Review: A Madness of Sunshine by Nalini Singh

 

 

Title: A Madness of Sunshine

Author: Nalini Singh

Published: December 3rd 2019, Hachette Au

Status: Read December 2019, courtesy Hachette Au

Read an Excerpt

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My Thoughts:

Best known for her popular paranormal romance series, Guild Hunters (of which I’ve read a few), A Madness of Sunshine is Nalini Singh’s first published foray into the genre of contemporary thriller/suspense.

In need of familiarity after heartbreaking loss, Anahera Rawiri returns from London to Golden Cove, the close-knit community on New Zealand’s West coast where she grew up. It seems to have changed little during her near decade long absence, but the town’s equilibrium is shattered when a beloved young local woman disappears while out jogging.

Will Gallagher, the sole police officer stationed in Golden Cove, is quick to launch a search for the missing teen, and when it proves fruitless, must consider that a local is responsible for Miriama’s disappearance. As an outsider, Will finds himself relying on Anahera to help unearth the secrets that may reveal a killer hiding in their midst.

A Madness of Sunshine offers more than one intriguing mystery, Miriama is not the first young woman to vanish in Golden Cove, around fifteen years previously three female hikers also disappeared, their bodies never found. Will is compelled to explore the possibility of a link, though Singh provides several red herrings to distract the reader as Will investigates, shedding light on the darkness of the past, and the present.

Anahera and Will are both complex, well developed characters, with interesting backgrounds. They share scars from life changing trauma, and have an attraction that is almost instinctual. I liked the relationship that developed between them, though it has only a minor role in the story.

The residents of Golden Cove are representative of a small town, with long-standing, often complicated, relationships. The author deftly includes elements of Maori culture within the story, communicating a sense of place without any awkwardness. Singh’s description of the isolated town and its wild environs are also wonderfully evocative, underscoring the vaguely disquieting atmosphere that intensifies as the plot unfolds.

A well crafted novel offering a compelling mystery and engaging characters, I really enjoyed A Madness of Sunshine.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

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Review: The Strangers We Know by Pip Drysdale

 

 

Title: The Strangers We Know

Author: Pip Drysdale

Published: December 1sr 2019, Simon & Schuster Australia

Status: Read December 2019, courtesy Simon & Schuster/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

“Nothing is ever as it seems, is it?”

When Charlie Carter catches a glimpse of a man who looks like her husband on a dating app, she desperately wants to believe she is mistaken. Since their marriage eighteen months previously, Oliver has been the perfect husband…hardworking, attentive and loving, and she wants his unequivocal denial to be enough.

“You see, that’s the problem with trust issues: eventually you find you can’t trust yourself either.”

But it isn’t. To allay her lingering suspicions, Charlie sets a trap and is devastated when her worst fear is realised. Her marriage is over.

“And that should have been it: rock bottom. A cheating husband and broken dreams. Fair is fair. But no. Life was just getting warmed up.”

Fast-paced with some surprising twists, The Strangers We Know is an entertaining contemporary thriller from Pip Drysdale.

I really enjoyed the plot, and I’m loathe to spoil the surprises it offers. There is an unpredictability that is compelling, if not entirely credible, and I easily read it straight through.

Unfolding from Charlie’s first person perspective, Drysdale exploits the character’s profession as an actress in the structure of the novel, it’s easy to imagine this novel being adapted for the screen. It has a modern sensibility which will appeal to a younger audience, and a classic whodunnit twist to satisfy mystery fans.

Caught in a web of deceit and betrayal, and unsure who to trust, Charlie doesn’t always make smart decisions, which can be frustrating, but her naivety is also relatable, which makes her an appealing character. She is indubitably the star of this novel.

“But here’s the thing with life: You have to get through it. There’s no choice. Eventually, even in real life, the heroine has to win out in the end.”

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

Also available from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Now You See Them by Elly Griffiths

 

Title: Now You See Them {Magic Men #5}

Author: Elly Griffiths

Published: December 3rd 2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Status: Read November 2019, courtesy Netgalley/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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My Thoughts:

I was delighted for the opportunity to continue with Elly Griffiths’s mystery series featuring police detective Edgar Stephens and magician Max Mephisto In Now You See Them, the fifth book of the Magic Men (or Stephens & Mephisto) series.

