Post Script: The Break – Deb Fitzpatrick

The climax will haunt you whether you are a “local” or not.

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The Break

Deb Fitzpatrick

Fremantle Press

ISBN: 9781922089632

 

 

Description:

The south-west coast is the kind of place people escape to. Unless you have lived there all your life, in which case, you long to get away.

 

Rosie and Cray chuck in their city jobs for Margaret River while Liza, Ferg and Sam have been there forever, working the family farm. Under pressure from developers the families unite against change. But when a natural disaster strikes, change is inevitable.

 

My View:

I am always keen to read books written by Australian authors particular those local to the region I live in or those written about that region– and you couldn’t get any more “local” than this, a story written about the Margaret River region. Local landmarks are thinly disguised and easily recognised. A narrative based on my local region, with a synopsis that talks about sea changes (which again appealed to me because of my own relatively recent sea change) and an environmental issue, I was hooked. A barely glanced over the line “But a natural disaster…” and wasn’t prepared for the emotional ending.

 

Fitzpatrick drew me in with elements that I thought would be related to my own life; there was so many aspects of the narrative that felt I would recognise, maybe empathise with; my daughter is a journalist, I have a son in-law who is a FIFO mine worker, we made a sea change to the Margaret River region…I thought I would find elements here I could identify with. But I didn’t. The book is set in the late 1990’s but at times felt so much older, so dated … or do I have a short memory? I am seeing a stereotyped version of a hippy/surfing culture that I think existed in the 70’s? I don’t know but for me the contemporary issues felt at odds with the setting. Something didn’t quite jell.

 

The story is told through the circumstance and lives of two sets of families – Rosie and Cray – who made the deliberate decision to move to the area and the Crowe family – a family of farmers who have always lived in the area, a juxtaposition of opinions and perspectives that eventually is meant to lead to us to an intersection where both families unite (over a development issue). This did not work for me – I did not feel there was any real connection between the two units, the relationship didn’t seem to grow and just seemed cursory. I think this aspect needs more development.

 

I can empathise with the desire to escape the city life and move to a regional area where life is more relaxed but I didn’t feel a connection with the main characters experiences and I didn’t feel any sense of the community they were seeking (until the very last pages) and then I didn’t feel they were part of that community. In fact the lives they moved to seemed pretty disparate with their ideals before they left, particularly for Rosie. Life was probably looking better to Cray but he was a character I didn’t warm to; I felt he was selfish.

 

Despite some misgiving with the lack of development of the relationships in this narrative I can see a wonderful potential in the storyline regarding the history of the Crowe family. I would have liked to have known more about their lives, about their relationships, about the problems the family dealt with (and there are many) and the optimism Crowe senior had for life on the land. I would like to have known more about a family dealing with an addiction and with tragedy.

 

The tragedy – despite not living in the area at the time of this event (no spoilers here) I felt the wounds were still to raw to be presented in this forum. It is very clear what the author is referring to – there is no real effort to disguise the event. I think fiction/fact is too blurred here, “faction” is not what I wanted to read and is an entirely different narrative, one that could work so well – there is a story based on the tragedy that would really work here as a work of fiction, but not an identifiable fiction.

 

Writing that is engaging – but a narrative that is not developed enough for my liking. But mine is just a personal view, you should make up your own mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Script: Five Minutes Alone – Paul Cleave

Five Minutes Alone

A Thriller

Paul Cleave

Atria Books

Atria Books

ISBN: 9781476779157

 

 

Description:

In the latest thriller by the Edgar-nominated author of Joe Victim, someone is helping rape victims exact revenge on their attackers, prompting an edge-of-your-seat, cat-and-mouse chase between old friends, detectives Theodore Tate and Carl Schroder.

 

Carl Schroder and Theodore Tate, labeled “The Coma Cops” by the media, are finally getting their lives back into shape. Tate has returned to the police force and is grateful to be back at home with his wife, Bridget. For Schroder, things are neither good nor bad. The bullet lodged in his head from a shooting six months ago hasn’t killed him, but—almost as deadly—it’s switched off his emotions.

 

When the body of a convicted rapist is found, obliterated by an oncoming train, Tate works the case, trying to determine if this is murder or suicide. The following night, the bodies of two more rapists surface. It’s hard to investigate when everyone on the police force seems to be rooting for the killer.

 

There’s a common plea detectives get from the loved ones of victims: When you find the man who did this, give me five minutes alone with him. And that’s exactly what someone is doing. Someone is helping these victims get their five minutes alone. But when innocent people start to die, Tate and Schroder find themselves with different objectives, and soon they’re battling something they never would’ve expected—each other.

