Kerry Greenwood, creator of the 1920s sleuth Phryne Fisher, has a new, modern-day investigator to delight her fans. Corinna Chapman is a reformed accountant who, having escaped that profession and a boring marriage, now runs ‘Earthly Delights’, a city bakery in Melbourne. She lives in a 1920s apartment building where each flat is named after a Roman God and where the tenants are as colourful as a rainbow.
Corinna is content with her lot, until the morning she finds a drug addict dying outside her back door and later starts receiving threatening notes. Suddenly Corinna is entwined in the double mystery: who is killing the city’s drug-addicts and who is trying to get rid of Corinna and her fellow tenants.
Greenwood makes the transition from historical to contemporary seamlessly. Corinna Chapman is not just a modern-day Phryne Fisher, but there are enough of the ingredients which attract Greenwood’s readers to endear them to this new character. Notably familiar is the prevalence of good food and sensual assignations as well, of course, as a mystery which draws the reader inside the sleuth’s life.
Earthly Delights, by Kerry Greenwood
Allen & Unwin, 2004
Reviewed by Alex Marshall
The novel is a tour de force. Peter Carey tackles one of the great myths of Australia, the figure of Ned Kelly, by recreating the unlettered Irish Australian voice of the angry young man that was Ned Kelly.
Peter Carey’s Ned Kelly is a decent young man, idealistic and naive, who is pushed into rebellion by the bullying of the corrupt and incompetent local police force. He is hard working, clean living, optimistic, strong willed and free spirited. The style of writing appears odd at first but as you read you become used to his style. It is catchy.
Peter Carey does not downplay Ned Kelly’s criminal background, rather he puts this to the foreground. Much of the novel is taken up with his apprenticeship with a bushranger. He puts this behind him, however, until his family is persecuted by the local forces of property owners and police.
Sometimes the style of the writing seems too Australian, as if this book was written with an eye to a foreign readership. It is as if it has to be proved that Ned Kelly is an Australian character and not a second hand Jesse James. As the Nobel prize winning writer Wole Soyinke once pointed out a tiger does not need to proclaim its tigerness.
At other times it seems as if the Kelly gang is being Americanised. For example when members of the gang ride in white dresses a link is made with Irish vigilante gangs, but also there is an unspoken comparison with the American Ku-Klux-Klan.
Overall this is a powerful novel that puts a new spin on a great Australian folk legend.
The True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey
Alex Marshall is a freelance writer and reviewer. You can visit his webpage here.
This high-quality coffee-table book combines some of Australia’s most breathtaking scenery with recipes using some of Australia’s best fresh ingredients, and suggestions for the perfect wine to complement each.
In stunning photographs and text, Natural Treasures explores the history, wildlife and scenery of seven nature-based resorts in Queensland and Tasmania, including Cradle Mountain, Lizard Island, Dunk Island and Heron Island. As well as detailing the natural attractions, the book details the accomodation at each of these places, with each resort one of the P&O chain. The chefs at these resorts have contributed some of their best-loved recipes, each recipe tantalizingly photographed, and accompanied by a wine recommendation.
Although P&O’s involvement with the book could seem to make it seem an advertorial, the book is much more than a travel brochure for these resorts. The photography of Darren Jew, Gary Bell and Chris Chen is outstanding and the design of the book is excellent, making it a visual delight, likely to appeal to the armchair traveller as much as to those who are making travel-plans.
Australia’s Natural Treasures, by Chantal Dunbar
Laughing Waters Publications, 2003
10-year-old Midge Gardner loves Flounder Flats Caravan Park. It is the scene of the Gardner family’s annual summer holiday. Midge loves the other regulars who share the park and, especially, their dogs.
This year is extra-special, because this year Midge and her friend Alps are organising the Flounder Flats Dog Show and Fair. All the caravan park tenants are busily preparing for this big event – grooming their dogs, cooking toffees, and donating prizes.
But Midge isn’t prepared for the things that can go wrong on the day of a big event. Kaycee Elwood is hysterical when her dog Pom Pom first has her mouth stuck closed by a toffee, then is mysteriously kidnapped. Can Midge and the other kids (and dogs) rescue Pom Pom, or is it already too late? Perhaps while they’re working on that mystery they can solve the other mystery of Flounder Flat – the Flounder Flats Ghostfish.
Dizzy and Me is a fun blend of mystery, adventure and silliness, sure to appeal to eight to twelve year old readers. Author Angela Moore will be familiar to many young readers as Angela from Playschool, and her style certainly reflects some of the zaniness evidenced on-screen.
Dizzy and Me, by Angela Moore
ABC Books, 2004
When Isabel decides she needs a break she doesn’t opt for a couple of weeks in a classy resort. No, she wants to take a year out and leave her husband, children, grandchildren and friends behind while she backpacks across Europe. Feeling incomplete, she wants to do something for herself and, at the same time, get to know her dead mother better by retracing her journey decades ago.
When Isabel tells her closest friends – Sally Robin and Grace – of her plans, they initially think she’s crazy. But soon enough each of the remaining members of the ‘gang of four’ are embarking on their own journeys. Sally heads off to San Francisco for a year’s study, hoping also to lay a guilty secret to rest. Robin, sick of being ‘the other woman’, rents a country hideout, hoping for time to heal and to make plans for her future. Grace, the sensible one, isn’t sure she needs to ‘do’ anything, but finds herself heading off for a short holiday in England – where she has to confront someone she hardly knows: herself.
