The Lost Girls, by Wendy James

I am fourty-four years old. A happily married woman. I shouldn’t be with this virtual stranger, letting him run his hand down and then up my thigh. You see, in my head this is all about the past. It’s about Angie, about Rob and about Mick, too. But what if I’m wrong? What if it’s just about me? About my life now? What then?

In 1978 fourteen year old Angie goes missing, while staying with her cousins in Sydney. When she’s found, dead, police investigate and, when a second girl is murdered weeks later, it seems there’s a serial killer in action. Thirty years later a journalist turns up asking to interview the surviving members of Angie’s family, to find out how the murder impacted on the family. For Jane, who was Angie’s younger cousin, this comes at a time when her life is changing. Confronting the vents of the past is initially uncomfortable, until Jane realises it is  liberating to open up and to let go. But facing the events surrounding Angie’s death may force her to question everything she thought she believed.

The Lost Girls is a powerful exploration of confronting the past, the present and the truth. As the mystery of Angie’s death slowly unravels, the people closest to her are pushed to grow and adapt. While this isn’t always a comfortable experience, for the reader it is intriguing.

Thrilling, thought provoking and satisfying.


The Lost Girls

The Lost Girls, by Wendy James
Penguin, 2014
ISBN 9781921901058

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Killing Woods, by Lucy Christopher

I search for air, gasp. Close up his features are blurred, but I can still make out his copper-coloured eyes, the downward curve of his lips. It’s not because he’s on top of me that the words won’t come. It’s because of who he is.
Leaning down onto me, stopping my fight, is Damon Hilary. Sports prefect. The most beautiful boy in the school.
Also, Ashlee Parker’s boyfriend.

Beautiful Ashlee Parker is dead, and Emily’s dad has pleaded guilty to her manslaughter. Emily, though, is sure her father wouldn’t be capable of such a crime, in spite of his troubled state. She seems to be the only person who believes in her father’s innocence.

Damon is mourning the loss of his girlfriend, too soon after also losing his father. He is sure that Emily’s dad is guilty, even though Damon was the last person to see her alive. If only his memories of that night weren’t so scrambled, blurred by drugs and alcohol. He can’t tell the police about his own movements because he and his friends were playing a dangerous game in the woods.

The Killing Woods is a compelling, frightening story for teen readers. A wonderful blend of mystery and thriller set in and around a dark woods, the story draws the reader in trying to piece together exactly what happened and why. Whilst set in a realistic setting, the issues and events are chilling, though deftly handled. Not a comfortable read but an absorbing one.


The Killing Woods, by Lucy Christopher
Chicken House/Scholastic, 2013
ISBN 9781906427726

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.

Meet My Book: A Savage Garden, by Chris Muir

Today I’m delighted to welcome Chris Muir to the blog. Chris is here to introduce his new book, A Savage Garden. Welcome Chris.

Chris Muir


1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

2. Why did you write the book?
In many ways it was a book that had to be written. Africa is a very easy place to fall in love with, but it’s also very easy to hate the wars, corruption, greed and violence that’s endemic right across Central Africa and more particularly in the lawless wilds of Democratic Republic of the Congo where A Savage Garden is set. I’ve been there many times. I’ve seen what goes on. The world had to know, but for the most part there’s a great deal of apathy about Africa so I’ve wrapped up a very important subject in an adventure thriller. I hope readers will find it thought-provoking as well as entertaining.

3. How long from idea to publication?
The first draft was written 7 years ago when the Congo was having its first democratic election in over 40 years. It looked like a glimmer of hope…it wasn’t. 21 rewrites and 2.1million words later I had a 90,000 word version that my agent, Jenny Darling, was able to sell to Random House….so to answer your question, it’s been 7 years from idea to publication.

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?
Writing it was the easy part. I knew my subject intimately, I had authentic situations based on fact, and if I do say so myself the writing wasn’t too bad, but getting the deal was the hard part. I guess for a first time author it always is.

5. Coolest thing about your book?
There’s nothing quite like when your publisher hands you the first copy. You forget about all the hard work and when no one is looking you stroke that 354 pages like it was a new born child.

