Review: Blood Sisters by Cate Quinn


Title: Blood Sisters

Author: Cate Quinn

Published: 26th July 2022, Orion

Status: Read August 2022 courtesy Hachette



My Thoughts:


When the bloodied and bound naked body of Paul Hunter is found in the bar of The Gold Rush Hotel in the outback mining town of Dead Tree Creek, the locals are quick to accuse barmaids Lauren and Beth, American backpackers who skipped town in the early hours of the morning. Tara Harrison, newly returned to her hometown as a Probationary Constable, isn’t convinced of the sorority sisters are cold blooded killers, despite mounting evidence. She’s all too aware that Dead Tree Creek is a town of secrets.

Despite centering around crime, Blood Sisters is a character driven novel. The story primarily unfolds from the first person perspectives of Lauren, Beth and Tara, shifting between the present and recent past, with points of view from other characters occasionally punctuating the narrative. The structure works well, and I like how it both broadens the readers understanding of the characters and contributes to the development of the mystery.

Lauren and Beth are interesting characters with a complicated relationship. Lauren, beautiful and extroverted, is a study in contradictions, while Beth is more of an enigma. The women are the bests of friends who share a dark secret, but even they keep secrets from one another. The books title alludes not only to the relationship between Lauren and Beth, but also the relationship between Tara and her late Moodjana foster-sister, Yindi, whose death in police custody was the impetus for her joining the police service. Tara is a likeable character, she’s smart, determined and has good intentions, but finds herself a little out of her depth as she searches for the truth.

Quinn explores a number of themes in Blood Sisters including misogyny, racism, friendship, loyalty and betrayal. Issues between the First Nations peoples and the police and mining company are an important element of the novel which I think the author handles well.

With a strong sense of place, complex characters and an intriguing mystery, Blood Sisters is an absorbing novel.


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Review: The Liars by Petronella McGovern


Title: The Liars

Author: Petronella Govern

Published: 30th August 2022, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read September 2022 courtesy Allen & Unwin



My Thoughts:


“They never talked about the cave in Wreck Point National Park. No-one did.”

From Australian author Petronella McGovern comes her third gripping novel of psychological drama and suspense, The Liars.

On the outskirts of Kinton Bay, hidden in the dense bush of Wreck Point National Park, lies the Killing Cave. In recent decades it’s served as a haven for teenagers looking for somewhere to party but 15 year-old Siena Britton is determined that its history as a site of an unrecorded massacre of First Nations families by shipwrecked colonists who then went on to found the town, be acknowledged and reclaimed. When she and her boy friend Kyle, discover a skull near the cave’s entrance Siena is certain she’s found proof and uploads a video to ensure the tragedy can’t be swept under the carpet, sparking the concern of her parents and the wrath of the town.

Unfolding from the perspectives of Siena, her parents Meri and Rollo, local DCI Douglas Poole, and an anonymous killer, The Liars is a layered novel that explores family secrets and community tensions as a murderer stalks the town.

Siena’s mother, Meri, isn’t sure what upsets her more, the fact that Siena has been to the Killing Cove, the site of her own adolescent regrets, or that her daughter’s activism highlights the compromises she has made in her own journalistic career. Meri is a complex character with unresolved issues from her past that affects many aspects of her present.

Rollo understands when the local business owners complain that Siena’s crusade could affect the tourist trade they rely on, his own whale watching company is struggling to recover after the pandemic, but he is worried that the skull his daughter has found could be a threat to more than just his livelihood.

DCI Poole’s perspective centres the investigation to identify the skull, the subsequent questions it raises about the fate of four missing persons, and the concern that Kinton Bay is home to a serial killer.

I enjoyed the development of the mystery, or more properly mysteries, since there is more than one secret exposed, and more than one murder to be solved. McGovern’s plotting and pacing is well thought out, and distracted by several red herrings, I didn’t guess the identity of the anonymous character for some time.

