Stasi 77 by David Young

Stasi 77Title: Stasi 77

Author: David Young

Genre: Historical Fiction/Crime

Publisher: Zaffre

Published: 3rd June 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 384

Price: $19.99

Synopsis:A gripping and evocative crime thriller set in East Germany.

A secret State. A dark conspiracy. A terrible crime.

Karin Müller of the German Democratic Republic’s People’s Police is called to a factory in the east of the country. A man has been murdered – bound and trapped as a fire burned nearby, slowly suffocating him. But who is he? Why was he targeted? Could his murderer simply be someone with a grudge against the factory’s nationalisation, as Müller’s Stasi colleagues insist? Why too is her deputy Werner Tilsner behaving so strangely?

As more victims’ surface, it becomes clear that there is a cold-blooded killer out there taking their revenge. Soon Muller begins to realise that in order to solve these terrible crimes, she will need to delve into the region’s dark past. But are the Stasi really working with her on this case? Or against her?

For those who really run this Republic have secrets they would rather remain uncovered. And they will stop at nothing to keep them that way…

A gripping and evocative crime thriller, moving between the devastating closing weeks of the Second World War and the Stasi-controlled 1970s, Stasi 77 is David Young’s most compelling and powerful novel yet.

~*~

The fourth book in the Karin Müller series sees Karin investigating deaths at a factory that was once the site of a terrible massacre at the end of World War Two during a Nazi death march from one of the concentration camps. At the same time, she is raising her young twins – Johannes and Jannika, born in Stasi Wolf the second book. Karin begins the investigation, but senses there is more to what is happening than her Stasi colleagues insist.

Soon, she works out that the victims are all linked somehow, and that the killer is taking revenge for past wrongs during the years of Nazi rule in Germany, and Karin must look into the past of Germany and the region, and uncovers secrets that many people had hoped would stay hidden – secrets that the Stasi is willing to end careers over and cover up for certain people.

It is clear from the start that there is a link to Nazi Germany, as the novel moves back and forth between 1945 and 1977, culminating in the final discoveries in the last chapters.

It is a world that has been touched by the extremes of fascism, and Nazism between 1933 and 1945, after a decade and a bit of the Weimar Republic, and the extremes of Communism, and finding ways to sneak access to items from the West, or threatening to tell the West German media about the secrets the Stasi is content to hide, even if it means harming people to do so. It is a world that Karin has grown up in, yet on some levels, is starting to question, or at least question the morality of ignoring a horrific past that has scarred many and continues to do so.

The issues explored in this series are deeply political, reminding us of where extremes, especially right-wing extremes of fascism, and the need to control everything, can end up. Communism was probably not the answer to end the Nazi regime. Both regimes penalised people for certain things, and created a society of distrust, much like is happening today – and the small things Karin says and does to some characters are examples of her attempt to undermine the system that hides the dark secrets of Nazis and the Stasi.

It deftly explores these conflicts, whilst reflecting the harsh realities of how citizens were treated and how the slightest infraction that these days would seem ridiculous to report to police, can almost ruin a life. Karin must work within the system to achieve the outcomes she seeks, yet at the same time, find a way to outsmart it without endangering her life, career and the lives of her family. It is a satisfying, yet dark read, as well as a very compelling story and page turner. It is a great addition to the series.

The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant by Kayte Nunn

esther durrantTitle: The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant

Author: Kayte Nunns

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 28th May 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 375

Price: $29.99

Synopsis: A cache of unsent love letters from the 1950s is found in a suitcase on a remote island in this mysterious love story by top ten bestselling author, Kayte Nunn

  1. Esther Durrant, a young mother, is committed to an isolated mental asylum by her husband. Run by a pioneering psychiatrist, the hospital is at first Esther’s prison but soon becomes her refuge.
  2. Free-spirited marine scientist Rachel Parker embarks on a research posting in the Isles of Scilly, off the Cornish coast. When a violent storm forces her to take shelter on a far-flung island, she discovers a collection of hidden love letters. Captivated by their passion and tenderness, Rachel determines to track down the intended recipient.

