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