Review: One Foot in the Fade by Luke Arnold

 

Title: One Foot in the Fade {Fetch Philips Archives #3}

Author: Luke Arnold

Published: 26th April 2022, Orbit

Status: Read May 2022 courtesy Hachette/Netgalley

++++++++

My Thoughts:

“An Angel had fallen in Sunder City: bloody, broken, and the best thing to happen in seven long years.”

One Foot in the Fade, the third instalment of the Fetch Philips Archives fantasy series, from Luke Arnold, picks up about a year after Dead Man in a Ditch ended.

‘Man for Hire’ Fetch is as determined as ever to bring magic back to Sunder City, and rescue it from the grasp of industrialist, Niles. When an angel plummets to the ground at his feet, Fetch dares to hope that redemption may finally be within reach.

While mostly retaining the same noir tone of previous books, One Foot in the Fade leans more into adventure as Fetch, after catching a jewellery thief, sets out on a cross-country quest to claim a magical artifact, and save the world he broke. Accompanied by a librarian, a genie, a werewolf, and a young college student, Fetch encounters dragons, amalgams, crazed wizards, golems, and a Minotaur in pursuit of a crown hidden in a castle in Incava.

Convinced he has a real chance of rectifying his past mistake, Fetch seems to lose what little good sense he had. Already an anti-hero, Fetch steps closer to villainy, ignoring the means in favour of his ends. I was initially disappointed to see him lose ground made in previous novels, as Fetch, impulsive and abrasive at the best of times, becomes careless and sometimes cruel. Too caught up in his dream of magic returning, Fetch brushes over the harm he is doing until he’s forced to tally the cost of his actions.

This isn’t a series I’d recommend picking up midway as Arnold expands his world with each book, but more importantly, each story relies heavily on the character growth of Fetch.

With its entertaining mix of adventure, drama and dark humour, I enjoyed One Foot in the Fade. Though Arnold may have originally planned the Fetch Phillips Archives as a trilogy, I don’t think this is necessarily the last we will see of Fetch, a possibility hinted at in the last few pages.

++++++++

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Review: Everyone in My Family has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson

 

Title: Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone

Author: Benjamin Stevenson

Published: March 2002, Michael Joseph

Status: Read April 2022 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

++++++++

My Thoughts:

You cannot possibly read the brief prologue to Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson and not be immediately intrigued by the promise of this quirky murder mystery that breaks all the rules.

“Everyone in my family has killed someone. Some of us, the high achievers, have killed more than once.”

Though Ernest Cunningham self publishes ‘how-to’ books for crime fiction writers, he can offer no special insight when a stranger is found murdered during a high country snowstorm in the midst of the Cunningham family reunion. However when the sole police officer who responds to the report arrests Ernie’s brother, Michael, whose release from prison for killing a man is the celebratory reason for the gathering, his mother insists he clears Michael’s name. After all, Ernie is the reason Michael went to jail in the first place.

“Call me a reliable narrator. Everything I tell you will be the truth, or, at least, the truth as I knew it to be at the time that I thought I knew it. Hold me to that.”

Related by Ernest in the first person while writing a book in the aftermath of events, the storyline is roughly chronological, though with necessary digressions to explain the family dynamic, and with unnecessary, but often amusing appeals, directed towards the reader, and his editor. Ernie’s conversational tone is delightfully at odds with the escalating drama as death follows death, presumably at the hands of a serial killer with a distinct and unpleasant MO.

“Look, we’re not a family of psychopaths. Some of us are good, others are bad, and some are just unfortunate.”

Family reunions are rarely free of conflict but the Cunningham’s are besieged by it. Ernie is currently person non grata, having testified against his brother in the trial that jailed Michael for three years to the great disappointment of his mother. Ernie’s wife is attending the gathering as his brother’s girlfriend, while Michael’s wife is in attendance hoping to win her husband back. Ernie’s stepsister seems particularly annoyed with everyone, while his Aunt Katherine is demanding everyone sticks to her carefully planned colour coded schedule. And of course, people are dying.

“Ronald Knox’s ’10 Commandments of Detective Fiction’, 1929”

More akin to the classics, Stevenson cleverly subverts many of the expected conventions of mystery fiction, for example, though there is a locked room element to one of the deaths, the door is not actually locked, and he even foretells each murder, including page references in the prologue. Yet there are plenty of surprises, and importantly the pace never drags.

“Family is not whose blood runs in your veins, it’s who you’d spill it for.”