Meanwhile, in London, Eve is helping her grandmothera renowned mountaineer, write her memoirs. When she is contacted by Rachel, it sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to reveal secrets kept buried for more than sixty years.

The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant is a deeply atmospheric, resonant novel that charts the heart’s wild places, choices and consequences. If you love Elizabeth Gilbert and Kate Morton you will devour this book.

Praise for the bestselling The Botanist’s Daughter:

‘Two incredibly likeable, headstrong heroines . . . watching them flourish is captivating. With these dynamic women at the helm, Kayte weaves a clever tale of plant treachery involving exotic and perilous encounters in Chile, plus lashings of gentle romance. Compelling storytelling’ The Australian Women’s Weekly

‘I loved The Botanist’s Daughter. I was transported to the 1880s and Chile, to contemporary Sydney and Kew. A gripping read’ JOY RHOADES, author of The Woolgrower’s Companion

‘The riveting story of two women, divided by a century in time, but united by their quest to discover a rare and dangerous flower. Fast-moving and full of surprises, The Botanist’s Daughter brings the exotic world of 19th-century Chile thrillingly to life’ KATE FORSYTH

~*~

The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant opens with a cleverly deceptive scene with Esther and her husband supposedly headed off on holiday on an island off the coast of England. Esther is under the impression he will be staying with her in the little stone house – until she wakes up in the morning to discover he is gone, and she’s surrounded by a doctor and nurse. It is 1951, and Esther has what will become known as post-partum depression, though the 1950s did not see it this way. Sent to Little Embers to recover, Esther soon finds comfort in the others there – soldiers returned from war, struggling to fit back into a society that demands they do.

2019 Badge

In 2018, Rachel, a researcher, discovers a suitcase in a place called Little Embers after she is rescued by Leah, and spends several days recuperating until a friend comes to find her, and she takes the letters and suitcase she discovers with her. Also in 2018, Eve is helping her ninety-year-old grandmother, a renowned mountaineer, write her memoirs, when Rachel tracks them down. Eve’s gran is Esther Durrant, and the letters reveal a sixty-six-year-old secret that slowly evolves through the novel.

By dipping back and forth between 2018 and 1952, and the perspectives of Rachel, Eve and Esther, Kayte Nunn tells the whole story, and only reveals things when they need to be revealed. This gives the novel an air of mystery that remains throughout the novel. Dual timeline stories like this are effective when worked well, and Kayte Nunn has done so in this one, much like her previous novel, The Botanist’s Daughter, also reviewed on this blog. What a dual timeline does is take the reader back into the past from the present as a character reads letters, a dairy or speaks with the person from the past storyline, and sometimes it is a combination of all three that allows for this to happen. At other times, a different approach is taken but in all the dual timelines I have read, each has been very effective.

In this case, the secrets that are hinted at are cleverly dealt with throughout. Each character could have a potential link to the secret, which makes it more mysterious and intriguing, and an enjoyable mystery to read and try to solve.

Life Before by Carmel Reilly

life before.jpgTitle: Life Before
Author: Carmel Reilly
Genre: Crime/Mystery
Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Published: 6th May 2019
Format: Paperback
Pages: 345
Price: $29.99
Synopsis: Suspense and family secrets surround a pair of estranged siblings in a compelling debut thriller.
She knew she should talk to him. But what could she say? Once there had been blame to apportion, rage to hurl. Now she no longer had a sense of that. Who knew what the facts of them being here together like this meant. What was she to make of the situation? Scott lying unconscious here in this bed, unknown to her in almost every way. She a wife, a mother, but in her mind no longer a sister. Not a sister for a very long time now.

Lori Spyker is taking her kids to school one unremarkable day when a policeman delivers the news that her brother, Scott Green, has been injured and hospitalised following a hit and run.

Lori hasn’t seen Scott in decades. She appears to be his only contact. Should she take responsibility for him? Can she? And, if she does, how will she tell her own family about her hidden history, kept secret for so long?

Twenty years before, when she and Scott were teenagers, their lives and futures, and those of their family, had been torn to shreds. Now, as Lori tries to piece together her brother’s present, she is forced to confront their shared past-and the terrible and devastating truth buried there that had driven them so far apart.

