Review & Giveaway: Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.


Title: Sweet Wattle Creek

Author: Kaye Dobbie

Published: Harlequin AU October 2015

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Status: Read from September 30 to October 01, 2015   {Courtesy the author}

My Thoughts:

With a narrative alternating between the past and the present, Sweet Wattle Creek by Kaye Dobbie, also known as Sara Bennett and Lilly Sommers, tells the story of Belle Bartholomew and Sophie Matheson, two women haunted by the secrets of their pasts.

When her father commits suicide after losing his wealth during the post war depression, Belle Bartholomew is stunned to learn of the secrets he had been keeping. Eager to know more, she travels to Sweet Wattle Creek to claim her inheritance, a rundown hotel bequeathed to her by Martha Ambrose, and though Belle’s questions put the locals offside, she is determined to solve the mystery of her birth.

Nearly sixty years later, reporter Sophie Matheson is enchanted by a vintage wedding dress donated to the Sweet Wattle Creek centenary celebrations. Intrigued by its mysterious provenance, Sophie begins to piece together the story of Belle and Charlie, and their connection to the old burnt out hotel on the town’s fringe, unaware that her own past is catching up to her.

Both Belle and Sophie are appealing and sympathetic characters. Though their situations are very different they share a similar spirit, facing adversity with courage and determination.

Dobbie’s portrayal of small town Australia during the 1930’s is very well done. The community of Sweet Wattle Creek is still struggling with grief for their loved ones lost and injured in the Great War, and are worried about the impact of the post war depression, particularly as ‘travellers’ pass through their town. Dobbie skilfully communicates this tense atmosphere, and Belle’s status as an outsider.

The mid 1980’s is a fairly bland era by comparison but Dobbie is careful to ensure the period is reflected in the storyline. The local paper where Sophie works still uses a mechanical press to publish, archives are stored in the basement, and the single computer that saves data to floppy discs is still a novelty.

Most importantly, I thought the story was very well structured, both the historical and contemporary timelines complement each other well, and advance the plot as a whole. The pacing is good and the suspense builds nicely. There are some neat turns to the plot and I thought the conclusion was satisfying.

Sweet Wattle Creek is a well crafted and engaging tale combining mystery, drama and romance, and I’m happy to recommend it.

To learn more , CLICK HERE for a guest post from the author published earlier today

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Courtesy of Kaye Dobbie I have

1 Kindle edition of

Sweet Wattle Creek

Sweet Wattle Creek high res.

to giveaway to one lucky Australian resident.

Leave a comment on this post and then


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Entries close October 11th, 2015

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Review: X By Sue Grafton


Title: X

Author: Sue Grafton

Published: Macmillan Au September 2015

Status: Read from August 30 to September 01, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

X is the 24th book in Sue Grafton’s Alphabet series featuring private investigator, Kinsey Millhone. I’ve read all but three, and now there are just two more books remaining.

X begins with Kinsey at a bit of a loose end, business is slow but she nevertheless soon finds herself caught up in three disparate mysteries.

The first involves finding the current address of a young man recently released from prison for his wealthy birth mother. The simple task complete, Kinsey doesn’t give it a second thought until a local police detective alerts her that the hundred dollar notes she was paid with were registered as part of a blackmail case. Annoyed, Kinsey investigates, unraveling her clients lies.

The second relates to a pair of elderly new neighbours that raise Kinsey’s hackles when they start to impose on Henry’s generosity.

Meanwhile, Pete Wolinsky’s widow asks Kinsey for her help in finding old financial documents requested by an IRS auditor. In amongst a box overflowing with paperwork, Kinsey discovers a padded mailer addressed to a priest and a coded list. Curious, Kinsey finds herself following up on the case, unprepared for the horrors she discovers.

W is for Wasted was a bit of a disappointment due to a rather lacklustre and longwinded plot, but X is much improved and more reminiscent of earlier books in the series. While there aren’t any great surprises, the cases are interesting, and well thought out. I found the investigation relating to Pete the most compelling, there is real danger involved for both Kinsey and others.

