Colin Merrey's Book Reviews May June 2014
Sunday, 11 May 2014 00:00
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Welcome to the post ANZAC Day and Autumn/Winter edition of our wonderful Magazine. I have toiled long and hard to give you a lot to choose from especially for this issue so here goes.

Firstly I would like to tell you about a letter I received after the last issue went to press. A lady named Maureen took the time to write to me care of the Irish Scene (as any of you can do if you so wish if you want any literary or other entertainmenty information) to say she was having problems finding a specific book that I reviewed in the last edition. I was able to assist her with her task and helped her to organise a copy for her husband’s birthday. She also took the time to send me a lovely thank you card for helping. Thank you, Maureen, I was only too happy to help and I hope your husband enjoyed his surprise birthday gift.

Don’t forget that if you have problems finding a good new- or second hand bookseller, you can try my favourites –

• Stefen’s Books in Shafto Lane in Perth City.
• Dymocks at Whitford City – ask for Tracey (and other locations throughout the State and Metropolitan Area)
• Corona Books shop at Warwick Shopping Centre – ask for Mark.
In the realm of Second Hand book sellers
• Pulp Fiction – who have stores (again) at Whitford City and also at Floreat Forum Shopping Centre
• Elizabeth’s Bookshop chain which has shops in Fremantle, Perth City (Murray Street) and Subiaco to name but a few branches.
• Guildford Book Exchange
• Warwick Second hand Books at Warwick Grove Shopping Centre
Also please remember to let the various stores know who pointed you in their direction. The feedback is great for them and it shows me that you are actually taking the time to read what I have prepared for your enjoyment with each issue. Then my work will not have been in vain, as it were!

And so, firstly, to my book of the month –

 

I WAS ONLY NINETEEN – SCHUMANN and SMITH Allen and Unwin Hardback $24.99

The iconic song of the Vietnam war by John Schumann – the soul of Aussie band Redgum - has with the aid of illustrator Craig Smith produced a wonderful book, ostensibly for children, to expose the horrors of both that conflict (so long ignored) and of war in general to a relatively new audience. Its release is I think very timely given that this is the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War (First World War) – the “War to End Wars” – which sadly has proved not to be the case.

But I won’t preach on this issue – of man’s inhumanity to man – I’ll let the book tell you itself. I sincerely hope you buy this book – read it to your children and grand-children – see if between us we can make a difference.

And now to continue...

TASMANIA’S CONVICTS – ALISON ALEXANDER Allen and Unwin Paperback $32.99

Alison’s book, first released in hardback in 2010, is finally released as a paperback for the first time. It tells the story of the men and women transported to what was to become one of Britain’s most notorious penal colonies. It follows the lives of dozens of convicts and in doing so demonstrates the effect that they had on the development of modern Tasmania.

This is a wonderfully written and informative book and I feel essential reading for anyone who has an interest in how Australia became the nation that it is today.

CALL ME SASHA –GEENA LEIGH Allen and Unwin Paperback $29.99

Geena is a former sex-worker who left home at the age of fifteen years (not through her own choice) to earn a living the only way that seemed open to her. Here, she tells us her story – warts and all – how she survived the tribulations to gain a double university degree and become a successful writer. This is a very worthwhile read and one that I found at times hilarious and very readable.

I hope you take the time to read this one – I know you’ll find it a very compelling read too.

SHEILA – ROBERT WAINWRIGHT Allen and Unwin Paperback $32.99

This is the tale of Sheila Chisholm – a young Australian girl who moved from her home here to London where she embarked on a dizzying life that took her through the London society of her generation taking in her stride brushes with Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, Hollywood and the Kennedys.

Altogether this is a breathtakingly good read and one that all lovers of socialite biography will enjoy, I’m sure.

BRANSON BEHIND THE MASK – TOM BOWER Allen and Unwin Paperback $29.99

Fresh from his biography of Simon Cowell (you may recall I told you about that a while back in an earlier issue) Bower tackles the story of one of the most charismatic characters of our generation – entrepreneur Richard Branson. Here is the story of a university dropout who started out in business selling records by mail order from a small office in London’s West End to a multi millionaire/billionaire business empire that operates one of the largest airlines in the World today.

I found this a really good read – hope you enjoy it – I really learned a lot about this fascinating man.

