Review: Life or Death by Michael Robotham

 

Title: Life or Death

Author: Michael Robotham

Published: Mulholland Books March 2015

Status: Read on March 20, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Life or Death is Michael Robotham’s tenth novel, a rare stand alone from one of Australia’s favourite crime fiction author’s, best known for his O’Loughlin/Ruiz series.

Inspired by a real life news report, Robotham has built his story around the character of Audie Palmer who, after serving ten years in prison, escapes the day before his scheduled release. No one understands why Audie would run when he risks an extended sentence if caught, but it’s assumed that it has something to do with the unrecovered $7 million dollars stolen during the robbery he was convicted of committing.

It soon becomes obvious however that Audie isn’t motivated by money, hunted by the authorities and criminals alike, he is on a mission to save a life. Despite what Audie stands accused of, he quickly becomes such a likeable character, a victim of bad luck and worse luck, he demonstrates an enviable strength of character to rise above it all. He is the ultimate underdog, battling to do the right thing in the face of overwhelming odds.

Flashbacks provide the details of Audie’s back story, explaining his present predicament. The twists and turns of the plot are well executed, even if a touch predictable. I read Life or Death in a matter of hours, Robotham’s fluid writing, and tight pacing ensures this is a page turner.

An entertaining read with a great premise, appealing characters and a strong and satisfying ending, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Life or Death.

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Review: Resistance by John Birmingham

 

Title: Resistance {Dave Hooper #2}

Author: John Birmingham

Published: Pan Macmillan AU March 2015

Status: Read from March 12 to 15, 2015 — I own a copy {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The second novel to feature rig engineer turned superhero monster slayer Dave Cooper, Resistance is another darkly funny, action packed fantasy adventure from Australian author John Birmingham.

Dave is enjoying his celebrity, in a typical Dave-like manner, after the defeat of the Hunn but the breach in New Orleans was just the start and now the Hunn are boiling up from the underworld realm all over the globe, eager to reclaim their dominion.

There is no getting away from the fact that Dave is a dick, and his basic nature is unchanged despite becoming a superhero. In Resistance he is confronted with his new responsibilities as the only man able to translate the intentions of the Hunn but he manages to alienate almost everyone when he makes the wrong choices.

Like Emergence, Resistance is a fast paced, entertaining read, hilarious, action – packed and unfailingly politically incorrect.

I’m looking forward to Dave’s final adventure in Ascendance

 

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Review: Lacy Eye by Jessica Treadway

 

Title: Lacy Eye

Author: Jessica Treadway

Published: Grand Central Publishing March 2015

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Status: Read from March 11 to 12, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:
It’s been three years since Hanna and Joe were brutally attacked in their own home. Joe died as a result, while Hanna was left with permanent physical and mental injuries. Now the man charged with the crime is seeking an appeal, and Hanna is desperate to recover her memories of the night her youngest daughter’s boyfriend tried to kill her, both to ensure he remains incarcerated and to put to rest any suspicion that her daughter, Dawn, was complicit in the attack.

The narrative unfolds from Hanna’s perspective and can at times feel claustrophobic. Hanna is isolated, her belief in Dawn’s innocence angers her older daughter, Iris, the case prosecutor and even strangers.

Hanna’s wilful self deception is frustrating though it soon becomes obvious she has a long history of avoiding uncomfortable truths. And though her past reflects somewhat poorly on her, it’s difficult to blame Hanna in the aftermath of the attack, for what mother would willingly entertain the idea that her daughter, whom she loves, wished her such harm.

While Treadway makes clear her sympathy lies with Hanna she demonstrates compassion for Dawn who struggled as a bullied child in the shadow of her older, popular sister. Nature vs nurture is a theme obliquely explored in Lacy Eye, through the relationships between mother and daughter and the differences between the two sisters.

The pace is measured as Hanna recalls the past and struggles with the events of the present. There isn’t a lot of dialogue or action but the tension is palpable as Hanna comes closer to understanding the truth of what happened that night.

Lacy Eye is a powerful psychological drama, inspired by a real life incident. It’s not an easy read but it is interesting and thought-provoking.

