Review: Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

 

 

Title: Tidelands {Fairmile #1}

Author: Philippa Gregory

Published: August 20th 2019, Simon & Schuster Au

Status: Read August 2019, courtesy Simon & Schuster

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My Thoughts:

Tidelands introduces a new series, Fairmile, from bestselling historical author Philippa Gregory.

“These are the tidelands: half tide, half land, good for nothing, all the way west to the New Forest, all the way east till the white cliffs.”

Set in the mid 1600’s, as the Parlimentarians/Anglicists and Royalists/Papists wrestle for control of England, Tidelands centres on Sealsea Island, off the coast of Sussex. It’s here in a small fishing hut that Alinor Reekie, ‘neither widow nor wife’, lives, earning just enough to keep body and soul together as a midwife, herbalist and healer. Her most fervent wish is to secure a better future for her children, twelve year old Rob, and thirteen year old Alys, a simple desire that seems improbable, but Alinor’s chance encounter with James, a young Catholic priest, seeking sanctuary could turn the tide for them all.

Unfolding from the shifting third person perspectives of Alinor and James, Tidelands is a bewitching story of love, desire, danger and betrayal.

It’s fair to say that though rich in description and detail, the story progresses little during the first third or more of the novel. Gregory relies somewhat heavily on foreshadowing to sustain the reader’s interest which means there are few surprises as the plot unfolds, yet I found the story engrossing, caught up in the vivid portrayal of a life and time unfamiliar to me.

“I did not know that there could be a woman like you, in a place like this.”

Key to this tale is the forbidden romance that develops between Alinor, and (Father) James Summers, the priest who also serves as a Royalist spy. James is intrigued by Alinor’s beauty and grace, qualities he never expected to find in an impoverished wisewoman, and Alinor unwisely allows herself to get swept away by the handsome young man’s sincere, if naive, interest. It’s not unsurprising, given the period and circumstances, that the relationship will end badly for at least one, and perhaps both of them.

“It’s a crime to be poor in this county; it’s a sin to be old. It’s never good to be a woman.”

Of course, Alinor will always be the one with the most to lose. Already, as a woman abandoned by her husband, envied for her beauty, and regarded warily for her skill as a wisewoman, which some equate with witchery, she is regularly the subject of suspicion, rumour and innuendo in her small community. Any failing, or error in judgement, could cost her not only her reputation, but also her life. Gregory does a wonderful job of exploring the vulnerability of women during this time period, especially a woman like Alinor who wants more than society believes she has a right too.

“It matters to me. I matter: in this, I matter.”

Beautifully written, well researched, atmospheric and interesting, Tidelands is a captivating novel I enjoyed much more than I expected to.

Read an Excerpt

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

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

Review: Meet Me In Venice by Barbara Hannay

 

Title: Meet Me in Venice

Author: Barbara Hannay

Published: August 6th 2019, Michael Joseph

Status: Read August 2019, courtesy PenguinRandomHouse

 

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My Thoughts:

Meet Me in Venice is a lovely, heartfelt story from multi-award-winning author, Barbara Hannay.

A year after the sudden death of her beloved husband, Daisy Benetto can think of no better place for a family reunion than Venice, the place of Leo’s birth. While Daisy and her youngest daughter, nineteen year old Ellie, will fly in from their home in Queensland, Australia, oldest son Marc, and his wife, will be traveling from California’s Silicon Valley, and Anna from London, where she has been trying to launch her career as an actress.

Hannay has created a loving, ordinary family in Meet Me in Venice with whom most readers will relate. Daisy is a warm, caring mother who is proud of her children, and her children clearly adore her in return. I thought the dynamics of the sibling relationships rang true, with the rivalries and role playing that often carry into adulthood.

Daisy’s children all want her to have a wonderful time in Venice and so are determined not to worry her with their own problems, but that’s not easy in such close quarters when tensions sit so close to the surface. The strain only increases when the family learns that Leo kept a secret from them all which threatens to undermine what they thought they knew of the husband and father they admired. I really liked the way in which Hannay dealt with all of these varied issues and the way in which they were resolved.

Hannay‘s novels are usually set in rural Australia but this is set almost wholly in Venice. It’s such an appealing city and the descriptions of its historic architecture, delicious cuisine and rich culture enhance the enjoyment of the story.

A captivating story about family, love and life’s journey, Meet Me in Venice is an engaging and enjoyable read.

