Review: Sargasso by Kathy George

Title: Sargasso

Author: Kathy George

Published: 3rd February 2021, HQ Fiction

Status: Read February 2021 courtesy Harlequin/Netgalley

++++++

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.

++++++

Available from Harlequin Australia

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

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

++++++

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

++++++

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