Dan Forrester, ex-MI5 agent, is connected to them both.
And when he discovers that his godson and his father have been murdered, he teams up with his old friend, DC Lucy Davies, to find answers.
But as the pair investigate, they unravel a dark and violent mystery stretching decades into the past and uncover a terrible secret.
Third in the Dan Forrester series, we're into classic thriller mode now with this series. Heaps of action, a fast moving, multi threaded plot, this one creates a partnership quickly between Forrester and ongoing series character Lucy Davies that works well. Again we have a couple of main threads, a supposed suicide and a seemingly natural death that turn out to be murder, with a very personal connection to Forrester.
In a nutshell KNOW ME NOW is a better outing than the second, but not quite to the heights of the first novel in the series. To be fair, a lot of the unusual elements - amnesia / grieving / ex-MI5 agent and cop with a problem have been expanded on now, and we're less into background development, and more into classic thriller derring doing and plotlines. If that's what you're looking for, then KNOW ME NOW is the third outing in a series that will be right up your alley.
The Echo of Others, S.D. Rowell
An outsider detective. The vigilante killer with a message. A cold case they both want solved.
From Amazon Bestseller S.D. Rowell comes a heart-pounding crime mystery that will keep you thinking until the final page…
Opening up with a duck hunting scene that will stay with readers for a while, THE ECHO OF OTHERS is a debut novel set in my part of the world - Central and parts of Western Victoria. There's a heap of potential here - from a good solid, cleverly structured plot; some excellent characters - including Detective Rachael Schlank who finds herself working on old cases, leading her back to her early days in Vic Police and a particular fellow officer who she worked with out of the main Bendigo police station.
The plot revolves around a series of what appears to be vigilante killings - the victims perpetrators of various forms of animal cruelty and exploitation. That aspect is handled well so there's nothing in here that will be too much for readers opposed to graphic descriptions or details. Schlank quickly suspects there's more connections than just geographical in the cold case death of two animal activists and the current spate of killings, as it leads her into some pretty dark places.
Alongside a strong plot, there's some excellent characterisations in THE ECHO OF OTHERS. Schlank is a good example of the dogged investigator type, surrounded by sexists, idiots and nasty types which isn't overplayed. The trope of the cold case unit's a good one to give both cases, potential suspects, and Schlank some background without having to laboriously hammer it into place, so pace is unaffected by background and build up, and everything moves forward constantly, pulling the reader further and further into the cases as the number of victims grow.
The author's bio mentions that S.D. Rowell is interested in the interplay between culture, morality and truth, explored in THE ECHO OF OTHERS. Can't disagree with any of that, THE ECHO OF OTHERS is an outstanding debut novel.
Man at the Window, Robert Jeffreys
An atmospheric crime novel with a burning moral dilemma at its heart.
When a boarding master at an exclusive boys’ school is shot dead, it is deemed accidental. A lazy and usually drunk detective is sent to write up the report. Cardilini unexpectedly does not cooperate, as he becomes riled by the privileged arrogance of those at the school. He used to have instincts. Perhaps he should follow them now…
There's something very satisfying about the emergence of a new crime series set in Australia - this time 1960's Perth. This one includes a hat tip to a number of the older stylised detectives of popular TV series in that Detective Cardilini's is portrayed as, not to put too fine a point on it, a bit of a grumpy old sod. He's got a reputation for being lazy and a drunk; and a recently deceased wife and a young adult son that he doesn't get on with (and who doesn't have much time for his father). This makes for a life that feels more stalled than lived, mostly via self-inflicted causes, which makes him a bit of a tricky character to deal with.
There's something there in the early stages of this investigation that will spark a reader's interest (and a titchy tiny bit of sympathy or connection), when it is quickly obvious that the reason he's been assigned to the shooting murder of a posh private school master is more to do with an urgent need for a quick determination of accident and some immediate sweeping of issues under the carpet. Something about this haste, and pre-supposition on the part of everyone from the hierarchy of the police, through to the school itself, gets right up Cardilini's nose. What starts out as a bit of stubbornness on his part, quickly turns to suspicion that there is nothing accidental about this shooting at all. Complicated by a suggestion that his support for the official accident line will result in a small indiscretion on the part of his son being ignored, allowing him to enter the Police College and finally get some direction in his life.