Read an Extract

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Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

 

Also by Barbara Hannay reviewed at Book’d Out 

(click the cover to learn more)

 

 

Review: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

 

Title: Sorcery of Thorns

Author: Margaret Rogerson

Published: June 4th 2019, Margaret K. Elderly Books

Status: Read July 2019

++++++

My Thoughts:

“Ink and parchment flowed through her veins. The magic of the Great Libraries lived in her very bones. They were a part of her, and she a part of them.”

Raised in the Great Library of Summershall, foundling Elisabeth Scrivener has grown up with no other desire than to become a Warden in service to the Collegium, to wield an iron sword, and protect the kingdom from the powerful grimoires that line the shelves of the six Great Library’s of Austemeer.

“For these were not ordinary books the libraries kept. They were knowledge, given life. Wisdom, given voice. They sang when starlight streamed through the library’s windows. They felt pain and suffered heartbreak. Sometimes they were sinister, grotesque—but so was the world outside. And that made the world no less worth fighting for, because wherever there was darkness, there was also so much light.”

But Elisabeth’s dream is shattered when she is accused of a deadly act of sabotage that results in the death of her mentor, the Summershall Director. Ordered to stand trial in the Capital, she is escorted by Nathaniel Thorn, a young Magister with a fearsome reputation, and his demon servant, Silas. Raised to believe the worst of sorcery, and those who wield it, Elisabeth doesn’t expect to even survive the journey, but she will face a far greater danger at her destination, where the real saboteur waits.

“She saw no way out of the trap he had built for her. Escape wasn’t an option. If she attempted to run, he would know that she suspected him, and the game would come to an end. She would lose any chance she had left to expose him, however small.”

Sorcery of Thorns is an enchanting young adult fantasy novel offering adventure, suspense, humour, and romance.

I thought Rogerson did a great job of character development.

Elisabeth quickly sheds the innocence of her sheltered background, but not her idealism. She proves to be intelligent, resourceful and courageous, and is determined to end the threat to Austemeer, no matter the cost to herself.

Nathaniel is a bit of a tortured hero, with a tragic backstory. I particularly enjoyed his sense of humour.

The romance between Elisabeth and Nathaniel is not too rushed, and I found it sweet.

Silas, with his impeccable manners and yellow eyes, almost steals the show.

I loved the world building, the settings are easily imagined, from the home of Nathaniel to the halls, and secret passages, of the Great Library. And what reader can resist the idea of a library where books grumble, and sigh, and sing, and whisper? A book provoked, becomes a Malefict, a terrifying monster that has the potential to maim and kill. Iron and salt are weapons that keep them bound.

“Knowledge always has the potential to be dangerous. It is a more powerful weapon than any sword or spell.”

I was enthralled by the Sorcery of Thorns, though near 500 pages long, I found it a quick read. Charming, exciting and entertaining, the novel is written as a stand alone, but I’d love to return to this world.

Read an Excerpt

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Available from Simon & Schuster AU

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

 

Title: The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster

Author: Sarah Krasnostein

Published: October 2nd 2017, Text Publishing

Status: Read July 2019

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My Thoughts:

 

Sarah Krasnostein, law lecturer and researcher with a PhD in Criminal Law, first met Sandra Pankhurst at a conference for forensic support services, where Sandra sat in the lobby, advertising her Victorian based company, Specialised Trauma Cleaning (STC).

““This is what it says on the back of Sandra Pankhurst’s business card:

‘Excellence is no Accident’

Hoarding and Pet Hoarding Clean Up * Squalor/Trashed Properties * Preparing the Home for Home Help Agencies to Attend * Odour Control * Homicide, Suicide and Death Scenes * Deceased Estates * Mould, Flood and Fire Remediation * Methamphetamine Lab Clean Up * Industrial Accidents * Cell Cleaning”

Intrigued by Sandra’s profession, Sarah arranges an interview, but soon finds that Sandra herself, is equally as fascinating. The Trauma Cleaner is less a story about the chaos faced at the scenes STC attends, and more about the trauma that Sandra has endured, and overcome, during her life.

“Many facts of Sandra’s past are either entirely forgotten, endlessly interchangeable, neurotically ordered, conflicting or loosely tethered to reality. She is open about the fact that drugs have impacted her memory (‘I don’t know, I can’t remember. The lesson to be learnt is this: Do not take drugs, it f***s your brain.’). It is also my belief that her memory loss is trauma-induced.”

