The Falls by B Michael Radburn

thefallscover

 

I received a copy from the publisher for review

 

Title: The Falls

Author: B. Michael Radburn

Genre: Fiction/Crime Fiction

Publisher: Pantera Press

Published: August, 2016

RRP: $29.99

Format: Paperback

Pages: 364

Synopsis: A week of despair… a century of evil

Damaged but not yet broken, park ranger Taylor Bridges believes his ghosts are in the past – until a raging forest fire in an isolated canyon of The Falls lays bare the remains of a young woman… and a decade-old killing ground.

After the police enlist Taylor in their investigation, the evidence bizarrely points to a deranged preacher who reigned over The Falls a century ago.

But when a crucial witness and a policewoman disappear, it’s clear that a disciple of The Falls’ dark history is on the loose.

 

~*~

 

The Falls by B. Michael Radburn is the second book in the Taylor Bridges series. Still reeling from the death of his daughter Claire five years ago, The Falls follows on from The Crossing, and Taylor’s struggle with the disappearance and death of Claire. When the daughter of an old friend and her partner stumble across a body whilst exploring the Christiana Goldmine in Eldritch Falls, Taylor is called in to assist the police in the national park. Taylor must grapple with his guilt about Claire, and the emotions that this new case brings to the surface. As the case progresses, links to a string of ritualistic murders that span one hundred years. These murders become linked to a family who has lived in the area for generations, a family determined to keep the secrets of the past hidden away from prying eyes, whatever the cost may be.

The daughter of Taylor’s friend, Aroha, becomes involved as a witness and later, is taken. Taylor and the police must find her before it is too late, and before other lives are endangered during the search for truth and its war with keeping secrets and continuing a legacy that has been in place for over one hundred years.

Michael Radburn has created a story using the natural environment and the fear of the unknown, or the fear of what we don’t understand. This gives the characters, both good, bad, and in between, concrete and believable motivations and desires that drive the story towards its relieving conclusion where the reader can finally take a deep breath and relax after the fast paced ride.

This was my first adventure with Taylor Bridges, and I found that I did not need to have read the first book to enjoy this and understand what drove the characters. The mine and the bush of country Victoria was the perfect setting for this mystery, a place where anything could happen. Where shadows dance at the edges of the darkness, and where fear takes over. The novel kept up a good pace and kept me reading as long as possible to find out what happened, and to find out who survived and who didn’t. It is a story where people aren’t always what they seem, and that speaks to the human condition and its various degrees of sanity, desire and wanting to please people, but also, human desire for belief, and legacy. A haunting tale that will keep you up at night, I enjoyed reading this book, and hope that further books are forthcoming and will be just as intriguing as this one.

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A Murder Unmentioned by Sulari Gentill

rowly-6Book Title: A Murder Unmentioned (Rowland Sinclair, #6)

Author: Sulari Gentill

Publisher: Pantera Press

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Release Date: November 1st, 2014

Book Synopsis: The black sheep of a wealthy grazier dynasty, gentleman artist Rowland Sinclair often takes matters into his own hands. When the matter is murder, there are consequences.

For nearly fourteen years, Rowland has tried to forget, but now the past has returned.

A newly-discovered gun casts light on a family secret long kept… a murder the Sinclairs would prefer stayed unsolved.

As old wounds tear open, the dogged loyalty of Rowland’s inappropriate companions is all that stands between him and the consequences of a brutal murder… one he simply failed to mention.

~*~

Once again, Rowland Sinclair did not fail to hold my attention, all other books being set aside as the mystery of who killed Henry Sinclair, Rowland’s father, when our hero was just a teenager. The mystery arises when Edna Walling, a gardener engaged by Wilfred’s wife Kate, to landscape the surrounds of Oaklea. The gun used in the murder of Henry Sinclair is discovered, prompting a cousin, Arthur Sinclair, and a former employee, Charlie Hayden, to come out to Yass to influence the investigation in their favour.

Lucy Bennett is involved again, adamant that she will marry Rowland, even though her father has determined he is inappropriate for her. I find Lucy’s stubborn determination that Rowland has indeed professed his adoration and love for her, and extending from that, that he has somehow proposed to her in his many attempts to gently discourage her throughout the series both funny and, in terms of her character, annoying. Lucy’s involvement in this book, however, is more significant. Having failed at nabbing Rowly, she fixes her sights on Arthur Sinclair, and the plot thickens. Soon, another murder has the police set their sights on Rowland, and the family becomes embroiled in danger and mystery to unravel what really happened on the night Rowland and Wilfred’s father died.