A creative and compelling whodunnit perfect for today’s jaded mystery readers, Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone is witty, entertaining and ingenious.

++++++++

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Review: Her Fierce Creatures by Maria Lewis

 

Title: Her Fierce Creatures {Supernatural Sisters #8}

Author: Maria Lewis

Published: 8th March 2022, Hachette Australia

Status: Read March 2022 courtesy Hachette Australia

++++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

Her Fierce Creatures is the breathtaking conclusion of Maria Lewis’s award-winning Supernatural Sisters urban fantasy series.

Since my very late introduction to this series with The Rose Daughter, I’ve tracked down the earlier instalments but regrettably not had the time to read them, so I was hesitant to jump into the finale. I was relieved to find my lack of familiarity with the series overall proved not to be a hindrance, and I quickly found myself absorbed in Her Fierce Creatures.

After centuries of oppression and increasing cruelty by the Trieze, the ruling class of the supernatural that live hidden among modern society, the time has come to revolt. The balance of power hinges on the safe delivery of banshee Sadie Burke’s triplets, and the best way to protect them is to disrupt and divide the forces of the Praetorian Guard, uniting races and clans in the fight.

Supernatural emissaries from all over the world gather in the Australian dessert to plan their rebellion. Vankila, the Scottish underground prison from which sprite Dreckly Jones is the only one to have ever escaped, is a priority target and they devise a risky plan in which werewolf Tommi Grayson gets herself arrested, to stage a break out, rather than a break in.

There’s lots of fast paced, high tension action as Tommi enacts the plan with plenty of help, while groups of volunteers simultaneously attack other Trieze facilities around the world. Dreckly Jones and Corvossier ‘Casper’ von Klitzing, also play major roles in the battle. The clashes are dangerous and violent, and there are losses that will weigh heavily on them all.

Meanwhile Sadie is hidden from the Trieze in a remote New Zealand stronghold, guarded by her family and Tommi’s Māori werewolf relatives. Sadie is struggling with both the physical and emotional pressures of her pregnancy, and her anxiety grows after a vision suggests that the Trieze will come for her. Werewolf Simon is tasked as Sadie’s personal guard, and I was surprised and delighted by the heartwarming romance that developed between the two.

Her Fierce Creatures is a must read for fans of the series, those familiar with the Supernatural Sisters will appreciate the elements of closure for the characters they’ve grown to know and love, and the ending is as dramatic and climatic as could be hoped for.

++++++++

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Review: Daughters of Eve by Nina D Campbell

 

Title: Daughters of Eve

Author: Nina D. Campbell

Published: 1st March 2022, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read March 2022 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

Daughters of Eve is a spectacularly provocative thriller from debut author Nina D. Campbell.

When a high profile defence barrister is shot dead by a sniper on the courthouse steps in front of her, Detective Sergeant Emilia Hart is eager to take the lead on the investigation, but instead finds herself sidelined, and assigned a ‘floater’ discovered in the Sydney Harbour. It surprises everyone when an autopsy reveals the man in the water was shot by the same weapon that killed the barrister. There doesn’t seem to be any obvious connection between the two, but as a third, and then a fourth man are killed, each from a sniper shot with the same grouping, Emilia sees a pattern her colleagues prefer to ignore, until the Daughters of Eve, and their manifesto, makes it impossible.

A thrilling tale of revenge, I raced through Daughters of Eve. The mystery is intriguing as Emilia tries to piece together the motive and the identity of the vigilante sniper, chasing leads that seem to go nowhere. It’s Emilia who identifies the link between the victims, all too familiar with the violence men wreak on women and children, like that she, the two girls she claims as daughters, and the names listed on her refrigerator, have endured. Emilia is painfully aware as to how rarely these men are held accountable for their behaviour, but as a police officer she can’t condone vigilantism and commits herself to solving the case, no matter where it leads.

I can’t deny that it was somewhat satisfying to imagine the tables turned, for abusive men to be afraid as the Daughters of Eve reveal themselves, launching an app that invites women to name their unpunished tormentors, sparking a wave of copycat murders across the nation. Campbell imagines a response that seems infuriatingly plausible-of a government mobilising every resource available to put an end to the killings, despite its failures to provide even the bare minimum to ensure the protection women and children victimised by domestic abusers and rapists. Exploring themes such as justice vs vengeance, prevention vs protection, the plot is as thought-provoking as it is sensational.

