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 

AusReading Month 2020: Anticipation

In it’s 8th year, AusReading Month is hosted by Brona’s Books. This year the posting themes are Celebration, Anticipation and Promotion.

You can read my Celebration post by clicking here

Anticipation

What do you hope/plan to read for AusReadingMonth 2020 and into the following year? What’s lurking on your TBR pile?

What I plan to read this month…

{Click the cover to learn more}




I only have a handful of books on my schedule for next month so far…



But I have three books I must read next month to finish off challenges…

I’m sure I’ll add a few more before the end of the year!

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: Flying the Nest by Rachael Johns


Title: Flying The Nest

Author: Rachael Johns

Published: 29th October 2020, HQ Fiction Australia

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy Harlequin Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

Flying The Nest is a wonderfully engaging women’s fiction novel from bestselling Australian author Rachael Johns.

Ashling Wood is blindsided when her husband of twenty years casually suggests they try nest parenting while she’s busy preparing the oranges for their daughter’s soccer game. Her first instinct is to believe Adrian doesn’t understand what the term means, but he’s clear, he wants a trial separation and feels nest parenting, where the children remain in the house and the parents move in and out on an alternate schedule, is the best solution for them all.

The adjustment is difficult for a heartbroken Ashling who misses her children, ten year old Payton and fourteen year old Saxon, when she’s not with them. Taking on the renovation of a friends seaside cottage in Ragged Point during her ‘off’ weeks is a welcome distraction, and though she is certain the arrangement will not be anything but temporary, as the house undergoes a transformation, so too does Ashling.

I can’t imagine what it would be like should my husband so casually and carelessly announce one ordinary morning that he wanted a separation (touch wood). My sympathy was definitely reserved for Ashling from the start, and even though she seemed stuck in the denial phase for slightly too long, I think Johns portrayal of her character’s emotional state was sensitive and believable. There was a brutal scene in the marriage counselor’s office in particular where I really felt Ashling’s pain, and I was glad she finally got angry at Adrian, and found the impetus to take charge of her life.

The community of Ragged Point is a delightful haven for Ashling. Johns deftly creates the character of a small coastal community, and it’s there that she rediscovers, and is able to nurture, the parts of herself that have been dormant while helping her husband build their podiatry business, and raising their children. I liked the development of Ashling’s relationships with Jedda and Dan, who are great supports, but also have interesting stories of their own that add depth to the story.

Written with heart, humour, and warmth, Flying the Nest is sure to resonate with women who need to redefine their lives, whether because of a relationship breakdown, children leaving home, or other change of circumstances. Ashling’s journey is not without its challenges, but it is ultimately rewarding and inspiring, as is this novel.

++++++

Available from Harlequin Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Also by Rachael Johns reviewed at Book’d Out

Review: The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home by Joanna Nell

Title: The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home

Author: Joanna Nell

Published: 27th October 2020, Hachette Australia

Status: Read November 2020 courtesy Hachette Australia/ Netgalley

++++++

My Thoughts:

The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home is a charming novel proving you’re never too old for a fresh start from Joanna Nell.

After 89-year-old Miss (never Mrs or Ms) Hattie Bloom breaks her hip from a fall in her backyard, she is dismayed to be told she must spend four to six weeks convalescing at the Woodlands Nursing Home. A recluse, far more more comfortable with birds than people, she is desperate return to the sandstone cottage she was born in, particularly concerned for the welfare of a pair of nesting owls in a tree her new neighbours are threatening to fell. When an ill-timed escape attempt is frustrated by a traffic jam, Hattie resigns herself to the temporary encroachments on her privacy and independence, agreeing to repairs on her home that might let her leave her sooner.

Ninety-year-old Walter Clements, recovering from a car accident, is also determined to return to his suburban home sooner rather than later. To that end, the former driver instructor agrees to humour his daughter and the DON (Director of Nursing) and undertake an assessment to show he is capable of safely managing a mobility scooter. Walter is outraged when a few small mistakes, which includes running over his examiner’s foot, destroying an antique table, and knocking over newcomer, Miss Hattie Bloom, scuppers his chances.

