Post Script: The Student – Iain Ryan

It must be the great writing!  

The Student

The Student

Iain Ryan

Bonnier Publishing Australia

Echo

ISBN: 9781760406370

 

Description:

Do bad people look like good people, like friends and brothers and boyfriends and students, until they have their hands around your throat?

 

Gatton, Queensland. 1994. Nate is a student, dealing weed on the side. A girl called Maya Kibby is dead. No one knows who killed her. Nate needs to refresh his supply, but Jesse, his friend and dealer, is missing. Nate is high. He is alone. Being hunted for the suitcase he’s found and haunted by its contents. And as things turn from bad to worse, Nate uncovers far more than he bargained for.

 

The Student is high-paced, hardboiled regional noir: fresh, gritty, unnerving, with a stark and lonely beauty.

 

‘A terrific neo-noir from an exciting new voice in Australian crime fiction’ – Adrian McKinty

 

‘The Student takes the campus novel and mines within it a dark seam of violence, deception and suspense in prose that burns with a fierce propulsion’ – David Whish-Wilson

 

 

Description:

It must be the great writing!  

 

My expectations of this book were not met. I did not like any of the characters – not one. I did not like the settings or the behaviours;   so much impulsive, self-gratifying, drug fuelled behaviour – and when I say drug fuelled, read that as over the top liberal drug use (and I do hope this is not a realistic portraying of University life in the 1990’s) and did I say drug use and then there was the sex scenes and the violence – sometimes simultaneously … this is a very dark, gritty narrative and not for me, and I usually love dark and gritty. Yet contrarily there was something about this writing that kept me turning pages!

 

Am I in the wrong demographic for reading this – maybe, probably? Yet I still turned the pages – it was a compulsive and compelling read. Hats off to the author for such engaging writing. This is irresistible dark prose.

 

 

 

The Student

Post Script- Work Like Any Other – Virginia Reeves

Beautifully written, elegant, poignant…heartbreaking.

Work Like Any Other  

Work Like Any Other

Virginia Reeves

Simon & Schuster

Scribner

ISBN: 9781471152221

 

Description:

Placing itself perfectly alongside acclaimed work by Philipp Meyer, Jane Smiley and J M Coetzee, this debut novel charts the story of Roscoe T Martin in rural Alabama in the 1920s. Roscoe has set his sights on a new type of power spreading at the start of the 20th century: electricity.

 

It becomes his training, his life’s work. But when his wife Marie inherits her father’s failing farm, Roscoe has to give it up, with great cost to his pride and sense of self, his marriage and his family. Realising that he might lose them all, he uses his skills as an electrician to siphon energy from the state, ushering in a period of bounty and happiness on a farm recently falling to ruin. Even the love of Marie and their son seems back within Roscoe’s grasp. Then everything changes.

 

A young man is electrocuted on their land. Roscoe is arrested for manslaughter and – no longer an electrician or even a farmer – he must now carve out a place in a violent new world.

 

 

My View:

Beautifully written, elegant, poignant…heartbreaking.

 

I think what I loved most about this read was the quietness, the stillness. Despite so much tension, aggravation, violence and anger seeping through the pages of this novel, this was a particularly quiet and sensitive read, perhaps the considered responses by the protagonist contributed to the restful way I embraced this narrative; despite the harshness of the conditions, the punishment being served and the crime committed, Roscoe T Martin remains respected, valued and at ease with himself. His wife however is the opposite – full of bile and bitterness despite her freedoms, she is emotionally stunted and withered. Her identity is so closely tied up to her perception of what it is to be female (family/mother) that she is unable to love herself or anyone else – what a sad character. I disliked her immensely. The two main characters are so opposite – one open, one closed, on likable, one not – they are very well constructed.

 

This is a poignant exploration of relationships, power over, the importance of meaningful work in our lives, moral dilemmas, racism, redemption and forgiveness. A harsh penal system is pared back and dissected – the parts abhorrent and clearly showing the futility of the sentencing and worthless attempts at rehabilitation. The narrative is a classic tragedy; so much unfairness, ugliness and resentment in a small world. Good intentions have tragic outcomes, life choices effect all for many many years. Education is a panacea for everything.

 

A moving and thought provoking read.

 

 

 

Post Script- Remembering Anita Cobby – Mark Morri

Remembering Anita Cobby

Remembering Anita Cobby

Mark Morri

Random House Australia

ISBN: 9781925324150

 

Description:

On 4 February 1986, John Cobby’s life imploded. He was driving up the coast looking for his missing wife, Anita, when over the radio he heard: ‘The body of a naked woman has been found in a paddock in western Sydney.’ . . . As details emerged of the rape and murder of the gentle nurse and former beauty queen, outrage engulfed Australia. Five men were caught and, amid unprecedented security, jailed for life.