 

My View:

This is a review that is causing me to wrestle with my response to the book – I had so many! Let me explain – I hadn’t read any others in this series but the premise of revenge drew me in. The first few chapters I found really engaging, tense, and dramatic. I empathised with the first murderer – I think anyone would. And hence starts the first of many moral dilemmas in this narrative.

 

The theme of revenge, of ‘doing the right thing by doing the wrong thing’ is a theme I have noticed weave its way into a few contemporary reads lately. The question is raised, would you do the ‘right thing’ when ‘the right thing’ isn’t necessarily the ‘legal thing’. And responds and provides scenarios that address the comment so many victims of crime or their close friends, family or partner may say after a horrific act – “Give me five minutes alone with the perpetrator.” We have all heard it before or maybe even responded the same way. What would you do with that time? Cleave provides some very interesting outcomes to stir your thoughts. (Some progressive gaols do encourage victims to meet with the perpetrator – whether that be to vent and rage or to try understand the “why” and help the victim deal with their loss of power.)

 

I really liked the characterisations in this novel – flawed but very human cops, the main protagonists’ being cops who are also victims/perpetrators of crimes themselves. This put a very interesting spin on the narrative and this is where I wish I had read the previous novels to get a better understanding of what made Theo and Carl the people we encounter in this book.

 

However the amount of bad luck that Carl Schroder experiences was a little difficult to believe; I could almost see the actions exaggerated just a little to fit the script of a very black slapstick comedy…The strength of the writing kept me reading.

 

So I am conflicted on how I feel about this book, would I recommend it to others? Maybe with the proviso you read the earlier books first and get a good understanding of the history that created Theo and Carl as depicted in this book. Was I engaged with this narrative? Yes I was, I wanted to know how Theo and Carl could possibly get themselves out of such a difficult situation and I wanted these flawed good /bad guys to win. It is too hard, I will leave this one for you to decide what you think about it.

 

 

Meet The Author: Salt Story, Of Sea Dogs and Fisherwomen – Sarah Drummond

Tonight I had the pleasure of hearing author Sarah Drummond talk about her book Salt Story, at the Margaret River library. What a great event. I want to go to more  of this sort of thing. It was inspiring to hear of Sarah’s experiences as a fisherwoman in Albany, in the South West of Western Australia.  Her passion for the sea and the community she worked in is evident in her writing and her presentation tonight.

I loved her book; snapshots of life in this close knit community. (My review to follow in the next week or so). Thanks Sarah for a very enjoyable night.

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Post Script: The Murder Of Harriet Krohn – Karin Fossum

Can you balance the scales or wipe out an evil act with good deeds?

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The Murder of Harriet Krohn

Karin Fossum

Translated by James Anderson

Harvill Secker

Random House

ISBN: 9781846557958

 

 

Description:

Charles Olav Torp has problems. He’s grieving for his late wife, he’s lost his job, and gambling debts have alienated him from his teenage daughter. Desperate, his solution is to rob an elderly woman of her money and silverware. But Harriet Krohn fights back, and Charlo loses control.

 

Wracked with guilt, Charlo attempts to rebuild his life and regain his dignity. But the police are catching up with him, and Inspector Konrad Sejer has never lost a case yet.

 

Through the eyes of a killer, The Murder of Harriet Krohn poses the question: how far would you go to turn your life around, and could you live with yourself afterwards?

 

 

My View:

 

Fossum poses a very interesting question in this psychological study when Sejer asks the suspect “What is a human being?” and he answers profoundly; “There are probably as many answers as there are human beings. And I hate all that guff about free will.” Sejer responds with equal insight, “Because you feel you haven’t got it. But many people would maintain that they do have it. You’re envious and so you dismiss the term” (p.275). This book is an interesting study about free choice, guilt and about how far an individual will go to change the circumstances of their life, a life where choices seem limited or non-existent. Can you wipe out one act of evilness with a lifetime of goodness? Can we re balance the scales?

 

This book is a little different to others I have read by Fossum – the narrative is told from the perspective of the villain, we see the wretchedness of his life, his illogical logic, his attempts to convince himself he had no choice but to commit this heinous crime and his efforts to lead a “good life” after the crime is committed. Inspector Sejer’s appearance is largely in the periphery – he is mentioned in the newspaper reports of the crime and it is not til the very end that he makes an entrance, in his usual calm and composed manner. We learn very little of how Sejer puts his case together – we know it is by solid police work and investigation, witness statements etc. but we are not privy to his thought processes.