Sandra, born a boy and named Peter, suffered horribly as a child, neglected and abused by his adoptive family. Kicked out of home at seventeen, finding work as a fitter and turner, he was married at nineteen, and a father by the age of twenty. Shortly after the birth of his second son however, he deserts his wife, having finally discovered a community that is accepting of a long denied truth, Peter is transgender. What follows is a double course of female hormones, a career as a drag performer and a sex worker, a long period of partying, drink and drug taking, a series of name changes, sex reassignment surgery, and several relationships that do not end well. Eventually Sandra settles down, becoming a successful businesswoman, then a trophy wife to a much older man. But when she is widowed, Sandra is forced to reinvent herself again, and despite ill health (her liver is damaged, and she is in need of a lung transplant), she starts a domestic cleaning agency, which eventually evolves into Specialised Trauma Cleaning.

I imagine that Sandra is a woman who is in possession of great personal charisma, and it’s clear that Krasnostein grew to greatly admire her during the time she spent with her, evidenced by the way that the author largely glosses over Sandra’s flaws, and in the occasional florid turn of phrase that seems designed to obfuscate less palatable truths. However, Sandra’s life experiences are fascinating, and as flawed as she may be, she is undoubtedly a remarkable, resilient woman, who has led an extraordinary life.

“We specialise in the unpleasant tasks that you need to have taken care of.”

On the job with Sandra, accompanied by Sarah, we visit a handful of contracted assignments, among them; a woman tortured by mental illness who shares her home with rats, broken furniture and adorns the walls with ‘art’ that illustrates her pain; the small apartment in which a young woman overdosed, and remained undiscovered for weeks; and the home of a elderly woman with a carpet of champagne bottles, and barricades of wine casks. The squalor, and the smell, of these, and other circumstances, is well described, but for most of us can only be imagined. The type of work STC undertakes is clearly unpleasant physical labour, but it is also obvious that interacting with the clients of the service requires a person with a very specific set of skills, which Sandra undeniably possesses.

“Compassion. Great compassion, great dignity and a good sense of humor ’cause you’re gonna need it. And a really good sense of not being able to take the smell in, cause they stink. Putrid.”

Though I wanted to read The Trauma Cleaner because of a somewhat ghoulish interest in the subject of trauma cleaning, I wasn’t really all that disappointed to find that this book focused so heavily on Sandra’s personal life. It is, all told, a compelling portrayal of an amazing woman, and her unusual work.

++++++

Available from Text Publishing Company

Or your preferred retailer via Booko I Indiebound I Book Depository

Review: The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green

 

 

Title: The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle

Author: Sophie Green

Published: July 23rd 2019, Hachette

Status: Read July 2019 courtesy Hachette/

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My Thoughts:

 

The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle by Sophie Green is an inspirational and heartwarming testament to female friendship.

In need of some time for herself, busy wife and mother Theresa Howard opts for a daily dawn swim at Shelly Bay Beach. It’s there that she meets the widowed Marie, who has swum from Shelly Bay to Little Beach, and back again, almost every morning of her long life. The two women are soon joined by Elaine Schaeffer, the British wife of an Australian heart surgeon, who is struggling with homesickness, and somewhat reluctantly, Leeane, a young pediatric nurse with a painful past. Little more than strangers to one another, these four women soon become the closest of friends.

Beginning in the summer of 1982, the companionship that Theresa, Marie, Elaine and Leeane find in the water, slowly moves beyond the shore of Shelley Bay Beach, and as each woman encounters a myriad of life changes over the next two years, they reach out to one another in friendship. Getting to know these four authentically written characters is gratifying journey as we share their journeys through happiness and sorrow.

While Green sensitively explores difficult, but not uncommon, challenges faced by women such as infidelity, divorce, grief, loneliness, ageing, alcoholism, family estrangement, sexual assault and illness, her characters share moments of joy and laughter too. They find within themselves, and each other, the strength and courage, to love, and live, their lives fully.

“They’re all women she loves, and she knows they love her in return. It’s been enough to get her through some days, and she knows what Marie would say: it never ends. Love is eternal…”

Written with heart, humour and compassion, The Shelly Bay Ladies Swimming Circle is a wonderful read.

