge her particular issues.

A thought provoking and emotional memoir, Inheritance is an interesting exploration of identity, and belonging.

++++++

Available from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I via Indiebound

Review: The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton

 

Title: The Fallout

Author: Rebecca Thornton

Published: December 5th 2019, HarperCollins Au

Status: Read December 2019, courtesy HarperCollins/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

In The Fallout, Rebecca Thornton’s third fiction novel, minutes after Sarah witnesses her best friend’s young son climbing a pole in a playground, and distracted, says nothing, the boy falls. Four year old Jack is badly injured, and Sarah is horrified, but can’t bring herself to admit to Liza that she may have been able to prevent the tragedy. Desperate to redeem herself for failing to tell the truth, Sarah vows to do everything she can to make up for her mistake, but lies have consequences, and there are some things can’t be forgiven.

Thornton explores several themes in The Fallout, including friendship, parenting, postpartum depression/psychosis, loss, and post traumatic stress. The story unfolds primarily from the perspectives of Sarah and Liza as they struggle with the fallout from Jack’s accident. Thornton also makes use of WhatsApp chat and interview transcripts in the novel to good effect. Amongst other things, they reveal the petty dynamic too often present among groups of mothers, and illustrate the varying social attitudes to parenting in general, as speculation about the fall, and who is to blame, runs riot.

Sarah is an exhausting character, and though I felt sympathetic towards her, I also found her frustrating, and irritating. Her frenzied anxiety, fed by residual feelings of guilt and grief, leads to impulsive, and sometimes irrational decisions, that worsens every situation exponentially, despite usually having the best of intentions. I did feel that the story got a little bogged down in Sarah’s spiral of panic, occasionally teetering on the edge of absurd, and slowing the pace.

Liza is also wound a little tight, not only because of the uncertainty surrounding Jack’s injury, and the complicated state of her marriage, but also due to a past event, which Thornton delays revealing until the very end of the novel. I’d guessed the circumstances that Liza was struggling with early on, so I found the reveal to be anti-climatic, but I liked the way in which the author acknowledged the impact of events on Liza’s husband’s.

The Fallout is a engaging read, I found the premise to be relatable, and I empathised with the characters.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Read an Extract

Review: A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

 

 

Title: A Madness of Sunshine

Author: Nalini Singh

Published: December 3rd 2019, Hachette Au

Status: Read December 2019, courtesy Hachette Au

Read an Excerpt

++++++

My Thoughts:

Best known for her popular paranormal romance series, Guild Hunters (of which I’ve read a few), A Madness of Sunshine is Nalini Singh’s first published foray into the genre of contemporary thriller/suspense.

In need of familiarity after heartbreaking loss, Anahera Rawiri returns from London to Golden Cove, the close-knit community on New Zealand’s West coast where she grew up. It seems to have changed little during her near decade long absence, but the town’s equilibrium is shattered when a beloved young local woman disappears while out jogging.

Will Gallagher, the sole police officer stationed in Golden Cove, is quick to launch a search for the missing teen, and when it proves fruitless, must consider that a local is responsible for Miriama’s disappearance. As an outsider, Will finds himself relying on Anahera to help unearth the secrets that may reveal a killer hiding in their midst.

A Madness of Sunshine offers more than one intriguing mystery, Miriama is not the first young woman to vanish in Golden Cove, around fifteen years previously three female hikers also disappeared, their bodies never found. Will is compelled to explore the possibility of a link, though Singh provides several red herrings to distract the reader as Will investigates, shedding light on the darkness of the past, and the present.

Anahera and Will are both complex, well developed characters, with interesting backgrounds. They share scars from life changing trauma, and have an attraction that is almost instinctual. I liked the relationship that developed between them, though it has only a minor role in the story.

The residents of Golden Cove are representative of a small town, with long-standing, often complicated, relationships. The author deftly includes elements of Maori culture within the story, communicating a sense of place without any awkwardness. Singh’s description of the isolated town and its wild environs are also wonderfully evocative, underscoring the vaguely disquieting atmosphere that intensifies as the plot unfolds.