 

This is a very unassuming book; not your average work of crime fiction, but them we know not to expect average from Ms Fossum. This narrative is told in a very slow and calm manner with a very deliberate and detailed look at a life less fortunate and the choices we may or may not have and the repercussions of those choices. A great psychological expose.

 

Post Script: Dog Will Have His Day – Fred Vargas

For those who are looking for something different in crime fiction – quirky characters and black humour abound here.

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Dog Will Have His Day

Fred Vargas

Harvill Secker

Random House

ISBN: 9781846558207

Description:

HOW DO YOU SOLVE A MURDER WITHOUT A BODY?

Keeping watch under the windows of the Paris flat belonging to a politician’s nephew, ex-special investigator Louis Kehlweiler catches sight of something odd on the pavement. A tiny piece of bone. Human bone, in fact.

When Kehlweiler takes his find to the nearest police station, he faces ridicule. Obsessed by the fragment, he follows the trail to the tiny Breton fishing village of Port-Nicolas – in search of a dog. But when he recruits ‘evangelists’ Marc and Mathias to help, they find themselves facing even bigger game.

 

My View:

 

This is my first read of a Fred Vargas book – she has several series published – The Inspector Adamsberg Series and The Three Evangelists Series – Dog Will Have His Day in the second book in the second series. I had no difficulty picking up this book without reading the first – The Three Evangelists, however maybe it is the unique style of writing or maybe the translation (which on the whole was very well done Sian Reynolds) or maybe because I hadn’t read the first book but I needed to time to process the first few chapters before I dived into the rest of the book.

 

And what a book! Full of quirky characters that most of society would have cast aside – so refreshing, unique and enjoyable. Louis (also known by some as Ludwig) is an ex special investigator (forced retirement) who has a myriad of informers – drunks, newspaper sellers, bar owners… homeless people… who supply him with vital information. He may be retired but he is not off the job. He is an eccentric character (I base this judgement on the fact that he carries a toad around in his pocket, Bufo the Toad) aside from that small eccentricity he is perfectly normalJ and smart, and kind and like a terrier who won’t let go of a bone (no pun intended). This character – and the rest of the cast are so refreshing to read. There is not a drop of angst between them, no self-pity and lot of great detective work. A great read.

 

 

Dear Monica Competition

Yesterday I finished reading Hello From The Gillespies by Monica McInerney –  a complex story of families, miscommunication, the tough life of  Australian farmers today and about the choices we make that shape our lives. My review will be posted soon.

 

Penguin Australia are running a writing competition.

This promotion is open to Australian residents only 18 years and above with the exception of
those related to employees of the Promoter, their families, agents and anyone else connected
with this promotion.

 

Good luck to all who enter.

Post Script: The Unforgiven – Sean Slater

An authentic police procedural written by a Canadian cop – how good is that?

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The Unforgiven

Sean Slater

Simon and Shuster UK

ISBN: 9781471101403

 

Description:

 

Jacob Striker is back. And this time it is personal.

 

It is late at night when Detective Jacob Striker receives a call to investigate a disturbance at a bus depot in downtown Vancouver. On arrival, he discovers a bus in flames and the fire department battling to control the blaze. When they finally put the fire out, Striker makes a terrifying discovery. Inside is the body of a woman he once worked with, a police officer from the force. It looks as though she has been lured in and ambushed.

Striker vows to find and bring the murderer to justice. But the more Striker tries to look into the case, the more roadblocks he encounters. It soon becomes apparent that his investigations are upsetting some influential people. And now Striker is putting himself in grave danger as he battles through the layers of intrigue and lies to uncover the truth.

 

My View:

Sean Slater is the pseudonym for Vancouver Police Officer Sean Sommerville. Sean Sommerville has a ring side view of life and crime in his region and his firsthand knowledge of the area and the systems he works within shines bright and clear in his novels. The settings are authentic, his protagonist is the type of person you would want on your side in any situation – tough, capable, persistent and loyal (and it doesn’t hurt that he is not too bad looking either). This narrative is complex, the chapters short and sharp – no words are wasted, and there are many references to contemporary social issues that as  world-wide readers we are all aware of. I’ll say no more – there are no spoilers here.

 

In essence a brilliant, authentic police procedural with a villain that at times you can even feel a little empathy for…for his situation and the events in his life that have bought him to this ugly place where vengeance rules. A great read.