Review: A Home Like Ours by Fiona Lowe

Title: A Home Like Ours

Author: Fiona Lowe

Published: 3rd March 2021, HQ Fiction

Status: Read March 2021, courtesy Harlequin Australia /Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

“Life was an unpredictable lottery. But surrounded by a community and a garden, the future was easier to face.”

An insightful, warm and engaging story, A Home Like Ours is another fabulous novel from award winning Australian author Fiona Lowe.

When Helen arrived in the small town of Boolanga in rural Victoria three years ago, she had been living in her car, searching for work, and a place to call home. Now, having secured a position as a caretaker of the town’s community garden which provides her with a small cottage, her new found stability is threatened when she insists a local group of refugee women be provided with plots.

Jade is a young mother with no family to speak of and a deadbeat, often absent, partner. To supplement her meagre pension, and provide her baby son with organic produce, she reluctantly agrees to assist Helen in the community garden. Though initially distrustful of everyone, especially the refugees, Jade slowly discovers a place she could belong.

Tara doesn’t understand why her husband, hardware store owner, Jon, seems to have lost interest in her. Wrapped up in her own self-pity, she is stunned when he is diagnosed with a debilitating condition, and is forced to consider what community really means.

The central theme of A Home Like Ours focuses on the effects of displacement. Like the protagonists of Lowe’s story, almost all of us are vulnerable to events such as illness, injury, relationship breakdown, unemployment, unplanned pregnancy, as well as extreme situations like war, which could result in a complete change of circumstance.

To face these sorts of unexpected challenges requires the support of a community – of family, of friends, and often even strangers. Lowe’s decision to centre the story on the town’s community garden is a clever one. Not only is it a site that allows her to reflect the population of the town at large, but it’s also a setting in which her very different characters can plausibly meet.

Portrayed with a realistic complexity, I really liked Lowe’s characters and found their stories to be engaging. It’s impressive that she is able to credibly depict women who are of widely disparate ages and backgrounds, and have diverse concerns. I would have liked for Fiza, a Sudanese refugee, to have had a larger role in the story, though I can understand why Lowe likely shied away from doing so.

Lowe also explores a range of specific issues relevant in Australia at the moment including racist attitudes towards refugees from African countries, the rise of homelessness experienced by women over 55, the inadequacy of current social support payments, the lack of support programs in rural areas, and government corruption. It seems like a lot, but these issues overlap and intertwine, enriching the story, and informing the reader.

I barely noticed that A Home Like Ours was almost 600 pages long, engrossed in the well-paced story I finished it in a day. This is an wonderful read that encourages empathy, compassion and community.

++++++

Available from Harlequin Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

Review: Men Who Hate Women by Laura Bates

 


Title: Men Who Hate Women: From Incels to Pickup Artists: The Truth about Extreme Misogyny and How It Affects Us All

Author: Laura Bates

Published: 2nd March 2021, Sourcebooks

Status: Read March 2021 courtesy Sourcebooks/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

#NotAllMen they yell whenever a woman shares an encounter with an aggressive admirer, a handsy boss, a leering stranger, a violent rapist, a condescending colleague, an abusive partner. They are right, but there are definitely too many men, and their numbers don’t seem to be decreasing.

In Men Who Hate Women: From Incels to Pickup Artists: The Truth about Extreme Misogyny and How It Affects Us All, journalist Laura Bates investigates the online communities whose ideology centers around having power and control over women, how these affect society, and what can be done to change it moving forward.

Whilst incels (Involuntary celibates) beg for sex on demand, pickup artists (PUA) deploy predatory “gaming” tactics, Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) choose to eschew relationships with women altogether, and Men’s Rights Activists (MRA/MRM) insist women return their stolen power, there remains a wide range of common ideas and tactics underpinning what Bates terms ‘manosphere’ communities.

As ‘Alex’, a lonely young man, she allowed herself to be recruited into an online world in which nothing was his fault, in which he was an aggrieved martyr, not the privileged loser he felt society painted him as. And the cause of all his woes? Women. ‘Foids’ that won’t sleep with him, ‘sluts’ who say no when they really mean yes, ‘nags’ who sap their energy, ‘feminazi’s’ who want to rule the world.

