Guest Review : Her – Garry Disher

Her

Her

Garry Disher

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733638541

 

Description:

Out in that country the sun smeared the sky and nothing ever altered, except that one day a scrap man came by . . .

Her name is scarcely known or remembered. All in all, she is worth less than the nine shillings and sixpence counted into her father’s hand. She bides her time. She does her work.

Way back in the corner of her mind is a thought she is almost too frightened to shine a light on: one day she will run away.

A dark and unsettling tale from the turn of the twentieth century by a master of Australian literature.

 

Brenda’s Review:

Three years old she was when the scrap man came and paid her father nine shillings and sixpence. She was chosen over the rest of her siblings; suddenly she belonged to the scrap man while memories of her family faded. Living in a dilapidated jumble of belongings, her name was You; there was Wife and Big Girl – all cowered when the scrap man was angry.

Seasonally the horse was harnessed to the cart and they ventured out to sell, buy, steal and trick – meandering across the countryside, remembering where not to go if they’d been shunted away last time. Whenever there was a pub nearby the scrap man drank their measly pennies until there wasn’t enough for food. Then he would fly into a rage and beat Wife.

Back at home Wife, Big Girl and You spent their time making things from scrap metal for their next trip through the countryside; while the scrap man drank and womanised. What would happen to the little family? Would You be able to escape? He’d always threatened to kill her if she tried…

Her by Aussie author Garry Disher is set in the bush near Bendigo in Victoria at the turn of the century and is a tale of utter despair, bitterness and how the nameless young women coped at the hands of one unscrupulous and evil man. This is completely different to anything the author has written before, and in my opinion he’s nailed it. A master at his craft, Garry Disher certainly knows how to weave a tale, and Her will stay with me for a long time. A highly recommended 5 star read.

 

Post Script: The Crossing – B Michael Radburn

the-crossing

The Crossing

The Taylor Bridges Series #1

B Michael Radburn

Pantera Press

ISBN: 9780980741872

 

Description:

Redemption is born of guilt, and weighs heavy on even the strongest man.

 

Traumatised by the disappearance of his daughter Claire, Taylor Bridges’ marriage breaks down, and he exiles himself to Glorys Crossing in Tasmania. Taylor is the only ranger in this isolated town adjoining a national park… a town dying a slow death as the rising waters of the new dam project slowly flood it.

 

Struggling with the guilt of Claire’s disappearance, Taylor is a chronic sleepwalker. When another young girl the same age goes missing, Taylor begins to question himself… uncertain of what happens when he sleepwalks.

 

It’s a race against time not just to find the missing girl, but in Taylor’s search for redemption and a past better left lying at the bottom of the new lake.

 

 

My View:

I have just discovered a new favourite Australian crime fiction/mystery series writer, B Michael Radburn – you are a star!

 

Let me introduce you to this wonderful talented author:

B. Michael Radburn is a self-professed bloke from the “wrong side of the tracks”, whose fall into writing offered an escape from the fatal attraction of drugs and alcohol. Wonderful high school teachers made him realise that writing, when shared, offered faith in one’s self.

 

Writing from his farm in the hauntingly beautiful Southern Highlands of NSW, his work reflects both natural and supernatural environs. Described as “Ian Rankin meets Stephen King”, Radburn is the author of three full-length novels: The Crossing, Blackwater Moon and The Falls.

 

Radburn loves his family, jamming out the blues and his motorcycle! He also loves giving back and inspiring others from all walk of life – his Harley Davidson chapter (Sydney HOG) works with Father Chris Riley’s Youth off the Streets program.

 

Radburn uses these opportunities to talk to youth living rough in Sydney – offering reading and writing as “therapy” and sharing his own teenage experiences.https://www.panterapress.com.au/shop/category/15/b-michael-radburn

 

The Crossing  – the first in the Taylor Bridges series  has all the elements I love in a crime/mystery read –  a great Australian setting and the first Australian novel I have read set in Tasmania – the setting evocative, beautiful, cold and Radburn deftly weaves a little bit of debate around conservation into this mystery – very topical and well done. Characters – great character development and empathetic protagonists. Radburn captures the essence of “small town” isolation and narrow minded thinking that breeds fear of strangers/difference (can I plant an ear worm – think Duelling Banjos Deliverance…) ultimately this type behaviour delivers vigilante style punishment; there were some very disturbing yet credible scenes centred on this theme.

 

The plot – complex and multilayered – as I reflect on this read (I finished this book a few weeks ago) I am recalling some of the more subtle yet pervasive themes surrounding family – and in this book not all is quite as it seems!  Family – loss of, dealing with grief, protecting loved ones, and unconditional love… and sadly abuse within families…so much material here. Then there is the overarching theme of redemption. Add to all these delicious elements a missing child and a ticking clock and you have a compelling read!

 

 

Post Scritp: Pretty Baby – Mary Kubica

What a remarkable read! Intense and thought provoking.