The pace of X is measured, as all the books tend to be in this series. Set in the 1980’s Kinsey’s investigations are all about legwork in the pre internet, pre mobile phone era. Kinsey spends a lot of time browsing library archives, making phone calls and on stakeout.

Kinsey herself is not an excitable character, but she is a thoughtful and determined investigator that focuses on detail. I’ve always liked her but I was hoping for more personal development as the series approaches the end. Essentially Kinsey is a loner, Vera makes a brief appearance which I enjoyed and former romantic interests Dietz and Chaney rate a mention. But Henry and Rosie are really the only people she interacts with.

As a longtime fan of the series I was mostly satisfied by this installment and I’m eager to see how Grafton brings it to a close.

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Review: Woman of the Dead by Bernard Aichner


Title: Woman of The Dead {Blum #1}

Author: Bernard Aichner (translated by Anthea Bell)

Published: Scribner August 2015

Status: Read on August 25, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A dark and disturbing tale of vengeance and violence, Woman of the Dead is the first novel by Bernhard Aichner to feature Blum, mother, mortician and murderer.

When Blum’s beloved husband is killed in a hit and run she is nearly destroyed until she learns that he was deliberately targeted. The photographer, the cook, the priest, the huntsman, and the clown – these are the men responsible, and Blum is going to make them pay.

Woman Of the Dead has one of the most memorable character introductions I’ve ever read. The story opens with a during a defining moment in Blum’s life before leaping forward eight years to place us in the present. Blum is the devoted wife of Mark, a police detective, the doting mother of their two young daughters, and the owner of a successful funeral business. She is both hero and anti-hero in this story, grieving widow and ruthless killer.

There is raw and visceral emotion in The Woman of the Dead. The pain and numbness of Blum’s grief and the horror of the abuse Danya experienced at the hands of the mysterious cabal. There is also grisly and often explicit violence, this isn’t a story for the squeamish.

The plot is quite straight forward, perhaps stretched a little thin at times. It’s a fast paced story that builds suspense, though astute readers shouldn’t have any problems guessing the identity of the last man standing.

Woman of the Dead is an unusual story, with a rather extraordinary protagonist. I’m curious to see how the series develops.

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Review: Private Sydney by James Patterson & Kathryn Fox


Title: Private Sydney {Private #10}

Author: James Patterson and Kathryn Fox

Published: Random House Australia August 2015

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Status: Read from August 17 to 18, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:
In the latest addition to the Private series, James Patterson teams with Aussie crime author Kathryn Fox, introducing the reader to Craig Gisto, and his staff, in the Private Sydney agency who have two cases to investigate in this crime thriller novel.

The first involves a surrogacy scam, a murdered woman and a missing baby. Gisto’s agency is accused of negligence when a couple hires Private to run a background check on a woman who has volunteered to be their surrogate. Within hours of turning over the report, the woman is murdered, an 8 week old baby in her care abducted, and the identities of the couple prove to be false. Gisto and his team have few leads and work hard to unravel the scam, determined to find the missing infant.

The second case involves the missing CEO of a billion dollar company. Stonewalled by the man’s business partner, Gisto begins to suspect large scale fraud is the issue. However it soon becomes clear that whatever Eric Moss has done, he has made some dangerous enemies. Despite attempts at intimidation, Gisto refuses to back off, especially when threats are made against the missing man’s daughter.

Short chapters, an economy of words, and a sense of immediacy keeps the pace moving quickly. The plot is well crafted and not entirely predictable, with some smaller subplots that fill out the pages. Studded with action, there is also a touch of romance. You don’t get much more than a general sense of the characters, but it is enough to satisfy.

The Australian setting, which moves from Sydney city to the Blue Mountains, should appeal to Patterson’s international and local fans.

Private Sydney was exactly what I expected, a quick, easy, entertaining read.

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Review: The Murderer’s Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman


Title: The Murderer’s Daughter

Author: Jonathan Kellerman

Published: Ballantine Books August 2015

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Status: Read from August 16 to 17, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

A rare standalone from an author best known for his long running series featuring child psychologist Alex Delaware, Johnathon Kellerman doesn’t stray far from the familiar in The Murderer’s Daughter.