To get to the solution Cardilini has to step on a lot of toes - his bosses, the school, parents, current and past students, and he risks his son's future into the bargain. At some stage he's also got to give up drinking and get control of his personal life.
In the initial stages of THE MAN AT THE WINDOW there's a bit of an issue with balance where the general gloom of Cardilini and his personal circumstances make him hard work to get to know. But there's an intriguing idea at the core of this plot with the supposed accidental shooting of the school master, commented on via the voice of a young boy, obviously a victim of an ongoing sexual abuse crime at the core of the school's cover-up. The fact that it takes so long for somebody to twig that this is the likely cause of some odd behaviour is probably indicative of the timeframe of the novel - it's hard to remember what's almost a default conclusion for us these days, was possibly less front of brain in the 60's.
There is a tendency for some plot elements to drag a bit in parts in THE MAN AT THE WINDOW, but stick with it. This is, after all clearly telegraphed as the start of a new series and there's more than enough potential to let any slight quibbles in the opening foray roll.
The Ottoman Conspiracy, Thomas Ryan
Former Special Forces soldier Jeff Bradley is meeting with the mafia in Bari, Italy, to discover the whereabouts of his nemesis—criminal overlord Avni Leka—when he receives a message from an old friend. Barry is on board a tourist bus that has been hijacked by terrorists near Istanbul. Strapped with explosives, it is racing across Turkey to the northern borders of Syria, Iraq and Iran.
The Turkish president will not negotiate. The Turkish military will not allow the bus to cross the border. The hijackers will kill themselves and their hostages if they cannot escape.
If you're a fan of fast paced, fun thrillers and haven't clued into the Jeff Bradley Thrillers from New Zealand based author Thomas Ryan yet then you are in for a treat.
Action packed, set in interesting places with excellent plots and a great central character in Former Special Forces soldier Jeff Bradley - this third book in the series sees the place become primarily Turkey, the plot about the hunt for nemesis and master criminal, sidelined when an old mate calls for help. He's trapped on an explosives stuffed tourist bus, hijacked by terrorists and it's heading fast across Turkey, towards Syria, Iraq and Iran. When Bradley realises rescue is down to him, he calls in some help from US Special Agent Reason Johanson and they head off in a race against time, with a threat that turns out to have bigger stakes than just a mate's life, and some dangerous implications all round.
Needless to say a bit of James Bond / Jason Bourne / Die Hard type action with a lot of daring doings, some seriously impressive heroics, a bit of pathos and some good old fashioned mateship (not the icky / political kind), the "will come close to dying if necessary but would prefer not to" kind.
These novels do stand alone if you need to jump in somewhere / anywhere - but if you're a fan of this sort of action adventure over the top, one man to save the world type stuff (as is this reader) then launch yourself into this series wherever you jolly well can.
Quite Ugly One Morning, Christopher Brookmyre
Yeah, yeah, the usual. A crime. A corpse. A killer. Heard it. Except this stiff happens to be a Ponsonby, scion of a venerable Edinburgh medical clan, and the manner of his death speaks of unspeakable things. Why is the body displayed like a slice of beef? How come his hands are digitally challenged? And if it's not the corpse, what is that awful smell? A post-Thatcherite nightmare of frightening plausibility, Quite Ugly One Morning is a wickedly entertaining and vivacious thriller, full of acerbic wit, cracking dialogue, and villains both reputed and shell-suited.
My return to series in the car is currently alternating between Terry Pratchett's Discworld books and all of Christopher Brookmyre's early work. Both of them are an utter joy to listen to, and a potential threat to life and limb.
Car journeys here are, by necessity, long. Everywhere is around an hour away - at 100ks, on country roads, dodging potholes big enough to lose the car in, huge grain or hay hauling trucks, assorted wildlife from the kill you type (kangaroos) to the don't you dare kill them ones (echidna's and blue tongue lizards at this time of the year). It requires concentration, it requires focus. Tricky when you're laughing so hard you're crying.
QUITE UGLY ONE MORNING does a particularly good line in funny - provided gross, grotty and silly are things you find funny. Hearing the more grotesque, grotty and silly things in this book being read out by David Tennant made it even funnier.
If possible I'd forgotten how much I love Christopher Brookmyre's books. I am alternating backwards and forwards between these and the Discworld novels. I might have to start driving more.
