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

++++++

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: The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey

Title: The Satapur Moonstone {Purveen Mistry #2}

Author: Sujata Massey

Published: April 28th 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read May 2020, courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

As the only female solicitor in India, Purveen Mistry is uniquely placed to arbitrate a dispute between the mother and grandmother of the Satapur crown prince in The Satapur Moonstone, the second book in Sujata Massey’s engaging historical mystery series.

Temporarily acting as an agent of the British Raj, Purveen is tasked with traveling to the remote Satara mountains, southeast of Bombay, to make recommendations for the maharaja-to-be’s educational future. Purveen hopes to broker peace between the Dowager Maharani who insists that her grandson is to be educated within the palace as his brother and father were before him, and the prince’s mother who wants him to be educated in England, but the situation becomes more complicated when Maharani Mirabai confides she is concerned for her son’s safety.

Purveen has a knack for finding herself in the middle of intrigue, and in The Satapur Moonstone she quickly comes to agree that the life of the crown prince is at risk from someone in the palace. The mystery itself works well, and while it does build to an intense conclusion where Purveen finds her own life is at risk, I felt the pacing was off, with a very slow start.

Purveen is definitely out of her comfort zone – in the middle of the jungle, in the company of the local agent, Colin Sandringham, and among the acrimonious atmosphere of the palace – though she generally proves to be as dutiful and capable as ever, and I did think that perhaps at times she made some decisions that weren’t really in character. I found her unexpected connection with Colin to be quite intriguing and I’ll be interested to see if Massey builds on that in subsequent books.

As in A Murder at Malabar Hill, I found the social, political and cultural details of life in 1920’s India fascinating. The setting is a major strength of the novel, with the Satapur palace, made up of old and new and divided between the Maharini’s, reflecting the struggle of India between tradition and modernity, under British rule.

I enjoyed The Satapur Moonstone as much as I did Massey’s first book. Purveen is an appealing character, and the unique period and culture enrich the well-crafted storytelling. I hope the series continues.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

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

 

Also reviewed at Book’d Out by Sujata Massey

 

Review: Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen

Title: Please See Us

Author: Caitlin Mullen

Published: April 1st 2020, Gallery

Status: Read April 2020 courtesy Simon & Schuster Au

++++++

My Thoughts:

Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen is a haunting, heartbreaking psychological thriller.

“There is something bad in the air and in the water now, something rotten and wrong. A moral disease.”

Set in Atlantic City, once a popular tourist destination, crowded with vacationers, the famous boardwalk is now lined with boarded up store fronts, half empty casino’s, and strolling prostitutes. Mullen effortlessly evokes a once thriving town gone to seed, broiling in the July sun, edged by the boggy marshes where the bodies of a serial killer’s victims lie.

“There is a sisterhood among them, these women in the marsh. Each time he brings another one, they understand what she has seen.”

And though the unidentified victims, referred to as ‘Janes’ have a voice, Please See Us primarily unfolds from the perspectives of Ava aka Clara Voyant, a sixteen year old thief, grifter and boardwalk psychic experiencing fragmented visions she doesn’t understand, Lily Louten, who has reluctantly returned to Atlantic City to live with her mother after a devastating betrayal by her partner that also decimated her career, and Luis, a friendless deaf and mute janitor who sees, but cannot speak of the horrors he sees.

“He doesn’t know what it is about this city, the way it swallows up anything kind and good.”

The story is slow-burning but suspense laden with a layered plot as Clara and Lily are drawn into the orbit of a serial killer. The writing is evocative, even lyrical, though what it describes are bleak scenes of desperation, poverty, addiction, and violence. Please See Us focuses on the vulnerability of women, particularly to men who seek to exploit and control them.

“We talked about what it meant to be a woman, to be looked at all the time, judged and measured and punished in a thousand different ways every day…”

Gritty, dark and compelling Please See Us is an assured debut novel.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

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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

++++++

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: The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan

 


Title: The Good Turn (Cormac Reilly #3)

Author: Dervla McTiernan

Published: 24th February 2020, HarperCollins Au

Status: Read February 2020 courtesy HarperCollins/Netgalley

+++++++

My Thoughts:

One of the significant plot lines of the series so far is brought to a close in The Good Turn, the third book to feature Irish Garda Detective Cormac Reilly in Dervla McTiernan’s brilliant police procedural series, though not before Reilly nearly loses everything.

