Post Script: The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman ( aka Everything You Want Me to Be ) Mindy Mejia

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman (aka Everything You Want Me to Be)

Mindy Mejia

Hachette Australia

Quercus

ISBN: 9781784295936

 

Description:

Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to her death.

 

High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.

 

Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?

 

My View:

This narrative is so much more than a whodunit, it has so much more to offer than a psychological thriller, indeed it offers the reader so much more of life you will be rendered emotionally spent at the end of this work of crime fiction/ life lit/YA/murder mash up. WOW!

Powerful, credible and engaging…this is a fabulous read that will have you staying up late to finish the last page. And then you will be bereft!

 

I was astounded by the amazing insight that teen Hattie has about her life and the meaning of her existence and how she was able to verbalise her identity crisis – we all at some stage of our life ponder who we are and what we are doing with our life, what a great basis for a crime novel, what a way to connect with an audience.  Hattie ponders her existence, her role, her identity, the big WHY’s and the honest answer she eventually provides herself is life changing or more accurately life ending.   So much irony here.

 

Credit must be given to this author for creating such a loathsome manipulative character who somehow we cannot help but empathise with, as we do with all the main characters. The three, first person perspectives work effectively to flesh out the story and to bring out the honesty, humanness and great sadness that completes this narrative.  This is the thinking person’s murder mystery.   WOW WOW WOW- this is a great read.

 

PS I prefer the Australian tittle i.e The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman – says it all really  🙂

Post Script: Killer Look – Linda Fairstein

First Rate!

Killer Look

Killer Look

Linda Fairstein

Hachette Australia

Little, Brown

ISBN:  9780751560381

 

Description:

New York Times bestselling author Linda Fairstein delivers a heart-pounding thriller that explores the dark secrets of New York City’s Garment District—and centering on its infamous Fashion Week—in her eighteenth Alexandra Cooper novel.

 

New York City is known for its glamour, and nowhere is this more apparent than in its fashion scene. Sharing the pedestal with Paris, Milan, and London as fashion capital of the world, New York continually astounds with its creativity, daring, and innovations in the name of beauty. Yet high fashion means high stakes, as Alex Cooper quickly discovers when a murder rocks New York City’s Fashion Week. Along with Detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, Alex must reveal the grime beneath the glitz to expose the culprit—unless a wolf in model’s clothing gets to them first.

 

 

My View:

First Rate!

Fast paced, exciting…great character development, locations that you can visualise, a splash of romance; real relationships are portrayed- not light or fluffy or bodice ripping – as in honest and solid. Add a touch of history and a twisty narrative with a hint of something specular happening in the next book. I really enjoyed this read, in fact I really enjoy this series- it is another for you to add to your Must Read Author list.

 

 

 

Post Script: An Isolated Incident – Emily Maguire

This one will get your attention! 

An Isolated Incident

An Isolated Incident

Emily Maguire

Pan Macmillan Australia

Picador

ISBN: 9781743538579

 

Description:

When 25-year-old Bella Michaels is brutally murdered in the small town of Strathdee, the community is stunned and a media storm descends.

 

Unwillingly thrust into the eye of that storm is Bella’s beloved older sister, Chris, a barmaid at the local pub, whose apparent easygoing nature conceals hard-won wisdom and the kind of street-smarts only experience can bring.

 

As Chris is plunged into despair and searches for answers, reasons, explanation – anything – that could make even the smallest sense of Bella’s death, her ex-husband, friends and neighbours do their best to support her. But as the days tick by with no arrest, Chris’s suspicion of those around her grows.

 

An Isolated Incident is a psychological thriller about everyday violence, the media’s obsession with pretty dead girls, the grip of grief and the myth of closure, and the difficulties of knowing the difference between a ghost and a memory, between a monster and a man.

 

PRAISE FOR EMILY MAGUIRE

 

“At the heart of … Emily Maguire’s work lies an urgent need to pull away at the interconnecting threads of morality, society and human relationships.” Sydney Morning Herald

 

“what you get, along with a sharp mind and a keenness to investigate cultural confusions, is an engaging ability to put the vitality of the story first.” Weekend Australian

 

My View: This one piqued my interest as you may well notice.

 

Shoot this one straight to the top of my list of “Best Reads of the Year”. Brilliant, masterfully written.