Exploring themes of regret, resentment and revenge, McGovern raises a number of issues in The Liars including the whitewashing of Australian history, corruption, media bias, homophobia, and violence against women, which the author handles with realism and sensitivity. She also touches on themes of identity, family and friendship, which are also reflected in the information about whales that introduces the five sections of the novel.

With its intriguing mysteries, complex characters and thought provoking contemporary themes, The Liars is a compelling read.


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Review: Meredith, Alone by Claire Alexander


Title: Meredith, Alone

Author: Claire Alexander

Published: 9th June 2022, Michael Joseph

Status: Read September 2022 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia



My Thoughts:


In this poignant character driven novel, author Claire Alexander introduces us to Meredith Maggs. Meredith is 39 years old, a freelance writer who lives in Glasgow, and hasn’t stepped over her threshold for 1,214 days.

It’s not that Meredith chose to not leave, one day she simply couldn’t.

As the narrative progresses in the present, we learn Meredith hasn’t stopped living exactly. She has her work, her routines, and anything she needs can be delivered to her door. She may be alone, but Meredith claims she isn’t lonely, she has her beloved cat, Fred, to keep her company, her best friend, Sadie, often stops by with her two small children, and her friendship circle is slowly expanding. Holding Hands volunteer, Tom, insists on regular visits, and through her online support group, Meredith bonds with newbie Celeste.

But there are things Meredith misses. Like swimming, hugs, and her sister, Fee.

Flashbacks provide glimpses of Meredith’s past including her difficult childhood, illuminating her relationship with her mother and sister, whom she hasn’t seen for years, and the accumulation of the heartbreaking circumstances that led to Meredith’s agoraphobia.

Beautifully told, written with warmth, compassion and a touch of humour, this is a tender story about trauma, survival, friendship and ultimately, about hope.


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Review: After the Flood by Dave Warner


Title: After the Flood {Dan Clement #4}

Author: Dave Warner

Published: 2nd August 2022, Fremantle Press

Status: Read September 2022 courtesy Fremantle Press



My Thoughts:


Set in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, After the Flood is the fourth book by Dave Warner to feature Detective Inspector Dan Clement, though it also works effectively as a stand alone.

As his team handles a spate of petty crimes including an unruly protest, the theft of explosive materials, and vandalism of a vaccination clinic, DI Dan Clement, lonely and missing his teenage daughter, is feeling restless and longing for a distraction. Fate obliges with the discovery of a body, naked with tire tread marks on his chest and railroad spikes driven through his palms in a remote area of a cattle station, and Clement finds himself in a race to prevent a deadly scheme.

In what is a tightly plotted, engaging police procedural, Clement and his squad’s challenge is to identify the dead man, and then methodically gather evidence that might explain the reason for his gruesome murder, and reveal his killer. Warner offers several red herrings leading to a succession of dead ends that frustrate the officers, but just as the case seems to stall, a surprising connection is made. The tension rises sharply as the pieces then rapidly fall into place, leading to an explosive finish.

Themes explored in After the Flood include family, trauma, grief, revenge and disenfranchisement. Warner also raises topical issues such as corporate greed, social justice, and eco-terrorism.

The setting of After the Flood is well realised. Clement’s Major Crime Squad are based in Broome but their territory is extensive, and both its geographical and social features can complicate their investigations.

Offering intrigue and excitement, After the Flood is a well written police procedural that I sincerely enjoyed.


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Review: The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman


Title: The Bullet That Missed {The Thursday Murder Club #3}

Author: Richard Osman

Published: 15th September 2022, Viking

Status: Read September 2022 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Australia



My Thoughts:


I’m delighted by the return of the Thursday Murder Club in Richard Osman’s third book featuring four elderly residents of a luxury retirement village, The Bullet That Missed.