It begins when a young girl is abducted from a suburban street and Murphy’s refusal of resources to properly investigate leads Garda Peter Fisher to make a fatal error in judgement. As his supervising officer, Cormac is held responsible for Peter’s actions and suspended, while Peter, threatened with criminal charges, is banished to the small village station his estranged father runs on the Irish coast. Cormac is less worried about his own fate than restoring Peter’s reputation but it soon becomes clear the only way to do so is to take a stand against the corruption that infests not only his station, but the entire Galway police force.

McTiernan skilfully builds the tension as Cormac’s attempts to expose the conspiracy are repeatedly thwarted. A lesser man might simply walk away, as Emma, his girlfriend, encourages him to do, but Reilly simply can’t allow Murphy and his cronies to operate unchecked. The twists and turns of his struggle to bring his corrupt colleagues down, even when it seems inevitable that his twenty year career will end in ignominy, are thrilling.

Meanwhile Peter, resentful in exile, ignores his father’s advice to leave well enough alone when the details in a case of a double murder on the village outskirts don’t quite add up. I really enjoyed Peter’s character development as he is forced to make some difficult choices, and consider what type of police officer he wants to be.

McTiernan’s pacing of the concurrent story threads, of which there are several, is perfect, and the icy setting of a freezing Irish winter artfully reinforces the notion that both Cormac and Peter are ‘out in the cold’.

With it’s stellar characterisation, intricate plotting and vivid description, The Good Turn, like its predecessors, The Ruin and The Scholar, are a must read. I can’t wait for the next.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins Australia

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Review: Fifty-Fifty by Steve Cavanagh

 

Title: Fifty-Fifty {Eddie Flynn #5}

Author: Steve Cavanagh

Published: February 25th 2020, Orion

Status: Read February 2020, courtesy Hachette Au

++++++

My Thoughts:

I’ve had Steve Cavanagh on my TBR for a while as I was intrigued by the idea of a courtroom drama series featuring a conman-turned-lawyer. When I was assured Fifty-Fifty, the fifth book in the series to feature Eddie Flynn, could be read as a stand-alone I decided to just jump straight in, and I’m glad I did.

In Fifty-Fifty, Eddie finds himself embroiled in a high profile, complex murder case when two sisters accuse each other of the brutal murder of their father, former NYC Mayor Frankie Avellino. The evidence suggests either, or both, could be guilty. Eddie is convinced that his client, Sofia Avellino, is innocent. One woman is lying. One woman is a murderer. But which one?

I really enjoyed this clever, well paced, suspense laden novel. I generally don’t have any trouble predicting the guilty party in books such as these, but for almost the entire length of the story I truly felt either sister, Sofia or Alexandra, could be have been responsible for stabbing their father over 56 times.

I warmed to Eddie and his associates, Harper and Harry immediately, as well as his (not exactly but sort of) co-counsel, Kate Brooks and her investigator, Bloch, both of whom it seems will have a significant role in the series going forward.

Fifty-Fifty is sharp, smart and surprising. Even if I can’t find the time to read the first four books in the series, I’m looking forward to continuing with it.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

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

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Review: The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day

Title: The Lucky One

Author: Lori Radar-Day

Published: February 18th 2020, William Morrow

Status: Read February 2020, courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Lucky One by Lori Rader-Day is a twisty thriller of betrayal, murder, and dark family secrets.

Alice Fine has only vague memories of being kidnapped from her front yard as a toddler. Rescued within hours by her father, then a police officer, she has always considered herself one of the lucky ones to be reunited with her family, no harm done. Conscious of her good fortune, Alice uses her spare time to participate in the online Doe Network -a website which aims to identify missing persons- where one evening she unexpectedly comes across the face of her abductor. Wanting answers Alice, with the help of two other amateur websleuths, decides to learn more about him. When her search leads her to cross paths with Merrily Cruz, who is worried about her missing former stepfather, the pair realise they are both looking for the same man and the shocking truth about who he is will unravel their past, and their future.

