Review: Fall by Candice Fox

 

Title: Fall {Archer & Bennett #3}

Author: Candice Fox

Published: Random House AU December 2015

Status: Read from December 21 to 21, 2015   – I own a copy

 

My Thoughts:

As the third book in Candice Fox’s debut trilogy, Fall offers a riveting finale to the partnership of detectives Eden Archer and Frank Bennett.

Picking up a few months after Eden, Bennett and Archer, the latter of whom is still recovering from her injuries, are back on the job. A female jogger has been found brutally murdered in a park in Sydney, and she won’t be the last. The case is interesting, with the focus on the killer’s twisted motives.

The relationship between Eden and Bennett is no less complicated in Fall, despite Frank having saved her life in Eden. Bennett’s concern for his partner’s physical and psychological wellbeing is always tempered by the threat she poses. Bennett finally learns the truth about Eden in Fall, though it’s hardly a comfort.

“It’s always very present between us, the fact that Eden could at any time, and rightfully so, decide that killing me is the best thing for her future.”

Frank is less aware of the threat his girlfriend, police psychologist Imogen Stone, poses. Imogen, who solves cold cases in her spare time with less than altruistic motives, is investigating the twenty year old abduction of the Tanner children, an inquiry that will pit her against Eden, who will do anything to protect her secrets.

And then there is Amy ‘Hooky’ Hooku, a seventeen year old computer genius, who first came to Frank’s attention when her younger sister murdered their parents. As her father was a Detective, Amy enjoys a special relationship with the police department and is now a consultant of sorts, despite her tender age. Amy is an intriguing character who has an unexpected role to play in Fall.

“And if he couldn’t save her, he’d do the best he could to patch her up. The way he did with everything that came to him in the tip. She’d be crooked. She’d be hollow. But she’d be alive again.”

Fall is a gritty, compelling novel and provides a stunning climax to an outstanding trilogy. Candice Fox has proved herself to be a writer of remarkable talent and skill.

 

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Also reviewed at Book’d Out

 

Review: Dastardly Deeds by Ilsa Evans

 

Review: Dastardly Deeds (Nell Forrest #4)

Author: Ilsa Evans

Published: March 10th 2016, Momentum

Status: Read June 2016, courtesy Momentum

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

Dastardly Deeds is the fourth book in the Ilsa Evans cosy mystery series featuring columnist, mother, and amateur sleuth, Nell Forrest.

Having endured a busy few years, what with her twenty-five-year marriage imploding, moving house, becoming a grandmother (twice), reconnecting with her estranged father, losing her sister to England, sabotaging a fledgling relationship, and being caught up in more than one murder, Nell is looking forward to escaping it all on a 10-day Mediterranean cruise. Unfortunately her mother, her ex-husband and his new partner, her ex lover, her sister, two of her five daughters, and a murderer decide to follow.

While I missed the quirky town of Majic, the exotic setting of Dastardly Deeds lends a little more colour to the story. The first death occurs in Rome, the second in Turkey, and Nell is convinced she is trapped on a cruise ship with a killer. The twists and turns of the mystery are convincing with plenty of suspects muddying up the waters. Nell really pushes her luck in this installment, very nearly becoming a victim herself. And then just when you think it’s over, there’s another surprise.

My favourite aspect of the Nell Forrest series remains the humour, from the ‘fan’ letters (Nell writes a syndicated newspaper column called Middle Aged Spread) that preface each chapter, to the exasperated snark Nell mumbles under her breath. I also enjoy the barely controlled chaos of her family, who are thoroughly exasperating and loving.

It’s been three years since Dastardly Deeds was released, but I still have hope that Ilsa Evans will revisit the series, I want more.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

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Previous Installments

#1 Nefarious Doings I  #2 I’ll-Gotten Gains I #3 Forbidden Fruit

 

 

Review: Breakdown By Jonathan Kellerman

 

Title: Breakdown (Alex Delaware #31)

Author: Jonathan Kellerman

Published: February 2nd 2016 Ballantine Books

Status: Read February 2016

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

In the latest instalment of Jonathan Kellerman’s long running series featuring child psychologist Alex Delaware, the death of a former patient’s mother triggers an investigation into a missing child, and a string of unsolved murders. With the help of his best friend and unofficial partner, Lieutenant Milo Sturgis, Delaware slowly unravels a story of mental illness, family secrets, betrayal, and murder.

I generally prefer this series when the cases are focused on those which more fully involve Delaware’s speciality. Ovid, Alex’s former patient, is almost incidental to this story, other than as the catalyst for their curiosity. This is Kellerman’s 31st novel though, so I don’t begrudge the way in he changes things up from time to time.