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?
This whole exercise has been an amazing lesson in patience, faith and perseverance and hoping that if I keep at it one day someone would say…hey, this is pretty good. Fortunately they did.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?
There’s a launch party on February 11th where I’ll celebrate with 150 family and friends but the real celebration is inside my head. When Jenny Darling rang me and told me about the deal she thought that I would be excited, and I was, but mostly I felt an enormous sense of relief. I’d been waiting so long for it to happen. I knew it would and it had. I’ll celebrate when the sales figures come in and by writing another book.

8. And how will you promote the book?
The publicity people at Random House and right behind this but first timers always have a hard road to hoe. I’ll be using social media, launches, library tours, media interviews and point-of-sale.

9. What are you working on next?
My next book is another adventure thriller set in Somalia. Let me tell you, Somalia is one scary place…it’s no wonder that it has been dubbed ‘the most dangerous country on the planet’.

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?
At the Random House website here
Twitter: @chrismuirwriter
Facebook: chris.muir.9256

Congratulations Chris, and thanks for dropping by.

A Savage Garden is available now in good bookstores and online.

The Girl in the Basement, by Dianne Bates

Before Karl can react to the urgency in my voice, the man pushed him to the ground from behind.
I’m frozen with fear as Karl drops. The man then turns and walks towards me.
‘Serena?’ His voice is soft and husky.
‘No, no. That’s not my name. I’m -‘
He grabs me. An arm jerks around my throat. I’m gasping for air.
This can’t be happening!
‘I’m Libby. Don’t do this. Not Serena. Libby. Libby!’

Bored with her sixteenth birthday party, which she has to share with her parents’ wedding anniversary, Libby sneaks out to party with a guy she’s just met. She knows it’s wrong, but she can have no idea just where her decision will lead her. Her date is not a success, but it’s what happens afterwards that changes her life for ever. Grabbed off the street by a man who wants her as his daughter, she finds herself held captive in his basement. The stranger wants her to be Serena, his daughter, and he tries to complete the family by finding her a brother as well. Libby has no idea if anyone is looking for her and the boy, and no way of escape.

The Girl in the Basement is a suspenseful psychological thriller examining the roles of both the psychopathic kidnapper and his teenage victim. Told chiefly from the first person voice of Libby, there are also glimpses into the workings of the man, allowing some understanding of his intentions.

Not a fun read, but one which is gripping and will appeal to teen readers.



The Girl in the Basement, by Dianne Bates
Morris Publishing, 2013
ISBN 9780987543417

Available from good bookstores and online.

Shallow Breath, by Sara Foster

The question begins to circle her as she hangs in the freezing dark water. The surface is only a few metres above, and she kicks her fins hard. Nothing happens. She is still trapped. Alone.

Desi Priest is coming home – but it’s not a joy filled homecoming. Two years ago she made a terrible mistake which shattered the lives of her family and that of her best friend, Rebecca. Some people are happy to see her – especially her good friend, Pete, who has been there for her for years. Others, like her daughter Maya have mixed feelings. It’s hard to forgive a mother who ahs missed so man important milestones. And others Desi is sure will not be happy to see her.

One person, though, Desi doesn’t expect to be waiting for her. There is a woman she has never met who shares a bond with Desi and with Maya. She has come seeking Desi’s help. If Desi helps her, she is risking her life and her already fragile future. If she doesn’t she may be turning her back on her beliefs, and placing Maya at risk. As she struggles with both her past and the present, Desi and her family come to grips with what has happened and face some uncomfortable truths.

Shallow Breath could easily have been an overcomplicated novel – there are seven or eight viewpoint characters, settings in five continents, and a slew of issues being addressed. But Foster draws them all together beautifully, and the switches are part of the layering of understanding which takes the reader on a journey towards understanding what has gone on and what is happening now. Several of the ke characters are animal lovers, keen to rescue or help animals including dolphins, whale sharks, elephants and kangaroos, and this is linked too to issues of domestic abuse and violence, ensuring that the various subplots link. Foster also has a keen sense of place, and West Australian readers will love the setting of Yanchep and Atlantis Marine Park both during its years of operation and now, abandoned as it is.