 

For young reporter Mark Morri, the case was a baptism of fire. Told to ‘find the husband’, he despaired: Cobby had changed his name and disappeared. But the Daily Mirror found him, and Morri’s interviews sold like hotcakes. For nearly 30 years, Morri and Cobby kept in touch.

 

In this book John finally opens up, recounting how he and Anita fell in love, suffered the pain of miscarriage and then went travelling. He also explains why they were apart at the time of the murder. Weaving in chilling material from the autopsy and police files, and interviews with detectives who hunted down the killers, Mark Morri explores the ripple effects of the murder that still shocks a nation.

 

 

My View:

This narrative focusses on the thirty years of emotional turmoil experienced by husband of the victim of a horrendous crime. The abduction and murder Anita Cobby is a crime that shocked a nation, a crime that changed attitudes regarding personal safety and security, a crime that defiled the innocence of a nation.

 

However this is not a book about the crime, or the victim or her family – this is an attempt by the author to verbalise the turmoil this negative life event exerted over the husband of the victim – John Cobby. Unfortunately I found most of this narrative slow going, repetitive and clichéd.

 

If the purpose of this book is to re-engage the public so as they will ensure that parole or resentencing is not allowed for those convicted on Anita Cobby’s death – then I think it has succeeded.

 

 

Post Script: Tennison – Lynda La Plante

A police procedural at it’s best!

Tennison Lynda La Plante Cover

Tennison

Lynda La Plante

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781471140518

 

Description:

From the creator of the award-winning ITV series Prime Suspect, starring Helen Mirren, comes the fascinating back story of the iconic DCI Jane Tennison.

In 1972 Jane Tennison, aged 22, leaves the Metropolitan Police Training Academy to be placed on probationary exercise in Hackney where criminality thrives. We witness her struggle to cope in a male-dominated, chauvinistic environment, learning fast to deal with shocking situations with no help or sympathy from her superiors. Then comes her involvement in her first murder case. No one witnessed the savage beating of a tragic young girl who, the post-mortem reveals, was pregnant when she died. The murder enquiry is soon running cold…

 

My View:

I predict this will be a number one seller!

 

In March 2014 Lynda La Plante announced that she was returning to writing about the character she created in the Prime Suspect series which later was adapted for a very successful TV series of the same name; anyone who is over the age of thirty will immediately recognise the name DCI Jane Tennison and the name of the first victim in this series, Della Mornay.

 

So it goes without saying that a new book – a prequel to this series based on Jane Tennisons’s early career and life will be immensely popular. I jumped at the chance of reading and reviewing this book knowing I would be in for a treat. I wasn’t disappointed.

 

This is a wonderful introduction to the character many of us are already familiar with- Jane Tennison. In this book we meet WPC Jane Tennison as she embarks on her probationary period with the Metropolitan Police based at Hackney – a very violent and rough part of London at the time. The 1970’s is a time of immense change in the world in general – feminism is speaking loudly to all the world, though not necessarily being heard or embraced by all – especially not by those in such strong empires of male power – such as the police force – Jane experiences firsthand sexism, discrimination, exploitation and bullying on a daily basis. The world of policing is rapidly changing in many other areas – forensic science is forging ahead, DNA profiling is making its presence felt and crimes scenes are being read in ways not considered in the past. Criminal behaviour (on the force and in the street) is also changing – gangs are more organised, harder drugs are being touted…bribery and corruption are the norm. Jane enters a world that offers her no favours, that does not recognise her talents or her ambition but slowly her determination and intelligence is making a mark. This is the world that shaped Jane into the DCI will all grew to know and love in Prime Suspect.

 

By the way – I also loved the music references in this novel – especially those of Janis Joplin and The Moody Blues, the couple of tracks mentioned in the novel are favourites and instantly take me back to a different time.

 

Tennison is a fast moving, engaging and satisfying read. I look forward to reading the next instalment in this series.

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kr6qr1AWRko Enjoy.

Post Script: The Woman Before Me: Ruth Dugdall

The Woman Before Me

Ruth Dugdall

Legend Press

ISBN: 9781909593619

Description:

Winner of the CWA Debut Dagger and the Luke Bitmead Bursary

Shortlisted for The New Angle Book Prize, The People’s Book Prize and the Brit Writer’s Novel Award.

 

‘They came for me, just like I knew they would. Luke had been dead for just three days.’

Rose Wilks’ life is shattered when her newborn baby Joel is admitted to intensive care. Alongside her is Emma Hatcher, who’s just given birth to Luke. Joel dies and Luke is thriving, until tragedy strikes and Rose is the only suspect.

Now, having spent nearly five years behind bars, Rose is just weeks away from freedom. Her probation officer Cate must decide whether Rose is remorseful for Luke’s death, or whether she remains a threat to society. As Cate is drawn in, she begins to doubt her own judgement.

