Review: The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

x293In Dervla McTiernan’s debut The Ruin, an elaborate plot and vivid setting serves as mere backdrop for showcasing her greater talent: creating unforgettable, emotionally textured characters, DI Cormac Reilly chief among them, and putting them through the emotional wringer. When you think of The Ruin, think fast, furiously-paced crime solving laced with social implications that are as frightening as any chase or shootout ever put to paper. McTiernan has set the pace for every other crime writer this year.

The book opens twenty years in the past when, on his first week on the job, young Garda Cormac Reilly is called to a dilapidated country house. There he finds two neglected children, fifteen-year-old Maude and five-year-old Jack. Upstairs, their mother Hilaria lies dead as a result of a heroin overdose. Jack is pushed into foster care, Maude disappears, and Reilly moves on; up the career ladder and eventually away from Galway to Dublin.

Presently Reilly is back in the town he thought he’d forgotten, assigned to working cold cases  at a new police station which is populated by some suspicious characters, who are more than willing to make their resentment of him known. When Jack is discovered dead as the result of a suicide at the same time Maude returns from decades away, Reilly is encouraged to delve back into the case that’s haunted him in the intervening years, tasked with finding a link between Hilaria’s death and her son’s.

 

This is a story of human frailties, violence and betrayal; of accepting the consequences of choices made, and managing their ripples in the future. McTiernan’s debut is assured, elegantly crafted and utterly compelling. DI Cormac Reilly’s second case can’t come soon enough.

ISBN: 9781460754214
Format: Paperback
Imprint: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers (Australia) Pty Ltd
Publish Date: 19-Feb-2018
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: Redemption Point by Candice Fox

9780143781882.jpgCandice Fox, arguably Australia’s finest crime writer, has penned another taut and seductive thriller.  Redemption Point, the standalone sequel to 2017’s Crimson Lake, is meticulously plotted and magically propulsive, and shows precisely why Fox is the poster-woman of Australian crime fiction.

When former NSW Police Detective Ted Conkaffey was wrongly accused of abducting thirteen-year-old Claire Bingley, he disappeared to the steamy, croc-infested wetlands of Crimson Lake in Queensland, where he met the brilliant, but slightly deranged, Amanda Pharrell; an accused and convicted murderer operating as a private detective. Following the events of Crimson Lake, Conkaffey and Pharrell,  now investigative partners, are called to a roadside hovel called Barking Frog Inn, where the bodies of two young bartenders have been found, apparently victims of a robbery gone wrong. Hired by the father of one of the victims, Conkaffey and Pharrell ignore the warnings of the local cops and insert themselves into the investigation. But Ted’s attention is quickly diverted elsewhere when the father of Claire Bingley — the young girl he supposedly abducted — arrives in town seeking vengeance.

With precision and clarity, Fox unravels two disparate, but equally unsettling and compelling investigations. Ted Conkaffey and Amanda Pharrell are wonderfully epic heroes; tough, taciturn, yet vulnerable, and bolstered by a colourful supporting cast, whose aspirations and intentions are shrouded in mystery, purposefully enigmatic until Fox chooses to unveil their true natures. She merges a labyrinthine plot, deft characterisation and top-notch police procedure into a gut-wrenching, wickedly-addictive page-turner. There is no author writing today more capable of producing such well-assembled time bombs that demand reading long past bedtime. Seriously, those final hundred pages need to be swallowed in a single gulp.

ISBN: 9780143781882
Format: Paperback
Pages: 432
Imprint: Bantam
Publisher: Transworld Publishers (Division of Random House Australia)
Publish Date: 29-Jan-2018
Country of Publication: Australia

The Best Books of 2017

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We’ve reached that point of the year when the tower of 2018 proofs on my bedside table (and on my floor, behind the door, so visitors can’t see the madness) wobbles precariously with even the gentlest footfall. Which means it’s time to pull the plug on 2017 and start diving into next year’s titles. But before that, there’s the small matter of declaring The Best Books of 2017… otherwise known as my favourites. There are so many books I haven’t mentioned here that I adored, but what follows are the ones that my brain simply refused to forget.

Continue reading “The Best Books of 2017”

Review: Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

9781760630775Two Kinds of Truth harnesses the strengths of Michael Connelly’s two longest-running series, uniting Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller in a book that’s a distinctive blend of police procedural and legal thriller, which is as much an addictive page-turner as it is a provoking meditation of the moral ambiguity that permeates society.

Thirty years ago former LAPD Detectives Francis Sheehan and Harry Bosch were certain Preston Borders raped and murdered three young women. He was eventually convicted of killing Danielle Skyler, and given the death penalty. He’s been sitting in San Quentin ever since, waiting for that fateful day. But now it looks like he’ll get out, thanks to an analysis of unexamined evidence from 1988, which has revealed DNA  on Danielle’s pyjama bottoms belonging to Lucas John Olmer, who died in prison, and is unconnected to Borders. Guided by his lawyer, Borders has filed a habeas corpus petition, and in doing so, accused the LAPD — specifically Bosch, since Sheehan is dead — of planting evidence against him.

Now working cold cases for the San Fernando Police Department, Bosch knows neither he or Sheehan did anything untoward that lead to Border’s conviction. But the mere hint of corruption would be enough to taint Bosch forever, sullying his reputation, and would force him to surrender his badge, and therefore his mission. So while his half-brother Mickey Haller prepares Bosch’s legal defence, Harry re-opens a case he’d thought long-closed, while also working with his SFPD colleagues to investigate the murder of José Esquivel Sr. and Jr., which thrusts him into undercover work as an addict and potential drug mule.

