Australia · review

The Dying Beach by Angela Savage

dying beachThe Dying Beach by Angela Savage

Text Publishing, April 2015

Jayne Keeney book 3

Disclosure: I received a review copy from the publisher.

I’m a big fan of the first book in the Jayne Keeney series, and I really liked this third entry in the series as well. Jayne, an Australian ex-pat who started a PI business after teaching English in Bangkok, is now running an agency with her partner Rajiv, and this particular installment finds them in the Krabi  on vacation. when Jayne discovers that her diving tour guide was found drowned at Princess Beach, she convinces Rajiv that they should take up the investigation pro bono, and Rajiv, the business-minded member of the agency, gives her a week.

The structure of the narrative is not traditional in the sense that Savage jumps from character to character and allows us to see quite a lot about the crimes that happen during Jayne’s seven day investigation. The big mystery returns to Pla’s death, the first in the series of crimes that occur. And, of course, the title is a mystery for quite some time as well.

There are lots of parts of the book that appeal to me. First, Jayne is not only just a touch of a bad-ass, she’s also human but not overrun with personality flaws. The environmental advocacy work that runs through this book feels organic, and the investigation of the environmental hazards of economic development are as unsettling as the other violent crimes in the book. The settings are very vivid, and the set pieces at a Buddhist temple fair, the Krabi Snake Farm, and a Buddhist funeral are very vivid. All-around this was a very satisfying read.

Other reviews appear in Whispering Gums and Fair Dinkum Crime.

2014 Global Reading Challenge · Australia · review

Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland

Gunshot Road by Adrian HylandGunshot Road by Adrian Hyland

Soho Crime, May 2010

I borrowed this book from the library.

Gunshot Road is one of my favorite reads of the year. It took me a bit by surprise because I don’t remember loving the first installment in the series, Moonlight Downs, nearly as much as I loved this one. The writing, the plot, and the intelligence of Hyland shine through in this book. I felt like he was very respectful of Aboriginal people, which was evident from his background working in the Northern Territory.

Emily Tempest begins the book with her new job as an Aboriginal Police Liaison, and she works for a boss who is new to the area after the man who hired her is injured on the job. She’s a bit uncomfortable in the position, as to be expected, and her first day on the job involves the apparently-open-and-shut case of the stabbing of Doc, an eccentric geologist in Bluebush. She’s convinced she was not stabbed by his drinking companion, and her investigation proceeds from there.

The action is quite good. A significant part of the novel felt like a thriller, but there are some times to catch your breath and get a better sense of these character’s lives. A trip Emily takes with the troubled teenager Danny stands out.

The characters aren’t caricatures, and they could have easily been: the mob at Bluebush, Jet the artist from Tibet, Cockburn the new boss who’s a stickler for regulations. It’s a long-enough story that Hyland had time to round the characters.

I could go on: the crime felt significant and I felt the effect it had on everyone involved in the investigation. I learned quite a bit about geology. And, finally, it’s a beautifully written book. I’ll close with one of my favorite passages of the book:

We made our farewells. Or I made my farewells–Jet just stood on the side of the road in her skinny singlet and big boots, shaking her head and muttering, ‘Aiee…This Emily Tempest.’

You can talk, I thought. Jet was taking to the relentless chaos of the borderlands– and there were all manner of borders out here: between black and white, the organic and the mechanical, the random and the damned–like a cockroach to a grease trap.

We left her in a cloud of dust. (p. 313)

Other reviews appear in Reviewing the Evidence, Reactions to Reading, The Game’s Afoot, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, and crimepieces.