The Thursday Murder Club -Elizabeth, a former MI5 intelligence operative; Ibrahim, a mostly retired psychiatrist; Ron, once a union boss who enjoys playing devil’s advocate; and Joyce, a former nurse; are drawn into a cold case involving the disappearance of an investigative reporter a decade earlier, primarily because Joyce has a small crush on the victims former South East Tonight colleague, Mike Waghorn. Bethany Waites was working on uncovering the mastermind of a mobile phone scam, and the whereabouts of the scheme’s billion dollar profits, when her car went over a cliff. Though Bethany’s body was never found, it was assumed she got too close, and was murdered.

As the Thursday Murder Club try to unravel Bethany’s fate, Elizabeth is receiving anonymous vaguely threatening text messages which she declines to share with the others, until Elizabeth and her husband Stephen, are kidnapped by a mystery man they call ‘The Viking’ who then demands Elizabeth kill an old frenemy, a ex-KGB spy turned money launderer, or forfeit Joyce’s life.

The stakes seem a little higher in this story than the last, given the plethora of seriously bad dudes, and the direct threats to Joyce’s life, but The Thursday Murder Club bluff, charm, and outwit their enemies with ease. Sure events stretch the limits of credibility somewhat, but Osman’s plotting really is on point as the two mysteries unfold, and eventually intersect in an unexpected way. There’s a good mix of action and tension which helps to sustain the pace, though at 400+ pages it probably could have been a little shorter.

There are plenty of laughs in The Bullet That Missed, I really enjoy the author’s sense of humour, but Osman also touches on some poignant issues such as the accelerating cognitive decline of Elizabeth’s husband, loneliness, and past regrets.

My affection for the Thursday Murder Club members hasn’t waned at all, they are such an endearing group. Series regulars DCI Chris and PC Donna are back to lend a hand on occasion, though Donna is distracted by her new romantic relationship with the enigmatic Bogdon. The Club also barter for some assistance from Claudia Johnson, the imprisoned crime gang boss whom the group caught out in The Man Who Died Twice, and expands to include television makeup artist Pauline, who seduces a willing Ron, among others.

Charming, funny, and smart, The Bullet That Missed is another addition to a thoroughly entertaining cosy mystery series which I look forward to continuing.


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Review: The Manhattan Girls by Gill Paul


Title: The Manhattan Girls: A Novel of Dorothy Parker and her Friends

Author: Gill Paul

Published: 16th August 2022, William Morrow Books

Status: Read August 2022 courtesy William Morrow/Edelweiss



My Thoughts:


“Four things I am wiser to know: idleness, sorrow, a friend and a foe.” -Dorothy Parker

The Manhattan Girls by Gill Paul is based on four well known women of 1920’s New York City; Dorothy Parker, a member of the Algonquin Round Table, a poet and writer known for her sharp wit; Jane Grant, reporter and cofounder of the The New Yorker magazine; broadway actress Winifred Lenihan; and novelist Peggy Leech; and tells the story of the friendship that sustained them during a particular period of their lives.

When the men of the Algonquin Round Table decide to form a Saturday night poker club, Jane Grant suggests some of the women instead meet for Bridge, inviting Dottie, Peggy and Winnie to join her. The game, hosted round robin style, quickly becomes a lifeline for the four women as they exchange confidences, hopes, failures and hardships, and provide each other with encouragement and support when it’s needed.

From what I’m able to tell, Paul draws heavily on public records and other factual sources that inform the characters personality’s and events in the novel. While the line between fact and fiction is blurred, Gill’s portrayal of these women, and their relationships, feels genuine.

Though this is very much a character driven novel as the friends face challenges in their personal and professional lives, Gill touches on several serious issues that affect the women, including sexism, self-harm, domestic violence, sexual assault, abortion, gambling, and alcoholism.

Gill ably conveys the spirit of the Roaring Twenties in New York City, capturing the hedonism among the ‘arts’ crowd, epitomised by the notorious members of the Algonquin Round Table, and the changes in society brought about by the end of WWI, the introduction of Prohibition, and the increasing opportunities for women.