Always by his side, Rowly’s companions, Edna, Milt and Clyde are ready to help discover the truth. Their loyalty is recognised by Wilfred in this book, and there is a major turning point in the relationship between the brothers. We finally find out what happened to Rowland in his father’s study and library as a child. We see a gentler side to Wilfred as he does everything he can to help his brother but also his brother’s friends. I found myself liking Wilfred very much in the final pages, and his defence of his brother and family.

Sulari Gentill has captured the essence of the period in all six books, set against the backdrop of the Depression, and now, the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany, to which Rowly and his friends were witness to in Paving the New Road. The line up of likely suspects in this book works very effectively when the true killer is revealed, and the mystery, somewhat, at least amongst brothers and friends, solved. This added layer of intrigue and where people were and who they were with at the time of the murder just adds yet another aspect to the book that kept me reading.

I cannot say which Rowland Sinclair book thus far is my favourite – they are all wonderful and I am sad that I now have to wait until later this year for book seven. Though they are quick reads, they are enjoyable and they do take me away from other reading – that I can finish whilst waiting for my next sojourn with Rowly.

Five Years of Rowland Sinclair

rowly-1Five years ago, on the first of June, Rowland Sinclair and his artist compatriots were released from the grey cells and imagination of Sulari Gentill into the literary world, with the help of the fantastic team at Pantera Press. A 1930s gentleman of means, living in a family estate in Woollahra, with his friends Elias Isaacs, known as Milt, a Communist and a Jew and a poet, Clyde Watson Jones, a country boy and painter, and Edna Higgins, the sculptress. My personal journey began with book two, and going back to read them in order has brought a new light to the series. At the time of writing this post, I am up to book five, Gentlemen Formally Dressed, taking place fairly soon after Paving the New Road, and continuing with the themes that have been trickling throughout the books, moving through political dissent in Australia towards that in Germany and what is to come.

The reader has an upper hand though, in knowing the history of the period, if they do, or at least knowing the major events that follow in the decades after The First World War that our fine Rowly finds himself caught up in, often by accidental association or by being in the wrong place, at the wrong, or perhaps sometimes, the right time. Rowland’s journeys are plagued by murder and intrigue, false accusations and colourful characters – both fictional and historical, who bring a colour to the stories and situate them firmly in the
rowly-21930s and the turmoil of the period.

Rowland is introduced in A Few Right Thinking Men, set against the backdrop of the conflict of the Old Guard and the New Guard, leading to Francis De Groot stealing the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from Premier Lang. Culminating in Rowly and his friends needing to escape, they take a tour of the Continent, their return journey recounted in A Decline in Prophets, where several bodies drop to cover up the crimes of a church leader. Book Three, Miles Off Course, has the backdrop of Old and New Guard, rowly-3Communism and the Depression against Rowland’s brother insisting he search their sheep farming property for the head station hand, leading to a conspiracy of sheep theft. It is with Paving the New Road that the series heads to Nazi Germany, and Rowland is exposed to the dangers of the politics of Fascism and what it could have meant for Australia, had Eric Campbell been successful in transplanting the ideas of Hitler to our shores. Rowland’s dangerous and near-death encounters lead into book rowly-4five, Gentlemen Formerly Dressed, and what I see as a shift in Rowly and Wilfred’s relationship – Wilfred seems to come to a better understanding of his brother. I am looking forward to see what books six, A Murder Unmentioned, and book seven bring to the series after I finish Gentlemen Formerly Dressed.

Within each book, Sulari has created a world that is immersive, and delivers the history of the period in an accessible way, in arowly-5 fun way, in comparison to some history books or school textbooks. They are one of my favourite series of historical fiction novels, mingled with crime, intrigue and Rowly’s affection for Edna, which, so far, has not been reciprocated. It is the combination of the characters and plots that pull the reader headfirst into the series, and I hope, makes them never want to end their
association with Rowland.

A Decline in Prophets by Sulari Gentill

rowly-2Book Title: A Decline in Prophets (Rowland Sinclair, #2)

Author: Sulari Gentill

Publisher: Pantera Press

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Release Date: July 1st, 2011

Book synopsis: In 1932, the R.M.S. Aquitania embodies all that is gracious and refined, in a world gripped by crisis and doubt.

Returning home on the luxury liner after months abroad, Rowland Sinclair and his companions dine with a suffragette, a Bishop and a retired World Prophet. The Church encounters less orthodox religion in the Aquitania’s chandeliered ballroom, where men of God rub shoulders with mystics in dinner suits.

The elegant atmosphere on board is charged with tension but civility prevails…until people start to die. Then things get a bit awkward.

And Rowland Sinclair finds himself unwittingly in the centre of it all.

