Sapphire Falls, by Fleur McDonald

Fiona Forrest sat next to her dead husband’s coffin, staring at it dully. Music played softly in the background and she could smell the roses that filled two urns on stands nearby.
The church felt exactly like she did. Cold and empty.

Fiona and her husband Charlie were really happy: working side by side on their farm, and looking forward to a long future. But when Charlie is involved in a terrible shooting accident that eaves his mate Eddie dead, he struggles to cope. When he commits suicide, Fiona is devastated, but she is determined to keep the farm going. If only the rumours that she is selling the farm would stop.

Detective Dave Burrows has been on enforced leave. When he returns he finds that the case of Eddie’s death was not properly dealt with. When he starts to investigate he realises something doesn’t add up. The deeper he digs, the more he realises that something sinister is going on – and perhaps it is linked both to Charlie’s suicide and to the series of problems that seem to be plaguing Fiona’s farm.

Sapphire Falls continues bestselling author Fleur McDonald’s trend of blending rural Australian settings with strong female characters facing adversity and elements of mystery, for a unique form of crime fiction. Readers are kept guessing  along with the characters, and the mystery works well alongside the development of characters and interwoven subplots.

Good stuff.

Sapphire Falls, by Fleur McDonald
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781760112646

If I Tell You … I'll Have to Kill You, edited by Michael Robotham

Geoffrey McGeachin’s number one writing rule is Real writing is rewriting. Gabrielle Lord’s is Make writing your first priority, and Peter Corris doesn’t want to set rules but does advise learning from both mistakes and successes. With nineteen others, these crime writers share their journey to publication, their writing processes, tips and rules, and recommended reads in If I Tell You… I’ll Have to Kill You: Australia’s Leading Crime Writers Reveal Their Secrets.

Whilst suitable for anyone with an interest in crime fiction or true crime, this offering is most likely to appeal to writers (and aspiring writes) of the genre. The contributors are all multi published Australian authors, who’ve also had success on the international stage. Though crime is the common ground, the range of their writing focus is broad – from true crime, to detective novel, to historical fiction and more.

Because each chapter is contributed by a different author, the book can be either read cover to cover or dipped into, and while the focus is crime writing, writers of all interests and levels of experience are likely to find value in both the writing advice and the sharing of journeys to publication (and beyond).

Other contributors include Kerry Greenwood. Garry Disher, Barry Maitland and Leigh Redhead.

If I Tell You… I’ll Have to Kill You: Australia’s Leading Crime Writers Reveal Their Secrets, edited by Michael Robotham
Allen & Unwin, 2013
ISBN 9781743313480

Available from good bookstores and online.

All My Enemies, by Barry Maitland

Within the snug, still house, a womb of Axminster and Liberty against an uncertain world, something awful had exploded in just this one room…
“My God!” Kathy muttered under her breath, and moved forward towards the remains of Angela Hannaford.

Kathy Kolla is delighted to finally be starting her dream job, working alongside DCI Brock in the Serious Crime Division at New Scotland Yard. Her first case, though, is a perplexing one. A young woman has been brutally slain, with no apparent motive and few clues. When Kathy finds a tenuous link yo a local amateur dramatic group, she follows it, finding herself drawn into their rank. But as the date of their next performance draws closer, finding the killer in time to stop another murder is difficult, with a complex web of secrets concealing the truth.

All My Enemies is one of the earlier titles from the popular Brock and Kolla series, newly re-released in Australia. For those who have read later titles, this one provides some background insight into characters and relationships, whilst also presenting a gripping mystery. Like all the titles in the series, this one stands alone, but is likely to entice lovers of crime fiction to seek out others.

All My Enemies

All My Enemies, by Barry Maitland
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781742376547

Available from good bookstores or online.

Scared Yet? by Jaye Ford

Her arm was out as she rounded the bumper, her fingers reaching for the doorhandle as she saw her reflection in the driver’s window – and a brief movement behind her.
Then a hand slammed over her mouth.

When Livia Prescott is attacked in the carpark on her way home from work, everyone tells her how brave she is. And there’s nothing for her to fear – this was a one-off attack, and she managed to fight off her attacker. It’s just another piece of bad luck in a shocking year which has seen her marriage end, her father get sicker and her business falter. At least this time she came out on top.

Or has she? As the days and weeks pass without her attacker being caught, Livia becomes increasingly aware that this not a random attack. Someone is out to get her. He starts by sending her menacing notes, then picks up the pace, dragging Livia’s family and friends into the vendetta. Livia has no idea who the stalker is or what she can do to stop him. But if she doesn’t fight back, she might lose everything.

