Review: The Lost Boys by Faye Kellerman

 

 

Title: The Lost Boys {Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus #26}

Author: Faye Kellerman

Published: 17th January 2020, William Morrow

Status: Read January 2020 courtesy William Morrow

++++++

My Thoughts:

I thought I’d missed no more than a handful of the Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series but this is Kellerman’s 26th book featuring the couple and I’ve only read just over half, the last of which was book #22, Murder 101. Thankfully however this seems to matter little, aided in part because Kellerman ages her characters in real time.

In The Lost Boys, Decker and his partner Tyler are called in when a man disappears while on a field trip with a group from a local care home. In searching the woods nearby, a body is found in a shallow grave, but this man has lain there for at least a decade.

With his customary doggedness, Decker attacks both investigations. The missing man is his initial priority, with growing concerns that he has been targeted by because of his parent’s wealth. When blood is found at the home of a nurse that may be connected, Decker fears the worst, but despite his best efforts the case soon stalls. Unexpectedly Kellerman employs a cliffhanger of sorts in this instance, though the missing man is eventually located, the circumstance spawns another mystery.

In the second investigation, the remains prove to belong to one of three young college men who disappeared while on a camping trip. The damage to his skeleton suggests that he had been shot, and Decker wonders if he is looking for the bodies of his two companions, or if the two men may have killed the third and gone on the run. Investigating a ten year old cold case is a difficult task, but thorough police work results in an important break. In general I liked how this case played out, however one flaw I had difficulty overlooking was an emphasis on a shovel being out of place on a camping trip. Perhaps Faye has never been camping because I wouldn’t consider it at all strange that campers have a shovel, a digging implement is essential when there are no bathrooms.

While Decker is busy with police work, Rina is offering moral support to their foster son, Gabe whose biological mother has suddenly returned to the States with Gabe’s half siblings. It’s clear Terry is in trouble and Gabe is torn when she asks for his help, but it seems inevitable he will be drawn into the mess she has got herself into.

With this, and the unanswered questions of the first investigation, Kellerman has laid the foundation the next book in the series, though I think it’s clear that it’s end is creeping closer. Peter is seventy or thereabouts and is making plans for his retirement from the force, but there are hints, I think, that Tyler could take up the mantle.

Kellerman offers up two well paced, and involving mysteries in The Lost Boys, but as a fan it’s the opportunity to catch up with Peter, Rina and their family that I enjoy the most.

++++++

Available from William Morrow Books

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

Review: The Last Truehart by Darry Fraser

Title: The Last Truehart

Author: Darry Fraser

Published: 2nd December 2020, Mira Au

Status: Read December 2020 courtesy Harlequin Au

“A woman alone and a charismatic private detective are caught up in a dangerous quest to discover her true identity in this thrilling historical adventure romance set in 19th century Victoria, from a bestselling Australian author.

1898, Geelong, Victoria. Stella Truehart is all alone in the world. Her good-for-nothing husband has died violently at the hands of an unknown assailant. Her mother is dead, her father deserted them before she was born, and now her kindly Truehart grandparents are also in their graves.

Private detective Bendigo Barrett has been tasked with finding Stella. He believes his client’s intentions are good, but it is evident that someone with darker motives is also seeking her. For her own part Stella is fiercely independent, but as danger mounts she agrees to work with Bendigo and before long they travel together to Sydney to meet his mysterious client where they discover more questions than answers.

What role do a stolen precious jewel and a long-ago US Civil War ship play in Stella’s story? Will sudden bloodshed prevent the resolution of the mystery and stand in the way of her feelings for Bendigo? It is time, at last, for the truth to be revealed..”

++++++

My Thoughts:

Captivating adventure romance set in 19th century Australia! Full review to come…

++++++

Available from Harlequin Australia at HarperCollins

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

Review: Hideout by Jack Heath

Title: Hideout {Timothy Blake #3}

Author: Jack Heath

Published: 1st December 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read December 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

“Is it bad to kill people who kill people who only kill bad people?”

Regrettably, I didn’t have the opportunity to read Hangman or Hunter so Hideout is my first introduction to Jack Heath’s series featuring FBI consultant and cannibal, Timothy Blake.