Grace Blades is a respected psychotherapist who specialises in treating patients that have experienced extreme trauma. It isn’t uncommon for new patients to abandon a session, but Grace is curious when the body of Andrew Toner is found the morning after their first meeting. Tracing his last movements, Grace unwittingly puts herself in the cross-hairs of a ruthless killer.

Andrew Toner, Grace soon discovers, was born Typhon Dagon Roi, the orphaned son of a cult leader, who along with his siblings, Samael and Lilith, spent a brief period in the same foster home as Grace. Targeted by Andrew/Typhon’s killer, Grace, intelligent and resourceful, conducts her own investigation, while evading the men targeting her, leading her into a harrowing confrontation with pitiless evil.

The narrative alternates between the present, as Grace searches for for the killer, and the harrowing details of Grace’s troubled past.

Grace is an intriguing character. She was five when she witnessed her mother kill her father and then commit suicide, eleven when her foster mother, Ramona, collapsed and died in front of her. An incredibly bright child, she captured the interest of Ramona’s brother-in-law, psychology professor Malcolm Bluestone, and his wife Sophia, who later adopted her. Now in her mid thirties, she is independently wealthy, and successful in her field, but she has a dark side that comes to the fore when threatened.

The mystery runs a fairly predictable course, but Grace is a memorable character. Part fast paced thriller, part complex character study, The Murderer’s Daughter is a great read for Kellerman fans, and new readers alike.


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Review: Kingdom of the Strong by Tony Cavanaugh


Title: Kingdom of the Strong {Darian Richards #4}

Author: Tony Cavanaugh

Published: Hachette AU July 2015

Status: Read from July 27 to 28, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

Kingdom of the Strong is the fourth crime thriller by Tony Cavanaugh to feature ex homicide detective Darian Richards. In Promise and Dead Girl Sing, Darian reluctantly came out of retirement, on his own terms, in order to stop a serial killer and a human trafficker respectively. In The Train Rider, he faced off with his nemesis, and lost. In Kingdom of the Strong, Darian is asked by his oldest friend and mentor, Police Commissioner Copeland Walsh, to return to Melbourne to investigate a decades old cold case.

Deputising QLD officer, Maria Chastain, Darian finds himself down the hall from his old squad, tasked to prove that the coroner’s open finding in regards to the death of eighteen-year-old Isobel Vine in 1990 in no way implicates any of the four officers who were present at the original crime scene, one of whom is about to be named Walsh’s successor. The pair quickly rule out suicide, but given the scant evidence, uncovering the truth more twenty years after the fact is a tremendous challenge.

As in previous books, Cavanaugh presents a rather cynical view of policing where ego and politics makes a mockery of the service. Darien is perhaps predisposed to believe the worst of the four officers who he can prove behaved questionably as young constables, but not definitively responsible for murder. There are plenty of twists and turns as Richards and his team are sidetracked by one of Isobel’s former teacher’s, an aging drug dealer, a hit man who takes a run at Maria, and Casey Lack, Maria’s boyfriend. Few will be able to unravel the carefully crafted mystery before Darian does.

Kingdom of the Strong is a dark and gritty crime novel, but flashes of humour relieves the bleakness. I particularly enjoyed Isosceles frustration with the ‘old-school’ investigation, and Darien’s rather macabre ‘murder’ tour of Melbourne.

In my review of The Train Rider I wrote that I hoped the author would reconsider his depiction of his ‘uniformly beautiful, bright and sensual.’ female characters, and I was surprised when the author got in touch to thank me for the criticism, promising to do better. Though there are few female characters in Kingdom of the Strong, I’m pleased to say I think Cavanaugh has done just that. The teenage victim, though long dead, is a nuanced character, and Maria has a more defined role in the story (with Isosceles ogling her cleavage far less often).

While Kingdom of the Strong can be read as a stand alone, I’d encourage readers to seek out Cavanaugh’s backlist, you won’t be disappointed.

*P.S. Thank you Tony, for your generous acknowledgement in Kingdom of the Strong.