~*~

My second adventure on the Aquitania was as charming and mystery filled as the first, when I read it for the New South Wales Writer’s Centre. This was my introduction then to Rowly, Milt, Clyde and Edna, but I still loved reading it again. Following the disastrous events of A Few Right Thinking Men, Rowly is still reliant on a walking stick to support his healing leg while he and his friends travel abroad, on their journey home from a tour of Europe back to Sydney. Yet, as the quiet cruise pushes forth through the waters of the world, bodies begin to drop. First, Orville Urquhart, an Englishman on the voyage towards New York with them, is murdered with the can Rowland’s cane that he now has to discard as evidence. Yet, the case is unwanted by Scotland Yard, and by the NYPD, and is thus left to fester as a great maritime murder mystery.

Following the somewhat unexpected departure of Jiddu Krishnamurti, Hubert Van Hook, a Theosophist with Annie Besant, proclaims Rowland as the next World Prophet of the organisation, something that will follow him home, much to the ire of his brother, Wilfred, half way through the novel. Yet it is the death in Sydney Harbour is Bishop Hanrahan’s niece, Isobel, that starts the unraveling of the case and descends Rowland and his friends into a world of discovery and attack in a Roman Catholic graveyard and church. The events of the final, climatic chapters lead to a conclusion that I never saw coming but that effectively wraps up the novel, leading into the excitement that I hope will be Miles off Course.

           

Having read this for a second time after reading book one, several things made a lot more sense, such as his brother Wilfred’s attitudes towards Rowland and his friends, and what he thought of the apolitical stance his brother took. But also, the little references to book one were clearer, perhaps an excellent reason to start with A Few Right Thinking Men, so that the scope of the series is better understood, and enjoyed. The combination of history and mystery in equal parts is fascinating and extremely well done, and I am eager to read the rest of the books.

Veneri Verbum Book Review

Veneri Verbum by Zanzibar 7 Schwarzenegger

Writing a book may be the perfect solution to all of Christopher Cullum’s problems. He’s currently living at home (at age twenty-five), but his mom fears she’ll be doing his laundry forever. If he doesn’t accomplish something notable soon, she may invoke some tough love. He might even have to clean his room.

~*~

Opening this book is like opening Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and The Eyre Affair at the same time: an explosion of welcome insanity, and a healthy dose of crazy that we all need at some point in our lives. I entered the world of Christopher Michael Cullum, and followed him down the plot hole after his Figment, Elsa. Traversing the land of lost plots, faceless characters and court cases involving a jury of poopieheads, and a hot-dog judge, Christopher and Elsa discover Shiv, the one whom reincarnates several times, my favourite as the female impregnated dragon as one of his sex changes, and named Shivana, and Eric, the One Who Always Dies. And thus we have entered the world of NaNoWriMo, where we will meet NaNa Romo, and launch cat cannons across the realm, and bask in the eternal deaths of Eric. Confused? Welcome to NaNoWriMo. Enjoy the plot bunnies while you stay.
Christopher’s journey is complicated by multiple plot bunnies and tribbles, and the many plot holes he finds himself tumbling down like Alice down the rabbit hole, although, unlike Alice, he doesn’t play croquet with a long-necked bird, he has to fix his plot holes…and at every turn, Eric is dying, Margie the fairy appears but she is not his fairy godmother and he must defend himself against faceless jurors after blood, and a confused NaNa Romo who integrates her shopping list into prophecies he needs to follow to find his way back home, away from the insanity of his mind…but is a healthy dose of crazy all he really needs to finish his journey of NaNoWriMo? And will he clean his room when he is finished?
It took me about four or five days to complete this for review, and I was disappointed when it ended. It was one of those books that I wanted to keep reading to find out what happens, but then, once it came to it’s conclusion, I felt myself feeling sad that I had to leave Christopher and his Figments. But I hope that Zanzibar has more in store for me, and Christopher. Whilst this is quite niche and definitely, participants of the great NaNoWriMo will understand this more than those who do not, it is still a great read, a fun read. There is so much to explore and be found in between these covers that the journey is half the fun, and upon finishing, you will find yourself crazier than you once were, but in a good way.

The Ice Cage by Joshua Cejka

The Ice Cage by Joshua Cejka

When the Twin Cities do winter festivals, they spare no expense – outside taverns with gas heating, photo Santa in a sleigh, room made of polished ice with a dead body inside… wait a minute. When such a very public affront to the festival spirit comes up, Homicide Detective Meg Brown must move as quickly as a reindeer to get the whole thing solved before the vaunted and famous Papa Brown Christmas dinner. Thankfully, a ‘usual suspect’ makes herself clear straight away, but of course nothing is quite so simple.