Well-written, I enjoyed The Manhattan Girls as a story that explores friendship, loyalty and ambition, and as a glimpse into the private lives of four women whose influence on the arts lingers a century later.


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Review: Confidence by Denise Mina


Title: Confidence {Anna & Fin #2}

Author: Denise Mina

Published: 5th July 2022, Mulholland Books

Status: Read August 2022 courtesy Mulholland/Netgalley



My Thoughts:


I loved Conviction, Denise Mina’s first book to feature Anna McDonald and Fin Cohen so I was excited for the release of Confidence, set around a year after Anna and Fin raced around Europe while podcasting their journey to expose the murderer of an old friend and his children.

When the story opens, Anna, Fin, their respective ex-partners, Hamish and Estelle, Fin’s new girlfriend, Sofia, plus Anna and Hamish’s daughters, and Hamish and Estelle’s new baby, are holidaying together in a Scottish lighthouse. Anna, desperately trying to distract herself from the tense atmosphere, mostly caused by Sofia, is scrolling through messages from listeners to their now successful podcast when a cryptic tweet from a user called WBGrates catches her eye.

Lisa Lee didn’t take it. Please tell them.

Attached to the message are two links, one to a YouTube film of a young woman, Lisa Lee, exploring an abandoned French chateau in an undisclosed location, the other to a page in an auction catalogue displaying a small antique silver casket that is visible in Lee’s footage. Not understanding the connection, Anna searches online and learns the Voyniche Casket is expected to be the subject of a frenzied bidding war among groups that believe it contains proof of Christ’s resurrection, and that Lisa Lee has been reported missing.

Seizing the excuse to abandon the holiday Anna and Fin follow up, and are quickly drawn into the hunt for the missing girl, and the truth about the casket. The pair don’t seem to have a lot of agency in the plot though, their movements are mainly dictated by Bram Van Wyk, a wealthy former smuggler/con man, and his desperate bid to recover the casket. It sort of feels like Mina had an idea for a thriller about smuggling and fanaticism, but didn’t know what to do with it, so she wrote Anna and Fin into it. Unfortunately I think it was a poor fit, and everything suffered as a result. While I easily dismissed plot inconsistencies and absurdities in Conviction, here they were jarring, and the twists had little impact.

The story primarily unfolds from Anna’s first person perspective, alternating with short transcripts from their podcast that serve to fill in some information gaps. While Anna won me over in Conviction, I didn’t find her nearly as compelling or witty here, and Finn may as well have been totally absent.

The pace also suffered with the plot issues and a fair amount of superfluous description. The travel helped somewhat as Anna and Finn fly around Europe courtesy of private jets and helicopters.

I think it’s clear I am disappointed by Confidence, I was feeling a little more generous immediately after finishing it but in retrospect it’s flawed enough that I feel it’s just barely okay, and wouldn’t recommend it.


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Book Lust


It is a sad truth that I have a finite lifespan (and budget) yet a desire to read all the books. The books on my Review Schedule (click the link to view) largely represent those I’ve been privileged to select from offerings by a range of generous publishers, and therefore are my priority, but they don’t embody my every bookish desire or interest.

I’ve noticed a trend for limiting to-be-read (TBR) and/or want-to-read (WTR) lists (the distinction for me being those already on my physical or digital shelves vs those that aren’t), but I’ve never felt the need to temper my book lust. If I see a book that interests me, I add it to my WTR without a skerrick of guilt, at the moment my WTR shelf at Goodreads has around three and a half thousand books on it.

As I currently feature my TBR in my monthly Bookshelf Bounty post, Book Lust will be a monthly post featuring a handful of published books I’ve recently added to my WTR.

What books are you lusting after? Do you have any of these on your TBR/WTR list? And please feel free to share your links in the comments if you have reviewed them.

(Covers are linked to Goodreads)


Older women often feel invisible, but sometimes that’s their secret weapon.