Unexpectedly, eleven years have passed since the events of The Vanishing Box. In the interim, Edgar Stephens has been promoted to Superintendent, and is happily married to (former Sergeant) Emma, with three young children, while Max Mephisto has become an American movie star and married a Hollywood starlet, with whom he has two young children. The pair are reunited in Brighton at the funeral of Stan Parks, aka The Great Diablo, but the separation has put some strain on their friendship, and both are too busy with their own interests to properly reconnect. Max is negotiating a role in a movie to be filmed in England with the country’s hottest teen idol, Bobby Hambro, while attempting to spend time with his grown daughter, Ruby, who is now the star of a popular television series, and Edgar is overseeing a search for the runaway teenage daughter of a local MP, and preparing for the May Bank Holiday, during which large groups of warring Mods and Rockers are expected to clash on the Brighton foreshore.

Suspecting that the missing teen is simply skiving to stalk Bobby Hambro at his London hotel with all the other young ‘Bobby Soxers’, DI Bob Willis, and WPC Meg Connolly are tasked with making inquiries, but Samantha Collins, a reporter at the local paper, thinks otherwise. She believes that Rhonda Miles is the third of three teenage girls who may have been abducted, and approaches Emma with her suspicions.

Emma, who has become increasingly restless in her role as only a housewife and mother, sees merit in the theory, and eagerly presents it to her husband, hoping she can perhaps be of help in the investigation. She’s hurt when Edgar barely acknowledges it, and so with the support of Sam, somewhat naively does some investigating of her own, children in tow.

The questions surrounding the fate of the missing girls is the core mystery in Now You See Them. The police have few leads and no real evidence of the connection, and Griffiths makes the most of the uncertainty, but it’s not until Ruby goes missing that any real urgency is introduced into the plot.

Now You See Them is far more about the characters than the plot though, Max and Emma in particular are at a crossroads of a type. I felt that Edgar was sidelined somewhat, but as a Superintendent he is no longer a hands on detective, so that makes sense. I enjoyed the time leap in character growth much more than I expected, and I also liked the introduction of the new WPC.

One of the strengths of this series remains its sense of time and place, the jump from the mid 50’s to the mid 60’s is deftly accomplished with Griffiths illustrating the cultural shifts in various ways.

Now You See Them can probably be read as a stand-alone but the experience will be much richer if the reader is familiar with the series. I enjoyed both the story, and reconnecting with the characters. Interestingly Griffiths seems to have ended with a hint of a new direction for this series that may see Emma and Sam in the forefront.

++++++

Available from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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Also by Elly Griffiths reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic

 

Title: Resurrection Bay {Caleb Zelic #1}

Author: Emma Viskic

Published: September 1st 2015, Echo Publishing

Status: Read November 2019

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My Thoughts:

Resurrection Bay is the first book in a thrilling Australian crime fiction series by Emma Viskic featuring Caleb Zelic.

After Caleb Zelic receives a panicked text from his best mate, Senior Constable Gary Marsden, he is horrified to discover his friend has been savagely murdered. The police first seem eager to place the blame at Caleb’s feet, suggesting that the side work Gary has been doing for the security and investigation company Caleb operates with his partner, ex-cop Frankie Reynolds, is dodgy, and when that fails to pan out, instead insinuate that Gary was a bent cop who got in over his head. Caleb is determined to prove the police wrong and find whomever is responsible for the brutal crime, but in the attempt he, and the woman he loves, becomes the target of a dangerous criminal conspiracy.

Moving between urban and regional Victoria, Resurrection Bay is fast paced with plenty of action. Caleb suspects a link between Gary’s death and a recent warehouse theft, but before he can make much headway in his investigation his business partner goes missing, and Caleb is attacked, barely escaping with his life. A game of cat and mouse ensues, with the mysterious cabal seemingly always one step ahead, and willing to do whatever it takes to ensure Caleb doesn’t uncover their secrets. I enjoyed the twists and turns of the story, which is tightly plotted, and includes a touch of dry humour, and even subtle romance.