Cover Pretty Baby

Pretty Baby

Mary Kubica

Harlequin (Australia), TEEN / MIRA

MIRA

ISBN: 9781743690352

 

Description:

Mary Kubica — bestselling author of The Good Girl — delivers a stunning new psychological thriller about a chance encounter that sparks an unrelenting web of lies where a chance encounter sparks an unrelenting web of lies…

 

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a non-profit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi comes home one day with a teenage girl named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Dishevelled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal — or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated?

 

 

My View:

Mary Kubica is an author to include on you must read list. I loved her first novel – The Good Girl, and this new book is as powerful and surprising; a complex yet not complicated narrative, characters that will affect your emotions and prompt you to think about issues that surround us daily, issues perhaps we have been desensitised to. Kubica makes us look with fresh eyes. Mary Kubica has the real talent of being able to wrap up contemporary issues in complex engaging plots whilst insidiously pricking your conscience and holding your emotions to siege. This is an outstanding, absorbing read.

 

For me there were many levels to this narrative – there is the obvious – a story of child abuse, homelessness loosely knotted together with issues surrounding other health and welfare issues yet for me the strongest and most powerful sub story here was one about the defining of female identity with reproduction and family. This narrative is the perfect vehicle to stimulate such a discussion – and Heidi Wood is the perfect character to lead this discussion. A masterfully written!

 

Post Script: The Cellar – Minette Walters – Audio Book

My first audio book review!

Cellar: Minette Walters, Bolinda Australia

The Cellar

Minette Walters

Narrated by Sara Powell

Bolinda

ISBN: 9781486287536

5 hours 21 mins

Unabridged

 

Description:

The terrifying new Hammer novella by Minette Walters, bestselling author of The Tinder Box and The Sculptress.

Muna’s fortunes changed for the better on the day that Mr and Mrs Songoli’s younger son failed to come home from school. Before then her bedroom was a dark windowless cellar, her activities confined to cooking and cleaning. She’d grown used to being maltreated by the Songoli family; to being a slave. She’s never been outside, doesn’t know how to read or write, and cannot speak English. At least that’s what the Songolis believe. But Muna is far cleverer – and her plans more terrifying – than the Songolis, or anyone else, can ever imagine …

 

 

My View:

The wicked step mother stories pale into insignificance when cast against this wicked step family!

My first audio book and audio book review! To start I would like to say how relaxing I found listening to an audio book – to sit back and close your eyes and just listen is so pleasant – even if the book you are listening to is regarded as Hammer Horror. Hammer Horror is a term I am not familiar with – I have researched and found a few references to this phrase mostly in relation to the classic horror movies made between 1950 to the 1970’s, you know the sort of thing Bride of Dracula, The Mummy, The Plague of Zombies, The Nanny (the Bette Davis classic) Fear in the Night etc. I wouldn’t class this book as Hammer Horror – there were no goose bump moments, or fear of turning off the light but instead a deep and profound sadness at the horrific things that people do to each other and to the most powerless – to children. For this is a story of horrific abuse inflicted on a young girl and the effect that abuse has on her…or is it the effect the house has on her?? There are hints of some elements of paranormal in the narrative but the implication does not really become obvious until the chilling final chapters.

 

I think the narrative is more chilling in this audio format – listening to the horrors that were inflicted on Muna rather than just reading about them is so powerful. In particular I found Muna’s childlike innocent naïve voice recounting her perspective of life perfect for the audio format, so many layers are added to her story; despair, fear, acceptance and guile are part of her complex story . Sara Powell does an excellent job with the narration inflecting her speech with elements of fear, anger, acceptance…deftly transforming her style with each character she is representing. Her voice is a tool she uses superbly and effectively in this narration.

 

My first audio book will not be my last.

 

 

 

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher

 

 

 

 

 

Post Script: The Farm – Tom Rob Smith

The Farm

The Farm

Tom Rob Smith

Simon &Schuster

A CBS Company

ISBN: 9781847375704

 

 

 

Description:

Until the moment he received a frantic call from his father, Daniel believed his parents were headed into a peaceful, well-deserved retirement. They had sold their home and business in London, and said “farewell to England” with a cheerful party where all their friends had gathered to wish them well on their great adventure: setting off to begin life anew on a remote, bucolic farm in rural Sweden.

 

But with that phone call, everything changes. Your mother’s not well, his father tells him. She’s been imagining things–terrible, terrible things. She’s had a psychotic breakdown, and has been committed to a mental hospital.

 

Daniel prepares to rush to Sweden, on the first available flight the next day. Before he can board the plane, his father contacts him again with even more frightening news: his mother has been released from the hospital, and he doesn’t know where she is.

 

Then, he hears from his mother:

 

I’m sure your father has spoken to you. Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad. I don’t need a doctor. I need the police. I’m about to board a flight to London. Meet me at Heathrow.

 

Caught between his parents, and unsure of who to believe or trust, Daniel becomes his mother’s unwilling judge and jury as she tells him an urgent tale of secrets, of lies, of a horrible crime and a conspiracy that implicates his own father.