 

Raw, tough, agonizingly truthful… the male gaze is reflected in a mirror back to us.  These reflections are a constant in our (women’s) everyday life, look around you will recognise it too! Misogyny, discrimination, entitlement, double values, violence or threats of violence, intimidation, judgments – the worthy/unworthy, beautiful/other…  Women’s everyday experiences, decisions, choices are under scrutiny of the male gaze – women are judged on whether they wear makeup or not, clothes can be fashionable/slutty, friendliness mistaken for availability as a sexual toy, she discounts you – she is a tease, she is self-assured – she is a “ball breaker”… how can a woman win? How does a woman tell the good guys from the bad when they all wear the same disguise?

 

I think it is the “entitlement” that bothers me the most in this book (and in life). A woman walks down a street alone– she is cat called, whistled at, judged, sexualised. There is a lot of social media chatter about the unsolicited attention men thrust on women at the moment, which if she ignores quickly turns to insults and rage.  (If I had more time I would write you an essay on these type of behaviours) There is a great example of this in the novel. The ugliness and ordinariness of entitlement goes like this; (May is jogging, alone, in suburbia);

‘Hey what you running for, sweet girl?’

May’s pace didn’t alter, her head remained high, her gaze trained at six feet ahead. She was used to running in the inner city, where dick heads calling from cars were background noise.

‘Aww, just a question. Why you running? Sweet arse like that, don’t wanna go running it away.’

She kept moving, taking the next left, focussing her mind on retracing her route, determining whether to loop back at the next corner or go another few blocks. She realises only two or three cars had passed since she’d left the main road, tried to picture  the town map, figure out  a more direct route back to her hotel.

 

A car turned from the opposite corner, came towards her, headlights on high beam, then no headlights at all. May’s vision flickered and swam. She noticed how dark it was, how few houses there were on this street…

‘Come on girl. Stop for a second. Just a second.’

The car was right behind her, engine revving, keeping pace.” (p. 49)

 

Sounds all too familiar to me.

 

 

Domestic violence is another behaviour is succinctly showcased in this novel –   I love you, love you, love you… until you hurt me…or those around me…I love you but not the violence … “he’s a good bloke”( is he?) … until he isn’t. “He is a good bloke” (really?) …until he is provoked. Where is the responsibility? Vision is blinded when it comes to violence against women…he is a good bloke …he couldn’t possibly…

 

I think this is a book that will polarise. Those who tune out the politics will read a work of crime fiction, an intriguing and moving narrative of crime fiction. Those who absorb the depth of this writing will read a crime narrative set in a world of male entitlement, gender inequality, violence…a feminist’s tale.

 

Absolutely loved it!

 

 

Post Script: All These Perfect Strangers -Aoife Clifford

Things don’t go wrong in an instant. There isn’t one single moment when the world suddenly splits in two. Rather, it begins with a minute crack, and then another and another, until they join together, getting bigger and wider and all the time you keep fooling yourself that this can still be fixed. That you can fill them in and everything will return to normal.” p.130

All These Perfect Strangers

All These Perfect Strangers
Aoife Clifford
Simon & Schuster Australia
ISBN: 9781925310726

 

Description:
You don’t have to believe in ghosts for the dead to haunt you.

You don’t have to be a murderer to be guilty.

Within six months of Pen Sheppard starting university, three of her new friends are dead. Only Pen knows the reason why.

College life had seemed like a wonderland of sex, drugs and maybe even love. The perfect place to run away from your past and reinvent yourself. But Pen never can run far enough and when friendships are betrayed, her secrets are revealed. The consequences are deadly.

‘This is about three deaths. Actually more, if you go back far enough. I say deaths, but perhaps all of them were murders. It’s a grey area. Murder, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So let’s just call them deaths and say I was involved. This story could be told a hundred different ways.’

 

‘This is a novel of disquieting intimacy and controlled suspense, Aoife Clifford deftly tightening the screws until we share the narrator’s sense of emotional and physical confinement and the unremitting grip of the past.’ – Garry Disher, author of Bitter Wash Road.

