Review: Kathleen Barber – Are You Sleeping

Are You Sleeping
Kathleen Barber

Josie’s mother has just died, setting off a chain of events that she never could have predicted. Josie is expected to attend the funeral – the only problem is that she already told her boyfriend that her mother had died years ago. Finally, a social media reporter has just taken up the closed case of Josie’s father’s murder – and the whole world is baying for righteous blood.

This novel is an emotional roller-coaster ride, rather than a thriller. Josie has kept everything suppressed for so long (dude, you seriously needed counselling, not random sex in overseas bars), that it spurts out in unexpected bursts of trauma. Sometimes I felt that if she was just a little bit less irrational she would be fine!

Some of the character dynamics made no sense to me. However, I think that the author went to a great lengths to include a wide range of relationships. Take for example the ?20? years of difference between Josie’s cousin Linda and her husband. Or the weird dynamics of Lanie and Adam. Adam should pay…

I did not feel satisfied with the ending. What penalty will Poppy pay for basically causing the death of Josie’s mother? Shouldn’t she pay for withholding evidence that could have exonerated some suspects before so much damage was done? Or for interfering with a person’s final belongings?

I think I will actually give this 4 stars, although I would have liked more hints so that I could work out the solution for myself.

Pan Macmillan | 8th August 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

Review: Garry Disher – Under the Cold Bright Lights

Under the Cold Bright Lights
Garry Disher

Alan Auhl has come out of retirement to look into cold cases. He’s got himself a flock of needy cases at home, and is bound to run into some more at work. With a soft heart but an inability to express himself, will Auhl be able to see justice done?

Ugh, I spent this novel reading it in a sort of daze of disbelief. To start with, I didn’t really connect with the main character, and the style of writing just didn’t take me into the novel. And then, funnily enough, the protagonist talks about reading a book with no discernable plot-line. This one was just the same!

It’s nice to have a home-grown novel, for once I actually know the distances between the places that are mentioned. By the end of the novel though, I started running out of room in my head for place names and everything.

I find it hard to believe that a psychological expert could still make such statements about child sexual abuse being ‘made up’ by the child. Children rarely make things up as serious as that – unless they have been subjected to it, they probably don’t know even what it means to be sexually abused. That’s why it’s important to teach children the real names of genitals and so forth.

Is this the sort of novel that needs a sequel? I’m not really sure. All I can tell is that Alan honestly doesn’t seem to have much to live for, or much of a drive for life, and so he doesn’t care about how the ‘right’ outcome occurs. I’m giving this 2 begrudging stars. I felt like I had to finish it because I requested it, but honestly I shouldn’t have wasted my time.

Text Publishing | 30th October 2017 | AU $29.99 | paperback

Review: David Baldacci – The Fix

The Fix (An Amos Decker Novel)
David Baldacci

Amos Decker is walking to work and is a firsthand witness to a crime that makes no sense. A seemingly straight businessman shoots dead a boring substitute teacher who has no connection to him, then kills himself. Transferred across to a new city, Decker must now learn to live with one of his team and with tenants with their own problems downstairs. And sometimes he wishes his perfect memory was not so perfect.

Decker reminds me of a male Kendra. But one that is less sensitive to other people’s needs, which is fine. I like a person who can get straight to the point. But of course, Brandon Sanderson has written some short stories of a man with a host of personalities/specialists inside his head, and that’s way better. Despite how interesting I find characters with Synethesia, this one just didn’t connect with me.

My only complaint is that despite the plot moving rapidly, or perhaps because of it, I found myself getting very lost. This just wasn’t a crime novel I could care too much about. American state secrets really don’t bother me, and I guess I’ve never had much of a soft spot for killings that involve characters I wasn’t even given a chance to connect to.

Decker has lost all his own family at some point in one of the two previous books (I assume). Irene’s protagonist loses his family, but he’s a much grittier and likeable bloke. The crime novels I seem to read are either excellent or poor, and I’m dumping this into the latter category with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, even if that opinion will get me ostracised in the book review community!

Pan Macmillan | 1st May 2017 | AU$29.99 | Paperback

Review: RJ Bailey – Safe From Harm

Safe From Harm
RJ Bailey

Sam Wylde is a Protective Officer for the rich and famous. With army combat experience behind her and a few bonus skills, Sam must try to protect those she is working for, while also protecting her own family.

This novel was a disappointment. It could have been written as a psychological thriller and been much more effective while still using the same plot points. As it was, the slow pacing and flashbacks/flashforwards destroyed the novel and any hope of me enjoying it.