 

 

My View:

This was a very compelling and thought provoking read that defies you to place it in a neat  box – it is part psychological thriller, it is part contemporary fiction, part crime fiction.  Time wise it defies you to tie it down to just one point of reference; it is about the present, it is about the immediate past (the past few months) and it is about a life time ago; 1963 when Daniel’s mother was a sixteen year old girl. Settings swap between rural Sweden and busy London. This is a difficult read to categorise and that adds to its charm.

 

This novel will have you questioning everything you  think know about self,  family, personal history… of memories, whose version of our life do we carry with us? What lies do we live with and do we tell? This is an intriguing narrative. When there is conflict/relationship break down in a family whose side do we chose? Indeed do we need to choose? In this instance it is apparent that we need to, or rather Daniel needs to, and his mother says she will disown him if he does not commit fully to her story.  She is unbending – it is an all or nothing decision.  How often do we hear this story in family breakdowns? How do the children ( even an adult child in this case) cope?

 

This is a complex novel that picks at an emotional scab revealing new wounds and old scars. Gender discrimination and power imbalances are laid open. Bullying, in the home, the community and in the vestibules of all places of male dominated infrastructure / hierarchies are laid bare for all to examine or at least to acknowledge. The issue of sexual abuse is eventually teased out into the open. This is a very intense read.

 

And lastly we but not least we get to inspect and consider the issues of mental health from a victims perspective; how the sins of the past affect the present and how small mental injuries – social snubs, gossip, exclusive behaviours, conjure up sinister intent. The signs are all around us if we want to read them.

 

And this is a well written, tightly constructed novel that is not without hope. A compelling read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Script: Broken – Vanessa skye

Violence, sex addiction, relationship problems, office politics and crime – this book has it all!

Broken

Vanessa Skye

The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House

ISBN: 9781612132129

 

 

Description:

A mother is murdered in an apparent robbery.

A young woman is raped and beaten in a home invasion.

Chicago Detective Alicia “Berg” Raymond doesn’t believe in random crime and is certain both cases are more than they seem—but can she trust her instincts, or is she too distracted by the feelings she has for former partner and new boss? For Berg, the need for justice burns deep and fills the emptiness where therapy and relationships fall short.

She’s certain the husband knows more than he’s willing to admit, but the trap to catch the killer is the loophole that sets him free.

The rapist is caught and sent to prison, but when Berg gets closer to the family devastated by his depravity, their behaviour doesn’t add up.

As Berg fights to prevent another murder, she crosses the line between hero and villain—and there’s no turning back.

** Vanessa Skye is a journalist and public relations executive from Sydney, Australia, who has always loved a good story. Enthralled with examining the motivations behind people’s actions, Vanessa realized what she really wanted to do in life was combine her love of words with her fascination for human behaviour. Inspired by a recurring dream, Vanessa wrote her crime fiction debut, The Enemy Inside.

My View:

I think my appreciation of the characters and the back story would have been enhanced if I had read the earlier book, The Enemy Inside. There are many references to this earlier work and without this background I think it took me a little while to engage with this narrative. I struggled along piecing together the existing relationships, past misdemeanours and the serious and abusive history of Berg’s childhood and the horrendous events that took place at her workplace before this new chapter in her life begins. I had a lot to catch up on.

However once caught up I found this to be a fast paced, action packed police procedural with plenty to keep me interested. The plot twisted and turned and I feared for the inevitable as Berg’s life  spun out of control and began to disintegrate before my eyes. I must warn the potential reader; this story comes with a lot of graphic sex, explicit language and violence. It is not for the faint hearted.

Post Script: Bad Wolf – Nele Neuhaus

Sins of the fathers…

Bad Wolf

Nele Neuhaus

St. Martin’s Press

Minotaur Books

ISBN: 9781250043993

Description:

On a hot June day the body of a sixteen-year-old girl washes up on a river bank outside of Frankfurt. She has been brutally murdered, but no one comes forward with any information as to her identity. Even weeks later, the local police have not been able to find out who she is…

Then a new case comes in: A popular TV reporter is attacked, raped, and locked in the trunk of her own car. She survives, barely, and is able to supply certain hints to the police, having to do with her recent investigations into a child welfare organization and the potential uncovering of a child pornography ring with members from the highest echelon of society. As the two cases collide, Inspectors Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein dig deep into the past and underneath the veneer of bourgeois society to come up against a terrible secret that is about to impact their personal lives as well.

In Bad Wolf, tensions run high and a complex and unpredictable plot propels her characters forward at breakneck speed.

My View:

Not for the faint hearted.

This is a narrative about particularly heinous crimes and the brutally of life. We all wish to believe in the essential goodness and kindness of others, Neuhaus makes it blatantly clear that we cannot always rely on appearances or position in society when judging our neighbours and she suggests it is often those closest to us that do the most damage. We are asked to stop and consider the world we live in and the injustices that abound. This is a powerful and at times horrific story of abuse and corruption, it is hard hitting, brutal, confronting, graphic and challenging. And it is a powerful work of crime fiction that could easily and comfortably mimic many a current TV or news report where ever you are reading this.

Be very scared of the Big Bad Wolf…