Review: The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser

Title: The Hunted

Author: Gabriel Bergmoser

Published: August 5th 2020, HarperCollins Australia

Status: Read May 2020, courtesy HarperCollins/Netgalley

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My Thoughts
:

The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser was not what I was expecting. Less a thriller than horror novel in my opinion, I’m a little lost for words.

After a blood-soaked young woman stumbles from a car into a remote, outback roadhouse, owner Frank, his teenage granddaughter, Allie, and a handful of unlucky customers are caught up in a horrifying night of violence not all of them will survive.

Unfolding from several perspectives over two timelines that eventually meet, The Hunted is fast paced, action packed and suspenseful. My first instinct is to describe it as a cross between the films Wolf Creek (2005) and Deliverance (1972), and I think this would do well if adapted to the screen.

But had I been aware of the explicit incidences of torture and violence that occur in this novel, I wouldn’t have chosen to read it. At least twice I was uncomfortable enough to consider not finishing it, but to be fair to Bergmoser I was equally uncomfortable not doing so… I needed to know how it would end for the characters, particularly Frank, Allie and the story’s anti-hero, Maggie.

It wouldn’t be accurate to say I liked The Hunted, but that’s a matter of genre rather than any particular flaws with the book. If horror is your thing, I think you’ll love it.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins Australia

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Review: The Long Shadow by Anne Buist

Title: The Long Shadow

Author: Anne Buist

Published: April 28th 2020, Text Publishing

Status: Read May 2020 courtesy Text Publishing

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My Thoughts:

The Long Shadow is an atmospheric, tense psychological thriller from Australian author Anne Buist.

While her husband, Dean, is contracted to investigate the financial viability of the community hospital in Riley, a small town in NSW’s far west, psychologist Isabel Harris has arranged to run a therapy group for struggling new mothers. At the end of her first session one of the women anonymously submits a note: The baby killer is going to strike again. Soon.

Tensions rise as Isabel attempts to make sense of the warning. She quickly learns the missive refers to the unsolved abduction and murder of a newborn from the community hospital twenty five years earlier, a tragedy that casts a long shadow over the town. But is the note a warning aimed at one of the women in her group, or a threat to the safety of her own toddler son?

As this well crafted mystery slowly unravels, Buist explores a number of themes including family dysfunction, motherhood, racial and class tension, corruption, and addiction. I was easily ensnared by the anxiety and tension the author generated with skilful plotting, interesting characters and a close, evocative atmosphere.

The novel is populated with an array of complex characters, the most notable being Isabel and the diverse group of five women in her care, which includes the sister of the murdered infant, a police officer, an immigrant recovering from postnatal psychosis, the daughter of the local union organiser, and the wife of the town’s wealthiest family, all of whom reflect the tension that simmers within the small community. Isabel hopes that by developing an understanding of the group dynamic, she will be able to prevent another tragedy.

The rural setting of The Long Shadow, several hours from the nearest regional city, gives rise to feelings of claustrophobia. Riley is not a town that welcomes outsiders, and there are locals who resent Dean’s investigation who are not above using petty harassment and veiled threats as intimidation tactics. The sense of isolation is particularly heightened for Isabel who needs to be mindful of professional distance and is unable to seek solace in her strained marriage.

With a timely twist few would be able to guess, the story concludes with a burst of heart stopping violence and a deadly secret revealed. The Long Shadow is a gripping, entertaining and smart thriller.

+++++++

Available from Text Publishing

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Review: Radio Girl by David Dufty

Title: Radio Girl: The Story of the Extraordinary Mrs Mac, Pioneering Engineer and Wartime Legend

Author: David Dufty

Published: 28th April 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read May 2020, courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

Radio Girl by David Dufty is, as the tag line says, the story of the extraordinary Mrs Mac, pioneering engineer and wartime legend.

(Florence) Violet McKenzie née Wallace, who later came to be known affectionately to many as Mrs. Mac, was born in Melbourne in 1890, married in 1924, and died in 1982. While her childhood in Austinmeer, south of Sydney, was largely unremarkable she went on to make an outstanding contribution to Australian society over her lifetime.

Radio Girl is a fascinating tribute to an amazing woman who deserves far more recognition than she has ever been given. I was quickly absorbed in the tale of Mrs Mac’s life, inspired by all she achieved, and frankly annoyed that I’ve never heard of her.

