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

A Little Bush Maid, by Mary Grant Bruce

Reviewed by Tash Hughes
Eleven year-old Norah Linton lives on an isolated cattle station in Northern Victoria in the early 1900s. Having never known her Mother, she lives with her Father, David, and elder brother, Jim.

After introducing Norah and her life, A Little Bush Maid tells the story of Jim’s return from his first term at boarding school in Melbourne. Jim brings along two mates, Wally Meadows and Harry Trevor, and the four youngsters enjoy the Easter holidays together.

The four children entertain themselves riding horses, going on picnics and running a menagerie race in the home paddock. They also cheerfully take care of their pets and various jobs around the station. All four, although the eldest is only fifteen, have a great sense of maturity and a desire to “do the right thing”; although they also have a certain naiveté compared to their twenty-first century contemporaries.

One morning, the foursome goes on a fishing expedition, accompanied by the aboriginal station hand, Billy. Billy is a pleasant character although somewhat patronized, as was the norm in those times; he is patronized, but at the same time, he is treated as human and respected by the family.

Norah gets bored of fishing and the boys’ talk, so she walks into the bush alone. Unexpectedly, she stumbles across a clearing where a man has set up camp. The man is equally surprised to see Norah, but is very polite and friendly to her. The Hermit, as Norah labels him, joins them for lunch and more fishing.

David has been called to Sydney before they return to the station and doesn’t return until after the boys return to school. The hermit isn’t mentioned again until Norah hears of an escaped criminal and wonders if the two are the same.

A few unexpected twists and the hermit’s identity is revealed at the end of the book.

This book was published nearly one hundred years ago, so it tells of a simpler time in rural Australia. Without being moralistic, it teaches children the virtues of hard work, helping others and treating others with respect and compassion. The adventures are no less exciting for lacking violence, bad language and sex, and the story shows one aspect of the Australian heritage in an easy to read format.

A Little Bush Maid is the first in a series of fifteen books about Norah and her family on their station, Billabong. The series was very popular with girls as they were printed, and has touched generations of Australians and others.

A Little Bush Maid,by Mary Grant Bruce
First Published in 1910 by Ward, Lock & Co
Current edition published by Harper Collins

About the Reviewer: Tash has always been an avid reader, which has lead her to running her own writing business. Melbourne born and bred Tash is proud to be an Australian and be Mum to two beautiful little girls. To learn more about Tash and her writing, visit Wordconstructions

Secrets of the Tingle Forest, by Louise Schofield

On the anniversary of her father’s death, Sharni returns to the place they both loved – the tingle forest. She wants to visit their secret place, to feel her father around her. But Sharni didn’t tell anyone where she was going, and, with night approaching, she is lost. She will have to spend the night in the forest.

Alone in the dark, Sharni discovers another secret that the forest holds, and vows never to tell. SOmetimes, though, promises are hard to keep. What if telling the secret could save someone’s life, or at least give them their life back?

Secrets in the Tingle Forest is a gentle, uplifting children’s story with a delightful blend of adventure and personal growth. Twelve year old Sharni works through her own problems and also reaches out to others. She is helped by a wise and understanding, a similarly canny woman who was her father’s girlfriend, and the mysterious man in the forest.

A lovely offering.

Secrets in the Tingle Forest, by Louise Schofield
Fremantle Aarts Centre Press, 2003

Forbidden Love, by Georgia Mantis-Kapralos

Athena Zamerkopolous is caught between two worlds. Her parents want her to follow Greek tradition and prepare her herself for the life role of wife and mother. She must not date, or even mix with her female friends outside of school hours. Athena wants to live like other girls her age – dating, having fun, and eventually marrying for love.

Life gets a whole lot more complicated when Athena falls in love with the most popular guy in Fremont High – Scott Sanders. Although she knows her parents will never approve, Athena can not resist Scott, and the two have a secret relationship. When her father finds out, he reveals a secret of his own. He has arranged a marriage with the son of his Greek friend, a man who Athena has never met. Now she must make the hardest decision of her life – marry this stranger and lose Scott, or face losing her family.

Forbidden Love is a tale of teenage love and of cultures clashing. It is a familiar situation in the multicultural setting of Australia as cultures merge or clash on a regular basis. It is unfortunate that the story is impeded by the need, in many places, of an editor’s touch. As a self-published book, the enthusiasm and warmth of the writer shine through, but the need for tighter prose is distracting.

A nice story.

Forbidden Love, by Georgia Mantis-Kapralos
Self Published, 2001

One Night, by Margaret Wild

Three boys – Bram, Al and Gabe – are drawn together by their common lack of wholeness. Bram plans incredible parties which take place in various houses – wherever there is a parentless house for the weekend. The parties are wild and amazing, planned to precision. Bram even takes preparty photographs to make sure the house is returned to the state in which it was found.

