Review: Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham

9780733638053Michael Robotham has never been better than with this deliciously compulsive series opener starring forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven and the enigmatic Evie Cormac.

Good Girl, Bad Girl opens in Langford Hall, a high security children’s home in Nottingham. Haven is there to assess one of the residents; a girl without a past, memorialised by the press as “Angel Face” when she was discovered in a secret room in house in north London, at the age of eleven or twelve, hiding only a few feet away from where the police discovered the decomposing body of a man who had been tortured to death. Given a new name by the authorities ⁠— Evie Cormac ⁠— she ended up at Langford Hall after a series of failed attempts to assimilate into foster homes.

Six years after being found, Evie is determined to be declared an adult, and earn her freedom; Cyrus is tasked with evaluating her for possible release. But it’s immediately clear something about Evie is amiss. Not just her general unruliness and propensity for violence; she is a possible “truth wizard,” aka a human lie detector, which is subject Haven wrote a thesis on. Evie intrigues Haven, and he can’t help but empathise with her, having lived through a tragedy of his own. Which leads to an impulsive decision by him to temporarily foster her ⁠— just as he becomes involved in a murder investigation: the suspicious death and possible rape of Jodie Sheehan, a 15-year-old figure skating star-in-the-making.

Frankly, crime fiction doesn’t get more enjoyable than Robotham’s latest. Since Life or Death he has maintained an unbelievable level of consistency; and each time you think he might’ve peaked, he surprises you again. Robotham’s ability to deliver twist after heart-stopping twist is unrivalled, but his greatest gift, and the element that shines through with every book is the humanity of his characters. The crackling, page-turning tension is derived not from trickery, but thanks to protagonists you care for, and root for.In Cyrus Haven and Evie Cormac, he has created a duo readers will want to meet again and soon.  With its clever action and characters who breathe, Good Girl, Bad Girl is one of the unmissable crime novels of 2019.

ISBN: 9780733638053
Format: Paperback / softback
Pages: 400
Imprint: Hachette Australia
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Publish Date: 26-Feb-2019
Country of Publication: Australia

 

 

Review: The Other Wife by Michael Robotham

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In a genre overstuffed with pretenders, Michael Robotham somehow manages to crank out one winner after another. His latest — possibly the final book in the Joe O’Loughlin series, if we’re to believe the endnote — works as both a compulsive mystery and a meditation on fatherhood.

Clinical psychologist Joe, who struggles with Parkinson’s disease, is called to his father Michael’s hospital bedside following a brutal attack that has left him in a coma. But when he arrives, it’s not his mother or sister watching over William — a celebrated surgeon and family man — but a complete stranger; another woman, Olivia, who claims to be his wife.

His other wife.

Joe immediately refutes her assertion, but there’s too much evidence vindicating her relationship with his father. Somehow, William has maintained a secret life for twenty years; he has lied and deceived Joe and his family for two decades. But is his current situation a consequence of his dual lives, or something random? Is Olivia to blame, or her son? But then, where was Joe’s own mother on the night of William’s attack?

The beauty of Robotham’s thrillers is that they rely on human relationships rather than explosions and blasts from sawn-off shotguns to fuel their nerve-shredding tension. As events unravel, Joe’s investigation into his father’s attack spins out into a web that snares a wide cast of characters. Robotham expertly plants red herrings; every time the reader thinks the plot will fall into predictability, the ground shifts and the direction changes. And the end, when it comes, is a satisfying surprise, a pulse-pounding, breathtaking climax built on clues that were on the page all along.

If you have a taste for crime fiction and haven’t read the Joe O’Loughlin series, you could start here — this might be ‘the end’ for Joe, the book works perfectly as a standalone — while rusted-on fans will delight in Robotham’s latest; quite possibly his best.

ISBN: 9780733637933
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
Imprint: Hachette Australia
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Publish Date: 26-Jun-2018
Country of Publication: Australia

The Best Books of 2017 – So Far!

Best Books of 2017 - so Far!

