Forgotten, by Nicole Trope

Finally they are in the queue to get back out onto the main road.
Coffee, here I come.
‘Not now, Aaron, I’m trying to concentrate.’
The traffic has built up in only a few minutes and cars scream past the service station. Malia feels her headache settle in.
This day is never going to end.
‘But Mum…’
‘What Aaron, what?’
‘Where is baby Zach, Mum? Where is he?’

It’s early morning, and already Malia knows it’s not going to be a good day. Her husband Ian has confessed to losing money on the pokies last night – money that could have paid the bills that are piling up. She’s got three kids to get ready for school and daycare. And there is no milk for breakfast. She has to get all three children into the car to make the short drive to the service station so that they can have breakfast. But something terrible happens while she’s buying the milk and suddenly her day is as bad as a day could be. Baby Zach is gone, and she is surrounded by police.

Ali Greenberg is a Detective newly returned to work from maternity leave. She’s been itching to be given a case to solve, but her boss is not sure this is the case for her. She knows better than anyone else around what it is Malia is going through. It might be a better idea to stay at the office – but she feels compelled to help Malia get her baby back.

Jackie is down on her luck. She has said sorry a thousand times, but still she has been punished for a terrible mistake. A strange turn of events gives her what she sees as a chance to put her life back together.

In one hot, troubling day, Forgotten follows the troubling, heartstopping race to find an abducted baby and reunite mother and child. The stories of four women who don’t know each other become inextricably intertwined, and readers will have their hearts in their mouths as the day unfolds.

Well crafted, this is a dramatic tale.

Forgotten, by Nicole Trope
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760296773

Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, by Adrian Mckinty

The wood is an ancient one, a relic of the vast Holocene forest that once covered all of Ireland but which now has almost completely gone. Huge oaks half a millennium old; tangled, many-limbed  hawthorns; red-barked horse chestnuts.
“i don’t like it,” the man behind the man with the gun says.
“Just put up with it, my feet are getting wet too,” the man with the gun replies.
“It’s not just that. It’s those bloody trees. I can hardly see any-thing. i don’t like it. It’s spooky,
so it is.”
“Ach, ya great girl ya, pull yourself together.”

It’s 1988 and Belfast is besieged by troubles. So on one is surprised when a drug dealer is murdered, and once the initial interest has passed, no one would be surprised if it was never solved. But Detective Inspector Sean Duffy isn’t one to give up. There is something about this case that means he just can’t let it go – even when he finds his career, his marriage and, finally, his life threatened.

Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly is the seventh title featuring Sean Duffy, a stubborn detective who works hard, but also drinks before lunchtime, smokes at every opportunity, and isn’t afraid to break the rules in the quest for right. The setting of the stories – in a Belfast in the midst of ‘the troubles‘ – is both interesting and increases the drama, with physical threat an ever-present reality for a policeman, especially a Catholic one such as Duffy.

Acton packed, with a touch of humour.

Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, by Adrian McKinty
Serpent’s Tail, 2017
ISBN 9781781256923

The Dry, by Jane Harper

The Dry - Jane HarperEven those who didn’t darken the door of the church from one Christmas to the next could tell there would be more mourners than seats. A bottleneck of black and grey was already forming at the entrance as Aaron Falk drove up, trailing a cloud of dust and cracked leaves.
Neighbours, determined but trying not to appear so, jostled each other for the advantage as the scrum trickled through the doors. Across the road the media circled.

Aaron Falk is reluctant to head to Kiewarra, the town of his childhood. but his childhood friend, Luke Hadler, is dead, and he appears to have killed his wife and son, too, in a horrible murder suicide. Luke’s father has asked Aaron to come, and he feels it’s the least he can do. Aaron is a policeman, but murder isn’t his field – he’s a Federal Police investigator, specializing in corporate crime. Sso when he’s asked to help look into Luke’s death, he’s reluctant.

Aaron’s own past in the town is murky. As a teenager he was implicated in the death of a girl and, although he knows he was innocent, it seems the townspeople are less prepared to let the matter rest. His presence in the town and determination to get to the bottom of Luke’s death puts his own safety at risk.

The Dry is an absorbing crime novel, with the dual mysteries – the apparent murder-suicide now, and the older death of a teenage girl – providing plenty for both the reader and the characters to work through. the character of Luke is well-drawn, with his past and present selves pleasingly developed. The town, too, is populated with an interesting cast, and the mysteries it hosts will keep readers guessing.

The Dry, by Jane Harper
Pan Macmillan, 2016
ISBN 9781743548059

Emerald Springs, by Fleur McDonald

She hoped that the vehicle would pass her and race off into the darkness. Just some idiot anxious to get home. She saw a flash of orange and realised it was an indicator. The vehicle – it was a ute. she thought, a big one, highset, a dark colour, with tinted windows – was pulling out to overtake. She started to breathe a little easier, her shoulders relaxing…
…until the other ute veered straight in front of her, cutting her off and hitting the brakes.