Can Meg clear the case before one of her suspects ends up dead at the hands of someone else? Can she gather the witnesses and evidence before the Christmas Ham gets cold? Can she ever get enough coffee? And just what does a mysterious nightclub owner have to do with all of it?

This is the fifth of the Meg Brown Mysteries and the first one of any length. If you haven’t read the others, please do. They’re fun. You’ll probably like them.

~*~

This was a first for me in my love of crime fiction and crime television shows, even considering I watch Castle, and they’ve investigated some fairly strange murders in the seven seasons the show has been going: death by candy cane to the eye. And at Christmas! With the case not so cut and dried as Meg hoped so she would be able to make it home for Christmas with her loved ones, Meg and Riggins are working against the clock to solve the case.
The pace of the writing and story was set out in a lovely fashion, and I found myself reading for over an hour one day, just to get to the end and find out what was going to happen and who had killed the victim with a candy cane. It is the mystery of the candy cane death and the looming spectre of Christmas, and family Christmas traditions. I enjoyed this just as much as the previous four, and am looking forward to reading book six, and any subsequent books in the series.
One thing I love about the Meg Brown books is their continuity with each other. In book four, we were introduced to Kenzie, Meg’s former enemy and now friend, and her daughter. The inclusion of them, and Spike, Meg’s best friend, connected the books in a seamless way. Also, the deliberate slow reveal of character’s lives and what they are like works well – I think it fits the way Cejka has chosen to tell these stories of Meg and her friends.
The climax of the story reveals an outcome that I never saw coming, and it worked. When everything seemed to wrap up tidily in a Christmas bow, so to speak, so easily, I did wonder if there was much more to the case than I had been presented with. And behold, there was! Wonderfully executed, and I hope to revisit these books one day.

obtained from Amazon

Craven by Melanie Casey

cravenBook Title: Craven, Book Two of the Cass Lehman and Ed Dyson series
Author: Melanie Casey
Publisher: Pantera Press
Genre: Crime
Release Date: June 1st, 2014
Book Synopsis: A reluctant psychic, a troubled detective… and a deeply twisted serial killer.

Moving to the city, Cass Lehman hoped to leave her recent notoriety behind her. Her ability to experience the final moments of a violent death helped the local police capture a serial killer, but also meant she was almost his first victim…

With a place of her own and a new job, things are looking up for Cass. But just as she starts to feel settled, Cass is targeted by a deranged stalker.

Are the personal attacks linked to a string of unsettling deaths that have left the police stumped?

Her gift is called on yet again by the one man she vowed she would never contact. Cass and police Detective Ed Dyson are thrown back into each other’s lives but can they overcome their feelings to put an end to the terror?

Will her experiences of death reveal the mind of the killer… or is there no such thing as a happy ending?

~*~

Picking up a year after where the devastating and traumatic events for both Cass and Ed left us in Hindsight, Craven brings a new world of threats to Cass and those she cares about. Things start out innocently enough in Adelaide with Cass house hunting. Though a vision of a death in one house, foreshadowed in the prologue, counts that house out. An effective way to bring Casey’s fans back into the fold, and reintroducing us to Cass and her gift, was the vision she had about the death that had taken place there. I would have liked to have known more about that victim and the case, but it served its purpose in the context of the novel and plot that was to follow.
Also in Adelaide, is Detective Ed Dyson, her former boyfriend and the police officer she assisted in the Fleurieu Killer case back in Jewel Bay twelve months ago, working with a new partner, in the Major Crime Investigative Branch, or MCIB, on a twelve-month secondment. When her car is vandalised, Cass calls Ed for help, spurring on a series of events that continue to throw them together, along with Dave, Ed’s new partner, and the only person Cass has been able to confide in since her move to Adelaide, Claire. Along with investigating his serial killer, Ed is thrown back into Cass’s life, trying to protect her from a stalker, yet little do they both know the danger hiding in the shadows that will befall them in the closing chapters of the novel.
Again, Casey has had me on the edge of my seat, with many sleepless nights out of a desire to find out what happens next and fear of the serial killer. I feel this fear is what makes her novels exceptionally well written, because I definitely felt the fear Cass felt. I felt her sleeplessness and I also felt her uncertainty about things. There were moments of sadness though, and moments where I wanted to shake some of the characters into thinking sense – again, this is why I loved this book, because the characters were so believable. They weren’t just black and white, they had grey areas and were flawed: nobody is perfect. Cass and Ed illustrate this in a wonderful way. I am looking forward to reading future Cass Lehman books, and I recommend the series to crime lovers anywhere.