I thought the author deftly balanced the professional and personal aspects of Emilia’s life, ensuring a well rounded character who engenders both affection and respect.  As rabidly anti-male as the story may seem to be, Campbell acknowledges good men too. Emilia’s investigative partner, Robbo, is, by and large, a decent guy. So too is Melbourne detective Matt Hayes with whom Emilia becomes involved despite her wariness.

Gripping, bold and sharp, I’ve rarely been so impressed by a debut novel, and recommend Daughters of Eve without hesitation.

++++++++

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Review: Sheilas: Badass Women of Australian History by Eliza Reilly

 

Title: Sheilas: Badass Women of Australian History

Author: Eliza Reilly

Published: 22nd February 2022, Hachette

Status: Read February 2022, Hachette

++++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

“The Sheilas in these pages are celebrated for the chaos and brilliance they bring, and they deserve to be spun into legend. They have helped me find out who I really am, and I think reading about them is going to give you some clues about who you really are, too.”

Sheilas: Bad Ass Women of Australian History is a fascinating, inspiring, irreverent celebration of some of Australia’s women who refused to accept the status quo throughout history, by writer, director and performer, Eliza Reilly.

Building on the (must watch) ‘Sheilas: Badass Women of Australian History’ comedy webisode series Eliza created with her sister Hannah, developed as a part of Screen Australia‘s initiative called Gender Matters in 2018 (available on YouTube), the book ‘Sheilas: Badass Women of Australian History’ introduces a bushranger and suffragettes, swimmers and pilots, a spy and an artist, among others. I was disappointed in myself to realise how few names I recognised.

Not content to simply regurgitate the dry facts and figures which are the hallmarks of many history books, Sheilas has a conversational tone, complete with expletives for emphasis. Reilly incorporates on point, funny and occasionally savage personal commentary, tweets and pieces of trivia. Her flippancy won’t appeal to everyone but I think it’s more likely to capture the attention of a wide audience than any history textbook. Photographs and ephemera support each story, while the illustrated titles for each woman, designed by Regine Abos, are whimsical and witty.

Here are a few notes on just three of the incredible Sheilas in the book…

Mary Ann Bugg

“There probably isn’t a better example of white Australia’s bad habit of holding up a grubby man as a hero and discarding a woman of colour who was literally doing the exact same shit but better than the story of the overlooked bushranger and her illiterate white boyfriend who was there too.”

Captain Thunderbolt (aka Frederick Ward) may be remembered for having the longest bushranging career in New South Wales, but it wouldn’t have been possible without Mary Ann Bugg, a Worimi woman who swam the shark-infested Sydney harbour with a metal file between her teeth to liberate her boyfriend from his prison cell on Cockatoo Island. When she finally tired of Fred’s company, she remarried and became a nurse.

Catherine Hay Thomson

“…very real and very scary grounds for being locked up included: ‘Laziness’,‘Masturbation, ‘Medicine to prevent conception’, ‘Mental excitement’, ‘Novel reading’ and practising ‘Egotism’. Which sounds more like my daily to-do list than a justification for insanity.”

Like her well known American counterpart Nellie Bly, Australian journalist, Catherine Hay Thomson, admitted herself to Kew Asylum in Melbourne to expose the abuse and corruption rife within the institution. In 1886 alone, Catherine published five stories on the Melbourne hospital. Her articles resulted in formal nursing training being introduced in Victoria and a ‘Ladies’ committee’ being imposed to help patients.

Deborah Lawrie

“Ansett went on to name The Period as enemy number one, pleading that people with periods should legally be banned from flying because they would ‘act strangely every month, simply were medically unfit once a month, “out of action”’.

Deborah Lawrie refused to take no for an answer when Ansett Airlines repeatedly rejected her application to become an airline pilot. In what was the first case ever held before the Equal Opportunity Board, Deborah won, At the direction of Ansett Airlines owner, Sir Reginald Ansett, the result was appealed to first the Supreme Court, and when they upheld the ruling of the EOB, to the High Court of Australia, where the court directed Ansett Airlines to hire Deborah after a two year legal battle. Sir Reg was so affronted he stood down as CEO and unlike the now defunct airline, Deborah is still flying today, a fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and a master air pilot.


Read Sheilas: Badass Women of Australian History to learn about sheroes including Faith Bandler, Nancy Wake, Fanny Durack. This is informative, hilarious, and badass.