 

My View:
Things don’t go wrong in an instant. There isn’t one single moment when the world suddenly splits in two. Rather, it begins with a minute crack, and then another and another, until they join together, getting bigger and wider and all the time you keep fooling yourself that this can still be fixed. That you can fill them in and everything will return to normal.” p.130

These statements sum up this book perfectly; as tiny cracks make themselves known flaws appear in personalities, in personal histories, in retelling of events. I really like the device of the diary to tell parts of the dual timeline stories. The trouble is Pen Sheppard is such an unreliable narrator that we never quite know if we are being shown the truth or a version of the truth, Aoife Clifford has baited her hook well, as a reader we just want to know what the mystery is in Pen’s home town, we are hooked.

The narrative rolls on, more dead bodies are found, the plot twists and turns and we understand a little more about why Pen acts the way she does, how trust is an issue, why she thinks her truth is dangerous. And dangerous it is! There were a few surprises that I didn’t see coming.

However I felt the ending let me and Aoife Clifford down. I won’t share any spoilers but will say that the ending left so much unsaid, so many loose ends, and so much history that needed righting (and writing). Maybe it is a sign of my investment in the book but I wanted more from this ending – justice was not served, so many details needed revealing to the police, so much information the reader had needed to be shared. I don’t like being left hanging. Maybe a novella is in the pipeline that will tidy the ending up?

Regardless of my dissatisfaction with the ending of this book it is a good debut, Aoife Clifford is an author to look out for.

 

****Interview with writer here: https://radio.abc.net.au/programitem/pgwE7PN3d6?play=true

Post Script- The Darkest Secret – Alex Marwood

The Darkest Secret

The Darkest Secret

Alex Marwood

Hachette Australia

Sphere

Little Brown Book Group

ISBN: 9780751550702

 

Description:

Taut, emotive and utterly compelling, an unputdownable ‘ripped from headlines’ read from Alex Marwood, author of the huge word-of-mouth bestseller, The Wicked Girls.

 

When three-year-old identical twin Coco goes missing during a family celebration, there is a media frenzy. Her parents are rich and influential, as are the friends they were with at their holiday home by the sea.

 

But what really happened to Coco during her father’s 50th birthday weekend?

 

Set across two weekends – the first when Coco goes missing and the second, at the funeral of Coco’s father, where at last, the darkest of secrets will be revealed…

 

 

My View:

For me the scene setting and character development took just a little too long. However it did set the scene extraordinarily well – a life of pretentious self-absorption, a “look at me” “look at me” generation (and I am not talking gen Y!) full of unlikeable characters and over the top behaviours. There was not a lot to like here and a lot to loathe.

 

Suddenly all that changed! I was engrossed in the narrative – the cold and calculating behaviours, the self-absorption, the lies and the turmoil, the obvious effect that this self-indulgent lifestyle had on the younger members of this cast and the shocking tug at your heart strings disappearance of a child.

Later Camila/Mila, with the maturity/responsibilities that a death of a parent forces upon her somehow morphs into a somewhat more likeable character, Ruby her half-sister is unblemished by her birth rites, other than that the vast cast of characters are totally unlikable and unfortunately somewhat realistic. Somehow you find yourself absorbed in this read about ugly people with very ugly behaviours and the mystery regarding the disappearance of baby Coco.

 

The author leaves subtle clues (or maybe my intuition is just spot on) but I guessed the demise of baby Coco and the orchestrator and the reasoning behind the act and where we could find Coco. (No spoilers here). But the final chapter left me gutted! We are not given a neat and tidy happy ending or cause for too much optimism – and in the final chapter we are dumbstruck by yet another lie that leaves the reader gasping!

 

Powerful, dark yet utterly compelling.

 

 

 

**Robert Gott – you will find Charlie Clutterbuck an interesting character J

Post Script: I am Death – Chris Carter

Violent and sadistic.

Cover I Am Death

I Am Death

Chris Carter

Simon & Schuster Australia

Simon & Schuster UK

ISBN: 9781471132247

 

 

Description:

AN EVIL MIND was Chris Carters’s most acclaimed novel to date, described by the Daily mail as: ‘A chilling, compulsive portrait of a psychopath, and proves that Carter is now in the Jeffrey Deaver class.’ It spent three weeks in the Sunday Times top ten and received brillant reviews and sales.

 

This terrifying new standalone thriller reunites Hunter and Garcia in their most explosive case to date.