 

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Review: Nothing Sacred by David Thorne

 

Title: Nothing Sacred {Daniel Connell #2}

Author: David Thorne

Published: Corvus : Allen & Unwin March 2015

Status: Read from March 01 to 02, 2015 — I own a copy

My Thoughts:

A gritty crime thriller Nothing Sacred is the second book from David Thorne to feature disgraced lawyer, Daniel Connell, following East of Innocence.

In Nothing Sacred, Daniel is reluctantly drawn into the underworld of Essex by the tearful pleas of his ex girlfriend Victoria who is being tormented by an unseen force and has lost custody of her young children. Meanwhile, Daniel’s childhood best friend Gabe, a veteran whose military career was cut short when he lost his leg, is mixed up in something deadly that has followed him from the battlefield of Afghanistan.

Nothing Sacred was a little too brutal and bleak for my tastes, but the action is fast-paced and the plot is well thought out. There are several twists and Thorne brings it all together well.
The characters are convincing, if somewhat stereotypical for the genre. Daniel’s sense of justice overrides his confidence in the law and he has no problem crossing the line when he feels justified in doing so.

A quick, solid read with a noir-ish feel, Nothing Sacred should appeal to crime fiction fans with a hard edge.

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Review: Second Life by S.J. Watson

Title: Second Life

Author: S.J Watson

Published: Doubleday February 2015

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Status: Read on February 11, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

SJ Watson’s debut, Before I Go To Sleep was a smash hit and I imagine the pressure to produce a similarly successful novel has been immense.

London wife and mother, Julia, is devastated when she is informed her younger sister, Kate, has been murdered by an unknown assailant in a Parisian alleyway. Half crazed with grief and guilt, Julia becomes obsessed with finding Kate’s killer, infiltrating an online ‘hook-up’ service her sister used in search of suspects.
Lukas is one of the first men to respond to her tentative approach, and though she quickly dismisses him as a suspect in her sister’s murder, Julia can’t seem to extract herself from the connection they have made. Her stolen moments with Lukas are a reprieve from her despair but as their relationship transitions from the virtual to the real world, Julia’s ‘second life’ unwittingly puts everything she has, and those she loves most, at risk.

What Watson does particularly well in Second Life is create a close, tense and increasingly disorientating atmosphere as Julia’s life spirals out of control.

My dissatisfaction with this novel can be laid at the feet of Watson’s protagonist, Julia. I just didn’t buy into her behaviour, despite the author’s rationalisations of grief and guilt. I found Julia to be painfully frustrating – naive, self obsessed, and later, wontingly self destructive.

Unable to invest in the character, I then struggled with the plot, which relies on Julia’s poor judgment to progress. There is tension and some surprising twists but it wasn’t enough to convince me to put aside my dislike of Julia. Perhaps the strongest element of the story is the pacy and shocking denouement, though I’m still not quite sure how I feel about its ambiguity.

Just barely an okay read, largely due to my frustration with the main character, unfortunately, I think Second Life suffers badly in comparison with Before I Go To Sleep.

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Review: Runaway Lies by Shannon Curtis

 

Title: Runaway Lies

Author: Shannon Curtis

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Published: Harlequin MIRA February 2015

Status: Read from February 01 to 03, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

Runaway Lies is an engaging novel of romantic suspense from Shannon Curtis. The plot is fast moving, offering some exciting and dramatic moments, and the romantic tension sizzles.

Darcy Montgomery has managed to elude her former boss for four months but when she rescues the children of wealthy business tycoon Dominic St. James from his ex wife’s sinking car, her anonymity is at risk of being compromised. Despite her injuries, Darcy is determined to slip away before anybody discovers the dangerous truth about her.
Dominic is grateful to Darcy for saving the lives of his four-year-old twins, and feels responsible for her injury when it’s determined that the accident was engineered. He’s puzzled though by her reluctance to accept his offer of help, even when she has lost everything.
Despite Darcy’s hesitation, Dom convinces her to spend at least a few weeks recuperating with him and his family and, after months on the run, she finally begins to let down her guard. But just as Darcy decides to trust Dom with her secret, her carefully constructed facade collapses and Darcy has no other choice but to run to protect her life…and her heart.

I wasn’t sure what to think of Darcy at first. Curtis presents her as a guilty woman on the run and I made the assumption that she had somehow bought her troubles on herself. I was relieved to discover as the story unfolded that Darcy had simply found herself in an awful position and was doing her best to do what was right, even though it meant she had to lie.