Sam strikes me as quite dumb really. She doesn’t question anything she should perhaps should, despite being ‘the best in the business’. Being aware of what could go wrong should be able to save her right? Or maybe the point the author is trying to make is that it is impossible to foresee anything correctly.

I’m giving this two miserable stars. Although I am not a connoisseur of novels that have a self-trained woman as a person protector, I don’t think that this one is a good one. Look elsewhere for someone to ‘keep you safe from harm’.

Simon & Schuster | 1st February 2017 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

Review: Andrew Mayne – The Name of the Devil (Jessica Blackwood #2)

The Name of the Devil
Andrew Maine

Jessica Blackwood grew up in a house full of magicians – the real-world kind who can hide in plain sight using nothing but mirrors. Turning her back on it after a near death experience, Jessica now uses her talents off the books in her work as an FBI cop. When a Church seems to explore on its own accord, Jessica can find things with her instincts that noone else can.

If you haven’t read Angel Killer you will feel quite confused about what is happening, and what experiences Jessica already has. Go back and read it right now! I’ll be waiting right here for you, or possible be rereading it over your shoulder.

I loved the first novel in this series, and immediately contacted the publisher to see when the next would be out. Sadly, this was one of those novels that was published later in Australia than in the US, so I decided to wait. Instead, my partner bought me a copy for Christmas and I immediately started reading it then and there under the tree!

This novel is nifty because while it uses the ‘traditional’ magicians’ tricks to explain the unexplainable, some science also comes into it. Jessica’s unflinching strength of will could have been annoying, but instead it was consistent with the person I knew she was.

This reminds me of the Kendra novels, where the protagonist is also excellent at working out things from tiny cues that no-one else would ever pick up. As I said there, I like being given enough details that I could conceivably work it out for myself – even if I don’t know anything about crime solving.

5 stars from me. An engaging plot line, conceivable threats and an endearing and realistic main character whose no-nonsense approach to almost everything will excite you.

Review: Sara Shepard – The Amateurs

The Amateurs
Sara Shepard

Aerin’s sister Helena disappeared 5 years ago, yet she can’t let go that there was something that she missed. When she calls in the help of amateur detectives from Case Not Closed online, they might be able to see the mystery through and solve some of their own issues at the same time.

Seneca! I love you! And best of all, your characterisation is very human and not as if you are a saint. I could have had more of you, and way less of all the other characters who mainly seemed to be concerned with who they were kissing next. That’s not to say that Seneca didn’t also have that problem, but she seemed to have her feet firmly on the ground and some guts to go with it.

I had trouble keeping all the characters apart in my mind. Honestly, the bar hopping and sheer amount of money that these people were throwing around… So Seneca seems to be the only one with real-world problems, and the rest are just crazy spoilt rich kids. Even Maddox, with his rags-to-sexy story.

This is a fantastic beginner psychological crime novel. Ok, so you aren’t going to be able to solve the case by yourself at all, there aren’t nearly enough details. But you will enjoy the suspense and the ending should blindside you. The blurb warns you, and there are some plot holes that might hint you towards it, but in the end it’s not clear what is going on.

I knew nothing of Shepard’s other novels, but they could be worth checking out. The price on this novel is a steal – buy it for a mature teenager or young adult in your life, and I’m pretty sure they will love you for it. I’m giving it 4 stars – that ending was fantastic and I wanted to read more. I’ll be looking for the next novel in the series to read.

Allen & Unwin | 23rd November 2016| AU $6.99 | Paperback

Review: Janet Evanovich – Turbo Twenty-Three

Turbo Twenty-Three
Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter and flybynight private investigator. After a HR officer turns up frozen solid, coated with chocolate and nuts, Stephanie has her work cut out for her to try and track down some criminals and not eat all the icecream on the way there.

Ok, so Stephanie is pretty dumb. And her friends are even dumber (except that sexy beast of Ranger). They are all caracatures of American cliches with an equally cliched environment. Seriously? Filming naked in the streets is pretty easy to get away with… and so is naked bungie jumping.

For being the ‘Newest Stephanie Plum’ novel, in a series of 23!! … Oh. I was saying that I had no idea what the significance of this title is. Now I do. Do I care? Hmm, not sure I do. The vibrant green and purple of the cover and the peppy blurb got me excited for the novel and didn’t give too much away.

I’m not sure I could read the whole series of these. It’s filled with lighthearted humour and unbelievable escapades and was indeed difficult to put down. But there wasn’t any substance that made me reach for more, and there was no need to read any of the others to enjoy it.