Being unfamiliar with the protagonist’s back story didn’t seem to matter as such, Heath establishes Timothy’s state of mind as he stands with a hammer hidden in his back pocket ready to kill, and eat, the man who answers the door. Unfortunately, his target, Fred, is not alone and Timothy is forced to think fast when he finds himself in a nest full of psychopaths. The house, in rural Texas, hosts the members of the ‘Guard’, a group that abducts ‘deserving’ people (abusers, paedophiles, racists, terrorists, thieves etc) and then tortures them to death to entertain a dark web audience. Taking on the identity of a valuable contributor, Timothy needs to pretend he is one of them until he can figure out how kill them all.

Blake is one of the more unusual protagonists I’ve encountered, his desire for eating human flesh is undoubtedly repugnant, and yet he has a conscience and even a moral code that is respectable. Though he is intelligent, resourceful, and even brave, Blake is convinced he is a monster. Heath raises some interesting ethical questions when he compares Blake’s brand of monster with the monstrous behaviour of Fred and his cohorts.

There are some clever and intriguing twists that raises the stakes for Blake as the novel progresses. While struggling to maintain his cover, he has the captives in the barn to protect, the identity of an intruder to uncover, the puzzle of a murdered Guard to solve, and his lover to save. Be aware there are some unpleasantly explicit moments in the book, not unexpected, but which serve to enhance the tension and underscore the action.

Despite the violence and suspense, Hideout is also entertaining, studded with sly, dark humour, and quirky riddles which head each chapter. I really enjoyed this well paced, unique crime thriller, and hope to read more.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

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

Review: The Lost and the Damned by Olivier Norek

Title: The Lost and The Damned {Banlieues Trilogy #1}

Author: Olivier Norek (Translated by Nick Caistor)

Published: 12th November 2020, MacLehose Press

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy Quercus/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

First published in his native France as Code 93 in 2013, The Lost and the Damned by Olivier Norek is the first book of the Banlieues Trilogy to be translated into English (by Nick Caistor). Introducing homicide police Capitaine Victor Coste, Norek draws on his twenty five years of experience as a lieutenant in the investigations department in one of the toughest precincts in Paris in this gritty police procedural.

During the early hours of the morning in a derelict warehouse on the banks of the Canal de L’Ourcq, the body of a large black man is found. To Capitaine Victor Coste it appears he has been shot three times in the chest, but not before he was tortured and his testicles were crudely removed. The body is transferred to the forensic morgue, but as Dr Lea Marquant makes her first cuts, the man lurches from her autopsy table. Quickly identified as a local drug dealer, Bébé Coulibaly, the bloody, bullet pierced sweater he was wearing indicates that there is likely another victim to be found, and tests suggest it’s Franck Samoy, a drug addict. Tracing his mobile phone leads Coste and his team, Ronan, Sam and rookie Johanna, to a vacant villa where they find the badly burned body of Samoy on a folding plastic chair. It’s clear the two unusual cases are linked, and Coste suspects they may have something to do with the anonymous notes he has received directing him to the files of two murdered woman. As Coste investigates the possibilities, a troubling connection to his recently departed lieutenant and an irregularity in police records develops, and he finds himself caught in a web of conspiracy, corruption, and murder.

The Lost and the Damned is a well plotted crime novel that leads the reader through the seedy outskirts of Paris and into the enclaves of the wealthy and powerful, exposing the devious machinations of authority that has triggered the rage of a serial killer. Though it’s a little dark and brutal, with a touch of cynicism, it’s offset by sly humour, and Coste’s earnest search for answers. Though I’m not familiar with the procedures of the French gendarme, the actions of Coste and his team during the investigation seem authentic, as does the motivation and behaviour of the killer.

Coste is an interesting character, principled but not uncompromising, he is a dedicated detective who believes in the integrity of policing. He has a somewhat tortured back story, and as such lives alone, though Dr Lea Marquant piques his interest. Coste’s colleagues generally admire him, and his team are as determined to have his back, as he is to protect theirs. Norek provides a basic sketch of the Groupe 1 members, enough to make sense of their role, though perhaps not quite enough yet to determine who they are.

Nick Caistor deserves praise for his translation which never feels stilted or clumsy, it’s always a concern that nuance or tone will be affected, but I noticed none of that here. I sincerely hope that the second and third books in the trilogy will also be made available in English.

I found The Lost and Damned to be an engrossing and satisfying police procedural I’d definitely recommend to fans of the genre.

++++++

Available from MacLehose Press

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

Review: The Searcher by Tana French

Title: The Searcher

Author: Tana French

Published: 5th November 2020, Viking UK

Read: November 2020 courtesy PenguinUK/Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Searcher is a compelling stand alone mystery from Irish author Tana French, best known for her Dublin Murder Squad series.