I have to admit my least favourite character trope in romance is the ‘billionaire boyfriend’, it is usually relied upon as a plot convenience allowing the author to circumvent issues that would trouble someone without a Platinum credit card, but Dom’s wealth doesn’t interfere in the story. I liked him a lot, he proved to be a great guy and a caring father.

I really liked the way Curtis involved the children in the story. It’s notoriously difficult to do so in a way that is realistic but the author manages to integrate them neatly into the plot and keep their behaviour and actions age appropriate.

An entertaining tale of intrigue, action and romance, set in NSW, I really enjoyed Runaway Lies and would recommend it to fans of Helene Young and Bronwyn Parry.

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Review: The Exit by Helen Fitzgerald

 

Title: The Exit

Author: Helen Fitzgerald

Published: Faber and Faber UK February 2015

Status: Read from February 01 to 02, 2015 — I own a copy   (Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

A disturbing novel of psychological suspense, The Exit is Helen Fitzgerald’s eleventh book.

The narrative alternates between the perspectives of 23-year-old Catherine, an unemployed, arrogant party girl, and Rose, an 82-year-old children’s book author and illustrator suffering from dementia, whose hold on the present is tenuous. Rose is a resident of Dear Green, a small private care home in Glasgow, Scotland, and the two meet when Catherine, at her mother’s insistence, reluctantly accepts a job in the private facility as an aide.

Of the handful of residents, Catherine is least repulsed by Rose, and when the old woman offers her £1000 to deliver a message she is happy to humour Rose’s ravings about ‘truth’ and ‘Room 7′. Catherine is thinking only of escaping to Ibiza to work on her tan when she discovers some creepy entries in the care log and she begins to suspect that Rose might be right, something is very wrong at Dear Green.

There are several unexpected twists and turns in The Exit which eventually exposes a dark and perverted secret but not before Catherine and Rose almost become victims of their suspicions. I was slow to warm to Catherine, who seems determined to live up to the stereotype of Gen Y, while Rose’s dementia, and tragic past, inspires a mix of pity and admiration, but I found myself anxious for the welfare of both women as the story unfolded.

There was a major element of the story, involving Catherine’s mother, that didn’t really work for me. I can’t reveal too much without risking spoilers but I felt it was an odd addition to the plot. In addition the conclusion was more ambiguous than I would prefer.

The story feels a little slow to start as Fitzgerald establishes character but the pace picks up, and The Exit is a quick read. What I didn’t really expect was the vein of humour that occasionally leavens the horror.

The Exit is an unsettling thriller, though I didn’t grip me the way The Cry did, I did enjoy it.

 

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Review: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

 

Title: The Mime Order {Bone Season #2}

Author: Samantha Shannon

Published: Bloomsbury January 2015

Status: Read from January 22 to 24, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Bone Season introduced nineteen year old Paige Mahoney, a ‘dreamwalker’, fighting to survive in a world where possessing any clairvoyant ability is considered high treason. Caught and arrested by the governing body, Scion, Paige was sent to ‘The Tower’ where she was horrified to learn that captured voyants are handed over to a enigmatic otherworldly race that call themselves the Rephaite, to serve them as slaves or food.

The Mime Order begins as Paige, along with a few dozen other voyants make their escape, with the help of a handful of sympathetic Rephaite, after a bloody rebellion. Though forced to lay low as the Scion, whom she now knows is controlled by the Rephaite, hunt for her, Paige is determined to alert the underground community to the truths she has learned, but no-one, including her Underworld boss Jaxon, seems to care. Paige is baffled and frustrated by the disinterest until she uncovers evidence that several of the Syndicate gang leaders are in league with the Rephaite, profiting by handing over their own people. To fight back, Paige has only one choice…to become the Underqueen of the Syndicate, and then convince the voyants to stand with her against the Rephaite.

I like Paige a lot, she is smart, resourceful, feisty and both her talent and her personality are interesting. She has a core of incorruptible humanity and cares even when it is in her best interest not to. She is faced with some difficult challenges and decisions in The Mime Order but handles them well.