When she asked to take on the role of treasurer for the local rodeo, Amelia Bennett is flattered. She is a qualified accountant, and knows she can do the job well, but she is surprised people trust her, having been regarded as flighty in her teenage years. Throwing herself into the role, she is determined to di it well. But on rodeo night, as she transfers the takings to the bank, she finds herself in more trouble than she could have imagined.

Meanwhile,Detective Dave Burrows has been sent to Torrica to investigate a string of crimes in the area – thefts of fuel and equipment have escalated into bigger robberies. He doesn’t mind being there. It’s a chance to look up his old flame, Amelia’s Aunt Kim. But once he’s there, he’s thrown into investigating Amelia’s hold-up and more.

Emerald Springs is an absorbing rural story – part romance and part mystery, with plenty of both, and lots of action to keep the pages turning. Set in rural South Australia and featuring a strong female lead in Amelia, the story also touches on many issues facing rural communities – debt, drought, family stresses and more.

A cracking read.
Emerald Springs, by Fleur McDonald
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781743315323

Available from good bookstores and online.

Getting Warmer, by Alan Carter

Cato stepped back with the rest as the shovels came ut and two men began to dig.
A stench rose. The body was crawling with maggots and other insects. Flies descended on the uncovered feast. It was a metre and a half long and it had four legs.

Cato Kwong isn’t convinced that taking a convicted criminal out on the search for a missing girl is a good idea, especially when the victim’s mother is also present. But when the search uncovers nothing more than a decomposing pig carcass, he’s sure that the killer is leading them a wild goose chase. As he works to find out where Bree Petkovic is really buried, another murder happens on his patch. This time it’s a man with his throat slashed in a night club toilet. With organised crime gangs implicated, suspect cops joining in on the investigation, and a growing number of injuries and killings happening, Cato’s desire for some quiet summer nights seems to be slipping away.

Getting Warmer is the second detective story featuring Kato Kwong, a cop who likes to do things mostly by the book, but is also determined to get results and set things to right, goals which sometimes don’t mesh. Newly returned from exile down south, he is now based in Fremantle, and the setting is highlighted with a detail which will delight readers familiar with the port city even while the level and type of crime uncovered may surprise.

With suspense, twists aplenty and intriguing character development, Getting Warmer will appeal to lovers of crime fiction, who will be keen to see more of Cato.


Getting Warmer, by Alan Carter
Fremantle Press, 2013
ISBN 978192208920

Available from good bookstores or online.

Pretty Girl, by J. C. Burke

The other girls are looking up and laughing, the tension dissolving around them. But it’s not for Sarah. Where Sarah and Tallulah have found themselves in their first year of college is worse than Sarah could ever have been imagined.

AT school Sarah, Tallulah, Jess and Tallulah were inseparable, so when they were all offered places at the same university college, it seemed certain their friendship would continue to flourish. But none of them could have foreseen the way their first year at university would pan out. Sarah’s having relationship trouble with her long-term boyfriend Wil, Paige and Jess hare both keeping secrets about their new crushes, and Tallulah is partying way too hard. Then Sarah finds Paige face down in the university swimming pool, and although she saves her, the months that follow are confusing. Was it a terrible accident, or did someone hurt Paige? Sarah saw something that night, but hasn’t told anyone, for reasons of her own. Then Jess has a fatal accident, and the remaining girls struggle to remain connected.

Pretty Girl is an intriguing blend of thriller and coming of age tale. Told from the dual perspectives of friends Sarah and Paige, readers are able to piece together much of the mystery of what has happened, but at the same time can only guess at how it will end. Alongside the mystery, we see the two girls, and (to a lesser extent) their friends, struggle to find their place in the world. Their friendships, their relationships and their sense of identity are all questioned as they navigate a tumultuous year.

An absorbing read for teens and young adults.


Pretty Girl, J.C. Burke

Pretty Girl, by J. C. Burke
Random House, 2013
ISBN 9781741663136

Available from good bookstores and online.

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.

Raven Lucas 3: Chinese Whispers by Christine Harris


A bullet smashes through the glass wall and splinters a hole in the desk above me. Death, in the shape of a small piece of metal, is looking for me.

I curl my arms protectively around my head.

The carpet is rough against my cheek.

Another bullet shatters glass.

Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, the noise stops.

It could be a trick. That gunman could still be out there. I imagine him squinting through a rifle sight, finger ready to pull the trigger.

Who is he?

I’m nobody. Just a fourteen-year-old girl who likes running and photography and who thinks Justin Bieber sounds like a girl.

Cold air blows in through the smashed glass wall of the office.

Twenty-one storeys is a long way off the ground. The fall doesn’t actually kill you. It’s the speed of the stop.