A well crafted novel offering a compelling mystery and engaging characters, I really enjoyed A Madness of Sunshine.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

Review: The Strangers We Know by Pip Drysdale

 

 

Title: The Strangers We Know

Author: Pip Drysdale

Published: December 1sr 2019, Simon & Schuster Australia

Status: Read December 2019, courtesy Simon & Schuster/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

“Nothing is ever as it seems, is it?”

When Charlie Carter catches a glimpse of a man who looks like her husband on a dating app, she desperately wants to believe she is mistaken. Since their marriage eighteen months previously, Oliver has been the perfect husband…hardworking, attentive and loving, and she wants his unequivocal denial to be enough.

“You see, that’s the problem with trust issues: eventually you find you can’t trust yourself either.”

But it isn’t. To allay her lingering suspicions, Charlie sets a trap and is devastated when her worst fear is realised. Her marriage is over.

“And that should have been it: rock bottom. A cheating husband and broken dreams. Fair is fair. But no. Life was just getting warmed up.”

Fast-paced with some surprising twists, The Strangers We Know is an entertaining contemporary thriller from Pip Drysdale.

I really enjoyed the plot, and I’m loathe to spoil the surprises it offers. There is an unpredictability that is compelling, if not entirely credible, and I easily read it straight through.

Unfolding from Charlie’s first person perspective, Drysdale exploits the character’s profession as an actress in the structure of the novel, it’s easy to imagine this novel being adapted for the screen. It has a modern sensibility which will appeal to a younger audience, and a classic whodunnit twist to satisfy mystery fans.

Caught in a web of deceit and betrayal, and unsure who to trust, Charlie doesn’t always make smart decisions, which can be frustrating, but her naivety is also relatable, which makes her an appealing character. She is indubitably the star of this novel.

“But here’s the thing with life: You have to get through it. There’s no choice. Eventually, even in real life, the heroine has to win out in the end.”

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

Also available from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon

The It’s Monday! What Are You Reading meme is hosted at BookDate
I’m also linking to The Sunday Post @ Caffeinated Reviewer
And the Sunday Salon @ ReaderBuzz

 

Life…

 

Time seemed get away from me this past week, I did manage to cross a few things off my list. I’ve bought the Christmas ham (this is a bigger achievement than it sounds), I sent off my Aussie Readers + Bloggers Secret Santa gift to my match (I hope she likes it), I got my oldest daughter’s Christmas present (so that makes a grand total of 1/12), and completed some chores around the house I’ve put off for too long (have I mentioned I hate housework), but now I’m a little behind on my reading, and writing reviews. It’s always a trade-off!

 

 

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What I’ve Read Since I last Posted…

 

Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

Now You See Them by Elly Griffiths

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

 

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New Posts

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon

#NonficNov Review: Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

Review: The Diamond Hunter by Fiona McIntosh

Review: Now You See Them by Elly Griffiths

#NonFicNov-New to my TBR +Wrap Up

 

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What I’m Reading This Week

 

A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh welcomes you to a remote town on the edge of the world where even the blinding brightness of the sun can’t mask the darkness that lies deep within a killer…

On the rugged West Coast of New Zealand, Golden Cove is more than just a town where people live. The adults are more than neighbors; the children, more than schoolmates.

That is until one fateful summer—and several vanished bodies—shatters the trust holding Golden Cove together. All that’s left are whispers behind closed doors, broken friendships, and a silent agreement not to look back. But they can’t run from the past forever.

Eight years later, a beautiful young woman disappears without a trace, and the residents of Golden Cove wonder if their home shelters something far more dangerous than an unforgiving landscape.

It’s not long before the dark past collides with the haunting present and deadly secrets come to light

xxxxxx

 

The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton

Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has a secret.

I only took my eyes off him for a second.

One little mistake is all it takes . . .

