Rouda’s talent seems to lie in offering up flawed characters but luring us into their world, so we bond and feel sympathy or empathy before twisting things until we realise we’ve been duped. Often along with other characters we’re following on the journey.
The Vacation by John Marrs is a difficult book to write about. It’s certainly an addictive read as I was desperate to see how it ended – or more accurately – how our characters all fared.
In some ways it’s a bit like a Woody Allen-esque movie featuring a series of vignettes with an array of characters, all with their own stories that come together in some unbelievably coincidental way at the end.
I’d heard good things about The Good Mother by Rae Cairns, which I believe was previously self-published and shortlisted for the prestigious 2021 Ned Kelly Debut Crime Fiction Award.
I was a little worried however. I’m a bit ‘over’ books about motherhood in general… not being a mother myself means I often struggle to relate to the whole there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to protect my kids thing. And then there’s mention of Belfast and the IRA and even though that’s not exactly historical fiction I tend to stay away from anything that delves too deeply into politics or well…. history.
The Beautiful Words is the third book I’ve read by Australian author Vanessa McCausland and probably my favourite to date.
I was a bit nervous going into Kill Your Brother by Jack Heath as we’re told the premise: it’s a bit of a kill or be killed kinda scenario and I had flashbacks to Eeny Meeny by MJ Arlidge, a novel in which couples or pairs are captured and have to do just that.
But Heath goes further here. Thankfully it isn’t just a gladiator-style fight to the death, but far more complex – both in terms of our characters and the depth of their backstories and personalities as well as the events unfolding in the present.
Unforgiven is the third book I’ve read by Australian author Sarah Barrie and she always delivers intriguing thrillers with complex and often-flawed characters. Unforgiven is certainly my favourite of hers so far as I found myself invested in the fate of the lead characters and intrigued by the unfolding plot.
I’ve commented on the settings of her other books, but though she also demonstrates her incredible ability to give readers a sense of ‘place’ particularly in the beginning when one of our characters is trying to work out where to ditch a body, this book focuses less on the where and more on the fast-paced what.
The Last Woman in the World is the third book I’ve read by Inga Simpson. I saw her speak at a bookshop locally around the time of her 2014 release Nest. I commented in that review about how inspiring I found her in person (and appreciated her blunt honesty about the challenges of becoming a published author), how much I loved her writing and her ability to instil in readers a sense of place.
I confess in my review of Where the Trees Were (2016) that I’m actually not a lover of nature. Of flora and fauna. And I’ve admitted on many occasions that I’m not a visual reader so not able to picture what I’m reading.
One of the first things you’ll be told as a budding writer is to ‘show’ not ‘tell’. Because apparently audiences (ie. readers) find it boring (or at least less engaging) and feel patronised. At least that’s why I’ve always assumed you don’t provide laborious detail in your prose.
David Baldacci very much breaks that rule in the beginning of his latest novel, Mercy, providing backstory on FBI Agent Atlee Pine and her sister, kidnapped three decades earlier. And I for one appreciated it because, even though I’ve read the entire series AND re-read my review of Mercy’s predecessor, Daylight, I was a bit murky on the details. So Baldacci’s summary – succinct yet informative – hit the spot.