The story unfolds from the alternating perspectives of Alice and Merrily, who seem to have almost nothing in common except for a tenuous connection to the missing man. Neither of them have any idea of the danger that will place them in as they begin to dig into his past in order to understand their own. To be honest I thought the characterisation overall was a little weak and sometimes inconsistent, particularly in relation to Alice, however I was interested in how Alice and Merrily would be affected as the truth was revealed.

The mystery is well plotted offering a few intriguing twists. I thought the pace was a little slow until the lives of Alice and Merrily intersected, but Rader-Day does effectively build tension, and I was engrossed in the unraveling lies, secrets, and betrayals. I thought the major twist was unique and unpredictable, leading to a satisfying conclusion.

With its original premise, I thought The Lucky One was a decent thriller.

++++++

Available from William Morrow

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Review: Riptides by Kirsten Alexander

Title: Riptides

Author: Kirsten Alexander

Published: February 4th 2020, Bantam

Status: Read February 2020 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Au

+++++++

My Thoughts:

Riptides by Kirsten Alexander begins with the most compelling first chapter I’ve read in a long a while.

“I wake when Abby shouts. She reaches across me and grabs the steering wheel. A car horn brays. White beams flare at us and then pitch to the right. For an instant, a rump of blue metal shines in our headlights.”

Siblings Abby and Charlie are driving to their father’s farm in rural Queensland when a moment of inexcusable negligence results in a young, heavily pregnant driver being forced off the road and into a tree. Shocked when they realise the woman is dead, and too scared of the repercussions for reporting the incident, Abby and Charlie drive away, vowing to pretend it never happened. Perhaps that would have been possible, but then they learn the dead woman, Skye, was not only the mother of a five year old boy now left in the clutches of her abusive ex-boyfriend, she was also their father’s fiancée, and the child she was carrying their half-sibling. Forced to bear witness to the consequences of their act, Abbey and Charlie begin to feel like they are drowning.

Set largely in Brisbane over a period of four months during the mid 1970’s, Alexander firmly establishes a sense of time and place. The city floods, and then bakes in the summer heat, police corruption is rife under a Premier who heaps scorn on ‘feminists, fags, and foreigners’ while privately profiting off shady land deals. Nobody thinks twice about driving after having a few, or more, drinks.

The narrative of Riptides alternates between that of Abby and Charlie. While both in their early to mid twenties, the brother and sister lead very different lives, allowing Alexander to represent the soiciocultural schism of the era. Charlie leads a carefree existence in Bali, running a noodle bar with friends in between surfing, drinking, and partying. Abby, married to an investigative television reporter, is a suburban, stay-at-home mother of their three children, though she dreams of being a lawyer. The characters are well rounded and nuanced as they deal not only with the aftermath of the accident, but also the fallout of the stress on their relationships.

Alexander effectively builds tension as the truth about the incident nears the surface, though I have to admit I was somewhat disappointed by several too-neat coincidences and connections that drove the plot.

Though Riptides is categorised as crime fiction, it is a multilayered novel examining several themes. I appreciated Alexander’s thoughtful exploration of the moral questions regarding Charlie’s and Abby’s decisions. In the main however, the book centers around family and relationships, particularly exploring how far those bonds can stretch before they snap.

A well written and thought-provoking novel, Riptides is sure to sweep you away.

++++++

Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

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Review: The Girl with the Gold Bikini by Lisa Walker

Title: The Girl With the Gold Bikini

Author: Lisa Walker

Published: February 1st 2020, Wakefield Press

Status: Read January 2020 courtesy Wakefield Press

++++++

My Thoughts:

Lisa Walker delivers a sharp-witted, delightful romp with her latest novel, The Girl With the Gold Bikini.