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Review: The Redeemers by Ace Atkins


Title: The Redeemers {Quinn Colson #5}

Author: Ace Atkins

Published: GP Putnam July 2015

Status: Read from July 24th – 27th, 2015   – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

In The Redeemers, Colson has lost the re-election for Sherrif of Tebbehah Country, thanks to Stagg’s machinations, but he is not quite ready to walk away, determined to witness the FBI finally take Johnny Stagg down. Meanwhile the new Sheriff, Rusty Wise, is thrown into the deep end when a local businessman’s home is robbed and a deputy shot during the commission of the crime.

The theft has surprising implications for County Tebbehah because the stolen safe contains records of business transactions between Larry Cobb and various officials that could expose the breadth and depth of the corruption that plagues the county. Stagg’s colleagues aren’t at all happy with the associated risks of the ledger coming to light and are determined to quash any threat, including both the new, and the old, Sheriff leading to a bloody confrontation.

The seriousness of the threat against Colson is countered by the ineptitude and general buffoonery of the thieves. Mickey and Kyle are local boys seeking revenge who hire self proclaimed safe cracker PeeWee Sparks and his crazy ‘Bama fan nephew. The foursome offers plenty of over the top dark humour as their plan goes badly awry.

Meanwhile Quinn’s personal life is as messy as ever, Caddy is using again, and he must track her down and get her into rehab. Quinn has broken up with Ophelia, putting Anna-Lee in the frame once more (ugh), and Colson’s father is hanging around, trying to convince his now unemployed son to become a farmer.

As I’ve come to expect, there is plenty of tension and action to keep things interesting. The writing and pace flows well, and for fans there are some long term storylines are put to rest.

This book feels as if it could be the last to feature Quinn Colson though I can’t find anything to either confirm or refute my suspicions. There are threads remaining that could easily be picked up to continue the series but should Atkins decide to finish it here, though I’d like to see it to keep going, I’d be satisfied.


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Review: The Hand That Feeds You by AJ Rich


Title: The Hand That Feeds You

Author: AJ Rich

Published: Simon & Schuster July 2015

Status: Read from July 23rd-24th, 2015 – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:
The Hand That Feeds You by A.J. Rich {a pseudonym for the partnership of authors Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment) offers an interesting premise.

Psychology student Morgan Prager is devastated when she returns home one evening to find her fiance, Bennett, mauled to death by her beloved pets, a Great Pyrenees and two fostered pit bulls. But when attempts to notify Bennett’s family of his death reveal he was not the man she thought he was, for Morgan, a psychologist writing a thesis about victimology, the betrayal is stunning and she is determined to unravel the truth.

While I found The Hand That Feeds You to be a quick and largely enjoyable read, unfortunately I felt the execution didn’t quite work on a number of levels.

Morgan is an inconsistent character, whose potential is undeveloped. I really loved the idea of a psychologist studying victimology becoming a victim, but was disappointed that Morgan was revealed to lack even a modicum of self awareness, especially for a thirty year old woman with years of psychology study. While I could just about believe she could be romantically duped by Bennett, and her stubborn denial of some truths was frustrating.

I felt uneven pacing resulted in diluted tension, some plot elements were heavily foreshadowed while others seemingly came out of nowhere. There were some odd scenes that seemed out of place and the ending was ultimately anti-climatic.

The writing didn’t quite gel either, cold and occasionally awkward.

Overall I thought The Hand That Feeds You lacked the depth and subtlety that could have made this story a great psychological thriller.


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Review: The Night Ferry by Michael Robotham

Title: The Night Ferry

Author: Michael Robotham

Published: Mulholland Books July 2015

Status: Read from July 18-19 – I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A stand alone thriller from master storyteller Michael Robotham, The Night Ferry was first released in 1997 but has been reprinted for American audiences.

The Night Ferry features Detective Alisha Barba who is drawn into the murky world of human trafficking when her estranged childhood best friend begs for her help, shortly before being killed in a hit and run.

The investigation leads Alisha from London to the heart of Amsterdam’s red light district. The plot is complex involving the enforced surrogacy of vulnerable refugees beholden to unscrupulous human traffickers, and while fairly predictable, the fast paced execution keeps the tension and interest high.