Some of Violet’s many accomplishments included becoming Australia’s first woman to earn a diploma in electrical engineering, owning and operating a successful store, the ‘Wireless Shop’, catering to amateur radio enthusiasts, and establishing the Electrical Association for Women.

However Violet’s most significant achievement was her contribution to the war effort. In 1939 Mrs Mac, as she was by then commonly called, created the Women’s Emergency Signalling Corps, ultimately training around 3000 women in Morse code. She became the driving force behind the creation of the Women’s Royal Australian Navy Service in 1941, which employed as many as a third of ‘her girls’ during WWII, and also trained thousands of enlisted and civilian men, from more than half a dozen countries, in signalling.

Suitable for the general reader, as well as those with specific interest in Australian military history or womens history, Dufty’s narrative reads well, it’s detailed without being dry, and informal in tone. Progressing chronologically through Violet’s lifetime, Dufty includes a dozen or so photographs, which I always appreciate. While it is unfortunate though that Violet could not directly contribute to this biography as I‘d be interested in the addition of a more personal perspective, the story of the Radio Girl and her achievements is nevertheless fascinating.

Radio Girl is interesting and informative and I’d like to thank David Dufty for ensuring Mrs Mac, and her admirable accomplishments are recognised in the present day, and recorded for history.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Also available from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Thrill Me by Lynette Washington (Ed.)

 


Title: Thrill Me: Suspenseful Stories

Author: Lynette Washington (Editor)

Published: April 4th 2020, Glimmer Press

Status: Read April 2020 courtesy Glimmer Press

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My Thoughts:

Thrill Me is a provocative short story collection contributed to by thirty-one Australian storytellers, edited by Lynette Washington, the owner of Glimmer Press.

The thirty-five original stories within this anthology aim to surprise, provoke, shock, or scare the reader in imaginative ways. They push the boundaries of the traditional thriller, eschewing cliche’s while still eliciting the heightened emotion that characterises the genre.

I found a handful of stories to be particularly affecting, including Mrs Meiners Has Gone to Get Chalk by Stephen Orr, featuring a classroom of bewildered children, and Top Deck by Doug Bray, whose ending makes a splash (or not as the case may be). Not unexpectedly, there were a few tales that didn’t resonate with me for one reason or another but are sure to capture another’s imagination

Offering a variety of thrills and chills to suit a wide audience, Thrill Me is entertaining reading.

The Authors: Katherine Tamiko Arguile | Joanna Beresford | Carmel Bird | Doug Bray | Ben Brooker | Lauren Butterworth | Elaine Cain | Brid Cummings | Kate Shelley Gilbert | Ashleigh Hardcastle | Alys Jackson | Michelle Jäger | Riana Kinlough | Melanie Kinsman | Gay Lynch | Amy T Matthews | Rachael Mead | Susan Midalia | Ruairi Murphy | Stephen Orr | Cameron Raynes | Caroline Reid | Fiona Robertson | Andrew Roff | Polly Rose | Justine Sless | Angela Sungaila | Reg Taylor | Alex Vickery-Howe | Sean Williams | Jonny Zweck

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Available from Glimmer Press or Wakefield Press

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Review: Sheerwater by Leah Swann

 

Title: Sheerwater

Author: Leah Swann

Published: March 20th 2020, HarperCollins Australia

Status: Read March 2020 courtesy HarperCollins/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

When a light plane crashes by the side of Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, Ava, a former emergency rescue worker, feels compelled to stop and render assistance. Leaving her two young sons, Max and Teddy, safely locked in the car with strict instructions to remain, she and and another passerby bravely pull the pilot and two frightened children from the wreckage moments before it explodes. When emergency services arrives Ava makes her way back to the car only to find it empty.

Alternating primarily between the perspectives of Ava, her estranged husband Laurence, and their oldest son, 9 year old Max, Sheerwater is a harrowing tale, skillfully executed by Leah Swann.

Ava’s fear for her missing sons is visceral, her confusion and anxiety building as the police question her every word. Laurence’s attempts to reframe the narrative are infuriating, and an all too familiar reflection of recent current events. Max’s courage is heartbreaking as he tries to care for and protect his four year old brother, Teddy.

The prose is lyrical and evocative, portraying nuanced character and emotion. Vivid imagery conjures a sense of place, no matter the setting.

Though there are a few elements I felt were perhaps out of place, they didn’t detract from my interest. Unfolding over a period of three days, the pace is intense, and the increasing tension utterly gripping. I was left shattered by the ending.