The pace is a little slow at times, Alex and Milo spend a lot of time trawling through records, consulting experts, and speculating about the case. There isn’t a lot of suspense, but the investigation is well crafted and it’s always satisfying to have the mystery neatly solved with the killer brought to justice.

While not the strongest book in the series, fans should find Breakdown enjoyable enough.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase from

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Click here to see other Jonathan Kellerman books reviewed on the blog

Review: The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris

 

Title: The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder

Author: Sarah J. Harris

Published: April 2018 HarperCollins Au

Status: Read April 2019, courtesy HarperCollins AU

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

I’ve long been fascinated by synesthesia, a condition where the brains perceptions of sensory input are blended. Synesthetes may taste sounds, smell colors or see scents.

In The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder, thirteen year old Jasper Wishart hears sounds as colours.

“Lawn mower: shiny silver; Car revving: orange; Aeroplane: light, almost see-through green; Radio: pink….; Dogs barking: yellow or red; Cats meowing: soft violet blue; Dad laughing: a muddy, yellowish brown; Kettle boiling: silver and yellow bubbles”

Unusually, Jasper also suffers from prosopagnosia, known as face blindness, and is probably also somewhere on the autism spectrum, given his literal manner and self soothing behaviours. His father doesn’t understand, and is perpetually frustrated by his son’s ‘weird’ ways.

When Bee Larkham moves into the Wishart’s Street, Jasper is enchanted by the colour of her voice-sky blue, the explosions of colour from the music she plays loudly in her living room, and most particularly, the flock of parakeets that takes up residence in her garden. However not everyone is happy with the disruption Bee causes in the neighbourhood.

“Bee Larkham’s murder was ice blue crystals with glittery edges and jagged silver icicles.”

The Colour of Bee Larkham’s Murder is essentially a murder mystery, the story of which unfolds through Jasper’s unique perspective. It is not a straightforward narrative, skewed by Jasper’s limited, and sometimes unreliable view, partially reconstructed by his ornithological log, and the paintings he creates to help him order events. I did feel the pace dragged sometimes but I was engrossed by Jasper’s distinctive voice.

A colourful and Interesting novel, Harris paints a vivid picture of an exceptional boy caught up in extraordinary circumstances.

++++++

Available to Purchase from

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or your preferred retailer.

Review: Force of Nature by Jane Harper

 

 

Title: Force of Nature {Aaron Falk #2}

Author: Jane Harper

Published: Pan Macmillan September 17th, 2017

Status: Read March 2019

++++++

 

My Thoughts:

Force of Nature is Jane Harper’s second novel featuring Australian Federal Agent, Aaron Falk. Her first, The Dry, was a phenomenal success (you can read my review here) and Force of Nature is a solid follow up.

In Force of Nature, Falk, and his new partner Carmen Cooper, are investigating a company for money laundering. They are expecting to wrap the case in a matter of days, with help from insider, Alice Russell, when she goes missing during a corporate retreat.

The story unfolds through multiple perspectives, as it moves between the events leading up to Alice’s disappearance and the current active investigation. This allows Harper to introduce several possible motives for Alice’s disappearance, and develop an interesting mystery that kept me guessing until the end. Though I thought the pace was a little slow to begin with, the tension builds incrementally, and the plot is elegantly resolved.

Falk didn’t have the strong presence in this novel that I was expecting. He is peripheral to most of the action, and there were no new insights offered into his character. Neither was his partner, Carmen, particularly memorable.

I think I may have been more invested in the story if I had liked Alice. Though well drawn, she is an unpleasant character and I didn’t much care whether she was found, or not. I didn’t have any difficulty visualising Alice’s companions on the hike, Harper’s characterisations, and the dynamics between them, were interesting and complex.

Set largely in the Giralang Ranges of Victoria, Harper does a commendable
job of evoking the close, wet, and disorientating atmosphere of the Australian bush. As in The Dry, the setting is not simply the background of the story, but an integral part of it.

Force of Nature is well written, with a mystery that is skillfully crafted and compelling. I’m looking forward to Harper’s next Book in the series.

++++++

 

Available to Purchase @

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Learn more about The Dry, the first book in the Aaron Falk series

 

 

 

Review: The Dry by Jane Harper

Title: The Dry {Aaron Falk #1}

Author: Jane Harper

Published: Macmillan, May 2016

Status: Read March 2019

 

My Thoughts:

Credited with sparking new interest in Australian rural crime novels, The Dry was published in 2016 to international acclaim, winning multiple awards, with the movie adaptation, to star Eric Bana, currently in production. 