Read an Excerpt

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: The Guardian of Lies by Kate Furnivall

 

Title: The Guardian of Lies

Author: Kate Furnivall

Published: July 1st 2019, Simon & Schuster

Status: Read July 2019 courtesy Simon & Schuster AU

++++++

My Thoughts:

 

The Guardian of Lies is an enthralling story of courage, subterfuge, love and betrayal from Kate Furnivall.

“Trust. The word spiked in my mind and wouldn’t go away. The more it sounded in my head, the louder rang the lies.”

In 1953, as the the Cold War intensifies, the loyalties of the French people are split between America, who liberated the country from Nazi occupation, and the communist ideals of the Soviet Union. Eloïse Caussade supports the alliance with the United States, and is disheartened when her application is rejected by both the French Intelligence and the American CIA, but fortuitously finds work with a private investigation agency in Paris. On occasion Eloïse’s skills prove useful to André, the older brother she idolises, who serves as a CIA Intelligence Officer, but a mission gone awry leaves them both with lasting scars.

Eloïse vows to find the men who betrayed her brother, and follows him home to their family farm, Mas Caussade, In the south east of France. There she finds the schism that plagues the country is tearing apart not only her hometown, but also her family. To protect her brother, Eloïse decide who she can trust, and guard against the lies that shroud the truth.

“I think of that moment as a dividing wall. There is what came before. And there is what came after. With that moment standing between them, a wall with death dancing upon it.”

I was surprised at how quickly I became absorbed in this compelling, fast paced, historical tale of intrigue and romance.

Furnivall has skilfully created a complex plot of mystery and espionage in The Guardian of Lies, which kept me guessing. The political unrest in mid century France provides a dramatic background to the story. The tension between rival parties causes a general climate of anger and mistrust, a situation both the American and Soviets are willing to exploit in their quest for Cold War dominance. Like Eloïse, I often wasn’t quite sure who to trust, and there was at least one betrayal I didn’t see coming at all.

“We have to guard against their lies or we lose our grasp of the truth,’ he told her. ‘They buy control with their lies, these people who live in the shadows with their secrets and their threats and their guns.”

Eloïse is a terrific protagonist- intelligent, tenacious and brave. I admired her dogged search for the truth despite the very real threat to her life, and her ability to adapt to the situations she found herself in. I understood her loyalty to her family, even if was somewhat misplaced – neither her father, André, or her younger brother, Issac, show much concern for her. I liked the relationship that Furnivall developed between Eloïse and Serriac Police Captain, Léon Roussell. His strongly held notions of duty and honour are appealing, especially in contrast to the shadowy world of secrets her family inhabits.

A well crafted novel offering engaging characters and a thrilling plot, I really enjoyed The Guardian of Lies.

++++++

Available from Simon & Schuster Au

Or your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: The Heart Keeper by Alex Dahl

 

Title: The Heart Keeper

Author: Alex Dahl

Published: July 11th 2019, Head of Zeus

Status: July 2019, courtesy HarperCollins/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

 

“Hearts are wild creatures, that’s why our ribs are cages.”

The Heart Keeper by Alex Dahl is an intensely emotional story of grief, loss and hope.

Devastated by the accidental drowning death of her beloved six year old daughter, Alison reels brokenly between crippling emotional agony and a drug and alcohol induced stupor, unable to accept her loss. When her stepson raises the theory of cellular memory, which suggests that a transplanted organ retains some of the memories or personality traits of the donor that manifest in the recipient, Alison becomes obsessed with the idea that somewhere Amalie lives on…and she wants her back.

“I envision her heart beating in this moment, sutured in place in a little stranger’s chest. I see fresh, clean blood pumped out and around a young body, carrying miniscule particles of my own child. I stand up and press my face to the window. Out there, somewhere, her heart is beating.”

The narrative of The Heart Keeper moves between the first person perspectives of Alison, and Iselin, whose paths cross when Alison seeks out the recipient of her daughters heart, seven year old Kaia. At first Alison believes just a glimpse of her child’s ‘heart keeper’ will ease the ache, but it’s not enough, and she arranges a meeting with Iselin, ostensibly to commission some artwork, which simply feeds her obsession.

“I couldn’t have grasped, then, that it would grow bigger and sharper every day, that it would rot my heart, that it would devour everything that was once good,…”

Alison’s pain is so viscerally described by Dahl, the intensity is difficult to cope with at times. Her slow unraveling is utterly compelling, and though it’s known from the outset the direction the plot will take, Alison’s journey, her longing for her daughter, is what drives the story.