 

+++++++

Available to purchase from PanMacmillan Australia

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Review: The Very Last List of Vivian Walker by Megan Albany

 

Title: The Very Last List of Vivian Walker

Author: Megan Albany

Published: 9th February 2022, Hachette Australia

Status: Read February 2022 courtesy Hachette

++++++

My Thoughts:

 

“I have lived averagely, loved tepidly and managed to sometimes get the washing on the line before it started to smell from having been forgotten in the machine. These are not major achievements, yet I am attached to all of them.”

 

In The Very Last List of Vivian Walker by Megan Albany, Vivian Walker hasn’t got time to contemplate the meaning of life, she’s dying, and she has stuff to do.

Always one for lists, Vivian puts pen to paper, * Clean the fridge *Declutter the playroom *Get my tax up to date…. If she has time she’ll consider her husband’s additions: *Have sex Make love *Go for long walks in the countryside, though she’ll make the effort for her 8 year old son’s: *Play handball with Mum *Build a robot *Have a sleepover.

Emptying the fridge completely allows Vivian to check off the first item on her list, upping her morphine means she can still beat Ethan in a game of handball, she even agrees to a short walk in the park with Clinton, but the list keeps growing, and time is running out.

“…dying happens moment by moment, so there is still plenty of time to be irritated, provoked, frustrated, angry, resentful and really, really annoyed by the people who will miss you most when you are dead and gone.”

Dying characters, particularly relatively young ones, always seem to have bestowed upon them a mantle of bravery, wisdom and grace, but Albany counters that tradition with her cynical, abrasive, and short-tempered protagonist. Vivian still yells at her son when he tracks sand inside, continues to call out her husband’s (many) failings, and refuses to be the first to break in the latest petty argument with her sister. She’s not particularly likeable most of the time to be honest but she has a wicked, if also cutting, sense of humour and I mostly found her blunt, practical manner refreshing. I could relate to her passion for lists, and her concern about her husband’s capability for picking up the mental load of life admin and parenting after she’s gone. There are also moments when Vivian is kind, and she isn’t devoid of insights or regrets, though they have limited impact on how she continues to live. Details of a very difficult childhood also go some way to redeeming her, so does having earned the loyalty of her outrageous best friend, Marsha.

While I was regularly amused by Vivian’s witty observations, and sharp assessments, the gallows humour and cynicism might be quite confronting for some.  So too may be the realisation that dying may not be a mystical, profound process, but rather a mundane one. Albany doesn’t shy away from the realities of Vivian’s deteriorating physical condition either, and there are no stunning epiphanies or miracles in her last moments, she’s just gone.

“She really wanted to be a good woman, a good friend, a good wife and a good mum. I think she always felt she fell short of perfect, but she was still more than enough…”

Hilarious, provocative and moving, I found The Very Last List of Vivian Walker to be a fabulous read.

++++++++

Available to purchase from Hachette Australia

Review: Wild Dogs by Michael Trant

 

Title: Wild Dogs

Author: Michael Trant

Published: 1st February 2022, Bantam Australia 

Status: Read February 2022 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

+++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

Wild Dogs is an exciting and gripping crime thriller from author Michael Trant.

Dingo trapper Gabe Ahearn is somewhere he shouldn’t be in the Western Australian outback when he stumbles across a pair of thugs looming over two Afghan men pleading for their lives at gunpoint. Gabe is the first to declare he is not a good man, but he can’t simply stand by and watch a cold blooded execution and intervenes, saving one man’s life. Amin is grateful but frantic, the victim of a human trafficking ring, his wife and son are still in danger and he needs to rescue them before his captors figure out he is still alive.

I enjoyed the fast pace and thrilling action of this story that sees Gabe and Amin pitted against a violent group involved in people smuggling and drug running. With Amin insisting police have been paid off to look the other way, the pair have no real choice but to take matters into their own hands, picking up two unexpected allies in the form of a young nurse, and a First Nations teen along the way. There are lots of tense moments as the the group are attacked and hunted by a ruthless hired killer, and quite the body count by the breathtaking, dramatic conclusion.

Gabe is a great character, as a ‘dogger’ he generally leads a solitary life, travelling throughout the WA outback in pursuit of dingos threatening station livestock. He is a man who has certainly made some mistakes in his life, and his reasons for helping Amin aren’t exactly altruistic, but has a core of decency, and I thought Trant portrayed this dichotomy well. Resourceful and canny, he proves to be a very useful ally, and I really liked the bond that developed between Gabe and Amin, despite their differences.