Shallow Breath invites breathless anticipation, building towards a shocking climax. It is a really satisfying read.

Shallow Breath

Shallow Breath, by Sara Foster
Bantam, 2013
ISBN 9781742753997

Available from good bookstores and online.

Friday Brown, by Vikki Wakefield

They call me Friday. It has been foretold that on a Saturday I will drown.

Friday Brown is on the run. Her mother has died, and Friday is all alone in the world – unless you count the grandfather she doesn’t know. She heads to the city in search of someone, or something, to make her whole again. She befriends a strange boy called Silence, who deosn’t speak and soon she is part of a new family. Or is she? In a squat controlled by a girl called Arden, Friday learns about life on the street, and about herself.

When Arden takes her group to camp in an outback ghost town, Friday’s time on the road with her mother is useful, though it may also be her undoing.

Friday Brown is a breathtaking young adult read. The pages are populated by fascinating, complex characters – troubled teens each with their own strengths and their own terrible secrets and set against two detailed landscapes – the inner city and a deserted outback town. Partly a thriller, this is so much more, with heartbreaking twists and turns.

Friday Brown

Friday Brown, by Vikki Wakefiled
Text Publishing, 2012
ISBN 9781921922701

Avaialable from good bookstores and online.

Thirst, by L.A. Larkin

‘It’s Dave.’ His choked words were absorbed by the ice walls. Luke remembered his survival training. If you fall into a narrow crevasse like this one, it’s hard to be heard from the outside. He went to use his radio and then remembered it didn’t work. He tried shouting but his voice was a hoarse whisper, his throat dry, as if he had laryngitis. ‘Found Dave.’
‘Alive? asked Blue.


Luke Searle loves his work in Antarctica. It may be the coldest, most isolated place on earth, but that suits him just fine, and studying the glaciers is fascinating. But his peace is shattered when teammates start dying. Antarctica has resources that are in short supply in the rest of the world, and a ruthless mercenary is determined to tap into them, no matter what the cost. Luke must stay alive long enough to stop him.

Thirst is an action-packed thriller set in the fascinating landscape of Antarctica in a near-future where water has become increasingly scarce along with other natural resources. The gripping sequence of events, along with an absorbing cast of characters, makes for a page-turning read with twists aplenty. The use of the countdown format over the 6 days the events take place highlights their urgency and pace, and the focus on environmental issues is educative but not overtly so, giving the reader food for thought.

A gripping read.

Thirst, by LA Larkin
Pier 9, an imprint of Murdoch Books, 2012
ISBN 9781741967890

Available in good bookstores or online.

Cold Grave, by Kathryn Fox

‘What is the exact time?’ The doctor demanded. He was about to stop resuscitation and record time of death. Anya did not want to give up. The girl was young. She deserved every chance. So did her family. Especially on a cruise sip. Death was the last thing anyone expected on a family holiday.

Anya Crichton is excited at the opportunity to take a much-needed break with her six year old son.A trip on a luxury cruise ship will give them plenty of time together, with nothing to disturb them. Or so she thinks. But on their first morning, Anya’s ex-husband Martin discovers the body of a teenage girl shoved in a cupboard. There are no police out at sea, and limited expertise, so Anya finds herself offering to help n the investigation. What she finds, though, is much more than just a single death. A pattern soon emerges of sexual assaults, drug use and disappearances. While she seeks to uncover the truth, she must also face facts that she and her family could now be squarely in the sights of the killer, or killers.

Cold Grave continues the adventures of forensic physician Anya Crichton. As with previous offerings the book is a pleasing blend of pace, intrigue and character development. The novelty of the shipboard location adds interest, though providing an uncomfortable glimpse into the darker side of the cruise experience – drunkenness, crime and lack of accountability among them, along with the poor conditions for some staff and the problems of ecological accountability and the quest for profits.
These issues are dealt with in a way which informs whilst still providing a thrilling read.


Cold Grave

Cold Grave, by Kathryn Fox
Macmillan, 2012
ISBN 9781742610344

Available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

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.