Set in future London following a timeline that splits from ours in the early 1900’s, Shannon’s world building is intricate and vivid. The focus here is on the underbelly of the city, forced underground, London’s clairvoyant’s have formed criminal enclaves each led by a Mime boss and nominally lorded over by an Underking or Underqueen. Paige is a Mollisher (second in command) to Jaxon (also known as the White Binder) but after the events in The Bone Season their relationship is an uneasy one, and only worsens over the course of the novel.

At 528 pages, The Mime Order isn’t a quick read. The pacing can be a little uneven though Shannon tries to ensure crucial information and detail isn’t simply dumped in the reader’s lap. There is plenty of action, danger and suspense as the novel progresses, and the conclusion ends on another cliffhanger.

An action packed fantasy adventure, well conceived and well told, The Mime Order is a strong sequel to The Bone Season. This series is expected to be seven books long, at the moment I can’t quite see how Shannon will manage to sustain the story for that long but I am eager to find out what will happen next.

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Read my review of The Bone Season

 

Review: Secrets of Whitewater Creek by Sarah Barrie

 

Title: Secrets of Whitewater Creek

Author: Sarah Barrie

Published: Harlequin MIRA January 2014

Status: Read from January 20 to 22, 2015 — I own a copy   {Courtesy the publisher/netgalley}

My Thoughts:

Intrigue, action and romance blend to create an engaging read in Secrets of Whitewater Creek by Sarah Barrie.

Set in rural Australia, Secrets of Whitewater Creek introduces Jordan Windcroft, who has been running the family farm on her own since the tragic death of her parents. Independent, feisty and a hard worker, she is the town’s favourite daughter despite being on probation for the manslaughter, after claiming responsibility for a car accident to protect a friend from a corrupt judge.
Reid Tallon comes to Whitewater Creek posing as a probation officer, chasing a lead on a drug case he has been involved in for three years. He is hoping Jordan, who was also charged with possession when she was arrested, will be able to give him some insight into the local drug trade.
The attraction between the two is immediate, but Reid is undercover, and won’t let anyone jeopardise his case, and Jordan, whose focus is on saving her farm, has a secret she can’t risk him discovering.

I really liked Jordan who proves to be a practical, smart and strong woman, I enjoyed her quick witted banter, she isn’t afraid to say what she thinks and means what she says. She is loyal almost to a fault, and in her determination to protect her friends, she makes herself vulnerable to a dangerous stalker.
Reid is a smart and capable detective, determined to destroy the drug syndicate he holds accountable for his sister’s death.
Both Jordan and Reid try to deny their mutual attraction but it doesn’t last long. The development of the relationship is compressed due to the time frame of the novel but nevertheless believable and enjoyed the way they sparked off one another.

The story offers two main arcs, the first involving Reid’s investigation of the drug syndicate, the second sees Jordan’s life threatened by a crazed stalker. In the main, Secrets of Whitewater Creek is well paced, with a good amount of action balancing out the romance, though I thought that the stalker situation dragged on a little too long.

One aspect of the story that did bother me was the way that Jordan’s friends turn on her, suddenly suspecting her of being a drug abuser. I could understand why Reid would jump to the wrong conclusion but I didn’t believe that her close friends would do the same.

Still, overall I found Secrets of Whitewater Creek, (previously published as Deadly Secrets) to be a page turning Australian romantic suspense novel with appealing characters, an interesting story and well crafted setting. Perhaps Barrie will allow us to revisit Whitewater Creek again.

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Review: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Title: The Girl on the Train

Author: Paula Hawkins

Published: Transworld Jan 2015

Read and Extract

Status: Read from January 15 to 17, 2015 — I own a copy   {courtesy the publisher/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

A tense and twisty thriller, The Girl on the Train is garnering plenty of well deserved attention for debut author, Paula Hawkins.

After a slightly bewildering start I was gripped by this chilling, tangled tale of love, hate and betrayal. Revealing much more than the back cover hints at risks spoilers that will ruin the surprises in store for the reader. I think it’s important to unravel the secrets and lies as the author intended and to allow yourself to become caught up in the twists and turns of the plot.

Astute readers may solve the mystery before the final pages but its unraveling is compelling. The conclusion may be a little neat but should also satisfy.

Clever and disturbing in equal measure The Girl on the Train is an engrossing read, don’t be fooled by the brevity of this review – I just don’t want to spoil anything for you!

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