Compassionate, wise and shocking, Life Before tells the gripping story of an ordinary family caught in a terrible situation. What if the worst thing you can imagine isn’t the worst thing to happen? How do you go on? And what steps will you take to protect yourself from further pain?

~*~

Life Before opens in 1993, with a country cop, Senior Sergeant Des Robinson has to attend an accident, with one fatal, and many injuries on the backroads of Northam. It is a tragedy that will touch many families and turn the lives of two in particular upside down, leading to a mystery about the fate of one family that is slowly revealed as the book goes back and forth between 1993, when the accident occurs, and 2016, where everything slowly comes out.

In 1993, Pam and Mick are living a normal life in Northam with their kids, Scott and Loren, both still at school and with promising futures ahead of them. One day, a terrible accident changes all that and Northam is never the same again. Months later, the town has to contend with another tragedy tearing a family apart.

2019 BadgeIn 2016, Lori is married, with two kids, and on her way to drop them at school when she’s informed her brother has been in an accident. He’s in a coma, and she’s listed as his only next of kin. at this point, we discover that her parents and oldest brother, Simon, are all dead – the big question is how and when. At first, Lori keeps Scott a secret from Jason. They’ve been estranged for over twenty years, since the tragedy that tore their family apart. Yet soon, their lives, and the lives of Lori and her husband Jason, will unexpectedly intersect and the mystery, crime and tragedies that made Lori who she is, will unravel and come to light.

In a compelling mystery, Carmel Reilly reveals how a tragic accident can change the lives of a normal family, and an entire community forever, and lead to even more tragedy that drives two family members apart for two decades. It is about how a decision can change everything. Throughout the book, the two mysteries – the one in 1993, and the one that leads to Lori and Scott reuniting in 2016, are told in a way that a little information is revealed each time, yet not too much: Carmel Reilly holds back on what we really need to know until the climax of the book, like all good mysteries. It is compelling, and I wanted to read on to find out what had happened. It also ran at a decent pace: not too fast, so everything was resolved neatly, but also, not to slow so things dragged on. This is where going back and forth in what seemed like parallel mysteries worked well.

Throughout the novel, the reader is constantly wondering what happened with the accident, what happened to Lori’s family – how did they die, and when did they die? All clues point towards something unforeseen and that Lori has been on her own – apart from Jason and their kids – for a very long time. The hints are there that something awful happened, something that she feels she cannot talk about. Yet it is the careful and deliberate peeling back of the layers of the two crimes involving Scott that has made this novel a compelling and engrossing story, and a mystery well worth the read. Where some mysteries show the fracturing of a marriage due to the secrets one spouse has kept, Reilly holds Jason and Lori together, showing that both have had something rough to deal with in this case and life. The mystery really opens up and heats up when Jason goes to the ICU with Lori – what comes after this reveals much more than anticipated and even quickens the pace a little, but not too much.

Unlike most mysteries that end in a nice, clean resolution of an arrest, here, whilst we find out what has happened, this one has a unique ending. The crime may be solved, but there is still more to come for Lori and Jason, and Scott off the page. All in all, a very compelling read for crime and mystery fans.

April Round Up

In April, I read twenty-three books, and added to most of my challenges. No updates for my Jane Austen Challenge this month, but I am working on it. I have read 60 books towards my overall challenge and the #Dymocks52Challenge, and I’m at 28 books for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge – 29 if I include my first read for May. I have completed most of my reads for my book bingo challenge and have scheduled all those posts as well. So I have the next eight months to fill the final squares and fill in the card.

 

I have several bingo rows ticked off and have also filled in many of my Pop Sugar categories – some with books I plan to read so I know what I’m reading. Some may prove to be a bit more of a challenge, but that’s half the fun, trying to find something that suits, that I will enjoy and that I have or will receive, saving time as I go through each challenge.

 

So that’s my month of reading for April – hopefully May will be just as productive as I work my way through these challenges, reviewing and reading kids books for work that also contribute to some of these challenge categories.