It’s not the most auspicious start to a relationship but nevertheless a friendship slowly blossoms between Hattie and Walter, despite their oppositional temperaments. Where Hattie is reserved and aloof, Walter is loud and gregarious, they actually remind me a little of my own grandparents (and coincidentally my grandfather was also named Walter). Both are well-developed characters, depicted with authenticity and warmth. Hattie, a naturalist and author, who has spent almost her entire life alone by choice, slowly opens up as she becomes enmeshed in the fabric of Woodlands. Walter is occasionally inappropriate, a little bewildered by today’s mores, fond of a glass or three of whiskey, and an incurable optimist, though not without regrets. Though he hopes to go home, he is making the best of his time in Woodlands.

Nell draws on her experience as a GP visiting nursing homes, to provide some insight into the routines, successes and failures of institutional care. Woodlands certainly seems better than many which have made news headlines due to abuse and neglect, however it’s still an institution and as such rules and regulations often override common sense practice. This is evident when night nurse Bronwyn is fired after her aged black lab Queenie, accidentally knocks over and injures one of the residents. Bronwyn is a favourite of many of the Home’s residents, not the least because of her unofficial night time ‘club’, the Night Owls, that provides and encourages activities for the sleepless.

Hattie and Walter’s antics are delightful, though not without a hint of poignancy. They bond over their plan to have Bronwyn reinstated, assisted by Murray, another resident who has become a close friend of Walter (men are severely outnumbered in Woodlands) but is bedridden. Nell doesn’t shy away from portraying the difficult realities of ageing, and Murray’s approaching demise, and his desire to go home one last time, is treated sensitively.

The Great Escape from Woodlands Nursing Home is a witty, charming, and heartwarming novel, recommended for the old, and not so old alike.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

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

AusReading Month 2020: Celebration

In it’s 8th year, AusReading Month is hosted by Brona’s Books. This year the posting themes are Celebration, Anticipation and Promotion.

1. Celebration is all about what you’ve read this year.

• Simply list, collage and/or discuss the Australian books you’ve read since last AusReading Month. What were your favourites? Which ones can you recommend? Did you favour a certain genre or author this year?

I’ve read 88 books by Australian authors so far in 2020, not quite 60% of my reading total. They are all listed on the Australian Reading 2020 page (top menu), so I won’t re list them all here, but please feel free to browse.

Of those, 61 form part of my goal from the Australian Women Writers Challenge, and 23 for the Aussie Author Challenge.

Choosing favourites is not something I’m ever good at, but here are several I rated highly. (in no particular order- click on the cover to learn more)






While you are here I currently have a copy of Trust by bestselling author of Scrublands and Silver, Chris Hammer, to giveaway.
You can ENTER HERE until November 8th 2020.

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

Review: Lucky’s by Andrew Pippos


Title: Lucky’s

Author: Andrew Pippos

Published: 27th October 2020, Picador

Status: Read October 2020 courtesy PanMacmillan Australia

++++++

My Thoughts:

Having recently lost both her job and her husband, Emily is in Sydney from London with an eye to writing a New Yorker feature about the rise and fall of ‘Lucky’s’, once an ubiquitous chain of restaurants/cafes across south eastern NSW.

Lucky Mallios has a plan – to relaunch the iconic restaurant/cafe he lost to a combination of tragedy and gambling in the mid 90’s. Old and broke, he wants to atone for his mistakes, and leave something for the only family he has left.

With a nod to Greek tragicomedy, Lucky’s is a character driven novel about fortunes won and lost, of serendipity and fate. It shifts between the past and present revealing secrets, coincidences, scandals and trauma. It has a kind of charm that comes from the author’s own affection for, and understanding of, his characters.

Lucky and Emily share not only a link to Emily’s late father, but also similar traits. They each struggle with the loss of a loved one, their expectations of themselves, and others expectations of them. I was keen to discover if Lucky would win his fortune, and thus his redemption, if Emily would find success.

Lucky’s is congenial literary debut from Andrew Pippos

++++++

Available from PanMacmillan Australia

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

**********

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