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The Windy Season by Sam Carmody: A disturbing sense of menace with a unique Aussieness

CarmodyStark, the small west Australian coastal town which is the setting for Sam Carmody’s debut novel, The Windy Season, is fictitious. But as anyone who has travelled off the tourist track to the more remote parts of Australia can attest, it exists under a number of aliases. It’s just the kind of town which might, to the outsider, at first seem attractively unusual. But it doesn’t take long to reveal its real character, an undercurrent of menace that makes you look over your shoulder when walking down the road, even on a sunny day.

Stark is the kind of town where society’s flotsam and jetsam turn up. A human gyre. The wounded and the wounders. This is a place where people really do just disappear. Because they want to. Or sometimes because someone else wants them to.

Review: Sarah Maine’s The House Between Tides

AMilneI read Sarah Maine’s debut novel The House Between Tides over a couple of days while enjoying Fiji’s balmy climate. It’s a credit to her ability to create a deep sense of place that the winds whistling through the Outer Hebrides island lost none of their chilly bite, nor the wild seas their temper. It’s 2010 and when the last of her relatives dies and bequeaths her the ancestral home, Hetty Deveraux leaves her troubled relationship and travels to Scotland. She has dreams of restoring the house and potentially opening a hotel on the magnificent rocky outcrop where it is perched.

But when she arrives she find it is less a house than a tumbling down neglected memorial to the brilliant but troubled artist Theo Blake who had lived there until his lonely death. Then a skeleton is unearthed beneath what’s left of the floorboards and Hetty finds herself drawn into a century-old mystery surrounding Theo, his young wife Beatrice and Cameron, the charismatic son of Theo’s estate manager.

Review: Punishment by Anne Holt introduces a new team tackling a frighteningly realistic crime

Punishment, the latest offering from Anne Holt, dubbed the “godmother of modern ApunishmentNorwegian crime fiction” by international Scandi Noir author Jo Nesbo, introduces a new fiction team to her readers. Holt has achieved great acclaim with her Hanne Wilhelmsen series, including the recent Dead Joker and Punishment is the first of the series featuring Superintendent Adam Stubo and psychologist Johanne Vik to be translated into English.

Holt draws on her experience working for the Oslo Police, as a lawyer and during a period as Norway’s Minister for Justice, to provide a compelling authenticity to her books, not just of the police and judiciary but also their often fraught intersection with the political system. Couple that with intriguing often (as in this case) fairly complex plotting, you can understand why she’s so popular.

Fiction dominates Stella Prize long list 2016 for great books written by female Australian author

StellaLonglist pix

Novels and collections of short stories including work by Elizabeth Harrower, Charlotte Wood and Amanda Lohrey dominate the long list $50,000 annual Stella Prize which celebrates great books, fiction and non-fiction, by female Australian authors. The only non-fiction book to make the list is Small Acts of Disappearance : Essays on Hunger by Fiona  Wright. The full long list is:

Review: Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things

Charlotte Wood’s latest novel The Natural Way of Things  almost madeNaturalWayofThings it onto my list of Books I Meant to Read in 2015. It’s now on my list of Books I Most Enjoyed Reading in 2015.

Ten young women awake after being drugged and kidnapped, to find themselves prisoners at a remote property somewhere in rural Australia, corralled behind a high electric fence. From the second they arrive they are systematically de-humanized; Shorn of their hair like the sheep that once occupied the run-down sheds, forced to wear old-fashioned Amish style clothing, leashed together, deprived of the most basic sanitation. And all the time subject to misogynistic rants and abuse by two enforcers the brutish Boncer and Teddy the narcissistic yoga addict.

The girls have little in common except that they have been the subject of


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