 

Pop Sugar Challenge

  1. A book becoming a movie in 2019: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  2. A book that makes you nostalgic: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday
  3. A book written by a musician (fiction or nonfiction): Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills
  4. A book you think should be turned into a movie: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  5. A book with at least one million ratings on Goodreads:
  6. A book with a plant in the title or on the cover: Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes, Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  7. A reread of a favourite book: Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth
  8. A book about a hobby: The Bad Mother’s Book Club by Keris Stanton
  9. A book you meant to read in 2018: Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  10. A book with POP, SUGAR, or CHALLENGE in the title:
  11. A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover: 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne, The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer
  12. A book inspired by myth/legend/folklore:
  13. A book published posthumously:
  14. A book you see someone reading on TV or in a movie:
  15. A retelling of a classic: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets (Enola Holmes #3) by Nancy Springer
  16. A book with a question in the title:
  17. A book set on college or university campus:
  18. A book about someone with a superpower: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Volume One: Squirrel Power by Ryan North
  19. A book told from multiple POVs: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
  20. A book set in space: Captain Marvel: Higher, Faster, Further by Kelly Sue DeConnick
  21. A book by two female authors:
  22. A book with SALTY, SWEET, BITTER, or SPICY in the title: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams
  23. A book set in Scandinavia: The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag
  24. A book that takes place in a single day: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson
  25. A debut novel: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson
  26. A book that’s published in 2019: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni
  27. A book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature: Dragon Masters: Treasure of the Gold Dragon by Tracey West
  28. A book recommended by a celebrity you admire:
  29. A book with LOVE in the title:
  30. A book featuring an amateur detective: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill
  31. A book about a family: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion
  32. A book by an author from Asia, Africa, or South America: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  33. A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in title: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
  34. A book that includes a wedding: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer, Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino
  35. A book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter:Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas, The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl
  36. A ghost story:
  37. A book with a two-word title: Saving You by Charlotte Nash
  38. A novel based on a true story: The Familiars by Stacey Halls – The Pendle Witches
  39. A book revolving around a puzzle or game:
  40. Your favourite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading challenge:

2016 – A book based on a fairy tale:

2017 – A steampunk book:

Prompt:

Advanced

  1. A “cli-fi” (climate fiction) book: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble, Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson
  2. A “choose-your-own-adventure” book:
  3. An “own voices” book: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim
  4. Read a book during the season it is set in: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson (Easter Season)
  5. A LitRPG book:
  6. A book with no chapters / unusual chapter headings / unconventionally numbered chapters:Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey (Ciphers used to give the chapter headings)
  7. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda
  8. Two books that share the same title: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda
  9. A book that has inspired a common phrase or idiom:
  10. A book set in an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage

 

General/#Dymocks52Challenge

#Dymocks52Challenge

  1. Middle School: Born to Rock by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
  2. The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant
  3. A Dream of Italy by Nicky Pellegrino
  4. Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson
  5. Poppy Field by Michael Morpurgo
  6. The Artist’s Portrait by Julie Keys
  7. Alice to Prague by Tanya Heaslip – Reviewed
  8. The Lost Magician by Piers Torday (Published 7th of May)
  9. The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton
  10. The Bad Mother’s Book Club by Keris Stanton
  11. Rabbit and Bear: Attack of the Snack by Julian Gough
  12. Eliza Rose by Lucy Worsley
  13. Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda
  14. The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
  15. Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda
  16. Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim (Published 6th of May)
  17. Toto the Ninja Cat and the Incredible Cheese Heist by Dermot O’Leary
  18. The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
  19. Christopher Robin: The Little Book of Pooh-isms: With help from Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, and Tigger, too! by Brittany Rubiano
  20.  Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson (Published 6th of May)
  21. Deltora Quest: The City of Rats by Emily Rodda
  22. Fabio, the World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: Mystery on the Ostrich Express by Laura James
  23. Life Before by Carmel Reilly (Published 6th of May)