The Girl in Kellers Way, Megan Goldin
When a body is found buried near the desolate forest road of Kellers Way, Detective Melanie Carter must identify the victim if she is to have any chance of finding the killer. That's no easy task with fragmentary evidence from a crime committed years earlier and a conspiracy of silence from anyone who might have information.
There's some disquiet about the place these days over the use of "Girl" in titles of books. We all know where it comes from and the marketing decisions that seem to be feeding it. Suffice to say it's a trend that makes me (an old old woman) a bit squeamish. Especially as neither Julie or Mel, the protagonists in Goldin's debut domestic noir - THE GIRL IN KELLERS WAY are girls.They are women dealing with a very real experience that confronts many women - the creepy, controlling behaviour of a man in their lives and violent death.
Told in two main narrative streams, THE GIRL IN KELLERS WAY builds the stories of Julie - wife of psychology lecturer Matt. After Matt's first marriage to Laura ended in tragedy, he rapidly moved on. Marriage to Julie, who took over the care and raising of Matt's young daughter has created a lot of problems for Julie. Jealous of the dead Laura, hooked on a cocktail of drugs and badly out of touch with reality, she's a victim of Matt's manipulation and non-too-subtle white-anting.
The other voice is that of new-cop-in-town Mel, who has moved here after the death of her policeman husband in the line of duty. Now a single mother, she is doing the balancing act between family and the job, and maybe because of that, is super-sensitive to families where things are a little off-kilter. She has a very close look at Julie's life when the discovery of a body on Kellers Way seems to have links to her.
There's obviously intent here in the way that circumstances of these women's lives compare and contrast. Mel's the sensible, by the numbers cop with the standard family issues and the dreadful circumstances of her husband's death to deal with, done in a matter of fact, black is never grey sort of way. Julie on the other hand, whilst less immediately connected to tragedy, is less able to cope and considerably more addled - partly because of the drugs and maybe because that's the sort of person that she is. It sets up a number of possible scenarios for Goldin to play with, giving plenty of opportunity for some seriously twisting and turning plot elements, and a hefty deployment of cliff hangers, keeping the reader in a state of confusion from start to finish.
The idea of the different coping mechanisms of the two main characters is an interesting twist on much of the standard tropes of domestic noir. Add to that an effective playout of tension and unpredictability in the plot and THE GIRL IN KELLERS WAY is worthwhile pursuing - for fans of domestic noir and psychological thrillers.
Heaven Sent, Alan Carter
Detective Sergeant Philip ‘Cato’ Kwong is light on sleep but high on happiness with his new wife Sharon Wang and their baby girl. But contentment is not compatible with life in the Job, and soon a series of murders of Fremantle’s homeless people gets in the way of Cato’s newfound bliss. As New Wave journalist Norman Lip flirts online with the killer, it becomes apparent that these murders are personal — every death is bringing the killer one step closer to Cato.
Sometimes you start reading a series book about a favourite character, and really start to wonder if the author is annoyed with them, subconsciously punishing them for being too popular, or just enjoying applying the thumb screws for a change. Whatever is going on, Alan Carter isn't making it easy for the popular, easy-going, and seemingly content Philip 'Cato' Kwong in HEAVEN SENT.
Settled in his personal life with a new wife, new daughter and a tricky but improving relationship with his teenage son, Kwong's professional life is relatively stable as well - at least he's not serving his time in the remote reaches of WA on the "stock squad". He's back in Fremantle, and seconded to major crime when a series of murders of homeless people escalates. Whilst Kwong is dealing with the more traditional elements of a serial killer investigation, journalist Norman Lip is taking a more dangerous path - flirting online with the killer. Especially as it starts to look like this killer has thought this through much more carefully than Lip and has a very personal grudge against Cato Kwong.
For readers new to this series, you'll find plenty here to give you hints and tips about Cato Kwong's background - including the acquiring of his nickname. You'll find out enough about his policing past to fill in the gaps, and more than enough about his personal life to explain his satisfaction with his current circumstances, and his almost wilful blindness to some of the struggles his wife Sharon is experiencing with new motherhood. If it's any consolation his domestic blindspot also includes his teenage son who is struggling with two parents who have moved onto other partners, other kids, and other lives. There's plenty there to make the reader really want to give Kwong a good shouting at in places. Which is the great part of this series - Kwong feels like a real person, he's a good cop, who is capable of making good, inspired and profoundly daft decisions. He's a good bloke who loves his family and totally and utterly doesn't get what's happening around him all at the same time. He's caring, concerned, blithely ignorant and utterly interconnected. In other words he's real, and annoying and endearing all at the same time.
