Reviews

Review: In short, two fascinating perspectives on life

Two writers. Two excellent, contrasting, collections of short fiction both, in their way, exposing the simple truths and glorious complexities of everyday of life.

First Helen Garner, one of Australia’s most under-stated yet wise and clear-sighted writers has consistently held up an unwavering  mirror up to the country through more 13 books (including forensic studies of two highly publicised court cases), two plays and numerous magazine articles.  Stories ( Text Publishing) a collection of fiction, some of which dates back more than 20 years, has been released to coincide with her 75th birthday. It showcases her meticulous, pared back, observations on the magical and the mundane.  She has a glorious ear for the vernacular so mesmerising you can hear the conversations in your head as you read. Postcards from Surfers will resonate with anyone who has tried to bridge the gap between childhood holidays and the present. Stories is a partner to a volume of her non-fiction work.

Review: Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13 is far from your average ‘who done it’.

Jon McGregor’s much anticipated novel, Reservoir 13, has all the ingredients for a thriller: mysterious disappearance of a 13-year-old girl, mesmerising but brooding landscapes, close-knit community, dodgy characters, illicit relationships. And of course: Secrets. What he delivers is an elegant, almost poetic rendering of the evolving impact of a tragedy, not just on…

Crime File: a deadly duo

Say Nothing By Brad Parks How far would you go to protect someone you love? Lie for them? Interfere with the course of justice? Kill someone? That’s the premise at the heart of Say Nothing, a clever, pacy new thriller from American author Brad Parks best known for his award-winning books…

My Top Ten novels from 2016

news-of-the-worldI was late compiling my list of my top 10 reads for 2016. But that turned out to be a good thing. I have only just finished News of the World by Paulette Jiles, and, it seems, I had saved one of the best for last. News of the World  is set in 1870 in an America still devastated by war. Captain Jefferson Kidd, a 70-year-old veteran, travels the country earning a living readings newspapers to a population desperate for information. He agrees to return Johanna, a 10-year-old girl who had been captured years before by

Dark Town by Thomas Mullen: a confronting insight into the early days of black cops

darktownIt’s 1948 and Atlanta is a city divided by race, teetering on the cusp of change. Dark Town, the subject of a new book by Thomas Mullen, is the city’s black area, defined by poverty, unemployment and violent crime.

When the mayor decides to set up a black police force, Lucius Boggs, son of an influential preacher, and Tommy Smith, a war hero decorated for bravery, are among the eight selected. Right from the start it’s a poisoned chalice. The white police force is overtly antagonistic, often violently so. Unwanted at the main police station their headquarters is instead the dilapidated basement of the local YMCA. Their powers are

Review: Black Night Falling by Rod Reynolds

One of my favourite crime books last year was The Dark Inside, the debut novel by blacknight
British writer Rod Reynolds. It was set in 1946 and Reynolds had managed to capture the all-pervasive fog of casual menace and violence that makes shows like True Detective so compelling. Now comes the sequel, Black Night Falling. It’s just a few months after The Dark Inside. Journalist Charlie Yates, bruised and bloodied, has left Texarkana hoping to pick up the jagged pieces of his life in the more benign atmosphere of America’s west coast. But a desperate phone call from a former colleague, Jimmy Robinson, pushes all the right buttons: “Dead girls. Unfinished business. The right thing.”

Yates heads for Hot Springs, Arkansas, and from his first footsteps on the airport tarmac

Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad gives a striking take on history’s brutal past

ColsonAmerican author Colton Whitehead has already garnered a swag of accolades for his work – a Guggenheim and Whiting “genius” awards plus being short-listed for the Pulitzer – making his new novel, The Underground Railroad, highly anticipated. An excerpt was published in a special lift-out in The New York Times. But it was the book’s selection as the subject of Oprah’s Book Club that lit the “destination stratosphere” fuse.

His subject isn’t new. The underground railroad was the metaphorical name for the loose network of people and secret routes that helped slaves escape the antebellum south to the more benign northern states. First operational in the early 19th Century it was most active in the 1850s and early 1860s, and has been the subject of countless fiction (perhaps most notably Toni Morrison’s Beloved) and non-fiction, films, documentaries and scholarly research. What Whitehead does is give the railway an architectural structure,

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