2019 Badge

Australian Women Writer’s Challenge

  1. All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – Reviewed
  2. Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – Reviewed
  3. Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – Reviewed
  4. Saving You by Charlotte Nash – Reviewed
  5. Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nikki Greenberg – Reviewed
  6. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne – Reviewed
  7. Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth – Reviewed/Revisited post
  8. What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – Reviewed
  9. The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – Reviewed
  10. The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – Reviewed
  11. The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – Reviewed
  12. The French Photographer by Natasha Lester – Reviewed and Q&A
  13. Kensy and Max: Undercover by Jacqueline Harvey – Reviewed
  14. The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – Reviewed
  15. 52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor – Reviewed
  16. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – Reviewed
  17. Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – Reviewed
  18. Esther by Jessica North – Reviewed
  19. Mermaid Holidays: The Talent Show by Delphine Davis and Adele K. Thomas – Reviewed
  20. The True Story of Maddie Bright by Mary-Rose MacColl – Reviewed
  21. Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – Reviewed
  22. Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – Reviewed
  23. The Artist’s Portrait by Julie Keys – Reviewed
  24. The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – Reviewed, Interview
  25. Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  26. Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – Reviewed
  27. Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  28. Deltora Quest: The City of Rats by Emily Rodda – Reviewed
  29. Alice to Prague by Tanya Heaslip – Reviewed

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Book Bingo:

Rows Across:

Row One:

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019*

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018

A novel that has more than 500 pages:

A novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Prize winning book:

Row Two:

A book by an author with the same initials as you:

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Fictional biography about a woman from history:

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Book written by an Australian woman more than 10 years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Row Three:

Themes of Science Fiction: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday*

Themes of Culture:

Themes of Justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Themes of Inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Themes of Fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

 

Row Four:

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Outback:

Book set on the Australian Coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian Mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

 

BINGO!

Row Five: Bingo

Written by an Australian Man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Written by an Australian Woman:Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019*

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

BINGO!

Row Six: Bingo

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

Rows Down:

 

Row One:

A book with a red cover: Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon by Rebecca Lim – #AWW2019*

Book by an author with the same initials as you:

Themes of science fiction: The Lost Magician by Piers Torday*

Book with a place in the title: The French Photographer by Natasha Lester -AWW2019

Written by an Australian man: The Honeyman and the Hunter by Neil Grant

Literary: Zebra and Other Stories by Debra Adelaide – AWW2019

 

Row Two:

Beloved Classic: Seven Little Australians by Ethel Turner – AWW2018      

Non-Fiction book about an event: The Suicide Bride by Tanya Bretherton – #AWW2019

Themes of culture:

Book set in the Australian outback:

Written by an Australian woman: Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg – AWW2019

Crime: All the Tears in China by Sulari Gentill – AWW2019

Row three:

Novel that has 500 pages or more:

Fictional biography about a woman from history:

Themes of justice: What Lies Beneath Us by Kirsty Ferguson – AWW2019

Book set on the Australian coast: The House of Second Chances by Esther Campion – AWW2019

Written by an author under the age of 35: Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny by Skye Davidson – #AWW2019

Historical: The Familiars by Stacey Halls

BINGO!

Row Four: – BINGO

Novella no more than 150 pages: Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019

Memoir about a non-famous person: Australia’s Sweetheart by Michael Adams

Themes of inequality: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer – AWW2019

Book set in the Australian mountains: The Orchardist’s Daughter by Karen Viggers – AWW2019

Written by an author over the age of 65: Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began by Libby Hathorn – #AWW2019*

Romance: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Row Five:

Prize winning book:

Book written by an Australian woman more than ten years ago: Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears by Emily Rodda – #AWW2019 (2001)

Themes of fantasy: Vardaesia by Lynette Noni – AWW2019

Book set in an exotic location: Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte – #AWW2019

Written by an author you’ve never read: The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble – #AWW2019

Comedy: Best Foot Forward by Adam Hills

April Round-Up – 21

 

Title Author Challenge
Middle School: Born to Rock James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Honeyman and the Hunter Neil Grant General, #Dymocks52Challenge, book bingo
A Dream of Italy Nicky Pellegrino General, #Dymocks52Challenge
 Miss Franklin: How Miles Franklin’s Brilliant Career began Libby Hathorn General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019 Book Bingo
Archibald, The Naughtiest Elf in the World Causes Trouble with the Easter Bunny Skye Davidson General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019, Book Bingo, Pop Sugar
The Artist’s Portrait Julie Keys General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Poppy Field Michael Morpurgo General, #Dymocks52Challenge
The Lost Magician Piers Torday General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Book Bingo, Pop Sugar

