The Match by Harlan Coben

I believe Harlan Coben is at his best when he writes about everyday people — like you and me — thrust into crazy situations. Take “No Second Chance,” for example, which is about Marc Seidman’s desperate measures to recover his kidnapped daughter. Or “Run Away,” when Simon Greene spots his runaway daughter in Central Park, reigniting his quest to reunite his family. 

Read more

Black River by Matthew Spencer

Regulars of this parish I call my blog will know I’m always harping on about my love for police procedurals and my desire for them to be (more) prevalent in the burgeoning Australian crime writing field. Well, lo and behold, Matthew Spencer has answered my call: his debut, “Black River” reads like a Sydney-based Ed McBain 87th Precinct novel, with all the mechanics down pat. Which means it’s very much my cup of tea. And, coincidentally, its primary setting — an independent boys’ boarding school in North Parramatta — is inspired by my (and the author’s) old school; so I had fun identifying specific locations from the campus I spent nine years exploring. (Well, okay — sitting in the library…)

Read more

The Scarlet Cross by Lyn McFarlane

In her debut The Scarlet Cross, Lyn McFarlane uses genre fiction to explore weighty social issues relating to the abuse of institutional power, the management of mental health, and harassment in the workplace — while narrative momentum is powered by St Jude Hospital nurse Meredith Griffin’s investigation into the deaths of three women who all suffered identical fatal injuries, and whose corpses bore distinct lacerations.

Read more

French Braid by Anne Tyler

My relationship with Anne Tyler seems to me like a fine wine — it improves with age. I marvel at her ability to recycle familiar themes and reconstitute them. It is incredible to think that she has been examining middle-and-working-class Baltimorean families for almost 60 years and is still able to glean the tiniest, subtlest observations that bring her characters to life, and contribute to their authentic veneer. There is no such thing as a bad Anne Tyler novel: they exist on a sliding scale that wavers between good and great. This one is somewhere in the middle, which means it’s definitely worth your time. 

Read more

The Island by Adrian McKinty

Adrian McKinty’s The Island is an audacious, breathless, pulse-pounding survival thriller that’ll have readers biting their nails to the quick as they race through its pages to see who makes it out alive.

An idyllic working vacation to Australia turns holiday from hell when a family from Seattle ventures onto Dutch Island in Victoria, where trespassers aren’t so much prosecuted as they are, well, executed by the close-knit and sadistic clan who calls it home.

The family in question consists of father Tom, his new wife Heather, and his adolescent children, Owen and Olivia. Although Tom’s in Melbourne for a medical conference, he agrees to play tourist for a day to gratify his kids and possibly ease some of the tension between them and their step-mum. 

Read more

To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway

This is my first Hemingway in more than 20 years, when I read The Old Man and the Sea as a teenager and was rendered aghast by how much tedium could be squeezed into fewer than 100 pages. I’ll revisit it one day, maybe; old and wiser, and all that  — but first, a sojourn through the vast swathes of Hemingway’s I haven’t read.

Read more

Sirerra Six by Mark Greaney and Dark Horse by Gregg Hurwitz

Fifteen years ago my reading consisted exclusively of action thrillers from the likes of Robert Ludlum, Jack Higgins and Tom Clancy ― basically the stuff on my dad’s shelves. Over time, my reading tastes have broadened (I’m reticent to use the word “matured,” as I once might’ve, in an effort to appeal to the “literati,” because I think that does an injustice to the authors who pen them) and I’ve become a little more conscientious about selecting which thriller writers make the cut. 

Guys like Mark Greaney and Gregg Hurwitz write major cinematic blockbusters; other authors are a little more direct-to-video ― you know, cookie-cutter heroes, conventional plots; not necessarily bad, but certainly not as enterprising. 

Read more

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

I studied John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men in High School; read it in bite-size chunks alongside my SparkNotes guide (or was it CliffsNotes?), excavating themes, motifs and an abundance of literary devices for class discussions and essays. 

It was assigned reading, therefore a chore, so I don’t really remember my feelings on the story on an emotional level. I returned to it almost 20 years later, swallowed it whole during my (train delayed) morning commute. My overriding impression: it’s sensational; a seminal work of literature. Basically, exactly what my English teachers called it way back when. Only now, read for pleasure, I can see why. 

Read more

The Goodbye Coast by Joe Ide

I’m rather conflicted over Joe Ide’s The Goodbye Coast. I want to be clear — it’s a really good crime novel. Cannily plotted, with tight prose, sharp dialogue, and a swift tempo. The stumbling factor is that it’s a contemporary reimagining of Raymond Chandler’s legendary PI Philip Marlowe, but besides Marlowe’s name and the Los Angeles setting, that legacy adds nothing to the story. And without the first person hard-boiled narration, it doesn’t even read like a facsimile. It feels like something completely different. Which is fine. Great, even. But it wouldn’t escape my mind: this is supposed to be a Philip Marlowe novel.

Read more