Caleb Zelic is a compelling protagonist, in large part because he is deaf, having lost his hearing after a bout of meningitis as a young child. While Caleb is fiercely independent, skilled at lip-reading, interpreting body language, and seems to have an impressive memory, his impairment has both its benefits and challenges which I think Viskic portrays sensitively and realistically. Like any well developed character though, Caleb is a mass of contradictions, with strengths and flaws that makes him believable and relatable.

The book has quite a diverse cast of characters who vary in age, social status and race. Unsure who he can trust as he pursues the truth about his friend’s death, Caleb relies on his business partner, Frankie, and his ex-wife Kat. Though he trusts Frankie, a recovering alcoholic in her fifties, to have his back, it’s clear he harbours some concerns about her continued sobriety from the outset. Caleb is still in love with Kat, a Koori artist, and their marriage breakdown seems fairly recent, he is devastated when Kat is targeted to get to him.

Gritty, edgy and original, Resurrection Bay is an exciting read and I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series, And Fire Came Down and Darkness for Light

++++++

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Available from Echo Publishing

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Review: The Great Divide by L.J.M. Owen

 

Title: The Great Divide

Author: L.J.M. Owen

Published: November 4th 2019, Echo Publishing

Status: Read November 2019, courtesy Echo Publishing

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My Thoughts:

The Great Divide is a gritty Australian crime novel from L.J.M. Owen introducing Detective Jake Hunter.

Set in Tasmania, this is an atmospheric story portraying a small insular community, blanketed in the fog of winter, and shrouded in lies. It begins when the body of an old woman is found dumped in the overgrown grounds of a vineyard. While investigating her murder, Jake, a recent transfer to Dunton, learns some odd facts, and as the case progresses he begins to uncover links between both the current and historical crimes. While I did find it fairly easy to determine who was culpable early on, I thought the case was complex and interesting, though the details are quite grim and disturbing,

Finding The Great Divide well paced and compelling, I read it in a single sitting. I look forward to a sequel, and in the meantime plan to look up her previous works.

Read an Extract

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Available from Echo Publishing

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Review: Dead Man Switch by Tara Moss

 

Title: Dead Man Switch {A Billie Walker Mystery #1}

Author: Tara Moss

Published: October 21st 2019, HarperCollins Au

Status: Read October 2019, courtesy HarperCollins/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

Dead Man Switch by Tara Moss introduces Billie Walker, an ex war correspondent now working as a private investigator in post-war Sydney, Australia.

Still grieving the absence of her photojournalist husband who is missing Europe, Billie Walker has reopened her late father’s private detective agency to support herself and her mother. As a woman in what is considered a man’s world, work has been slow, but a missing persons case is about to change all that.

With her ‘Fighting Red’ lipstick, elegant attire, and a pearl handled Colt strapped to her thigh, Billie is an appealing lead character. Feisty, clever and resourceful, she is a dogged investigator who doesn’t shy away from the more unseemly aspects of the job, and proves she can hold her own when threatened. Billie is ably assisted by Sam, a returned serviceman who acts as her secretary, among other things. Young and handsome, he sports some scars from his time at war, and admires his employer.

Though I felt Dead Man Switch got off to somewhat of a slow start, I soon found myself caught up in the intrigue. The mystery of the missing teenager is well plotted,

taking unexpected turns, colliding with murder, theft, war crimes, and a personal vendetta. There are scenes of exciting action, including a street brawl, a gun fight, and a car chase, along with tense moments of confrontation.

Moss deftly evokes post war NSW, moving between the inner city and the Blue Mountains. Set in 1946, the author incorporates the social issues of the day including rationing, sexism, and racism.

I am really looking forward to reading more mysteries featuring Billie Walker, Dead Man Switch is an entertaining and thrilling read.

Read a Sample

++++++

Available from HarperCollins Au

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Review: Silver by Chris Hammer

 

Title: Silver {Martin Scarsden #2}

Author: Chris Hammer

Published: October 1st 2019, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read October 1st 2019, courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

Silver is the sequel to Chris Hammer’s superb debut Scrublands, featuring journalist Martin Scarsden.

“Port Silver, it’s ghosts sheltering from the iridescent sun, but awaiting him nevertheless. Port Silver. For pity’s sake, why had Mandy chosen this town, of all towns, his hometown, to restart their lives?”