The Suicide Bride Tanya Bretherton General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Book Bingo, #AWW2019

The Bad Mother’s Book Club Keris Stanton General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Pop Sugar

Rabbit and Bear: Attack of the Snack Julian Gough General, #Dymocks52Challenge
Eliza Rose Lucy Worsley General, #Dymocks52Challenge, PopSugar
Deltora Quest: The Forest of Silence Emily Rodda General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Book Bingo, #AWW2019, Popsugar

Children of the Dragon: Race for the Red Dragon Rebecca Lim General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Book Bingo, #AWW2019, PopSugar

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna Juliet Grames General, #Dymocks52Challenge, Popsugar
Deltora Quest: The Lake of Tears Emily Rodda General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

Book Bingo, #AWW2019, Popsugar

Toto the Ninja Cat and the Incredible Cheese Heist Dermot O’Leary General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
The Flatshare Beth O’Leary General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Christopher Robin: The Little Book of Pooh-isms: With help from Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, and Tigger, too! Brittany Rubiano General, #Dymocks52Challenge,
Daughter of Bad Times Rohan Wilson General, #Dymocks52Challenge, Popsugar
Deltora Quest: The City of Rats Emily Rodda General, #Dymocks52Challenge, #AWW2019
Fabio, the World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective: Mystery on the Ostrich Express Laura James General, #Dymocks52Challenge,

The Suicide Bride: A Mystery of Tragedy and Family Secrets in Edwardian Sydney by Tanya Bretherton

suicide brideTitle: The Suicide Bride: A Mystery of Tragedy and Family Secrets in Edwardian Sydney

Author: Tanya Bretherton

Genre: True Crime/History

Publisher: Hachette

Published: 23rd April 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 315

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: From the author of the acclaimed THE SUITCASE BABY – shortlisted for the Ned Kelly and Nib awards – comes the chilling story of a charlatan, a murder-suicide, and a family tree so twisted that it sprouts monsters.

Whenever society produces a depraved criminal, we wonder: is it nature or is it nurture?

When the charlatan Alicks Sly murdered his wife, Ellie, and killed himself with a cut-throat razor in a house in Sydney’s Newtown in early 1904, he set off a chain of events that could answer that question. He also left behind mysteries that might never be solved. Sociologist Dr Tanya Bretherton traces the brutal story of Ellie, one of many suicide brides in turn-of-the-century Sydney; of her husband, Alicks, and his family; and their three orphaned sons, adrift in the world.

From the author of the acclaimed THE SUITCASE BABY – shortlisted for the 2018 Ned Kelly Award, Danger Prize and Waverley Library ‘Nib’ Award – comes another riveting true-crime case from Australia’s dark past. THE SUICIDE BRIDE is a masterful exploration of criminality, insanity, violence and bloody family ties in bleak, post-Victorian Sydney.

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I’ve only read a few true crime books, and the last one I read revolved around the last woman hanged in New South Wales – Louisa Collins in 1889. A mere fifteen years later, a spate of suicide brides would crop up in Sydney – women who were murdered by their husbands, and the husbands would later commit suicide. In the case explored in Tanya Bretherton’s new book, a husband a wife died, but also, four children were left parentless, orphaned and their fates were left to the state, which in the early twentieth century was a lot less caring than it is today, especially towards orphaned children like Mervyn, Bedford, Basil and their sister, Olive, who at the time of her parents deaths, was ill in hospital.

2019 BadgeThe lives of Alicks and Ellie Sly were taken with a razor, at the hand of Alicks – and nothing was left to help the children, apart from any money left over from the sale of all their possessions to pay off any debts, and then money would be given to orphanages for the care of the three boys, whilst Olive was adopted and given a new name, a new identity, and nothing much is heard about her after that happened. Her brothers went sent to Catholic orphanages, and as Tanya recounts, each had a very different experience and reaction while staying there, resulting in very different outcomes in their later lives as a result of the violence they had seen early on in their lives.