A little mystery and a lot of mayhem keep the plot boiling, and while the two cases remain unconnected, one influences the other with almost catastrophic consequences. We’ve not seen Bosch this far our of his comfort zone since he travelled to Hong Kong in 9 Dragons on a mission of vengeance. While the mystery in Two Kinds of Truth doesn’t possess the depth and complexity of Bosch’s most memorable cases, the standout scene, which is reserved for when Haller takes the stage in the courtroom, propels the book to Connelly’s usual Gold-Star standard. The Mickey Haller books have always evocatively portrayed the murky machinations of the legal system, and the brief episode here will have readers craving the next book in that series.

Michael Connelly does a masterly job of unravelling dual storylines, once again proving himself a consummate plotter as he steadily complicates an already complex narrative. His mysteries, and the Harry Bosch series, continue to burn bright.

ISBN: 9781760630775
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publish Date: 25-Oct-2017
Country of Publication: Australia

 

Review: Under the Cold Bright Lights by Garry Disher

9781925498882Garry Disher is one of the most reliable craftsmen in crime fiction, and his latest, Under the Cold Bright Lights, epitomises his talents. This is a smart police procedural, with satisfying twists and turns, and a vigilante cop readers will want to see return.

Alan Auhl has returned to the Victorian Police Department after a brief sabbatical to work cold cases with a team of young detectives. He’s very much set in his ways, the kind of cop who prefers to get off his arse and knock on doors than run computer searches and make inquiries by phone. As such, his colleagues have dubbed him a retread, but he doesn’t mind. With his marriage in tatters, the job gives Auhl focus, and the three unrelated cases he works — four if you count a personal vendetta — demonstrate his unparalleled tenacity . . . and willingness to bend, possibly break, the law he was sworn to protect.

Auhl lives in a large shared-house — he refers to it as Chateau Auhl — which he uses to provide shelter for strays, people down on their luck, in desperate need of aid. Two of those boarders include a battered wife and her ten-year-old daughter, who are entangled in legal proceedings that will determine custody of the girl. Which means Auhl’s private life is as complicated as his professional one, as he juggles the death of John Elphick, and the discovery of a skeleton beneath a concrete slab, and the doctor who has seemingly killed two wives without leaving a trace of evidence against him.

Free of the structural problems you might expect from juggling so many unrealted plots, Under the Cold Bright Lights is a brilliant demonstration of Garry Disher’s artistry. And the doses of vigilante justice add essential pep to proceedings, providing a shot of adrenaline just when you think the book might be gliding. Gripping and intelligent, Under the Cold Bright Lights is a crackling page-turner, and proof that Disher should be held in the same regard as his international contemporaries. Connelly and Rankin fans should devour this, and Disher’s extensive back catalogue.

ISBN: 9781925498882
Format: Paperback (231mm x 155mm x 25mm)
Pages: 320
Imprint: The Text Publishing Company
Publisher: Text Publishing Co
Publish Date: 30-Oct-2017
Country of Publication: Australia

Review: Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane

Moonlight MileGone, Baby, Gone is one of my favourite crime novels, and I revisit it every couple of years out of sheer appreciation for its craftsmanship (its film adaptation is great, too). I’ve read Moonlight Mile — its sequel, penned and set twelve years later — just as often, and love it almost as much. Having reread it recently, it reminded me of how much I miss Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro . . . and also, how effectively Dennis Lehane ended (supposedly) his series.

Moonlight Mile relies on the emotional impact of the gut-punch ending of Gone, Baby, Gone. In that book, private investigators Patrick and Angie rescued four-year-old Amanda McCready from a couple who only wanted the best for her, and returned her to her unfit mother. The morality of that decision has plagued Patrick and Angie for more than a decade; it has become a subject they no longer discuss. In those intervening years, Patrick and Angie have married, and a blessed with a daughter. All things considered — they’re broke, scraping to get by, living from paycheck to paycheck — they are happy. They are a family. Then they learn Amanda disappears again, and wracked by guilt, Patrick makes it his mission to find her, which seems him square up against the Russian Mob and other nefarious characters, putting his wife and daughter’s life at risk.

The twelve-year gap between books works brilliantly. Angie and Patrick have matured, with flickers of their youthful, instinctive selves, but now burdened by other responsibilities. Once upon a time they could — and did — throw themselves into the fray with barely a thought of the consequences. They’re not able to do that anymore. Characters in crime fiction are rarely allowed to age — of if they are, because we revisit them every year or two, their changes and maturity occurs glacially. The constrast between the characters then and now makes Moonlight Mile a real treat. Lehane doesn’t labour on these differences; they’re identifiable, but nuanced.

Moonlight Mile packs plenty of action, well-developed characters, and an ending that’ll leave you wanting more, but also accepting of the fact Patrick and Angie may have nothing else to give. It’s not a revolutionary PI novel. Lehane doesn’t reinvent the wheel, here. But gosh, he’s proves that wheel has plenty of traction. It’s just a darn fine mystery novel with brilliant characters.

ISBN: 9780349123684
Format: Paperback
Pages: 448
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 1-Jun-2011
Country of Publication: United Kingdom