These four very different women, separated by geographical distance, but united by their decades-old friendship, each learn about themselves, their past and their future in very different ways. New friendships are formed, life-changing decisions are made, but when one of the friends needs the others, they are able to come together once more.
Gang of Four is a very different coming-of-age story in that the protagonists are all in their fifties. Author Liz Byrski does a superb job of crafting four very different stories which overlap, diverge and merge again throughout the book. The reader is given the opportunity to know each of the four women intimately and to witness their friendship and their growth on a first hand basis.
Gang of Four, by Liz Byrski
When Libby Daniels wakes, feeling fuzzy and hungover, she can’t believe what she sees. Two men are standing over her mother’s battered body. When she hears one man say “Libby killed her,” she knows she must get away. She flees to Brisbane, hoping to find refuge with her grandfather, who she hasn’t seen for fourteen years.
In Brisbane, however, she finds not her grandfather, but a stranger – Conor Martin – who takes her in and helps in. He could be Libby’s knight in shining armour – if he wasn’t hiding a terrible secret of his own.
Libby and Conor are forced to learn to trust each other in order to ensure their survival, as their respective enemies combine forces, determined to destroy them.
Until Death is a fast-paced thriller, with a twist of romance. This is the fourth offering from author Sandy Curtis who manages to make each successive book a little more complex.
A gripping read.
Until Death, by Sandy Curtis
Staying healthy in the modern world is an increasing quest for many, especially those trying to balance the different facets of thier busy lives – career, relationships, families, hobbies and more. Janella Purcell believes that good food is the basis of good health. In Elixir she shows how the food we eat affects not just our physical health, but also our mind and spirit.
In an accessible A-Z format Purcell offers a guide to common health problems from asthma to weight loss, detailing foods to avoid and others to seek out for inclusion. She offers tips for dealing with common ailments such as cold and flu, headache and fatigue and shares simple recipes which can be used to increase health and well-being.
This is a volume which can be read cover-to-cover but will also provide an invaluable reference to be referred to again and again.
Janella Purcell is a qualified naturopath, nutritionist, medical herbalist, iridologist and chef who works in the media as well as owning and running a natural food and medicine store in Surry Hills, Sydeny.
Janella Purcell’s Elixir
Allen & Unwin, 2004
Gracie Faltrain is doing fine. Her soccer team is off to the national championships, she’s just about to capture the boy of her dreams and she’s well on the way to being ‘in’ at school. But Gracie is about to learn that life is not always fair.
First her best friend Jane leaves the country. Then there’s an unfortunate event involving her tongue and her dream-boy’s ear, which makes her a laughing-stock at school. When she finds out that the boys don’t want her on the soccer team any more, she thinks life can’t get any worse, but she’s wrong. Her parents have news of the worst possible kind.
Within days, Gracie is floundering. No friends, no soccer, no love-life – and perhaps no family – add up to one confused and angry Gracie. Is there anything she can do to make things better, or should she just resign herself to her new screwed-up life?
The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain is an outstanding first-time novel for author Cath Crowley. Its unusual use of point of view – with perspective changing from that of Gracie to those of other characters – will appeal to teen readers. Each new perspective is highlighted by a new page with the characters speaking directly both to the reader and, at times, each other, as they recount the action.
A mix of humour, poignance and more serious themes of friendship, family and self-image.
The Life and Times of Gracie Faltrain, by Cath Crowley
Pan Macmillan, 2004
When Clinton Liebelt disappeared from his parents’ remote roadhouse in October 1993, he sparked the biggest manhunt in the Northern Territory’s history. Hundreds of friends, relatives and complete strangers mustered to help search for the eight year old as he wandered in some of the country’s harshest terrain.
The search became much more than a search for a missing child. As people came from around the Northern Territory, a community sprang up around the isolated Dunmarra road house and a bond was forged which demonstrated a depth of community spirit and individual courage and sacrifice which touched all involved. Despite the search’s dire outcome, the events of that week were a triumphant assertion of human spirit.
The Lost Boy is more than a recount of Clinton’s disappearance and the subsequent search. Author Robert Wainwright, a journalist who covered the story at the time, has woven a story of the building of the Liebelt family and their extended circle of friends, from the first meeting of Clinton’s parents, to the tragedy of his disappearance. This allows the reader to witness firsthand the emotion and spirit involved in the events of 1993.
This is a wrenching tale but it is also a demonstration of the core of Australia’s national identity – the strength of mateship.
A gripping read.
The Lost Boy, by Robert Wainwright
Allen and Unwin, 2004
Ex-Australian Army Officer Mike Williams has a dream job as a travel guide in Africa. But when he hears that Captain Theron of the South African police wants to speak to him urgently, he knows instantly what it’s about.
Twelve months ago, Mike’s world was destroyed by a chance encounter with illegal hunters which left his girlfriend murdered and his head filled with unshakeable nightmares. Now he must revisit those memories and work alongside the police to catch the hunters.
With a busload of tourists to look after, Mike must choose between his need for revenge and his duty towards their safety. But, as the hunters and the travellers continue ther parallel journey across the continent, the choice may no longer be Mike’s to make.
Far Horizon is a gripping adventure set against the mysterious and beautiful African landscape. With the hard-hitting revenge plot unfolding entwined with a backpacker’s tour, it is likely to appeal to those who have enjoyed such travel, as well as all who enjoy gripping action.
Far Horizon, by Tony Parks