The Heron’s Cry by Ann Cleeves

“The Heron’s Cry” is my first Ann Cleeves, and it most assuredly will not be my last. There’s no reason why it’s taken me so long to get around to reading the prolific creator of the Vera Stanhope mysteries and the Shetland series (among others…) — my only excuse is that I only have so much time to read so many crime writers, and Cleeves slipped through the cracks. Well, no longer.

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Shadows Reel by C.J. Box

“Shadows Reel” is not the place to start the Joe Pickett series. Never mind that it’s the twenty-second instalment — really, the expanse of a series should never prohibit new readers from jumping into the fray — but C.J. Box’s latest picks up directly from last year’s stellar “Dark Sky,” with Joe’s old pal, master-falconer Nate Romanowski teaming up with Black Lives Matter activist Geronimo Jones to hunt down Axel Soledad, who we last saw beating Nate’s wife, threatening his baby, and stealing his birds. 

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The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

In Jessamine Chan’s “The School for Good Mothers,” Frida Liu — a recently divorced Chinese American mother of 18-month old Harriett — makes the imprudent, sleep-deprived decision to leave her daughter at home alone for a few hours to head into the office and catch up on work. When the authorities discover Harriett unattended, Frida’s parental rights are rescinded pending the outcome of her stay at a live-in rehabilitation program for bad mothers. If she can prove herself a better mother, she’ll be reunited with Harriett. If not, her parental rights will be severed entirely, and she won’t be able to see her daughter again — ever.

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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. 

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Review: Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson

After two exceptionally intricate and absorbing thrillers (Greenlight and Either Side of Midnight), Benjamin Stevenson is back with a rollicking, twist-filled Gordian knot of a mystery that maintains the thematic through-line of his work: the bond between brothers.

Set in a remote, snowed-in Australian mountain resort during the Cunningham family reunion, Everyone In My Family Has Killed Someone embraces the genre’s staples with a knowing wink and a nod to the reader. Its opening page lists the 10 Commandments of Detective Fiction by Ronald Knox, who belonged to the Detection Club; an assembly of legendary mystery writers including Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers.

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Review: To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

Hanya Yanagihara returns post “A Little Life” with a genre-hybridising, sprawling and ambitious epic, whose characters have the same sense of interiority as JB, Willem, Malcolm and Jude, but whose canvas is bigger and more operatic. It’s an impressive novel, extraordinarily constructed, that rewards assiduous readers, or those prepared to go back and properly appreciate the continuity between its three narrative strands, which are set in 1893, 1993, and 2093 respectively.

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Review: The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield

“The Apollo Murders” is a brilliantly imagined and superbly crafted alternate history Cold War thriller where Apollo 18 — cancelled in reality because of budgetary cuts — launched into space in 1973. 

The crew’s initial mission objective is to collect lunar geological samples and sabotage a Russian moon rover. But things escalate quickly, and their task becomes more complicated and spectacular: destroy a Soviet spy satellite which, despite intelligence reports, isn’t the easy, unmanned target they expected. 

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Review: A Line to Kill by Anthony Horowitz

As far as I’m concerned, there is no better writer of murder mysteries than Anthony Horowitz right now. He is in the form of his life, and the third novel in his Daniel Hawthorne series further ratifies that belief. “A Line to Kill” is an exceptional whodunnit, meticulously plotted, laden with red herrings and disguises, and populated with an eclectic cast of suspects and victims. It’s everything the armchair sleuth could possibly want. 

Once again narrated by a fictionalised Horowitz (who writes about Hawthorne’s murder investigations), “A Line to Kill” is set at a literary festival on the English island of Alderney. Horowitz and Hawthorne are just one of the festival’s highlights: other guests include a blind psychic, a French performance poet, a war historian, and a chef who specialises in (exceedingly) unhealthy meals. 

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Review: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This is a story about family and celebrity, and how life can assign people roles they can’t realise, or that they can realise only by sacrificing their personal desires and aspirations. 

Set primarily on a hot summer’s night in Malibu, 1983, at Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, “Malibu Rising” explores the tumultuous lives of the elder Riva child and her siblings: pro surfer Jay; surfer photographer Hud; and the youngest, Kit, who hopes to follow Jay’s path. 

Their father is Mick Riva, a famous singer, who fell in love with June in the 1950s, but could never attune himself to the life of a family man. He was lured away, time and time again, returning incrementally, until he disappeared for good. June was a good mother, but unable to cope with the heartbreak, and the cold, hard reality of her life. She turned to alcohol to dull the pain, and it ended up taking everything. 

After her death, Nina assumed the role of single parent and sole breadwinner. She became a surf model, selling her body to ensure the future of her family, loathing every moment of it. On the night of the party in 1983, her own relationship is breaking down, and the bonds between the siblings will be tested like never before; secrets are exposed, and long-bubbling resentments rise to the surface. 

Events transpire against Taylor Jenkins Reid’s foreshadowing of doom from her opening lines — ‘Malibu catches fire. It is simply what Malibu does from time to time.’ — and her handling of multiple characters and timelines is seamless. She is a consummate storyteller. 

Yes, the story machinery grinding its gears beneath the melodrama and celebrity guest stars is fairly ancient and conventional, but “Malibu Rising” is ultimately a classic family saga expounded pitch-perfectly and compulsively. The pleasures derived aren’t transcendental, but they’re genuine. And the novel does so much well for so long, it’s pat conclusion is entirely forgivable.

You know what: the Riva’s deserve it. 

ISBN: 9781786331533
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Published: 1st June 2021

Review: Dead Letters by Michael Brissenden

It’s been a while between drinks for Michael Brissenden and his cop hero Sid Allen. “The List,” published in 2017, was a satisfying thriller, if not a tad mechanical in its unravelling: a blend of “Bosch” and “24,” one part police procedural, another part political thriller. Its direct sequel “Dead Letters,” one of those dreaded sophomore novels, is superior in every way: tighter-plotted, richer in character, and pacier. 

It opens with the murder of Dan LeRoi, Chairman of the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, whose burgeoning political career is cut short by four bullets to the head. The crime scene is chaotic, a kaleidoscope of local and federal investigators, the media swarming on the biggest news story of the year. 

Among them is journalist Zephyr Wilde, a Lois Lane facsimile, whose tenaciousness is rooted in her tragic past. When she was a kid, Zephyr’s mother was killed by an unsub. It’s a cold case that’s remained on ice despite her dogged attempts to probe deeper, fuelled by letters from her long-dead mother that keep appearing in her mailbox. Breaking the golden rule of their professions, Sid and Zephyr partner up to look into LeRoi’s murder against the backdrop of a looming federal election. In doing so they awaken dark, dangerous forces operating within the corridors of power in Canberra. Brissenden weaves these threads together with skill, and pulls the curtain down with a couple of piercing twists.

Despite a deluge of brilliantly distinct local crime fiction published over the last half-decade, Australia — specifically Sydney, the city closest to my heart — is still looking for its answer to Michael Connelly and his (now former) LAPD detective Harry Bosch. The crime genre is so malleable, but the police procedural is my favourite form. Michael Brissenden’s Sid Allen series might be just what I’m looking for.

ISBN: 9780733637445
ISBN-10: 0733637442
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 368
Available: 27th January 2021
Publisher: Hachette Australia