Upon the end of his marriage and his retirement from a twenty-five career in the Chicago P.D., Cal Hooper decides to move to a rural village in the west of Ireland where he intends to do little else than to renovate his dilapidated farmhouse, fish from the stream, and walk the mountains. He finds the relaxed pace of his new life, enhanced by a regular craic with his neighbour, Mart, and the occasional drink in the local pub, suits him, though he misses his adult daughter. But Cal can’t quite shake the habits of a lifetime and when thirteen-year-old Trey Reddy begs for his help, he reluctantly agrees to look into the disappearance of the desperate kid’s older brother.

While it’s true that this is not a fast paced thriller, I was nevertheless drawn in, and held captive by the compelling characterisation, atmosphere and plot of The Searcher.

The first half of the book focuses largely on establishing and developing the characters that play an important role in the story. I liked Cal, a burnt-out ex-cop who doesn’t want, or need, much. He’s fine being on his own but not defensive about it, as shown by his willingness to indulge his garrulous neighbour, Mart. His patience with Trey, who is a smart, fierce kid from a poor family with a bad reputation, is admirable, and the relationship French develops between Cal and Trey is a true strength of the novel.

The community of Ardnakelty is a character in itself. I was impressed with French’s ability to effortlessly evoke the settings within her novel, from Noreen’s general store and Sean Og’s pub, to Cal’s isolated, ramshackle farmhouse surrounded by fields, and woods, and peat-bog mountains. There is a great deal lurking below the surface of this rural idyll, and its seemingly straightforward farming folk, with surprises that break through when least expected.

Trey’s brother, Brendan, has been missing for several months by the time Trey asks Cal for his help. No one else seems concerned by the absence of the nineteen-year-old, the assumption being he left voluntarily, either because he’d had enough of life at home, or perhaps to avoid some sort of trouble. Cal is instinctively wary of pushing too hard for information as his investigation begins, but in such an insular community his interest is immediately noted, and as Cal tugs at the threads that will unravel the mystery of Brendan’s fate, he draws trouble to his doorstep.

With its escalating tension, unexpected twists, and flashes of violence, I found the plot to be wholly satisfying, but it’s less the action, and more the complex and nuanced behaviours of the characters that are truly captivating. Unfolding in evocative prose with an Irish lilt, at a deliberate, absorbing pace The Searcher is a compulsive read.

+++++++

Available from Penguin UK

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

Review: The Shearer’s Wife by Fleur McDonald

Title: The Shearer’s Wife {Detective Dave Burrows}

Author: Fleur McDonald

Published: 3rd November, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Shearer’s Wife is the fourth Australian rural mystery novel by Fleur McDonald to feature Detective Dave Burrows, and the seventh in which he appears, but can nevertheless be read as a stand-alone.

The Shearer’s Wife is divided between two timelines, the first of which is set in the present day. When the Australian Federal Police arrive in Barker to arrest an elderly resident for drug distribution, Dave and his colleague Senior Constable Jack Higgins are convinced that Essie must be acting under duress. Warned off from interfering in the case, Dave asks Jack’s girlfriend, journalist Zara Ellison, to investigate.

Zara, while trying to ignore her symptoms of PTSD, throws herself into the case, looking for a reason Essie would risk the well-being of her young granddaughter by dealing drugs, and in doing so also uncovers a forty year old secret.

The second timeline tells the story of itinerant shearer, Ian Kelly and his very pregnant wife, Rose, who are heading to a station outside of Barker in 1980. When Rose goes into labour prematurely and gives birth to twins, she insists the new family remain in town but, unwilling to settle down, Ian chooses to leave them behind.

I enjoyed the pacing of both timelines, though Essie’s situation is the more compelling of the two storylines. The clues are provided early on to unravel the mystery of Essie’s motive, which is not unexpected, but does result in some moments of suspense, and a twist that endangers the lives of several of the characters is filled with tension. The fate of Rose and her family ties in at the end, providing a moving and uplifting conclusion.

I really like the character of Dave, an ethical, empathetic man who has a wonderful relationship with his wife, Kim. As a police officer in a small rural South Australian town, Dave occasionally finds himself walking a fine line between the professional and personal, but he is incensed when accused by the AFP of being myopic. He’s willing to risk his career in order to see justice is done, but not break the law.