Alisha Barba appeared as a minor character is Robotham’s, Lost. She is an interesting protagonist, a Sikh, who is recovering from a horrific injury sustained in the line of duty. Her history with the murdered woman, Cate, is what drives her to investigate despite the lack of official sanction, calling on her on and off again boyfriend, fellow officer Dave King, and retired Detective Inspector Vincent Ruiz for help.

I was at times frustrated by some of the choices made by Alisha, which may have advanced the plot or provided action, but seemed inane given her intelligence and experience.

Overall however The Night Ferry is a gripping read with a strong and interesting narrative.

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Blog Tour: A Time To Run by J.M. Peace


jm-peace-c-sheree-tomlinson-webI’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for debut novelist J.M. Peace today, introducing A Time To Run. 

An avid reader and writer from an early age, JM Peace wanted to be a writer. So she studied journalism figuring this would be a way of turning a passion into a job. Her career as a print journalist failed after a single year, and the experience completely sucked the joy out of writing for her. So she took a complete change of direction and became a police officer. Over the past 15 years, she has served throughout south-east Queensland in a variety of different capacities, including Intelligence and CIB. After her children were born, the dangers and stresses of the job made it unappealing. In the search for a new career path, she returned to her childhood dream. Carving a spare hour out of every day, she wrote the manuscript for A Time To Run whilst juggling her family commitments, police work and running a household. Jay currently lives on the Sunshine Coast with her partner, wrangling her two cheeky children, a badly behaved dog and an anti-social cockatiel.

Set in the Queensland bush, A Time to Run is a tense, gritty crime thriller featuring a cop-turned-victim and a chilling serial killer.

A madman is kidnapping women to hunt them for sport.
Detective Janine Postlewaite leads the investigation into the disappearance of Samantha Willis, determined not to let another innocent die on her watch.
The killer’s newest prey isn’t like the others. Sammi is a cop. And she refuses to be his victim.

Please read on to learn more about J.M Peace and A Time to Run


Why a Serial Killer?

My book involves a serial killer. I feel somehow inadequate by saying this. It seems like a bit of a cliché – that one murder is not enough these days, that you have to raise the body count. But it was the way the story unfolded and I’d like to explain why.

In my early twenties, I went backpacking around the world travelling solo a lot of the time. Yes, I used to hitchhike (shh, don’t tell my mum), and I put myself into some astoundingly stupid situations. If the wrong person had found me at the wrong time, things could have turned out very badly for me. It was before the days of email and global interconnectivity. I don’t know how long it would have been before I would have been reported as ‘missing’.


Ivan Milat convicted of the Belangalo State Forest Murders

This was around about the same time that backpackers were being dispatched in Belanglo State Forest. When I got home nearly four years later, I read a bit about the Belanglo crimes. This is where the seed of the idea for this story began, with this question – what if it had been me? What if I had naively climbed into the wrong car and been taken out to some secluded forest by a psychopath? What would I have done? Could I have possibly survived it?

The story bounced around in my head for years. I used to dream up all sorts of possibilities. Could I have killed him? How? How could I have escaped? Who could find me? Could I trust them? These musings were still going on when became a police officer. This added a dimension to my ponderings. Would being a police officer give me an edge with my imaginary madman? What sort of advantage? What had I learnt as a cop which could help me?

After a few failed attempts at writing children’s stories, I realised I should be writing crime. And in a bit of a light bulb moment, I realised this story that I had been prodding at for years was the one I should write. It was just a matter of choosing which storyline was most engaging and believable. And so A Time To Run was born. The plot was pretty much in place before I even sat down at a keyboard. As I wrote the dual storylines of the abduction and the investigation, I’d switch between my backpacker experiences and my police officer experiences. But the question I’d ask myself was the same – “what would I do?”

I’ve written the sequel to this book and the plot for a third in the series exists. The body count is steadily dropping with each subsequent book. The serial killer idea has been done now and it’s not one I intend on revisiting. But this was how A Time To Run came into existence.


Want to know more? Follow the tour!

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