A graphic novel, a brilliant retelling of a Shakespeare play, a standout second novel from the 2015 Miles Franklin winner Sofie Laguna, a couple of mile-a-minute page-turners, and a brilliant debut literary crime novel from a fresh Australian voice; these, and more, are my picks for the books that have already made 2017 a stellar year for reading. And we’re only halfway through it!

Continue reading “The Best Books of 2017 – So Far!”

Review: The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham

9780733638015.jpgIn Michael Robotham’s sure and practised hands, domestic noir has achieved new heights. With its perfect blend of sharp plotting, great characterisation and a powerful narrative, The Secrets She Keeps might well be the spiritual successor to Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train we’ve all been waiting for.

The Secrets She Keeps revolves around two central themes: the attainment of a (perceived) perfect life, and the extremes we are capable of going to in order to keep our darkest secrets safe. Our narrators — Agatha Fyfle and Meghan Shaughnessy. — come from vastly different backgrounds, but are united by two unconnected and deeply personal secrets, both of which have the potential to unravel their lives. Agatha thinks Meghan has it all — two perfect children, a handsome and successful husband, a happy marriage — while all she has is an absent boyfriend (and father of her unborn child) who won’t return her calls. If only Agatha could see the inner-workings of Meghan and Jack’s marriage; see past the sheen and the smiles plastered on their faces in public. Is a third child really the antidote to their woes? And if it is, suppose that antidote was maliciously removed… the consequences would be devastating.

In this standalone psychological thriller, Robotham explores the lengths we’ll go to bury the truth beneath a flood of lies. He never writes a dull page, ratcheting up the tension, pressing his foot against the accelerator, until the pages start turning themselves. The Secrets She Keeps is gripping and heartbreaking in equal measure. You will doubt everything and everyone, because ultimately, the characters at the novel’s centre simply can’t be trusted. They are liars, cheats and scoundrels. And they are so utterly compelling, you might breeze through this one in a single sitting. It’s ‘forget your job, meals, friends and family’ kind of good.

ISBN: 9780733638015
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 448
Imprint: Hachette Australia
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Publish Date: 11-Jul-2017
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: Life or Death by Michael Robotham

Life or DeathFirmly established as Australia’s premier crime writer, LIFE OR DEATH doesn’t just underline Michael Robotham’s status; it elevates him into an even greater stratosphere. With this latest novel, Robotham pits himself against a legion of literary superstars who made their names writing about Texas – McCarthy, Lee Burke, Meyer – and proves he deserves a place around their exclusive table.

Audie Palmer has spent a decade in prison for an armed robbery in which four people died. The seven million dollars that was stolen was never recovered – and everybody, from the police to his fellow inmates, believes Audie knows the location of the money, and is biding his time until his release to retrieve it. Which makes his escape, just a day before his liberation, all the more bewildering; because now Audie’s a fugitive, hunted on both sides of the fence, by those looking to silence him, those looking for the money, and those simply determined to know the truth.

LIFE OR DEATH pays homage to the work that has come before it, but is never derivative; a difficult balance, deftly handled by Robotham. Rooted among the violence and chaos is a love story, which acts as the narrative’s core, ensuring our sympathies remain firmly with Audie, even early on in the novel when his motivations are intentionally clouded. The novel flits between various characters, and intercuts flashbacks to the years before the robbery, revealing the sequence of events that lead to Audie’s imprisonment. Boiled down, LIFE OR DEATH is an elongated chase, much like Richard Lang’s recently published ANEGL BABY, and while the structure is simple, it’s the character development that hoists the novel above thriller fodder. There are few characters as simultaneously lucky as they are unlucky; Audie Palmer is the perfect blend, and reading the consequences of his decisions play out, even when we don’t quite understand his reasons, is enthralling.

LIFE OR DEATH is the kind of novel you’ll want to power through in one sitting, but also take your time with, to bask in its elegance. Readers might’ve thought they’d seen Robotham operating at the top of his craft, but they’d be wrong: LIFE OR DEATH is his new benchmark.

Reviewed by Simon McDonald | writtenbysime@gmail.com