While such groups are often dismissed as ‘fringe’ online activities, Bates shows how savvy members of these groups have actively spearheaded campaigns that downplay, distort and discredit women’s issues, amplified by trolls who enjoy the controversy, the irresponsible practices of clickbait mainstream media, and social media algorithms. Bates also explores how the manosphere rhetoric spills into the real world, inspiring everything from wordless intimidation to mass murders, and even influencing politics.

If terrorism is a means of attempting to exert control and wield power by creating fear, then at an individual level, it also describes men who intimidate, harass, coerce and abuse women. Bates is aware that the publication of this book will again make her a target of derision, vile abuse, rape, and death threats, and that her physical safety could be at risk. No one will be surprised to hear it, few will believe that there is anything that can be done about it. As a society, we seem to assume violence against women is inevitable.

#NotAllMen hate women, but some do. Some men blame women for every frustration, every grievance, every loss. Some men see women as objects, undeserving of respect or autonomy. And they are emboldened when these views remain unchallenged. These men are an obvious danger, not only to women, but also to society at large. A significant percentage of those who commit acts of terrorism and mass murderer have a history of violence against women.

I agree with Bates that intervention is needed well before some boys/men wander down this path. We, both women and men, need to be informed, to admit there is a problem, and work together to change it. We need to challenge instances of sexism, and fake ‘news’, to encourage boys and young men to define masculinity in a manner that doesn’t put them in opposition to women. “Ultimately, there are major changes that need to happen across a wide range of sectors, from government to tech companies, from media to education…”

I am the wife of a man who loves me, and whom I love. I am a mother of two daughters, and two sons whom I adore. So I know it’s #NotAllMen, but it is #SomeMen, many of whom I have had the misfortune to encounter in my lifetime. Men Who Hate Women is a book that will disturb, infuriate, challenge, and perhaps change you, for the better.

++++++

Available from Sourcebooks

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

Review: Everything Is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray

Title: Everything is Beautiful

Author: Eleanor Ray

Published: 9th February 2021, Piatkus

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy Hachette Australia

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My Thoughts:

Eleven years after Amy Ashton was encouraged to gather a selection of precious memories in a shoebox, her home is filled to the brim with keepsakes. Bundles of newspapers tower in the hallways, boxes block the stairs, wine bottles cover the floor, coffee mugs and cookbooks clutter the kitchen, ceramic birds perch on every flat surface, vases hold dead bouquets of honeysuckle, and lighters and ashtrays (even though Amy doesn’t smoke) are stacked in teetering piles.

Told in alternating chapters between present day and the past, why Amy came to stuff her home with ‘treasures’ is gradually revealed in this heartrending and beautiful tale by author Eleanor Ray. A capable and valued administrator at a financial advice firm, Amy is unassuming, her wardrobe is dull, she never wears makeup and avoids social events. Few would imagine what the intensely private woman returns home to each night, and Amy prefers that no one cares, she is content with just the company of her ‘beautiful things’ that remind of happier times.

Amy’s neighbour, Rachel, cares though, and blames her for an ongoing problem with mice. When a new family moves in next door, Rachel thinks she has found an ally in forcing Amy to change, but with a well paced and thoughtful plot, it doesn’t happen in the way that you may expect. I loved the unexpected way in which some of the elements of the story developed, and though I had an inkling of what the main twist would be, I wasn’t disappointed to be proved right.

Amy is slightly awkward and intensely vulnerable, but despite her extreme behaviour, there would be few who would not find her sympathetic. I found myself feeling strangely protective of her, perhaps in part because I’m a bit of a hoarder myself. There are also several delightful supporting characters in the book, including the two charming young sons of Amy’s new neighbour, and an elderly retired shopkeeper. It has its villains too, who are satisfyingly dealt with.

Everything is Beautiful may begin as a story of tragedy and grief, but ultimately it is one of healing and hope, which I found moving and am delighted to recommend.

++++++

Available from Hachette Australia

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

*Published in the US as The Missing Treasures of Amy Ashton

Review: Sargasso by Kathy George

Title: Sargasso

Author: Kathy George

Published: 3rd February 2021, HQ Fiction

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy Harlequin/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

“The last thing I remember is the screaming. I remember that because I wasn’t the one doing it…. It was the house. Sargasso. The house was screaming,….”