Both beautiful and brutal, Sheerwater is a compelling read.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins Australia

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

Review: The Origin of Me by Bernard Gallate

 

Title: The Origin of Me

Author: Bernard Gallate

Published: March 17th 2020, Vintage

Status: Read March 2020 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia

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My Thoughts:

The Origin of Me is a contemporary, quirky coming of age tale from debut Australian novelist Bernard Gallate.

Fifteen year old Lincoln Locke has a nub. It began as a tiny dark spot above the crease of his buttocks, but it seems to be growing as quickly as his list of problems. Looking for answers, Lincoln stumbles across a memoir by the one-time star of Melinkoff’s Astonishing Assembly of Freaks, Edward Stroud, and as Lincoln slowly reads ‘My One Redeeming Affliction’ he discovers solutions for questions he never even thought to ask, and a past he never knew.

With a large cast of characters, both eccentric and genuine, Gallate explores several themes, among them family, change, friendship, and self acceptance. Lincoln is struggling with a number of issues including the loss of his grandfather, his parents separation, a new school, and of course the growing nub.

Quite a chunkster at 400 pages, the novel is well paced but I think the length will deter a young/new adult audience from picking it up, which is a shame because though it’s ostensibly marketed at adults, I think young men in particular would find Lincoln relatable and enjoy his journey of self discovery.

Told with humour, heart and imagination The Origin of Me is an enjoyable read.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Truganini by Cassandra Pybus

Title: Truganini: Journey Through the Apocalypse

Author: Cassandra Pybus

Published: March 3rd 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read March 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

Inspired by her ancestors connection to the woman known as the ‘last Tasmanian Aborigine’, Truganini by Cassandra Pybus, is a stunning historical biography.

Born around 1812 on Bruny Island, Truganini survived the capture, forced relocation, attempted assimilation and sanctioned extermination of the First Nations population of Tasmania, before dying in 1876. Drawing on a number of historical sources, including personal journals, oral histories, government records, and newspaper archives, Pybus pieces together the story of Truganini’s extraordinary life.

Placed under the ‘protection’ of Christian missionary George Robinson as a teenager she was induced to behave as his emissary/guide aiding in his self-appointed task to ‘save’ the indigenous peoples, by leading them Into exile. She was to spend more than a decade with Robinson, accompanying him to ‘New Holland’, before fleeing his patronage, only to be accused of murder and be sent into exile on Flinders Island, and later Oyster Cove. Even in death she was denied self-determination, her wish to be cremated and her ashes spread over the D’Entrecasteaux Channel ignored for over a hundred years.

Honestly I have no words to communicate the deep sorrow I feel for the fate of Truganini and all of the indigenous peoples. This harrowing narrative reveals a spirited and courageous woman who suffered unimaginable losses – the annihilation of her country, her culture, her kin, and her identity. Pybus’s account is rendered with honesty and empathy, shedding light on the shameful history Australia is yet to reconcile.

Profound, poignant, and perceptive, Truganini should be required reading for all Australian’s to aid in our understanding of, and acknowledgement of, our past.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin. RRP AUD $32.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale

Title: Death in the Ladies’ Goddess Club

Author: Julian Leatherdale

Published: March 3rd 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read March 2020, courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

“…she had sat at her typewriter, happily composing a murder scene for her novel. And now here she was thrust without warning into the middle of a real one, the unspeakably gruesome death of someone she knew.”

By day, Joan Linderman is a subeditor for a leading womens magazine, while at night she works on a crime novel she hopes to one day have published. But when her downstairs neighbour is discovered with her throat slashed, the line between fiction and fact becomes blurred, and Joan finds herself caught up in a tale of murder, blackmail, violence, and betrayal.

“Crime’s not a woman’s business, Joanie. It’s not some bloody game.”

The murdered woman, a prostitute, is more acquaintance than friend, so Joan is shocked when she finds a note that suggests a connection between Ellie and her rich, estranged uncle and aunt, former Major now lawyer, Gordon Fielding-Jones, and his wife Olympia. Leatherdale provides a complex mystery as Joan’s amateur investigation into the link takes surprising twists and turns through the stratum of society.

“It was a frightening, chaotic time for those who lived in the cross and its environs, but Joan felt an indescribable thrill to be living on the edge of this vortex of violence.”