One of the main issues explored in The Shearer’s Wife is the effects of PTSD. After the trauma of losing her father in a horrific car accident, and then her brother from a brief battle with cancer just six months previously (in Starting From Now) Zara is struggling, but unwilling to admit it. McDonald’s portrayal of Zara’s emotional state is thoughtful and sensitive, and addresses the general reluctance of people to seek help.

An engaging and entertaining novel, I spent an afternoon pleasantly immersed in The Shearer’s Wife, and I look forward to the next book to feature Dave Burrows and the community of Barker.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Also by Fleur McDonald reviewed at Book’d Out 

Review: Death in Daylesford by Kerry Greenwood


Title: Death in Daylesford {Phryne Fisher #21}

Author: Kerry Greenwood

Published: 3rd November 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

I have a confession to make. Despite adoring Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman series, I have tried, more than once, to read the Phryne Fisher series but never gotten past Cocaine Blues. To be fair, that was some time ago and at least a decade or two before Miss Fishers Murder Mysteries made its debut on TV, a show I’ve now binge-watched in it’s entirety on at least three (or five) occasions. So when I learnt that a new Phryne Fisher mystery was being published, I absolutely had to to get my hands on it. I was a teeny bit apprehensive, but thankfully I loved it.

In Death in Daylesford, Miss Phryne Fisher, accompanied by Dot, travels to country Victoria at the invitation of a war veteran who hopes to win her patronage for the spa retreat he runs for shell-shocked returned soldiers. Accommodated near Daylesford, Phryne is looking forward to a week of leisure, but almost immediately finds herself hunting a brazen murderer, three missing women, and a kidnapper, despite the objections of the oafish local officer.

Meanwhile in Melbourne, with Detective Inspector Jack Robinson on special assignment, Detective Sargent Hugh Collins’ lazy temporary supervisor is choosing the path of least resistance to solve a murder. Taking matters into his own hands, Hugh drafts Miss Fisher’s wards, Jane, Ruth, and Tinker, who are in the care of Mr and Mrs B, to help him, when it is revealed the victim is a school friend of the girls.

That makes four mysteries which Greenwood deftly develops in Death In Daylesford, skilfully laying red herrings and clues. Each of them are interesting in their own right, though the most intriguing relates to the very public murders of three young men. Deducing the perpetrator and their motive is a rare challenge for Phryne, even though the deaths occur right in front of her. My early theory was proved right, but there was a twist that took me by surprise.

I couldn’t help but visualise the actors from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries as the story unfolded, but even if you are entirely unfamiliar with the series in any form, the characters have a strong presence. Phryne is her usual unconventional, stylish and seductive self, and Dot, her stalwart, beige-clad companion. Much is made of a barmaids beauty, her suitor’s brawn, the haggard appearance of a battered wife, and a Captain eager to please.

Greenwood’s writing is wonderfully descriptive, with the era coming across in all the details of the setting and styling, she excels at showing, not telling. I’m a fan of the Phryne’s quick wit, and dry observations, the author has a great sense of timing, and and an ear for natural dialogue.

Fans of the Phryne Fisher book series are sure to delight in this newest mystery, published seven years after the last, as should those viewers mourning the possible demise of the TV series. Entertaining and clever, Death in Daylesford is a charming, and satisfying read.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

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

Review: Consolation by Garry Disher

Title: Consolation {Paul Hirschhausen #3}

Author: Garry Disher

Published: 3rd November 2020, Text Publishing

Status: Read October 2020 courtesy Text Publishing/Netgalley

+++++

My Thoughts:

Consolation is the third excellent, compelling crime novel by Garry Disher to feature Constable Paul Hirschhausen, a country copper in rural South Australia.

It’s winter in Tiverton, there is frost on the ground and snow on Razorback ridge and as Hirsch patrols the quiet streets in the freezing Wednesday dawn he is ruminating on the behaviour of the ‘snow dropper’ stealing the underthings of elderly women from clothesline’s all over the district. Arriving at the one-man police station that is barely warmer inside than out, a request for a welfare check first leads Hirsch to discover a severely neglected young girl, next he is called to calm an irate parent at the local primary school, and then made aware of gossip that suggests a local big shot is in financial trouble. Thursday, Hirsch’s regular long range westerly patrol is interrupted by an environmental control officer wanting an escort to inspect a local property, and an accusation is made regarding the exertion of undue influence against an elderly lady. On Friday, everything goes to hell, and Paul finds himself dealing with a manhunt, a stalker, a missing man, Irish conmen, a dead woman, all while managing two stations, and his relationship.