I’m going to be generous and give it 4 stars. It’s not a reread, but it was so funny and irreverant that I couldn’t help laughing out loud in places. I’d lend it to a friend who needed a pick-me-up.

Hachette | 15th November 2016 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

Review: Lisa Unger – Ink and Bone

Ink and Bone
Lisa Unger

Finley Montgomery hears things that noone else can, and they block out her perception of reality. A squeak-clink is the newest sound to interfer with her studies – could it have something to do with the abduction of Abbey?

30073778This didn’t quite have me on the edge of my seat, but close enough! I felt like all the girls were already dead, and that Finley might bring the perpetrator of crime to justice, but it was too late for the children. Finley didn’t seem to catch on that she usually sees dead people… So the ones she is seeing and hearing can’t possibly be alive!

Ok, so I admit I was a bit slow to get the title of this novel. Having read another novel titled Ink and Bone, I kept being a bit confused when I saw the title on my shelf. I’m not sure about the ‘bone’ in the title of Unger’s novel, but the ink certainly makes sense.

To me, this felt complete, but incomplete at the same time. I barely got attached to Finley’s grandmother and the blurb suggests that this is the beginning of Finley’s training – yet she seems to have been there a while. A quick google tells me that this novel is a stand-alone but there are other novels set in The Hollows. I don’t know whether those novels also have something to do with Finley’s grandmother, but I’d perhaps suggest to the reader to try reading those first, even if this is a standalone novel.

A psychological thriller, but not too thrilling that I felt haunted afterwards (or tried to avoid picking it up!). I’ll give it 4 stars.


Simon & Schuster | July 2016 | AU $19.99 | Paperback

Review: Iris Johansen & Roy Johansen – The Naked Eye

The Naked Eye
Iris Johansen & Roy Johansen

Colby should be safely dead, but Kendra can’t shake the conviction that the guesome serial killer is just biding his time hidden somewhere. Drawn to murder scene after murder scene, it seems like Kendra might be too close this time to avoid being pulled into the scandal surrounding her work. How can she protect everyone?

23014581Kendra! I love you! I love you every time I read you. You’re plucky, irritating, and yet becoming more human all the time. I do wish you weren’t so stubborn, you should know that your friends will go first, but ah well. Everyone has their blind spots right? [How punny!]

The novel is going to catch you, pull you in, and keep you reading all night long. Or all work day long if you are guilty old me. The plot introduces a couple more characters of direct interest to the reader  so you don’t get too bored with her rather uptight point of view.

Ooh, that ending! I can’t even begin to imagine what the next and final novel is going to be like. The first three have been linked (Close Your Eyes, Sight Unseen) but the next one has got to have something new in it…

Even just in returning to the first page to check the publication date lead me to want to reread the first chapter. Guilty confession here, I did reread that little bit. Just so I could love her again. So this will be 5 stars, and maybe I should go back and re-star the others…


Macmillan Australia | September 2016 | $9.99 AU | ebook

Review: Peter James – Love You Dead

Love You Dead
Peter James

There is a Black Widow on the loose – having first turned to plastic surgery to make her beautiful, all that remains for Jodie Danforth to make herself rich by marrying a rich man. She isn’t all that excited about remaining married though – and she kills them off almost as fast as she gets married.

27993438There is no need to have read the 11 books in the Roy Grace series before this. Other reviewers have complained that it took ages for the Detective to enter the story – I didn’t miss this because I didn’t know what to expect of him. I actually loved being in the mind of the ‘Black Widow’ and the other criminals.

I liked the criminals. I perhaps liked them more than the Detective himself! I was excited to get inside their thoughts and experience things. I actually sympathised with the petty house thief the most and wished he could have gotten straight before, well, dying.

If you have a thing for reptiles and interesting poisons, the thing you’re going to love about this novel is the reptile room. I would have loved to learn more about the poisons, but there are still limits on facts you can include in a novel, even one this large.

I really enjoyed reading this novel, and would have given it 5 stars, had it not been that I was reading a Iris & Roy Johansen crime novel with my favourite heroine Kendra at the same time. All in all, this was ‘just’ another crime novel, albeit a very well written and researched one. I’m certainly not going to turn down other novels by Peter James!


Pan Macmillan | 26 July 2016 | AU $29.99 | Paperback

Review Update: 7 December 2021 – Why yes, I did enjoy this a second time around! It still skips between perspectives a bit too much for my liking, but I felt like I could see the net closing in! And again, I’m still fascinated by the poisons, and wish I had learnt more about them.