 

 

My View:

There has been much fanfare surrounding the books written by this author and so I thought I had better check this one out (this book is part of the Hunter and Garcia series but is touted as a standalone read). With a bit of trepidation I started reading (I had heard/read that this author’s work is extremely violent), rumour was not wrong! I have read Pierre LaMaitre’s Camille Verhœven series and thought the violence here, was, at times extreme – however the characters were likable, the writing superb and I was able to empathise with the Commandant – his personal pain and grief and empathy for the victims of the crimes.

 

This was not my experience with I am Death. I found Hunter and Garcia bland and one dimensional, I did not connect at all with the protagonists and didn’t feel that these two cops had much of a personal connection either; the attempt at humour in the first few chapters did not work for Hunter and likewise did not work me either; as a device it failed to show any real rapport between the two cops. The humour feel flat and felt stilted and staged – the opposite of the affect the writer was intending. As I continued on I really did not warm to any of the characters; we knew very little about the victims, mostly superficial information and although their deaths by torture were vile, they did not affect me as they should have; once they were in the hands of the villain we heard little more from them except the details of their horrific wounds and violent deaths. A part of me is pleased that no more details were forth coming, details were “told “ not “shown” their death had little impact on me, their lives as their deaths, had little impact on me and Hunter and Garcia remained as they first appeared; bland and did not connect with me as a reader at all. I think you do need to read the earlier books in the series to connect and invest yourself in the books, to perhaps grow to like Hunter and Garcia, to get to know them and share their experiences, feel some empathy…

 

But my main concern with this book was the level of what I experienced as gratuitous violence – fodder for the violence seeking voyeur. The details were beyond grim and sadistic – without giving away too much detail – murder by an electric disc sander (with a deliberate choice of “low grade” disc – so that more than one disc was needed and therefore the pain dragged out, the torture excruciating, before death was realised), grinding off the victims face was extreme and just one example of the horror that lies within.

 

Lastly I felt that the author did not “show” me the narrative, he spent too much time “telling” me the book. ‘While “telling” can be useful, even necessary, most people don’t realize how vital “showing” is to an effective story…. Showing allows the reader to follow the author into the moment, to see and feel and experience what the author has experienced. Using the proper balance of showing and telling will make your writing more interesting and effective.’ http://www.dailywritingtips.com/show-dont-tell/ I whole heartedly agree with this sentiment, the imbalance in style here left me with a “disconnect” that I could not shift. And I realised who the murderer actually was, not his alias, but his real identity.

 

Sadly, this not a book or author for me but maybe for you.

Post Script: Bitter Fruits – Alice Clark-Platts

Cover - Bitter Fruits

Bitter Fruits

Alice Clark-Platts

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN: 978071818152

 

 

Description:

Detective Inspector Erica Martin’s first case in the university city of Durham is Emily Brabents, a first-year student, who is found dead in the river.

 

DI Martin visits Joyce College, a cradle for the country’s future elite, and finds a close-knit community full of secrets, jealousy and obsession.

 

Her search reveals a vicious online trolling culture but could Emily, from the privileged and popular crowd, have been a victim? Should the sudden confession to the murder by the student president be believed?

 

And just who is the mysterious Daniel Shepherd whose name keeps appearing in the investigation…?

 

 

My View:

A brilliant debut novel considered and intelligent this book discusses the murder of a young woman and explores the psychology of those involved and follows the trail that lead to her death. Tightly woven into the fabric of this multi faced narrative are the some very relevant contemporary social issues; identity, feminism, online bullying, abuse of trust and power and sexism.

 

This narrative steers a clear path to discovery; this is not a book that is character lead, although there are several interesting characters here and I hope to see more of DI Martin in the future; this is an expose of evilness, obsession, narcissism and control and demonstrates just how easily the inexperienced can be manipulated- in persona and online. The influence of social media on the “look at me” generation is revealing and disturbing.

 

The dual narration works particularly well and slowly you are drawn into the campus social world and the lives of the main characters. As your involvement deepens the pace picks up and a psychological war zone is entered – a battle between good and evil – between DI Martina and the villain of the peace.

 

The twist in the conclusion, when revealed, is totally unexpected and pacts an enormous punch! A great read.