They’ve spent their lives as the deadliest assassins in a clandestine international organization, but now that they’re sixty years old, four women friends can’t just retire – it’s kill or be killed in this action-packed thriller.

Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie have worked for the Museum, an elite network of assassins, for forty years. Now their talents are considered old-school and no one appreciates what they have to offer in an age that relies more on technology than people skills.

When the foursome is sent on an all-expenses paid vacation to mark their retirement, they are targeted by one of their own. Only the Board, the top-level members of the Museum, can order the termination of field agents, and the women realize they’ve been marked for death.

Now to get out alive they have to turn against their own organization, relying on experience and each other to get the job done, knowing that working together is the secret to their survival. They’re about to teach the Board what it really means to be a woman–and a killer–of a certain age.


Turns out that reading nothing but true crime isn’t exactly conducive to modern dating—and one woman is going to have to learn how to give love a chance when she’s used to suspecting the worst.

PhD candidate Phoebe Walsh has always been obsessed with true crime. She’s even analyzing the genre in her dissertation—if she can manage to finish writing it. It’s hard to find the time while she spends the summer in Florida, cleaning out her childhood home, dealing with her obnoxiously good-natured younger brother, and grappling with the complicated feelings of mourning a father she hadn’t had a relationship with for years.

It doesn’t help that she’s low-key convinced that her new neighbor, Sam Dennings, is a serial killer (he may dress business casual by day, but at night he’s clearly up to something). But it’s not long before Phoebe realizes that Sam might be something much scarier—a genuinely nice guy who can pierce her armor to reach her vulnerable heart.


Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel.

Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.

Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?

Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal response to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire.


The Widow of Walcha is a shocking true story about death, love and lies in the small NSW town of Walcha.

All farmer Mathew Dunbar ever wanted was to find love and have a family of his own. That’s why, just months after meeting Natasha Darcy, the much-loved grazier didn’t hesitate to sign over his multi-million-dollar estate to her.

When Mathew died in an apparent suicide soon afterwards, in a stranger-than-fiction twist, Natasha’s estranged husband – who she was once charged with trying to kill – was the first paramedic on the scene after the murder.

Journalist and author Emma Partridge travelled to the cool and misty town of Walcha in the Northern Tablelands of NSW in the months after Mathew Dunbar’s death, drawn by the town’s collective worry that Natasha was going to get away with murder. Partridge spent months researching the case, interviewing Mathew’s friends, family and Natasha herself in an attempt to uncover her sickening web of lies and crimes.

The Widow of Walcha is about one of the most extraordinary criminal trials in Australia’s history and reveals Natasha’s sickening crimes against those she claimed to love, fuelled by her obsession with money.


A novel tracing a widow’s unlikely connection with a giant Pacific octopus.

After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.

Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors–until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.

Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late.


Thanks for reading!

Review: Dark Deeds Down Under Edited by Craig Sisterson


Title: Dark Deeds Down Under: A Crime and Thriller Anthology

Author: Craig Sisterson (Editor)

Published: 26th June 2022, Clan Destine Press

Status: Read September 2022 courtesy Clan Destine Press



My Thoughts:


Showcasing some of the best crime fiction writers in Australia & New Zealand, Dark Deeds Down Under, edited by Craig Sisterson and Lindy Cameron, is an excellent anthology of nineteen original short stories.

Offering a wonderful variety in style and setting, I enjoyed reconnecting with familiar characters, such as the delightful Nancy’s created by RWR McDonald’s, and the introduction to ones I’m yet to meet, like Dinuka McKenzie’s Detective Sergeant Kate Miles.

‘Sinner Man’ reminded me how much I love Garry Disher’s character of rural Victorian cop Constable Paul Hirschhausen. I really hope there will be another Hirsch novel released this Christmas.

New Zealander Helen Vivienne Fletcher grabbed my attention with her surprising opening paragraph to ‘He Who Laughs Last’, a stand alone short story with a murderer who utilises an unlikely murder method.