One night, Helen comes to one of the parties. She is not the sort of girl Gabe likes – her face is deformed. But she sees through him and sees the void where his heart should be. She is drawn to him and they connect.

Helen’s life is changed irrevokably by that meeting, but Gabe’s continues on as before. Until one night the secret world he shares with his two friends tumbles down.

One Night is an incredible novel in verse by Margaret Wild. The free verse style lends a bare-bones feel – fluff and fill have been excluded, leaving the raw emotion of youth for the reader to access and experience.

This is Wild’s second verse novel. The first Jinx was shorlisted for a swag of awards. One Night is sure to meet similar acclaim.

One Night, by Margaret Wild
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Death Before Wicket, by Kerry Greenwood

Phryne Fisher is a sleuth with a difference – this 1920s Australian heroine is sassy, adventurous, promiscuous, and a woman before her time. Although she lacks a university education, she is versed in language, culture and the classics, and able to hold her own in any society. Men fall at her feet and women trust her. She is also brilliant, if unorthodox, in solving mysteries and crime.

In Death Before Wicket she visits Sydney to watch some cricket, attend a ball and visit the University. But Phryne’s plans for a few pleasurable days are interrupted by two mysteries – the disappearance of the sister of her companion, Dot, and the theft of exam papers and other documents from the University.

Phryne finds herself deep in the midst of greed, blackmail and the dangers of black magic, as she weaves some magic of her own to solve the twin mysteries.

Death Before Wicket is the tenth Phryne Fisher adventure from Kerry Greenwood. First published in 1999, it has been rereleased to coincide with the release of the latest installment, The Castlemaine Murders.

Death Before Wicket, by Kerry Greenwood
Allen & Unwin, 2003

Kiss, Kiss, by Margaret Wild

When Baby Hippo wakes up he hurries off to play, without stopping to give his mother a kiss. Leaving his disappointed mum behind, he waddles through the mud, around the bumpy rocks, up the mossy bank and under the leafy trees.

Everywhere he goes, Baby Hippo hears the same sound – ‘Kiss, kiss!’ – as the other baby animals kiss their parents good morning. When he remembers that he’s forgotten to do the same, he hurries home. But where is his mother?

Kiss, Kiss! is a delightful new offering from acclaimed author Margaret Wild. The text is simple and rhythmic, with youngsters able to predict the ‘Kiss, kiss,” repeated throughout the story. The illustrations of Bridget Strevens-Mazro are a perfect complement, with the gentle colours of nature and an endearing Baby Hippo.

A lovely work.

Kiss, Kiss!, by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Bridget Strevens-Mazro
Little Hare, 2003

Vampire Slugs On Callisto, by Jackie French

Sam loves living on Callisto. She and her Dad have been there almost a year, leaving behind the discomforts of Earth, where lots of nasty things can happen. On Callisto everyone gets along, there is no crime and there is always plenty of wonderful food to eat.

Then with the annual Harvest Festival approaching, something strange happens. Little slugs appear on the fruit trees. One day they’re tiny, the next they’ve doubled in size. What’s worse, they’re eating everything in sight – all the trees, all the fruit, even Dad’s pineapple pizza.

What worries Sam the most is that no one is doing anything about them. The adults are too busy preparing for the Harvest Festival to do anything about the slugs. It’s up to Sam and her pingleflug step-cousin Broc to do something about them and save Callisto from destruction.

Vampire Slugs on Callisto is the third book about this delightful planet from award-winning author Jackie French. Although they form a series, each book stands alone and is filled with humour, adventure, and yummy food.

The first Callisto title, Cafe on Callisto, won the Aurealis Award in 2001

Vampire Slugs on Callisto, by Jackie French
Koala Books, 2003

A Grave Catastrophe, by Nette Hilton

Oliver Briskett has worked hard all his life and now it’s time to enjoy his retirement. Unfortunately, his peace is quickly shattered, for Oliver stands accused of the murder of Thomas A. Gentle.

Oliver, a seeing-eye dog, must use all his skills of deduction, and draw on his friends, old and new, to solve the mystery of who really did kill Thomas. Then he must show his owner and the other humans, that he is innocent, and should not be sent away.

A Grave Catastrophe is a murder msytery with a difference. With the chief suspect a dog and the victim a cat and a supporting cast of colourful animal characters, this is a book which is both intriguing and humorous.

Author Nette Hilton takes the unusual step of using Oliver Briskett as the first person narrator of the story, a gamble which pays off. Oliver’s voice is delightful.

A Takeaways title from Lothian, A Grave Catastrophe is sure to appeal to readers aged ten to twelve.

A Grave Catastrophe, by Nette Hilton
Lothian, 2003