The plot here is also something that readers who are new to the series will be able to go with also, as will welded on fans (HEAVEN SENT is book number 4). As always there's a social issue at the core - in this case homelessness in a society that's seemingly well off and privileged. The sense of community is strong, with homeless support services, police and local government all too aware of the people who live rough in the place. The fact that the killer is also able to tap into that local knowledge creates a claustrophobic overlay, reminding you that few people are ever really truly under the radar.
Dotted throughout, as always, are perfect little observations, Sharon Wang in her struggles with new motherhood and isolation, is still able to summons a bit of fierce when required. Kwong's old love interest and colleague Tess, reminds us of the never-ending problem of toxic male violence that many women live with. Naomi Lip, journalist Norman's sister, wheelchair bound and physically restricted reminds us that mental acuity, wit and ability are often less visible, but much stronger.
HEAVEN SENT has been much anticipated, as it's been a bit of a gap since the last outing with Cato Kwong. Let's hope there's plenty more to come.
A Body of Work, Janice Simpson
What happens when the keynote at an important arts festival is found dead? Join Brendan O'Leary whose life is spiralling out of control and Ange Micelli, fourth daughter of Italian migrants, who's fit, fiery and ready to go. Together they make a formidable team in this fast-moving thriller that uncovers much more than just the murderer. Welcome to modern Melbourne, UNESCO City of Literature, home to arts festivals galore as well as the internationally famous Melbourne Cup horse race.
NOTE: This review was originally published in 2013 - the book has now been released.
A debut police procedural from Melbourne based, ex-Ballarat dweller, JM (Janice) Simpson, A BODY OF WORK makes good use of both of those locations. Brendan O'Leary is now a Melbourne based detective, with family contacts still in Ballarat. His DC Ange Micelli has a very Melbourne background, descended from Italian migrants, an inner city dweller who is very focused on career, feeling a bit of pressure over family versus career. When they are called upon to investigate the murder of socialite, author, and very well connected local girl Deborah Dangerfield, they are dragged into a minefield. There are connections between the victim and O'Leary that go back to their Ballarat childhoods. There are implications at the highest level of politics and influence in Victoria. There's a lot more connections to be revealed as the story progresses.
A BODY OF WORK is a police procedural at its heart with the death and investigation remaining the central focus. Along the way the personal connections between O'Leary, the victim and their respective contacts and families are revealed, without losing the essential style. There is a hefty dose of the personal along the way, but it doesn't distract unnecessarily.
It's a complicated and quite complex plot, and as you can probably tell from the number of times it's been mentioned - the resolution relies on a lot of connections between the victim, her family, society and political heavyweights, and O'Leary himself. This aspect is well told, but there is a large amount of it and that might make some readers wonder just how small a world we're talking about here.
There's a great sense of place about the whole thing though, and the setting of a literary festival in Melbourne (down to the Malthouse Green Room :) ) through to contemplation on the side of Lake Wendouree and a family farm outside Ballarat all worked and felt very real and authentic. The Australian tone of the language worked and the interactions between all the characters were strong.
I suppose the only quibble I'd have is that there is a lot to this plot and some of those connections felt a little overdone. Plus there seemed to be the odd continuity problem which had me a bit confused at points. Minor problems though in a debut novel that definitely shows promise.
The Burden of Lies, Richard Beasley
Cocaine. Construction. Corruption.
The unholy trinity of Sydney
Self-made property mogul Tina Leonard has already lost her business, her home and custody of her children because South East Banking Corporation left her bankrupt. Now it appears she is being framed for the murder of her banker Oliver Randall, a senior executive of the corporation. Her motive? Revenge for ruining her life and her business.
Second book in the Peter Tanner series, THE BURDEN OF LIES follows on from CYANIDE GAMES, which it might be worth reading first. There's a lot of framework construction in the first book that will help with understanding Tanner, his family, his work life and some of the ways that all intersects - good and bad.