There is a lot happening in Consolation but Disher manages the multiple threads skilfully, connecting seemingly disparate people and events in a manner that feels credible where any single disturbance can create a ripple effect within a small community. There’s plenty of well timed action that drives the story at a fast pace but without sacrificing suspense, or emotion.

A country copper is more than just an enforcer of the law, Paul is often called upon to act, among other things, as a mediator, a counselor, a confessor, and a jack-of-all-trades. The various events in Consolation requires Hirsch to draw on all his skills to keep the peace within his community, and he is often worried he won’t be able to do it right, despite evidence to the contrary. Paul’s humility and integrity contrast with that of several of the visiting officers in the novel who are variously ego-driven or indifferent.

The setting is recognisably Australian, Disher’s prose effortlessly evokes the environment, character, and residents of Tiverton and surrounds. The laconic dialogue and dry wit is familiar and authentic.

This series has become a firm favourite of mine, Consolation is as deserving of five stars as its predecessors Bitter Wash Road (US title: Hell To Pay) and Peace. If I was pressed to recommend just one Australian rural crime series, this would be it.

++++++

Available from Text Publishing

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Giveaway & Excerpt: Trust by Chris Hammer

I’m delighted to share with you an excerpt of Trust from bestselling Australian author Chris Hammer, courtesy Allen & Unwin.

The third book to feature journalist Martin Scarsden following on from Scrublands and Silver, I posted a review last week, describing Trust as gripping, dynamic, and thrilling.

Read the prologue below, and then scroll down to enter to win a copy of Trust.

If the file does not scroll please click here to read the Prologue

GIVEAWAY

Courtesy Allen & Unwin

I have one copy of

Trust by Chris Hammer

to giveaway to one lucky Australian resident.

ENTRY CLOSED

Congratulations M Tyack

*PLEASE NOTE: Only Australian residents are eligible to enter*

Entries close November 8th, 2020

The giveaway will be random drawing on November 9th and the winner will be notified by email within 48 hours

**********

Review: Black Cloud by Sandi Wallace

 


Title: Black Cloud {Georgie Harvey and John Franklin #4}

Author: Sandi Wallace

Published: 22nd July 2020, Gumshoe Press

Status: Read October 2020 courtesy the author

++++++

My Thoughts:

Black Cloud is the fourth book in Sandi Wallace’s crime fiction series featuring journalist Georgie Harvey and police officer John Franklin.

Wallace has been on my radar for quite some time, so I welcomed the invitation to read and review Black Cloud. Had I the time, I would have read the previous novels in the series as I think familiarity with the characters would have enhanced my reading experience, nevertheless the plot of this book works as a standalone.

Set around Daylesford in rural Victoria, Black Cloud begins with a bang, literally, as a family home explodes. Among the first responders is John Franklin who is horrified to discover two of his colleagues, and friends, were caught in the blast while carrying out a routine welfare check. One is dead, and the other badly injured, so too is a community nurse and when the blaze if finally brought under control, the bodies of all four members of the Murray family are discovered inside the home.

From its dramatic opening scenes, Black Cloud unfolds at a fast pace as the investigation into the explosion begins in earnest. Franklin exhausts himself, physically and emotionally, as he interviews the family, neighbours, and friends of the deceased, searching for evidence that may explain the tragedy.

Georgie is equally distressed by the disaster, and though distracted somewhat by her ongoing investigation related to the accidental drowning of a local farmer she considers suspicious, she makes some inquiries of her own. Unexpectedly she uncovers a link between both incidents, but she needs Franklin’s help to determine if it’s simply more than a coincidence.

Franklin and Georgie are romantic partners, but this incident places strain on their relationship with Franklin avoiding Georgie as a way of avoiding his own emotions. Wallace’s portrayal of Franklin’s grief is nuanced and authentic, as is Georgie’s concern for his well-being, and hurt feelings from being shut out. The lack of communication also affects how the case plays out, as it’s only by exchanging information that the tragedy can be solved.

With its intriguing storyline and appealing characters, Black Cloud is a great read. I’m determined to get my hands on Sandi Wallace’s backlist, and I’d recommend those who enjoy rural Australian crime fiction do the same.

+++++++

Available from your Amazon store AU I US I UK or Book Depository 

Or purchase a signed paperback from Sandi Wallace

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