Trant also ably represents Amin and his plight. Seeking refuge from a tyrannical regime who would kill them, Amin and his family are exploited by the men whom they paid to get them to safety. Though he takes no pleasure in the violence, Amin is willing to do what ever it takes to rescue his wife and son. I found him to be a sympathetic character, portrayed with sensitivity and realism.

Along with the issues of human trafficking and the status of refugees, Wild Dogs also explores dingo culling practices, prejudices, outback policing, dry community policies, and the challenges of traversing, and living in, such a remote environment. Vivid description evokes the dry vast landscape, and its outposts of humanity with an authenticity borne of the author’s familiarity.

A gritty, hectic, thrill ride through the Australian desert, Wild Dogs is a wildly entertaining read.

+++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

Review: Murder Most Fancy by Kellie McCourt

 

Title: Murder Most Fancy {Indigo #2}

Author: Kellie McCourt

Published: 5th January 2022, HQ Fiction

Status: Read January 2022 courtesy Harlequin Australia

+++++++++

My Thoughts:

 

Murder Most Fancy by Kellie McCourt is the second enormously entertaining novel to feature the improbably named Sydney heiress Indigo-Daisy-Violet-Amber Hasluck-Royce-Jones-Bombberg, and her personal assistant, Esmeralda.

Mystery, humour, action and romance blend to create this thoroughly enjoyable, lighthearted caper. Indigo is still recovering from the events of Heiress on Fire, where she was accused of murdering her husband and his mistress, when she stumbles upon, quite literally, the body of a poorly dressed, unkempt man who is assumed to be homeless by the police, in her grandmother’s garden. Her philanthropic neighbour Dame Elizabeth Holly wants the man to have a proper burial and so tasks Indigo and her PA, Esmeralda, with identifying the stranger. Indigo has no idea where to start until her grandmother asks that the pair discretely inquire as to the whereabouts of Dame Holly’s paramour, Max Weller, whom seems to have disappeared, and suspects that the anonymous body, and the Dame’s missing lover is one and the same. I thought the mystery surrounding the identity of the dead man was well plotted, leading the duo from Sydney to Palm Beach to the Northern Territory to solve it, while making some surprising discoveries along the way.

Indigo, a billionaire socialite, and Esmeralda, a statuesque parolee, are an unusual partnership, though Esmeralda is technically Indigo’s personal assistant she’s not at all subservient. The two are more like friends than employer/employee, and their banter made me laugh. Esmeralda is definitely the brains of the pair, with the street and tech savvy Indigo lacks, but Indigo’s near unlimited funds prove just as useful as often as not. I was actually prepared to dislike Indigo because I’m generally not fond of uber-wealthy characters, and though Indigo is a bit of a flake who cares far too much for shoes and has a ridiculous habit of fainting under stress, I actually found her endearing, though I preferred Esmeralda and her feisty attitude.

The search to identify the dead man isn’t the only trouble the women have to contend with as odd anonymous notes arrive, Indigo’s sleazy former teenage sweetheart and shady brother-in-law make surprise appearances, and it becomes clear someone is trying to kill Esmeralda. Luckily they have some help from a conscientious forensic pathologist, and Indigo’s very attractive love interest, Detective Searing. I liked the additional interest these threads, and characters, added to the story.

Loaded with laugh out loud moments, a well crafted plot and appealing characters, Murder Most Fancy is a delight to escape into, and McCourt has found herself a new fan.

+++++++++

Available from Harlequin Australia

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Review: Cooper Not Out by Justin Smith

 

Title: Cooper Not Out

Author: Justin Smith

Published: 18th January 2022, Michael Joseph

Status: Read January 2002 courtesy Penguin Australia

++++++++

 

My Thoughts:

 

A corker of a read, Justin Smith has hit a six with his heartwarming debut, Cooper Not Out.

When schoolgirl Cassie Midwinter discovers that her ‘uncle’ Roy Cooper has never been bowled, or run, out in his decades playing with the Penguin Hill Cricket Club she’s certain this makes him the best batsman in Australia, if not the world. Eager to share this astonishing achievement, Cassie writes to the Don Garrett, a newspaper columnist widely considered the nations expert on cricket.