<a href=”″ target=”_blank”>Chinese Whispers</a> is the third and apparently final instalment of the Raven Lucas trilogy. In this instalment, Raven and her friends go to Malaysia to fill in for her father at the opening of a new resort complex. They are also in search of clues about the disappearance of Raven’s father. Raven hardly has time, or the emotional space, to appreciate the environment or culture. She’s trying to find her father. She is convinced he is alive and not guilty of any of the crimes he’s suspected to have committed. Her challenge is to decide just who she can trust and who, close to her, is dangerous. She also has to escape the watchful eye of Rita, her chaperone. There are shadows, night-time visitors and adventures at sea before Raven can think about returning home.

Exotic settings, shadowy characters, twists and turns – <a href=”″ target=”_blank”>Chinese Whispers</a> is an action-packed thriller. Raven Lucas is a feisty character motivated by a deep belief in her father and a determination to discover what’s happened to him. She has to consider that she might not like what she finds – both in terms of what he’s been doing and whether or not he is still alive. She is resourceful, observant and quick-thinking. She is fortunate to be independently wealthy and therefore able to follow leads internationally. Her friends display disparate talents, and are resolute in their support of Raven, even when they’re not sure what’s she’s doing. Readers must make their own judgements about who to trust, just as Raven does. Fabulous to see a crime thriller trilogy amongst all the fantasy and spec fiction. Recommended for lower secondary readers.

Chinese Whispers (Raven Lucas)

Raven Lucas 3: <a href=”″ target=”_blank”>Chinese Whispers</a> Christine Harris Scholastic 2013 ISBN: 9781862919297

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author


Available from good bookstores or <a href=”″ target=”_blank”>online</a>.

The Boy Under the Table, by Nicole Trope

Bein a mother was all-consuming.
There were so many mistakes you could make, so many ways to lose a child.

When Tina, a runaway teen living on the streets of the Cross, breaks her own rules and goes home with a stranger, she knows it is a dangerous thing to do. But she doesn’t expect to find something in the stranger’s house that will change her life forever. There is a boy tied up underneath the man’s kitchen table, and although Tina knows she could pretend that she saw nothing, the haunting image of that child’s face doesn’t leave her and she has to go back for him

In a distant country twon, Doug and Sarah wait for news of their son, missing for four months. A moment of innatention at the Easter Show and he was gone – vanished without a trace. Their lives are in limbo as they wait for news of his fate.

Their friend Pete, the town policeman, waits too. He and his wife are childless and see Lockie as a surrogate grand child, Doug as a son. As a policeman Pete knows he should remain distanced, but as a friend he suffers too.

The Boy Under the Table is a shocking story of abduction and mistreatment, told through the alternating viewpoints of Tina, Sarah, Doug and Pete. As well as being the frightening, yet moving, tale of Lockie’s ordeal, it is also the story of Tina’s own loss of a brother and the circumstances which saw her end up on the street, of Doug and Sarah’s relationship, and of their friendship with Pete. These other plot lines help to make the story more real, but also more palatable, offering relief from what could be an overwhelming main storyline.

Whilst this is not an easy read in terms of subject matter, it is gripping and also full of hope against pretty tough odds. Trope handles the subject deftly and with compassion making it not just palatable but ultimately uplifting.

The Boy Under the Table

The Boy Under the Table, by Nicole Trope
Allen & Unwin, 2012
ISBN 9781742379272

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

Raven Lucas 1: Missing by Christine Harris

‘Raven Lucas 1: Missing’ opens as Raven thinks she sees her father. Her father who just days ago vanished without a trace, without explanation. Her fragile mother is griefstricken, her father’s partner is too helpful, and her little brother is too young to be much help.

Raven’s heart jumped. She felt her face flame. Her eyes were glued to the felt hat and black coat worn by a man walking in the opposite direction. the footpath was crowded and Raven, standing still, was jostled in the seething flow of people rushing for trains or buses and the warmth of their homes.

Someone’s bag knocked her leg, snapping her out of her shocked paralysis. She stood on tip-toe, dodging left then right.

A hand grabbed her arm.

Missing opens as Raven thinks she sees her father. Her father who just days ago vanished without a trace, without explanation. Her fragile mother is griefstricken, her father’s partner is too helpful, and her little brother is too young to be much help. There seem to be no clues, and plenty of rumours. Raven will not believe her father is dead, or that he’s done anything wrong. The more she investigates, the more confused she becomes. She discovers that she didn’t know her father as well as she thought she did. And she also realises that it may not be as easy as she thinks to know who to trust.

Missing is the first instalment in a new mystery series from Christine Harris. Raven is a feisty, inquisitive, questioning main character. She’s also in pain, yearning for her loved father. Her world is spinning and nothing she once was sure of can now be relied on. Until now, she’s been secure in the wealth and support of her family and friends. But she now realises just how fragile that security has been, and how little she knows about her own family. She is far from helpless or hopeless, however, and determines to discover for herself just what’s going on. This is a fast-paced, action adventure with short chapters and mysteries around every corner. Recommended for upper-primary and lower-secondary readers.

Missing (Raven Lucas)

Missing (Raven Lucas), Christine Harris
Omnibus Books 2012
ISBN: 9781862919341

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author