Scared Yet? is a chillingly gripping psychological thriller. Even without the attack Liv has a lot on her plate, but when she’s attacked it seems she’s being given more to cope with than anyone could. She lives in fear not just for her own life, but for that of her precious son, as well as her ailing father and everyone she holds dear. Not knowing who is targeting her or where their next attack might come from makes her jumpy and at times irrational, yet she manages to keep going, fighting with all her reserves. She is gutsy, but also believable in her motivations and in her mistakes.

This is a page turner that will keep you guessing and shaking right to the end.

Scared Yet?

Scared Yet? by Jaye Ford
Bantam, an imprint of Random House, 2012
ISBN 9781864712001

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Tower, by Michael Duffy

It took the two uniformed officers a while to get out of the car. When they did, one of them was sick in the gutter. His partner took a few steps backwards, her eyes fixed on the dead woman on the roof. She had obviously fallen from a very long way up.

When a young woman falls from high in the construction site of what will be the world’s tallest skyscraper, detective Nicholas Troy becomes part of the investigating team. To Troy, homicide investigations are the highest form of police work. But as he delves into the underworld of the Sydney business community, he sees the dark side of police work, of business and of life itself. Sometimes, he soon realises, decisions are not easy, and motives not clear. For the first time in his career, Troy must make decisions which may threaten that very career in order to keep himself and his family safe.

The Tower is a gripping debut novel from author Michael Duffy, who has previously written on crime and other matters for the Sydney Morning Herald, as well as writing biographies, playing in bands and presenting on radio. Duffy draws on his knowledge of Sydney and its darker side to bring the novel to life. The action and mystery are combined with the pleasing character development of Troy and of other characters in a satisfying blend.

The Tower

The Tower, by Michael Duffy
Allen & Unwin, 2009

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Dark Mirror, by Barry Maitland

“No, well, anyone else probably wouldn’t have noticed, because this is so unusual now, in this country – the first case I’ve come across, to tell the truth. But I remember the smell so well from my student days, in India. We opened up a number of victims – well, the stuff was readily available, you see, in herbicide and pesticides and industrial processes and God knows what…’
Kathy waited but he seemed momentarily at a loss. ‘What are we talking about, Sundeep?’ she asked gently.
‘Arsenic, Kathy. I’m almost sure that she died of arsenic poisoning.’

When graduate student Marion Summers collapses and dies, the cause is not immediately apparent. But when the autopsy reveals arsenic poison, DI Kathy Kolla is sent to investigate. Is this a dramatic suicide, or has someone murdered the mysterious Ms Summers?

Marion’s research into the life of artist Dante Gabriel Rosetti seems an unlikely part of the murder mystery, but given both the issue of arsenic poisoning amongst his associates, and Marion’s obsession with the issue, Kathy becomes increasingly sure there is a link. But as she and DCI Brock get closer to uncovering the truth, there is a second poisoning – this time one of Marion’s student friends – and it appears there is a serial killer on the loose.

Dark Mirror is the tenth installment in the much-lauded Brock and Kolla series from crime writer Barry Maitland. Using characters with whom fans of the series will be familiar, as well as plenty of new faces, there is no disadvantage for those who have not read the earlier stories but a nice sense of the familiar for those who have. The mystery itself is fast paced, with lots of suspects, clues and red herrings, and action which keeps the pages turning.

A gripping, satisfying mystery.

The Dark Mirror, by Barry Maitland
Allen & Unwin, 2009

Shadow Alley, Compiled by Lucy Sussex

Reviewed by Tash Hughes

Shadow Alleyis a collection of short stories relating to crime and involving young investigators or witnesses.

Editor Lucy Sussex approached a number of authors for this book, requesting a crime story involving youth. For those authors with an existing detective character, she requested a retrospective story of the character, although only two such stories are included. Fans of Phryne Fisher and Verity Birdwood will enjoy insights into the development of these sleuths.

For each story, Sussex introduces the author first with a brief bio of their work. After the story, the writer includes an afterward relating to the story and this adds interest to the collection.

Each story is unique in both style and content; most are gripping page-turners. The collection includes work by Garry Disher, Kerry Greenwood, Jennifer Rowe and Jenny Pausacker. Although she is a published writer herself, none of Sussex’s work appears in the anthology.

As a collection, the book is not only about crime but also about youth finding their identities and learning about how other people act and react to situations. Sussex wanted the book to balance the power and understanding of detectives with the powerless and confusion often felt by teenagers.

Great reading and very entertaining.

Shadow Alley, by Lucy Sussex (ed)
Omnibus, 1995