Having deferred her law degree and forgone a backpacking tour around Asia with her best friends, Olivia Grace is fulfilling a childhood dream by working as a private investigator-in-training on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Working for her entrepreneurial (and attractive) former neighbour, she is disappointed to be mostly running internet searches, rather than saving the day like her idols Princess Leia, Nancy Drew, and Veronica Mars, so when Rosco finally assigns her a case, following a suspected cheating husband, she’s determined to prove her worth.

Olivia soon finds herself careering between the Gold Coast and Byron Bay with a handbag full of disguises, including a gold bikini, filched from her grandmother’s closet, in an effort to ascertain just what the husband, a Byron Bay yogi, is up to and what it has to do with speed dating, a chain of McSushi restaurants, a group of marine life activists, and a missing surfing champion. It’s a fun, at times madcap, mystery adventure as Olivia gets herself tied up in knots -literally – trying to solve the case, but it has the occasional serious edge with reference to an assault, workplace sexual harassment, and racism.

Walker’s quirky sense of humour will be familiar to those who have read her previously published books. Short chapters contribute to the fast pace, and the mystery is well plotted with a satisfying conclusion.

Olivia is an engaging protagonist, only eighteen she is full of youthful optimism and confidence. Walker alludes to the fact that Olivia isn’t the body ‘ideal’, but she’s generally unbothered by it, (and rocks that gold bikini as a Gold Coast meter maid regardless). Olivia’s crush on her boss, and childhood friend Rosco, has an endearing awkwardness to it, and introduces a light element of romance. I enjoyed the banter, and the ‘insider’ references to Star Wars the pair share.

The Girl with the Gold Bikini is an entertaining and witty novel, suitable for both YA and adult audiences, and a terrific summer read.

++++++

Available from Wakefield Press

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Also by Lisa Walker reviewed at Book’d Out

@Goodreads

 

Review: A Murder at Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

 

Title: A Murder on Malabar Hill {Perveen Mistry #1}

Author: Sujata Massey

Published: January 7th 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read January 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

A Murder on Malabar Hill is an engaging historical mystery novel, the first in a new series from Sujata Massey, which has won several awards, most notably the Mary Higgins Clarke Award (2019), and the Agatha Award for the Best Historical Novel (2018) (under the title of The Widows of Malabar Hill).

The series features Perveen Massey, a young woman in her mid twenties who is India’s first female solicitor, working alongside her father, a respected lawyer. Massey draws inspiration for her lead character from two ‘real life’ women, Cornelia Sorabji of Poona who was the first woman to read law at Oxford and sit the British law exam in 1892, and Mithan Tata Lam of Bombay, who was the first woman admitted to the Bombay Bar in 1923.

The story shifts between two timelines, one of which fleshes out Perveen’s personal history, from her family background, to her experiences at Oxford University, to her short-lived marriage.

The second timeline focuses on the murder at Malabar Hill, an upscale neighbourhood in Bombay, in the household of three Purdahnashin widows. When their wealthy husband, Omar Farid, dies, his wives, Razia, Sakina, and Mumtaz, and their children who choose to live a secluded life (known as Purdah), are at the mercy of their household agent, Mr. Mukri. While finalising Farid’s estate Perveen notices some discrepancies and as a female solicitor she is uniquely placed to speak to the widows directly to discover what they understand of their rights. Immediately following her first visit, which infuriates Mukri, the agent is murdered, and Perveen fears the women could be next. I enjoyed the mystery, which has a cozy feel and a ‘locked room’ aspect, though it wasn’t terribly difficult to solve.

The physical setting of A Murder in Malabar Hill – primarily the wealthy neighbourhoods of Bombay in the 1920’s – is interesting, but it was what I learned about the city’s social, political and cultural milieu I found fascinating. Massey touches on a number of issues such as the varied religious beliefs within Indian society, including Parsi (Zoroastrianism), Muslim, and Hindi; the rights, or lack thereof, of women; and the conflict surrounding English rule, as well as specific cultural practices such as arranged marriages, dowry contracts, and Purdah. The details seem authentic and are woven neatly into the plot.

Well crafted and appealing, highlighting an interesting historical period and an exotic (to me) culture, A Murder at Malabar Hill is an enjoyable mystery novel, and I look forward to reading the next.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD $29.99

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

 

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