2013 Global Reading Challenge · Australia

The Mistake by Wendy James

mistake jamesThe Mistake by Wendy James
Michael Joseph/ Penguin, 2012

The Mistake is not a typical crime novel: it’s the story of a forty-something mother who is being investigated in the disappearance of her infant daughter who was born when she was teenager. Jodie claims she gave up the baby for an illegal adoption, but she is under suspicion of the infant’s murder by the media and possibly by the police. This is a character piece, and James is good at getting into the heads of Jodie and her family. It’s very well-done, and it doesn’t rely on crazy plot twists like some other psychological crime dramas I’ve read. (I’m thinking of Gone Girl, of course). It’s the novel of being put through the wringer by the media, and James says some interesting things about not only the media but about class and being a middle aged parent. What I most appreciated was the tone of the book: James is very respectful of her characters and doesn’t seem to be manipulating them. She gives everyone a detailed story. This is one of my favorite reads of the year.

Other reviews appear in The Newtown Review of Books, Book’d Out, and Mrs. Peabody Investigates.

I bought my copy of the book.

Coincidentally, this is my last book for the 2013 Global Reading Challenge. I hope finish my wrap-up post soon, but the end of the year is busy, snowy, and laden with cold germs so far.

2013 Global Reading Challenge · Australia · review

Frantic by Katherine Howell

frantic

Frantic by Katherine Howell
Pan Books, 2008 (originally published 2007)
Ella Marconi book 1
Source: I bought my copy.

I chose to read the first Ella Marconi book both to fulfill my remaining obligations in the 2013 Global Reading Challenge (just a handful of books to go to reach the expert level) and because I’ve read a number of glowing reviews on other crime fiction blog posts and comment threads. I really need to keep track where I read these recommendations in order to give proper credit: a goal for 2014.

While this book is called the first in the Ella Marconi series (Ella is a detective with the Sidney police), it feels like the majority of the book belongs to Sophie, a paramedic and mother of an infant, who goes about her work day and deals with her husband Chris, a police officer suffering from post traumatic stress after being assaulted on the job. Before the central crime in the book occurs I am worn out as we follow Sophie on her shift. The investigation in the book centers around the shooting of Chris and the abduction of their son, which also ramps up the tension in the novel.

Ella herself is a detective bemoaning her lack of interesting cases as the novel begins (she’s been a bit stymied because of her abruptness to a superior on a prior case), but those complaints are short-lived. Ella begins to uncover police corruption, and that arc I assume will be played out in the subsequent novels. I don’t know too much about Ella yet, but she’s an interesting, capable character, which is refreshing.

Frantic is a plot heavy book, which makes it difficult to review much beyond this point. It’s a brisk read with a galloping ending, and I’m excited to read the next book in the series.

2012 Global Reading Challenge · Australia · review

Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland

Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland

Soho Press, 2008

Orignally published as Diamond Dove in Australia, 2006

Book 1 in the Emily Tempest series

Ned Kelly Award for Best First Novel

Source:  library copy

Moonlight Downs takes place in the Northern Territory of Australia in both the camp of Moonlight Downs and the town of Bluebush.  Emily Tempest is a half-Aborigine, half-white woman who grew up on Moonlight Downs after her mother died when Emily was five years old.  She lived there with her father Jack until she was a teenager.  The book finds Emily returning to Moonlight Downs at age 26 after trying a handful of college degree programs and lots of different jobs.

Emily is a flinty, tough character who investigates the murder of her surrogate father and tribal leader Lincoln Flinders.  The investigation takes up much of the second half of the book, with the first half of the book more of an introduction to the area, the land, the characters, and their backgrounds.  It’s interesting stuff:  anthropology, geology (Emily’s dad is a miner, so she grew up identifying rocks, minerals, and crystals), and sociology.  Black-white relations are pretty horrid, and life in the bush as well as in the rough-and-tumble settlement of Bluebush isn’t pretty.

I enjoyed the first half of the book, which is Emily’s return Moonlight Downs and her mob, or tribe.  The actual resolution of the crime was not my favorite part of the book, in part because the conclusion is quite violent, which was a bit jarring.  I hope that the next book in the series spends more time on the crime and less time setting up the setting and characters.

Another review appears in International Noir.

I read this book as part of the Global Reading Challenge 2012.