After a twenty year absence, Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown, the small drought stricken community of Kiewarra, to attend the funeral of his childhood best friend, Luke Hadler, accused of slaughtering his wife and daughter, before turning the gun on himself. Falk is now with the Federal Police, investigating financial crime, and at the request of Luke’s parents, who are desperate to find an alternative answer to such a heinous crime, agrees to go over the farm’s business records. While the accounts prove to be fairly straightforward, it is inconsistencies in the details of the crime that bother Falk.

The Dry is an atmospheric novel, evoking the dusty desperation of small farming towns struggling with drought and the myriad of consequences it has both economically and socially. Tempers are short, attitudes are anxious, and secrets fester In the heat.

The mystery at the heart of The Dry is well plotted, and revealed at an even pace. Harper effectively builds and maintains tension, even where the past and present intersect. I admit to being a little piqued by one thread of the story that was resolved but felt unfinished.

Guilt is is a major motivation for Falk’s investigation. His real reluctance to return to Kiewarra stems from the tragic drowning of another childhood friend, in whose death Aaron, and his father, were unfairly implicated. Driven out of town by the victim’s father, a vindictive bully and drunk, the community is no more welcoming on his return. It makes for an interesting character, struggling with both interior and exterior conflicts.

The supporting characters are well drawn, though perhaps not terribly nuanced. It’s actually the absent characters, Luke and Ellie, that are the most dynamic.

An impressive debut, I found The Dry to be an evocative and compelling crime novel. I am looking forward to reading the second book featuring Falk, Force of Nature.

——————————

The Dry is available from Macmillan Australia 

or your preferred retailer.

Read an Excerpt

Review: Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

Title: Mr. Kiss and Tell {Veronica Mars #2)

Authors: Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham

Publisher: Vintage Books , January 2015

Status: Read March 19th 2019

My Thoughts:

It was only a few years ago that I first watched Veronica Mars, and immediately became a fan. I’m a little out of the target audience age wise (ok, a lot), but I’ve binge watched it at least once a year since, including the crowdfunded movie (2014). Recently, I learned that Hulu has picked up a Veronica Mars revival to be screened in the (US) summer. According to news sources, the series picks up about five years on from the movie (and books), and will feature most of the original cast.. I can’t wait!

I first read Thousand Dollar Tan Line (Vintage Books, May 2015) which begins just a few months after the movie’s end. Veronica is behind the desk of her fathers PI firm, while Keith is recovering after the attempt on his life. Logan is still on deployment, Weevil is waiting for his trial to begin, and Wallace floats in and out, doing favours for Veronica. The only incongruent note is Mac being behind the Mars Investigation ‘secretarial’ desk.

Set during Spring Break, Thousand Dollar Tan Line has Veronica trying to solve the disappearance of two teenage girls at the behest of the Neptune Chamber of Commerce. Sheriff Lamb is as venal and useless as ever, leaving Veronica to tangle with the cartel, kidnappers and killers. For Veronica, the stakes are higher when one on the missing girls turns out to be her estranged mother’s stepdaughter.

I quite enjoyed the story, which was fairly fast paced with a solid mystery, and an interesting twist, but I felt the tone wasn’t quite on point somehow.

Mr. Kiss and Tell however, was. I had no problem imagining this story unfolding as an episode of Veronica Mars, and I enjoyed it almost as much.

In this instance, it’s been just a few weeks since the conclusion of Thousand Dollar Tan Line, and this time Veronica has been hired to investigate an insurance claim against the Neptune Grand for a rape supposedly committed by an employee. Several familiar faces crop up during her investigation, including Deputy (now Detective) Leo D’Amato, who provides back up as she hunts for a serial rapist.

In the background, Weevil’s trial is coming to a head, while Keith, and Clifford, try to prove a pattern of corruption in the Sheriff’s office. A newcomer also throws her hat in the ring for the Sheriff election.

Veronica and Logan’s relationship is a little shaky in Mr. Kiss and Tell. Without a sense of irony, Veronica is not thrilled by Logan’s long absences, nor the risks inherent in his career as a Navy pilot. It will be interesting to learn just where they stand with each other in the revival.

If you are a Veronica Mars fan, you really should treat yourself to these two books, and I recommend binge watching the television show, and movie first. As an aside, apparently Kirsten Bell narrates the audiobook versions of these novels, which would be fun I imagine.