Don Garrett, who is really Donna Garrett writing under a pseudonym, is delighted by the story of an overweight country copper and his extraordinary statistical feat. With the Australian cricket team having suffered a series of defeats, as the new season approaches the country seems to have lost their enthusiasm for the sport. Donna’s article inspires the imagination of the nation, and while Roy is bemused by the ensuing attention, neither has any idea that it will eventually lead Roy to the crease of the MCG wearing the baggy green.

Cooper Not Out is set in the summer of 1984, a period when Australian cricket was struggling against the power of the West Indies team particularly in the wake of several of the game’s legends retiring. Though I never developed much affection for the game, cricket was part of my childhood, and I was effortlessly captured by nostalgia. My dad was (and still is) a fan, not only did he watch matches on tv, yelling ‘you bewdy’ in response to a spectacular catch or fallen wicket by the Australian team, he regularly attended any games held at the WACA, thanks to a box owned by his employer, during the late 70’s to mid 80’s. My memories are fairly vague, but I was dragged along to a few matches and met many members of the Australian cricket team including legends like Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh, Greg Chappell, and Kim Hughes.

It’s against this dispiriting era of the sport that Smith introduces his unlikely hero, Ray Cooper. There’s so much uncomplicated joy in this story of an unassuming Aussie bloke from a dusty country town, a man with ‘no obvious skill or talent’ who nevertheless winds up batting for Australia. Even if you care nothing for cricket, you can’t help but like Roy, an old style country copper, humble and quiet, who shares a bath with his best mate every Sunday, and will be cheering him on.

I loved how the quiescently Australian rural community of Penguin Hill rallied behind Roy with good humour and genuine delight in his good fortune. Smith populates the town with charming characters from the sweetly earnest Cassie, and her father, Barry who tends the Penguin Hill cricket ground with devotion, to the flirty, brightly dressed Dolly, and Roy’s fellow team members, among them Chicken, Mighty and Skid.

Donna too is someone to champion. Forced to hide behind the dual identities of ‘Don Garrett’ and his assistant ‘Julie Barnes’ in order to pen her column, she loves the game, yet has had to make herself invisible to pander to the sexist attitudes of the time. Her visits to her father, to whom she reads her columns without revealing her necessary deception, are quite poignant, and the bond she forms with Cassie is touching.

Written with warmth and humour, Cooper Not Out is a wonderfully uplifting read, perfect for a summer’s afternoon.

++++++++

Available from Penguin Australia

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Review: Love and Other Puzzles by Kimberley Allsopp

 

Title: Love and Other Puzzles

Author: Kimberley Allsopp

Published: 2nd February 2022, HarperCollins Australia

Status: Read January 2022 courtesy HarperCollins Au/Netgalley

+++++++

My Thoughts:

 

In the delightful romcom, Love and Other Puzzles from debut Australian novelist Kimberley Allsopp, Rory Byrnes impulsively turns to the New York Times crossword puzzle for inspiration to change her life.

‘7A A bovine Baskin treat = icecream’

With her career stalled and her relationship failing, Rory, who has always relied on order and routine, decides that three times a day for the next week she’ll let the answers to The New York Times crossword puzzle guide her decisions.

‘34A What do you do before you speak in class = raise your hand’

To revitalise her journalistic career at ‘The Connect’ Rory, raises her hand, and volunteers to arrange an interview with elusive newsreader, Elle Chambers, who is rumoured to be launching a bid for a political seat. The only problem is Rory has no idea how to deliver on it.

‘12D A 2010 Steve Martin novel = An Object of Beauty’

The first step Rory takes to reconnect with her live in boyfriend, artist Lucas, is to agree to attend a gallery opening, despite generally avoiding such events, where she ends up spending most of her time talking with the bartender, Harry, and goes home alone.

As the week progresses, the crossword inspires a little more chaos than Rory expects but she’s determined to follow through.

Allsopp’s protagonist is easy to like. Rory is sweet and warm-hearted, just a little lost amid her quarter-life crisis. Her need for order is mostly a form of self defence, the result of a somewhat chaotic upbringing with her free spirited single mother, which her grandparents did their best to ameliorate.

I was also a fan of Rory’s loyal and funny best friend, Kitt, and charmed by several of the other characters, including Rory’s mentor Dave, and bus driver, Ted. Rory’s boyfriend, on the other hand, is a jerk, but this is a romcom so there is a worthy man waiting in the wings.

The writing is witty and sharp. I loved the many pop culture references, most of which relate to Hollywood romcoms.

Love and Other Puzzles is a captivating uplifting read, sure to satisfy any hopeless romantic.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins Australia

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