When Sarah forgets to check on her best friend’s little boy, distraction turns to disaster. And she’s faced with a dilemma.

Tell the truth, lose a friend.

Tell a lie, keep her close.

In a split second, Sarah seals her fate. But accidents have aftershocks, and lies have consequences. And when it’s someone else’s child, the rumours are quick to multiply.

Everyone’s talking about what happened. And sooner or later, the truth will have to come spilling out…

xxxxxx

 

Darkness for Light by Emma Viskic

After a lifetime of bad decisions troubled PI Caleb Zelic is finally making good ones. He’s in therapy, reconnecting with the Deaf community, and reconciling with his beloved wife.

But he can’t escape his past.

A violent confrontation forces Caleb back into contact with his double-crossing partner, Frankie. When her niece is kidnapped, Frankie and Caleb must work together to save the child’s life. But their efforts will risk everything, including their own lives.

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Thanks for stopping by!

#NonficNov- New To My TBR + Wrap Up

 

It’s the final week of Nonfiction November, hosted by Rennie @ WhatsNonfiction.

It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

Where to start? I’ve added sooo many books to my TBR during this event…

From What’s Nonfiction:

Black Dahlia, Red Rose by Piu Eatwell, The Skeleton Crew by Deborah Halber, Playing Dead by Elizabeth Greenwood, All The Remains by Sue Black, Mrs. Sherlock Holmes by Brad Ricca

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From Rather Too Fond of Books:

Trauma by Dr Gordon Turnbull, After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry, The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes

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From Still Life, with Cracker Crumbs:

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey, The Children’s Blizzard by David Laskin

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From Unruly Reader:

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou, Textbook by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

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From Writerly Reader:

The Man from the Train by Bill James, Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

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From Maphead’s Book Blog:

Running the Books by Avi Steinberg, A Thousand Lives by Julie Scheers

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Haben by Haben Girma from Based On A True Story

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Gottlieb from Readerbuzz

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends by Amy Silverstein from Mind Joggle

Hard Pushed by Leah Hazard from Secret Library Book Blog

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales from Brona’s Books

Twelve Patients: Life and Death in Bellevue Hospital by Eric Mannheimer from Hopewell Public Library of Life

Punishment without Crime by Alexandra Natapoff from Reading The End

I Am I Am I Am by Maggie Farrell from Kristen Kraves Books

The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan from Book Lovers Pizza

Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson from Books Please

Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper from Bookish Beck

Killer Across The Table by John Douglas from Superfluous Reading

Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon from Paperback Princess

And a few more that I forgot to note from where the recommendation came!

I’ve really enjoyed Nonfiction November 2019, and I’m looking forward to participating next year. Thank you to the hosts and all those who took part.

_________________________

My Nonfiction November 2019 Wrap Up

Nonfiction Books Read: 10/15

Posts:

#NonficNov – Your Year In NonFiction

Review: Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Review: Bush Doctors by Annabelle Brayley

#NonficNov – Book Pairings

Review: Unmentionable by Therese Oneill

Review: They Walk Among Us by Benjamin and Rosanna Fitton

#NonficNov – Become the Expert

Review: Killer Instinct: Having a Mind for Murder by Donald Grant

Review: The Adventures of Maud West, Lady Detective by Susannah Stapleton

Review: Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psycho’s, Stalkers, Pervs and Trolls by Carrie Goldberg

#NonficNov – Nonfiction Favourites

Review: Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freeman

Review: Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

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Review: Now You See Them by Elly Griffiths

 

Title: Now You See Them {Magic Men #5}

Author: Elly Griffiths

Published: December 3rd 2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Status: Read November 2019, courtesy Netgalley/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

++++++

My Thoughts:

I was delighted for the opportunity to continue with Elly Griffiths’s mystery series featuring police detective Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto In Now You See Them, the fifth book of the Magic Men (or Stephens & Mephisto) series.