THE GOOD NURSE – CHARLES GRAEBER Allen and Unwin Paperback $29.99

Here we have a true story – one that encompasses medicine, madness and murder – it tells about registered nurse Charlie Cullen who was implicated in more than 300 murders and who is probably the most prolific serial killer that America has ever known.

This is a good read in the tradition of Truman Capote’s startling book “In Cold Blood” and I found it a fascinating and indeed disturbing read. I know you lovers of this genre out there will love it too.

THE HEART RADICAL – BOYD ANDERSON Random House Paperback $32.99

Our story begins in the Malaya of 1951 – a year that saw that country in the grip of what they called “the Emergency”. It tells of Su-Lin – daughter of a local defence barrister who likes to listen in to her father’s cases and clients’ stories. This one time, she gets all wrapped up in a trial that is a matter of life and death for her father’s clients but which takes Su-Lin on a journey of discovery that is all about love and sacrifice, truth and lies, and about fighting for the things you believe in.

A really good read – hope you enjoy this one – I know you will if you take the time to pick it up for your library.

THE WARDROBE GIRL – JENNIFER SMART Random House Paperback $32.99

Jennifer has given us here a novel that is inspired by her time as a director’s assistant and scriptwriter for the iconic TV series “Home and Away”. It gives us an insight into the behind the scenes life of an Australian TV soap opera and the Aussie film industry in general.

It is a quite light hearted rom-com that I found quite enjoyable for its genre and one that will attract many readers who like it too and who want to see what “really” happens behind the scenes of such programmes. Enjoy.

 

MURDER MYSTERY AND MAYHEM…….PLUS LAST NIGHT –

STEPHEN LEATHER Hachette Paperback $29.99

I love Stephen’s books – they are always exceptional reads – especially his Jack Nightingale series of which this is the fifth instalment. This time Jack is faced with a killer who is murdering Goths with brutal relish – and he has to summon his personal demon to help solve this twisted tale. Again he is faced with a battle with “The Order” a satanic cult that deals in infant sacrifice etc.

Don’t be put off by the storyline – it is a very readable, very entertaining and very enjoyable book – I thoroughly enjoyed it – but the ending left me wondering whether this might be the last we see of Jack Nightingale. I sincerely hope not for he is a truly great character altogether.

THE TRAIN RIDER – TONY CAVANAUGH Hachette P/back $29.99

I have read Tony’s earlier books and enjoyed them immensely. This new one, again featuring ex homicide inspector Darian Richards, is a very compelling read as we follow Darian through a scenario that forces him to revisit the horrors of his last case as a police officer when three girls go missing – he knows that the killer is playing him and also knows he has to make a choice – and if he makes the wrong one then a girl will die!

Eerily chilling sequel to his earlier Darian Richards tales – you really need to buy this and read it to see how he puts things to rights. Loved it!

THE CHASE – JANET EVANOVICH AND LEE GOLDBERG Hachette P/back $29.99

This is the second novel co-written by these two seasoned authors, the first being “The Heist” – its premise (I don’t know if the new TV show “The Blacklist” inspired these tales or vice versa) is that an FBI Agent is teamed up “off the books” as it were with one of America’s most wanted con-men to take down a series of leading crooks and conmen who have so far evaded capture.

This time the story takes them to the White House where a former Chief of Staff there has been “a very naughty boy”! Loved this as I did the first in the series – can’t wait for the follow up(s).

THE ACCIDENT – CHRIS PAVONE Allen&Unwin Pback $29.99

Chris’ first book “The Ex-Pats” was reviewed in these pages quite some time ago – I really loved that one – and this new one is no exception

This time, a literary is sent a mysterious tell-all manuscript full of shocking revelations and disturbing truths that could have a major impact on National security if it was to be published. Several entities are conspiring to stop its publication including the CIA and the high profile man who is the central subject of the book.

This is very fast paced and very easy reading – as with most books of this genre, there are many twists and turns as we are drawn to its spectacular conclusion.

Go out and buy it and read it for yourselves.

THE WE TAKE BERLIN – JOHN LAWTON Allen and Unwin Paperback $29.99

The author of many previous novels (seven featuring Inspector Troy), John Lawton has created a wonderful tale of how events that occurred at the time of the fall of Berlin in 1945 were to affect the visit of John F Kennedy to Berlin in 1963.