Tanya Bretherton looks at the circumstances surrounding the deaths, and the evidence and records that are available, and at the way society at the time dealt with the deaths and aftermath, particularly in regards to the children, and finding guardians, and paying off debts to them, and the sad fact that Alicks and Ellie had nobody come forward to mourn, or help with the children – much of their debts were paid off with the sale of their few possessions, and charity took care of the rest. Throughout the book, the stories of the children are woven throughout as Tanya tries to uncover what really happened – using the historical timeline and gazing at it through a sociological lens and the social implications of this within Edwardian society, and the importance placed on funerary rights and debt over the welfare of young children.

Where did Alicks get the idea to kill his wife, and then himself? This is a question that remains unanswered, as does the why scenario. Without any suicide note, the true motives of Alicks will likely never be known. We can only guess at why he committed the murder-suicide in 1904. Maybe Alicks had debts he couldn’t pay and saw no other way out. Maybe knowing someone, the church, would step in to help. Perhaps he assumed family or neighbours would step up. Or maybe his motives were much more nefarious, and he didn’t care what happened to his sons and daughter. Tanya Bretherton doesn’t appear to have uncovered any criminal links or issues beyond debt they owed. Yet it is the not knowing that suggests it could be more than the idea that only debts were owed, and because there is little, if any, evidence to suggest why this happened.

As we can only speculate, as Tanya has done, perhaps it was a combination of things: debts, societal pressures, and a combination of the age old debate of nature versus nurture: where the brain functionality of a person is determined at birth, or whether the way we are raised has an impact on who we become and what we do. Having studied some sociology, I like to think its a combination, that neither one nor the other can inherently determine the actions one will take. Of course, there is always the element of choice in these scenarios. What i found fascinating about this is that there are no definitive answers – given the policing and forensic processes of the time, a lot less notice would have been taken of compromising the evidence and crime scene. So we may never know the truth, but there were many suicide brides in the months surrounding this case, including one case from the same family, a sibling of Alicks weeks or months later. The Sly family appeared to have many secrets throughout the generations,  and at least two of the brothers thrived quite well, and not much is known of Olive after her adoption. So for their father and relatives, were they predestined to kill, or did something awful happen to each Sly man to make the commit the crimes? This is where the nature versus nurture argument becomes tricky, because the nature of the family based on the murder-suicides would suggest a proclivity towards crime not really seen in the kids – at least, not violently. Nurture however, takes a look at how they were raised, first in the family and then the orphanage where it sounds like they weren’t nurtured in the way one might expect a child to be cared for. Which suggests that how we turn out is a combination of nature, nurture, our experiences and unique character – perhaps the younger children were able to adjust at a faster or easier rate than the oldest boy. What is certain though, is that we will never know all the answers, and the book, and my analysis is just mere speculation based on what we have present.

The Artist’s Portrait by Julie Keys

Artists Portrait.jpgTitle: The Artist’s Portrait

Author: Julie Keys

Genre: Mystery/Literary/Historical

Publisher: Hachette Australia

Published: 26th March 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 290

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: A story about art, murder, and making your place in history.

Whatever it was that drew me to Muriel, it wasn’t her charm.

In 1992, morning sickness drives Jane to pre-dawn walks of her neighbourhood where she meets an unfriendly woman who sprays her with a hose as she passes by. When they do talk: Muriel Kemp eyes my pregnant belly and tells me if I really want to succeed, I’d get rid of the baby. 

Driven to find out more about her curmudgeonly neighbour, Jane Cooper begins to investigate the life of Muriel, who claims to be a famous artist from Sydney’s bohemian 1920s. Contemporary critics argue that legend, rather than ability, has secured her position in history. They also claim that the real Muriel Kemp died in 1936.

Murderer, narcissist, sexual deviant or artistic genius and a woman before her time: Who really is Muriel Kemp?

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The Artist’s Portrait moves between the early nineties and the first three decades of the twentieth century, up until 1936 – when a woman named Muriel Kemp is said to have died. Yet in 1992, Jane, on an early morning walk as she tries to combat morning sickness, encounters the long-presumed Muriel Kemp, whose abrasiveness somehow draws Jane in, and from there, an unlikely companionship forms – where Muriel constantly criticises Jane, as Jane begins to write Muriel’s biography as Muriel would like it to be written – on her own terms, in her words and only including what Muriel herself wishes to be in it.