This second book revolves around a complicated story of corrupt bankers, drugs, shonky property deals and murder. Self-made property mogel Tina Leonard is on trial for ordering the murder of disgraced ex-banker Oliver Randall. Randall has only recently been released from jail following a major drugs conviction, and when he's found brutally murdered, the police are handed Leonard on a plate by the hired killer who did it. She lost her home, business and kids to the bank that Randall worked for, and his complicity in that, which amounted to fraud as far as Leonard is concerned, seems to be the perfect motive to the police, although Peter Tanner is less convinced.
Perfect timing really to bring out a book centred on nefarious goings on in the banking world. Add to that the possibility of blatant corruption and you've got a plot that is tailor-made for believability. Whilst there was a lot of heavy lifting to get Tanner into investigation mode in the initial book in the series, this one handles that phase with more aplomb. Tanner's role in the legal team being assembled to defend Leonard seems to work a little less clumsily, and his brief of disrupting the prosecution, finding some dirt on the investigation fits nicely. It allows him to segue nicely between digger around outside the court, and asker of tricky questions inside.
Once again the tactical thinking on display in the court room scenes was nicely done, and the connections that Tanner has throughout the legal and criminal world neatly established. It's this area that would make the first novel worth pursuing before commencing here, but if that's not practical, take some elements of Tanner's life, loves and methodologies as read, and press on. A really good choice for fans of legal thrillers in particular, and a good one for fans of general Australian thrillers as well.
No One Can Hear You, Nikki Crutchley
'He said that they’d let me go on purpose. That they could easily find me if they wanted to. He said that they didn’t want me. That I was too much trouble. He said if I went to the cops, he’d know. If I told Sonya, he’d know. If I talked to friends or teachers, he’d know. He told me to pretend it didn’t happen. He told me to consider it a compliment, that I was too strong. His last words to me were, ‘Just forget’.
Small towns and close knit communities are under scrutiny again in Nikki Crutchley's second novel NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU. Not part of a series with NOTHING BAD HAPPENS HERE, this second outing is built around another interesting and complicated female character Zoe Haywood. Haywood has returned to her hometown Crawton to bury her estranged mother Lillian, who recently committed suicide. Despite the difficult circumstances of returning home to the suicide of a mother she really didn't get on with, living in her mother's house, back in the community she grew up in, Haywood finds herself drawn back into high-school friendships, and stumbling over details that make the likelihood that her mother did, indeed, suicide, less clear.
Crutchley builds an interesting story in a deliberate, slowly paced manner in NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU. Haywood has gone on from a difficult childhood of neglect and disinterest from her mother to forge a teaching career - one that's had plenty of ups and downs. Meanwhile her mother Lillian is a popular, respected counsellor of kids back at home. It seems that Lillian may also have been increasingly suffering from dementia, but not so bad yet that she's failed to notice a worrying pattern in the disappearance of some marginalised young women from the town. Unfortunately the clues she has left behind clearly indicate her struggles with memory and reasoning and the chances of Haywood and her high-school friends understanding what Lillian was trying to remind herself are difficult enough, without a series of very complicated relationship problems along the way.
The sense of small town, small community, hidden secrets, and odd goings on in picturesque places plays out well in this novel - as it did in Crutchley's debut. Here again we have somebody struggling with inner demons - Lillian seems to have had more than her fair share, and visited a lot of them on her daughter as a result. Haywood is remarkably together given her childhood, not without her own flaws and problems, regrets and mistakes, as is just about everybody in this novel. There's a sense that small town growing up can be very safe in some ways, and fraught and risky in many others. The contrast between seemingly happy families next door, and the complicated goings on in the home of Lillian and Zoe is nicely done, as is the lives of high-school friends who stayed in town, and those that tried to cut ties.
Crutchley does a particularly good job with complicated female characters. Haywood may not be the alcoholic mess that her main character in the first novel was, but she's got more than enough problems, doubts, insecurities, positives and negatives to be going on with. She's instantly sympathetic and engaging, without being straight-forward and always easy. The same could be said of Lillian who obviously wasn't a good mother, obviously had her good and bad points, and seems to have been a friend to young girls when they needed one.
The plot here is complex and intricate, although many readers may increasingly feel some confidence in the who and even the how of the ultimate solution. The why is less straight-forward and in many ways the more important question. NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU has moments of great insight and clarity into the nature of small towns, small communities, and the people who can slip under the radar in those situations.