Inspired by her love of classic gothic fiction, Sargasso is an entrancing, eerie tale of mystery and passion from debut Australian novelist, Kathy George.

Upon her grandmother’s death, Hannah Prendergast inherits Sargasso, the impressive house of glass and stone designed by her late father, built on a headland just outside Shepherd Cove, a holiday town two hours’ drive down the west coast of Melbourne. It’s been twenty years since Helen last crossed the threshold of her childhood home, the family having abandoned it when she was twelve after her father’s body washed up on the beach below.

The narrative shifts smoothly between the past and the present. ‘Then’ Hannah is a bright and imaginative child who delights in the eccentric aspects of Sargasso, one of which is the inscrutable boy who becomes her best and only friend, Flint. ‘Now’, Hannah plans to rejuvenate the house while she decides what to do with it, and is stunned when Flint reappears, a grown man, as enigmatic as ever.

It is the relationship between Hannah and Flint that is at the heart of this story, an obsessive, possessive, all consuming love forged in childhood and reignited with their reunion as adults. Hannah barely hesitates before ending her three year relationship when Flint demands it, and grows ever more reluctant to even leave his side, as Flint has a habit of disappearing for hours, days, even weeks, particularly when she displeases him. The sense of uncertainty and dread steadily escalates as the secrets of Sargasso, both past and present, begins to unravel.

George develops an extraordinary atmosphere that blurs the line between what may be real and what may be imagined. The initial impression of Sargasso is one of light and strength, but slowly, particularly in the present timeline, the atmosphere of the house becomes oppressive and sinister. Rather than protect Hannah, it seems to trap her in a space between waking and sleeping.

The influence of novels such as Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Rebecca are obvious in terms of both plot and character but I think George provides her own modern Australian twist. Sargasso is an enthralling, haunting, gothic tale.

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Available from Harlequin Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

Review: The Second Son by Loraine Peck

Title: The Second Son

Author: Loraine Peck

Published: 4th January 2021, Text Publishing

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy Text/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

The Second Son is Loraine Peck’s impressive, thrilling crime fiction debut.

‘One. No friends. Two. No feelings. Three. No conscience. Only family. Everyone else is enemy.’

When Ivan Novak is shot dead in his driveway, his father, Milan is certain the leader of a rival Serbian gang is responsible and insists his younger son, Johnny exacts retribution. Johnny isn’t a killer and, not convinced the Serbs are responsible, is reluctant to perpetuate the war that began in Croatia on the streets of Sydney. Looking to deescalate the situation, Johnny develops a brilliant plan that he hopes will satisfy his father’s lust for revenge, and allow he, his wife, Amy, and son, Sasha, to finally escape his family’s stranglehold and start a new, legitimate life. But if the plan fails, Johnny risks losing everything.

Unfolding from the alternating perspectives of Johnny and Amy, The Second Son is an action-packed, (mostly) fast paced crime thriller that explores the themes of family, heritage, loyalty, revenge, and trauma.

Set in the western suburbs of Sydney, where the criminal underworld, often divided by ethnicity, competes for territory and illegal trade, Peck focuses on the animosity between the Serbs and Croats, their conflict imported from the Balkans civil war in the 1990’s. Milan Novak heads a gang of around 25, mostly family members, whose business involves drug trafficking, protection rackets, grand theft, armed robbery and money laundering, their territory abutting the Serbs, Italian, Asian and Bikie syndicates.

With his brother dead, Johnny is expected to step up and take his place as the second-in-command. Peck has given us a complex character, while his devotion to his wife and son are admirable, he is not exactly a good guy. He may not have a taste for killing, but he is not adverse to intimidation, or administering a beating, and his income is largely derived from illegal means. His relationship with his brutal father is complicated, and defying his orders seems impossible unless he can find an alternative. Peck cleverly plots a solution for Johnny, which I won’t share because it would spoil the surprise, but there is still great risk involved, especially in regards to keeping his marriage.

Johnny’s wife, Amy, has always turned a blind eye to the unsavoury elements of the family business, but when her safety and that of their son are threatened, she gives Johnny an ultimatum, demanding they move up north, far from the influence of her in-laws. Amy’s behaviour shows some naivety with regards to understanding the Novak family dynamic (though just enough nous to keep a dark secret), and she underestimates the danger her husband’s rivals presents. I liked her much more in the second half of the story, than the first.