The novel weaves between 1992-1993 in Jane’s perspective, and the first decades of the twentieth century in Muriel’s perspective – both told in first person. At first, this was a little confusing, but it became clear that the change in voice often coincided with the year or decade that was at the top of the chapter, thus making it easier to follow with both voices in first person.

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The mystery at the heart of this book is the true identity of Muriel Kemp, and whether or not she actually died in 1936. The trick for Jane in 1992-3 is getting those who rely on the official record to believe her. Mixed in with this is a story of the world of art and the ways in which gender could impact the role someone had in that world, and the breaking free of conventions to forge your own way in the world.

Where art critics and historians tell Jane that Muriel Kemp’s legend has secured her notoriety more than her artistic talent and her triptych paintings, and the mystery of the post-1936 paintings are relegated by the official archives as fakes, rumour – anything but the real thing, and even credited to a different Muriel. So, at the heart of the novel is a search for identity and the how a myth is created around a person, and the lengths people will go to deny anything that contradicts what they know.

Not everything I felt was revealed in this novel – some things are definitely left to the imagination, particularly when it comes to Muriel, and others are revealed slowly, likely peeling back the layers of an onion. It is a very layered novel, and one I found intriguing, and think is worth the read for those who like a mystery where not everything feels wholly resolved and bits left to the imagination of the reader.

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The Wolf and The Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag

wolf and watchman.jpgTitle: The Wolf and The Watchman

Author: Niklas Natt och Dag

Genre: Crime/Scandi Noir

Publisher: Hachette/John Murray

Published: 12th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 407

Price: $32.99

Synopsis: Best Debut, The Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award 2017

‘Thrilling, unnerving, clever and beautiful’ Fredrik Backman

The year is 1793, Stockholm. King Gustav of Sweden has been assassinated, years of foreign wars have emptied the treasuries, and the realm is governed by a self-interested elite, leaving its citizens to suffer. On the streets, malcontent and paranoia abound.

A body is found in the city’s swamp by a watchman, Mickel Cardell, and the case is handed over to investigator Cecil Winge, who is dying of consumption. Together, Winge and Cardell become embroiled in a brutal world of guttersnipes and thieves, mercenaries and madams, and one death will expose a city rotten with corruption beneath its powdered and painted veneer.

THE WOLF AND THE WATCHMAN depicts the capacity for cruelty in the name of survival or greed – but also the capacity for love, friendship, and the desire for a better world.

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The mystery that The Wolf the Watchman follows is both complex and strange – it follows Mickel Cardell and Winge after Mickel finds a torso in the river, Anna Stina, a young woman trying to find her way out of poverty and who finds herself in a position she never imagined she’d be in, and Kristofer Blix, whose path will eventually cross with Anna’s, and their lives will be changed forever.

They all have goals and dreams that are changed over the course of the novel, and each part weaves back and forth between their perspectives – creating a dense and complicated story where anxiety seems to be lurking around every corner. In 1793, things feel less stable following the assassination of the king of Sweden, and threats abound, and people will do whatever they can to survive whatever existence they might be living. It took me a while to read this one, only because there was so much to take in and absorb to get to the end and what felt like the solving of the mystery, but at the same time, maybe not quite. It’s the kind of book one needs to dedicate time and attention to because of the density of the plot and characters, and the way everything connects together.

The mystery of the body in the river is the impetus for the story, and it is woven through as each character and their story becomes clearer throughout the book. As I said before, it is dense and very involved, and needs quite a bit of attention to get through this meandering, and thrilling story as the characters travel across an eighteenth century Sweden during a time when people are trying to survive, and when people’s capacity for cruelty or love is shown through the actions and sacrifices they are willing to make for people they barely know, taking advantage of the law and others.

I enjoyed this mystery, a very different story to what I usually read. Translations into English can often be denser, depending on the story, and in this case, it benefits the story and enhances the characters and their actions. Be sure to pay attention as best you can to absorb everything you need to know.

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