Review: Injury Time by Duncan Hamilton

There has been a football-size hole in my reading life for a long time now. 

The last great novels about football I read were both written by David Peace: “The Damned Utd” and “Red or Dead.” I’ve offered these to fellow football fans with mixed results. Peace’s prose is very stylised; not at all impenetrable, but melodic, maybe even outré, especially for those whose reading diet consists primarily of footballer memoirs. 

Duncan Hamilton seems to have no misconceptions about what he’s trying to accomplish with his debut novel “Injury Time.” This is a football novel for the masses. He has borrowed from his vast journalistic experience; taken real people and tweaked them for his fiction; and he has created a vastly entertaining yarn about the beautiful game. Narratively orthodox, certainly; but fashioned with pathos as well as the obligatory footballisms. 

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Review: Sula by Toni Morrison

“Sula” is my first Toni Morrison, chosen because Marlon James sings its praises constantly on his podcast ‘Marlon and Jake Read Dead People,’ and because it clocks in at fewer than 200 pages, and I admire brevity. 

Despite its tactile concision, “Sula” is epic in scope, encompassing the years between 1919 and 1965, and set in a black community that ‘stood in the hills above the valley town of Medallion.’ It depicts the close childhood friendship between Nel and Sula, until their paths diverge, and their friendship evaporates; only to be rekindled, in a different form ten years later, shaped by their experiences, and events that follow, when Sula returns as a staunch rejector of the conventional gender roles the community expects her to abide by.

There is much to admire about “Sula.” Morrison’s style is deceptively gentle, her nuanced prose never obfuscating, but also never too conspicuous. Where so many other novels might overstate or magnify their drama, Morrison’s is powerful because of its deftness. Every word, sentence, paragraph and chapter is precise, and possesses the perfect amount of weight and meaning. Sometimes the fewest words tell the most.

ISBN: 9780099760016
ISBN-10: 0099760010
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 174
Published: 7th May 2005

Review: Billy Summers by Stephen King

If you disassembled “Billy Summers” and left its pieces scattered like detritus for another author to reconstruct, the result would likely be a fairly conventional thriller. But that’s the magic of Stephen King, isn’t it? Literary tropes are his playthings, there to be manipulated and contorted into something exceptional.

The titular Billy Summers is a former US marine turned contract killer, who is — wouldn’t you know it — also something of a white knight. We empathise with Billy because of his wartime experiences in Iraq, which we learn of through excerpts of the semi-fictional memoir he writes as part of his cover in the lead-up to his final hit. That’s right: “Billy Summers” is a classic ‘one last job’ story. And of course, that job goes horribly wrong.

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Review: The Body Farm by Patricia Cornwell

Oh, Patricia. 

Oh, Kay. 

I had such grand plans to re-read (or read anew, in some cases) every single Scarpetta mystery this year, before the release of “Autopsy” at the end of November. That’s 25 books, by the way. And here I am, August already, and I have read ― oops ― five. But I’ll stay the course, friends. I made you a promise.

Anywho ― here we are with “The Body Farm,” in which Chief Medical Examiner and FBI consultant Kay Scarpetta (alongside series regulars, Detective Pete Merino and FBI agent Benton Wesley) investigate the murder of 11-year-old Emily Steiner, whose brutal maiming matches the modus operandi of escaped killer Temple Gault; who eagle-eyed readers will remember from “Cruel and Unusual.” 

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Review: The Cellist by Daniel Silva

The head of Israel’s intelligence service goes after the Russian President’s fortune in “The Cellist,” the 21st novel in Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series.

When former CIA agent Sarah Bancroft discovers the corpse of wealthy newspaper publisher and staunch Russian insurrectionist Viktor Orlov, the subsequent investigation headed by Allon exposes the Russian President’s financier, and thus the possibility of infiltrating this inner sanctum and wiping out a large chunk of the autocrat’s assets currently utilised to destabilize the west through vast disinformation campaigns and cyber attacks.

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Review: Breathe by Joyce Carol Oates

A woman overwhelmed with grief for her dead husband stands at the precipice of madness in Joyce Carol Oates’s latest. 

“Breathe” is not so much an examination of grief or a chronicle of Michaela McManus’ cycle of denial, anger, depression, and eventual acceptance. Rather, it’s a nightmarish portrait of emotional anguish: a familiar scenario, twisted and contorted into something horrific by her inability to believe something so terrible has happened.

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Review: Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov

There are authors we’ve heard of, and know we ought to read, but relegate to the tokenistic ‘one day’ stack, which either exists in our heads, or in an actual pile of books we’ve consolidated over however many years you’ve been on the planet. 

(For me, it’s a bit of both).

Nabokov has always been on my list. “Lolita,” obviously. “Pale Fire,” too; although skimming its pages, the lizard part of my brain thought — too hard. I didn’t know much about “Pnin,” besides the fact it’s small, and therefore (I assumed) digestible. 

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Review: Treasure & Dirt by Chris Hammer

In Chris Hammer’s compulsively readable and deeply satisfying fourth novel, Sydney homicide detective Ivan Lucic is dispatched to the outback town of Finnigan’s Gap to investigate the death of an opal miner found underground, crucified and left to rot. 

Fans of the Martin Scarsden trilogy will feel right at home with “Treasure & Dirt,” and newcomers will see right away what the fuss has been about. All of Hammer’s considerable strengths are on display: his keen eye for detail, assiduous plotting, vividly-etched characters, and the ability to evocatively render imagined townships, and fill them with local colour. 

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Review: Deep Into the Dark by P.J. Tracy

In “Deep Into the Dark,” a series opener by P.J. Tracy, readers are introduced to LAPD detective Maggie Nolan and an army veteran recently returned from Afghanistan with PTSD, Sam Easton.

Characters ostensibly like Easton are a dime and dozen in thriller-lit, on the page and screen; ex-soldiers on missions of retribution, leaving swaths of bodies behind them. Tracy’s interpretation is more nuanced; more human than trope, though obviously his military training comes into play in the novel’s climactic stages. 

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Review: The Enemy Within by Tim Ayiffe

Tim Ayliffe is one of Australian crime fiction’s most reliable entertainers, and “The Enemy Within” is another sure-footed mystery starring investigative journalist John Bailey.

It begins in medias res, with a body falling from the sky and crashing to the pavement right in front of Bailey’s eyes. Sickened by the sight, but having witnessed worse horrors in Afghanistan, he approaches the body, sidestepping the pool of blood spreading across the concrete.

Of course, he recognises the man.

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