The story begins in Berlin and Washington in 1963 and through the medium of flashback, we find out how the protagonists arrived where they are today (1963) and how their terrible story is set to unfold. I found this a very readable book full of twists and turns and some very surprising events and plot lines that evolved during the course of this at times very moving tale.

Loved it – surprised at the ending which rather (I hope) leaves things open for a sequel. I shall look forward to it.

KILLER – JONATHON KELLERMAN Hachette Paperback $29.99

This is the latest of Kellerman’s Alex Delaware stories.

Alex gets involved in the case of a woman who is being sued by her older sister for custody of her child – the older sister accuses her sibling of being an unfit mother. The older sister loses – and issues death threats against Alex Delaware – the older sister turns up dead – then the child is kidnapped!

Phew! Great story and so many twists of plot that I would spoil things if I tried to tell you about any of them. I know you’ll love this one. Again – enjoy!

SNOW BLIND – CHRISTOPHER GOLDEN Hachette P/back $29.99

This is one in the Stephen King mould and tells the story of the Great Storm that hit the small town of Coventry in Massachusetts – it was the worst storm in living memory. But what evil does it awaken in this small town? And what is the nature of the new nightmare that threatens to keep the residents of that small town from sleeping ever again? You’ll just have to read this enthralling but VERY disturbing book to find out. Fascinating read.

UNLUCKY THIRTEEN – JAMES PATTERSON/MAXINE PAETRO Random House Paperback $32.99

This is, as the title suggests, the 13th in the Women’s Murder Club series that features Californian Detective Lindsay Boxer and is a more than adequate successor to its predecessors. Here, Lindsay is faced with two dead bodies in a car accident on the Golden Gate Bridge – but it is not as simple as just a traffic accident. When she realises that the case is set to involve former colleague turned serial killer, Mackie Morales, all Hell breaks loose.

Great story – brilliantly told with a reasonably unexpected ending. If you loved the first 12 stories you’re gonna love this one too – wow!!

IN THE BLOOD – LISA UNGER Simon&Schuster Paperback $29.99

I loved Lisa’s earlier novels and I was really looking forward to this one – I wasn’t disappointed in the least. Here we have a psychology student, Lana, who takes on a baby sitting job only to find that the boy that she is sitting for has as troubled a past as her own. To what avail? He tries to outsmart Lana (having already been expelled from several schools for various reasons) but has he met his match?

This is quite a page turner and all is not as it seems – or is it? It will keep you on the edge of your seats until the final page where all is revealed. Brilliant read and brilliantly written. Enjoy!

CONCEALED IN DEATH – J.D. ROBB Hachette P/back $29.99

This is the latest in Robb’s “In Death” series set 50 years into the future and featuring Lt Eve Dallas and her Irish billionaire husband Roarke. This time, Roarke is involved in the demolition of a building to make way for a new building and discovers the corpse of a dead girl in the cavity behind one of the walls. And then another is found. And then another!

A very tortuitous tale and one that I hope/know you’ll enjoy. This is a great series of books by one of the World’s leading and prolific authors – J.D. Robb is the pseudonym of the wonderful author Nora Roberts. Loved this one as I have loved all of this series that I have read.

MISSING YOU – HARLAN COBEN Hachette P/back $32.99

At last! A new Harlan Coben thriller. I am a huge fan of Harlan’s, particularly the Myron Bolitar series, but this is another of his excellent stand alone stories – incidentally his last stand alone “Six Years” is soon to be made into a movie starring our own Hugh Jackman. It’s time we saw another of his books on the screen.

But I digress – this is the story of Kat Donovan, an NYPD detective who comes across the picture of her ex husband on a dating website that is at the core of her current investigation. From there we depart on a whirlwind adventure that takes in identity fraud, money laundering and large scale embezzlement that will keep you guessing and enthralled at the same time. Good one Harlan – your books are as good as ever – keep up the good work! And you dear reader please buy, read, support and enjoy the work of this great writer.

TROUBLE IN MIND – JEFFREY DEAVER Hachette Paperback $32.99

From one of my favourites to yet another – Jeffrey Deaver. You may recall I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeff when he was in Australia a while back to promote his book “Carte Blanche” a James Bond book commissioned by the Ian Fleming estate. He is also well known for his books featuring Lincoln Rhyme, the quadriplegic forensic scientist.

