The Watchful Wife is the latest new release by Australian author Suzanne Leal. She tends to tackle complex social themes in her novels, touching here again on some featured in her first novel, The Teacher’s Secret – around the education system and allegations of misconduct – and that of religion, which featured in her second novel Deceptions. I very much enjoyed this book which takes on the sensitive topic of sexual misconduct but predominantly from the point of view of the wife of a man accused.
I confess to putting Homecoming by Kate Morton aside every time I’ve opened a new book in the last month or two. Not because I wasn’t looking forward to it. I was and Morton is a favourite author of mine. But because it is huge.
I’m reminded of the meme or joke about someone thinking that a 2.5hr movie on Netflix is too much of a commitment, but they’re more than happy to watch 13 x 1hr episodes of something. I will willingly read a 300ish page book each night for several nights in a row, but picking up a 600 page book seems like a commitment too far. Nevertheless I finally dove in and was relieved (as I knew I would be) that I’d finally indulged.
Into the Night by Fleur McDonald is the latest in the young(er) Dave Burrows series. I’ve explained in the past that McDonald has two series on the go featuring the likeable rural crime squad detective – one early in his career, and one…. well, later. I love both and it’s fascinating to see how much older Dave has been influenced by mentors we meet earlier in his life.
Another thing I always comment on when reading McDonald’s books is how effortlessly she is able to place readers in their rural settings and relay complex details about agriculture, farming and life on the land in a way that is palatable and relatable to a non-lover of rural life (or being outside in general!) like moi.*
I’ve enjoyed Michael Connelly’s pairing of stalwart Harry Bosch with Renee Ballard who we first met in The Late Show, a reference to the fact that Ballard worked nights. When this opens Bosch and Ballard haven’t spoken for some time and their relationship’s tense. I was worried I’d missed something and thought their previous outing (The Dark Hours) had ended amicably.
We pick up here a year later however, and quickly learn that plans for the pair to go into business together did not come to fruition and Ballard (instead) returned to the LAPD… leaving Bosch hanging.
Broad River Station by Fleur McDonald is the latest release in the interrelated series featuring Detective Dave Burrows who heads up Barker Police Station. McDonald tends to keep the focus on outback / farming related crimes and I like that about these books and her young Dave Burrows series. It very much sets them apart from other outback or rural (Oz) crime fiction. I know nothing about farms or rural life but thanks to her own knowledge and experience, McDonald manages to effortlessly engage readers in the unfolding plot – giving us enough detail that we understand the context (and receive a smidge of education at the same time) – but aren’t overwhelmed with superfluous complex information.
Black River by Matthew Spencer opens with a murderous bang. Is it just me or is it kinda confronting when we’re introduced to a character on commencement of a book only to have them killed a la Drew Barrymore, Scream-like, upon meeting them? Although Spencer doesn’t have us ‘bond’ with the victim, it reminded me of Linwood Barclay’s Take Your Breath Away which I read earlier this year and opened by putting readers in the point-of-view of someone who was almost immediately killed. Which helped me deduce that THEY were not, in fact, going to be the lead protagonist. 💡
Dead Horse Gap by Lee Christine is the third book I’ve read by the New South Wales-based author. They’re part of a series but Christine’s able to fairly easily provide context so it’s not problematic if you come in partway through. Reading them as a series though, does allow you to know the characters a little better and gives readers a sense we’ve travelled on that journey (#sorrynotsorry) with them. It’s particularly true in the case of two newer police officers, Mitch and Nerida, who benefit from the guidance and experience of their boss DS Pierce Ryder.
The series is set in and around the Snowy Mountains and as it’s not an environment I’m at all familiar with, I love the ease with which Christine is able to place readers amidst the snow fields, reflecting the crisp clean icy weather and the difficult terrain.
Every time I review one of Fleur McDonald’s Detective Dave Burrows books I feel compelled to mention there are TWO series featuring Burrows. A contemporary series in which he appears but the lead character is often loosely linked to one from the previous book in the series. And then there’s the young Dave Burrows series, set a decade or two earlier, when he first becomes a police officer.
I also always comment on the authenticity McDonald’s own background as a farmer lends to her work. Not only does she effortlessly drop in details about farming life (stuff about cattle or crops and prices or new technology) but many of her characters promote the role of women in agriculture and which the author herself does as well.
I’ve seen The Curlew’s Eye by Karen Manton billed as a crime thriller or a gothic mystery. In reality it’s less about a mystery to be solved or any present threat, and more about secrets and pasts that need to be faced up to.