Unexpectedly, eleven years have passed since the events of The Vanishing Box. In the interim, Edgar Stephens has been promoted to Superintendent, and is happily married to (former Sergeant) Emma, with three young children, while Max Mephisto has become an American movie star and married a Hollywood starlet, with whom he has two young children. The pair are reunited in Brighton at the funeral of Stan Parks, aka The Great Diablo, but the separation has put some strain on their friendship, and both are too busy with their own interests to properly reconnect. Max is negotiating a role in a movie to be filmed in England with the country’s hottest teen idol, Bobby Hambro, while attempting to spend time with his grown daughter, Ruby, who is now the star of a popular television series, and Edgar is overseeing a search for the runaway teenage daughter of a local MP, and preparing for the May Bank Holiday, during which large groups of warring Mods and Rockers are expected to clash on the Brighton foreshore.

Suspecting that the missing teen is simply skiving to stalk Bobby Hambro at his London hotel with all the other young ‘Bobby Soxers’, DI Bob Willis, and WPC Meg Connolly are tasked with making inquiries, but Samantha Collins, a reporter at the local paper, thinks otherwise. She believes that Rhonda Miles is the third of three teenage girls who may have been abducted, and approaches Emma with her suspicions.

Emma, who has become increasingly restless in her role as only a housewife and mother, sees merit in the theory, and eagerly presents it to her husband, hoping she can perhaps be of help in the investigation. She’s hurt when Edgar barely acknowledges it, and so with the support of Sam, somewhat naively does some investigating of her own, children in tow.

The questions surrounding the fate of the missing girls is the core mystery in Now You See Them. The police have few leads and no real evidence of the connection, and Griffiths makes the most of the uncertainty, but it’s not until Ruby goes missing that any real urgency is introduced into the plot.

Now You See Them is far more about the characters than the plot though, Max and Emma in particular are at a crossroads of a type. I felt that Edgar was sidelined somewhat, but as a Superintendent he is no longer a hands on detective, so that makes sense. I enjoyed the time leap in character growth much more than I expected, and I also liked the introduction of the new WPC.

One of the strengths of this series remains its sense of time and place, the jump from the mid 50’s to the mid 60’s is deftly accomplished with Griffiths illustrating the cultural shifts in various ways.

Now You See Them can probably be read as a stand-alone but the experience will be much richer if the reader is familiar with the series. I enjoyed both the story, and reconnecting with the characters. Interestingly Griffiths seems to have ended with a hint of a new direction for this series that may see Emma and Sam in the forefront.

++++++

Available from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I via Indiebound I Book Depository

Also by Elly Griffiths reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: The Diamond Hunter by Fiona McIntosh

 

Title: The Diamond Hunter

Author: Fiona McIntosh

Published: November 1st 2019, Michael Joseph

Status: Read November 2019, courtesy PenguinRandomHouse

++++++

My Thoughts:

From a ramshackle, dusty miners camp in Southern Africa, to the green countryside of northern England, and the bustling city of London, Fiona McIntosh takes us on a journey of heartbreak, trust, betrayal, and love in her latest historical fiction novel, The Diamond Hunter.

Clementine is just six when her well-born mother succumbs to malaria on the plains of Southern Africa where her father, James, has brought them, determined to make his fortune during the 1870’s gold rush in Africa. With his wife’s death, James obsession to prove his worth grows and he stakes a claim in a nearby diamond mine, but haunted by grief and guilt, both the working of the claim, and the care of Clementine, is largely left to his partner, Joseph One-Shoe, a Zulu warrior.

Just as Joseph uncovers a large diamond that will ensure a secure future for them all, tragedy strikes, and Clementine has no choice but to return to England in the care of her Uncle to claim her birthright as the only legitimate heir of the wealthy Grant family.

Clementine is a wonderful character, as a child she is sweetly precocious, adoring both her father, despite his obvious flaws, and Joseph One-Shoe, whose love for her is achingly tender. Though still only a child when she returns to a life of privilege in England, as she grows Clementine remains grounded, and I found her to be an appealing heroine.