What I particularly enjoyed about the novel was Leatherdale’s depiction of the social and political schism in Australia during the 1930’s. In the post World War I period, as the Great Depression steadily widened the gap between the haves and have nots, Sydney was the epicentre of unrest as the New Guard railed against Lang’s progressive government, the communist party tried to rally the masses against the upper class, razor gangs ruled the streets, and the bohemian community expressed its disdain for it all. The author brilliantly captures the divisions and overlap of these groups from the double agents amongst the political parties, to the criminal supply of drugs to the upper classes. The ceremonies of the Ladies Bacchus (aka Goddess) Club, are an elitist version of the uninhibited bohemian parties, without any recognition of the irony. The author also touches on issues such as the struggle of injured returned soldiers from the Great War, womens rights, and the marvel that was the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

“For now she was heartily sick of this world of men’s making, of so much cruelty and suffering.”

An engaging historical mystery with a noir-ish feel, I enjoyed Death in the Ladies Goddess Club by Julian Leatherdale.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD $29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Also by Julian Leatherdale reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: Just An Ordinary Family by Fiona Lowe

Title: Just An Ordinary Family

Author: Fiona Lowe

Published: March 3rd 2020, HQ Fiction

Status: Read March 2020 courtesy Harlequin

++++++

My Thoughts:

Just An Ordinary Family is a fantastic contemporary drama from Fiona Lowe.

Life in Kurnai Bay may not be perfect for sisters, Alice – who is nursing a broken heart, and Libby = mourning a recent loss, but neither are prepared for the shocking secrets that are about to tear their worlds apart.

Exploring several sensitive issues including, stillbirth, infertility, adultery and child abuse, as well as broader themes including friendship, loss, love, betrayal, and forgiveness, this a compelling family drama.

I found myself totally caught up in this character driven story that focuses on the relationships of four women, twins Alice and Libby, their mother Karen, and Libby’s best friend, Jess. Portrayed with complexity and authenticity, even after I turned the last page, I found myself thinking about the characters, the decisions they were faced with, and the choices they made.

For me, Just An Ordinary Family was an excellent read, stirring and thought-provoking.

++++++

Available from Harlequin Australia

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Review: Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer

 

Title: Truths I Never Told You

Author: Kelly Rimmer

Published:February 25th 2020, Hachette Australia

Status: Read February 2020 Courtesy Hachette Au

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My Thoughts:

Truths I Never Told You is a moving, poignant novel of family secrets from Kelly Rimmer.

When the Walsh siblings agree it has become necessary to admit their terminally ill father to a hospice, Beth, the youngest of the four, volunteers to clean out the family home. The process is time-consuming, though straightforward until, behind a padlocked attic door, Beth finds a series of paintings, and pinned to one, a devastating note written by her late mother, Grace.

The missive in her mother’s elegant script reads like a suicide note, and the date doesn’t line up with what Beth had been told about her mother’s death. Desperate to understand the discrepancy, Beth throws her self into the search for more notes amongst the detritus cluttering the attic, and unearths a shocking secret that will challenge everything she believed to be true.

Beth’s contemporary timeline, as she cleans out her family home while avoiding her own emotional difficulties, alternates first with a series of letters written by Grace nearly forty years earlier, revealing a young mother overwhelmed by the demands of caring for four children under the age of four, and later, the perspective of Grace’s elder sister, Maryanne.

I was absorbed in this well paced story as Beth and her siblings faced the loss of their beloved father, the truth of Grace’s tragic death, and the unraveling of their childhood memories.

Most emphasis of the story however is placed on the issue linking Beth and Grace – Post Natal Depression. In the late 1950’s Grace’s distress in the aftermath of her pregnancies is dismissed by her doctor, whose advice amounts to ‘pull yourself together’, and is ignored by her husband. In 1996, Beth is unwilling to admit she is not coping with caring for her infant son, and it’s only through the intervention of her husband and sister that she seeks medical help, whose response is immediate and practical.

While I fortunately never developed PND after the births of my four children, many women I know have done so, experiencing a range of symptoms from mild anxiety to the extreme of post natal psychosis. Rimmer’s depiction of Grace and Beth’s struggle is sensitive and realistic, I felt deeply sympathetic towards both women who battled with their feelings of shame and confusion as the illness threatened to overwhelm them.

Rimmer also raises a number of other related issues, including the importance of access to inexpensive contraception, and safe, legal abortion to protect women’s emotional and physical health.

Written with heart and compassion, Truths I Never Told You is a thought-provoking and engaging novel.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

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

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