 

Review: Honky Tonk Samurai by Joe R Lansdale

 

Title: Honky Tonk Samurai {Hap and Leonard #11}

Author: Joe R Lansdale

Published: Mulholland Books Feb 2016

Status: Read from February 07 to 09, 2016 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Honky Tonk Samurai is the 11th book by Joe R Lansdale to feature the entertaining adventures of best friends Hap ‘a former 60s activist and self-proclaimed white trash rebel’ and Leonard ‘a black, gay Vietnam vet and Republican with an addiction to Dr. Pepper and vanilla cookies’.

Their language may be crude, their banter often tasteless but it’s impossible not be charmed by these redneck tough guys whose hearts are usually in the right place. Hap and Leonard may have casual regard for the law, but they share a strong sense of justice, they fiercely defend each other, those they love, and those who need their help.

“I don’t think we ask for trouble, me and Leonard. It just finds us. It often starts casually, and then something comes loose and starts to rattle, like an unscrewed bolt on a carnival ride. No big thing at first, just a loose, rattling bolt, then the bolt slips completely free and flies out of place, the carnival ride groans and screeches, and it sags and tumbles into a messy mass of jagged parts and twisted metal and wads of bleeding human flesh. I’m starting this at the point in the carnival ride when the bolt has started to come loose.”

In Honky Tonk Samurai, Brett, Hap’s live in lady, purchases Marvin Hanson’s private detective agency now that he has been rehired as police chief. The new agency’s first client is an elderly woman who blackmails Hap and Leonard into searching for her granddaughter, who has been missing for five years. Their investigation leads them to an upscale dealership selling much more than just cars, and puts a target on their back.

The plot is fairly simple and a bit of a stretch, but its all in good fun. There is plenty of action and violence on offer as Hap and Leonard, with a little help, take on a biker gang, the Dixie Mafia and a psychotic brotherhood of assassins. The humour is cheeky, often coarse, but the rapid fire banter is laugh out loud funny.

Readers familiar with the series will welcome appearances from characters such as Vanilla Ice, Cason and Jim Bob Luke. Lansdale’s descriptions of the characters that populate his novel are as colourful and vivid as ever.

“That’s when the door opened and a lady came in who was older than dirt but cleaner. She had a cane, which explained the cricket, but the elephant walk was a little more confusing, as she wasn’t much bigger than a minute. She had more dyed red hair than she had the head for. That hair seemed to be an entity unto itself, mounded and teased and red as blood. You could have shaved her like a sheep and knitted a sweater with all that hair, maybe have enough left over for at least one sock or, if not that, a change purse. Her face was dry-looking. She had a lot of makeup on it, as if she were trying to fill a ditch, or several. Her clothes were a little too young for her age, which was somewhere near to that of a mastodon that had survived major climate change but was wounded by it. She had on bright red tight jeans and a sleeveless blue shirt that showed hanging flesh like water wings under her arms. Her breasts were too big, or maybe they were too exposed; the tops of them stuck out of her push-up bra. They looked like aging melons with rot spots, which I supposed were moles or early cancer. “

The last few pages came as a shock but I breathed a sigh of relief when I learned that another Hap and Leonard book (Rusty Puppy) is on its way, and I’m looking forward to the premiere of Hap and Leonard on Sundance TV in March 2016.

Available to purchase via

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Review: Darkest Place by Jaye Ford

 

Title: Darkest Place

Author: Jaye Ford

Published: Random House Feb 2016

Read an Extract

Status: Read on February 08, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

I should have known better, being familiar with Jaye Ford’s previous novels. I picked up Darkest Place at 2am to read a few pages before bed and didn’t put it down til I finished the last page, just minutes before my husband’s alarm woke him for work at 5am.

After enduring years of guilt, heartbreak, and regret, Charlotte Townsend has finally found the strength to leave her past behind. In a new town, with a new apartment, and a new name, Carly has enrolled in college and is looking towards her future, but three days into her new life she wakes to find a stranger in her bedroom. When the police answer Carly’s call for help, they find no sign of the man and assure her it was likely a crime of opportunity. Though shaken by the intrusion Carly refuses to let the incident destroy her fledgling confidence…until then it happens again, and then again.

Darkest Place is an absorbing tale of psychological suspense. The tension builds slowly, gathering momentum until you realise you are holding your breath in anxious anticipation.