Where is the line between love and obsession, can justice be served and, if so… by what means?

My View:

This is a haunting story of obsession, birth and murder and the consequences of said behaviours. This is the type of book that once you have read it; it sits with you, teasing your memories, challenging your ethics, ideals and questions “what would you do in this position?”

This is an interesting narrative; before we have even turned the first page we know that 1 baby dies in hospital and one has died in a tragedy, that Rose Wilks has been charged and found guilty of the death of baby Luke and that she is in gaol awaiting possible release on parole. Here we meet probation officer Cate who has the unenviable task of determining if Rose is suitable for early release.  And this is where our story actually starts.

This is a story of the everyday, by that I mean the language is simple, cleanly written, neat and precise. The story sits quietly on the page, daringly revealing the truth word by word, entry by entry in Rose’s diary. In this narrative we have the alternating perspectives of Cate and Rose to guide the reader.

Dugdall is excellent in creating mood and setting. I found the prison settings, inmates and guards disquieting. I did not however find any of the characters particularly inviting or endearing. I did find the story particularly sad and the twist in the tail will surprise many.  I wonder what Ms Dugdall will come with in her next book?

Post Script: My Dearest Jonah – Matthew Crow

In words hide secrets…

My Dearest Jonah

Matthew Crow

Legend Press

ISBN: 9781908248251

 

Description:

Like you I’ve been feeling forlorn of late. I don’t know how long you have to be somewhere before it begins to feel normal, before you start to feel as though you belong… And so all I have is you. Your letters and the thought that somewhere, something good exists in my life. For now that seems enough to get by on.’

Introduced via a pen-pal scheme, Verity and Jonah write their lives, hopes and dreams to one another without ever having met.

Verity is a fragile beauty. When a dangerous sequence of events is set in motion, she tries to explain to Jonah what led her to unravel so spectacularly. Jonah has been released after years of imprisonment and embarks upon the quiet life he’s always wanted. But then a dark reminder shatters his world, one that’s keen to make history repeat itself.

Offering the sole strand of stability in two progressively elaborate lives, Verity and Jonah develop a deep and delicate love, a love that becomes clouded and threatened by increasingly dark forces.

My View:

This is superbly crafted and elegantly written narrative that uses the device of letter writing to explore the lives and perspectives of the two main characters – Verity and Jonah. Verity and Jonah have never physically met yet share a camaraderie and friendship based on loneliness and their individual strange circumstances; a supportive alliance is formed, perhaps even love?

I loved that the letter writing device maintained and disclosed the details two very different lives. The reader dangles on the hook, lusting for more details of the main characters lives as the tension is built. And what interesting characters they both are – I felt a sense of admiration for Jonah and the apparent efforts he was making to live a good life – silly me! How I was conned. (But no spoilers here) Verity was not quite as endearing, perhaps a little distant and not quite so engaging but as a character she allowed me a glimpse of a life that was strong, passionate, independent and courageous. She dared to live! She dared to dream, she was honest about herself, her life and her lifestyle. This character was quite a remarkable woman.

I found the writing itself almost lyrical, elegant and often caught myself almost reading the letters out loud – I think this would really be a wonderful experience – a stage /radio show perhaps? The language itself was interesting – often contradicting the academic and socio economic levels of the characters – again I found this deliberate playing with language attractive and entertaining.

Throughout this narrative Matthew Crow displays an uncanny power of observation and understanding of the world and how it revolves. The writing is powerful and sensitive; the almost formal style of letter writing is particular engaging; the reader is often caught unawares when an expletive or action emerges that shocks as it does not fit this formal, genteel approach which is the style of the bulk of the letters. Perhaps this is Crow hinting that all is perhaps not quite as it seems on paper, hinting that we should be more observant and less reliant of the written word?  I admire Crow’s use of language and the spectacular way the story unravels and turns the narrative on its head. This was a delight to read.

Post Scripts: Coming Soon

Work and life have been busy and complicated lately and I have not been able to squeeze in as much reading as I would have liked to have. I have some great books on my shelf – I thought I would share with you some of the books I will be reading and reviewing in the next few weeks ( in no particular order):

 The Darkling – I am currently reading – this is a scary read in a Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier) kind of way – lots of brooding atmosphere and hints of horror to come.

A change of pace with the Nilsson – the biography of singer/songwriter/composer Harry Nilsson (deceased) – of whom I am a big fan.

More crime fiction.

A thriller.

An Australian author  – a contemporary story of travel, work and modern dreams.

And a historical mystery.

There is a little bit of everything here ( plus a few more I haven’t even read the covers of yet) . I am longing for time to sit down and get stuck into these. The  books are calling to me…..READ, READ. 🙂