“You and her, you’re one and the same. I can’t believe I didn’t realize this before, that all of this time, you were right there.”

With richly drawn characters and raw emotive writing The Heart Keeper is an engrossing, poignant and heartrending story about death, and life.

++++++

Available from HarperCollins AU

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review: Six Minutes by Petronella McGovern

 

Title: Six Minutes

Author: Petronella McGovern

Published: July 1st 2019, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read June 2019, courtesy Allen & Unwin

++++++

My Thoughts:

“Three hundred and seventy-one, three hundred and seventy-two, three hundred and seventy-three…I’ve made it. I can stop counting now. Three hundred and seventy-three seconds. Six minutes.”

Six minutes after leaving her daughter, Bella, playing happily with her friends at playgroup, Lexie Parker returns to discover the three year old is missing, and none of the mothers that were supposed to be watching her can tell Lexie where her daughter went. Lexie clings to the idea that Bella has somehow simply wandered away, and be will found any minute, but as the hours pass and an extensive police search fails to find her, Lexie has to face other frightening possibilities. Someone knows what happened in those six minutes, but who?

McGovern provides us with plenty of suspects in the abduction of Bella, and keeps us guessing as the plot unfolds. The narrative moves between the perspectives of several characters, among them Lexie, her husband and Bella’s father, Marty, the investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Caruso, and Tara, one of the mother’s present at the playgroup when Bella went missing.

Everyone has secrets, some which prove to be relevant to Bella’s disappearance, some not, and the story is told in such a way that it’s almost impossible to guess where guilt or innocence may lie. While the question of what happened to Bella is Intriguing on its own, there is more than the one mystery in Six Minutes that kept me turning the pages.

I haven’t read many books set in Canberra (in the Australian Capital Territory), but the small community on the fringe of the city felt authentic and familiar. Residents turn out in force to help search for Bella, the media descends and causes chaos, and outsiders, and insiders, speculate wildly on social media, eager to be heard.

With a compelling cast of characters and a riveting plot, Six Minutes is an engrossing thriller from debut author Petronella McGovern.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

Review and Giveaway: All That Impossible Space by Anna Morgan

 

 

Title: All That Impossible Space

Author: Anna Morgan Twitter I Instagram I Goodreads

Published: June 25th 2019, Lothian Children’s Books

Status: Read June 2019, courtesy Hachette AU

Blurb:

Amelia Westlake meets My Favorite Murder in this debut from a terrific new voice in Australian YA. Combines a realistic story about high school drama and toxic friendship with true crime – the endlessly fascinating Somerton Man or Taman Shud mystery.

15-year-old Lara Laylor feels like supporting character in her own life. She’s Ashley’s best friend, she’s Hannah’s sister-she’s never just Lara.

When new history teacher Mr. Grant gives her an unusual assignment: investigating the mystery of the Somerton Man. Found dead in on an Adelaide beach in 1948, a half-smoked cigarette still in his mouth and the labels cut out of his clothes, the Somerton Man has intrigued people for years. Was he a spy? A criminal? Year 10 has plenty of mysteries of its own: boys, drama queen friends, and enigmatic new students. When they seem just as unsolvable as a 60-year-old cold case, Lara finds herself spending more and more time on the assignment. But Mr Grant himself may be the biggest mystery of all…

Interspersed with fictionalised snapshots of the Somerton Man investigation, ALL THAT IMPOSSIBLE SPACE is a coming of age novel exploring toxic friendships and the balance of power between teacher and student, perfect for fans of Cath Crowley and Fiona Wood.

++++++

My Thoughts:

 

Anna Morgan’s contemporary young adult novel, All That Impossible Space, is an engaging debut exploring the themes of identity, friendship, family, and coming-of-age, framed by the enigmatic mystery of Somerton Man.

I was vaguely aware of the Somerton Man case before reading All That Impossible Space, and it was one of the main reasons that I was persuaded to read the novel. Given the current popularity of true crime, evidenced by podcasts such as My Favorite Murder (which I personally enjoy), and the plethora of documentaries on streaming services such as Netflix, it’s a savvy inclusion from the author. The Somerton Man case cleverly reflects Lara’s search for her own identity, as someone other than Hannah’s sister, and Ashley’s best friend. This in part explains her attachment to Mr Grant, who as a new teacher has no knowledge of Hannah’s accomplishments, and acknowledges Lara as an individual, rather than part of ‘AshleyandLara’.