With the shocking events in Riversend behind them, Martin and his girlfriend, Mandalay Blonde, have chosen to make a fresh start together in Port Silver, where Mandy has inherited a house and property. Delayed in joining her, Martin finally arrives in the small coastal town only to discover a dead man in the hallway of their rented townhouse, and Mandalay covered in blood. Martin is stunned when he recognises the victim, once a close childhood friend, and with Mandy a prime suspect in the murder, must use all of his investigative skill to unmask the real killer.

Silver offers a compelling and complex mystery. In order to prove Mandalay innocent of involvement in Jasper Speight’s death, Martin begins searching for a motive for his murder. It seems most likely that Jasper was targeted due to an ongoing battle over a multi-million dollar land development deal, but Martin is frustrated by his failure to put all the pieces together. Stymied by the possible significance of a postcard Jasper was clutching when he died, the decade old disappearance of a factory owner, and a backpacking Visa scam, it’s not until a second shocking crime, which leaves seven dead, that the secrets of Port Silver begin to unravel. Hammer skilfully manages the various threads, eventually drawing them together to reveal a stunning conspiracy of greed, corruption, and revenge.

Taking place over a period of week, the deaths draws familiar Scrublands characters to Port Silver, including Detective Inspector Morris Montifore, and later Martin’s former newspaper colleagues, Bethanie and Buzz, and television journalist Doug Thunkleton.

The events of Riversend still play on Martin’s mind, but in focus are the ghosts of his childhood spent in Port Silver. Haunted by the tragic death of his mother and sisters, and the descent of his father into an alcoholic depression, he’d left the town at eighteen for university and never planned to return. Hammer continues to develop Martin’s character as Martin confronts the traumatic memories, and while examining his past, he is forced to reconsider his future.

Masterfully evoking a sense of place, while providing the reader with a compelling drama, an intriguing mystery, and interesting characters, Silver is another brilliant crime novel from Chris Hammer. Despite its size I read it in one sitting, unwilling to put it down.

+++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin

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Also by Chris Hammer reviews at Book’d Out

Review: The Lying Room by Nicci French

 

Title: The Lying Room

Author: Nicci French

Published: October 1st 2019, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read September 2019, courtesy Simon & Schuster/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

The Lying Room is the first stand alone mystery thriller from Nicci French (the husband and wife writing team Nicci Gerrard and Sean French) since the conclusion of the Frieda Klein series.

When Neve Connolly discovers her married lover murdered in his pied-à-terre she takes a deep breath and then works methodically to remove any trace of herself from the crime scene, before returning home to her husband and three children.

“He was dead. he had been murdered. But it wasn’t about her or them. That was irrelevant to whatever it was that had happened here.”

The Lying Room is a taut character driven mystery with its focus on Neve’s desperate attempts to protect her family, and herself, from the consequences of her lover’s murder.

“There was no getting away from it. She would have to get on with her life and behave the way an innocent person would behave. The fact that she was innocent–innocent at least of the murder–was no help at all.”

The author’s characterisation is generally strong and believable. A busy wife, mother, employee and friend, Neve is an ordinary woman caught up in extraordinary circumstances, and I could empathise with her impulse to protect her family, despite her obviously shaky relationship with her husband, and daughter. Her stress and fear Is palpable as Neve frantically strives to project a sense of normalcy, even while chaos descends on her home, in the form of a parade of unwanted houseguests, and surprise visits from DI Hitching.

“Even the truth felt like a lie now.”

There are plenty of red herrings in The Lying Room to keep any armchair detective guessing. Aware that DI Hitching strongly suspects she is somehow involved, Neve eventually becomes determined to identify the killer herself, and finds herself clumsily investigating her family, and friends. I didn’t guess the identity of the killer, or their motivation, until quite late in the story, though subtle clues are present earlier.

“Almost every part of the police investigation was wrong or misleading, the crucial evidence had been removed or destroyed. Their narrative of events was entirely false. But after all of that, the conclusions were correct.”