There’s a hint of supernatural horror in ‘Rock-a-bye Baby’ by Dan Rabarts & Lee Murray, which includes a gruesome murder, a kidnapped infant and a thrilling chase across Auckland.

I giggled at Kerry Greenwood’s jar at the former federal Australian LNP government in her short story featuring Earthly Delight’s baker Corinna Chapman and her feckless ex-husband, ‘The Rooming House’.

A haunting tale set in the heat of rural Queensland, ‘The Falls’,  by award-winning writer and Wuilli Wuilli woman Lisa Fuller, gave me the chills.

Joined by authors Alan Carter, Nikki Crutchley, Aoife Clifford, Sulari Gentil, Narrelle M Harris, Katherine Kovacic, Shane Maloney, Renee, Stephen Ross, Fiona Sussman, Vanda Symon, and David Whish-Wilson, there’s honestly not a single disappointing tale among this collection of mysteries and thrillers.

A must have anthology for antipodean crime readers, Dark Deeds Down Under is also the perfect introduction to the breadth of Australian and New Zealand talent for international readers. I highly recommend this outstanding collection.


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Review: Criminals by James O’Loghlin


Title: Criminals

Author: James O’Loghlin

Published: 5th July 2022, Bonnier Echo

Status: Read July 2022 courtesy Allen & Unwin


My Thoughts:

““We answered the call, identified the perpetrator….Job done. Crime solved. Except it wasn’t. We’d only solved half of it. We’d only figured out the ‘who”….We’re all icebergs, showing the world our shiny tip, smiling as we say ‘Good morning’ and ‘Fine thanks’, while beneath we hide the messy, complicated truth. To really solve a crime you also need to work out the ‘why’.”

Given James O’Loghlin’s pedigree as an ABC presenter, comedian and former lawyer, I was expecting something caper-ish (crime mixed with screwball comedy) from his debut adult fiction, Criminals, but this is primarily a character driven story, a little quirky but also deliberate and thoughtful.

After absconding while being driven to court mandated rehab, drug addict and petty thief Dean Acton figures a big score from the Blacktown Leagues Club will solve his most immediate needs and let him lay low for a while. Sarah Hamilton, working as a barmaid while on indefinite leave from the police force, remains calm when she’s confronted by two armed masked men, which is why she notices that the thin one seems to recognise her. Sipping a gin, patron Mary Wallace smiles as the shorter of the two robbers turns his gun on her, getting shot now, she thinks, would be convenient.

In the aftermath, as the narrative alternates between each we’ll realised character, O’Loghlin explores the question of criminality through themes of guilt and innocence, opportunity and responsibility, second chances and redemption, and the choices we make that define us.

“I never thought about the consequences of getting a decision wrong, until it happened.”

Sarah puts her investigative skills to work, identifying one of the thieves as her high school’s former football hero, but having once before made a judgement with terrible consequences, she needs to be certain she isn’t making a mistake. Raised on the maxim of ‘right’s right, and wrong’s wrong’ the line is less clear to her now, and she struggles with the decisions she’s faced with.

“‘You committed a crime, but are you a criminal?’
‘Yes, because I committed a crime.
‘Then everyone’s a criminal.”

Mary, a middle-aged, depressed alcoholic contemplating suicide, is inspired to recreate the excitement of the hold up by embarking on her own petty crime spree, while assuring her absent daughter via email that everything is fine. But as the thrill of lawbreaking wears off, Mary has to choose what to let go of.

“I know I’m right down the bottom, nearly as low as you can get. But in a weird way that’s almost a relief, cos it means you can’t fall any further.”

Dean meanwhile, barely has time to celebrate his ‘perfect’ crime before he’s arrested. Faced with a lengthy prison sentence what he decides to do next will not only define his future, but could change someone else’s.

Written with insight, wit and compassion, Criminals is a thought-provoking and engaging novel


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