I appreciated Morgan’s realistic portrayal of her characters. My teenagers are all of a similar age and I feel Lara, Ashley, Kate and Jos demonstrated appropriate attitudes and behaviours for their age group, which isn’t always the case in young adult fiction.

There would be few among us who wouldn’t be familiar with a ‘friend’ like Ashley, and Morgan skilfully portrays the codependent dynamic of their toxic relationship. I really liked that the author showed how difficult it was for Lara to extricate herself from the situation, struggling with her sense of loyalty to Ashley, and not wanting to hurt her feelings. The author underscores how destructive the friendship is by contrasting it with Lara’s interactions with Kate, the new girl, and Jos, the love interest.

Lara’s issues with her family are relatively benign for the genre, but I liked that Morgan showed that family problems don’t have to be dramatic (eg abuse, drugs, neglect etc) to have an effect on a teen’s sense of self. Lara’s parents are loving but have in a way lost sight of her, focused on her sister’s drama, even in Hannah’s absence. It’s clear Lara misses her sister, who is travelling on a gap year, but is also hurt by Hannah’s lack of communication.

I enjoyed All That Impossible Space, particularly the thoughtful examination of teen friendships and the intriguing study of Somerton Man (be prepared to fall down that rabbithole when you are done reading).

“Tamám Shud”

++++++

Available from Hachette in Paperback and Ebook

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko , or internationally from Book Depository

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GIVEAWAY

Courtesy of Hachette Austalia , I have

1 print edition of

All That Impossible Space by Anna Morgan

to giveaway to one lucky Australian resident.

Please leave a comment on this post and then

Closed

Congratulations Claire Louisa 

*PLEASE NOTE: Only Australian residents are eligible to enter*

Entries close July 5th, 2019

The giveaway will be random drawing on July 6th, 2019 and the winner will be notified by email within 48 hours

Review: Under the Cold Bright Lights by Garry Disher

 

Title: Under the Cold Bright Lights

Author: Garry Disher

Published: July 2nd 2019, Soho Crime

Status: Read June 2019, courtesy Soho Crime/Edelweiss

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My Thoughts:

Under the Bright Cold Lights is a stand-alone novel from Australian author Garry Disher, who is best known for his three crime fiction series’, Inspector Challis; Wyatt; and Paul Hirschhausen.

Five years after retirement, Acting Sergeant Alan Auhl has returned to the Victorian police force to work in the Cold Case and Missing Person Unit, where his experience, which includes a decade in homicide, fails to impress his younger colleagues who refer to him as ‘Retread’.

The latest case to cross Aulh’s desk concerns the discovery of a skeleton underneath a concrete pad on a rural property. The bones are that of a young man, who was shot in the chest, and buried under the concrete around five years previously. As Aulh, teamed with Detective Constable Claire Pascal, works to identify the ‘The Slab Man’ and whomever is responsible for his murder, he continues to reinvestigate the death of John Elphick at the behest of his daughters who believe he was murdered, is drawn into developments regarding a case he handled during his time in homicide, all while supporting a tenant/friend who is engaged in a contentious custody battle with her abusive husband.

Under the Cold Bright Lights is largely a police procedural, providing some insight into the way in which the police investigate cold cases. Auhl and his colleagues follow the slimmest of leads- a numberplate scrawled in a notebook, old rental agreements, and hotline tips, among others. There isn’t a lot of action in the novel, but the investigations are interesting, and cover a fair bit of ground.

I liked Auhl, who is an old-school type of cop, willing to put in the work to solve his cases. He isn’t bothered by the ribbing he receives from his younger colleagues, and he isn’t interested in office politics. It’s clear Alan has a big heart, evidenced by the ‘waif and strays’ he takes in at ‘Chateau Auhl’. It’s also evident early on that he is somewhat disillusioned with the justice system, and is prepared to exact his own when the system fails.

The writing is understated yet engaging, and I enjoyed Disher’s dry wit. I thought the story was well paced, and found it to be an easy read. The settings are evocative of the city, suburbs, and regional areas of Victoria, as are the minor characters.

Under the Cold Bright Lights is a well-crafted, absorbing mystery with strong characterisation, and a distinct Australian setting.

++++++

Available from Soho Press

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

Australian/UK Cover

 

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