A well written, clever, and gripping novel, The Lying Room is an entertaining mystery.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster

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Also by Nicci French reviewed at Book’d Out 

 

 

Review: The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

 

Title: The Ruin (Cormac Reilly #1)

Author: Dervla McTiernan

Published: February 18th 2018, HarperCollins Australia

Status: Read August 2019

 

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My Thoughts:

Dervla McTiernan’s debut novel has become a bestseller in Australia and Ireland, and was named an Amazon book of the year in the USA. The Ruin is a police procedural, Introducing Cormac Reilly, a detective in the An Garda Síochána.

Having spent most of his career with Ireland’s elite Garda units in Dublin, Cormac Reilly is finding his new appointment at a Garda Station in Galway disappointing, his new colleagues are unwelcoming, and his boss has assigned him nothing but cold cases since he has arrived. Cormac is puzzled when one of those cases involves the first call he ever attended as a rookie twenty years before, the overdose of a young mother, who left behind two neglected children, fifteen year old Maude and five year old Jake.

Aisling is devastated when two Garda officers arrive at her door and inform her that her partner is dead, an anonymous caller reported that Jack jumped from O’Brien’s Bridge and his body has been discovered downstream. In shock and feeling guilty about a recent disagreement, Aisling doesn’t question the verdict of suicide, but his sister Maude refuses to accept the possibility, and is determined to prove it despite the gardai’s refusal to investigate.

The Ruin unfolds from the perspectives of a Cormac and Aisling as the past and present collide. McTiernan develops an intelligent, layered plot that delves into issues such as child abuse, addiction, abortion and corruption. The questions surrounding Jack’s death are intriguing and I enjoyed the twists and turns the case took.

Cormac is almost unique in crime fiction – a male detective who isn’t a single, alcoholic, depressive. McTiernan only seems to provide a general sense of who Reilly is though, as a detective he is hardworking, ethical, and impatient with office politics, as a man, he is generally amiable and thoughtful , and there are hints of an interesting backstory related to his partner, for whom he relocated to Galway.

I expect as the series progresses we will learn more about Reilly’s new colleagues, many of whom seem to be hiding secrets. The characters specifically relating to the plot are well rounded and believable. Aisling and Maude are sympathetic, and the neighbour, Mrs. Keane, gave me the creeps.

McTiernan strikes just the right balance between description and detail, creating vivid settings. The pace is great, with each chapter moving the story forward, culminating in an tense conclusion.

The Ruin is a gritty, compelling, atmospheric novel, deserving of the praise it has received. The Ruin’s sequel, The Scholar was released in February 2019, and the third novel in the series, No Good Turn is Due for publication in 2020.

++++++

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Available from HarperCollins Australia

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Review: Careful What You Wish For by Hallie Ephron

 

Title: Careful What You Wish For

Author: Hallie Ephron

Published: August 6th 2019, William Morrow

Status: Read July 2019 courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss

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My Thoughts:

 

Emily Harlow is a professional organiser whose new business, Freeze-Frame Clutter Kickers, has just taken on two new clients. One is an elderly widow, Mrs. Murphy, who feels incapable of clearing away her late husband’s things, the second is a young woman, Quinn Newell, looking to purge her pre-marital belongings. At first glance, neither job seems complicated…until the body of Quinn’s husband is discovered in the storage locker that once belonged to Mr. Murphy, and Emily’s tidy life begins to unravel.

The irony inherent in Emily being a professional organiser, as her husband, Frank, hoards piles of useless ‘treasures’ in their basement works well as a hook into this well paced, entertaining tale of suspense.

It’s evident from Emily’s first meeting with Quinn which direction the story will take (there really isn’t anything at all subtle about their interaction), however the plot isn’t entirely predictable. Emily finds herself the victim of more than one deception, placing her at the center of a complicated web of greed and betrayal. I thought the plot worked well overall, and it provided enough moments of tension and surprise to keep me interested.

I found the character development to be somewhat lacking though. As the heroine, Emily is rather bland, and the motive for her husband’s behaviour is weak. Additionally, Quinn lacks subtlety as the villainess, and at least one minor character proves to be entirely superfluous.

Careful What You Wish For is a *neat domestic thriller from Hallie Ephron.

*see what I did there 😉

 

Read a Sample

++++++

Available from William Morrow

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