Joseph One-Shoe is also a delight, a Zulu warrior with a largely unpronounceable name, it’s is Clementine that christens him due to his preference of wearing just one shoe in order to remain connected to the land. In her Author’s Notes, McIntosh reveals she based his character on a young African man who was hired to care for her and her family while they lived in a gold mining camp in Africa during the 1960’s.

Reggie Grant, Clementine’s Uncle, is perhaps the most complex character in the novel, neither a hero nor a villain, he is both laudable, and deeply flawed. His actions are the catalyst for the questions that arise surrounding the death of Clementine’s father, driving her to determine the truth.

There is a touch of romance introduced to the plot when Clementine meets Will Axford, an underwriter for Lloyd’s of London. While somewhat conservative in his thinking, Will is a good match for her, in that he is plain spoken and honourable, though perhaps to a fault. The unresolved nature of their relationship is unusual for McIntosh, and I wonder if perhaps the author has plans to return to this story.

As always, McIntosh’s deftly weaves historical fact into her fiction. The story is meticulously researched, and her descriptions evocative, particularly in terms of her depiction of the frenzy surrounding the diamond rush, and the settlement that grew around ‘The Hole’, which later became the capital city of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province, Kimberley. The author also includes some general insight into the diamond trade during the period, and alludes to Lloyd’s of London’s first steps in expanding beyond marine policies.

Beautifully written with authentic characterisation and detail, The Diamond Hunter is a captivating read from, as I’m quoted on the back cover, an extraordinary storyteller.

++++++

Read an Extract

Available from PenguinRandomHouse

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Also by Fiona McIntosh reviewed at Book’d Out

 

#NonficNov Review: Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee

 

Title: Eggshell Skull: A Memoir About Standing Up, Speaking Out and Fighting Back

Author: Bri Lee

Published: June 1st 2018, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read November 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

In this searingly honest and revealing memoir, Bri Lee shares her personal journey as she pursues justice after reporting a childhood sexual assault.

After graduating from the University of Queensland with a degree in law, Bri is one of the lucky few to gain a year long position as an associate for a District Judge. The position involves the pair traveling between Brisbane and regional areas of Queensland to adjudicate cases in courts who do not have a full time Judge. Bri is excited for the opportunity, but with each case becomes increasingly disillusioned by the justice system which seems to be particularly weighted against women and children who are victims of sexual violence. The victims experiences resonate with Bri because she was molested as a child by a friend of her older brother.

Bri had never felt able to reveal the abuse, instead filtering her emotional pain and confusion through cutting, bulimia, and self-loathing, which increased during her time as an Associate. Despite witnessing the repeated failures of the system, Bri is infused with the courage to finally report her experience, in part recognising the advantages she holds as a complainant, a privilege she relates to the Eggshell Skull doctrine.

I’ve seen some criticism levelled at this book because of that privilege, however none of it negates her experience as a victim, or a survivor. Bri’s journey is intensely personal, as it is for all those who experience sexual violence, but she is in an unique position to highlight the justice system’s flaws and inequities, not only in relation to her own case, but also how that might translate into the cases of others.

I found Eggshell Skull compelling reading that stirred a range of emotions from fury, to despair, to hope, and admiration, and everything in between. There is still so much fighting to do.

_______

“In Queensland an estimated 30,000 sexual assaults occur each year, yet in 2017, just 4751 sex crimes were officially reported to police. Around half that number proceeded to trial (2446 cases) but of them, only 835 resulted in a guilty verdict. Of the 835 perpetrators found guilty of sex offences in Queensland in 2017, roughly half — 44 per cent — were released straight back on to the streets with a mere slap on the wrist, such as a fine, a community service order or a suspended sentence….Perpetrators who did go to jail also received very brief sentences.” – Queensland is Australia’s worst state for sexual abuse survivors to find justice – Nina Funnell, News.com.au, December 13th 2018

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

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