In fact Amy was the cause of my only real issue with the novel as I found her perspective to be repetitive during the first half, which was a detriment to the pacing for me. The sag around the middle was soon forgotten though as Peck ups the stakes for both of her main protagonists, and the suspense drew me eagerly towards the conclusion.

There is quite a lot of violence in The Second Son but there are also flashes of humour. Peck’s writing is confident and engaging and I thought she showed a good understanding of both people, creating interesting, well-rounded characters, and setting, capturing a different aspect of Australian urban life.

The Second Son is an entertaining, tense and gritty crime novel, and I’m looking forward to the next instalment.

++++++

Available from Text Publishing

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

Review: Crackenback by Lee Christine

Title: Crackenback

Author: Lee Christine

Published: 1st February 2021, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

Crakenback follows Lee Christine’s bestselling debut, Charlotte’s Pass, featuring NSW Homicide Squad Detective Sergeant Pierce Ryder. It’s not necessary to have read the former however, as I found this story works very well as a stand-alone.

With the start of the ski season still a few weeks away, Golden Wattle Lodge proprietor Eva Bell is alone with her three year old, Poppy, when Jack Walker, bruised and bleeding, bursts through the door. Eva is terrified as he strips her of her phone and keys, irrationally convinced he has come for his daughter. Learning that Jack has instead come to protect them from a killer bent on revenge gives her only the smallest sense of relief.

Meanwhile DS Ryder and his small task force are searching for a new lead in the hunt for Gavin Hutton who is suspected of beating two men to death. Joined by Detective ‘Daisy’ Flowers, and new team member, Nerida Sterling, the investigation takes them from Sydney, south to Jervis Bay, north to the Central Coast and west to the Snowy Mountains, where their quarry is finally in sight.

Christine immediately captures the reader’s attention in Crackenback with a dramatic prologue, the relevance of which is revealed later in the story, but there’s plenty of action and tension to follow in this tightly plotted, exciting story.

I was as interested in the progress Ryder and his team were making in the search for their fugitive, as I was in Jack and Eva’s nervous wait for their attacker, though it quickly becomes clear they are one and the same. Both perspectives advance the plot and are neatly complimentary while building suspense. I thought the pacing of the story was very good, and I read it easily in one sitting.

Both Eva and Jack were appealing characters. I admired Eva’s determination to protect her daughter and her practical, sensible way of coping with the frightening situation she was thrust into. Jack has an interesting background, and he is obviously capable and resourceful. Though their relationship, which resulted in Poppy, was not much more than a one night stand, it’s obvious the pair are still attracted to each other, though Christine plays down the romance angle in favour of the action.

Unfortunately I hadn’t the opportunity to read Charlotte’s Pass so I’m not terribly familiar with Ryder, but I liked what I saw of him. It was his girlfriend Vanessa, who is also Eva’s sister, who had a larger role in that story. It seems likely to me that the third book will feature one of Ryder’s team.

While the main action takes place at the Lodge in Thredbo, and the deepening snow plays beautifully into the action, one of things I liked was the way in which Christine’s characters moved within the state of NSW. I was particularly delighted that my town of Taree even got a mention (though it wasn’t very flattering and, as far as I know, not true, given the Officer in Charge of our station is a woman).

With an intriguing storyline, fast paced action, and strong characterisation, I thought Crackenback was a great book, and I’ll definitely be reading Christine Lee’s next.

++++++

Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

Review: Exit by Belinda Bauer

Title: Exit

Author: Belinda Bauer

Published: 2nd February 2021, Atlantic Monthly Press

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy Atlantic/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

Belinda Bauer’s Exit is a delightful, offbeat murder mystery novel.

“Felix Pink found the predictability comforting – even if the predictable outcome was death.”

Seventy-five year old Felix Pink is an ‘Exiteer’, a volunteer with a secret group that aids, but does not assist, terminally ill people to end their own lives. A minor breach in protocol by Felix’s new partner, Amanda, seems innocent enough until they discover that they have in fact witnessed the death of the wrong man.

What follows veers between tragedy and comedy as Felix tries to understand how such a mistake could have been made. It soon becomes clear that the Exiteer’s were set up, but by who, and why? The answer is far more complicated than one might expect, and I’m loathe to spoil the smart twists of the plot that implicates more than one person.