Here we have a sterling collection of short stories with two featuring Rhyme and one featuring Kathryn Dance, another of his featured characters. This is a wonderful compilation and time and space here don’t permit me to elaborate further on them. Suffice it to say that I found them all fascinating reads and all with that delicious twist that Jeffrey (and also the other Jeff, Jeffrey Archer) like to put at the end of their stories. If you enjoy these half as much as I did then you will be well satisfied.

DEEP STORM – LINCOLN CHILD Faber Paperback $29.99

This is the first of Lincoln’s books that I have read so far and I will certainly be seeking out the others very shortly. Set on an oil rig in the North Atlantic, a naval doctor, Peter Crane, is summoned to that rig to advise on some obscure sickness that has befallen some of the people working on the rig. We find that the drilling is happening on a secret area that is not accessible to the general staff of the rig and which is threatening the entire operation. Has the exploration discovered the lost city of Atlantis? Or is this something MUCH more sinister?

You’ll have to read it to answer that question – I loved this one and was very surprised at the ending of this twisted tale. Enjoy!

And now to several tomes that are set in my all time favourite place for such crime stories, Great Britain.

YOU WILL NEVER FIND ME – ROBERT WILSON Hachette Paperback $26.99

Although he has written a number of crime novels in the past, this is the first of his that I have read so far and I am more than impressed with his work. This story begins where a kidnap and recovery specialist, Charlie Boxer, is called by his ex wife, who is a hostage negotiator, when their daughter runs away from home – leaving only a note that says “You will never find me!” Charlie and his ex have not received any blackmail demands but they are scared none the less for their daughter’s safety. Their hunt leads them all over Europe and the UK as the tale wends to its agonising but inevitable conclusion. Superb bit of storytelling – if you love this genre then this one is definitely for you. Buy it.

EVERYONE LIES – A.D. GARRETT Allen&Unwin $32.99

Author Ann Cleeves says “Thriller writing at its best” – I must agree I concur with her wholeheartedly. This story, set in Manchester, focuses on DI Kate Simms who is trying to get back into favour with her Police bosses following a demotion she got after her previous case. But the case she is given involves drug addicts who keep turning up dead with no explanation evident – and then a celebrity dies and all hell breaks loose – find the killer(s) pronto.

This is a wonderfully woven and twisted tale that will keep you guessing right till the end. I know you’re going to just adore this one. Great book – great author.

THE SILENCE OF GHOSTS – JONATHAN AYCLIFFE Allen and Unwin Paperback $19.99

This is the latest in a long line of supernatural thrillers and this time our story is set in the Lake District at the time of the Blitz during the Second World War. Octavia, a profoundly deaf 10 year old girl, is sent to Ullswater in the Lake District to escape the aforesaid Blitz accompanied by her brother who is recuperating from injuries he sustained in the Battle of Narvik.

Although deaf, Octavia says she can hear voices – just voices – during the nights there. Is she mistaken? Not on your life is she mistaken – which becomes evident when the pair fall prey to the darker and most evil secret of the old house that lives in its attic!

A really spooky and unnerving read. Loved it!

A PLEASURE AND A CALLING - PHIL HOGAN Random House Paperback $24.99

Phil Hogan is a new author to me – but he has written three previous books that I will certainly be seeking out. Here our author asks the question “Do you remember Mr Heming – because Mr Heming remembers you”. Mr Heming is a real estate salesman – who always manages to keep a copy of the key to every house that he has ever sold – why? Why do you think??? His sinister behaviour is at the heart of this genuinely unnerving tale of a man, William Heming, who loves and knows every inch of his neighbourhood and is prepared to defend it with, perhaps not his own life, but certainly WITH YOURS! Well known author Rosamund Lupton describes the book as “wonderfully creepy, macabre and blackly comic” and I must say I totally agree with her – we have here a twisted tale of obsession and Goodness only knows what. You won’t see the climax and ending coming with this one, I’m telling you – enjoy!

THE DYNAMITE ROOM – JASON HEWITT Simon and Schuster P/back $29.99

This is Jason’s first novel, having been an actor an playwright in the past, and it is set in the Suffolk of the 1940’s. Here we have Lydia, a young girl who travels to the Suffolk village where she was born to locate her mother and the life she had before the war. The village is now deserted – how will she survive? Then one night, a German soldier arrives at her door carrying a loaded weapon. He takes Lydia hostage – and thereby hangs the tale – the soldier has a great command of the English language – and how does he know Lydia’s name – before she tells him herself?