“She wants to scream. It’s building in her chest. Trapped there, scratching at her lungs as though her ribs are the bars holding it back. She hears breathing. Not her own. Deep and unhurried. It whispers across her face like a warm cloth. It turns her skin to ice. She lashes out. Hits, twists, kicks. She sees it in her mind, feels it in her muscles. But it doesn’t happen. She doesn’t move. Neither does he. She sees him now. A shape in the darkness. Above her, black and motionless. He is watching. She watches back. Fear roaring through her bones, pulse thumping in her ears. Her voice is wedged in her throat now and choking her. No. Something else is squeezing, pushing down, making blood pound in her face. Warm hand, hard fingers. She doesn’t want to see. Doesn’t want to feel. She shuts her eyes. Waits. “

Carly is a complex character, and given her emotionally fragility, I was never quite sure if I could trust her perception of events as the story progressed. The police certainly have their doubts about the reliability of her reports, and Carly’s psychiatrist offers a rational opinion that could explain her experiences, but I was sympathetic to her distress.

“She caught sight of herself in the mirror. Hair a mess, face tear-stained. Dark-ringed, pale, wild-eyed. And she spun away, the image burned onto her retinas. Distraught, panicked, confused. She looked like Charlotte. No, worse than that. She looked crazy.”

I have to admit I was ambivalent about the ending, though it works within the context of character and story, I didn’t find it wholly satisfying, though I can’t really reveal why I feel that way without the risk of spoilers. Nevertheless, there is closure and a sense of triumph and hope.

Darkest Place is Ford’s fifth novel and I would say her best to date. Clever, thrilling and gripping.

Available to purchase from

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Also by Jaye Ford reviewed at Book’d Out


Review: The Big Rewind by Libby Cudmore

 

Title: The Big Rewind

Author: Libby Cudmore

Published: William Morrow Feb 2016

Status: Read from February 02 to 03, 2016 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher/Edelweiss}

My Thoughts:

I couldn’t resist the premise of Libby Cudmore’s debut novel, The Big Rewind. I have a cracked vinyl case full of mix tapes, including the odd one or two given to me by ex-boyfriends that I have never been able to throw away, even though I haven’t had a working cassette player in more than a dozen years.

Wannabe music journalist Jett Bennet is rocked when she discovers the bloodied body of her neighbor and friend KitKat while dropping off a mis-delivered package containing a mix tape full of songs about love and heartbreak. Despite a lack of grounds, police suspicion falls on KitKat’s missing boyfriend Bronco, but Jett, who temps as a proofreader at a private investigation firm, speculates that the mysterious compiler of the mix tape may have motive, and with the help of her best friend, Sid, hunts for the sender.

The Big Rewind is a murder mystery and a love story. As Jett searches for the person responsible for KitKat’s murder, she reminisces about her romantic past, browsing her own collection of mix tapes from former lovers. On her mind is the one that got away -Catch, even as her feelings for best friend Sid begin to change.

“There isn’t a better feeling in the world-not an orgasm, not a first kiss, not even that glorious soaring sensation you get when those first few notes of a new song pierce your chest and fill your whole body with absolute bliss-than acknowledgement that your mix tape was not only received and played but enjoyed. It’s a dance of sorts, balancing songs you think the listener will love while trying to say everything that otherwise dries up in your throat before you can get out the words.”

I liked Jett, though given she is aged only in her mid twenties or so, her sense of nostalgia is a little excessive and her fixation on her lost loves is a little unhealthy. Her motovation for solving the murder is a little flimsy but she unpicks the mystery in a way that makes sense given her lack of experience.

The Big Rewind has a turn of the century hipster vibe what with Jett’s mentions of Trader Joe’s, French Press coffee makers, kale and pot brownies, and visits to vegan bakeries, strip joints, retro vinyl record stores, and basement clubs which is a little painful, but also kinda fun.

What I probably enjoyed most was Jett’s eclectic taste in music, dozens of songs mostly from the 1980’s are referenced throughout the novel, playing to mood and emotion.

The Big Rewind is a quick and easy read, quirky and fun.

Want a playlist to listen to while you read? You might like to start with the following songs mentioned:

Keep Me in Your Heart – Warren Zevon
What You Doing in Bombay – Tenpole Tudor
Simply – Sara Hickman
Champagne – July for Kings
Truly Madly Deeply – Savage Garden
Pure – Lightning Seeds
The Book I Read – Talking Heads
2 became 1 – Spice Girls
All for Love – Bryan Adams
She is My Sin – Nightwish
I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) – The Proclaimers
Bury My Lovely – October Projects
Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First) – John Mellencamp
Sunrise – Simply Red
Waiting for the Weekend – The Vapors

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