Felix is a charming protagonist, he lives with his dog Mabel, enjoys puzzles, and considers himself boring but steadfast. The loss of both his wife and son is his motivation for joining the Exiteers and he believes he is doing important work. When he realises a mistake has been made he is horrified, eager to protect his partner, the group, and make to amends.

There are several other characters of importance to the story including the Exiteer’s group leader, Geoffrey, Amanda, the family of the dead man, and the investigating officers, DCI Kirsty King and DC Calvin Bridge who astute readers may recognise from Bauer’s previous works.

This is a well crafted tale with a unique hook. Witty, clever and engaging, I really enjoyed Exit.

++++++

Available from Atlantic Monthly Press

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

Review: Girls With Bright Futures by Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman

Title: Girls with Bright Futures

Author: Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman

Published: 2nd February 2021, Sourcebooks Landmark

Status: Read January 2021 courtesy Sourcebooks/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

“…as long as you had the money and status to back you up, every line was made to be crossed.”

When Stanford alerts the elite Elliot Bay Academy it only has only one early offer place for its graduating students, the competition for the slot quickly spirals out of control. Tech mogul Alicia is determined that her daughter, Brooke, will attend Stanford no matter the cost, Kelly will do anything to ensure her daughter Krissie will be the chosen one, while Maren, with none of the advantages of her wealthy rivals, and her job as Alicia’s PA on the line, doesn’t know how to tell her daughter, Winnie, that her Stanford dream is over.

With excellent pacing Girls With Bright Futures unfolds over two timelines and from three perspectives. It begins with a prologue which reveals one of the three Stanford hopefuls has been the victim of a hit and run, and then moves to a few weeks prior as Maren and Winnie are being informed by the school’s college counselor that Winnie needs to rethink her application to Stanford. It’s immediately clear to them both that while Winnie is the strongest academic candidate, Brooke has the edge because of her mother’s wealth and status. While Winnie isn’t willing to back down, Alicia has made it clear to Maren that should Winnie compete with Brooke for the spot, Maren will be fired, and renege on a secret deal that provides financial support for Winnie’s schooling. Meanwhile Kelly, PTA President and Stanford alum, whose daughter is perpetually in 2nd place to Winnie, and is not quite wealthy or powerful enough to compete with Alicia, attempts to topple Krissie’s rivals with gossip and innuendo.

With my own daughter having graduated highschool last year, I am so glad for the far more egalitarian higher education system in place here. While the authors insist that the events in this novel are an exaggerated, they seem all too plausible given recent, and past events in the US news. Some parents have already proved they are willing to do anything to ensure their precious offspring has every advantage, and when they can’t earn it, they are willing to pay, manipulate, or even kill (hello Texas Cheerleader Mom) to ensure it.

Alicia Stone is a character you love to hate, selfish and entitled she wields her privilege without mercy. Her behaviour is repetitively appalling, there is more than one instance in which she takes advantage of Winnie, and as Maren’s employer she is endlessly demanding. Brooke is an extension of her ego, rather than a person in her own right.

As for Kelly, her whole self is invested in her children’s achievements and while she definitely crosses the line, at least she recognises there is one.

Naturally it’s Maren that attracts the most sympathy, a single mom doing everything she can to support her bright daughter but caught in a difficult situation, given her reliance on her employer. And is if that’s not enough, she is totally blindsided when her rivals machinations dig up a painful secret from her past.

For me, the authors struck just the right note with Girls With Bright Futures. I found the pace to be addictive, the drama wickedly entertaining, and the epilogue hugely satisfying.

++++++

Available from Sourcebooks

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Review: Relics, Wrecks and Ruins by Aiki Flinthart (Ed)

 

 


Title: Relics, Wrecks and Ruins

Author: Aiki Flinthart (Editor}

Published: 31st January 2021

Status: Read January 2021 courtesy the editor

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My Thoughts:

It’s not often that I respond to a Twitter call out but Relics, Wrecks and Ruins caught my attention for several reasons. Of course I’m always eager to support Australian authors, several of whom are contributors to this anthology, and I’m trying to include more fantasy and science fiction in my reading, but I was also moved upon learning that this was to be the final project for Australian Sci-Fi novelist and the editor of this anthology, Aiki Flinthart, who has been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour, and that the profits from sales will fund a mentorship program for emerging writers in her name.