Wonderfully taut story – unnerving and surprising ending – this one I really enjoyed – hope you read it too to learn first hand what I loved about it.

EAST OF INNOCENCE David Thorn Allen&Unwin Paperback $29.99

Here we have yet another first novel – this time from a BAFTA Award winning scriptwriter who has written for the likes of British comedians Jimmy Carr, Alan Carr, David Mitchell and Bob Mortimer and the Armstrong and Miller show. That said, this is far from a comedy based story. It features a disgraced London lawyer who cannot escape his violent past and that of his family which is tied incontrovertibly to a local organised crime family. Now based in Essex, our hero is asked by an old school friend to help him out of a jam with the police where he believes he has been framed.

We have here a tale of organised crime, corrupt police and a missing girl whose body turns up under strange circumstances. From there the plot gets thicker and thicker as it wends its way to the inevitable confrontation and conclusion. For a first novel, this is a real cracker – if you don’t get hold of this and read it then you’re missing a real treat.

THE VERDICT – NICK STONE Hachette Paperback $32.99

Here we have another new author to me in the form of Nick Stone who has here produced arguably one of the best legal thrillers I have read for quite some time. Author Mark Billingham has compared Nick’s writing to that of John Grisham and I must say he’s not too far wrong. This tale of a struggling legal clerk who is given the biggest opportunity of his career to help defend a millionaire who is accused of murdering a woman in his hotel suite – then he finds out that the man he is tasked to defend is his sworn enemy from his youth.

Did he do it? Does he get off? Is this a sham defence using inexperienced people to pacify the real killer on behalf of one of the firms other major clients? What a twisted web is woven here! I loved it and the conclusion although not wholly unexpected is none the less quite a revelation. Wonderful stuff.

THE TELLING ERROR – SOPHIE HANNAH Hachette Paperback $29.99

Sophie Hannah has been described many a time as the Queen of psychological crime writing and this worthy book goes a long way to cementing this position that she so rightly holds. This tale of a woman who is accused of a murder that she didn’t commit – but who is scared because the detective who is investigating the death was also involved in a part of her earlier life that she would rather forget about. Although she isn’t guilty of this murder, by her own admission she is not altogether an innocent.

A good story well constructed, told and acted out. Sophie has excelled herself again. I enjoyed this lovely little book. Love this genre – love it.

BETTER OFF DEAD – TOM WOOD Hachette P/back $29.99

I will conclude this month’s offerings with a book from one of the best young writers around. This is one of the best books I have read in quite a while I am pleased to say and one that has an interesting premise. A hit man must be anonymous, amoral and alone. He must be like our central character Victor just another face in the crowd – a nondescript person – one you’d be hard pushed to identify if you had to describe him.

Here an old friend turns to him for help – and his objectivity is lost as he vows to be a bodyguard for someone he doesn’t know, has never met – and who doesn’t feel she needs a bodyguard. In short he becomes emotionally involved – which is fatal (or can be so) for your typical hit man.

Very full on action – very fast paced story – many and varied twists of plot that will leave you gasping as you find yourself drawn into this mangled world.

Read it and enjoy it – I know you’ll not regret it – I can’t wait to get hold of his other books for a good read!

Well that’s it for books this issue. Remember, if I haven’t heard of an author before or if it is a new author, I hope you will take my recommendations into consideration when selecting your reading matter and give them a good go. I will say no more at this juncture and wish you happy reading, and see you all in the next issue. I hope you enjoy my recommendations as much as I have enjoyed reading them on both your and my own behalf.

MOVIES, ETC

There has not been a lot on the horizon of late but I did manage to catch up with an excellent TV series on DVD called “James Nesbitt’s Ireland”)which has I believe been shown on Foxtel but not on local free-to-air – I don’t have Foxtel so it was new to me).

James takes us on a general tour of most of the beauty spots in the North and the South including Cork, Blarney Castle, and the Lisdoonvarna matchmaking festival to name but a few. Great programme and well put together – thoroughly enjoyed it.

Before I go, I have a request – In January 2009 RTE screened a documentary on Luke Kelly on the 25th anniversary of his passing. If anyone has a copy of this I would love to see it.

You might also like to get down to the Irish Club in Subiaco on Thursday nights – they have a good music session from 7pm – 9pm. Alternate weeks are hosted by “Sparrow” and yours truly has been known to sit in with them on occasion.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 11 May 2014 05:33 )