Relics, Wrecks and Ruins is an impressive collection of 24 short stories penned by a stellar range of authors including Australian writers Garth Nix, Kate Forsyth, Kylie Chan and international authors, Juliet Marrilier, Jasper Fforde, and Neil Gamain, among others who generously donated their work to the publication. The tales are loosely connected by the titular themes, exploring the relics, wrecks and ruins of the past and future, in this world and others. The stories cover almost every sub-genre of speculative fiction including horror, sci-fi fantasy, and dystopian.

As such, I think Relics, Wrecks and Ruins has something for everyone. There were several story’s that particularly appealed to me from both familiar and unfamiliar authors. Juliet Marrilier’s ‘Washing the Plaid’ is a charming, whimsical introduction to the anthology about a book lover discovering magic. A unique punishment devised by a future society features in 16 Minutes by Jasper Fforde. Fans of Julie Kagawa will enjoy Mary Robinette Kowai’s story, American Changeling where a human/faerie teenager is called upon to save the Seelie Queen. Lee Murray’s The Wreck of the Tartarus sees a submarine full of US sailors caught under a rockfall waiting for rescue. Readers familiar with Mark Lawrence’s Book of the Ancestor Trilogy will appreciate a Red Sister Story featuring Nona, Rulin and Clera called Thaw, and horror fans won’t want to miss Six Stringed Demon, where a rock band fights to exorcise a young boy in a hell of a battle by Sebastian de Castell. Aiki Flinthart has the honour of finishing the collection with a poignant story about birth, death, and humanity’s legacy.

Aiki Flinthart has successfully put together an exciting and powerful anthology with Relics, Wrecks and Ruins. A legacy to be proud of, it has my enthusiastic endorsement.

+++++++

Available worldwide in ebook via books2read

Or in paperback direct from Aiki Flinthart

Review: The Schoolgirl Strangler by Katherine Kovacic

Title: The Schoolgirl Strangler

Author: Katherine Kovacic

Published: 3rd January 2020, Bonnier Echo

Status: Read January 2021 courtesy BFredriksPR

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My Thoughts:

When the body of a young girl, lured from the park by a stranger during the summer of 1930, is found bound, gagged and strangled in an abandoned house, Melbourne is stunned. The police quickly focus in on a suspect, but as they move ahead with the prosecution, another young girl is found bound, gagged and strangled in a vacant block. Twelve year old Mena Griffiths, and sixteen year old Hazel Wilson were the first two of four victims of a serial killer, given the media moniker of ‘The Schoolgirl Strangler’ that eluded the police for five years.

Drawing on newspaper reports, police records and court documents, author Katherine Kovacic lays out the particulars of each murder and the investigation into each crime in chronological order. I liked the structure Kovacic chose for this narrative though this is really only possible because of the unique path the investigation took, primarily as a result of several serious errors by the police. In the crimes against Mena Griffiths, Hazel Wilson, and twelve year old Ethel Belshaw, a different suspect was identified each time, leading to an arrest, and in one case even a false conviction. I found myself intrigued by the way in which the cases unfolded, which Kovacic reveals in detail. In the absence of modern crime scene techniques, and understanding (the term ‘serial killer’ would not be coined for decades), the charges were based on little else than flimsy circumstantial evidence and eventually fell apart, with the real killer having escaped notice. It wasn’t until the discovery of the tiny body of six year old June Rushmer in December 1935, who was also bound, gagged and strangled, that the man responsible for all four crimes was captured. With his prompt confession under questioning, the links between each case became clear.

The identity of the murderer finally revealed, Kovacic then leads us through his trial. What I found most interesting with regards to the prosecution of the perpetrator was the debate about his sanity. The killer blamed his actions on drink, claiming he lost his senses when under the influence and didn’t remember the actual commission of his crimes so could not therefore be held accountable. The defence ran with this, pleading insanity, combining it with the general assumption that a person who would strangle young girls for no discernible reason must suffer from a mental disease.

Kovacic presents a meticulous and astute account of a fascinating historical crime in The Schoolgirl Strangler, and I think readers of both the true crime, and crime fiction genres will find the narrative approach accessible and interesting.

++++++

Available from Echo Publishing Australia and Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$32.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Booktopia I Amazon

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